Vidura: What are our options when humility and wisdom prove inadequate?
Updated: Feb 27, 2022
Why do we all feel it difficult to compromise until our individual voices are heard?
What is it about compromise that makes it so hard to achieve?
Why do we all struggle to compromise? Is it our unfulfilled ambitions? Our greed for more?
Is it our petulant ego? Our inability to objectively recognize someone deserves it more than us? Do we have the requisite humility to acknowledge our weaknesses that hurt compromise?
Should all our voices have equal weights just in the name of equality? What if some of us are simply wiser than the rest of us?
Can we identify the wisest voice in the room? Or do we confuse it for the loudest?
Assuming it was that easy, would we give that learned voice its reverence and respect it more than ours?
Are we ready for the consequence of ignoring wisdom?
The Mahabharata Context
Vidura was the third child conceived directly by Sage Vyasa with the royal maid of King Vichitravirya's queens. Vidura's conception was excellent unlike the previous two imperfect attempts to create a high quality successor to the Hastinapur throne. Vidura therefore was physically and mentally perfect as the son of the Great Sage Vyasa himself. Vidura grew up being treated by Prince Bheeshma as equal to King Pandu (pale skin) and King Dhritarashtra (blind), the two other children sired by Sage Vyasa. All three young men had access to the same high quality training and great education. However, given that Vidura was not part of the royal succession plans, he was made the kingdom's royal minister. Vidura retained this post across the rule of King Pandu, King Dhritarashtra and Emperor Yudhisthira before retiring to the forest. After his passing, his soul entered the body of Emperor Yudhisthira making him even more magnificent as the protector of Dharma and as a righteous ruler.
Vidura was the son of Lord Yama, the embodiment of righteousness and Dharma itself. Vidura was immensely farsighted and had the wisdom to know the real consequences of each royal decision. He was implicitly trusted by the Hastinapur dynasty as someone who would always look out for its welfare and benefits. However, Vidura was kept in the dark by Prince Shakuni of his devious conspiracies to kill the Pandava siblings. Once Prince Yudhisthira was anointed as heir apparent, Vidura clearly saw the conspiracies and malicious efforts to undermine Prince Yudhistira and pleaded with King Dhritarashtra to stop these schemes. Vidura could not stop the ill-fated game of dice or dissuade Prince Dushashana from the outrage of Princess Draupadi. Vidura failed in creating a compromise solution despite collaborating with Lord Krishna himself to try avert the Mahabharata war. After the Mahabharata war, Vidura was asked to resume his duties as royal minister, a role he played until his death and then even after, by entered the soul of Emperor Yudhisthira to ensure a prolonged era where Dharma reigned supreme.
Our null hypothesis about the Vidura persona
Vidura is an immaculate conception. His physical strength is not a core focus in the Mahabharata epic since his role is to be the conscience of the Hastinapur throne. Vidura was strong, wise, rational, humble, decent, honest, serene and with high moral values. He was superb in his communication skills of righteous path and decisions most of the time and was valued for his skills and wisdom by the royal elders. Vidura was respected as a learned scholar and his unbiased focus on Dharma.
How can we even find anything imperfect about Vidura's persona? He is Dharma himself and has no known weakness unlike Emperor Yudhisthira with his addiction to alcohol or gambling? However, given the task, let us get busy. If result-oriented judgment calls and their impact matter, lets use contemporary lexicon and allege Vidura lacked influential communication skills and intangibles for high pressure situations so he was ineligible to advise the C-suite of his time. He is found wanting.
Vidura had one strategic goal, to ensure peace and longevity of his kingdom and he fails that metric. Thankfully, it is Lord Krishna who is held ultimately accountable for the failure to avoid the war by Queen Gandhari. While inadequate, Vidura's words and actions were clear, strident and even his sudden resignation proved inadequate to convince King Dhritarashtra to stop the war. However, his failure itself was a blessing since it ushered in an era of righteous rule in India under Emperor Yudhisthira.
Vidura reminds us that education, wisdom, integrity, good intentions and clear words from us alone sometimes cannot be adequate. Bad things do happen to us and the world around us no matter how hard we try to avert it. It does not matter how wise and just we are in our words and deeds and things simply are on a path to unravelling that we cannot stop as humans.
Vidura therefore reminds us of the of the humble truth that we cannot control what cannot be controlled. We are after all humans and each have our limitations. We are sometimes guilty of being too full of ourselves and trying too hard. Vidura therefore for me is the beacon of humility, a wise truthful and principled man who made his peace with himself knowing his place in the scheme of things. What % Vidura do you have in you?