Sustaining the Blows
Sustaining the blows is very tough, indeed. Oftentimes, we fall from the tree, unripe due to lack of this habit only. Our limit is often reached too early and we tend to give up quite early. The main reason for giving up too early is unexpectedness of the events that could happen in life. Apart from this, education, social set-up, type of food we take and the atmospheric conditions that we live in; all these things matter in our mental toughness and property of forbearance and trying to increase our limits.
The “shot peening” process of “manufacturing practices” used to clean and provide toughness to the metal products would be the perfect example for us to understand. In this process, a metal product that has to be imparted with toughness and sustainability, is shot at by very small-size peens or bullets at a very high speed. A sort of bombastic approach is adopted for this to happen. What happens is that the surface of the product gets toughened due to this peening, though actually the process could sound very painful in its appearance. It could appear to be hurting the metallic surface but actually, it is for imparting strength.
Similarly, our dear Lord bombards us with peens of problems and difficulties. There is no way-out of this peening process and we being a product of his factory need to undergo this process. However, if we are able to withstand this peening process with contentment and are happy that God wants us to be perfect in our manufacturing, then we would be at peace. The blows that the life would have in store for us would be the particles that would be strength-makers for us. All of us have been through this peening process, no doubt, but how many of us look at it as our betterment. There is always a thin sheen between ‘battering and bettering’.
Every time, you will feel that you have been shot at, and you have two options. You can sustain that shot within you and continue to live and learn; otherwise, you can call it your limit and die. Just like the electronic model that we discussed in the first chapter, we will have the option of dissipating our energy and going farther or converting it as additional asset and continue to move closer and closer to the nucleus.
Gāndharī and Kuntī
I would like to take you back to the biggest epic of the world—the Mahābhārata. Yes, once again, we would take resort to this classic and will examine the life and character of two mothers, who were made to sit in close proximity with each other, comforting each other and loving each other in the same vein, when actually their sons were fighting with each other and killing each other, everyday.
This is one of those unparalleled examples in human history that give you an idea about the strangeness and different-ness of God’s works. They are almost invariably the unthinkable option.
Okay, Gāndharī was the elder one between them. She was the princess who chose to blindfold her eyes because her proposed husband was blind. It was an audacious move by a woman but this is where the woman showed the power of their being during ancient times. Kuntī was the elder queen of King Pānḍu, who ruled over Hastināpur because his elder brother was not enthroned due to his blindness.
As was the will of destiny, Pānḍu was cursed by a dying saint, whom he had shot by an arrow erringly, that he won’t be able to enjoy conjugal physical love and if he dared to do that, Pānḍu would die. However, with the grace of gods, Kuntī begot 3 sons—Yudhiṣṭhra, Bhīma, and Arjuna. She also gave the invocative Mantra to her younger queen Madri, who begot two sons—Nakula and Sehdév. The birthplace of these princesses was not in the palace of Hastināpur, as Pānḍu and both his queens were enjoying their times in the forest. However, in the palace, queen Gāndharī could not beget a son. She sought the blessings of Sage Vyāsa—the writer of Mahābhārata—to bless her with sons. With the blessings of the sage, 100 sons were born to her.
The strangeness of God’s works started right there. It was proclaimed by the astrologers that the sons born to Gāndharī would bring huge defame to the dynasty and they won’t be good humans. It was advisable to destroy the fetus before the birth. However, the motherliness of a woman could not do this. Moreover, Yudhiṣṭhra was elder to Suyodhana (his name became ‘Duryodhana’ due to his bad deeds), and therefore entitled to his father’s throne, which was only entrusted to Pānḍu’s elder brother in his presence. However, as the sub-conscious mind never allows you to rise above the worldly attachments, the elder brother Dhṛtrāṣṭra had a grudge that though he was elder than Pānḍu, his son was not entitled to his throne just because he was blind.
The tussle between human mind and the destiny is most complex in this part of this epic where while even knowing the correct path, people could not venture to tread it. Entrusted king Dhṛtrāṣṭra was not able to admit the irony of his destiny and was ambitious about the future of his own, which actually led to the wipe-out of all of his sons.
Well, we won’t be divulging more on the story but come to the characters of discussion. Gāndharī and Kuntī were very pure in their heart. They always lived like real sisters and respected each other—they loved each other’s company and always encouraged each other to pursue their Dharma, whatever might happen. It was this habit of rising above from personal grudges and personal attachments that made them able to sustain the blows of destiny. You would hardly find any example parallel to this one where two mothers had to suffer so much just because their sons were not living like they lived together.
Gāndharī had to withstand a lot of blows right from the time she was chosen as the would-be wife of Prince Dhṛtrāṣṭra.
Gāndharī had to face the following blows:
- Her husband was totally blind.
- Her husband was not the king though he was eldest of brothers. The throne of Hastināpur was entrusted to him in the absence of King Pānḍu.
- She was not blessed with progeny, though later she borne 100 sons.
- Right before the birth of her sons, it was proclaimed that they would be wicked the fetus should be destroyed before the birth of the babies.
- Her brother took control over bringing up her sons, who actually was not a king who followed Dharma.
- The destiny had it and it happened—the sons grew wicked and had an inborn hatred towards the sons of Kuntī.
- During the war, there was nobody who fought for her sons with total dedication. All knew that it was not justified according to the Dharma.
- One-by-one, all but one of her sons were killed by the sons of Kuntī.
- She could but only receive the news and do nothing.
- At the end, she had to go to forest and follow her Dharma with her husband.
Can you imagine a mother losing her 100 sons and knowing that it was her destiny? It is imperative to notice here that she herself never wavered from Dharma and always wanted her sons to learn the right path. She fully knew that Lord Krishna was the Incarnation of that age, and she prayed to Him to rescue her sons if He could.
It is striking to note here that Gāndharī never had a bad feeling towards Kuntī, because she knew that Kuntī never did anything wrong in her life—her sons always sticked to Dharma and therefore they were on the right path.
Kuntī had to face the following blows:
- She had to part from her son who was born before her marriage with the grace of Sun God.
- During her little happy days, her husband was cursed by a sage forbidding him to enjoy conjugal physicality, which deprived them to have sons. She begot her sons directly from gods because she had a powerful invoking Mantra granted to her by a sage.
- Her husband died quite early in age and she had to literally beg for her sons’ part of kingdom from the elder brother, the enacting king Dhṛtrāṣṭra.
- During the early years of her sons’ education, she had to undergo many hardships heaped upon her sons by the sons of Gāndharī—there was a continuous threat of death when she lived in Hastināpura.
- Her sons and she escaped from the fire-house that was deviously planned to char them in fire by the sons of Gāndharī.
- She and her sons had to face the maximum harassment and mortification when her daughter-in-law was tried to be disrobed in the royal court and was eventually saved by Lord Krishna Himself.
- She had to go exile with her sons and also had to live with Prime Minister Vidura, who was her so-called brother, for one year when her sons had to live incognito.
- She lost all her grandchildren during the war.
- She also lost the son that was born before her marriage with the grace of Sun God. It was indeed one of the most difficult situations where a mother could not claim her son as hers and had to see him killed by her own sons.
- She had to console and feel sorry to Gāndharī because her children were killing her sons in the battle.
The story of Mahābhārata is indeed quite strange and too much criss-crossed in tales that are quite difficult to understand in the present context. However, the struggle of human mind has been revealed to the maximum extent possible in this great epic. Pick up any character of this epic and you will have a separate story for it. It is difficult to agree and understand that queens could be made to undergo such hardships in life; what then they enjoyed in life if all this happened with them? Indeed, nobody can decipher the mysterious ways of the Lord.
Now, what we have to discuss about these two characters apart from the story and the emotions that it accompanies. ‘Sustaining the Blows’ was our motive and these two women showed immense stability during those hard times. They did not waver from their own Dharma and always stuck to the path of righteousness.
To top it all, Kuntī presented a stand-alone example for praying for difficulties to Lord so that she could always call upon Him. Swāmi has often quoted her name as an example of true Bhakta, who is never perturbed or bogged-down by difficulties presented by life; in fact, she continued to ask for more so that she could never forget calling Him for help. It is an irony that to get the cloth rid of dirt, it has to be beaten. This is exactly what God does with His devotees—he just beats out the dirt from them. They who stand the battering emerge better; those who deny this bettering process, give up too early.
How Swāmi exemplified this habit
Once again, let’s take recourse to the tales from Sathyam Shivam Sundaram—the official biography of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
I don’t distinctly remember in which Volume this incident was reported but it portrays beautifully how we need to sustain the blows.
Prof. N. Kastῡrī writes that the husband of the younger sister of Bhagwān’s body had died. The whole family was sitting in a circle outside Swāmi’s residence, where Sai Kulwant Hall stands now. Swāmi cars approached and Prof. Kastῡrī ran towards Swāmi’s feet, crying uncontrollably. He was, indeed, moved by the pain and could not help himself. It was, by all means, a heart-wrenching scene.
Patting on Prof. Kastῡrī’s back, Swāmi said smilingly: “What Kastῡrī, if nobody dies, with whom I will play”. He then moved towards the family and consoled them and infused them with strength with kind words and divine presence.
This, to many, may appear all-too-aloof an attitude. But it is not. Swāmi is kindness personified and he does not like to laugh at someone’s plight. He can’t do it—for he himself feels the pain of everybody.
What was remarkable here is that he knew what the family required at this point—strength. Somebody, who is unmoved by gravity of the situation, and is able to execute various things. Somebody who could provide a warm shoulder for sobbing faces. It is noticeable here that the husband of Swāmi’s body’s elder sister had already died. The family was struck with sharp cruelty of fate but Swāmi did not tremble—he stood like a faithful rock for all to rest upon.