Narach Philosophy

THE ESSENCE OF THE EPIC: KARNA PARVA


The discussion on Nyaya and Vaisesika having ended, we have now to examine the Sankhya in so far as the creative character of Prakrti is concerned; and that, as we have explained, is based on the vital energy transformed out of Food; and Food is personified by Karna and so Karna, personifying the Vegetable Kingdom or Seed, the basis of all Food on earth, and the cause of all vital energy in animals, becomes the next commander-in-chief.

Fight between Karna and Arjuna: The chief opponent of Food is the Eater of Food, and that is Prana or vital breath which alone can swallow Food. That is Arjuna; and so the chief fight now is between Arjuna and Karna.

Karna Defeats all Pandava Brothers except Arjuna: The vital energy of Food is the physical energy of the Heart, which is superior to Buddhi, Mind, and the senses, but not to the Soul, for that is greater than the physical energy of the Heart and is seated in it. Food, again, has the power to send a person to sleep; and in a perfect state of sleep all the energies of life, Buddhi, Mind, and the senses, together with the arms and legs, cease to function. Only Prana or Breath continues to move in and out undisturbed. And so it may be said that Food can vanquish all these energies except Prana; and this is the idea of Karna's defeat of all Pandava brothers except Arjuna. They represent Buddhi, Mind, and arms and legs respectively; and Arjuna alone, personifying Prana or Breath, cannot be vanquished by Food.

The Quarrel Between Yudhisthira and Arjuna; Bhima Slays Duhsasana and Drinks His Blood: We have now to see how Breath or Prana can swallow Food; and to do so we have to examine the character and functions of the Heart, for both Food and Prana are associated and act in conjunction with it. This is the idea of the quarrel between Yudhisthira and Arjuna, and also of Bhima's slaying Duhsasana, tearing open his heart, and drinking his blood.

Fight Between Arjuna and Karna; the Death of Karna: We are now in a position to understand how Food is swallowed by Prana or Breath; and this, as we have explained, is the idea of the fight between Arjuna and Karna. Then we notice that in the actual process of preparing food, the grain is pounded and pulverized, and it loses its original form; and this is the idea of Indra's taking away Karna's coat of mail and earrings, which refer to the rind or outer covering of grain and its form. Then we see that the animal , at least Man chews food before eating, and that alters the original form of grain further still. After that, when food in the mouth approaches the throat, the vital Breath draws it in, and it is then swallowed away. This is what is described in the defeat of Karna; and this is the meaning of the Earth's swallowing his car, when Arjuna succeeds in "slaying" him.

A SUMMARY OF KARNA PARVA:
  1. After discussing the character of Nyaya and Vaisesika, we have to examine the nature of the Sankhya in regard to the creative character of Prakti, based on vital energy or semen virile, produced from Food.
  2. We see that Food is swallowed by Breath or Prana; and in order to know how that is done, we have to examine the character of the functions of the Heart, for both Food and Breath are connected with it.
  3. We see that Food has the power of putting a person to sleep, when his Buddhi, Mind, and the senses, as well as his arms and legs cease to act.
  4. Then we have to understand how Food is swallowed by Breath or Praia. We see that the whole form of grain is altered either in the process of preparing food or mastication; and when food in the mouth approaches the cavity of the throat, it is Breath that draws it in, and it is in this way that we eat food.
  5. Food is said to be a Sacrifice offered to Prana or Breath; and it is in this way that the Soul, acting through its vehicle Prana, is said to eat Food in the light of Vedanta.