Mahabharata: Negotiating with Difficult People (94)


Lesson 94 speaks about how to handle difficult people, and how mindset predicts success of failure.


  • Story continues: One day after 13th year, Duryodhana found them. Late by one day. But claimed within time limit. Hence refused to relinquish Indraprastha.
    • In attempt to end conflict, Krishna decided to play role of negotiator. He gave choices to Duryodhana…
      • Return Pāṇḍavas their share.
      • Give up one district.
      • One village.
      • Five houses.
      • One house with 5 rooms.
    • Duryodhana responded that Pāṇḍavas have to fight for inch of land.
    • War was declared!
    • COMMENTARY: Krishna is showing us how to deal with difficult/sinful people:
      • Firstly, Krishna’s approach was direct, saying “You have been consistently unjust to your brothers. You have ongoingly violated dharma“.
        • Krishna didn’t sugar coat, or speak in riddles or philosophize. He didn’t have fear of being rejected hence spoke as he sees it.
      • Secondly, Krishna didn’t immediately write Duryodhana off.
        • Compared to what some do: (a) give sound advice (b) if it’s not followed, advice-giver gets disappointed, resentful and writes the person off with “He/she will never change“,
          • This is called “passive-aggressive”.
          • It makes the advice-giver agitated/loaded, which then clouds his/her own clarity.
        • Whereas, Krishna didn’t think about the situation once he presented options and set the boundaries.
          • The only thing you can do is, show them. What person does afterwards is up to them.
      • QUESTION: What are some methods to handling a difficult person:
        • Method 1: Give them practical options in line with dharma. Meaning YOU need to be clear.
          • Don’t give vague suggestions, since they can’t think for themselves.
        • Method 2: If still doesn’t comply, then: you must DRAW BOUNDARIES.
        • Metaphor: Policeman gives violator some options. If doesn't comply, policeman sets boundary (makes an arrest).
          • Example from “Verbal Judo” by George Thompson.
            • Basis of his message: We are generally incapable of wording what we really mean. Because words limit our true experience. And the more one is under the “INFLUENCE”, the further away the space between word and actual experience. That's why it's easier to be more accurate when we are calm.
              • So it’s policeman’s job to think for the person, like person would think in 72h when sober from emotion, drug, etc.
            • 5 ways to diffuse.
              • Ask in respectful way.
              • Give reason why.
              • Give 2 options. First is for their own good. Second is not.
              • Ask, “Is there anything else I can do or say that’ll get you to work with me?”
              • Set boundary.


  • QUESTION: Why couldn't Krishna (Lord) convince Duryodhana?
    • We are given freewill and dharma (morality). It's up to our freedom to will to listen to dharma. If we don't, there are unfavorable consequences.
      • These consequences are what we call Īśvara’s intelligent laws in which interactions are taking place.
        • This is what separates a TEACHING from QUICK-FIX ADVICE:
          • Advice: You should.
          • Teaching: What-is. What-is the nature of Īśvara. Expands infrastructure of life. Takes time. Making you see what is not apparent to you.
    • If change is to occur, both parties must mutually agree. Hence can’t make another change, unless they see the value in change themselves.
      • Reason for unwillingness: Conflict between personal and universal values.
        • In Duryodhana’s case, using free will to sustain personal values (sense of authority).
    • Also mistake to see Īśvara as a person who has to fix OUR or OTHERS problems.
      • Even Krishna (Īśvara) has to work within the confines of dharma.
        • IE: Can’t artificially force summer before spring has taken place.
      • This means we can’t box people into good/bad.
        • EG: If “bad” person chooses to correct a mistake, is he now good or bad?


  • Story continues: After war was declared, both Duryo / Arjuna went to Krishna for His support.
    • While Kṛṣṇa sleeping, Duryodhana sat near his head. And Arjuna at feet.
    • Since Kṛṣṇa saw Arjuna first, asked him to either choose his army (horses/elephants), or Lord Kṛṣṇa himself.
      • Arjuna:
        • Choose Kṛṣṇa because was already confident in his skills.
          • Because knows success/failure ultimately resting in Lord’s grace, and not mere skills.
      • Duryodhana:
        • Had no appreciation for “grace’, and thought Arjuna was an emotional fool.
      • What is symbolism of both seeking Lord’s help, despite choosing different paths of dharma/adharma?
      • What is symbolism of Duryo sitting near head, while Arjuna near feet?
      • What makes Duryodhana see Arjuna an emotional fool?
  • Start of the B.Gītā begins when armies are standing in position on opposite sides.


  • Story continues: Dhritarashtra asked Sanjaya to relate all events taking place.
    • Dhritarashtra first words to Sanyaja are significant: dharma-kshetre kurukshetre.
      • At Kurukshetra (venue of battle), he qualifies it as dharma-kshetre, abode of dharma.
        • Knows Kurukshetra is an arena involving the dispute between dharma/adharma.
        • Knows his relatives and himself are on adharma side, but unable to stop them because of blinding love.
  • Mindset of Duryodhana/Arjuna:
    • Duryodhana describes his Kauravas army as men who have given up their lives for him.
      • QUESTION: Why would he say this?
        • Indicates inner conflict.
        • If fighting for dharma, focus is not on you.
        • Later confesses, “I know what is right, but cannot engage in it. I know what is wrong, but cannot withdraw from it”.
    • Arjuna’s perspective different.
      • Asked Krishna to strategically place chariot where could get clear view of opponents army.
        • Using viveka (discrimination)
        • Unlike Duryodhana, sees own people on both sides.
      • Overcome by sorrow. Breaks down. Says to Krishna, doesn’t want to fight.
        • This critical point caused Arjuna to:
          • Recognize fundamental human problem of inadequacy / sense of unfulfillment.
            • Sees no purpose in wining / losing.
            • Therefore questions changed focus from situational to fundamental, like:
              • Meaning of existence
              • Ultimate goal of life
              • How to gain unbroken/lasting fulfillment.
        • Arjuna realizes he has no solution, which causes him to completely surrender to Krishna, by saying “I am your student, please teach me that knowledge will leads to my fulfillment”.
    • QUESTION: How did Arjuna/Duryodhana dealt with their inner conflict?
      • Duryodhana: Living in denial. So projects strength outside.
      • Arjuna: Not shy of describing his true state to Krishna. Shared his vulnerabilities.
        • While Duryodhana was hiding (or dodging), thus projecting.


Recorded 22 Sept, 2020



  1. Good morning Andre from Bavaria!

    “What is symbolism of Duryo sitting near head, while Arjuna near feet?”

    To me the feet represent stability and facts, whereas the head symbolizes instability and beliefs.

    For example, facts about covid19 show very low mortality rate (99,98% survival rate, too most extent only dangerous for those around 80 year of age) plus low benefits from wearing masks (regions with mandatory mask wearing such as Spain and California have substantial cases, whereas Sweden without mandatory mask wearing does not) compared to many downsides of wearing masks (such as conglomeration of bacteria and mold inside masks), these facts stand in opposition to worldwide politicians who use quarantines, penalties in case of not wearing a mask, and threat of social distancing by calling anybody who does not follow a conspiracy theorist.

    This makes me wonder how to deal with this situation: what if I don’t follow one of the many new rules and get harassed by the forces of the government into jail etc.? Do I oblige? Do I withstand? What if violence is inflicted on me? Do I defend myself and thus risk even more repercussions further down the road?

    If I take the Bhagavd Gita as an advice, then distracting myself with various hobbies and hiding as long as I can (exile) to cancel any risks and only in the end do I go into full weaponized conflict?

    What is your point of view on that Andre? And others?

    1. The symbolism is timeless. We need to see it’s validity in past, present and future… instead of trying to limit it to one single historical event (covid, government, etc).

      Also I’m not in position to advise how to respond to infinite circumstances. That is up to each individual.

      But whatever decision individual takes, leads to consequences. EG:

      – Duryodhana’s decisions were rebellious. Narrow-minded. He follow one-liner advices from Shakuni. Refused to see alternative ways of perceiving situations. It led to his destruction.

      – Arjuna’s decision were based on wide perception. He maintained the big picture. Sought to see things from different points of views. He thought twice before making absolute judgements about anything. It lead to his prosperity.


      As general pointer, any decision has two types of consequences…

      1) It reduces your peace of mind – now or in the future.

      EG: Watching excess news and concern on never-ending worldly events… may give sense of being informed and is even exciting… but generates agitation and subtle anxiety… hence less available to focus on your growth/happiness.

      2) Decision will increase your (and other’s) peace of mind – now or in the future.

      EG: Working on yourself, exercising self-discipline to remain focused on what matters most, restructuring your values, staying organized, refining your language… is certainly challenging. However it brings massive rewards in 10-30 years.

    2. Estava à cabeça dele quem queria ser como Deus e governar pelo poder: a cabeça.
      Estava aos pés dele quem queria governar pela humildade de um devoto, a redenção.
      Hari om :.

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