This is my attempt at translating a short story I’ve read in Telugu(my mother tongue). This short story was originally written in Tamil by the great poet Subramania Bharathi, and then later translated into Telugu by Challa Radha Krishna Sharma.
In those days when the sons of Pandu and Dhritharashtra were studying at Dronacharya’s school in Hastinapur, one evening, returning from the game, Arjuna saw Karna, and asked him, “Is war good? Or peace?”.
“Peace is good,” answered Karna.
“O Arjuna! If there is war, I have to fight you. And that will be a problem to you. But I am kind-hearted. If you’re in trouble, I can’t bear to see it. So it is a loss for both of us. Therefore, peace is better,” answered Karna.
Then Arjuna said, “Karna, I did not ask this with you and me in mind. In general, in the world, is war good? Or peace?”
“I am not interested in thinking over worldly matters,” answered Karna.
Arjuna wanted to kill this man. Later, Arjuna went to Dronacharya and asked the same question.
“War’s good,” said Dronacharya.
Then Dronacharya answered, “O Arjuna! One will earn wealth and glory through war. Or death. But one is filled with doubts through peace.”
Arjuna went to Bhishmacharya this time. “O Grandfather! Is war beneficial? Or peace?” Then the old man answered thus ‘”Son, Arjuna! Peace is good. War is beneficial to us, Kshatriyas; but then, peace is beneficial to the whole world.”
“Your words aren’t fair,” said Arjuna.
“One must cite his reason first, and then only give his decision,” said the old man.
“But Grandfather, Karna is a step higher, and me a step lower, because of peace. If there is war, the truth will be out.”
“Son, It is always Dharma that has the upper hand. Irrespective of whether there is war or not, it is only dharma that wins. Therefore, kill the hatred that is in your heart, and wish for peace. All men come from the same family. They must love each other. Love is the path. I am telling the truth. Love is really the path,” said Bhishma, teary eyed.
After a few years, Acharya Veda Vyas came to Hastinapur. Arjuna went to him and put his doubt before him.
“Both are good. One has to act according to the situation,” answered the acharya.
After many years, during those years when the Pandavas were in the forests, before sending Lord Krishna as an envoy to the Kauravas, Arjuna asked Krishna, “Is war good? Or peace?”
Then Krishna said, “For the time being, peace is better. That is why I am going to Hastinapur.”
That is the end of the story. What interests me about this story is how these answers are a window to the person’s character answering them. Karna is always thought be physically strong, but never as someone who is clever, or wise, and his answer clearly shows that. He isn’t really concerned about worldly matters, but just about those that concern him.
Dronacharya is a teacher, and someone who’d like to merit his pupils. Find out who’s the best or better. And so he likes action more than inaction. In fact, his answer almost states the basic theme of Shakespeare’s greatest play, Hamlet. Inaction, or indecision, makes Hamlet go mad, whereas action, one way or another takes the plot forward.
Bhisma is an old man, who has seen it all. And so his answer is filled with wisdom. It isn’t about the self, and our petty fights, but more about the world.
Acharya Veda Vyas and Lord Krishna give more or less the same answers. And they both are considered incarnations of Lord Vishnu. But Lord Krishna is known as chamatkari or someone who has his way with words. Someone like Captain Jack Sparrow, you don’t totally understand him, and we can see that here.