What was the factor that brought distress to Draupadi and the Pandavas? The people who found it difficult to part company with them had a unique answer. They had gone into the fundamentals of the problems. They had known that the Kauravas and Pandavas were poles apart in principles and qualities.
“Dharmaraja!” said the people who wanted to follow the repository of virtue to the forest, “please listen! In a country reigned by rulers like Duryodhana, we cannot stay even for a moment. There are reasons for not staying in a state ruled by the wicked and there are well-known results from living in such countries. Things such as clothing, water, oil or a place absorb the fragrance of flowers in proximity. In the same way, a man picks up the qualities – good or bad – only from such contact. Qualities are engendered by association. The contact of the ignorant and the foolish is the moment of genesis for pride, prejudice and illusion. The association of the saintly and virtuous ones will breed righteous behavior. It is therefore necessary that we always keep company of the wise, the elderly, of righteous disposition, the cultured, the tolerant and the peaceful ones. It has salutary effects. It is necessary to serve those who are learned in the Vedas and the Vedangas, of those born in refined families and those devoted to righteous practices and observance in life. Company of Mahatmas endowed with the trinity of these qualities will bring better knowledge and enlightenment than even the study of scriptures. We become fortunate and get better things in the bargain by company of men of righteous conduct. On the other hand, by serving the sinful people, we also become sinful.”
“Yudhishtira!” continued the subjects, “By darshan, touch, conversation and company of the unrighteous people, there will be an erosion of dharma. Without a purity of mind, nothing can be accomplished. The satsang of people of high order and of charitable disposition will have the effect of broadening one’s mental horizons. As all such qualities commensurate with Vedic proclamations are concentrated in you collectively and individually, we have chosen to be in your company for our own benefit and future. Hence our intention to accompany you to the forest!”
Yudhishtira, however, dissuaded the people from embarking on a journey to the forest with him.
Symbol of womanhood … to shame
It was clear, however, from the observations of Yudhishtira’s subjects that Pandavas who were driven to bet with the wicked group of Kauravas had to pay the penalty of not only losing their kingdom and everything they had, but in a far greater measure had the mortification of seeing the symbol of illustrious womanhood, being put to utter shame, violent treatment and dishonor of a kind which has no parallel in epic history. What Yudhishtira and his brothers were bothered about was not the fierce wild life of the forest nor the problems of food and shelter but their virtual inability at that time to pacify Draupadi and the irreparable damage done to her personal reputation and the agony from which all were suffering. On account of this singular tension of their mind, Shaunaka Rishi advised Yudhishtira at the appropriate time that one pushed to such a state of worry must get rid of it by proper introspection as the main cause of sorrow was disease, misfortune, excessive test or loss of one’s chosen desires, any of which could, bring bodily ailments and strife. Shaunaka’s counsel was that in times of misery, only two antidotes were available, namely, the intake of medicines to rid the body of physical ailments and to hear the vignettes of Vedanta to cleanse the mind and render it free from worry or affliction. But above all, counseled Shaunaka, as one could get whatever one wanted by thapas, Yudhishtira had to purse thapas for fulfillment of aspirations.