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"Don't Be A Coward"

Although Yudhishthira had come to his own and was well established on the throne, he was eating his heart out. He was deeply touched by the suffering and the blood-bath the war had caused. He grew world-weary. He thought of giving up his kingship. He wanted to become a sanyasi' and live in the forest.

Somehow, Vyasa came to know of it. One day, he called at Yudhishthira's palace. Yudhishthira bowed to him and offered him a seat by his side. Vyasa said: "You seem to be lost in deep thought, O King."

Yudhishthira did not answer.

'Why do you hesitate to tell me, my child? Come, what is the matter?’

"Something is worrying me, but...." he tried to evade the question.

"Yes, I know, you are very much disturbed. Why do you hide your feelings from me? Do you mean to cast away?  everything and go to the woods? Tell me."

Yudhishthira spoke in a low voice and confessed that he was so inclined Vyasa laughed aloud and said with affection:

"You art a fool; you want to go to the forest, do you? You are a brave man! You have, all of you, fought like heroes on

The battlefield. You got back all that was due to you. Now you ought to look after your kingdom, and not think of going to the forest for doing 'tapas'. You areKshatriyas. You ought to know your duty. Don't be a coward. Haven't you heard the story of Shankha and Likhita?"

"No, I would love to listen to it," said Yudhishthira.

Vyasa began: "Listen. Once upon a time, there were two brothers called Shankha and Likhita. They were 'rishis'.

They were learned in the scriptures and knew the secrets of Dharma. They were held in great regard. They lived in a cottage in the forest. One day Shanka was away from the 'ashrama'. In his absence Likhita plucked a few fruits from the trees in the ashrama and ate them. When Shankha returned Likhita told him what he had done. Shankha was very angry. He told Likhita that he had been guilty of theft and deserved punishment. But only the king could punish him. Therefore he asked Likhita to go to the king and receive whatever punishment was given. Likhita went to the king and admitted his guilt. The King had his hands cut off. Likhita came back to the 'ashrama'. He showed his maimed arms to his brother and said,

'Brother, I have been punished.' Shankha said, 'Well, that was only right. Now go and bathe in the river and come back.' One c in the river and he got back his hands. Ai the rishi was not angry with the king."

Vyasa explained that the king punished the 'rishi' for his guilt; there was I personal hatred in it. It was not a sin a Kshatriya punished the guilty. On the other hand the king only did his duty. Similarly, the Kauravas were guilty and they deserved to be punished.

Vyasa said, "Why do you want to give up your duty and go to the forest now, meditate on God? When you have done

Your duty as a king, it will be time to leave Yudhishthira was silent.

Vyasa told him another story. Once upon a time there was a huge war between the Devatas and the Rakshasas. The

were kith and kin like the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Those who were good were called the Devatas and those who were evil were called the Rakshasas. It was the Rakshasas who started the war. They were proud and jealous. Even some of the Devatas went over to the side of the Rakshasas. Those Devatas were learned men, well versed in the Vedas. But they were not spared. All of them were killed. The Devatas who killed them were said to have done the right thing. There was no sin in what they did. If an individual were to bring discredit to a family or a community, if would not be a sinful act to kill him. If a family or a community were to bring shame to a nation, it would be righteous to uproot such a family or community.

Thus Vyasa tried to console the sorrow-stricken Yudhishthira. He said to Yudhishthira: "You have done nothing wrong. At least now, will you give up a thought of going to the forest?"

"Yes.... but..." Yudhishthira stammered"

"Come out with it. Why are you hesitating to speak?’

"Arjuna's son, Abimanyu, was just little boy of sixteen. They killed him on the battlefield before our very eyes. His death

is weighing down on my heart," said Yudhishthira tearfully.

Vyasa was silent for a moment. Then he said: "Yes, Abhimanyu was a lion hearted lad, a great hero. The entire

Kaurava army encircled him and killed him. He was killed in an unfair fight. Do I not know all that? That is the very nature of war, my son; why do you speak like an ignorant man? Can you think of uncle and nephew on the battlefield? The Kauravas wanted to destroy Arjuna's will to fight; so they wanted to kill Abhimanyu. But their plans were upset Abhimanyu was young but a mighty warrior. He was verily a lion's cub. He died, but not before he had brought death and destruction into the ranks of the enemy forces. He is now in the land of the dead. Glory such as his is not within the reach of all. Why do you grieve? Remember there were great heroes in the past. They are dead and gone. But they have left behind their deathless names." He told Yudhishthira the stories of sixteen brave warriors.

Just then, Arjuna, his wife Subhadra, and Abhimanyu's wife Uttara came there. They touched the feet of the great Vyasa.

He greeted them affectionately. Then he said, I will repeat to you what I was telling Yudhishthira. Abhimanyu did not die

coward's death; he fought like a hero and is in heaven with the great heroes. He dead, it is true. But his name lives. His very name lends glory to your dynasty. So c not weep for him."

Then the sage turned to Uttara. He said, "My child, you will give birth to or who will become a great emperor. Through him the dynasty of the Pandavas survive. So why do you grieve? Take courage, daughter."

He then addressed Yudhishthira. "Are you now consoled Yudhishthira? Have you given up thoughts of meditation in the Forest?"

"Yes, great sage," answered Yudhislthira, touching Vyasa's feet.

So Vyasa guided one and all with words of wisdom. He showed every one the path of duty. He then returned to his hermitage.

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Veda Vyasa - A Great Sage who gave the world 'The Mahabharata'..
About Veda Vyasa
A Visitor
The Lovers
"Call And I Will Come"
"Come With Me, Mother"
"This Is Not Right"
"Patience for a While"
"Treat Them As Your Children"
You are Here! "Don't Be A Coward"
The Vision Of the Dead
Ganesha Assists Vyasa
The Story Travels
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