A lie lowers your stature

One of the most thought-provoking episodes in the epic Mahabharata is the killing of Dronacharya, the revered guru of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas.

On the fifteenth day of the war, Drona, now at the head of the Kaurava army, mowed down the Pandavas in large numbers. He had to be stopped. Krishna knew there was one person Drona loved more than himself. It was his son, Ashwathama. He cleverly asked Bhima to kill an elephant named Ashwathama and shout, ‘Ashwathama is dead!’ Hearing this, Drona froze.

To make sure, he asked Dharmaputra, upholder of truth, to tell him if it was so. Dharmaputra answered, ‘Ashwathama is dead,’ adding softly, ‘the elephant’. Drona relinquished arms and sat in a yoga posture. Taking advantage, Dhristadyumna in one sweep cut off his head. Two overpowering reasons make this a shameful deed. According to rules of war, none could be killed while in yoga. Secondly, this great fighter was the victim of deceit. Was it not a sin on the part of the Pandavas and how could Krishna, God Almighty, have advocated it?

The Mahabharata is not a simple tale of good overcoming evil. Kurukshetra is the battlefield called life where white meets black and creates grey areas. On this day, it seemed, that the Kauravas would emerge victorious. Both sides were by now guilty of wrongdoing, but weighed on the scales of justice, the Kauravas were more wicked by far. It was imperative that evil be vanquished. Drona himself was guilty of deceit. He deprived Ekalavya of his thumb and refused to tutor Karna. Among Pandavas Yudhisthira, for example, was addicted to gambling.

But how could Krishna sanction and advocate the telling of lies? In the prevailing circumstances, Krishna upheld Satyam, which propounded that telling a lie to save lives is not considered a sin. How do we justify Dharm- aputra indulging in a lie? Even the best among us are vulnerable to temptation. His weakness cost him dear, for his cha- riot sank to the ground putting an end to his superiority.

It is an unforgettable lesson – a lie under all circumstances is a lie. It diminishes your stature and makes all it touches lie low.

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