Who is a Greater King – Karna or Yudhisthira?

Once Arjuna and Krishna had a debate as to who is a more righteous king – Karna or Yudhisthira?

Arjuna said that Yudhisthira is more righteous but Krishna explained that such is not the case. Just because Karna is siding with Duryodhana doesn’t mean he is any less righteous than Yudhisthira. He has his personal limitations but this has nothing to do with his righteousness as a king.

Krishna then decides to test the merit of the two subjects and disguises himself and Arjuna as Brahmins.

First they visit Yudhisthira and ask him to donate some dry sandalwood which they need for “Yagna”. Yudhisthira sends a servant and requests the two Brahmins to wait until the servants come back with dry sandalwood. The servant returns but since it was raining heavily, he could not collect dry sandalwood from the forest.

Yudhisthira explains the situation to the two Brahmins and begs an apology. He promises the two Brahmins to give them dry sandalwood as soon as it stops raining.

The two Brahmins then visit Karna and ask for dry sandalwood. The servant comes back with the same result, stating that there is no dry sandalwood available since it is raining heavily. Karna asks the guests to wait for some time and comes back with some dry sandalwood.

On asking how did he obtain dry sandalwood, Karna explains that he had chopped down the pillars and furniture of his room, which was made up of Sandalwood.

Krishna then explains to Arjuna

Parth, did you notice the differences? Yudhisthira does something because it is written in the book of Dharma. Karna does something because he likes to do it. Yudhisthira’s definition of Dharma and righteousness is limited to his learnings. Karna’s definition of Dharma and righteousness is not limited to just learnings but he is genuinely interested in helping people who come to him for help. This shows the character of a person. I am not demeaning Yudhisthira but Karna has a far more powerful character compared to Yudhisthira and he is the one who is a greater king.

This analogy is very much applicable in our day to day lives.

We see this in our workplace, school, business – everywhere. One subject is genuinely interested in working while another subject is more interested in the “show of work”. One subject is genuinely interested in the “Business”, while his counterpart is more worried about “money”, “stake”, “reputation” et cetra. One subject is genuinely interested in learning his homework while another subject does it to get an accolade in the classroom.

The intent is a reflection of the character of an individual. Dharma is related to the intent (and not whether an objective is achieved or not). The true test of righteousness comes from Intent and not the result.

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