Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Prayers of Grandfather Bhisma and his Passing into Vrindavana-Lila

1.9.32

Śrī Bhīṣma said:

Thus my contemplation has become thristless and dedicated
To the All-Attractive, foremost of the real, the all-powerful.
Everything that exists springs forth from his energies
Due to his full self-satisfaction and enjoyment.

Bhīṣma could completely dedicate all his perception and contemplation to the All-Attractive because he had lost all thirst for inferior subjects. Only the all-attractive, all-powerful, paramountly real Godhead could attract his attention.

Why do we exist? Why does anything exist? We exist as a result of expansion of the limitless enjoyment and pleasure inherent in the seed of reality – Godhead. Because Godhead is full of bliss, he desires to expand and multiply it, and therefore from his energies spring forth infinite varieties of creation. Thus the meaning of life is pleasure, and this pleasure is experienced fully when the soul is linked to Godhead.

33

Who the three worlds lust for, of dark-complexion,
Wearing cloth as brilliantly gold as the sun,
Body and lotus-like face decorated with sandalwood,
Vijaya’s friend… unto him let me have purest love!

Vijaya is Arjuna, the “Especially Victorious.”

34

In battle, the dust raised by horses made ashen
The wavy hair scattered around his perspiration-decorated face.
My sharp arrows pierced his dazzling armor to touch his skin.
Unto Kṛṣṇa let me give my soul!

35

As soon as he heard his friend’s command
He took their strong chariot between the two sides.
There, he diminished their lifespan of the opposing soldiers by glancing over them.
Unto Pārtha’s Friend let me give my love!

“Pārtha” is Arjuna, the child of Pṛthā.

36

When Arjuna saw from afar the soldier’s faces,
And turned away from killing his own people… an intellectual flaw,
He destroyed this flaw by spiritual knowledge!
To his feet let me give the most paramount love!

37-38

Breaking his own word to fulfill mine
He descended from his place on the chariot
And, with its wheel in his hand he ran, trampling the ground
like a lion killing an elephant, as his upper-cloth fell away.

Wounded by my fierce arrows, which destroyed his shield
Covered in wounds, he came towards his aggressor in anger
Intent on killing me!
May he, the Lotus-Faced Liberator become my destination!

I have translated mukunda as “Lotus-Faced Liberator.”

These beautiful poems composed spontaneously by Grandfather Bhīṣma in an unusual and highly sophisticated Sanskrit meter at the moment of his death reveal romantic Kṛṣṇa to us through the eyes of a heroic warrior.

39

Taking care of Vijaya’s chariot, holding the driving goad,
And the ropes… what a beautiful sight!
May the love of this dying man be for the All-Attractive.
Those who see him while dying attain their spiritual beauty.

“Spiritual beauty” (sva-rūpa) directly implies a spiritual body. The soul can be encased in a material body or a spiritual body. The material body engages in ego-centric affairs, the spiritual body engages in God-centric affairs. Bhīṣma desires to attain his original, beautiful spiritual form by dying with his vision and attention fully focused on the All-Attractive.

What spiritual form does Bhīṣma desire? He now expresses it clearly:

40

Graceful gait, artfully sweet smiles,
Love-laden glances… most glorified conceptions!
They imitate him, at the heights of madness
Yes, into their nature, the wives of the cowherders.

Bhīṣma now unequivocally states the spiritual beauty he desires to attain by dying with his heart and mind fully enrapt in Kṛṣṇa: He wishes to attain the nature of the wives of the cowherders: The Gopīs of Vṛṇdāvana. Specifically, he desires a place among the Gopīs experiencing the highest madness of spiritual love during the affairs immediately following Kṛṣṇa’s world-famous “rāsa-dance.”

41-42

In the great assembly of sages and great kings
Called by Yudhiṣṭhira’s royal sacrifice
All of them worshipped my Beloved
I saw it with my own eyes. I was there.

Now I have him right here!
He is the unborn, within the heart of the embodied,
In the contemplative hearts of the thinkers.
I see him everywhere; like the one Sun is seen everywhere.
I have now attained Samadhi, and am freed from the foolishness of separatism.

True Samadhi is not an impersonal accomplishment or state. Bhīṣma desires to become a Gopī, not a void impersonal energy. He now states that he is completely ready to die, because he has achieved Samadhi. What is Samadhi, then? It is a state of perception (dhi) in which there is perfect oneness (sama). What is oneness??? Those who have not seen it do not know and cannot say. But Bhīṣma has seen it and he says what it is: it is seeing the beloved Kṛṣṇa everywhere – just like we see the sun everywhere. There is only one sun, but it shines on everyone’s head. Similarly there is one Godhead, but Godhead can be seen in everything and everyone – without destroying or contradicting the fact that there is one Godhead. There is indeed one personal, beautiful All-Attractive Godhead. We attain Samadhi when we see him everywhere at all times. Bhīṣma gives confidence to his family and friends by telling them he has attained Samadhi and is therefore perfectly ready to take his final death, they should not fear, worry or grieve.

These were his final words.

43

Sūta said:                                                                                   

He placed himself within All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa, the self of his self, along with his every thought, word, vision, and deed. He took a final breath and was at peace.

44-45

Realizing that Bhīṣma had attained perfect oneness with the unlimited spirit, everyone fell silent like birds at the end of the day. Then, drums resounded, beaten by men and gods alike who praised the saint among kings. A rain of flowers fell from the sky.

46

Yudhiṣṭhira became very morose when the time came to burn the body, O Bhārgava.

47

The sages made everyone satisfied and happy by glorifying the confidential names and deeds of Kṛṣṇa. Then, with Kṛṣṇa in their hearts, they returned again to their own ashrams.

There was enormous nāma-saṁkīrtan at the funeral of Bhīṣma, conducted by the most illustrious sages and saints. This brought peace and happiness to everyone’s heart.

48

After this, Yudhiṣṭhira went to Gajāhvayam to console his uncle and the austere Gāndhārī.

Yudhiṣṭhira’s aunt is an “austere woman” (tapasvī) primarily because she kept her eyes blindfolded as an austerity of love for her blind husband. Gajāhvayam is the capital palace in Hastinapura (now Delhi). Were Yudhiṣṭhira any lesser man he would have hated his uncle and aunt for the central role they played in the incidents which culminated in the disastrous war. Being a very elevated soul, however, Yudhiṣṭhira easily overlooks the faults in others and embraces whatever good is in them.

49

With the approval of his uncle, and the subsequent pleasure of Vasudeva’s Son, he administered the kingdom with morality as great as his grandfather’s.

A good student of a good teacher becomes a good teacher. Yudhiṣṭhira was a good student, and his grandfather Bhīṣma give him good advice about how to be a king. By deeply and faithfully implementing his grandfather’s advice, Yudhiṣṭhira’s kingdom was as moral and good as if Bhīṣma himself was the king.

Those aware of the fuller story arc presented in Mahābhārata will note that this completes a diversion to the flow of fate which started when Bhīṣma renounced his claim to the throne.

Krishna attacks Bhisma like a lion attacking an elephant - to return the touch of Bhisma's arrows upon his skin

Bhisma's Spiritual Aspiration


Bhīṣma’s Instructions on Human Duty (Varṇāśrama-Dharma)

1.9.25

Sūta said:

Hearing all this from he who lay on a bed of arrows, Yudhiṣṭhira then asked him many questions about duty, and the sages also listened to the answers.

26

Humans all have unique individual character, and on that basis they are given specific responsibilities for material and spiritual development. Bhīṣma systematically described these, and how they involve both attachment and detachment.

27

He differentiated the duties pertaining to wealth, politics, and enlightenment; and explained that they sometimes overlap but are sometimes specific to certain subgroups like women, and devotees.

28

Understanding the truth of such things, he explained the four goals – morality, stability, pleasure, and enlightenment, along with the means to achieve them as illustrated in the histories.

Yudhiṣṭhira came to Bhīṣma mired in the quicksand of depression, unable to comprehend and digest the horrors he just partook in during the war. Bhīṣma told him that fate is beyond our comprehension, and we can simply trust that it is good, knowing that its master wishes us well. He said not to dwell on the past but to face the future. For Yudhiṣṭhira, the future means being the king and taking care of thousands of people. Therefore Yudhiṣṭhira began asking him many, many questions about how to properly execute his duties as a king.

Sūta summarized the elaborate questions and answers in three concise verses (26-28). Bhīṣma first explained that all duties are relative to a single key issue: your unique individual character. Everyone has unique duties and responsibilities based on their character, just as every patient does not receive exactly the same medicine and treatment from a hospital.

We have two basic frameworks of duty. Varṇa refers to career duties, material duties as a member of society. Āśrama refers to evolutionary duties, spiritual duties as an evolving spiritual being. We should pursue both duties simultaneously, balancing material attachment and spiritual detachment in a ratio befitting our unique individual character.

Bhīṣma specifically cited charity as the prime duty of business and industrial career types (vaiṣya-varṇa); politics as the main duty for administrative and governmental careers (kṣatriya-varṇa); and enlightenment as the primary duty mainly for educational and philosophical careers (brahmaṇa-varṇa). Bhīṣma also said that sometimes duties overlap with each other and with the borders of different careers and stages of evolution; while at other times are specific only to certain people. He specifically sites women and devotees as groups that have exceptional and specific duties not shared by other groups.

Bhīṣma then explained that there are four goals of human life: we search for pleasure (kāma), which leads us to desire stability (artha) as a solid foundation for happiness, which then leads us to desire order and morality (dharma) to insure the stability of our shared social foundations, and finally culminates in the desire for enlightenment (mokṣa) as we come to understand that ego-based pleasure is not truly pleasant.  All classes of people share these goals, but various categories have different primary focus. Commoners focus primarily on pleasure, businesspeople focus on economic stability, administrators focus on law and order, while the educational class primarily focuses on enlightenment.

Bhīṣma explained all this to the King, along with what history has shown to be the best means for attaining each goal, so that the King could guide all the different citizens in a manner appropriate to their individual natures.

29

While he was explaining human duties, the Sun began moving northward: the exact time desired by mystics who can chose the moment of their death.

Most contemporary Indian astrologers miscalculate the northern course (uttarāyaṇa) due to over-habituation towards sidereal references, and ignorance of the simple fact that the Sun’s movement in relation to earthly directions is an inherently tropical phenomenon. The Sun moves further and further south each day until the winter solstice, at which point it begins moving northward. This conversation between Bhīṣma and Yudhiṣṭhira culminated on the winter solstice, which is always in the vicinity of December 21st by our modern calendar.

30

Then, he who was expert in thousands of subjects withdrew his voice and removed his mind from all other embraces; fixing his wide-open eyes on the Original Person, Kṛṣṇa, who was right before him with four arms, in flowing yellow cloth.

31

All impurity washed away by that contemplation. Simply by looking on Kṛṣṇa, the weariness of his battle-wounds ceased and fled. He arrested all the activities of the roaming senses and prayed to the Delighter of People as he cast off the thing which was born.

Bhīṣma was the master of thousands of subjects. Besides being a warrior he was a philosopher and sage, and a mystic as well. He had the ability to choose the moment of his death. So he waited for Kṛṣṇa’s presence before dying – although his body was completely destroyed by battle wounds and it was very tiring and painful to remain alive. Kṛṣṇa came to him just before the winter solstice, and when that moment arrived Bhīṣma ceased all other responsibilities and completely withdrew his consciousness from everything in the world, focusing it upon Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the true delight of people (Janārdana) who stood before him in exactly the form adored by Bhīṣma.

Ayyavali depiction of Vishnu.

Image via Wikipedia


Inescapable Fate & God’s Plan

1.9.12

Alas how you suffered! Alas how unfair! O children of morality, you wouldn’t have survived such trials were you not protected by the learned, by righteousness, and by the infallible.

13-17

When the great warrior Pāṇḍu died he left my daughter Pṛthā with children. Raising you she suffered again, terribly.

All the difficult things that happened to her and to you are fate, I conclude. Everyone in all the worlds, and even the protectors of those worlds, is in the grip of fate like a cloud bank is in the grip of the wind.

How else could such disaster befall a king who is the son of Dharma, alongside the mace wielding Wolf-Belly, and the mystic-bow wielding Kṛṣṇā with his dear protector Kṛṣṇa?

None can ever understand his plan. Confusion persists even if experts investigate it exhaustively. Therefore just take everything that happened as the hex of destiny.

Now you are the chief of the Bharata dynasty. So, Lord, you must protect the helpless citizens.

The Pāṇḍavas suffered quite unfairly and so did their mother, who first of all lost her husband at a very young age, and second of all had to watch them grow up into such an unfair environment. Bhīṣma says that Pṛthā (Kuntī) is his “daughter.” Bhīṣma never married, but in loving Indian families relations terms are extended beyond their literal definitions. Kuntī was the daughter in law of Bhīṣma’s brother. Out of affection he considers her his own daughter.

King Yudhiṣṭhira could not rise above the emotional distress that culminated in the horrible war which forced him to take the lives of so many friends, teachers, and family members, including his beloved grandfather Bhīṣma who now lay broken on the battlefield. Yudhiṣṭhira approached him for advice and Bhīṣma said, “You cannot make logical sense out of everything that happened. Everything happens as a result of fate, and we cannot figure out the logic of fate with our human intellect.”

We use freewill, and our accountability for what we do therewith generates what we experience as “fate.” The universe attempts to improve the character of her children by rewarding our good deeds and punishing our bad. So, in theory, fate is a simple concept. But in practice it quickly becomes complex, especially because often good things seem fated to bad people, and visa versa. The simple reason for this is that fate spans many lifetimes. Those who are good in this lifetime have not always been so, and visa versa. Full comprehension of fate would require full comprehension of our entire timeline of reincarnation, which is beyond the boundary of human investigation. Thus although it is a simple principle, it is impossible to fully comprehend it.

The Pāṇḍavas are a very special example of how confusing fate can become, for not only were they extremely good and moral in this lifetime, we also have very little reason or evidence to believe that they were ever otherwise in any previous incarnation. Why then should calamities befall them? Bhīṣma answers by pointing at Kṛṣṇa and saying, “it is his inscrutable plan.”

Bhīṣma specifically refers to Kṛṣṇa as Arjuna’s beloved friend and protector. The implication here is profound: there is nothing truly ill in the incomprehensible plans of destiny, because the master of destiny is our beloved protector.

In actual fact, neither the Pāṇḍavas nor their mother Kuntī suffered at any time. Kuntī herself just finished telling Kṛṣṇa that she enjoyed every calamity they encountered and wishes they would never cease to befall them – because they place her into Kṛṣṇa’s company. Apparently ill things sometimes happen to truly saintly people, but they are unscathed and their experience only serves to instruct and uplift the world.

Bhīṣma concludes the topic by telling Yudhiṣṭhira, “You must stop trying to figure out why everything happened the way it did. Take your head out of the past and focus on the future. Now you are the head of our royal family and you have important obligations to the citizens that you must focus on.”

Bhīṣma now spontaneously turns his words to a new topic, most dear to his heart. Speaking indirectly to Kṛṣṇa who is listening besides Arjuna, he raises his hand towards the All-Attractive and says:

18

He is certainly, directly the All-Attractive Original Personality, Narayana. His charms intoxicate everyone as he moves confidentially among us Vrsni.

“Moving confidentially among us” means two things: (1) he is hidden from the perception of ordinary egoists, who see him as just another human being; (2) his activities with us are the most confidential and intimate side of his Godhead. These facets of confidentiality are accomplished by “intoxicating charms” (mohayan māyayā) which functions in two corresponding ways: (1) It allows egoistic souls to disconnect themselves from the All-Attractive; (2) It allows pure souls to connect themselves to the All-Attractive to a depth not warranted by their infinitesimal constitution.

It may be helpful to use distinguishing terminology for the two functions of Kṛṣṇa’s illusion: illusion which distances souls from him is called mahā-māyā. Illusion which deeply connects souls to him is called yoga-māyā. The use of the English term “illusion” is also problematic, so let us note that the illusions generated by the Supreme Reality are realities unto themselves.

19

O King, Śiva knows the most confidential secrets of his all-attractive nature, as does the gods’ sage Nārada, and godly Kapila.

These are three particularly noteworthy pure souls who are drawn closer to Kṛṣṇa by his intoxicating charms, and therefore know him very intimately.

20

You know him as your cousin, beloved friend, and supreme protector; who councils you, is your messenger, and out of kindness became your charioteer.

Yudhiṣṭhira and the Pāṇḍavas like Arjuna are even more exalted than Kapila, Nārada or Śiva. Their confidentiality with the All-Attractive is so great that it overshadows the officiousness and hierarchy inherent in the power of Godhead and endears the Original Person to become his beloved friend and servant.

Seen through the intoxication of illusion, however, it appears merely that Kṛṣṇa is a common mailman and chauffer for a prince, and nothing more. This is the veiw of intoxicated fools. It is not Bhīṣma’s view, as he explains:

21

He is certainly the soul of all, the neutral observer, the non-dual and the non-ego. His deeds are products of a consciousness never affected by attachment or aversion.

Bhīṣma states plainly that the person seated beside them, Kṛṣṇa, is directly and fully the Supreme Godhead. All of us are plagued by hunger in the core of our hearts. All of our actions are an attempt to fill this emotional hunger. The Supreme Being has no such hunger. Quite the opposite, the heart of the All-Attractive overflows with bliss. The actions of a common man attempt to fill a void within, the actions of the All-Attractive flow from an infinite fountainhead of bliss to fill the void without.

22

But King, see how sympathetic he is towards his single-minded devotee: as my life is ending Krsna has come directly before me!

The All-Attractive is impartial, but is not impersonal. If you direct affection towards him, he does not neglect it. In fact, because we are inherently infinitesimal and he is inherently infinite, his reciprocation for our affection is monumentally amplified in comparison to what we can offer.

23

Mind enrapt in divine love; Words glorifying his name; Giving up their body in this state, a yogi is released from all the reactions of selfishness.

Bhīṣma feels that Kṛṣṇa has given him a huge, undeserved favor. Kṛṣṇa has come personally before Bhīṣma as he is giving up his body. Thus it will be extremely easy for Bhīṣma to do what great yogis undergo extreme efforts to attain: to wrap their thoughts and words around him and thus be freed from the cycle of birth and death.

“Glorifying his name” is nāma-kīrtana. “Reactions of selfishness” is kāma-karmabhih.

24

The god of gods awaits,
While I leave this body.
The satisfied smile,
Sunrise eyes,
And lotus face
Of the Four-Armed
Pave the path of my concentration.


Going to the Deathbed of Grandfather Bhishma

1.9.1

Sūta said:

So, fearing the hatred of the citizens and wanting to understand the proper morality, he went to the field of destruction, where Godly Avowed lay.

The “Godly Avowed” (deva-vrata) is a name for Bhīṣma, the grandfather of the royal family. King Yudhiṣṭhira was not placated by the moral guidance of great sages like Vyāsa, nor by intimate friends like Kṛṣṇa. He needed to hear Bhīṣma’s guidance because (a) Bhīṣma was a great sage with practical experience and realization of royal and warrior life, and (b) most importantly, Bhīṣma was his dear grandfather whom he and his brothers killed during the war. Bhīṣma lay struck down upon the battlefield preserving his last remaining life-force.

2-3

He went with all his brothers and with learned sages like Vyāsa, in a row of golden chariots pulled by fine horses. Even the All-Attractive was there, with Dhanañjaya in his chariot. The King’s glory seemed like the god of wealth amidst his retinue.

Another way to express this is that the god of wealth himself strives to compare to the limitless wealth of King Yudhiṣṭhira, for whom the All-Attractive Object, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, gladly took the role of an ornament.

4

Seeing Bhīṣma lying there like an immortal fallen from the heavens, the Pāṇḍavas and their associates offered respects, as did the Disc Wielder.

The “Disc Wielder” (cakriṇā) is a name for Kṛṣṇa, who wields the discus-weapon of Viṣṇu. Sūta has clearly adopted a style which shies away from grouping Kṛṣṇa together with others in any list. This is a device intended to highlight Kṛṣṇa’s unique position as the All-Attractive Original Person.

5

The most learned sages had gathered there with the topmost sage of the gods, and philosopher-kings, to see the foremost Bharata.

Bhīṣma was the “foremost Bharata” (bharata-pungava) because he was the oldest living descendent of King Bharata, the great-grandfather of the Pāṇḍavas. The “topmost sage of the gods” is Nārada. Sūta will now elaborate a list of exalted persons who had gathered around Bhīṣma who lay on the battlefield at the threshold of death.

6-8

Parvata, Nārada, Daumya, and Godly Bādarāyaṇa; Bṛhadaśva, Bharadvaja and his disciples, and Reṇukā’s Son; Vasiṣṭha, Indraprama, Trita, Gṛtsamada, Asita, Kakṣīvan, Gautama, Atri, Kauśika and also Sudarśana. O brahmin, there were also scholars like spotless Brahmarāta. Accompanied by students arrived Kaśyapa, Angirasa, and others.

“Godly Bādarāyaṇa” is Vyāsa, who is an incarnation of Godhead and dwells in Bādarik Ashram. “Reṇukā’s Son” is another incarnation of Godhead, the warrior-killer, Paraśurāma. Sudarśana is the personified form of Viṣṇu’s discus weapon. Brahmarāta is a name for Śuka.

9

Gaining their company, the greatly blessed Topmost Vasu – fully aware of moral principles – respectfully received them in a manner appropriate to the unusual circumstance.

Sūta addresses Bhīṣma as the “Topmost Vasu” (vasūttama) because Bhīṣma is one of the eight gods called Vasu who were cursed to become human beings. Bhīṣma is the best Vasu because the river Ganges immediately claimed the lives of the other seven Vasus as soon as they were born. Only Bhīṣma survived to obtain a life which granted him direct audience and friendship with the All-Attractive Original Person, Śrī Kṛṣṇa.

10

Aware that the great controller of the universe was mystically sitting before him while simultaneously sitting within his heart, he welcomed Kṛṣṇa with special respect.

Bhīṣma, who Sūta just described as being “fully aware of moral principles” showed more respect to Kṛṣṇa than to any of the extremely illustrious “V.I.P. list” of Vedic sages.

11

Pāṇḍu’s children sat nearby, overwhelmed with emotion. As tears poured from his eyes Bhīṣma called them to come near.

Is Bhīṣma crying for the devastation endured by his grandchildren? Or is he crying out of joy that Kṛṣṇa has come before his eyes? Both; hot tears of pain are flowing alongside cold tears of joy. This illustrates the profound nature of spiritual bliss, in which mutually opposite emotions coexist and almost violently heighten one another beyond conventional experience.

trying to stop Goddess Ganga from drowning the...

His father, King Shantanu, saves newborn Bhisma from being drowned by the Ganges.


The King Regrets War

 

1.8.44

Sūta said:

Hearing this spontaneous poetry exalting his unlimited glories, the Carefree pleasantly smiled a smile as captivating as his illusory energy.

Kṛṣṇa is also named “Carefree” – Vaikuṇṭha.

45

After all these prayers, Kuntī and all the ladies invited him into Gaja Sāhvya Palace. There, the King lovingly stopped him.

Kṛṣṇa was going to leave for his own city. Then there was an emergency and Kṛṣṇa saved everyone from a destructive blast. Immediately after this, Kuntī saw her golden opportunity and approached Kṛṣṇa asking him not to leave. After her prayers, Kṛṣṇa accepted her invitation to return within the Palace. There, King Yuddhiṣṭhira lovingly stopped Kṛṣṇa to talk.

46

Sages like Vyāsa had explained to the king that all events, however bewildering, are ordained by the will of the Controller, Kṛṣṇa; and tried to give examples from history to console him. But his grief and distress could not be appeased.

47

The King, Dharma’s Son, carried away by the bewilderment of a commoner’s conception of affection, troubled by having killed his protectors, spoke:

48

“Alas! Look at my stupidity! Look how evil is rooted in my heart! This body should be used to help others, but I have used it to kill them; many, many armies of them!

49

“Boys, teachers, protectors, friends, fathers, brothers, and gurus I have killed. I shall not escape hell for millions upon millions of years.

50

“Morality dictates that there is no sin for a king who kills enemies responsibly to protect the citizens, but I don’t think this applies to me.

The common man searches the law and scripture for loopholes to excuse his miserable selfishness, but the true son of Dharma searches the same to expose, not hide, the evils within.

51-52

“I have killed the relatives of many women, and they must all hate me. I don’t think there is anything I can do to make these worldly people forgive me. You can’t use mud to clean muddy water; or wine to purify it of alcohol. The sacrifice of an animal cannot cleanse me of the sin of murder.”

A low grade spiritualist dismisses the worldly as unimportant. But the great Yuddhiṣṭhira sees their desires and needs as important.

The five Pandavas with king Yudhisthira in the...

Image via Wikipedia


Conclusion of Queen Kunti’s Prayers

1.8.37

We are your bosom friends.
We live for you and you alone.
We hold your lotus-like feet above all else.
Can it be that you want to leave us today, O Lord of self-determined action,
Leave us to all our political problems?

Kuntī profoundly asks Kṛṣṇa not to leave.

38

What will become of us Pāṇḍava and Yadu,
With our big name and opulence, but without your audience?
The same that becomes of a lovely body
Without a soul.

39

None of this will have any of the beauty it has now,
O Mace-Wielder.
It is attractive only because your lotus-like footprints
Decorate it with their own decorations.

“Mace-Wielder” (Gadādhara) is a name of Kṛṣṇa as a warrior and identifying him as Viṣṇu, who carries a mace (club) in one hand.

40

All our towns, lands, herbs, and vegetables,
Forests, hills, rivers, and lakes
Flourish now,
Nourished by your glance.

41

So cut the ropes that bind my heart so deeply
To all my things, and to this family of Pāṇḍava and Vṛṣṇi.
O Universal Form! O Universal Soul!
O Universal Master!

Since everything beautiful in her life derives its beauty from its connection to Kṛṣṇa, Kuntī wants to have no affection for any of it, if Kṛṣṇa leaves it. In other words she asks for full realization that Kṛṣṇa is the source of beauty and sweetness in everything beautiful and sweet.

42

On you and you alone, O Sweet Protector
Let my attention be ceaselessly allured.
Like the flooding Ganges
Flowing straight to the sea.

“Madhu-pati,” the Sweet Protector, has a romantic connotation since madhu implies “honey” and pati is the word for husband.

43

Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Friend of Kṛṣṇā, Bull among Bulls,
Tireless hero who destroys the royal dynasties that trouble the Earth.
Pleasure of our senses;
Your incarnations give refuge to cows, teachers, and gods.
Master of mystics; Guide of the World; All-Attractive…

…to you I give myself.

Kuntī brings her address to a close with this stunning spontaneous composition.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa: The “Śrī” in “Śrī Kṛṣṇa” means “beauty.” So it implies “Beautiful Kṛṣṇa.” Śrī further means the goddess of beauty, Lakṣmī . In the company of Kṛṣṇa Lakṣmī manifests her original and supreme form: Rādhā. So “Śrī Kṛṣṇa” further implies “Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa.”

Friend of Kṛṣṇā: This choice of words allows Kuntī to say “Kṛṣṇa” twice and better satisfy her thirst for that sound. Several people are called Kṛṣṇā, especially Arjuna, Draupadī and Kuntī herself. So it is both sonically satisfying and personally relevant.

Bull among Bulls: Vṛṣṇi-ṛṣabha is a sophisticated alliteration. One meaning is that Kṛṣṇa is the most powerful (ṛṣabha) of his dynasty, the Vṛṣṇi. Another meaning is that Kṛṣṇa is the bull (ṛṣa) among bulls (vṛṣa), which means that he is the best and most powerful of all the best and most powerful men.

Tireless hero of the Earth: The Earth is the wife of Kṛṣṇa’s boar incarnation. Kṛṣṇa is her hero because he saves her from the militarism and exploitive opportunism of self-serving leaders and politicians. How? Sometimes by incarnating to personally annihilate them, but usually by allowing them to annihilate each other as a result of the fate which he enforces in his form as supreme time.

Pleasure of our senses: Kuntī intimately addresses Kṛṣṇa as Govinda, the one who delights the eyes, ears, nose, skin, and mouth.

She concludes in a stunning manner with a refrain back to her opening motif, “I give myself to you.”

Queen Kuntī is extremely intimate with Kṛṣṇa and her appreciation is for the romantic side of Kṛṣṇa. This is clear from the messages she sends to Kṛṣṇa just slightly below the surface of all her words:

  • She compares Kṛṣṇa to an attractive actor.
  • She makes a point to identify herself as female.
  • She refers to Kṛṣṇa in the romantic setting of Vṛṇdāvana, by calling him the Son of Nanda.
  • She calls him the “delight of her senses.”
  • She appreciates his attractive body: naval, eyes and finally even his feet.
  • As is important in the art of romantic communication, she indicates that she is aware of Kṛṣṇa’s special feelings for her.
  • She calls him her “protector” which, in Sanskrit (pati), is the same word used for “husband.”
  • She illustrates her highly philosophical points with reference to intimate Kṛṣṇa in Vṛṇdāvana, as the Son of Yaśodā.
  • She describes kīrtana with adjectives like “embracing” and “enjoying” the hearing, singing, and reminiscing of Kṛṣṇa.
  • She says she wants to love no one else, be attracted to no one else.
  • She twice refers to Kṛṣṇa in relation to Rādhā.
  • In this mood she wishes to give herself to him.

This certainly begs the question: is the relationship between Kuntī and Kṛṣṇa romantic (mādhurya-rasa)? The answer may not be clearly understood before we realize that the ideal cherished in one’s heart need not be forceful enough to fully manifest in ones deeds. What I feel is certain is that lovely and devoted Kuntī cherishes romantic affection for Kṛṣṇa above all else. She particularly adores the concept of Kṛṣṇa as her true husband. She even holds the highest reverence for Kṛṣṇa’s supremely intimate romance with Śrī Rādhā.

If these cherished ideals were forceful enough to grant her a place among his queens or Gopīs is unknown to me. But in her current shape as Kuntī it remains a heartfelt ideal, the deepest motive and most treasured emotion. We should realize that all self-realized souls cherish the intimate romantic love of Kṛṣṇa and his queens, Kṛṣṇa and the Gopīs, and Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa above all else – regardless of the capacity or level of intimacy to which their personal nature permits them to access Kṛṣṇa.

I also wonder how much the sentiment of the storytellers influences the choice of words and the subtleties. I think that Kuntī holds these sentiments as the secret treasure of her heart, and the storytellers may make it more apparent due to their own deep sympathy for such feelings.

Kuntīs prayers teach us so many important things.

  • Kṛṣṇa is a Transcendent Person, which means that his delimiting features such as name and form are unlimited.
    • Illusion prevents us from accepting that this is possible.
    • Illusion is the product of not wanting Kṛṣṇa to be the Absolutely All-Attractive
    • Illusion is truly destroyed, therefore, only be becoming absolutely all-attracted to Kṛṣṇa, as Kuntī is.
  • There is no such thing as good and bad luck.
    • Good luck can separate one from the true fortune of attraction to the All-Attractive.
    • Bad luck can increase that fortune.
  • Kṛṣṇa refuses to become the property of anyone who holds on to any other property. He fully gives himself, however, to those who are uninterested in power and enjoyment, are self-satisfied, gentle and pure.
  • Kṛṣṇa is absolutely impartial.
    • Destiny is the absolutely impartial form of Kṛṣṇa
    • Receiving or not receiving affection from Kṛṣṇa is our decision.
  • The most significant reason Kṛṣṇa appears in our world is to provide us an opportunity to remember him and thus realize our full-potential as roles in the play of divine love.
  • Everything is beautiful and attractive only in so far as we are aware of its connection to all-beautiful, all-attractive Kṛṣṇa.
    • Therefore let us become attracted to him first and foremost, then everything will become beautiful.

Considering the sublimity of Kuntīs emotion and the profundity of her philosophical points, it is easy to see why Sūta chose her words as the first monologue he enunciated to the sages in pursuit of retelling Śuka’s Śrīmad Bhāgavatam.


Prayers of Queen Kunti, Part II

Kuntī previously expressed so much gratitude to Kṛṣṇa for taking special care of her through so many calamities. Kṛṣṇa might say, “First you say I am the Original Godhead and then you say I took so much care of you, but this is a contradiction because Godhead does not show partiality to anyone!” Fearing this objection, Kuntī speaks these words:

1.8.28-29

I know you as the master of time itself,
Infinite, without beginning or end.
You distribute yourself equally in all circumstances.
Friendship or enmity is something living beings create.

Who can understand the behavior of the All-Attractive?
People confuse you to be like them.
How could anyone be your object of favor or disfavor?
Impartiality exists only in the human mind.

Kuntī says, “You are infinite time.” Time is the force which allows events to transpire. All good and bad things therefore happen as a result of time. Time is therefore synonymous with the concept of fate, destiny, karma.

Destiny is completely impartial. It plays no favorites and gives no dispensations. It merely enforces the appropriate result of your freewill. If a soccer player commits a foul, the referee calls a penalty. Is it the referees fault or the players? If the same player scores a goal, the referee awards a point. Is this favoritism? No, it is impartiality. The good and bad one experiences from an impartial being are ones own creation. God is not to fame or fault for the pleasures and pains of the world. It is we alone who create our fortunes.

The love and protection Kṛṣṇa gave Kuntī and her family is equally available to everyone at anytime. It is up to us to choose friendship or enmity with the All-Attractive.

30

It is completely confusing
That the unborn, deedless soul of the universe
Takes birth and performs deeds
Among animals, humans, sages, and aquatics.

For example:

31

When you were naughty, the cowherd woman grasped for a rope.
Then, mascara ran in the tears flowing from your frightened eyes.
Your face looked down and fear filled you up.
This confuses me, since even the god of fear fears you!

Now  Kuntī will try to unravel the confusing mystery of why and how the unborn and deedless is born and has deeds:

32-36

Someone says the unborn is born
To glorify the Subject of Pure Poetry,
As a dear friend to the Yadu dynasty,
Like sandalwood in the Malaya hills.

Someone else says he was born
To answer the prayers of Vasudeva and Devakī.
You are that unborn who protected them
By destroying those who hate the godly.

Another person says
The world was like a sinking boat at sea with too much weight,
And Brahmā prayed for your birth
On behalf of her distress.

“This world is full of the distress
Of ignorant desires and pursuits.
So he has enabled us to hear about, remember, and worship him”
– say many others.

Embracing constant hearing & singing;
Enjoying the consequent remembrance of your deeds;
Such a person soon sees your lotus-like feet,
And the flow of material destiny runs dry.

Kuntī cites different opinions which attempt to explain why the unborn and deedless is born and does deeds.

The first opinion she cites is that the unborn is born to create subject matter for pure poetry to be used in divine glorification (kīrtan).

She uses a metaphor of sandalwood in the Malayan hills. Sandal trees could potentially grow anywhere, but for whatever reason they wound up growing in a certain hilly region and thus that region is very famous and prosperous. Similarly the All-Attractive could take birth and perform deeds anywhere, but for whatever reason he does so among the Yadu dynasty (Kuntī’s royal family) who are therefore very famous and prosperous.

The next opinion she cites is that the unborn is born to protect the world from those who hate the godly. Foremost was to protect Devakī and Vasudeva from the wicked Kaṁsa.

The third opinion is similar: that the unborn is born because the armies of greedy kings made the earth distressed like a boat at sea with too much weight, so Kṛṣṇa appeared to destroy hundreds of thousands of warriors and kings.

The fourth opinion she sites is similar to the first: The unborn is born because the world is full of intense suffering, the ultimate cause of which is forgetfulness of our essential unifying link with the Supreme Blissful All-Attractive. So Kṛṣṇa takes birth to give us something truly uplifting to sing about and hear about, which allows us to remember our link to him and thus destroy the root of our suffering.

Finally, she gives her own opinion in support of the first and fourth opinions she cited. She says that the unborn and deedless is born and has deeds just to facilitate true love and enjoyment and thus save the forlorn soul from asphyxiation in a river of meaningless existence.

The primary reason that the Absolute exists in tangible personal form is to give us something perfect to love. Therefore the primary reason you and I exist in a tangible form is to love something perfect. Singing and hearing songs about the All-Attractive are the most effective way to fall into this divine love, and also the most powerful and pure way to enjoy, embrace and express it.

The divine exists for kīrtana, therefore so do we.

A modern painting of Kunti addressing Krsna before he could leave.


Prayers of Queen Kunti, Part I

1.8.17

Saved along with her children from the blast of the ultimate weapon, devoted Pṛthā went before Kṛṣṇa, who was still ready to depart, and said this:

18-19

Kuntī said:

I give myself to you, the Original Person,
Master of energies and their source,
The undelimited existence,
Inside and outside of everything.

The fool’s eye,
Covered by a curtain of illusion,
Cannot see your limitless transcendental delimitations;
As an actor in costume goes unrecognized.

Do not think that the intimate associates of Kṛṣṇa are unaware of his majestic divinity! They are more aware of Kṛṣṇa than anyone else, because nothing reveals a person in more depth and clarity than a deep loving relationship with him. The do not always focus upon the power and majesty of Godhead because their relationship with Kṛṣṇa is more than that. But this does not mean that they lack any understanding of the true position of Kṛṣṇa.

Kuntī, mother of the Pāṇḍavas, immediately addresses Kṛṣṇa as the “Original Person.” The Sanskrit she uses, puruṣaṁ ādyam, directly connotes Kṛṣṇa as the original Viṣṇu.

She calls Kṛṣṇa “master of energies and their source” – īśvaraṁ prakṛteḥ param. This means that Kṛṣṇa is the controller of this world of energy, as well as the spiritual source from which the energy originates. Following this to its conclusion, Kuntī addresses Kṛṣṇa as the lover of Śrīmatī Rādhārāṇī, who is the original spiritual source of all Kṛṣṇa’s energy (param-prakṛti).

She describes Kṛṣṇa as “undelimited existence inside and outside of everything.” She says that only a fool looks at Kṛṣṇa and thinks, “he sort of looks and acts like a human being, so… how can he be God?” Kṛṣṇa’s so called “delimitations” (name, color, shape, etc) are that very infinite undefinable spiritual substance itself. An eye befooled by the curtains of illusion cannot, or will not, see this. Illusion is the mechanism by which we experience something impossible. What is impossible is that an infinitesimal being such as you or I can be All-Attractive. When the true All-Attractive is placed before such eyes illusion closes a curtain over the truth, lest our hallucination of centrality become extinct.

Thus pitiful fools such as we overlook Kṛṣṇa every day, everywhere.

20

The greatest souls,
The scholars, the liberated,
Can see you by the means of devotion.
Can a simple woman also see?

Kuntī previously expressed that the eye covered by illusion cannot see the All-Attractive. Now she explains the cure to this blindness. The cure is to change what we want; instead of wanting to be All-Attractive we must want to be All-Attracted. Instead of wanting people to be devoted to us, we must become devoted to them and ultimately to Godhead. This is the “means of devotion” which allows great souls, scholars, and liberated people to see the Infinite Being in a concrete and tangible personal form.

Kuntī then humbly expresses, “I am no scholar or sage or spiritualist, yet I too can see you! How can a simple woman have this topmost divine realization? By the process of devotion.” The process of devotion is open to everyone, scholar and simpleton alike. In fact in some ways it is simpler for a simple person to embrace it.

Kuntī then gives two beautiful verses expressing her loving devotional sentiments.

21-22

I give myself, I give myself to Krsna,
Son of Vasudeva, Darling child of Devakī,
Cowherd Nanda’s dear boy;
Delight of our senses.

I give myself to you whose naval is like a lotus,
Who wears a necklace of lotuses,
Whose eyes are like lotuses,
Whose feet are like lotuses

23

Oh master of our senses,
As you freed your mother Devaki from her long imprisonment by treacherous Kamsa;
So you protected my sons and I, O Powerful,
From danger after danger:

Kuntī expresses her appreciation to Kṛṣṇa for treating her as lovingly and carefully as he did his own mother.

24-27

From poison, inferno, and the attacks of man-eaters,
From the vile assembly and the sufferings of exile,
From the midst of the weapons of countless warriors,
And from the weapon of Droṇa’s son, you kept us completely safe.

Let there be such dangers forever!
For, O Guide of the Universe, each and every one
Granted us your wonderful company;
Freeing us from the company of repeated birth and death.

Status, power, erudition, and beauty
Only increase the human hallucination
Completely Inhibiting us from sincerely turning to you
Who are within reach of those who have nothing else.

I give myself to you, the wealth of the wealthless
Who are unimpressed by the qualities of material things.
I submit myself unto you,
Lord of the Self-satisfied, gentle and pure.

When she enumerated all the dangers Kṛṣṇa protected her from his eyes asked of her, “Is that the goal of devotion then, to receive something in return?”

She passionately replied, “No! I want more dangers!”

Why?

Because in these times of danger she and her family always turned to Kṛṣṇa, found themselves in his company, and freed from the greatest danger: constant death in the cycle of reincarnation. It is implied here that devotional awareness of Kṛṣṇa delivers one from the cycle of reincarnation (saṁsāra) as a mere side effect.

She explains that people in illusion want more status, power, erudition and attractiveness – but these things only inflate our hallucinations. Such fantasies inhibit us from embracing the reality of our abject dependence on Godhead. Thus people who gain “good things” are at risk of losing their sincere connection to the best thing, the All-Attractive.

The All-Attractive is always within the embrace of those who hold on to no possession except him.


Royal Assassination Attempt

1.8.8

O brahmana, as soon as Kṛṣṇa sat upon his chariot and was about to start towards Dvārakā he saw panic stricken Uttarā coming towards him.

Uttarā is the wife of Abhimanyu (son of Arjuna & Kṛṣṇa’s sister, Subhadra), future mother of Parīkṣit.

Dvārakā is Kṛṣṇa’s own city.

9-10

Uttarā said:

Protect me! Protect me great mystic; god of gods, and protector of the universe! I see no one but you who can drive away my fear in this world of repeated death! My powerful lord, a blazing metallic ray advances upon me! It can burn me, master, but don’t let it harm the baby in my womb!

11

Sūta said:

The All-Attractive, ever affectionate towards the devoted, heard her words and understood that Droṇa’s son had sent forth this weapon to finish the Pāṇḍava dynasty.

12

O best of scholars, seeing a blaze coming their way the five Pāṇḍava brothers took up their five weapons.

13-16

Seeing that he was their only hope of being saved from this danger, the Great One took up his own weapon, the Sudarśan Disc, which protects his people. He is the soul within the soul of all living beings, so Hari, the master of all mysticism, used his own mystical power to shield the womb of the daughter of Virāṭ and save the Kuru dynasty. Even though the ultimate weapon is unstoppable and inescapable, when confronted by the power of Viṣṇu it was neutralized. Don’t think this is impossible! All impossibilities reside within the Infallible! By his divine mysticism everything is created, maintained and destroyed.

Aśvatthāmā, Droṇa’s son, is the same vile man who decapitated the five sleeping sons of the Pāṇḍavas and then recklessly let loose an uncontrolled nuclear-like explosion in a last-ditch attempt to save his own skin. The Pāṇḍava’s spared his life and let him go with a mere reprimand. His contemptible spirit did not reform, however. He brooded constantly on how to destroy the royal family who had defeated and humiliated him.

He knew it would be impossible while Kṛṣṇa remained nearby, so he waited and waited for Hari to depart. He saw an ideal opportunity the moment Kṛṣṇa began to leave – for all the Pāṇḍava men and their unborn child were together in the same place. In a passionate haste this despicable wretch again sent forth the ultimate weapon in an uncontrolled blast.

Uttarā saw the approaching weapon first and turned, panic-stricken, to Kṛṣṇa for help. The Pāṇḍava’s instinctively reached for their own weapons, but Kṛṣṇa knew that such weapons were useless now, and there was no time for any other approach. So he took up his own weapon, the great discus of Viṣṇu which drew the perilous blast into its vortex and neutralized it. This saved the Pāṇḍavas, but an unborn child is very sensitive and easily injured. To give special protection to this child in Uttarā’s womb, Kṛṣṇa used his mystical power – which is within every atom as the soul of every soul – to form a shield around the womb and absorb the radiation from the blast.

To us, the entire story is fantastic. But to the sages hearing this story from Sūta, many of the details were contemporary and immediately real. The powerful weapons of ancient warriors, for example, were practical realities to them. So gestures of disbelief showed on some of their faces. “That weapon is unstoppable except by another instance of itself! How could it have suddenly been dispelled, and even a fetus was not injured in the blast!?”

Sūta politely reprimanded their disbelief by reminding them that Kṛṣṇa is Viṣṇu, not another ordinary warrior. Nothing is impossible for Viṣṇu’s magic to destroy, because by this magic the entire universe (what to speak of a comparatively miniscule explosion within it) is destroyed, and created and maintained as well.

Now we have been introduced for the first time to Parīkṣit, the person to whom and for whom this book Śrīmad Bhāgavatam was spoken. We are introduced to a person who was protected and embraced by Kṛṣṇa while he was still in the womb.

English: "Uttara and Abhimanyu," as ...

Uttara and Abhimanyu, as Abhumanyu leaves for the war

Krishna holding the weapon of Visnu in his right hand.


From Funeral to Throne

1.8.1-3

Sūta said:

So they went to the Ganga, with Kṛṣṇā and the women in front, wanting to give water to their departed family members. They all offered water and lamented terribly again and again while immersed in the river purified by the dust of the lotus-like feet of Hari. Then they sat down, overcome with grief – The Kuru King with his brothers and Dhṛtarāṣtra, Gāndhārī, Kuntī and Draupadī, and  Mādhava too.

The Kuru King and his brothers are Yuddhiṣṭhira, Bhīma, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. Their wife is Draupadī. Their mother is Kuntī. Dhṛtarāṣtra and Gāndhārī are the father and mother of the opposing side, who tried to cheat their way onto the throne. After the war was over, the members of both side of the previously divided family united to mourn their dead together. That seems a significant moral lesson.

Mādhava is a name for Kṛṣṇa highlighting his honey-like sweetness. He sincerely participated in these emotional scenes, although categorically different from all the others – being the source of the purity of the river in which the others sought purification.

4

Along with scholars, he calmed the shock of those who had lost their friends and relatives by explaining that there is no way to undo what a living entity must attain due to their own destiny.

5

Cheating a faultless man of his kingdom created the destiny that killed so many. Daring to defile the hair of the queen with their touch created the destiny that killed many others.

6

He [faultless Yuddhiṣṭhira] performed three opulent āśvamedha sacrifices, helping his pure fame spread everywhere, like he who performed a hundred.

Performing an āśvamedha is the way an emperor in ancient India could ritually demonstrate his power. An āśvamedha is a shockingly explicit, flamboyant and martial ritual that would give pause even to the most seasoned pagan. It is very difficult to possess the power and wealth required to perform this function even once. Indra, the king of the heavens, did it one hundred times. Yuddhiṣṭhira did it three times, but because he was so naturally powerful and impressive, the effect was similar to the effect Indra obtained from a hundred.

Interestingly the Manu Samhita says that being vegetarian is a better way to achieve the same effect as an āśvamedha. It takes a very long time to perform an āśvamedha, so this particular verse describes a relatively long span of time transpiring after the end of the huge war.

7

Then, asking permission from the Paṇḍu family and their friend Sātyaki, he prepared to leave with Uddhava. Dvaipāyana and many sages and teachers offered their respects, and he offered his respects in return.

Here is a good example of why Kṛṣṇa is named Mādhava (“sweet”). He is the supreme independent power. If he desired he could do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. But because his heart is sweet and selfless he is humble and feels the need to behave according to the desires of his beloved friends and family. Great sages and teachers headed by Dvaipāyana (another name for Vyāsa) do not foolishly mistake him for an ordinary person simply because he is so sweet. Therefore they offer him worshipful respect. This is quite socially out of place because Kṛṣṇa’s caste at this phase of his life (warrior) is such that he should bow to the sages and teachers. The sages however, know the spiritual truth of Kṛṣṇa’s supreme position and enjoy his sweet and humble role without forgetting that he deserves all respect and worship. Kṛṣṇa, however, is so sweet that he takes refuge in these social customs as an excuse to offer respect and worship to those who love him.

If anything, we can learn that to be humble is more enjoyable than to be proud, for the supreme enjoyer tries to put himself into a humble circumstance. It appears that modern civilization chases happiness by running away from where it truly lies.

The central figure is Yudhisthira. The two to ...

LTR: Nakula, Sahadeva, Yuddhisthira, Arjuna, Bhima, Draupadi


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