If we make an intelligent use of our means of acquiring knowledge, we find that the creative power of the Earth is quickened by means of that of the Sun; and so the Sun may be said to be the great source of what the Earth creates.
Corresponding to this we are told that Kunti made use of the Brahmana's Mantra and invoked the Sun.
A Mantra means literally "an instrument of thought"; and so a Brahmana's Mantra would mean "an instrument of thought based on an exercise of the intellect", for a Brahmana signifies intellect, as we have seen. Hence it may be interpreted as "an intelligent use of the means of thought or of acquiring knowledge".
Modern science tells us that the Earth derives a great deal of its energy from the Sun.
The birth of Karna: What is it that the Earth creates in association with the energy of the Sun? We find that the first form of creation on our planet Earth is the Vegetable Kingdom, the essence of which is seed or grain; and the ancients believed that all kinds of seed or grain arise in the bosom of the Earth as a result of the action of the rays of the Sun.
Corresponding to this we are told that out of the union of Kunti with the Sun was born a hero, called Karna; and he expresses the idea of seed or grain.
The Vegetable Kingdom is created on our planet Earth before the Animal Kingdom, for it constitutes the food of the latter, which could not exist without it. All creatures live by food, which consists ultimately of the Vegetable Kingdom, for even the carnivorous live on the herbivorous. The Upanishads also tell us that the great Creator created first of all food, and then the eater of that food.
The story of the birth of Karna shows that the ancients believed that seed or grain is created in the Earth by means of the action of the rays of the Sun. It may be of interest to point out that plants cannot grow properly, or at least yield fruit, without the action of sunlight.
The word Karna has a number of meanings in the dictionary, one of which is "grain furnished with chaff", that is, grain fit for food as well as cultivation; and this is the appropriate meaning of the word throughout the Mahabharata. The Mimansa tells us that it is not always necessary to divide words into parts to understand their meaning, and the dictionary meaning of a word may be quite suitable. It may also happen that the dictionary meaning of a word as well as that obtained by means of its division into parts is the same. The word Karna belongs to this class; but, as its ordinary meaning is satisfactory, it is not necessary to divide it into parts here.
As Karna represents seed or grain, the story of the growth of the latter and the uses to which it may be put has been described in the Epic in terms of the growth of the hero and the use of his arms.
His "half-brothers", the Pandava brothers, and the remaining "sons" of Kunti, represent the Animal Kingdom, the highest form of which is Man; and the five "brothers" represent the five parts of a man, his intellect, mind, breath or prana as the vehicle of the soul, and arms and legs respectively. As the formation of arms and legs is different from that of the rest of the body, the last two "brothers", Nakula and Sahadeva, are said to have a different "mother", though they too are created at the instance of Kunti; and, as arms and legs have a similar form, they are said to be "twins". As the five "brothers" represent Man or the eater of food, and Karna is food or grain, and there is an apparent "hostility" between food and the eater of food, Karna and his "half-brothers" are "enemies". Arjuna is the arch-enemy of Karna for he represents breath that swallows food; and the "combat" between the two is the process by means of which the eater of food eats food. The whole story of the Epic is like that.
As Karna represents food, the basis of all physical creative energy associated with Nature or Prakrti in the Sankhya, he also represents that system in the Epic. Man, on the other hand, rises from Sankhya to Nyaya and Vaiseshika, and thence to Yoga and Vedanta. His opponents, the Kauravas, believe in Nyaya and Vaiseshika; and so the "battle of Kurukshetra" is a contest between Sankhya, Nyaya and Vaiseshika on the one hand, and Yoga and Vedanta on the other, the former represented by the Kauravas and their allies, and the latter by the Pandavas and their associates. It is in this manner that we have a conflict of systems of thought in the Epic. All this has already been explained.
Natural armour and ear-rings of Karna: If we examine the form of seed or grain (or fruit), we find that it is encased in a comparatively hard outer skin or rind. Similarly, there is bark on a tree; and they serve to protect the grain or plant.
We also see that seed, grain, or fruit grows on the branch of a tree, and makes it look beautiful.
Corresponding to this Karna is said to have been born with natural armour and ear-rings. The word for armour in the text is kavacha, which also means "bark or rind", which is a natural "armour" for all trees or seeds.
The word for an ear-ring in the text is kundala, which may be divided into two parts, kun, dala. But, according to the practice of grammarians in framing compounds, kun can be a substitute for kuna, and dala for dala; and so the meaning would now be "(dala) a branch (kuna) bearing fruit". The idea of "ear-rings" would thus be that of grain or seed on a branch which bears fruit. The point of this is that seed grows into seed again.