Why did Krishna not save Pandavas when they played dice (gambling game) with Duryodhana and Shakuni?
(Wonderful explanation by Sri Krishna)
From his childhood, Uddhava has been with Krishna charioting him and serving him in many ways. He never asked for any wish or boon from Sri Krishna. When Krishna was at the verge of completing the task of His Avatar, he called Uddhava and said,
“Dear Uddhava, in this avatar many people have asked and received boons from me; but you never asked me anything. Why don’t you ask something now? I will give you. Let me complete this avatar with the satisfaction of doing something good for you also”.
Even though Uddhava did not ask anything for himself, he has been observing Krishna from his childhood. He had always wondered about the apparent disconnect between Krishna’s teachings and actions, and wanted to understand the reasons for the same. He asked Krishna, “Lord, you taught us to live in one way, but you lived in a different way. In the drama of Mahabharat, in the role you played, in your actions, I did not understand many things. I am curious to understand the reasons for your actions. Would you fulfil my desire to know?”
Krishna says, “Uddhava, what I told Arjuna during the war of Kurukshetra was Bhagavad Gita. Today, my responses to you would be ‘Uddhava Gita’. That is why I gave this opportunity to you. Please ask without hesitation.”
Uddhava starts asking – “Krishna, first tell me who is a real friend?”
Krishna says, “The real friend is one who comes to the help of his friend in need even without being called.”
Uddhava: “Krishna, you were a dear friend of the Pandavas. They trusted you fully as Apadhbhandava (protector from all difficulties). Krihna, you not only know what is happening, but you know what is going to happen. You are a great gyani. Just now you gave the definition of a true, close friend. Then why did you not act as per that definition. Why did you not stop Dharmaraj (Yudhishtra)
from playing the gambling game? Ok, you did not do it; why did you not turn the luck in favour of Dharmaraj, by which you would have ensured that dharma wins. You did not do that also. You could have at least saved Dharmaraj by stopping the game after he lost his wealth, country and himself. You could have released him from the punishment for gambling. Or, you could have entered the hall when he started betting his brothers. You did not do that either. At least when Duryodhana tempted Dharmaraj by offering to return everything lost if he betted Draupadi (who always brought good fortune to Pandavas), you could have intervened and with your divine power you could have made the dices roll in a way that is favorable to Dharma. Instead, you intervened only when Draupadi almost lost her modesty and now you claim that you gave clothes and saved Draupadi’s modesty; how can you even claim this – after her being dragged into the hall by a man and disrobed in front of so many people, what modesty is left for a woman? What have you saved? Only when you help a person at the time of crisis, can you be called ‘Apadhbandhava’. If you did not help in the time of crisis, what is the use? Is it Dharma?” As Uddhava posed these questions, tears started rolling from his eyes.
These are not the questions of Uddhava alone. All of us who have read Mahabharata have these questions. On behalf of us, Uddhava had already asked these questions to Sri Krishna.
Bhagavan Krishna laughed. “Dear Uddhava, the dharma of this world is ‘only the one who has Viveka (intelligence through discrimination), wins’; While Duryodhana had viveka, Dharma lacked it. That is why Dharma lost”.
Uddhava was lost and confused. Krishna continues, “While Duryodhana had lots of money and wealth to gamble, he did not know to play the game of dice. That is why he used his Uncle Shakuni to play the game while he betted. That is viveka. Dharma also could have thought similarly and offered that I, his cousin would play on his behalf. If Shakuni and I had played the game of dice, who do you think would have won? Can he roll the numbers I am calling or would I roll the numbers he is asking. Forget this. I can forgive the fact that he forgot to include me in the game. But, without viveka, he did another blunder. He prayed that I should not come to the hall as he did not want me to know that through ill-fate he was compelled to play this game. He tied me with his prayers and did not allow me to get into the hall; I was just outside the hall waiting for someone to call me through their prayers. Even when Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva were lost, they were only cursing Duryodhana and brooding over their fate; they forgot to call me. Even Draupadi did not call me when Dusshasan held her hair and dragged her to fulfil his brother’s order. She was also arguing in the hall, based on her own abilities. She never called me. Finally good sense prevailed; when Dusshasan started disrobing her, she gave up depending on her own strength, and started shouting ‘Hari, Hari, Abhayam Krishna, Abhayam’ and shouted for me. Only then I got an opportunity to save her modesty. I reached as soon as I was called. I saved her modesty. What is my mistake in this situation?”
“Wonderful Explanation, Kanna, I am impressed. However, I am not deceived. Can I ask you another question?” says Uddhava. Krishna gives him the permission to proceed.
“Does it mean that you will come only when you are called! Will you not come on your own to help people in crisis, to establish justice?” asks Uddhava.
Krishna smiles. ‘Uddhava, in this life everyone’s life proceeds based on their own karma. I don’t run it; I don’t interfere in it. I am only a ‘witness’. I stand close to you and keep observing whatever is happening. This is God’s Dharma” says Krishna.
“Wow, very good Krishna. In that case, you will stand close to us, observe all our evil acts; as we keep committing more and more sins, you will keep watching us. You want us to commit more blunders, accumulate sins and suffer”, says Uddhava.
Krishna says.”Uddhava, please realise the deeper meaning of your statements. When I am standing as witness next to you, how could you do anything wrong or bad. You definitely cannot do anything bad. You forget this and think that you can do things without my knowledge. That is when you get into trouble. Dharma’s ignorance was that he thought he can play the game of gambling without my knowledge. If Dharma had realized that I am always present with everyone in the form of ‘Sakshi’ (witness), then wouldn’t the game have finished differently?’
Uddhava was spellbound and got overwhelmed by Bhakti. He said, “What a deep philosophy. What a great truth! Even praying and doing pooja to God and calling Him for help are nothing but our feeling / belief. When we start believing that nothing moves without Him, how can we not feel his presence as Witness? How can we forget this and act wrongly or against dharma?”
Throughout Bhagavad Gita, this is the philosophy Krishna imparted to Arjuna. He was the charioteer as well as guide for Arjuna, but he did not fight on his own.