“All the sons of Dhritarashtra along with their allied kings, and Bhishma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.26-27)
Friend1: Do you remember playing that game as a child, where you had to spot the object that didn’t match with the others?
Friend2: For sure. It was in books. I saw it on Sesame Street, too.
Friend1: There you go. It was a great learning tool, wouldn’t you say?
Friend1: Let’s play a version of that game today.
Friend1: I’m trying to present my question in a clever way.
Friend2: Sure. Go for it.
Friend2: A great rishi.
Friend1: Let me finish the list, please.
Friend1: Markandeya, Kakabhushundi. Yashoda. Arjuna. Duryodhana.
Friend2: You are too funny. Obviously, Duryodhana stands out.
Friend1: Oh, I forgot to mention. These five also have something in common. Please indulge me. Why does Duryodhana stand out?
Friend2: He is not a devotee. Though the kind-hearted Yudhishthira affectionately referred to him as Suyodhana, Duryodhana was a bad character. He attempted murder on so many occasions. The only reason he failed was because Krishna was there to save the Pandavas.
Friend1: Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Pandavas are five brothers, sons to the king Pandu. They are the main characters of the historical Sanskrit epic known as the Mahabharata.
Friend2: And Duryodhana is one of their cousins. He is the leader of the rival Kauravas. Duryodhana unjustly took the land and kingdom that belonged to the Pandavas. The “cold war” type conflict eventually escalated to physical conflict in the form of the Bharata War. Arjuna was the leading fighter for the Pandavas, and Krishna kindly acted as the chariot driver.
Friend1: Okay, great. We’ve laid the groundwork. Duryodhana stands out from the group, but do you know what they have in common?
Friend2: Not offhand.
Friend1: They all saw a version of the universal form, the virata-rupa.
Friend2: Oh yeah. That’s right.
Friend1: Markandeya saw it at the end of the creation, when there was total devastation. The crow Kakabhushundi saw it in the belly of a youthful Shri Rama, who is an incarnation of God. Yashoda saw it in the mouth of young Krishna, after He was accused by His friends of eating dirt. Arjuna saw it on the battlefield prior to the great war.
Friend2: And Duryodhana saw it when Krishna visited as an emissary to prevent the war from happening in the first place.
Friend1: Right. Here is my question. Why is Duryodhana included on this special list? That doesn’t seem right.
Friend2: Well, only Krishna knows why He does things. Secondly, there were a few others present in that viewing. Dhritarashtra and Vidura, Duryodhana’s father and uncle, respectively. And it is said in the Bhagavad-gita that the virata-rupa shown to Arjuna was unique. No one had seen it before.
Friend1: Yes, and time was incorporated in that vision. Arjuna saw all the fighters rushing into Krishna’s many mouths. This was an indication of the future. On a related note, why didn’t Krishna show Duryodhana the future? That would have prevented war.
Friend2: We don’t know that. The simple answer is that Duryodhana is not a devotee. Remember, when Krishna visited, the fiend hatched up a scheme to bind Krishna and thus embarrass the Pandavas. The virata-rupa was in response to this ridiculous idea. It showed Duryodhana that Krishna could not be caught, since the size of His transcendental body is beyond measure.
Friend1: Alright, what about showing the future, though?
Friend2: Duryodhana is not a disciple, either. Krishna showed the future to Arjuna because that was part of the instruction, done for Arjuna’s good. Duryodhana would have had the same opportunity if he had any interest in doing good. God does not interfere with our choices. He is always with us as the Supersoul, but we only start to go in the right direction when we want to. Even if Duryodhana saw the future, he likely wouldn’t have followed devotion. Even if he did, it would have been out of fear and not love. Arjuna saw the future so that he would be able to make the proper decision, the one to fight valiantly while keeping Krishna at the center.
Unique vision to Arjuna was shown,
Virata-rupa to that moment alone.
But also version to Yashoda and crow,
And Markandeya in belly to go.
Fiend Duryodhana in list included,
But vision of future in that excluded.
Not to help even in war’s prevention,
Devotion from fear never the intention.