Category Archives: 1.07 Mahabharata: Setting the Stage for Pariksit’s Birth

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


Punishment of Superiors

1.7.40

Sūta said:

Although Pārtha had his morals coaxed and put to the test by Kṛṣṇa, he did not desire to kill the son of his guru – even though that man had terribly murdered his children.

41

When he reached his camp with Govinda, his charioteer, he placed the man into the custody of his beloved wife, who was crying over the murder of her sons.

42

When Kṛṣṇā saw him dragged in, tied up like an animal speechless and humiliated for his horrific deeds, her own beautifully soft and compassionate nature swelled up, and she felt respectful towards the son of their guru.

Kṛṣṇā is a name for Draupadī, Arjuna’s wife, given due to her deep connection to Kṛṣṇa.

43-48

Unable to bear his being bound like that, she said:

“Untie this brahmana. Untie the son of your guru; by whose compassion you learned the deepest secrets of marital arts, including how to release and control mystical weapons. Droṇa lives on in the form of his son, and in his second half, his wife Kṛpī, who keeps living only for her son. You are very moral and blessed. Don’t cause suffering for your respected and always revered family. I constantly cry in pain because my children are dead. Don’t make his mother Gautamī, to whom your guru was so dear, become like me. If kings anger their teachers by not being submissive, their family is soon incinerated and everyone connected to them comes to misery.”

49-50

Sūta said:

The king, Dharma’s Son, supported the queen’s words as glorious, egalitarian, pure, merciful, just, and moral. Nakula and Sahadeva, Yuyudhāna, Dhanañjaya, the All-Attractive son of Devakī, and all the royal ladies agreed.

Dharma’s Son is King Yuddhiṣṭhira, Arjuna’s oldest brother. Nakula and Sahadeva are twin brothers of Arjuna. Yuyudhāna is Arjuna’s best friend and classmate. Dhanañjaya is another name of Arjuna.

51

Then, in anger, Bhīma said, “It is said that he should be killed for his own good! Without reason or need he uselessly killed sleeping children!”

Bhīma is another brother of Arjuna.

52

Having heard Bhīma, Draupadī, and the rest, the Four Armed looked upon the face of his friend with a smile and spoke.

Kṛṣṇa looked affectionately upon Arjuna and spoke.

53-54

The Beautiful All-Attractive said:

Someone related to our teacher must not be killed, but an aggressor must be killed. Both are true. You must abide by both and also must not break the promise you made to your beloved wife. You must pacify dear Bhīmasena, Pāñcālī, and myself as well.

Pāñcālī is another name for Draupadī, Arjuna’s wife.

55

Sūta said:

Arjuna then suddenly understood Hari’s heart, and so with his sword cut the jewel and hair from the head of the twice-born.

The “twice-born” refers to a brahmana. In this case it refers to the murder, Aśvatthāmā.

56

Bereft of power and influence due to having killed children, and being deprived of his jewel, he was released and exiled from their camp.

57

Cutting hair, taking wealth, and putting to exile are fit punishments for those related to Brahmins. Killing or other methods are not to be used.

58

Overwhelmed with misery, all the Pāṇḍavas accompianied Kṛṣṇā to do what they must for the sake of those who had died.


Capital Punishment

1.7.34-37

When Arjuna began to drag his enemy, bound in ropes, back to the camp, the All-Attractive spoke with anger in the glance of his lotus-like eyes: “Pārtha, it is not at all right to spare this so-called brahmin! Kill him!!! He killed your faultless children while they dreamt at night! A truly moral person does not kill an enemy who is frightened, without weapons, begging for mercy, ignorant of their mistake, ridiculous, intoxicated, unaware, asleep, a youth, or a woman. One who kills others just to save his own life is shamelessly wicked. Death is good for such people, otherwise their horrific faults drag them ever lower.

38

“And I personally heard you promise your wife, ‘Pāñcālī, I shall bring you the head of he who you say killed our children!’

39

“Therefore kill this evil assassin of his own doom who killed your children and defiled his own master. O warrior, a person who has done what he has is nothing but a burnt branch of his family.”

When Arjuna dismantled Aśvatthāmā’s insanely uncontrolled explosion and finally captured him, he did not cut off his head. Why?!? His whole intention in chasing the man was to cut off his head and return it to his grieving wife. Why didn’t he carry out his desire now that he had the chance?

Arjuna could not kill him because was a very saintly and pure hearted man. Such people always naturally feel compassion and pity, even when it is not deserved.

He specifically thought, “This evil wretch killed my sleeping children, but he was just trying to please his master. And after all, he is the son of my guru. It is night right to punish ones superiors, and because he is in my guru’s family, he is among my superiors.”

Kṛṣṇa argues against everything Arjuna is thinking, “Just because someone is in the family of your guru does not make them your guru! Just because someone is born to a brahmin does not make them a brahmin! This man is the worst of all criminals. Look what he did to your children! And he did not even satisfy his master either. You should not let yourself be overwhelmed by compassion for a person who deserves to die!”

As the story continues we will see Kṛṣṇa’s deeper intentions and ultimate suggestion for the issue. But for the present he is putting Arjuna’s compassion to trial.

krishna angrily advises arjuna to kill ashvatthama


Arjuna Counteracts the Nuclear Explosion

1.7.22-25

Arjuna said:

Kṛṣṇa! O mighty-armed Kṛṣṇa who makes his devotees fearless! You alone are the relief for those suffering worldly miseries. You are the Original Person himself, the transcendent master of all energy. You set aside your illusory energy and exist purely within the spiritual energy of your own self. The worlds are full of people with hearts captivated by your illusory energy. Your trademark is that you see to their ultimate welfare by personally inspiring them towards morality, etc. You incarnate in this world just to lighten our burdens, and to fully satisfy your exclusively devoted companions with subject matter by which to always meditate upon you.

26

This extremely dangerous blast moves towards every direction. Oh god of gods, what is it? Where does it come from? I don’t know.

It appears that the explosion of the ultimate weapon expands relatively slowly. It looks like Arjuna may have taken from 15 seconds to almost a minute to react to it.

Before asking the crucial, emergency question, Arjuna praises Kṛṣṇa. Why? It is because we should not ask important questions to people who cannot give good answers. Arjuna demonstrates the principle that the inquirer should first express his reasons for having faith in the answer that might be given. Arjuna is in trouble, he is bewildered, and Kṛṣṇa is the one who saves people from trouble and is never bewildered. Arjuna’s trouble arises from an explosively powerful energy, and Kṛṣṇa is one who is always in mastery of all energies. Arjuna is in need, and Kṛṣṇa is naturally inclined to be helpful to those in need, especially towards those who, like Arjuna, are his intimate companions full of selfless love for him. After expressing why he has full faith in any answer Kṛṣṇa might give to the question, Arjuna finally asks it.

27-28

The All-Attractive said:

Understand that this is the ultimate weapon, set forth by Droṇa’s son out of fear of death, even though he has no idea how to control it. Definitely no other weapon can counteract this. But you are a very expert warrior, so destroy the blast of this weapon by an even more powerful blast from your own.

29

Sūta said:

Hearing these words from the All-Attractive, Phālgunaḥ, the destroyer of heroes, took a drop of water and circumambulated the Supreme before casting the ultimate weapon. The blasts of the two weapons combined and seemed to swallow up the whole sky, outer space and even the sun. The three worlds appeared to singe from the great heat of the combined blast, about to be consumed in flame as if the end of the universe were at hand. Knowing that the people of the worlds were about to be destroyed, the son of Vasudeva told Arjuna to withdraw the blast.

Phālgunaḥ is a name for Arjuna, probably because he was born under the stars of Phalgunī. Unlike Aśwatthāmā, Arjuna knew how to control and withdraw the ultimate weapon. When he did so, it also withdrew Aśwatthāmā’s blast, because the two weapon blasts had mingled and united.

33

Then, with angry eyes burning like fiery copper, he deftly arrested the dangerous son of Gautama and bound him in ropes like an animal.

Being the “son of Gautama” means that Aśwatthāmā was a member of a brahmin family. But Arjuna was duty bound to treat him like an animal, because that is what Aśwatthāmā’s behavior merited. Classical Indian literature evaluates social status not primarily by birth-caste, but by actual behavior.


Sequel to Mahabharata Begins With A Nuclear Explosion

1.7.12

Now, to begin our discussion of Kṛṣṇa I will tell you about the birth, deeds, and rescue of Parīkṣit, the sage among kings, and the final end of the sons of Pāṇḍu.

By discussing a person who is in love with someone, invariably the discussion comes to their beloved. So by discussing those devoted to Kṛṣṇa one sets the scene for deep discussion of Kṛṣṇa.

The Śrīmad Bhāgavatam will now begin a “sequel” to the Mahābhārata, again illustrating that it is the culmination of everything important and revered in classical Indian civilization. Besides providing a sequel to the beloved Mahābhārata, it is also an elaboration upon the purport of the Gayatrī Mantra, a clarification of the conclusion of Vedānta-Sūtra, and an illustration of the principles and conclusions of Bhagavad-Gītā. The Gayatrī Mantra is the zenith of Vedic Mantras, so by elaborating on the Gayatrī the Bhāgavatam effectively elaborates upon the entire body of Vedic Mantra. The Gītā and especially the Vedānta-Sūtra is the crème of the Upanishads, so by expanding upon these the Bhāgavatam expands upon the Upanishads.

The first verse of Bhāgavatam ends with the word dhīmahī, a word reserved for Gayatrī mantra which means “meditation.” So the Bhāgavatam provides the subject matter that the Gayatrī directs us to contemplate and meditate upon.  

That same verse begins with the word janmādyasyayatha, which is also the first word in Vedānta-Sūtra. This repetition is Vyāsa’s device indicating that the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam discusses the same conclusions as Vedānta-Sūtra.

The second verse of Bhāgavatam begins with dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavaḥ, “abandoning all selfish duties.” The concluding instruction in Bhagavad-Gītā is sarva-dharmān parityajya, “abandon all selfish duties.” And now the Bhāgavatam will give an extension or “sequel” to Mahābhārata. We cannot sidestep the fact that the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam expresses the penultimate culmination of Indian civilization and thought. It is the effort of Vyāsa in his full maturity.

13-14

When the heroes among the Kurus and Pāṇḍavas attained their heroic ends, and the son of Dhṛtarāṣṭra wept with a spine broken by the crushing blows of Wolf-Belly’s club, the son of Droṇa beheaded the sleeping sons of Kṛṣṇā, thinking it would please his master, who deplored the disgusting deed.

Kurus and Pāṇḍavas are two groups within the same royal family. The feud between them and the war it culminated in is the main subject of Mahābhārata.

Dhṛtarāṣṭra is a blind man who refused to relent the stewardship of the throne he assumed when his brother unexpectedly died before his five children were old enough to take the throne. The son of Dhṛtarāṣṭra is the leader of the Kurus: Duryodhana, who intends to be the next king.

The “Wolf-Bellied” is Bhīma, the second of the five main Pāṇḍava children.

Droṇa is a great martial artist, who was the instructor of the entire royal family. His son is Aśvatthāmā, who beheaded the five sleeping children of “Kṛṣṇā.” The master of Droṇa’s son is Duryodhana, because he was the leader under whose cursed banner Droṇa and his son fought.

Kṛṣṇā is a name for the wife of the five Pāṇḍavas (Yes, all five brothers had a single wife. It’s a long story). She is so named because of her intense love for Kṛṣṇa, and is more commonly known by the name Draupadī.

15-16

When the mother heard of the ghastly massacre of her children she began to wail and weep. Then the famous Arjuna, with tears in his own eyes, pacified her by saying, “I will wipe away your tears, oh auspicious woman, when I give you the head of that so-called brahmin, pierced with the arrows of my bow. Then, stand on it while you take the bath you must after cremating your children.”

17

So the friend of the Infallible pacified his beloved with various heartfelt words. He then set off on his chariot in pursuit of his teacher’s son, dressed in armor and carrying his terrible bow.

18

When the child-killer saw Arjuna approaching furiously from the distance, he jumped on his chariot and fled for his life at full speed, panic striken – much like Brahmā and Sūrya fled from Śiva.

Śiva became furious when Brahmā expressed sexual desires towards a woman who was his daughter (mind you, since Brahmā is the first being in the universe everyone is his decedent in some way or another). Śiva also became enraged when Sūrya (the sun god) attacked someone he had blessed. The fear and panic with which Brahmā and Sūrya fled from Śiva is reminiscent of the fear with which the child-killer fled from Arjuna. The import here is that Arjuna’s ferocity and rage was on a par with Śiva’s, the god of destruction.

19

Eventually seeing that his horses were tired and he had no other alternative to save his life, that brahmin’s son invoked the ultimate weapon.

Although he is the son of a brahmin, he is not considered a brahmin because his behavior was immoral. If India paid more thoughtful attention to her own classical literature, the disgrace of the caste system would have been mitigated. Status in the four castes is to be acquired by behavior, not by birth.

20

So, because his life was in danger he took a drop of water and concentrated on those mantras even though he did not know how to restrain the weapon.

One should not do anything one cannot control. An attack one cannot restrain and balance should not be used by a warrior. Aśvatthāmā did not care for these principles because his only concern was for his own useless life. Therefore he put thousands of lives at risk by calling forth a magic weapon equivalent to a nuclear detonation without knowing how to restrain the explosion. Selfish people are always irresponsible, and when push comes to shove the implications are alarming. When such persons happen to be powerful, the implications are absolutely disastrous. Therefore the selfish must be kept from positions of power. Unfortunately, it is only they who desire power. Thus the world is invariably in turmoil.

21

Then a fierce life-threatening explosion erupted in all directions. Seeing it, Arjuna turned to speak to Kṛṣṇa.

There is a nice poetry in the Sanskrit that I cannot translate into English. Sūta names Kṛṣṇa “Viṣṇu” and Arjuna “Jiṣṇu” – creating a wonderful rhyme. Arjuna has the name Jiṣṇu because he was an ever-victorious warrior.

Operation Ivy, MIKE EVENT - Atomic bomb explos...

The fierce life-threatening explosion erupted in all directions.