Krishna Leveraging a Boon Given to Muchukunda

Muchukunda, an ancestor of Lord Rama, helped the Devas defeat the Asuras. This fight was particularly prolonged and Muchukunda had not slept during this time. Furthermore, all his family on earth had died. Indra wanted to reward Muchukunda for his help and offered him a boon. Muchukunda wanted to attain Moksha but Indra told him that was not possible. So all Muchukunda wanted to rest properly and not be disturbed. Muchukunda asked that anyone who woke him up should die. Indra granted the boon and Muchukunda found a cave to rest. He was so tired that he slept for a real-long time.

Kalayavana, a friend of Jarasandha, had a boon that he could not be defeated on the battlefield. As Jarasandha could not defeat Lord Krishna, Kalayavana challenged Krishna to a battle on behalf of Jarasandha. After a long and fierce battle, Krishna retreated. Kalayavana followed Krishna who led him to the cave where Muchukunda was still sleeping. Krishna put an item of his own clothing on Muchukunda. Kalayavana, who could not see clearly in the dark cave, saw the silhouette of a person under Krishna’s clothing. Thinking Krishna was feigning to be asleep, Kalayavana woke up Muchukunda and was reduced to ashes. Thus Krishna triumphed over Kalayavana leveraging a boon granted to Muchukunda.

This story is different from the usual Puranic ones where boons given to Asuras are often used against them (e.g., Bhasmasura) or boons given to good people who used it for their direct benefit (e.g., Bhishma). While Muchukunda did benefit from his boon, the boon also indirectly benefited Krishna.

So what can we learn from the above story.

a. Even the Gods are subject to various laws. Indra could not give Moksha to Muchukunda. Krishna could not override Kalayavana’s boon that he could not be defeated in battle.

b. Moksha cannot be granted by others; it has to be earned by one’s actions.

c. Retreating from battle is not always bad. One has to accept that sometimes one needs to think out of box to defeat one’s enemies.

d. It is good to have global information which one can then use to one’s advantage. Krishna knew about Muchukunda’s boon which Krishna used to defeat Kalayavana.

e. It is important to have precise knowledge. Note that it was Krishna’s action that led to Muchukunda being woken up. But Krishna did not actually awaken Muchukunda. So Krishna knew the exact semantics of Muchukunda’s boon and ensured that he was not caught out by it.

f. Even the powerful need to leverage other’s strengths. Krishna used Muchukunda’s ability to defeat Kalayavana.

g. Do not make assumptions when the situation is not clear. Although the cave was dark, Kalayavana assumed that the person sleeping was Krishna. This led to his downfall. If he had lifted the item of clothing and investigated who was sleeping, he would have realised that it was not Krishna.

h. One’s action can have unintended consequences after a long time. There is no way Muchukunda could have known that his boon would lead to Kalayavana’s death.

This story can also be used to illustrate the butterfly effect where small changes (Muchukunda’s boon which after the battle with Asuras was just a minor thing) can have large impact (Krishna getting rid of one his strongest enemies).


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