“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)Download this episode (right click and save)
It was a stressful time for Duryodhana. Though he had the kingdom he coveted, he could not preside over it in peace. There was an impending conflict, of massive proportions. The other side would be led by the cousin named Arjuna. Arjuna would be joined by his four brothers. They were collectively known as the Pandavas, and they would have their own army helping them. The Pandavas represented the side of righteousness, while Duryodhana tended towards unrighteousness.
At one point Arjuna’s good friend and cousin named Krishna arrived at the Kuru camp on a visit. He refused to partake of the offerings Duryodhana made, since the great son of Dhritarashtra would not give the proper respect due the Pandavas. They were the sons of Pandu, who was Duryodhana’s uncle. Krishna came to make one last effort at peace, to avoid conflict. This was for Duryodhana’s good, since Arjuna’s side was definitely going to win. Better to peacefully hand the kingdom over to the rightful owners than to suffer death on the battlefield.
Not only did Duryodhana refuse this entreaty, but he thought of a nefarious plan on the spur of the moment. He wanted to tie up Krishna and hold Him hostage. His thinking was that if the Pandavas saw their great well-wisher captured, they would be too afraid to fight. They would lose their will. Indeed, that is the actual way to victory in a military conflict. If you can break the other side’s will to fight, then victory is imminent. The problem here was that Duryodhana could not bind Krishna. He could not even get to first base with his plan.
1. He was committed to adharma
The Sanskrit word dharma has different meanings. The root definition is “essential characteristic.” Dharma is that thing which gives an object its meaning. For the individual, the essence of life, dharma is service. It is acting in the soul’s best interest. Therefore dharma also means “righteousness” and “virtue.”
Adharma is the opposite. Another way to understand it is ignorance. Ignorance is really nothing more than poor vision. In ignorance I break the tennis racket while playing. This is adharma to the specific situation because I will need a racket to play. Breaking it means that I will no longer have one. The ignorance is in not seeing the future consequences to my action.
Duryodhana was committed to adharma. This means that he could not see properly. Though he had the vision of Krishna right in front of him, he failed to properly recognize Him. So many people in his kingdom told him the real identity of Krishna, who is the Supreme Lord. Krishna is none other than Narayana, the source of all men.
2. Brute force does not work on the Supreme Powerful
There is the electricity that comes through the house. That is the energy. Then there is the place from which the electricity comes. That is the energetic. In a similar way, the many living entities of the universe are the power, or the energy of God. The strongest energy is in the combination of husband and wife known as Shiva and Parvati. They are the power, but above them is the powerful, who is known as Krishna.
Duryodhana was accustomed to applying brute force to get what he wanted. If you have power, why not use it? Krishna was saying things that were disagreeable to Duryodhana. Therefore, why not just bind Krishna? Take away the source of your misery.
Duryodhana’s uncle Vidura many times tried to explain that Krishna was the Supreme Powerful. Vidura referenced incidents from Krishna’s childhood in Vrindavana. The asura in the form of a whirlwind tried to carry baby Krishna into the air for the purpose of killing Him. Yet the child suddenly became too heavy to hold, and Trinavarta fell to the ground and died as a result. Putana tried to kill baby Krishna by smearing poison on her breast. Yet it was her life that was sucked out as a result.
Duryodhana thus directly heard of Krishna’s amazing potency, but due to his adharma, his sinful ways, he could not see properly. He thought that his application of brute force would succeed where others had failed.
3. He mistook Krishna for an ordinary man
Later on, when the war predicted by Krishna was about to begin, Arjuna sought guidance from the Supreme Lord. Krishna stepped out of His position as charioteer and assumed the role of guru, or teacher. One of the instructions He gave to Arjuna was that fools could not recognize His changeless nature. They thought that He had assumed the body, the way the ordinary living entity does at the time of birth.
“Unintelligent men, who know Me not, think that I have assumed this form and personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is changeless and supreme.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.24)
Duryodhana indeed mistook Krishna for an ordinary man. That was the only reason he could even contemplate something as foolish as attempting to bind Krishna. Duryodhana did not know the changeless nature of Krishna. For the Supreme Lord there is no difference between body and spirit.
4. Krishna is the universal form
You can maybe wrap your arms around a single tree, but what about all the trees in the forest? That is impossible. Any sane person would admit this. Shri Krishna appears in a human form, but actually His transcendental body is limitless. He is the entire cosmic manifestation. Through His mercy He appears in a worshipable form, such as the statue in the temple. This is to give delight to the devotees, who are able to recognize Him.
The eyes of the human being are otherwise not capable of understanding God, as He is the complete everything and beyond. After getting word of this ridiculous plan, Krishna decided to show the universal form to Duryodhana. If the fiend wanted to bind Krishna, he could simply go after the Lord’s arms. Oh, but wait. From those arms suddenly appeared many devatas and planets. Duryodhana could go at the legs, but then something else amazing emerged from Krishna’s lower region. In this way Duryodhana got the visual proof that the atheists always insist on when raising doubts about the existence of God. No one is capable of binding the universal form, which is non-different from Krishna.
5. He was not a devotee
An interesting fact is that in His childhood, Krishna was bound one time by mother Yashoda. This was after He had intentionally broken a pot of butter. He ran away, as if scared of the punishment that was sure to come. In that instance Krishna knew He did something wrong. The same person who is the universal form was in the body of a child who could not outrun the mother feverishly pursuing Him.
After Krishna was caught, Yashoda decided to bind Him to a mortar as punishment. The problem was that the rope she used kept ending up two-finger widths short. Seeing her pure devotion and her intense effort, Krishna then agreed to be bound; He allowed the rope to finally be the proper length.
This means that it is possible to bind Krishna. But it can only happen through His sanction. Duryodhana couldn’t tie up the messenger of peace, but Arjuna was able to have Him as the chariot driver during the great Bharata war. From this role Krishna is known by another name: Partha-sarathi. The dichotomy is one worth studying. It represents the massive difference in potency between adharma and dharma. On one side the entire universe remains a dark mystery, while on the other you not only understand the Divine but also get His supreme favor.
When attempt made for Krishna bound,
Universal form in front of him found.
For Duryodhana, following wicked way,
In illusion since adharma at play.
Mother Yashoda once was able to do,
Even after rope coming short finger widths two.
Because for devotee the Lord mercy granting,
In pure love, His names always chanting.