Bhismastami, observed on February 11th, from Srimad Bhagavatam Chapter Nine with select Purports by HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada.
The Passing Away of Bhismadeva in the Presence of Lord Krsna
Suta Gosvami said: Being afraid for having killed so many subjects on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, Maharaja Yudhisthira went to the scene of the massacre. There, Bhismadeva was lying on a bed of arrows, about to pass away.
In this Ninth Chapter, as it is willed by Lord Sri Krsna, Bhismadeva will impart instructions to King Yudhisthira on the subject of occupational duties. Bhismadeva will also offer his last prayer to the Lord on the verge of passing away from this mortal world and thus become liberated from the bondage of further material engagements. Bhismadeva was endowed with the power of leaving his material body at will, and his lying down on the bed of arrows was his own choice. This passing away of the great warrior attracted the attention of all the contemporary elites, and all of them assembled there to show their feelings of love, respect and affection for the great soul.
At that time all his brothers followed him on beautiful chariots drawn by first-class horses decorated with gold ornaments. With them were Vyasa and rsis like Dhaumya [the learned priest of the Pandavas] and others.
O sage amongst the brahmanas, Lord Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, also followed, seated on a chariot with Arjuna. Thus King Yudhisthira appeared very aristocratic, like Kuvera surrounded by his companions [the Guhyakas].
Lord Sri Krsna wanted the Pandavas to be present before Bhismadeva in the most aristocratic order so that he might be pleased to see them happy at the time of his death. Kuvera is the richest of all the demigods, and herein King Yudhisthira appeared like him (Kuvera), for the procession along with Sri Krsna was quite appropriate to the royalty of King Yudhisthira.
Seeing him [Bhisma] lying on the ground, like a demigod fallen from the sky, the Pandava King Yudhisthira, along with his younger brothers and Lord Krsna, bowed down before him.
Lord Krsna was also a younger cousin of Maharaja Yudhisthira as well as the intimate friend of Arjuna. But all the family members of the Pandavas knew Lord Krsna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Lord, although conscious of His supreme position, always behaved in a humanly custom, and so He also bowed down before the dying Bhismadeva as if He were one of the younger brothers of King Yudhisthira.
Just to see the chief of the descendants of King Bharata [Bhisma], all the great souls in the universe, namely the rsis amongst the demigods, brahmanas and kings, all situated in the quality of goodness, were assembled there.
The rsis are those who have attained perfection by spiritual achievements. Such spiritual achievements can be earned by all, whether one is a king or a mendicant. Bhismadeva himself was also one of the brahmarsis and the chief of the descendants of King Bharata. All rsis are situated in the quality of goodness. All of them assembled there on hearing the news of the great warrior's impending death.
All the sages like Parvata Muni, Narada, Dhaumya, Vyasa the incarnation of God, Brhadasva, Bharadvaja and Parasurama and disciples, Vasistha, Indrapramada, Trita, Grtsamada, Asita, Kaksivan, Gautama, Atri, Kausika and Sudarsana were present.
And many others like Sukadeva Gosvami and other purified souls, Kasyapa and Angirasa and others, all accompanied by their respective disciples, arrived there.
Bhismadeva, who was the best amongst the eight Vasus, received and welcomed all the great and powerful rsis who were assembled there, for he knew perfectly all the religious principles according to time and place.
Expert religionists know perfectly well how to adjust religious principles in terms of time and place. All the great acaryas or religious preachers or reformers of the world executed their mission by adjustment of religious principles in terms of time and place. There are different climates and situations in different parts of the world, and if one has to discharge his duties to preach the message of the Lord, he must be expert in adjusting things in terms of the time and place. Bhismadeva was one of the twelve great authorities in preaching this cult of devotional service, and therefore he could receive and welcome all the powerful sages assembled there at his deathbed from all parts of the universe. He was certainly unable at that time to welcome and receive them physically because he was neither at his home nor in a normal healthy condition. But he was quite fit by the activities of his sound mind, and therefore he could utter sweet words with hearty expressions, and all of them were well received. One can perform one's duty by physical work, by mind and by words. And he knew well how to utilize them in the proper place, and therefore there was no difficulty for him to receive them, although physically unfit.
Lord Sri Krsna is situated in everyone's heart, yet He manifests His transcendental form by His internal potency. This very Lord was sitting before Bhismadeva, and since Bhismadeva knew of His glories, he worshiped Him duly.
The sons of Maharaja Pandu were sitting silently nearby, overtaken with affection for their dying grandfather. Seeing this, Bhismadeva congratulated them with feeling. There were tears of ecstasy in his eyes, for he was overwhelmed by love and affection.
When Maharaja Pandu died, his sons were all small children, and naturally they were brought up under the affection of elderly members of the royal family, specifically by Bhismadeva. Later on, when the Pandavas were grown up, they were cheated by cunning Duryodhana and company, and Bhismadeva, although he knew that the Pandavas were innocent and were unnecessarily put into trouble, could not take the side of the Pandavas for political reasons. At the last stage of his life, when Bhismadeva saw his most exalted grandsons, headed by Maharaja Yudhisthira, sitting very gently at his side, the great warrior-grandfather could not check his loving tears, which were automatically flowing from his eyes. He remembered the great tribulations suffered by his most pious grandsons. Certainly he was the most satisfied man because of Yudhisthira's being enthroned in place of Duryodhana, and thus he began to congratulate them.
Bhismadeva said: Oh, what terrible sufferings and what terrible injustices you good souls suffer for being the sons of religion personified. You did not deserve to remain alive under those tribulations, yet you were protected by the brahmanas, God and religion.
Maharaja Yudhisthira was disturbed due to the great massacre in the Battle of Kuruksetra. Bhismadeva could understand this, and therefore he spoke first of the terrible sufferings of Maharaja Yudhisthira. He was put into difficulty by injustice only, and the Battle of Kuruksetra was fought just to counteract this injustice. Therefore, he should not regret the great massacre. He wanted to point out particularly that they were always protected by the brahmanas, the Lord and religious principles. As long as they were protected by these three important items, there was no cause of disappointment. Thus Bhismadeva encouraged Maharaja Yudhisthira to dissipate his despondency. As long as a person is fully in cooperation with the wishes of the Lord, guided by the bona fide brahmanas and Vaisnavas and strictly following religious principles, one has no cause for despondency, however trying the circumstances of life. Bhismadeva, as one of the authorities in the line, wanted to impress this point upon the Pandavas.
As far as my daughter-in-law Kunti is concerned, upon the great General Pandu's death, she became a widow with many children, and therefore she suffered greatly. And when you were grown up she suffered a great deal also because of your actions.
The sufferings of Kuntidevi are doubly lamented. She suffered greatly because of early widowhood and to get her minor children brought up in the royal family. And when her children were grown up, she continued to suffer because of her sons' actions. So her sufferings continued. This means that she was destined to suffer by providence, and this one has to tolerate without being disturbed.
In my opinion, this is all due to inevitable time, under whose control everyone in every planet is carried, just as the clouds are carried by the wind.
There is control by time all over the space within the universe, as there is control by time all over the planets. All the big gigantic planets, including the sun, are being controlled by the force of air, as the clouds are carried by the force of air. Similarly, the inevitable kala, or time, controls even the action of the air and other elements. Everything, therefore, is controlled by the supreme kala, a forceful representative of the Lord within the material world. Thus Yudhisthira should not be sorry for the inconceivable action of time. Everyone has to bear the actions and reactions of time as long as one is within the conditions of the material world. Yudhisthira should not think that he had committed sins in his previous birth and is suffering the consequence. Even the most pious has to suffer the condition of material nature. But a pious man is faithful to the Lord, for he is guided by the bona fide brahmana and Vaisnava following the religious principles. These three guiding principles should be the aim of life. One should not be disturbed by the tricks of eternal time. Even the great controller of the universe, Brahmaji, is also under the control of that time; therefore, one should not grudge being thus controlled by time despite being a true follower of religious principles.
O how wonderful is the influence of inevitable time. It is irreversible–otherwise, how can there be reverses in the presence of King Yudhisthira, the son of the demigod controlling religion; Bhima, the great fighter with a club; the great bowman Arjuna with his mighty weapon Gandiva; and above all, the Lord, the direct well-wisher of the Pandavas?
As far as the material or spiritual resources were required, there was no scarcity in the case of the Pandavas. Materially they were well equipped because two great warriors, namely Bhima and Arjuna, were there. Spiritually the King himself was the symbol of religion, and above all of them the Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna, was personally concerned with their affairs as the well-wisher. And yet there were so many reverses on the side of the Pandavas. Despite the power of pious acts, the power of personalities, the power of expert management and the power of weapons under the direct supervision of Lord Krsna, the Pandavas suffered so many practical reverses, which can only be explained as due to the influence of kala, inevitable time. Kala is identical with the Lord Himself, and therefore the influence of kala indicates the inexplicable wish of the Lord Himself. There is nothing to be lamented when a matter is beyond the control of any human being.
O King, no one can know the plan of the Lord [Sri Krsna]. Even though great philosophers inquire exhaustively, they are bewildered.
The bewilderment of Maharaja Yudhisthira over his past sinful acts and the resultant sufferings, etc., is completely negated by the great authority Bhisma (one of the twelve authorized persons). Bhisma wanted to impress upon Maharaja Yudhisthira that since time immemorial no one, including such demigods as Siva and Brahma, could ascertain the real plan of the Lord. So what can we understand about it? It is useless also to inquire about it. Even the exhaustive philosophical inquiries of sages cannot ascertain the plan of the Lord. The best policy is simply to abide by the orders of the Lord without argument. The sufferings of the Pandavas were never due to their past deeds. The Lord had to execute the plan of establishing the kingdom of virtue, and therefore His own devotees suffered temporarily in order to establish the conquest of virtue. Bhismadeva was certainly satisfied by seeing the triumph of virtue, and he was glad to see King Yudhisthira on the throne, although he himself fought against him. Even a great fighter like Bhisma could not win the Battle of Kuruksetra because the Lord wanted to show that vice cannot conquer virtue, regardless of who tries to execute it. Bhismadeva was a great devotee of the Lord, but he chose to fight against the Pandavas by the will of the Lord because the Lord wanted to show that a fighter like Bhisma cannot win on the wrong side.
O best among the descendants of Bharata [Yudhisthira], I maintain, therefore, that all this is within the plan of the Lord. Accepting the inconceivable plan of the Lord, you must follow it. You are now the appointed administrative head, and, my lord, you should now take care of those subjects who are now rendered helpless.
The popular saying is that a housewife teaches the daughter-in-law by teaching the daughter. Similarly, the Lord teaches the world by teaching the devotee. The devotee does not have to learn anything new from the Lord because the Lord teaches the sincere devotee always from within. Whenever, therefore, a show is made to teach the devotee, as in the case of the teachings of Bhagavad-gita, it is for teaching the less intelligent men. A devotee's duty, therefore, is to ungrudgingly accept tribulations from the Lord as a benediction. The Pandavas were advised by Bhismadeva to accept the responsibility of administration without hesitation. The poor subjects were without protection due to the Battle of Kuruksetra, and they were awaiting the assumption of power by Maharaja Yudhisthira. A pure devotee of the Lord accepts tribulations as favors from the Lord. Since the Lord is absolute, there is no mundane difference between the two.
This Sri Krsna is no other than the inconceivable, original Personality of Godhead. He is the first Narayana, the supreme enjoyer. But He is moving amongst the descendants of King Vrsni just like one of us and He is bewildering us with His self-created energy.
O King, Lord Siva, Narada the sage amongst the demigods, and Kapila, the incarnation of Godhead, all know very confidentially about His glories through direct contact.
O King, that personality whom, out of ignorance only, you thought to be your maternal cousin, your very dear friend, well-wisher, counselor, messenger, benefactor, etc., is that very Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna.
Lord Sri Krsna, although acting as the cousin, brother, friend, well-wisher, counselor, messenger, benefactor, etc., of the Pandavas, was still the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Out of His causeless mercy and favor upon His unalloyed devotees, He performs all kinds of service, but that does not mean that He has changed His position as the Absolute Person. To think of Him as an ordinary man is the grossest type of ignorance.
Being the Absolute Personality of Godhead, He is present in everyone's heart. He is equally kind to everyone, and He is free from the false ego of differentiation. Therefore whatever He does is free from material inebriety. He is equibalanced.
Yet, despite His being equally kind to everyone, He has graciously come before me while I am ending my life, for I am His unflinching servitor.
The Supreme Lord, the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, although equal to everyone, is still more inclined to His unflinching devotee who is completely surrendered and knows no one else as his protector and master. Having unflinching faith in the Supreme Lord as one's protector, friend and master is the natural condition of eternal life. A living entity is so made by the will of the Almighty that he is most happy when placing himself in a condition of absolute dependence.
The opposite tendency is the cause of falldown. The living entity has this tendency of falling down by dint of misidentifying himself as fully independent to lord it over the material world. The root cause of all troubles is there in false egotism. One must draw towards the Lord in all circumstances.
The appearance of Lord Krsna at the deathbed of Bhismaji is due to his being an unflinching devotee of the Lord. Arjuna had some bodily relation with Krsna because the Lord happened to be his maternal cousin. But Bhisma had no such bodily relation. Therefore the cause of attraction was due to the intimate relation of the soul. Yet because the relation of the body is very pleasing and natural, the Lord is more pleased when He is addressed as the son of Maharaja Nanda, the son of Yasoda, the lover of Radharani. This affinity by bodily relation with the Lord is another feature of reciprocating loving service with the Lord. Bhismadeva is conscious of this sweetness of transcendental humor, and therefore he likes to address the Lord as Vijaya-Sakhe, Partha-Sakhe, etc., exactly like Nanda-nandana or Yasoda-nandana. The best way to establish our relation in transcendental sweetness is to approach Him through His recognized devotees. One should not try to establish the relation directly; there must be a via medium which is transparent and competent to lead us to the right path.
The Personality of Godhead, who appears in the mind of the devotee by attentive devotion and meditation and by chanting of the holy name, releases the devotee from the bondage of fruitive activities at the time of his quitting the material body.
Yoga means concentration of the mind detached from all other subject matter. And actually such concentration is samadhi, or cent percent engagement in the service of the Lord. And one who concentrates his attention in that manner is called a yogi. Such a yogi devotee of the Lord engages himself twenty-four hours daily in the service of the Lord so that his whole attention is engrossed with the thoughts of the Lord in ninefold devotional service, namely hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, praying, becoming a voluntary servant, carrying out orders, establishing a friendly relationship, or offering all that one may possess, in the service of the Lord. By such practice of yoga, or linking up in the service of the Lord, one is recognized by the Lord Himself, as it is explained in the Bhagavad-gita concerning the highest perfectional stage of samadhi. The Lord calls such a rare devotee the best amongst all the yogis Such a perfect yogi is enabled by the divine grace of the Lord to concentrate his mind upon the Lord with a perfect sense of consciousness, and thus by chanting His holy name before quitting the body the yogi is at once transferred by the internal energy of the Lord to one of the eternal planets where there is no question of material life and its concomitant factors. In material existence a living being has to endure the material conditions of threefold miseries, life after life, according to his fruitive work. Such material life is produced by material desires only. Devotional service to the Lord does not kill the natural desires of the living being, but they are applied in the right cause of devotional service. This qualifies the desire to be transferred to the spiritual sky. General Bhismadeva is referring to a particular type of yoga called bhakti-yoga, and he was fortunate enough to have the Lord directly in his presence before he quitted his material body. He therefore desired that the Lord stay before his view in the following verses.
May my Lord, who is four-handed and whose beautifully decorated lotus face, with eyes as red as the rising sun, is smiling, kindly await me at that moment when I quit this material body.
Bhismadeva knew well that Lord Krsna is the original Narayana. His worshipable Deity was four-handed Narayana, but he knew that four-handed Narayana is a plenary expansion of Lord Krsna. Indirectly he desired Lord Sri Krsna to manifest Himself in His four-handed feature of Narayana. A Vaisnava is always humble in his behavior. Although it was cent percent certain that Bhismadeva was approaching Vaikuntha-dhama just after leaving his material body, still as a humble Vaisnava he desired to see the beautiful face of the Lord, for after quitting the present body he might not be in a position to see the Lord any more. A Vaisnava is not puffed up, although the Lord guarantees His pure devotee entrance into His abode. Here Bhismadeva says, "as long as I do not quit this body." This means that the great General would quit the body by his own will; he was not being forced by the laws of nature. He was so powerful that he could stay in his body as long as he desired. He got this benediction from his father. He desired that the Lord stay before him in His four-handed Narayana feature so that he might concentrate upon Him and thus be in trance in that meditation. Then his mind might be sanctified with thinking of the Lord. Thus he did not mind wherever he might go. A pure devotee is never very anxious to go back to the kingdom of God. He entirely depends on the good will of the Lord. He is equally satisfied even if the Lord desires him to go to hell. The only desire that a pure devotee entertains is that he may always be in rapt attention with thinking of the lotus feet of the Lord, regardless. Bhismadeva wanted this much only: that his mind be absorbed in thinking of the Lord and that he pass away thus. That is the highest ambition of a pure devotee.
Suta Gosvami said: Maharaja Yudhisthira, after hearing Bhismadeva speak in that appealing tone, asked him, in the presence of all the great rsis, about the essential principles of various religious duties.
Bhismadeva, speaking in that appealing tone, convinced Maharaja Yudhisthira that he was very soon passing away. And Maharaja Yudhisthira was inspired by Lord Sri Krsna to ask him of the principles of religion. Lord Sri Krsna inspired Maharaja Yudhisthira to ask Bhismadeva in the presence of many great sages, indicating thereby that the Lord's devotee like Bhismadeva, although apparently living as a worldly man, is far superior to many great sages, even Vyasadeva. Another point is that Bhismadeva at that time was not only lying on a deathbed of arrows, but was greatly aggrieved because of that state. One should not have asked him any question at that time, but Lord Sri Krsna wanted to prove that His pure devotees are always sound in body and mind by dint of spiritual enlightenment, and thus in any circumstances a devotee of the Lord is in perfect order to speak of the right way of life. Yudhisthira also preferred to solve his problematic questions by asking Bhismadeva rather than ask anyone else present there who was seemingly more learned than Bhismadeva. This is all due to the arrangement of the great wheel-carrier Lord Sri Krsna, who establishes the glories of His devotee. The father likes to see the son become more famous than himself. The Lord declares very emphatically that worship of His devotee is more valuable than the worship of the Lord Himself.
At Maharaja Yudhisthira's inquiry, Bhismadeva first defined all the classifications of castes and orders of life in terms of the individual's qualifications. Then he systematically, in twofold divisions, described counteraction by detachment and interaction by attachment.
He then explained, by divisions, acts of charity, the pragmatic activities of a king and activities for salvation. Then he described the duties of women and devotees, both briefly and extensively.
Then he described the occupational duties of different orders and statuses of life, citing instances from history, for he was himself well acquainted with the truth.
While Bhismadeva was describing occupational duties, the sun's course ran into the northern hemisphere. This period is desired by mystics who die at their will.
The perfect yogis or mystics can leave the material body at their own sweet will at a suitable time and go to a suitable planet desired by them. In the Bhagavad-gita (8.24) it is said that self-realized souls who have exactly identified themselves with the interest of the Supreme Lord can generally leave the material body during the time of the fire-god's effulgence and when the sun is in the northern horizon, and thus achieve the transcendental sky. In the Vedas these times are considered auspicious for quitting the body, and they are taken advantage of by the expert mystics who have perfected the system. Perfection of yoga means attainment of such supermental states as to be able to leave the material body as desired. Yogis can also reach any planet within no time without a material vehicle. The yogis can reach the highest planetary system within a very short time, and this is impossible for the materialist. Even attempting to reach the highest planet will take millions of years at a speed of millions of miles per hour. This is a different science, and Bhismadeva knew well how to utilize it. He was just waiting for the suitable moment to quit his material body, and the golden opportunity arrived when he was instructing his noble grandsons, the Pandavas. He thus prepared himself to quit his body before the exalted Lord Sri Krsna, the pious Pandavas and the great sages headed by Bhagavan Vyasa, etc., all great souls.
Thereupon that man who spoke on different subjects with thousands of meanings and who fought on thousands of battlefields and protected thousands of men, stopped speaking and, being completely freed from all bondage, withdrew his mind from everything else and fixed his wide-open eyes upon the original Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, who stood before him, four-handed, dressed in yellow garments that glittered and shined.
In the momentous hour of leaving his material body, Bhismadeva set the glorious example concerning the important function of the human form of life. The subject matter which attracts the dying man becomes the beginning of his next life. Therefore, if one is absorbed in thoughts of the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna, he is sure to go back to Godhead without any doubt. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (8.5-15):
5: And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.
6: Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.
7: Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Krsna and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.
8: He who meditates on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Partha [Arjuna], is sure to reach Me.
9: One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun and, being transcendental, is beyond this material nature.
10: One who, at the time of death, fixes his life air between the eyebrows and in full devotion engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
11: Persons learned in the Vedas, who utter omkara and who are great sages in the renounced order, enter into Brahman. Desiring such perfection, one practices celibacy. I shall now explain to you this process by which one may attain salvation.
12: The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga.
13: After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.
14: For one who remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain, O son of Prtha, because of his constant engagement in devotional service.
15: After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogis in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.
Sri Bhismadeva attained the perfection of quitting his body at will and was fortunate enough to have Lord Krsna, the object of his attention, personally present at the time of death. He therefore fixed his open eyes upon Him. He wanted to see Sri Krsna for a long time out of his spontaneous love for Him. Because he was a pure devotee, he had very little to do with the detailed performance of yogic principles. Simple bhakti-yoga is enough to bring about perfection. Therefore, the ardent desire of Bhismadeva was to see the person of Lord Krsna, the most lovable object, and by the grace of the Lord, Sri Bhismadeva had this opportunity at the last stage of his breathing.
By pure meditation, looking at Lord Sri Krsna, he at once was freed from all material inauspiciousness and was relieved of all bodily pains caused by the arrow wounds. Thus all the external activities of his senses at once stopped, and he prayed transcendentally to the controller of all living beings while quitting his material body.
The material body is a gift of the material energy, technically called illusion. Identification with the material body is due to forgetfulness of our eternal relationship with the Lord. For a pure devotee of the Lord like Bhismadeva, this illusion was at once removed as soon as the Lord arrived. Lord Krsna is like the sun, and the illusory, external material energy is like darkness. In the presence of the sun there is no possibility that darkness can stand. Therefore, just on the arrival of Lord Krsna, all material contamination was completely removed, and Bhismadeva was thus able to be transcendentally situated by stopping the activities of the impure senses in collaboration with matter. The soul is originally pure and so also the senses. By material contamination the senses assume the role of imperfection and impurity. By revival of contact with the Supreme Pure, Lord Krsna, the senses again become freed from material contaminations. Bhismadeva attained all these transcendental conditions prior to his leaving the material body because of presence of the Lord. The Lord is the controller and benefactor of all living beings. That is the verdict of all Vedas. He is the supreme eternity and living entity amongst all the eternal living beings.
* And He alone provides all necessities for all kinds of living beings. Thus He provided all facilities to fulfill the transcendental desires of His great devotee Sri Bhismadeva, who began to pray as follows.
Bhismadeva said: Let me now invest my thinking, feeling and willing, which were so long engaged in different subjects and occupational duties, in the all-powerful Lord Sri Krsna. He is always self-satisfied, but sometimes, being the leader of the devotees, He enjoys transcendental pleasure by descending on the material world, although from Him only the material world is created.
Because Bhismadeva was a statesman, the head of the Kuru dynasty, a great general and a leader of ksatriyas, his mind was strewn over so many subjects, and his thinking, feeling and willing were engaged in different matters. Now, in order to achieve pure devotional service, he wanted to invest all powers of thinking, feeling and willing entirely in the Supreme Being, Lord Krsna. He is described herein as the leader of the devotees and all-powerful. Although Lord Krsna is the original Personality of Godhead, He Himself descends on earth to bestow upon His pure devotees the boon of devotional service. He descends sometimes as Lord Krsna as He is, and sometimes as Lord Caitanya. Both are leaders of the pure devotees. Pure devotees of the Lord have no desire other than the service of the Lord, and therefore they are called satvata. The Lord is the chief amongst such satvatas. Bhismadeva, therefore, had no other desires. Unless one is purified from all sorts of material desires, the Lord does not become one's leader. Desires cannot be wiped out, but they have only to be purified. It is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita by the Lord Himself that He gives His instruction from within the heart of a pure devotee who is constantly engaged in the service of the Lord. Such instruction is given not for any material purpose but only for going back home, back to Godhead (Bg. 10.10). For the ordinary man who wants to lord it over material nature, the Lord not only sanctions and becomes a witness of activities, but He never gives the nondevotee instructions for going back to Godhead. That is the difference in dealings by the Lord with different living beings, both the devotee and the nondevotee. He is leader of all the living beings, as the king of the state rules both the prisoners and the free citizens. But His dealings are different in terms of devotee and nondevotee. Nondevotees never care to take any instruction from the Lord, and therefore the Lord is silent in their case, although He witnesses all their activities and awards them the necessary results, good or bad. The devotees are above this material goodness and badness. They are progressive on the path of transcendence, and therefore they have no desire for anything material. The devotee also knows Sri Krsna as the original Narayana because Lord Sri Krsna, by His plenary portion, appears as the Karanodakasayi Visnu, the original source of all material creation. The Lord also desires the association of His pure devotees, and for them only the Lord descends on the earth and enlivens them. The Lord appears out of His own will. He is not forced by the conditions of material nature. He is therefore described here as the vibhu, or the almighty, for He is never conditioned by the laws of material nature.
Sri Krsna is the intimate friend of Arjuna. He has appeared on this earth in His transcendental body, which resembles the bluish color of the tamala tree. His body attracts everyone in the three planetary systems [upper, middle and lower]. May His glittering yellow dress and His lotus face, covered with paintings of sandalwood pulp, be the object of my attraction, and may I not desire fruitive results.
When Sri Krsna by His own internal pleasure appears on earth, He does so by the agency of His internal potency. The attractive features of His transcendental body are desired in all the three worlds, namely the upper, middle and lower planetary systems. Nowhere in the universe are there such beautiful bodily features as those of Lord Krsna. Therefore His transcendental body has nothing to do with anything materially created. Arjuna is described here as the conqueror, and Krsna is described as his intimate friend. Bhismadeva, on his bed of arrows after the Battle of Kuruksetra, is remembering the particular dress of Lord Krsna which He put on as the driver of Arjuna's chariot. While fighting was going on between Arjuna and Bhisma, Bhisma's attraction was drawn by the glittering dress of Krsna, and indirectly he admired his so-called enemy Arjuna for possessing the Lord as his friend. Arjuna was always a conqueror because the Lord was his friend. Bhismadeva takes this opportunity to address the Lord as vijaya-sakhe (friend of Arjuna) because the Lord is pleased when He is addressed conjointly with His devotees, who are related with Him in different transcendental humors. While Krsna was the charioteer of Arjuna, sun rays glittered on the dress of the Lord, and the beautiful hue created by the reflection of such rays was never forgotten by Bhismadeva. As a great fighter he was relishing the relation of Krsna in the chivalrous humor. Transcendental relation with the Lord in any one of the different rasas (humors) is relishable by the respective devotees in the highest ecstasy. Less intelligent mundaners who want to make a show of being transcendentally related with the Lord artificially jump at once to the relation of conjugal love, imitating the damsels of Vrajadhama. Such a cheap relation with the Lord exhibits only the base mentality of the mundaner because one who has relished conjugal humor with the Lord cannot be attached to worldly conjugal rasa, which is condemned even by mundane ethics. The eternal relation of a particular soul with the Lord is evolved. A genuine relation of the living being with the Supreme Lord can take any form out of the five principal rasas, and it does not make any difference in transcendental degree to the genuine devotee. Bhismadeva is a concrete example of this, and it should be carefully observed how the great general is transcendentally related with the Lord.
On the battlefield [where Sri Krsna attended Arjuna out of friendship], the flowing hair of Lord Krsna turned ashen due to the dust raised by the hoofs of the horses. And because of His labor, beads of sweat wetted His face. All these decorations, intensified by the wounds dealt by my sharp arrows, were enjoyed by Him. Let my mind thus go unto Sri Krsna.
The Lord is the absolute form of eternity, bliss and knowledge. As such, transcendental loving service to the Lord in one of the five principal relations, namely santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya, i.e., neutrality, servitorship, fraternity, filial affection and conjugal love, is graciously accepted by the Lord when offered to the Lord in genuine love and affection. Sri Bhismadeva is a great devotee of the Lord in the relation of servitorship. Thus his throwing of sharp arrows at the transcendental body of the Lord is as good as the worship of another devotee who throws soft roses upon Him.
It appears that Bhismadeva is repenting the actions he committed against the person of the Lord. But factually the Lord's body was not at all pained, due to His transcendental existence. His body is not matter. Both He Himself and His body are complete spiritual identity. Spirit is never pierced, burnt, dried, moistened, etc. This is vividly explained in the Bhagavad-gita. So also it is stated in the Skanda Purana. It is said there that spirit is always uncontaminated and indestructible. It cannot be distressed, nor can it be dried up. When Lord Visnu in His incarnation appears before us, He seems to be like one of the conditioned souls, materially encaged, just to bewilder the asuras, or the nonbelievers, who are always alert to kill the Lord, even from the very beginning of His appearance. Kamsa wanted to kill Krsna, and Ravana wanted to kill Rama, because foolishly they were unaware of the fact that the Lord is never killed, for the spirit is never annihilated.
Therefore Bhismadeva's piercing of the body of Lord Krsna is a sort of bewildering problem for the nondevotee atheist, but those who are devotees, or liberated souls, are not bewildered.
Bhismadeva appreciated the all-merciful attitude of the Lord because He did not leave Arjuna alone, although He was disturbed by the sharpened arrows of Bhismadeva, nor was He reluctant to come before Bhisma's deathbed, even though He was ill-treated by him on the battlefield. Bhisma's repentance and the Lord's merciful attitude are both unique in this picture.
Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, a great acarya and devotee in the humor of conjugal love with the Lord, remarks very saliently in this regard. He says that the wounds created on the body of the Lord by the sharpened arrows of Bhismadeva were as pleasing to the Lord as the biting of a fiancee who bites the body of the Lord directed by a strong sense of sex desire. Such biting by the opposite sex is never taken as a sign of enmity, even if there is a wound on the body. Therefore, the fighting as an exchange of transcendental pleasure between the Lord and His pure devotee, Sri Bhismadeva, was not at all mundane. Besides that, since the Lord's body and the Lord are identical, there was no possibility of wounds in the absolute body. The apparent wounds caused by the sharpened arrows are misleading to the common man, but one who has a little absolute knowledge can understand the transcendental exchange in the chivalrous relation. The Lord was perfectly happy with the wounds caused by the sharpened arrows of Bhismadeva. The word vibhidyamana is significant because the Lord's skin is not different from the Lord. Because our skin is different from our soul, in our case the word vibhidyamana, or being bruised and cut, would have been quite suitable. Transcendental bliss is of different varieties, and the variety of activities in the mundane world is but a perverted reflection of transcendental bliss. Because everything in the mundane world is qualitatively mundane, it is full of inebrieties, whereas in the absolute realm, because everything is of the same absolute nature, there are varieties of enjoyment without inebriety. The Lord enjoyed the wounds created by His great devotee Bhismadeva, and because Bhismadeva is a devotee in the chivalrous relation, he fixes up his mind on Krsna in that wounded condition.
In obedience to the command of His friend, Lord Sri Krsna entered the arena of the Battlefield of Kuruksetra between the soldiers of Arjuna and Duryodhana, and while there He shortened the life spans of the opposite party by His merciful glance. This was done simply by His looking at the enemy. Let my mind be fixed upon that Krsna.
In the Bhagavad-gita (1.21-25) Arjuna ordered the infallible Lord Sri Krsna to place his chariot between the phalanxes of the soldiers. He asked Him to stay there until he had finished observing the enemies he had to face in the battle. When the Lord was so asked, He at once did so, just like an order carrier. And the Lord pointed out all the important men on the opposite side, saying, "Here is Bhisma, here is Drona," and so on. The Lord, being the supreme living being, is never the order supplier or order carrier of anyone, whoever he may be. But out of His causeless mercy and affection for His pure devotees, sometimes He carries out the order of the devotee like an awaiting servant. By executing the order of a devotee, the Lord becomes pleased, as a father is pleased to carry out the order of his small child. This is possible only out of pure transcendental love between the Lord and His devotees, and Bhismadeva was quite aware of this fact. He therefore addressed the Lord as the friend of Arjuna.
The Lord diminished the duration of life of the opposite party by His merciful glance. It is said that all the fighters who assembled on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra attained salvation by personally seeing the Lord at the time of death. Therefore, His diminishing the duration of life of Arjuna's enemy does not mean that He was partial to the cause of Arjuna. Factually He was merciful to the opposite party because they would not have attained salvation by dying at home in the ordinary course of life. Here was a chance to see the Lord at the time of death and thus attain salvation from material life. Therefore, the Lord is all good, and whatever He does is for everyone's good. Apparently it was for the victory of Arjuna, His intimate friend, but factually it was for the good of Arjuna's enemies. Such are the transcendental activities of the Lord, and whoever understands this also gets salvation after quitting this material body. The Lord does no wrong in any circumstance because He is absolute, all good at all times.
When Arjuna was seemingly polluted by ignorance upon observing the soldiers and commanders before him on the battlefield, the Lord eradicated his ignorance by delivering transcendental knowledge. May His lotus feet always remain the object of my attraction.
The kings and the commanders were to stand in the front of the fighting soldiers. That was the system of actual fighting. The kings and commanders were not so-called presidents or ministers of defense as they are today. They would not stay home while the poor soldiers or mercenaries were fighting face to face. This may be the regulation of modern democracy, but when actual monarchy was prevailing, the monarchs were not cowards elected without consideration of qualification. As it was evident from the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, all the executive heads of both parties, like Drona, Bhisma, Arjuna and Duryodhana, were not sleeping; all of them were actual participants in the fighting, which was selected to be executed at a place away from the civil residential quarters. This means that the innocent citizens were immune from all effects of fighting between the rival royal parties. The citizens had no business in seeing what was going to happen during such fighting. They were to pay one fourth of their income to the ruler, whether he be Arjuna or Duryodhana. All the commanders of the parties on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra were standing face to face, and Arjuna saw them with great compassion and lamented that he was to kill his kinsmen on the battlefield for the sake of the empire. He was not at all afraid of the giant military phalanx presented by Duryodhana, but as a merciful devotee of the Lord, renunciation of worldly things was natural for him, and thus he decided not to fight for worldly possessions. But this was due to a poor fund of knowledge, and therefore it is said here that his intelligence became polluted. His intelligence could not be polluted at any time because he was a devotee and constant companion of the Lord, as is clear in the Fourth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. Apparently Arjuna's intelligence became polluted because otherwise there would not have been a chance to deliver the teachings of Bhagavad-gita for the good of all polluted conditioned souls engaged in material bondage by the conception of the false material body. The Bhagavad-gita was delivered to the conditioned souls of the world to deliver them from the wrong conception of identifying the body with the soul and to reestablish the soul's eternal relation with the Supreme Lord. Atma-vidya, or transcendental knowledge of Himself, was primarily spoken by the Lord for the benefit of all concerned in all parts of the universe.
Fulfilling my desire and sacrificing His own promise, He got down from the chariot, took up its wheel, and ran towards me hurriedly, just as a lion goes to kill an elephant. He even dropped His outer garment on the way.
The Battle of Kuruksetra was fought on military principles but at the same time in a sporting spirit, like a friend's fight with another friend. Duryodhana criticized Bhismadeva, alleging that he was reluctant to kill Arjuna because of paternal affection. A ksatriya cannot tolerate insults on the principle of fighting. Bhismadeva therefore promised that the next day he would kill all five Pandavas with special weapons made for the purpose. Duryodhana was satisfied, and he kept the arrows with him to be delivered the next day during the fight. By tricks Arjuna took the arrows from Duryodhana, and Bhismadeva could understand that this was the trick of Lord Krsna. So he took a vow that the next day Krsna would have to take up weapons Himself, otherwise His friend Arjuna would die. In the next day's fighting Bhismadeva fought so violently that both Arjuna and Krsna were in trouble. Arjuna was almost defeated; the situation was so tense that he was about to be killed by Bhismadeva the very next moment. At that time Lord Krsna wanted to please His devotee, Bhisma, by keeping Bhisma's promise, which was more important than His own. Seemingly He broke His own promise. He promised before the beginning of the Battle of Kuruksetra that He would remain without weapons and would not use His strength for either of the parties. But to protect Arjuna He got down from the chariot, took up the wheel of the chariot and hurriedly rushed at Bhismadeva in an angry mood, as a lion goes to kill an elephant. He dropped His covering cloth on the way, and out of great anger He did not know that He had dropped it. Bhismadeva at once gave up his weapons and stood to be killed by Krsna, his beloved Lord. The fighting of the day was thus ended at that very moment, and Arjuna was saved. Of course there was no possibility of Arjuna's death because the Lord Himself was on the chariot, but because Bhismadeva wanted to see Lord Krsna take up some weapon to save His friend, the Lord created this situation, making Arjuna's death imminent. He stood before Bhismadeva to show him that his promise was fulfilled and that He had taken up the wheel.
May He, Lord Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead, who awards salvation, be my ultimate destination. On the battlefield He charged me, as if angry because of the wounds dealt by my sharp arrows. His shield was scattered, and His body was smeared with blood due to the wounds.
The dealings of Lord Krsna and Bhismadeva on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra are interesting because the activities of Lord Sri Krsna appeared to be partial to Arjuna and at enmity with Bhismadeva; but factually all this was especially meant to show special favor to Bhismadeva, a great devotee of the Lord. The astounding feature of such dealings is that a devotee can please the Lord by playing the part of an enemy. The Lord, being absolute, can accept service from His pure devotee even in the garb of an enemy. The Supreme Lord cannot have any enemy, nor can a so-called enemy harm Him because He is ajita, or unconquerable. But still He takes pleasure when His pure devotee beats Him like an enemy or rebukes Him from a superior position, although no one can be superior to the Lord. These are some of the transcendental reciprocatory dealings of the devotee with the Lord. And those who have no information of pure devotional service cannot penetrate into the mystery of such dealings. Bhismadeva played the part of a valiant warrior, and he purposely pierced the body of the Lord so that to the common eyes it appeared that the Lord was wounded, but factually all this was to bewilder the nondevotees. The all-spiritual body cannot be wounded, and a devotee cannot become the enemy of the Lord. Had it been so, Bhismadeva would not have desired to have the very same Lord as the ultimate destination of his life. Had Bhismadeva been an enemy of the Lord, Lord Krsna could have annihilated him without even moving. There was no need to come before Bhismadeva with blood and wounds. But He did so because the warrior devotee wanted to see the transcendental beauty of the Lord decorated with wounds created by a pure devotee. This is the way of exchanging transcendental rasa, or relations between the Lord and the servitor. By such dealings both the Lord and the devotee become glorified in their respective positions. The Lord was so angry that Arjuna checked Him when He was moving towards Bhismadeva, but in spite of Arjuna's checking, He proceeded towards Bhismadeva as a lover goes to a lover, without caring for hindrances. Apparently His determination was to kill Bhismadeva, but factually it was to please him as a great devotee of the Lord. The Lord is undoubtedly the deliverer of all conditioned souls. The impersonalists desire salvation from Him, and He always awards them according to their aspiration, but here Bhismadeva aspires to see the Lord in His personal feature. All pure devotees aspire for this.
At the moment of death, let my ultimate attraction be to Sri Krsna, the Personality of Godhead. I concentrate my mind upon the chariot driver of Arjuna who stood with a whip in His right hand and a bridle rope in His left, who was very careful to give protection to Arjuna's chariot by all means. Those who saw Him on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra attained their original forms after death.
A pure devotee of the Lord constantly sees the presence of the Lord within himself because of being transcendentally related by loving service. Such a pure devotee cannot forget the Lord for a moment. This is called trance. The mystic (yogi) tries to concentrate upon the Supersoul by controlling the senses from all other engagements, and thus he ultimately attains samadhi. A devotee more easily attains samadhi, or trance, by constantly remembering the Lord's personal feature along with His holy name, fame, pastimes, etc. Therefore, the concentration of the mystic yogi and that of the devotee are not on the same level. The concentration of the mystic is mechanical, whereas that of the pure devotee is natural in pure love and spontaneous affection. Bhismadeva was a pure devotee, and as a military marshal he constantly remembered the battlefield feature of the Lord as Partha-sarathi, the chariot driver of Arjuna. Therefore, the Lord's pastime as Partha-sarathi is also eternal. The pastimes of the Lord, beginning from His birth at the prison house of Kamsa up to the mausala-lila at the end, all move one after another in all the universes, just as the clock hand moves from one point to another. And in such pastimes His associates like the Pandavas and Bhisma are constant eternal companions. So Bhismadeva never forgot the beautiful feature of the Lord as Partha-sarathi, which even Arjuna could not see. Arjuna was behind the beautiful Partha-sarathi while Bhismadeva was just in front of the Lord. As far as the military feature of the Lord is concerned, Bhismadeva observed this with more relish than Arjuna.
All the soldiers and persons on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra attained their original spiritual form like the Lord after their death because by the causeless mercy of the Lord they were able to see Him face to face on that occasion. The conditioned souls rotating in the evolutionary cycle from the aquatics up to the form of Brahma are all in the form of maya, or the form obtained by one's own actions and awarded by material nature. The material forms of the conditioned souls are all foreign dresses, and when the conditioned soul becomes liberated from the clutches of material energy, he attains his original form. The impersonalist wants to attain the impersonal Brahman effulgence of the Lord, but that is not at all congenial to the living sparks, parts and parcels of the Lord. Therefore, the impersonalists again fall down and get material forms, which are all false to the spirit soul. A spiritual form like the Lord's, either two-handed or four-handed, is attained by the devotees of the Lord either in the Vaikunthas or in the Goloka planet, according to the original nature of the soul. This form, which is cent percent spiritual, is the svarupa of the living being, and all the living beings who participated on the Battlefield of Kuruksetra, on both sides, attained their svarupa, as confirmed by Bhismadeva. So Lord Sri Krsna was not merciful only to the Pandavas; He was also merciful to the other parties because all of them attained the same result. Bhismadeva wanted the same facility also, and that was his prayer to the Lord, although his position as an associate of the Lord is assured in all circumstances. The conclusion is that whoever dies looking on the Personality of Godhead within or without attains his svarupa, which is the highest perfection of life.
Let my mind be fixed upon Lord Sri Krsna, whose motions and smiles of love attracted the damsels of Vrajadhama [the gopis]. The damsels imitated the characteristic movements of the Lord [after His disappearance from the rasa dance].
By intense ecstasy in loving service, the damsels of Vrajabhumi attained qualitative oneness with the Lord by dancing with Him on an equal level, embracing Him in nuptial love, smiling at Him in joke, and looking at Him with a loving attitude. The relation of the Lord with Arjuna is undoubtedly praiseworthy for devotees like Bhismadeva, but the relation of the gopis with the Lord is still more praiseworthy because of their still more purified loving service. By the grace of the Lord, Arjuna was fortunate enough to have the fraternal service of the Lord as chariot driver, but the Lord did not award Arjuna with equal strength. The gopis, however, practically became one with the Lord by attainment of equal footing with the Lord. Bhisma's aspiration to remember the gopis is a prayer to have their mercy also at the last stage of his life. The Lord is satisfied more when His pure devotees are glorified, and therefore Bhismadeva has not only glorified the acts of Arjuna, his immediate object of attraction, but has also remembered the gopis, who were endowed with unrivalled opportunities by rendering loving service to the Lord. The gopis' equality with the Lord should never be misunderstood to be like the sayujya liberation of the impersonalist. The equality is one of perfect ecstasy where the differential conception is completely eradicated, for the interests of the lover and the beloved become identical.
At the Rajasuya-yajna [sacrifice] performed by Maharaja Yudhisthira, there was the greatest assembly of all the elite men of the world, the royal and learned orders, and in that great assembly Lord Sri Krsna was worshiped by one and all as the most exalted Personality of Godhead. This happened during my presence, and I remembered the incident in order to keep my mind upon the Lord.
Now I can meditate with full concentration upon that one Lord, Sri Krsna, now present before me because now I have transcended the misconceptions of duality in regard to His presence in everyone's heart, even in the hearts of the mental speculators. He is in everyone's heart. The sun may be perceived differently, but the sun is one.
Suta Gosvami said: Thus Bhismadeva merged himself in the Supersoul, Lord Sri Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with his mind, speech, sight and actions, and thus he became silent, and his breathing stopped.
The stage attained by Bhismadeva while quitting his material body is called nirvikalpa-samadhi because he merged his self into thinking of the Lord and his mind into remembering His different activities. He chanted the glories of the Lord, and by his sight he began to see the Lord personally present before him, and thus all his activities became concentrated upon the Lord without deviation. This is the highest stage of perfection, and it is possible for everyone to attain this stage by practice of devotional service. The devotional service of the Lord consists of nine principles of service activities, and they are (1) hearing, (2) chanting, (3) remembering, (4) serving the lotus feet, (5) worshiping, (6) praying, (7) executing the orders, (8) fraternizing, and (9) fully surrendering. Any one of them or all of them are equally competent to award the desired result, but they require to be practiced persistently under the guidance of an expert devotee of the Lord. The first item, hearing, is the most important item of all, and therefore hearing of the Bhagavad-gita and, later on, Srimad-Bhagavatam is essential for the serious candidate who wants to attain the stage of Bhismadeva at the end. The unique situation at Bhismadeva's time of death can be attained, even though Lord Krsna may not be personally present. His words of the Bhagavad-gita or those of Srimad-Bhagavatam are identical with the Lord. They are sound incarnations of the Lord, and one can fully utilize them to be entitled to attain the stage of Sri Bhismadeva, who was one of the eight Vasus. Every man or animal must die at a certain stage of life, but one who dies like Bhismadeva attains perfection, and one who dies forced by the laws of nature dies like an animal. That is the difference between a man and an animal. The human form of life is especially meant for dying like Bhismadeva.
Knowing that Bhismadeva had merged into the unlimited eternity of the Supreme Absolute, all present there became silent like birds at the end of the day.
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