Gandhari is a singular character in the great saga of Mahabharata.
Wife of the unsighted Dhritrashtra and mother of the Kauravas, Gandhari was an exalted ascetic.
Dhritrashtra was blind. While tying the nuptial knot, Gandhari was privy to this fact. She was aware that he was not equipped to relish the joy of visual perception of the outside world. Therefore, she took a vow – a harsh, strong and unparalleled vow.
“From now onwards, my world is the one which my husband’s lives in! If the visual delights exist not for him, they exist not for me either!!”
With this mighty resolve, Gandhari blindfolded herself, for good. Dhritrashtra could not see just because he was not equipped to. But Gandhari, in spite of her robust visual fitness, not only chose to don the mantle of blindness, but also consciously abdicated the desire to see.
Normally the eyes, ever in constant touch with the outside world, turn to the inner realms of dreams and slumber only when tired. In Gandhari, those very eyes turned inwards, in a fully live, active state, spontaneously initiating the esoteric and intricate sadhana of unveiling and bonding with the mystic vitality within.
The wall of determination did not allow even the “desire to see” to enter her world. Secured by the unbreakable fabric of her rigid vow, the blindfold which came to symbolise her “desire not to see”, remained securely fastened.
Below this unyielding blind fold, her eyes, replete with teja – the arcane gleam of the underlying sea of pure energy- had transformed into pure manifestations of the element of fire itself.
Years passed by. The Kaurava-Pandava animosity escalated to perilous proportions. The war seemed inevitable. The unmatched strength of the mighty Bhima was well known. Though Gandhari‘s son Duryodhana had been preparing hard to defeat Bhima, but his ability to do so was not beyond doubt.
Dhritrashtra, father of Duryodhana and husband of Gandhari, was aware of the potential of Gandhari‘s blindfolded powerhouses, her eyes. He knew that a mere glance of Gandhari was potent enough to cause total transformation of any one. A mere glance of Gandhari could exterminate one, or on the other hand render him ever invincible, indestructible.
Dhritrashtra called Duryodhana, and counselled him. “In order to be triumphant in your fight with Bhima, you have to render your body impenetrable.”
“True”, said Duryodhana. “But is that possible?”
“Yes it is.” Advised Dhritrashtra. “Request your mother to remove her blindfold for once, and glance over your body. Just one glance of her powerful divine sight will be adequate to endow your body with impregnable invincibility.”
Duryodhana went to Gandhari and implored her to help him. “Dear mother, please help me. Only you can save me from the ignominy of defeat. Only you can make my body impervious to attack.”
The magnanimity of mother’s heart readily yielded. “Alright”, she said “Come to my room tomorrow morning. Just ensure that your body is uncovered, totally. After you, come, I will open my blindfold for a moment and my glance over your body will sheath it with an impregnable shield.”
Bhagwan Krishna came to know of the development. Well aware of the vigour of Gandhari‘s ascetic radiance, he was worried.
Then came the next morning. As decided, Duryodhan proceeded towards Gandhari’s room, without any clothes on his body. Sri Krishna accosted him on the way. “What am I seeing Duryodhana? You are a grown up man. How shameless! Moving around in such a state, without clothes?”
The scolding had the desired affect. A mortified Duryodhana could not muster the courage to look into the eyes of Bhagwan Krishna. “Mother wanted me to come to her like this only.” He murmured in a subdued voice.
“In this state?” scolded Bhagwan Krishna again. You are not a small baby Duryodhan!
At least cover your loins you shameless fellow.”
Unable to bear any more, Duryodhana, plucked a large leaf from a banana tree on his side, and wrapped it around his loins.
Partially covered thus, he entered Gandhari’s room. “Here I am mother, he said “Please bestow upon me your potent glance and render my body impregnable.”
“All right”, replied Gandhari. “Keep standing in front of me.”
Saying so, she removed her blind fold and opened her eyes. The charged electrifying radiance emanating from her eyes encircled Duryodhana’s body.
But she was shocked.
“What have you done Duryodhana!” she exclaimed in a sternly solemn voice. “Why this covering on your loins? My sight has rendered impregnable your whole body except the groin? The covered portion will remain vulnerable as before. I am your mother my child. Why couldn’t you come to me as a simple innocent child?”
Alas, what had been done could not be undone. The penetrating radiance of Gandhari’s, eyes, powered by the force of her penance, had been blocked by the wall of Duryodhana’s aham (ego)- ‘I am not a child’. He could not present himself as a small innocent child. The consequences were disastrous. In his fight with Bhima, the vulnerability of Duryodhana’s groin, lead to his end, because that was the part on which Bhima’s assault was inflicted.
At this point, many questions may arise. Was Gandhari’s supposedly powerful radiance not strong enough even to penetrate a thin banana leaf?
Here the banana leaf is just a symbol- A symbol of Duryodhana’s ego (I am grown up), prompting him to cover parts of his body- hiding them from his own mother.
Similarly when a Shishya (disciple) bows reverently in front of his Guru, seeking his benevolence, he is not able to dedicate himself ‘as he is’. He keeps hiding his frailties. He continues to uphold his ego and tries to hide his infirmities from the Guru, more than any one else, so much so that if some of his fellow disciples are privy to his weaknesses, he threatens them – “You will see the worst of me if you disclose this to Maharaj Ji (Literally meaning ‘The revered emperor’- as the Guru is mostly addressed fondly by the disciples).
This happens because; he actually does not intend to strengthen his weak areas. Using the Banana Leaf of his ego, he keeps blocking the benevolent radiance of the Guru from sanctifying his malignancies.
All efforts of such a disciple are aimed at hiding his weaknesses from the Guru. He lacks the urge, the anxiety, and the restlessness to cleanse his being, of these frailties. He seeks the Guru’s bounty of benevolence, even the liberation. But!! But he cannot dedicate himself, ‘as he is’.
Not that he does not want to eradicate his shortcomings, his weaknesses. In the heart of his hearts, he wishes, and even implores the Guru to do so. However, inadvertently, due to his Ragas (worldly attractions) and Vasna (sensory cravings), he continues to be tied up with those weaknesses, those short comings. In fact, however, he does not wish to get rid of the frailties he seeks to hide.
Talking about disclosing such shortcomings to the Guru, such a disciple spins myriad of alibis like- “The Guru is the Know-all- Where is the need to tell him. He knows it already”. On the other hand, if at all he chooses to disclose them to the Guru, he presents half-baked stories, blaming others for his infirmities. Having said so, he tries to wriggle out saying, “I have revealed my shortcoming-Now it is for you to cleanse them.” Feeling absolved thus, he begins to tread the same rotten path again.
This is no way to beget munificence. Despite receiving the beam of power from the blessed eyes of his mother, the body of Duryodhana stopped short of becoming impregnable in entirety. Similarly, despite receiving benevolent guidance from the Guru, an ego centric disciple, will not be able to achieve the ultimate goal.
To sanctify his being, the gross as well as the subtle, it is imperative for the disciple to dedicate himself to the mother (the Guru) entirely, completely and absolutely, as it is, like an innocent infant, without any apparel (the ego) sheathing it.