57. ATTACHMENT AND DUTY
ANY ray of hope there might have been of a peaceful settlement when Krishna went to Hastinapura was extinguished when he returned and narrated what happened. Kunti was overwhelmed with grief when she learnt that it was to be war to the death. "How can I" reflected Kunti, "give my thoughts tongue and say to my sons, 'Bear the insults. Let us not ask for any territory and let us avoid war'? How can my sons accept what is contrary to kshatriya tradition?" "At the same time," she thought, "what can be gained by mutual killings in the war and what happiness attained after the destruction of the race? How shall I face this dilemma?" Thus was she tormented by the prospect of wholesale destruction on the one hand and the claims of kshatriya honor on the other. "How can my sons defeat the mighty three combined, Bhishma, Drona and Karna? They are warriors who have never yet met defeat. When I think of them, my mind trembles. I do not worry about the others. These three are the only people in the Kaurava army capable of fighting the Pandavas with any hope of slaying them. Of these, Dronacharya might refrain from killing my children from either love or unwillingness to meet one's own disciples in battle. The grandsire will certainly not want to kill them. But Karna is the Pandavas' chief enemy. He is anxious to please Duryodhana by killing my sons. Karna is a great man-at-arms. As I think of him engaged in battle against my other sons, my heart is consumed with agony like a faggot in the fire. Now is the time for me, to seek Karna out and tell him the truth about his birth, on knowing which, he is bound to abandon Duryodhana's cause." Tormented by these anxious thoughts about her children. Kunti went to the banks of the Ganga where Karna usually offered his daily prayers. Karna was there at his devotions. Facing east and with uplifted hands he was in deep meditations. Kunti quietly stood behind him and waited. Karna was in meditation and was unmindful of everything until he felt the hot rays of the sun on his back.