293 – Conscience

National Integration Through Thirukkural And Sanskrit


Karna in Mahabharat had a deep resentment and animosity towards Arjuna.  No less was Arjuna’s hatred towards Karna.  Both of them were powerful warriors and waiting for the Kurukshetra War to decide the winner.

Before the commencement of the war, rules of warfare were defined. Three major rules were

  • An unarmed soldier should never be attacked.
  • There has to be one-to-one engagement and not one-to-many.
  • No war should take place before sunrise or after sunset.

But during the course of the war, the above rules were flouted. One such occasion was the killing of Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu. At the time of his death, he was unarmed, attacked at a time, by many including Karna and also after Sunset. Arjuna wanted to avenge Karna, for the killing of his son.

As the war entered the final phase, Karna and Arjuna were fighting with utmost ferocity. At one stage, Karna had literally pinned Arjuna with Arrows and one more Arrow from Karna would have killed Arjuna. As he was about the release the Arrow, he saw with the corner of his eye, that, the sun was about to set.  Karna realized that, even though, at the time of release of the arrow, the sun would not have set, by the time, the arrow reaches Arjuna, the sun would have set.  He withdrew the arrow from the bow and stopped the war for the day.

Everybody was perplexed at Karna’s actions. After all, he was waiting throughout his lifetime for this day and when the opportunity had presented itself, he has let it go. Even Arjuna was shocked and wanted to kill himself as he did not want to be an object of Karna’s benevolence.

Lord Krishna gave an interpretation about Karna’s actions to Arjuna as follows:

“Even though Karna flouted the rules of the warfare by participating in the killing of Abhimanyu, he was at that time, just a soldier operating under the command of the then, Captain of the Army, Dronacharya.    As a soldier, he was only executing the commands of his Captain. But on the day of the War with Arjuna, he was the Captain of the Army. He had the responsibility to play by the rules. He chose to observe the agreed upon rules. Thus he is giving a clear message that, ‘He is not responsible for his actions on the killing of Abhimanyu. When in charge, he was acting according to his conscience’.

Moral of the Story


Some of our actions in the past could have been against Dharma. They could have been either due to a lack of awareness of nuances of Dharma/avarice/ or even out of sheer compulsions. The moment we realize what is right, let us start following them.

Let us not continue to commit mistakes citing that, nobody is watching us or others might be totally unaware of it.

Let us not cite precedents by others, to justify our wrongdoings.

When you are responsible for the outcomes, ACT ACCORDING TO YOUR CONSCIENCE.

Thiruvalluvar’s couplet No. 293   echoes the same.

தன்நெஞ்சு அறிவது பொய்யற்க பொய்த்தபின் 
தன்நெஞ்சே தன்னைச் சுடும் 

Than-nenju arivadhu Poiyarkka Poiththa-pin
Than-nenje Thannaich Chudum

பரிமேலழகர் உரை:

தன் நெஞ்சு அறிவது பொய்யற்க – ஒருவன் தன் நெஞ்சு அறிவது ஒன்றனைப் பிறர் அறிந்திலர் என்று பொய்யாதொழிக,பொய்த்தபின் தன் நெஞ்சே தன்னைச் சுடும் – பொய்த்த தாயின் அதனை அறிந்த தன் நெஞ்சே அப்பாவத்திற்குக் கரியாய் நின்று, தன்னை அதன் பயனாய துன்பத்தை எய்துவிக்கும். (நெஞ்சு கரியாதல் “கண்டவர் இல்லென உலகத்துள் உணராதார் – தங்காது தகைவின்றித் தாம் செய்யும் வினைகளுள் – நெஞ்சு அறிந்த கொடியவை மறைப்பவும் மறையாவாம் – நெஞ்சத்திற் குறுகிய கரி இல்லை ஆகலின்” (கலித்.நெய்தல்.8) என்பதனானும் அறிக. பொய் மறையாமையின், அது கூறலாகாது என்பது இதனான் கூறப்பட்டது.).

Never lie what one’s conscience knows as lie. Even, if others are unaware of it. If so done, it will silently kill one-self.

Sanskrit Translation by Shri S.N. Srirama Desikan

அஸத்யமிதி மத்வாபி கத²யன்னன்ருதம் வச: |
பஸ்²சாத்-தப்தமனா பூ⁴த்வா ததோ து³:க²ம்  ஸ விந்த³தி ||

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