Ashwatthama: The blessing of eternal life? or is it a curse?
Updated: Feb 27, 2022
Is it a basic human right to expect a long, healthy and prosperous life as the three best gifts we could possibly get?
What do folks mean by the phrase "be careful what you wish for"?
What if one of these three gifts became an everlasting boon?
Which one would we cherish most if we had one choice?money, health or life?
How would we handle the one abundant gift if we got it? cherish it or fritter it away?
Would it change our behavior? for the better or for the worse?
What if the immortality gift evoked negative thoughts and triggered bad behavior in us?
What if the gift becomes a intractable problem? Is this the definition of eternal damnation?
The Mahabharata Context
Ashwatthama is the son of Sage Drona and Kripi, wife of Sage Kripa. As the son of such a learned couple, it is unconscionable that Ashwattama becomes the most despised character in the epic. Blessed with a divine gem in his forehead, he has great education and many opportunities to emerge as a good role model and ensure the victory of Dharma. Instead, Ashwatthama stands by Prince Duryodhana with every evil conspiracy. After the death of King Karna, Ashwattama does indeed ask Prince Duryodhana to make peace with the Pandavas to avoid certain defeat.
Sadly for him, his good advice falls on deaf ears and Prince Duryodhana chooses certain death over a life in regret and shame. Ashwattama reserves his most despicable behavior after the death of Prince Duryodhana at the hands of Prince Bheema. Furious to have lost everything, Ashwatthama refuses to take the high road and peacefully surrender. Instead, he executes a midnight massacre destroying the remaining Pandava army during a brutal night of cold-blooded killing of the warriors as they slept. When confronted by the grieving Pandava brothers and Lord Krishna , Ashwatthama defiantly releases the all-powerful divine weapon, the Bhahmastra which has the power to create Armageddon. After the world is saved from the Armageddon, Lord Krishna finally extracts the divine gem from Ashwatthama's forehead and curses Ashwatthama with immortality so he may roam the planet in shame and repentance for all time to come.
Our Null Hypothesis for the Ashwatthama character
The essence of the Ashwatthama character is fierce loyalty, superb fighting skills and great strength. Ashwatthama was an awesome warrior with magnificent skills with archery including training to use divine weapons. While almost everyone else resisted the use of divine weapons, it was he and King Karna who alone used divine weapons to try and change the righteous trajectory and imminent victory of good over evil.
The biggest negative of this character is a stubborn resistance to reason and an absolute lack of respect for divine laws. He was willing to unleash total mayhem on the universe in order to ensure his victor as commander in chief of the Kaurava army. He wanted to outlive everyone in the war and worse wanted everyone else around him dead. His wish came true. The punishment he receives is eternal life, a life of ill-repute, pain and anguish for eternity.
Ashwatthama teaches us a very simple and stunning lesson- Be careful what you wish for. It might come true. Every gift is valuable since it is in short supply- life, health and money. An overabundance of these gifts creates a lack of appreciation in us for them. We work hard to get them, savor these short-lived gifts, thank the Lord for our blessings but sadly sometimes waste these gifts. Simple lessons from this character- make every moment on earth count positively, protect and fight to be healthy and also don't waste your blessings. What % Prince Ashwatthama do you have in you?