Karna

Though I’ve  exited most of the groups on WhatsApp, there are still one or two which keep my inbox full! People vie with each other to send messages, jokes or videos. I usually delete most of them after a cursory glance, but today there was one which held my attention and made me think… Let me first narrate the story (with small enhancements but without changing the story) that was shared:

Once Lord Krishna and Arjuna were walking towards a village. Arjuna was pestering Krishna, asking him why Karna should be considered an unparalleled Donor & not him ?

To pacify Arjuna, Krishna, turned two nearby mountains into gold.

Then he turned to Arjuna and said,  “Arjuna, distribute these two gold mountains among villagers living in the vicinity, but make sure that you donate every bit of it”.

Arjuna went into the village,  proclaimed he was going to donate gold to every villager, and asked them to gather near the mountain. The villagers sang his praises and Arjuna walked towards the mountains with a slightly huffed up chest.

For the next two days and two nights Arjuna shoveled gold from the mountain and donated to each villager. The mountains just did not diminish in the slightest. Most villagers came back and stood in queue within minutes. By now Arjuna was exhausted, but not ready to give up or accept defeat (let go of his  ego), told Krishna he couldn’t go on any longer without rest.

A bemused Krishna called out to Karna who was in the vicinity and told him to donate every bit of the two gold mountains.

Karna without any hesitation called out to the  villagers,  and announced “Those two Gold mountains are yours. share them among yourselves” and walked away.

Arjuna who was a mute spectator was dumbfounded. Why hadn’t this thought occurred to him?

Krishna smiled mischievously and told him “Arjuna, subconsciously, you were attracted to the gold, you regretfully gave it away to each villager, giving them what you thought was a generous amount. Thus the size of your donation to each villager depended only on your imagination.

But Karna has no such reservations. Look at him walking away after giving away a fortune, he doesn’t expect people to sing his praises, he doesn’t even care if people talk good or bad about him behind his back. That is the sign of a man already on the path of greatness or enlightenment”. Giving with an expectation in return in the form of a compliment or thanks is not a Gift, in such cases it only becomes a Trade!

Well! lovely story, I’ve not verified whether this story is factual. Because my belief is that these stories are the best method to get us to introspect or to look around us.

How would a typical corporate executive have behaved? probably he or she would have tried to prove his/her ownership… or would have installed maximum security, weighed the fold multiple times before giving it away…

Why was a Karna able to walk away from humongous wealth without expecting anything in return? Why was a brilliant Arjuna unable to resist the lure of gold? Is this story relevant in these times?

Repeatedly my mind tells me that it would be a very difficult test for most of us to pass today…

Karna, though born into royalty, was a child abandoned by his mother at birth. He was brought up by a poor charioteer in abject poverty and later was made a king by the proud Duryodhana (the eldest Kourava). Ridiculed by droupadi  that he was not a prince and so not worthy of marrying her. It is hard to imagine the kind of repeated humiliation he had to go through,  yet he retained his dignity.

As I’m signing off, I wonder what made Karna so noble and generous? May be some stories and some enigmatic characters are not to be deciphered…

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