Why did Yudhisthira agree for a second gambling match after the disastrous first gambling match?

by Chaitanya CharanJuly 28, 2014

Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta

Question: Why did Pandavas agree for second gambling match?

Answer: Again the same point comes up about contextual morality and categorical morality. Sometimes when we look at characters in scripture we may think of them normative. Normative means they are going to behave in a particular way. They all exhibit a particular behavior and that’s how they are. But Yudhisthira, you look at carefully at the way he discuss _______ and the discussion on morality that he has just before his gambling match and everything and then when they are in the forest and then just before the war. There is an evolution in his thinking also. At this particular point Yudhisthira is horrified what has happened. But the Pandavas, are they angry with Yudhisthira for having gambled Draupadi? Yes, they are. But over-all even Arjuna pointed out that the king gambled because the elders _______. If you see even at the start of the war in the Bhagavad Gita itself what does Arjuna say?

kathaṁ bhīṣmam ahaṁ saṅkhye droṇaṁ ca madhusūdana iṣubhiḥ pratiyotsyāmi pūjārhāv ari-sūdana

BG 2.4


He says how can I counter with arrows elders like my grandsire and my preceptor, those who are meant to be respected with flowers. He is remembering the etiquette even at that time.

We cannot really judge the actions that are done by people who come in entirely different culture from the culture that we are having. Respect for elders was very deeply ingrained virtue, even after the thirteen years of exile. What is the message that Yudhisthira sends to Dhritrashtra? He says O king as per the conditions of the gambling match we have stayed for twelve years in forest and one year in incognito and we have done our part. Now please treat us like your sons and do your part. We obeyed to follow instructions.

Yudhisthira does not defy the etiquette even at that time and after the war gets over also when the Kauravas are killed then Yudhisthira does not go proudly. Yudhisthira goes to the Dhritrastra and Gandhari what did he say- here I am that wretched one who is the killer of your sons. Please do with me as you see fit. Yudhisthira doesn’t show any signs of pride.

When the coronation happens that time he announce this publicly. He says Dhritrashtra is our king. He is our father and god and all of you should respect him just the way you have respected him. So for the functional purposes Yudhisthira is the king and he does the ruling part but he offers all honor to Dhritrashtra. In that sense opposing the instruction of one’s elders was something which was difficult for him to do at that particular time. Actually he doesn’t directly defy his elders at any time. Even when the war happens it is not that he is defying Dhritrashtra. He says as kshatriyas we have the rule and we _______. Yes, it is easy for us from our cultural point of view. We also have the culture where there is some respect to elders but there is lot of defiance of elders that happens. It’s easy for us to say that he could have said no, but the fact that Dhritrashtra send that summon again and again he use Vidura to send that summon, made it nearly impossible for Yudhisthira to say no.

In one sense we could say that he takes the principle of respecting elders to an extreme and that we could say is wrong. But the point is that his intention is to try to minimize conflict. So even that time surely the thought process was going on. They just refused the summon. They don’t fight the gambling match but what really happen is that it is going to aggravate the situation. Still now he has not disobeyed his elders. If he disobeyed them then it will aggravate the conflict once again. In one sense his sticking to the principle of respecting the elders can be consider to be disproportionate. So we could say that this is wrong but in another sense it was rather than considering what he did was wrong we can focus on how Dhritrashtra after seeing all what happened how much of sin attachment and the blindness for that attachment that all that transpired just a short time ago and he again try to do the same thing again. Yudhisthira’s choice we cannot say that it’s a right choice but can we really say it’s wrong choice? He is following some virtuous principles. Although his specific application of that virtuous principle may not have been exactly right but we should rather focus on what we see is that the extent of attachment how much it blinds a person from the reality that is right in front of me. Thank you.

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Chaitanya Charan

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