Monday, January 7, 2013

the five brothers

Verses 1.16-18: King Yudhiṣṭhira, the son of Kuntī, blew his conchshell, the Ananta-vijaya, and Nakula and Sahadeva blew the Sughoṣa and Maṇipuṣpaka. That great archer the King of Kāśī, the great fighter Śikhaṇḍī, Dhṛṣṭadyumna, Virāṭa, the unconquerable Sātyaki, Drupada, the sons of Draupadī, and the others, O King, such as the mighty-armed son of Subhadrā, all blew their respective conchshells.

Here we get to meet the rest of the five brothers. In the previous verse we met Arjuna and Bhima and now we are introduced to Yudhishthira, Nakula and Sahadeva.

The Gita is not only about the great knowledge of bhakti and its practical application, but about personalism. It teaches us that God is not only supreme, but that He is a person. We get our innate need for creating lasting relationships and meaningful interactions from someone, and that someone is God. Similarly, just like we have different names and titles, so to does God and one of his most beautiful names is Krsna which means the all-attractive.

So when we are introduced to other great persons here in the introduction of the Gita, I feel it is only fitting we honour them and get to know them. I especially feel this way about the five brothers known as the Pandavas who all were famous for not only being great bhakti yogis but for the special talents and characteristics that defined them.

Yudhisthira, the oldest was known to be righteous and truthful. He never spoke a lie and had a very beautiful quality of never harming anyone with his words, be they a friend or enemy. Yudhisthira was known to be extremely patient and well-wishing to all. Once when he was insulted by a King and was injured, he calmly accepted the rebuke with grace and ensured later on that the King was not taken to task for his insult.

Bhima, the second oldest, was as we heard in the precious verse, a voracious eater. However, he was also known to be the strongest and the performer of herculean tasks. At a very young age he was blessed to have the strength of thousands of elephants and was expert at wielding the mace. Once when he was escaping a burning building he carried not only his brothers but also his mother showcasing how strong he was.

Arjuna was the greatest archer. He was so determined to be the best that when he was young he would practice in the dark so that he would be as comfortable shooting irregardless of darkness or light. Once when he was in a class with his brothers and cousins, his military arts teacher, Drona, asked them all to shoot a wooden bird that was placed on a tree. When Drona asked each of his students what they saw while they targeted the bird with their arrow, they replied with different answers like, "the bird, the tree, the branch, the wing." Drona would not let anyone release the arrow at the bird. When he finally got to Arjuna and asked him, Arjuna replied, "I see the eye and only the eye," and was allowed to shoot it. Drona was so pleased as it demonstrated to him how focused and serious his student was.

Nakula and Sahadava were the youngest of the five and were twin brothers. Nakula was known for his great beauty and Sahadeva was known for his wisdom. Nakula was also expert in horse-keeping and once when the Pandavas had to go in hiding, he took on the role of taking care of horses. Sahadeva was also known to be a great swordsman.

Each of these brothers had great talents and strengths. Hopefully, the next time you hear one of their names you'll remember some of their unique characteristics and think of them as the great persons they were and not just names in a book.

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