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Dhritarashtra: How important is bloodline in succession planning?

Updated: Feb 27, 2022


Blog #4: Work-Life balance and managing ambition

Mahabharata Context: King Dhritarashtra was the brother of King Pandu and inherits the Hastinapur throne only because King Pandu steps down distraught with the curse by Sage Kindama. Dhritarashtra was born blind with no vision in his eyes, which should have disqualified him from becoming King in the first place. He was only a caretaker and a custodian until the worthy heir grew up. The blind king resented that and also the fact that he could not fight wars, conquer kingdoms to prove himself worthy of being a king. He did try very hard to be a just king and loves his brother's children as his own. He gives all the training and education for not only his own sons the Kauravas but also the Pandavas. He has the wisdom to have a strong cabinet of wise men around him like Bhishma, Drona, Kripa and his wise minister Vidura. He has a weak spot in that he wants his biological first born Duryodhana to rule after him rather than Pandu's first son, Yudhisthira.

Duryodhana was fit, strong and brave and a perfect surrogate for the blind king to project his latent ambition on his son.Every father who is a king wants his son to succeed him as the king and be known as the rightful successor. This is not unreasonable if you believe in monarchy and the birthright as the sole qualification of next in line to the throne. Duryodhana was not the first in line to the crown. At the end of the Mahabharata war, Dhritarashtra's ambitions to crown his own son as Emperor leaves Duryodhana dead, his entire lineage wiped out and his dreams shattered. The blind king chose ambition over family and lost everything, disregarding the advice of plenty of wellwishers in his cabinet who gave him chances to stop.

Dhritarashtra even had an aid with divine vision, Sanjaya give him a blow by blow account of the Mahabharata war each day. Sanjaya tell him to stop the war numerous times, but the blind king never does, not until it is too late. Dhritarashtra believes that with the great warriors and a bigger army force than the Pandavas, his side would win the war. Alas the Kauravas fought on the wrong side on Dharma and end up losing everything.

Our Null hypothesis of the King Dhritarashtra persona

Dhritarashtra is the blind king with a bigger problem. He has a huge blind spot. His work or his day job is to protect and expand his Hastinapura empire and he is authorized to wage war to do so. That is his job, his work if you will. His job is also to manage succession planning. The flip side of the job is to be a good father at home to his children and to raise them with good values teaching them right versus wrong. It is also important to teach them honesty, integrity, respect for women and to treat women with honor. On all these counts, Dhritarashtra fails big time. Taking this to a higher level, he was busy doing his job as king so hard, he forgot his job as a father. He lacks work-life balance in my humble opinion.

Lesson Learned: This one, work-life balance is particularly hard for me to internalize and goes down hard for me. How many of us can say we have a good balance between work, ambition and our family? How many of us will talk about putting family first and work second? Our growth ambitions whether money, fame, title, status, adulation, etc. seem so much more cool compared to being just good spouses and parents? do we listen to those who force us to balance family and work better, even put family ahead of personal ambition? The blind king has a hard lesson for us. Messing up our work-life balance leaves both in ruins, work and life. Thank you, Dhritarashtra! What % of Dhritarashtra do you have in you?

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