If gambling makes people do foolish things, why are kshatriyas ordained to gamble when challenged?
From Vikas Kumar:
AS YOU SAID THAT WHEN DRAUPADI CHEER HARAN WAS HAPPENED AT THAT TIME “VIKARANA”SAID WHEN KSHATRIY COMES UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF GAMBLING , DRINKING , WOMENISING,THEN HE LOST HIS INTELLIGENCE ,SO DONT CONSIDER HIS ACTIONNS……
BUT AS IN BHAGWAD GEETA IT IS WRITTEN THAT , WHEN OTHeR KSHATRIYA INVITES OTHER FOR GAMBLING, FIGHT THEN OTHER HAS TO GO….THEN THESE TWOO THINGS SEEMS CONTRADICTORY TO ME.. PLEASE CLEAR ME.
Transcription by -Rekha Kasibhatta
Edited by – Shashi Bhusan
Question from Vikas Kumar Prabhu: If gambling makes people do foolish things, then why are Kshatriyas ordained to gamble when challenged? In your Bhakti-sastri Bhagavad-Gita class you mentioned how Vikarna says during the gambling incident that these four things – hunting, womanizing, gambling and intoxication make people do foolish things and therefore what they do under the spell of these things should not be taken seriously and therefore the Pandavas should be considered to have not lost whatever they have lost and everything should be given back to them. So Vikarna gives this argument and in this way basically gambling is told to be undesirable, then why is it also said that when Kshatriyas are challenged, they cannot refuse to gamble. Aren’t these two contradictory?
Answer: Not necessarily contradictory. We have to understand that there is a moral crisis and there is an ethical crisis. Moral crisis means that one choice is moral and the other choice is immoral and one has to choose between the two. For example, if a person is tempted to illicit sex, knowing that it is illicit sex, then that is a moral crisis. Ethical crisis means that there are 2 options – and both are ethical, both have their own morality, but one is not sure which morality to follow.
For example there are communal riots going on and a person of a community is targeted by the rioters. That person comes to one’s house and asks for asylum and hides in the house; then those rioters come and ask, whether that person is hiding there? Now, one principle is to speak the truth and another principle is to protect others, to protect life. So what should one do? This is an ethical crisis. Ethical crisis don’t have easy answers. So what Yuddhisthir faced is an ethical crisis.
First, let’s understand the rationale for the principle of gambling. The Kshatriyas, have to, as a part of their administrative duty do things which are not always desirable and Krishna says this is a fact of material nature itself that “sarvarambha hi doshena dhumenaagnir ivavrtah” (BG 18.49). In Bhagavad Gita 18th chapter, verses 42 to 49, He talks about Varnashram and there He says that just as fire is covered by smoke, similarly all endeavours are covered by fault. The fault of Kshatriyas is that they often had to do violence, for example, so they may have to punish; they may even have to kill, they have to punish wrong-doers in the court of justice, kill wrong-doers on a war field. So these are difficult duties and to do these difficult duties they have to do certain things, for example, they have to hunt to inure themselves from the sight of blood. Similarly, for Kshatriyas to have a chivalrous spirit they should not refuse whenever they are challenged; this enables them to be courageous and chivalrous. So that spirit is what is important. That means Kshatriyas are not cowardly, cowering away from confrontation when it is needed. The idea is that there are certain things that Kshatriyas are meant to do because that enables them to maintain the spirit that is required for their activities. So when they are challenged to fight, they cannot refuse. When a woman asks them for shelter, they can’t refuse and when they are challenged to gamble, they can’t refuse. This way they are able to maintain their chivalrous spirit; it becomes a matter of honour for them to do this.
Now, every rule however important cannot be absolutized. Absolutizing means making that rule itself as the ultimate rule. Every rule has to be also seen in the context of the other principles. So we see that Lord Ram, as a Kshatriya, when he was asked by Surpanaka could have obliged to accept but there is another principle involved. When he had got married to Sita, at that time he had told her that I take ekapatnivrata (one wife vow) – you will be my only queen. As He had already given that word of honour to Sita, he therefore said no to Surpanaka. The point is that there are principles but we have to understand that no principle is absolute.
Yuddhistir had been invited to gamble, and it was not so much the challenge itself which made him to gamble. He could have refused that because Yuddhistir is more of a brahminical nature but he saw it more as an instruction which came from his elders. Dhrtarashtra wanted it and Vidhura had come with that message of Dhrtarashtra. Just after the Rajasuya sacrifice, Yuddhistir had taken a vrata that in order to avoid conflicts, I’ll always follow my elders and he had never thought his elders would give an instruction like this. So Yuddhistir, at that particular point deviated because there are other principles. Certainly Yuddhistir also mentions that point if you challenge me I cannot refuse you. And so challenge was one factor, the instruction of the elders was another factor and therefore he gambled. But still what he could have done was he could have reduced the extent of his gambling; that was always possible for him but he got carried away at that particular time and his getting carried away was also because he was thinking that how he could let his brothers and family suffer. “I must get things back so that they will be able to live with some dignity and the lost wealth was meant for serving the Brahmanas and I must get that wealth otherwise how can I serve the Brahmanas. I’ll not be able to maintain them, therefore, I must gamble so that I can get it back”. So his motive was not greed nor was it just the craving to win; it was actually a longing to serve others and for that purpose he wanted to get things back and that’s how he ended up in the frenzy and got carried away and kept gambling.
You can never have in real life an absolute non-intersection between different rules because that’s how real life is. It is complex and it often presents us with ethical crisis, so what to do at that time? At that time one has to have an understanding of the broader purpose and priority of life and then act accordingly. So that’s how we understand this difference.