Seed or grain has an element of moisture in it, and it cannot grow without it. That is so in accordance with a law of Nature. Corresponding to this we are told that Kunti threw her son into water as soon as he was born.
The real idea of this action of Kunti would appear to be that there is an element of moisture in grain, and it makes its appearance as soon as it is formed by the action of the rays of the Sun on the Earth. This may be said to correspond to the existence of the nucleus of the cell, which is said to be a fluid substance.
The seed may thus be said to be composed of three "elements", Earth, Water, and Fire, the last corresponding to the heat or rays of the Sun. Or we might say that it partakes of the three attributes of these "elements", and has a colour or form, the property of Fire; taste, the property of Water; and smell, the property of Earth.
There is a reference to these three "elements" in the systems of philosophy.
Kunti regains her virginity: The essence of seed and the Earth is the same, and the two may even be identified (Earth and food, the basis of which is seed or grain, are identified in the Upanishads). The birth of seed or grain does not, accordingly, affect the structure of the Earth or its fecundity. It does indeed absorb the rays of the Sun, as a result of which grain or seed is born; but it can reflect back or radiate them again, and regain its original state. Corresponding to this we are told that the Sun restored her virginity to Kunti, and went away.
The story of the restoration of her virginity to Kunti and the departure of the Sun implies that this is what the ancients believed, namely, that the birth of seed in the Earth does not affect its structure, and that it can radiate the rays of the Sun it has absorbed, and regain its original state.
Karna is brought up by Adhiratha and Radha: It is food that supports the body, and makes all creatures live. Indeed, we might say that a person seeks to preserve grain because he is anxious for the preservation of his body; and this "anxiety for the body" is Adhiratha, who is said to have picked up Karna, and brought him home to his "wife".
We have "anxiety for the body" (Adhiratha), because we have a desire to live, and desire is a special attribute of the mind. This is Radha, the "wife" of Adhiratha. She refers to the mind and its attribute, desire, the desire to live; and she is the "wife" of Adhiratha, because this desire is intimately associated with "anxiety for the body".
The word Adhiratha may be divided into Adhi-ratha, when its meaning would be "(adhi) anxiety regarding (ratha, "a chariot" which, as the Mimansa tells us, is symbolic of the action of the body) action of the body". Adhiratha accordingly signifies "anxiety in regard to the action of the body", which depends for its existence on food. He personifies this idea, and so picks up Karna (grain), and brings him home.
The word Radha has a number of meanings, one of which is "lightning", which is the same as electric energy, and is identified with the energy of the mind. The mind, as we have seen, has desire for its attribute; and desire is at the root of all action, the most important of which is action for the preservation of the body. The idea of Radha is thus closely connected with that of Adhiratha: and so they are spoken of as "husband" and "wife".
There is a reference to Radial in connection with Krshna in the story of the Bhagavat Purana; and there too her idea is the same. This will be explained in due course.
The arms of Karna: Seed or grain has a number of uses, and can be very effective. Corresponding to this we are told that Karna became an expert in the use of arms. The arm is an instrument of action; and "arms" or "weapons" used by it would accordingly refer to the manner in which instruments of action can be used The "arms" or "weapons" of Karna would, accordingly, refer to the different ways in which grain can act, that is, the manner in which it can grow, and the uses to which it can be put. These are indeed many and wonderful; and so Karna is said to be an expert in the use of arms.
The story in the Epic tells us that Karna showed his skill in the use of arms at the Svayamvara ceremony of Draupadi; when she selected her husband, and he was equal to Arjuna, the chief of the Pandavas in every way. But she rejected him because of his "birth", and selected Arjuna instead. She afterwards became the "wife" of all the five Pandava brothers.
We can understand the real idea of all this if we know what these characters signify. Draupadi is also called Yajna-seni or "mistress of sacrifice"; and so she represents the idea of sacrifice or good, intelligent and joyous action, as has already been explained. The five Pandava brothers, Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva represent five parts of a man, his intellect, mind and vital breath as the vehicle of the soul, and arms and legs respectively. Karna is seed or grain, as has already been explained.
Karna is able to show the same skill as Arjuna, because there is little difference between the evolution and growth of the Vegetable and Animal Kingdoms, and their "kinship" in this respect is now universally recognized. Karna represents the Vegetable Kingdom, and Arjuna, as the soul of Man, the essence of the Animal Kingdom or Man. There is, however, one difference between them, while they are both alike so far as their natural actions are concerned; the Vegetable Kingdom is not capable of performing any deliberate action, whereas Man is.
Draupadi represents sacrifice which, like Dharma, as the Mimansa tells us refers to deliberate and not natural action. Hence she cannot have Karna for her "husband" or one who can be intimately associated with the idea she represents. She selects Arjuna, because he represents the soul which, as all systems of philosophy, other than the Sankhya, tell us, can engage in acts of sacrifice. She becomes the "wife" of all the five Pandava brothers, because it is possible to conceive of all the five parts of a man, his intellect, mind, soul having the vital breath for its vehicle, and arms and legs as engaging in acts of sacrifice.
The story does indeed tell us later on that Krshna himself made an offer to Karna, whereby he could "share" Draupadi like the Pandava brothers, if he agreed to change sides and join them. This too is easily explained. Karna represents food, and it is possible, as the Upanishads tell us, to conceive of food as a sacrifice offered to the soul; that is to say, it is good to eat food, and the soul partakes of it to be able to perform good and intelligent deeds. If we accept this idea, it follows that food can be intimately associated with the idea of sacrifice, and so Karna can "share" Draupadi in the same manner as the five parts of a man.
But Karna also represents the Sankhya system, as we have pointed out; and this system maintains that the soul is really not an actor at all. Hence, it cannot engage in any act of sacrifice. Indeed, the goal of life is said to be the renunciation of all action. Hence Karna cannot associate himself with the idea of sacrifice (or Draupadi), and so rejects the offer of Krshna, as the story tells us.
Karna worships the Sun: All seed or grain is ripened by the Sun, and the Upanishads say so too. Its energy may, therefore, be said to be due to the quiet manner in which it can submit to the action of the Sun. Corresponding to this Karna is said to worship the Sun.
Karna satisfies the Brahmanas: If we use our intelligence, we shall find that all our essential needs can be satisfied by the Vegetable Kingdom, when, under the action of the rays of the Sun, it becomes fully mature or ripe. Corresponding to this Karna is said to worship the Sun, and when his back was heated with its rays, there was nothing that he did not give to the Brahmanas.
The essential needs of an intelligent man are his food, shelter, and clothing; and all of them can be supplied by the Vegetable Kingdom. The action of the Sun on grain and its effect would appear to bear out the idea behind the modern theory of vitamins in different kinds of organic matter, for they are all believed to be connected with the Sun.