Arjuna continued his prayer, “This incarnation of Yours O Lord is also to help those devotees, who exclusively meditate upon You with total concentration. O Devadeva! What could be this huge illumination that is advancing in this direction? From where is it coming? This terrible illumination is encircling me from all directions. I am unable to understand anything. Please rescue me”.
Srikrishna replied, “Arjuna, do you realize that this is the dangerous Brahmāstra? Panic stricken Ashwatthama, the son of Drona, has used this weapon. He does not know the art of recalling or neutralizing it. There is no weapon in this world which can counter a Brahmāstra. Only a Brahmāstra can neutralize another Brahmāstra . Arjuna, you are an expert in the knowledge of archery. Therefore release a Brahmāstra and neutralize this weapon”.
How to counteract fire? Suppose there is a forest fire. To subdue the flames water is poured upon it but it continues to spread everywhere. It is said that the direction in which the flames are spreading must be estimated. Thereafter in that path another fire should be lit. Fire neutralizes fire.
Arjuna then performed acamana (a purificatory ritual), circumambulated around Lord Srikrishna and released a Brahmāstra. The two weapons merged and created an unimaginably mammoth illumination which resembled the Sun or a huge ball of fire. This brilliance enveloped all the three planes of existence. Due to the combined intensity of these two weapons, all the three planes were scorched. People feared that the fire of destruction had descended upon them.
Sensing that the world was about to be destroyed, Srikrishna was unhappy. Arjuna who understood the feelings of Srikrishna instantaneously recalled both weapons. Since both the weapons had merged, there was only one weapon. Arjuna recalled it. Arjuna, who had the blessings of his Guru, also had the knowledge of recalling weapons that were released by others.
Arjuna was deeply incensed and now rushing at great speeds caught hold of Ashwatthama. He bound him with ropes as if he was an animal and planned to drag him like an animal to Draupadi’s camp. Seeing this, Krishna angrily said, “O Arjuna, do not spare him. He is a lowly degraded Brahmin. Kill him. He has gone and murdered innocent children who were sleeping. He is a terrible sinner.
Anyone who knows the tenets of dharma will not kill his enemy when he is intoxicated, is careless, is insane or is sleeping. He will not kill a person who has sought refuge under him, who cannot help himself, one who does not have a chariot or one who is terrified. He will not kill children or women. He will not kill helpless persons and will simply let them go. Such a person is a true warrior.
A wretched person, who devoid of compassion saves his life at the cost of others, should be killed for in it lies his well-being. This is because if such a person is left free, his wickedness only increases and he falls to the lowest states. Therefore killing him is for his own benefit. Hence Arjuna kill Ashwatthama right away. With that his sins will be destroyed. Moreover did you not in my presence, promise Draupadi that you will gift her Ashwatthama’s head? Therefore kill this Ashwatthama, the murderer of children, right now!
His cruel deed was not to the liking of his master Duryodhana. ‘Is it so easy to kill the sons of the Pandavas? He must be fooling me’ Duryodhana thought in this manner and did not even believe him. Duryodhana also thought that if he really had killed the sons of the Pandavas, then he, Ashwatthama, who had been invincible so far, had brought about his own downfall”.
In this manner, Krishna, seeking to test Arjuna’s wisdom and his adherence to the rules of dharma, instigated him in various ways to kill Ashwatthama. But Arjuna, the supreme being, did not have the heart to kill Ashwatthama, the son of his Guru, although he was the murderer of his sons. He considered killing his Guru’s son as equivalent of killing his own son. How could he inflict pain upon another merely because his sons were killed? After all Ashwatthama was the son of their revered Guru. How could he kill him? Arjuna did not want to kill Ashwatthama.
Arjuna then dragged Ashwatthama and entrusted him to the grieving Draupadi. Draupadi, the virtuous woman, seeing Ashwatthama, the son of their Guru, who was being dragged like an animal and who had bent his head in shame, was totally filled with feelings of compassion towards him. With such feelings of compassion she respectfully saluted him. She was totally pacified. Such a divine being she was! After all, she was also a mother. A mother always remains a mother. Draupadi, who was a pious devoted chaste woman, could not bear to see Ashwatthama being dragged about like an animal.
She screamed loudly, “Release him! Release him right now! After all he is a revered Brahmin, he is the son of our Guru. Just free him right now. O Arjuna! That revered Guru from whom you learnt the secrets of archery; that revered Guru from whom you learnt how to release and recall weapons, that great spiritual teacher Guru Drona is now standing in front of us in the form of Ashwatthama. Kripi, the wife of Guru Drona and the mother of this warrior, still remains alive. She did not give up her life along with her husband Drona. Hence release him right away.”
Narayana, Narayana, Sriman Narayana!