Draupadi’s Empathy and Forgiveness

20 Nov , 2014  

A Florida man convicted of first-degree murder for fatally shooting Davis, a teenager in an argument over loud music outside a Jacksonville convenience store in Nov 12. Two years later in Oct 2014 he  was sentenced  to life in prison without parole. Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath said she always taught her son to love and to forgive.She said to the killer in court “Therefore, I too must be willing to forgive and so I choose to forgive you Mr. Dunn for taking my son’s life,” McBath said in court. In another incident in Iran in April 2014, in a literal application of qisas, the sharia law of retribution, the victim’s family were to participate in their son’s killer’s punishment by pushing the chair on which he stood. The victim’s mother approached, slapped the convict in the face and then decided to forgive her son’s killer. The victim’s father removed the noose and his life was spared.Both the victim’s mother and the killer’s mother cried together, sharing their pain.

It is inspiring to see the value of forgiveness being followed in such difficult situations. It also reminds us of the the example of Draupadi from the 7th chapter of the First Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. We will discuss how inspite of suffering the loss of 5 of her sons she chooses to act from a place of dharma and compassion.

Ashwatthama killed the 5 sons of Draupadi in their sleep thinking them to be the Pandavas. She was extremely grieved to lose her 5 sons in the battle.Arjuna in order to pacify his wife and capture the wrong doer setout to capture Ashwatthama who escaped in fear. Seeing Arjuna folloiwng him and noticing that his horses were tired, Ashwathhama released the ultimate weapon Brahmastra to protect himself. On experiencing the imminent danger, Arjuna took shelter of Lord Krsna and on His advise released another brahmastra to counteract the one released by Ashwathama . He then retracted both weapons. Arjuna then Arrested Ashwathhama. Lord Krishna , while examining Arjuna in religion, encouraged Arjuna to kill the son of Droṇācārya. However Arjuna, a great soul, did not like the idea of killing him, although Aśvatthāmā was a heinous murderer of Arjuna’s family members.When Arjuna brought Ashwatthama to the camp and put him before Draupadi.Due to her female nature, and due to her being naturally good and well-behaved, she showed him due respects as a brāhmaṇa.

  1.  She could not tolerate Aśvatthāmā’s being bound by ropes, and being a devoted lady, she said: Release him, release him, for he is a brāhmaṇa, our spiritual master.
  2. Gratitude : For Guru as you have learned the military art from him. He is being represented by his son.We cannot kill him.
  3. Do not  cause grief to glorious family members who are always respectable and worshipful.
  4. Empathy – She says  I do not want Drona’s wife Krpi to cry for the loss of her son Ashwathhama just like I  am crying for the loss of my sons.
  5. Duty as Ksatriya to respect the Brahmana order and protect them.

Yudhisthira supports Draupadi. Nakula, Sahadeva, Arjuna and Krsna agreed with King Yudhishthira. Bhima angrily disagreed and recommended killing the culprit. The Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa said: A friend of a brāhmaṇa is not to be killed, but if he is an aggressor he must be killed. All these rulings are in the scriptures, and you should act accordingly. You have to fulfill your promise to your wife, and you must also act to the satisfaction of Bhīmasena and Me. Arjuna could understand the unequivocal orders of the Lord and with his sword he severed the jewel and forehead from Ashwathhama’s  head .Cutting the hair from his head, depriving him of his wealth and driving him from his residence are the prescribed punishments for the relative of a brāhmaṇa. There is no injunction for killing the body.

  1. Draupadi in the story  was upset, sad, shocked that her sons had been massacred
  2. But she did not allow her personal anger to come in the way of what punishment must be given to Ashwatthama
    1. She maintained her compassionate nature
    2. Could speak properly from shastra on why Ashwatthama should be treated with respect
    3. Since she was connected with her pain , she could connect with the pain of what Krpi would go through if she lost her son.Also she did not want Krpi to go through the same pain of the loss of her son as she was going through because of the death of her sons.
  3. Acted from a place of dharma and genuine empathy

Living a life of spiritual values is a moment to moment thing. Every moment is an opportunity to practice spiritual values.

Vaishnavism is beyond right and wrong- Vaishnavism is of living a life that is pleasing to Krsna.Through the experiences we have and the choices we make even in our motherhood -we can practice the vaishnava siddhanta to the highest degree, be pleasing to Krsna and deliver ourselves and our dependents by setting the right example of practicing Krsna Consciousness.

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