Karna vs Arjuna

The rivalry between Karna and Arjuna is one of the highlights of Mahabharata. Even today people debate who was better among the two great warriors- pitted against each other by destiny. It’s Karna Vs Arjuna.

Karna vs Arjuna


Karna is one of the most complex characters in Mahabharata. We see his virtuous side, he was well known for his charitable nature, his word, his archery skills, a great warrior, and amongst all this, being the son of the sun-god. On the other hand, we also see a person driven blindly by pride and personal ambition. It was Karna who prompted Duryodhana that Draupadi is dragged into the assembly and then further suggested that Draupadi should be disrobed publically in the court assembly. He asked Draupadi to select another husband because, being lost by Pandavas, she was rendered a slave of Kurus. Karna hid his urge for self-glory behind his so-called gratitude and friendship with Duryodhana.

Karna refused the advice of his own father sun-god, his mother Kunti, and even Krishna. He was envious of Pandavas, especially Arjuna. Overconfident, he often bragged about his prowess which made Duryodhana even more confident of his victory, leading to the disastrous war. He refused to fight under grandfather Bhishma, boasting that he can finish up the Pandavas within five days if Bhishma would not interfere with his plans. His arrogance and pride led him to earn curses from Parshurama, a brahmana and mother earth.

Duryodhana was bereft of his fortune and duration of life because of the intricacy of ill advice given by Karṇa, Duḥśāsana and Saubala.

(SB 3.3.13)


On the other side is Arjuna. He is also the son of a demigod- Indra, who is the king of all the demigods. Arjuna is one of the greatest archers and a close friend of Krishna. He was a favorite disciple of his teacher Dronacharya, who, impressed with his dedication, sincerity and humility, lovingly bestowed upon him all the blessings of military science. All the Pandavas due to their virtuous behavior were favorites not only of their elders but also of all the citizens of the Hastinapur. Arjuna used his powers to protect dharma and never fought out of arrogance or false pride. As a result, he received boons from personalities like lord Siva, Indra, fire-god, Yamaraja, Varuna and Kuvera.

Arjuna was not itching to fight with his envious and irreligious cousins who had left no trick of the trade to kill his family. Unlike Duryodhana, who saw Pandavas as his enemies, Arjuna still saw them as his brothers and relatives. He had the compassion and strength to say:

How can I counterattack with arrows in battle men like Bhīṣma and Droṇa, who are worthy of my worship? It would be better to live in this world by begging than to live at the cost of the lives of great souls who are my teachers.’

(BG 2.4-5)

Life seemed unfair

It may seem that life was not fair to Karna. He was born out of wedlock, abandoned by his mother, brought up (lovingly) by a chariot maker, denied the respect due as a great warrior, etc. But the same is more true for Arjuna, who suffered far more. Bereft of a father, staying with envious cousins who were always plotting to insult and kill them, and had humiliated his wife in front of the whole assembly. They had to go to the jungle for 13 years after being cheated in a gambling match. Theirs is a much longer list.

Difference in Character

The difference is how they both reacted to those so-called unfavorable circumstances. Karna was brash, overconfident, bitter and became determined to fight against what destiny was rolling out for him. Arjuna, on the other hand, remained calm during all atrocities, accepted all injustices as the will of Lord and had complete faith in Krishna.

It is said that giving good counsel to a foolish person causes the fool to become angry, just as feeding milk to a snake only increases its venomous poison. Saint Vidura was so honorable that his character was looked up to by all respectable persons. But Duryodhana was so foolish that he dared to insult Vidura. This was due to his bad association with Śakuni, his maternal uncle, as well as with his friend Karṇa, who always encouraged Duryodhana in his nefarious acts.

(SB 3.1.14p)

According to Vedic civilization, a descendant of a brāhmaṇa family should never be heavily punished. This was exemplified in Arjuna’s treatment of Aśvatthāmā. Aśvatthāmā was the son of a great brāhmaṇa, Droṇācārya, and in spite of his having committed the great offense of killing all the sleeping sons of the Pāṇḍavas, for which he was condemned even by Lord Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna excused him by not killing him because he happened to be the son of a brāhmaṇa.

(SB 4.7.13p)

Hence we can see that circumstances do not make us Krishna conscious but it is what we do in those circumstances which makes us Krishna conscious.

Who are Karna and Arjuna?

Mahabharata reveals that Karna was a demon called Dambodbhava in his previous life. He led a very sinful life and killed thousands of humans and rishi munis on the strength of a boon he received from sun-god. He was finally defeated by Nara- Narayana rishis but as he was about to be killed he took shelter of sun-god. This same demon took birth as Karna in his next birth.

Devotees like Arjuna are constant companions of the Lord, and whenever the Lord incarnates, the associate devotees incarnate in order to serve the Lord in different capacities. Arjuna is one of these devotees.

(Bg 4.5p)

So we can appreciate that Arjuna is an eternal associate of Lord Krishna, wherever Krishna’s pastimes manifest Arjuna participates in it. A soul worth taking shelter of. No wonder Krishna made Arjuna an instrument to speak Bhagavad Gita and also the hero of Mahabharata.

Srila Prabhupada gives us a very nice description of Arjuna in SB 1.12.21p and Karna in SB 1.15.16p.

We can also read a very interesting and detailed point by point comparison of Karna vs Arjuna made by HG Chaitanya Charan Prabhu here. It’s an eye-opener.

I hope we can see beyond the rivalry of Karna vs Arjuna.

All glories to Krishna’s eternal friend Arjuna.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Your servant,

Giriraj dasa

Difference between devotees & non devotees, and some analogies.

Hare Krishna.

21st September, 2014. Gurgaon.


I recently heard two wonderful analogies about devotees, I am sharing them below.

As the many waves of the rivers flow into the ocean, so do all these great warriors enter blazing into Your mouths. (BG 11.28)

I see all people rushing full speed into Your mouths, as moths dash to destruction in a blazing fire. (BG 11.29)

The first was when I was listening to a lecture by HG Chaitnaya Charan Prabhuji on NoI and heard this amazing description of the above often repeated analogies of rivers rushing into water and moths dashing into fire, that death will come to everyone present there. Prabhuji quoted Vedanta Desika of Sri sampradaya who compared moths to non devotees and rivers to devotees in the following ways :

1. River enters naturally into sea where as moth forcefully enter the fire. Similarly people like Duryodhana enter death forcefully by doing adharma where as warriors like Bhishama and Drona are forced by the providence to be on the wrong side and they have to fight and also die also, but there is a difference between the two.

2. Rivers don’t lose their primary identity after merging into seas (water remains water) where as moths gets burned and lose their primary identity after getting burnt. Similarly devotee do not lose their identity after death. On the other hand materialists when they die, lose whatever they value. Devotees continue as before and serve the Lord, their essentials doesn’t change either in the material world or in the spiritual world. What they were doing before they do afterwards as well, death doesn’t effect them in a major way.

3. When moths go towards fire the don’t do any good to themselves or to the fire. But rivers irrigate the land and also provide water to everyone on the way to sea. Similarly when devotee lead there lives they are benefiting everyone, when they speak Krishna katha not only they are living a spiritual life but also spreading Krishna consciousness. Non devotees are no good to anyone.

The second one was when I heard a most wonderful seminar by HH Bhakti Vijnana Goswami Maharaj on cleansing our heart. Maharaj first stated how a brahmana has three stages in his devotional life :

1. Dvija : when one is born in a brahmana family
2. Vipra : when one becomes an expert and is inspired
3. brahmana : One who knows Brahman.

Maharaj stated that similarly a devotee too has three stages in his life

1. First stage : When one gets initiated by the mercy of his Guru
2. Vipra : when one feels internally inspired to progress in bhakti
3. Vaishanava : when one understands Brahman

I then searched for analogies written by Srila Prabhupada and I hit a jackpot at this link.

I am sharing some of them below

1. As the river flows on till she reaches the sea, similarly pure devotional service flows by the association of pure devotees till it reaches the ultimate goal, namely, transcendental love of God.

2. His Divine Grace the spiritual master can kindle the spiritual fire from the wood-like living entity by imparting proper spiritual messages injected through the receptive ear.

3. He is slapped by the police. He says, “Oh, I am independent. Go on slapping.” This is insanity. Is it not insanity? The police slaps him, and he says, “I am independent.” Do you think independence? So that sort of independence we are having.

4. Tiger can kill many animals. Does it mean it is very important animal? No. It has no use in the society. Undoubtedly, it is very powerful. It has got the good weapons to fight and it can kill many. These are not qualifications for good men or good society.

I request devotees to kindly share useful analogies you may have heard with all of us.

All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Fault finding is good !!

Hare Krishna.

9th July, 2014, Gurgaon.


Last week, as usual I got up in the morning and walked towards the kitchen to drink some water. Just after five steps, and in a micro second, my legs were up in the air as I slipped badly and then fell flat on my left elbow. It took me some time to realise that the living room floor had water on it. As I nursed my bruised elbow I realised that whole living room floor had a thin layer of water on it. Because of the shine of the floor I could not see water on it. Hearing the sound of my fall Priti, my wife, too rushed into the living room. I told her half jokingly that I did not know that she had created a `Maya palace’ for me and I have slipped like Duryodhana would have slipped when he visited the new palace of Pandavas in Hastinapur. We had a good laugh and we got our act together to clean the floor together.

After the whole floor was cleaned I looked back and tried to analyse why did this happen. My mental speculation was that this is Lord’s home and something like this should not have happened. My first thought was that Priti’s niece and her family were here and they might have brought their shoes inside the house and that’s why this thing happened, it was quite a thin argument. Second thought that occurred to me was I did not do `temple marjnam’ at home, as is being done at every Jagannath temple across the country this time of the year, so may be this is Lord’s way to get His this house cleaned ! When I shared my thoughts with Priti she rightly brushed aside my arguments saying that I am trying to find supernatural reasons where non exist. Somehow my train of thought changed as I realised that I am trying to look for all the reasons which others, including Lord Himself, might have created this situation while conveniently ignoring my own self. Then I started looking at my own actions scrutinisingly in last few days and I realised I have done a lot of mistakes in last 3-4 days itself, offenses against Vaishanavas, my own family members and even against Tulsai Maharani!! They all gave me a mild shock. These mistakes, of course, had nothing to do with water on the floor as after some delibration we found the technical reason, one of the balcony drain choked during the last night’s rain and there was some leakage from one of tiles under the glass door. Few months back there was a similar problem in our other balcony which we got repaired but never bothered to test the other balcony too, so it was our fault.

I offered my apologies to the Lord for not keeping Their home in good condition as due to my carelessness their home got flooded with water. I also offered apologies for all the mistakes I had just remembered during my quick introspection and promised that I will try my best not to repeat them. I then begged Srila Prabhupada to kindly bless me with intelligence so that I do not make repeat my mistakes as my own material intelligence is very limited.

I felt very happy from inside as I appreciated how much Lord guides us internally to see something positive in each negative situation, this is not at all my normal mode of thinking, rather opposite is true. Just a few months back my normal reactions would have been to first sulk at my bruised elbow, then I would have curtly told my wife to clean the floor herself as I have to chant my rounds first and lastly I would have cursed my civil contractor for the shoddy job done he did and more.

My realisation was that whenever something not so good happens to me then without being superstitious I must use that incident to do some bit of introspection and see where all I `slipped’ in my devotional service in last few days/weeks/months. Whatever mistakes I will be able to remember would give me a chance to correct them, not to repeat them and a pretext to reciprocate with guru and Lord.

I discovered that fault-finding is good … but only if I do it for my own self (and I must do it periodically).

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Al glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga.