Monday Morning Greetings 2019 #25 – Betrayed!

June 24th, 2019

Last week I wrote about expediency, but it was beyond the scope of the entry to illustrate the concept with an example. I thought the example of how one responds to betrayal would be an excellent way to broach the subject of when dharma is brushed aside for the sake of an immediate advantage. There seems to be no deeper hurt and stronger impetus to strike back with vengeance than when someone one violates one’s trust. How to deal with being betrayed? I think the story of Vidura illustrates that best.


Vidura was renowned for his good counsel. When King Dhṛtarāṣṭra, his elder brother, called him, Vidura strongly advised him to instruct his son Duryodhana to return the legitimate share of the kingdom to his cousin Yudhiṣṭhira, which he had illegally usurped. He outlined in detail the ruin it would bring upon the King. Duryodhana overheard the conversation and immediately threatened his uncle:


“Who asked him to come here, the son of a kept mistress? He is so crooked that he spies in the interest of the enemy against those on whose support he has grown up. Toss him out of the palace immediately and leave him with only his breath.” (Bhāg. 3.1.15)


How painful! Not only was he thrown out of the palace in his twilight years without any possessions, a kingdom that he served so humbly and selflessly his whole life, but he was also deeply insulted. What was especially painful was that it was true. Although Vidura shared the same father with Dhṛtarāṣṭra, his mother was not the queen, but a maidservant. Vidura thus dropped his bow at the door and immediately left “being pierced by arrows through the ears and afflicted to the core of his heart” (Bhāg. 3.1.16). Yes indeed he was hurt, but how he dealt with his betrayal was exemplary.


The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam describes his attitude: “He was not sorry, for he considered the acts of the external energy to be supreme” (Bhāg. 3.1.16). In other words, although Duryodhana betrayed him, he understood that nothing moves without the sanction of God. He thus saw the same energy that was moving Duryodhana to offense and destruction was giving him a greater opportunity to fully engage in devotional service.


The lesson from Vidura is clear. When betrayed, don’t just look at māyā as God’s energy entangling someone who is hurting you. See it also as His illuminating energy moving the world for your enlightenment. If you focus on māyā externally in terms of its illusory effect on your perpetrator, your bitterness and victimhood will only increase. If you see, however, that same māyā internally in terms of helping you grow, your bitterness will reduce and your consciousness will elevate. In his purport to this verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda describes how Vidura was able to properly observe the workings of God’s energy: “Māyā, the supreme energy of the Lord acted both internally and externally”.[1]


I was also reminded of Socrates in viewing betrayal in this way. After serving his country by virtue of his wisdom and example, the government turned on him. He was falsely accused and condemned to die. His only request was to address his judge and jury, the senate of Greece. He looked at them intently and delivered his message: “If you think you can harm me, you will not harm me, you will only harm yourself.” He thus saw his apparent betrayal in the same way as Vidura. Real harm is to be disconnected from the soul, so if you harm another for your advantage it is actually your ruin, but if you see it as God’s will it’s a blessing to bring you closer to Krishna.


“Every betrayal contains a perfect moment, a coin stamped heads and tails with salvation on the other side.” — Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible


[1] There are also specific philosophical terms for this phenomenon. When māyā works to further one’s devotion it is called yogamāyā, the internal potency, and when it moves to further one’s material entanglement it is called mahamāyā, the external potency.


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