If you have difficulty saying No to people, you must read this.
Rishi Vyasa’s Mahabharat is replete with events, anecdotes, stories but my special fondness is reserved for the Udyoga Parva, Mahabharata Book V as it’s a handbook on diplomacy, suaveness, the Art of Saying No, no mincing when it matters and the character stringing it all together and shining forth in unmatched brilliance – Krishna Chandra or Sri Krishna.
One may find several instances in which Krishna declines the other side in the Mahabharata, but this “one” anecdote brings forth His oratory skills, diplomacy and of course the Art of Saying No in no uncertain terms.
Mahabharata Book V Section XCI talks about Krishna as an Emissary of Peace deciding to go to Hastinapur, the capital of the Kauravas to strike a Peace Deal.
(That He knew the outcome of the Peace Mission and yet went for it to be answerable to posterity can be the subject of some other discussion!)
After reaching Hastinapur, Krishna went first to his aunt Kunti’s place and after taking leave, went to Duryodhan’s Palace. He was showered with the finest hospitality in the form of drinks, robes and bed by the Kauravas lead by Duryadhana but He refused it all.
When pestered, Krishna told that Envoys ate and accepted worship only after success of their missions. Therefore, after His peace mission would become successful, the Kauravas might entertain Him and his Attendants. Fair enough !
Somebody strongly aware about His Dharma (responsibilities, obligations and Code of Conduct expected of an emissary) alone could say such words.
Duryodhana didn’t give up and went harping on the same tune: how his efforts to extend hospitality had been turned fruitless by Krishna and how he couldn’t understand the reason.
Now comes the climax. Krishna at his brutal best, no mincing words, the directness and candor just amazes and overwhelms.
Krishna tells : neither for desire, nor anger, malice, gain, sake of argument, temptation would He abandon virtue. One might take food from somebody if the host inspired love or one was in distress. Duryodhana hadn’t done anything to inspire love in Krishna by any of his act, nor had Krishna himself plunged into distress. Without any reason, Duryodhana hated, from the moment of his birth, the Pandavas who were gifted with all virtue. This unreasonable hatred of Duryodhana towards the sons of His aunt (Pritha / Kunti) augered adversely to Krishna. The sons of Pandu were all devoted to virtue. Who could think of harming them ? He who hated the Pandavas, hated Krishna. He who loved the Pandavas, loved Krishna. The virtuous Pandavas and Krishna were a common soul. Duryodhana being the vilest of men, out of impulses of lust and anger, hated and wanted to injure the Pandavas.
Here Krishna makes a unique remark: even after harbouring ill feelings for somebody, if a person extends goodwill to a virtuous soul, the former would enjoy prosperity and fame forever. Clearly as per Krishna actions matter more than what is in a person’s heart.
Next Krishna makes the scathing call: the food offered by Duryadhana is defiled by his wickedness therefore, its not fit to be eaten by Krishna. So Krishna would eat only the food supplied by Vidura. This is the concept of Ashraya Dosha or the adverse quality of food due to the intrinsic nature of the host or person cooking the food – brought out soo openly by Krishna.
One may imagine after Krishna saying this, the serenading by the Kauravas would have stopped !
Bhisma, Kripa, Drona, Vahlika and other Kauravas still came to see Krishna in Vidura’s place to persuade Him further to seek Kaurava hospitality and placed at His disposal their houses with all the wealth in them. But Krishna flatly asked them to leave. He told He had been much honoured by such gifts.
The entire episode shows the gradual building up of the decline like a crescendo : from a low octave (rational) to a medium one (more obvious and on the face), to a high one (scathing and brutal and lastly an outright NO).
What does modern management say about saying No ? Travis Bradberry in his 8 Ways to Boost Confidence says : Confident people know that saying no is healthy, and they have the self-esteem to make their nos clear. They say no with confidence because they know that saying no to a new commitment honors their existing commitments and gives them the opportunity to successfully fulfill them.
We all know the circumstances and the reasoning used by Krishna to decline Kaurava offers. Hope we all can pick a leaf out of the sagacity of the master strategist that was Yogeswar Krishna !
- Bibek Debroy. “The Mahabharata, 10 vols.” In: Gurgaon: Penguin (2015)
- C. Rajagopalachari. “Mahabharata Retold” Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, (1958)
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