Posted: 09 November 2011 at 9:57am | IP Logged
Karna's Generosity (1):
Once, Arjuna was bragging about himself and was wondering why everyone kept praising Karna for his generosity.
He told Krishna "I am as generous as he is - maybe even better." Krishna too had told Arjuna that Karna's generosity was far better than Arjuna's.
While Krishna and Arjuna were conversing thus, an old brahman came by. He bowed respectfully to Arjuna and said "Sire, my wife has passed away. I need sandalwood to cremate her body. I have searched and asked many people but none of them have been able to give me any sandalwood. Therefore, I came to you. Please grant me some sandalwood for this purpose."
Krishna said to Arjuna "This is a chance for you to prove you are more generous than Karna. Can you grant this brahman the sandalwood he needs?"
(I wondered - why sandalwood? But, on further reading realised that the last rites those days depended on social status. The ones with high social status can cremate their dead with sandalwood and it was the age where Brahmans were still considered above Kshathriyas even if they were poor. So if a brahman could afford it, then he can cremate his kin with sandalwood.)
Arjuna immediately gave orders to fetch as much sandalwood as possible. The brahman waited expectantly. After a while, the men whom Arjuna sent to fetch sandalwood returned empty handed. When Arjun asked them, they replied, that sandalwood was nowhere to be found in the city.
Arjun turned apologising to the brahman, saying, "I'm sorry. I would have given you more than you need if it were only available." The brahman was disappointed. He said, "If I had gone to Karna instead of coming here, I would have obtained the sandalwood already."
Arjuna scoffed at this and said, "If I were not able to give you the sandalwood, neither can he."
The brahman went to Karna and made the same request. The men Karna sent also returned empty handed. The brahman gave up hope saying that it was his fate and nothing can be done.
However, Karna could not bear the thought of someone returning empty handed after asking him. He looked around and realised that some chambers of his palace were made of sandalwood. He asked the brahman to wait, grabbed an axe and started chopping off the pillars made of sandalwood. One section of the palace collapsed but Karna did not bother. The brahman stood there in complete awe at what Karna had done. Karna gave all the sandalwood he could to the brahman and said respectfully, "Now you can fulfill the last rites of your wife. Please be content with this sandalwood." The brahman gladly accepted the sandalwood and took them back to this village. Karna had also given him a cart to transport the wood.
On the way, the brahman met Arjuna again who was shocked to see that the brahman had obtained the sandalwood that was nowhere available in the country. When asked about it, the brahman said that 'the great and generous Karna' had chopped off a part of his palace to give him the sandalwood.
Krishna said "For a person who has the mind to give, nothing is impossible. Karna is more generous than anyone else."
Arjuna then realised his folly and accepted the truth.