Tag Archives: Mahabharata

Death is Howling Near

Vidura went to Dhṛtarāṣṭra and shouted:

“O King! Flee! Flee immediately! Look! Your worst fear is upon the threshold! Never has anyone escaped from it; so do not reach for a useless weapon! The doom of the all-powerful is upon you!

“It is rushing toward you to steal from your clinging grasp the thing you most adore: your very life! It will also devour all your wealth and everything else you value.

“Your father is dead. Your brother is dead. Your protectors are dead. Your sons are all dead. Your own life is spent, and you are in the grip of old age. What are you doing!? Why are you dragging out your miserable life in someone else’s home?

“What are you clinging to? You were always blind, now your hearing and memory are crippled, too. Your teeth rattle and your stomach limps. Cacophonously you cough up phlegm. Aho! How fools desperately cling to irrational hopes for life!!!

“Like a groveling dog you now eat the scraps left to you by Bhīma. Once, not long ago, you set fire to their home! You gave them poison. You tried to degrade their wife! You stole their lands and wealth! …Now look at you: living on their pity!

“Like a pitiful miser your body clings to life; yet still life dwindles against your will, like old clothing falling apart.

“If you really want what is good for you, free yourself entirely from all these bonds! Go someplace unknown and cast off your body. Such a man is called wise.

“The best human beings – by their own inspiration or being inspired by someone else – detach themselves from this world and give up possessions and life, fixing their very selves wholeheartedly upon Hari.

“Therefore go northward! Tell no one where. Even if you could live on and on, there would be nothing good to experience, for very soon the time is coming when humanity will diminish.”

Thus his younger brother, Vidura, helped the king’s mind awake to a vision of wisdom. The King steadfastly cut through the ropes of selfishness and set out on the path of liberation that his brother showed him.

When his saintly wife saw what her husband was doing she followed him towards the Himalayas. The couple accepted the rod of renunciation with pleasure, like a great warrior accepts a beating.


The Birth of Parikshit

Śaunaka then spoke out, breaking the satisfied silence that had accumulated on the beautiful conclusion of Krishna’s return to Dvārakā. He asked Sūta:

“Now please tell us all about Parīkṣit, the one whom Śuka enlightened by teaching the Bhāgavatam. We know that the Master saved him, while he was still in his mother’s womb, from the terrible power of Aśvatthāmā’s ultimate weapon. We are enthusiastic to learn about his birth, life, death, and afterlife!”

Sūta replied:

His father, King Yudhiṣṭhira was a very moral and excellent ruler, like his forefathers, so all the citizens in his kingdom were happy. He never tried to fulfill any personal ambitions; he only wanted to be useful, even if in the smallest way, to divine Krishna.

The king’s wealth, rituals, queens, brothers, kingdom and sovereignty were famous throughout the three skies. Even gods desire what he had, but the king’s mind had no hunger for anything, because it was full of Lotus-Faced Krishna.

When his child was still in his mother’s womb he began to suffer from the blast of a terrible weapon. It was then that the child saw someone else with him in the womb; a small figure, very pure, pleasing to behold, with a black complexion like a dark cloud surrounded by lightning-like yellow clothes and a blazing golden crown. He had four beautifully long arms and earrings of purest gold. His eyes were red with anger and there was a mace in his hand. He moved like a shooting star, encircling the child and constantly swinging his mace – dissipating the blast like the sun evaporates fog.

Astonished, the child thought, “Who is this!?”

When seen by the child, All-Attractive Hari immediately disappeared back into the inner recesses of reality. The child would become famous as “The Examiner” (Parīkṣit) because in his search to again see that amazing person, he would examine everyone he met; “Is this him?” Thus he constantly contemplated Viṣṇu.

He was born when the planets became favorable for all the good fortune required to make the dynasty’s heir as powerful as his grandfather, Pāṇdu. Overflowing with affection, the king called the most learned scholars – like Dhaumya & Kṛpa – to read the auspicious astrological nativity of his newborn son.

Well aware of what should be done to celebrate the birth of a child, the King gave the scholars gifts of the highest quality gold, cows, land, villages, elephants and horses; and sumptuously fed them.

Very satisfied, those intellectuals spoke:

“This spotless child will certainly be the foremost in the dynasty. Unstoppable destiny intended to destroy him, but out of affection for you all-powerful and all-pervading Viṣṇu rescued him. Thus the boy will be famous throughout the world by the name Viṣṇu Rāta (Viṣṇu-Rescued). Undoubtedly he is a great soul, extremely blessed, and is the pinnacle of divine love.”

The blessed King asked:

“Oh best of truthful souls, will this boy have glory and fame by following the footsteps of his forbearers: great souls famous as pious philosopher-kings?”

The intellectuals replied by naming each important trait of a king, and each forbearer who most perfectly exemplified it.:

In maintaining the citizens
he will be exactly like Ikṣvaku, Manu’s son.
In truthfulness and obedience to teachers
he will be exactly like Rāma, Dāśaratha’s son.
In giving charity and shelter
he will be like Śibi, Uśīnara’s son.
In expanding the renown of his kin by performing sacrifices
he will be like Duṣyanta’s son.
In bowmanship
he will equal the Arjunas. [1]

He will be
as unstoppable as an inferno,
as insurmountable as an ocean,
as powerful as a lion,
as unwavering as the Himalaya,
as forbearing as the earth,
as patient as parents,
as merciful and generous as grandparents.

In giving shelter to all living beings
he will be like Śiva
and Viṣṇu,
who shelters even the goddess of fortune.
In having all glorious spiritual qualities
he will be like Krishna,
to whom he is devoted.
In altruism
he will be like Rantideva.
In following rules
he will be like Yayāti.
In patience
he will be like Bali.
In saintly devotion
he will be like Prahlāda.[2]

He will conduct many horse sacrifices.[3]
He will be a follower of the experienced.
He will father many philosopher-kings.
For the sake of world peace
he will curb the insubordinate
and extinguish the cantankerous.

His death will come from the dragon Takṣa, as a result of a curse from the child of a twice-born. When he hears of this he will cast off all attachments, take full shelter in Hari, and inquire about the true goal of the soul from the learned son of Vyāsa. He will then leave his body beside the Ganges and go directly to the abode of fearlessness.

After advising the king, the learned experts of natal astrology returned to their homes, wondrously paid. The young prince grew quickly and luxuriantly like the waxing moon day after day, under the care of his many parents.


[1] Śibi wanted to give others his own right to enter heaven, and was ready to give his own life to protect a bird. Ikṣvaku was the first king to prohibit meat eating. This implies that the most important maintenance of citizens is to establish morality. Duṣyanta’s son is Bhārata, after whom the great Mahābhārata is named. The other Arjuna besides the Pāṇḍava is Kārttavīrya-Arjuna: a powerful thousand-armed warrior who was the impetus for Parśurāma killing 21 generations of warriors.

[2] Rantideva was a king famous for being virtually obsessed with giving everything he had to others. Yayāti, a very ancient king, performed thousands of different Vedic sacrifices. Bali exemplifies patience because he kept his cool resolve to fulfill his promise to Viṣṇu, even when his guru told him not to. His grandfather was the famous Prahlāda, son of Hiraṇyakaśipu.

[3] Even a cursory study of Vedic culture will show that their conception of animal rights was quite different from what we have today. This is not to insinuate that they had any less concern for the well-being of all living entities, but they implemented this concern in a manner would initially confuse us. We will discuss this point in more detail when it is more important to the context of the story.


Narayanam Namaskrtya

The supreme Godhead: Nārāyaṇa,
the best of humans: Nara,
the goddess of learning: Sarasvatī,
and the great author: Vyāsa…

After respecting them
our words can be successful

Sri Suta recites this verse at the beginning of his presentation of Srimad Bhagavatam. He quotes it from a previous source. Vyasa also speaks this verse at the beginning of every major division of Mahabharata.

In sanskrit:

नारायणं नमस्कृत्य नरं चैव नरोत्तमम् |
देवीं सरस्वतीं व्यासं ततो जयमुदीरयेत् ||

nārāyaṇaṁ namaskṛtya naraṁ caiva narottamam
devīṁ sarasvatīṁ vyāsaṁ tato jayam udīrayet

Considering that Vyasa himself is mentioned honorificly in the verse, it seems unlikely that he composed it himself. It was probably a composed by Ganesha during his task of scribing the dictations of Vyasa. Hence it is particularly appropriate for Suta to quote, as his task is similar to Ganesh’s: he wishes to represent the dictations of Suka (Vyasa’s son).


Is Krishna Gone?

— 22 —

When the king was thus worryfully pondering the evil omens he saw, the monkey-flag came back from the city of Yadus.

The flag atop Arjuna’s chariot bears the mark of a monkey.

23

He came to bow at the king’s feet in unprecedented dejection. His lotus-eyes made drops of water fall from his downward-bent face.

24

Seeing his brother’s troubled heart and paleness, the king began to question him then and there, in the middle of everyone; unable to get the words of Nārada out of his mind.

Nārada previously indicated that Kṛṣṇa’s associates would now be departing from the earth, following their master. After hearing this, the King saw so many inauspicious omens. Now, Arjuna returns after extreme delay from a visit to Kṛṣṇa with tears streaming down his pale face. In the face of all this horrific evidence, the king was unable to be patient and wait for a good time and place; he immediately began questioning Arjuna in great worry.

25

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

Are our relatives in Ānarta’s capitol city – the Madhu, Bhaja, Daśārha, Ārha, Sātvata, Andhaka and Vṛṣṇi clans – passing time happily?

Arjuna does not look up or answer.

26-27

Is our maternal grandfather Śūra and his wife Māriṣa passing time auspiciously?

How is my maternal uncle Vasudeva (for whom the drums of heaven resounded)? What about our maternal aunts, the seven sisters who are his wives? Personally headed by Devakī, are they living happily among their children and daughters-in-law?

Arjuna can give no reply. So Yudhiṣṭhira continues to become more specific in his inquiries.

28-29

Does king Āhuka still live with his children, among whom one was worthless?

What of Hṛdīka and his son?

What of Akrūra, Jayanta, Gada, Sāraṇa – are they living happily, headed by Śatrujit?

Does Rāma pass the time happily, being the All-Attractive protector of the saintly Sātvata dynasty?

Āhuka is Ugrasena, whose “son” was wicked Kaṁsa. Kaṁsa’s true father was a demon who violated Ugrasena’s wife. Thus there was no question of Āhuka being “happy.” Yudhiṣṭhira merely asks if he is still living. Hṛdīka was the grandfather of Kṛṣṇa’s father, Vasudeva. The list of persons headed by Śatrujit are very close associates of Kṛṣṇa who help significantly in administering and protecting the city. Rāma refers to Bālarāma, Kṛṣṇa’s elder brother.

30-31

Is Pradyumna living happily as the General of the Vṛṣṇi armies?

All-Attractive Aniruddha, profoundly dexterous, must be prospering!? So too must be all the great sons and grandsons of Kṛṣṇa like Suṣeṇa, Cārudeṣṇa, Sāmba, Jāmbavatī’s son, Ṛṣabha and so on…

Constantly receiving no answer, verbal or otherwise, from Arjuna, the king becomes ever more worried and escalates his questions closer and closer to the heart of the matter, dreading to ask directly about Kṛṣṇa. Here he asks about the foremost of Kṛṣṇa’s children.

32-33

And what of Kṛṣṇa’s constant companions: Śrutadeva, Uddhava and so on; and what of Sunanda and Nanda, the best among leaders of the Sātvata family???

Aren’t they all well, being sheltered by the strength of Rāma and Kṛṣṇa? Do they ever remember us kindly, their affectionate relatives?

Still, Arjuna neither raises his eyes nor answers. Tears only stream down his pale cheeks all the more profusely with each question.

34

Certainly All-Attractive Govinda, who is so affectionate to devotees and thinkers, must be enjoying the city’s assembly hall, surrounded by well-wishers!?

Finally Yudhiṣṭhira must place the question directly, with great fear and unwillingness to accept the possibility of an awful negative reply.


A Mountain of Gold Hidden in the Himalayas

1.12.32

The king wanted to perform a horse sacrifice to diminish the effects of fighting with his family, but he realized that the treasury consisted of nothing but taxes and fines.

We’ve already heard about King Yudhiṣṭhira’s horse sacrifices, so it would be good to clarify the story line at this point. We are currently in the twelfth chapter of the first division of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam. In the seventh chapter, Sūta began to answer the questions he was asked about Parīkṣit, the person to whom Śrīmad Bhāgavatam was originally spoken. The main thing he communicates about Parīkṣit is that Viṣṇu personally rescued him from the radiation of a deadly weapon, while he was still in his mother’s womb. Chapter seven and most of chapter eight are the backstory explaining why this weapon was cast, even after the war itself was finished (it’s the same war described in detail in Mahābhārata). Sūta describes the actual rescue at the end of chapter eight. But in telling this story in which the main subject of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Kṛṣṇa, plays a central role Sūta became excited and eager. So he continued narrating the tale even after his original purpose for bringing it up had been fulfilled. This goes on through chapters nine, ten, and eleven; wherein Sūta describes Bhīṣma’s deep relationship to Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa’s journey home to Dvārakā, and the welcome he received there.

At the beginning of chapter twelve, Śaunaka takes advantage of a natural pause in the story to remind Sūta of his original intention: to answer their questions about Parīkṣit. Sūta returns to the story line in this chapter, and reconnects his new narrative to the old by referencing topics previously mentioned. That is why we again hear about the horse sacrifices of King Yudhiṣṭhira.

33

Seeing this desire, his brothers approached the Infallible who told them how to find and procure an abundance of wealth from the north.

Long ago, Śiva gave a literal mountain of gold to an ancient king, Marutta. Eventually the path to the mountain was lost and the treasure within became inaccessible. But Infallible Kṛṣṇa told the Pāṇḍavas exactly how to find it and get an abundance of wealth for the sacrifice.

34

With it, the son of Dharma procured enough ingredients to perform the sacrifice three times, being fearful. Hari was pleased.

Fearful of the ill fate created by the war between family members, Yudhiṣṭhira performed the purificatory sacrifice not once, but three times.

35

The All-Attractive attended the sacrifice performed by twice-born for the king. Out of affection for his beloved devotees, he lived with them for a few months.

Regarding the term “twice-born:” The first birth is determined by fate. The second is determined by freewill. Only evolved persons utilize their freewill to take a symbolic second birth to establish an identity dedicated to higher pursuits. Such persons are qualified to perform mystical ceremonies.

36

Then, O spiritualists, the king allowed Kṛṣṇa to leave for Dvārakā, surrounded by Arjuna and his other friends and relatives.


The Astrology of Emperor Pariksit

12

When the planets became favorable for all good fortune, they produced the heir of the dynasty – as powerful as Pāṇdu.

13

Out of affection, the king had the most learned scholars, headed by Dhaumya & Kṛpa, read the auspicious astrological nativity of this newborn.

Learned souls know how to foretell the future in various ways, chiefly by astrology. What we are about the hear is a collection of learned astrologers headed by Dhaumya and Kṛpa informing the king of the future of his newborn grand-nephew.

14

Knowing what should be done on the birth of a child, the King gave gifts of the highest quality gold, cows, land, villages, elephants and horses. He sumptuously fed the intellectuals.

Intellectuals are most important in society, but they do not earn much money. Thus it is a very important social custom to feed them and give them gifts on every occasion.

15-17

Very satisfied, those intellectuals spoke:

“This spotless child will certainly be the foremost in the family of Puru. Unstoppable destiny intended to destroy him, but the all-powerful and all-pervading Viṣṇu, rescued him – because of his affection for you. Thus the boy will be famous throughout the world by the name Viṣṇu Rāta (Viṣṇu-Rescued). Undoubtedly he is a great soul, extremely blessed, the pinnacle of divine love.”

The intellectuals described Parīkṣit as mahān, mahā-bhāga, and mahā-bhāgavata – a great soul, greatly blessed, and the greatest devotee.

18

The blessed King asked:

Oh best of truthful souls, will this boy have glory and fame following the footsteps of his forbearers: great souls famous as pious philosopher-kings?

19-26

The intellectuals replied:

O Pārtha,
In maintaining the citizens he will be exactly like Ikṣvaku, Manu’s son.
In truthfulness and obedience to teachers he will be exactly like Rāma, Dāśaratha’s son.
In giving charity and giving shelter he will be like Śibi of Uśīnara.
In expanding the renown of his kin by performing sacrifices he will be like Duṣyanta’s son.
In bowmanship he will equal the Arjunas.

He will be unstoppable as an inferno, insurmountable as an ocean.
He will be powerful as a lion, unwavering as the Himalaya,
He will be forbearing as the earth, as patient as parents.
In being merciful and generous he will be like grandparents.

In giving shelter to all living beings he will be like Śiva
and the god who is the shelter of the goddess of fortune [Viṣṇu].
In having all glorious spiritual qualities he will be like Kṛṣṇa,
to whom he is devoted.
In altruism he will be like Rantideva.
In following rules he will be like Yayāti.
In patience he will be like Bali.
In saintly devotion he will be like Prahlāda.

He will conduct many horse sacrifices.
He will be a follower of the experienced.
He will father many philosopher-kings.
For the sake of world peace
he will curb the insubordinate and extinguish the cantankerous.

Ikṣvaku, the son of the personality from whom the Human race descends, was the first king to prohibit meat eating.

Śibi was so charitable and protective that he wanted to give away to others his own right to enter heaven, and was ready to give his own life to protect a bird.

Duṣyanta’s son is Bhārata, after whom the great Mahābhārata is named.

The other Arjuna besides the Pāṇḍava is Kārttavīrya-Arjuna: a powerful thousand-armed warrior who was the impetus for Parśurāma killing 21 generations of warriors.

Rantideva is famous as the most magnanimous king who was virtually obsessed with giving everything he had to others.

Yayāti, like Rantideva is a famous and very ancient king. He performed thousands of different Vedic sacrifices.

Bali is an exemplar of patience because he kept his cool resolve to fulfill his promise to Viṣṇu, even when his guru was warning him not to. His grandfather was the famous Prahlāda, son of Hiraṇyakaśipu.

As far as horse sacrifices, even a cursory study of Vedic culture will show that they did not conceive of animal rights with the same sensitivities as we have today. This is not to insinuate that they had any less concern for the well-being of all living entities, just that they implemented this concern in a different manner than would make sense to a modern activist.

27-28

His own death will come from the dragon Takṣa, as a result of a curse from the child of a twice-born. When he hears of this he will cast off all attachments, take full shelter in Hari, and inquire about the true goal of the soul from the learned son of Vyāsa. He will then leave his body beside the Ganges and go directly to the abode of fearlessness.

Most of the astrological reading given by the intellectuals, in texts 19-26, pertained to the newborn king’s character, but here they make an extremely concrete prediction regarding the boy’s death. They did not hesitate to pronounce the nature of the newborn’s death. Perhaps because the family was so elevated and did not consider death an unnatural and awful thing, like most of us do.

29

Thus those learned experts of natal astrology advised the king. Wondrously paid, they returned to their own homes.

30

The boy would become famous as “The Examiner” (Parīkṣit) because he examined everyone he saw, in search of that person he saw before, whom he constantly contemplated.

The “person he saw before” refers to the person he saw before his birth, Viṣṇu.

31

The prince grew quickly and luxuriantly like the waxing moon day after day, under the care of his many parents.


Krishna’s Lust & Divine Ignorance

1.11.34

So, without fighting he inspired the kings (who were creatures that burdened the earth by hording powerful armies) to hate and kill each other, just like fire in the bamboo.

Kṛṣṇa is transcendental. What does that word mean? Trans- means across, -scend means movement, so the word means “a thing which moves across.” Specifically it indicates a thing which operates within a certain boundary, without being bound to or originated by anything within that boundary. When Krishna “incarnates” he operates within a field that ordinary material senses and minds can perceive and comprehend. Although moving within these boundaries, he is not bound within them and does not originate within them.

The wind is transcendental to a forest. It moves through the forest. It can be perceived within the forest. It causes things to happen within the forest, but it is not a product of the forest. In a bamboo forest, many of the reeds get brown and dry. When the winds come, friction between these reeds causes a huge fire. The green reeds survive because the fire burns very quickly. The brown reeds turn to ash and fertilize the ground.

What caused the fire, The wind?

In a sense, yes, but the wind is transcendent to the forest.

Friction?

Perhaps, but friction is dependent on the wind and the density of the dry reeds.

The real cause of the fire is the brownness of the bamboo itself. Similarly the real cause of all the kings dying in the Mahābhārata war is their own foulness. Our own deaths and misfortunes are also not caused by random fate. Fate is merely the friction enabled by the abundance of brown reeds in our mentality. As for God, his part in our suffering or fortune is extremely remote. He is merely the wind that blows impartially everywhere. The real cause of our misfortunes is not being “green bamboo,” not being rooted into the soul of divinity. Misusing our freewill to uproot ourselves from our true nature, we become dry and brown – and it is then only a matter of time before we are burnt.

The theme that Sūta will continue to present is that Kṛṣṇa is transcendental to all the effects caused within human perception.

35

He appears in the human world by his own magic. He enjoys amidst a host of jewel-like women, who are the All-Attractive energy.

Krishna is transcendental to the human world. How then does he fit inside it?

By his own all-powerful magic (sva-māyā).

What does he do in the human world?

He enjoys!

How?

He becomes the cynosure of a necklace made of jewel-like females (strī-ratna-kūṭastha).

Ordinary sexuality!?

Yes and no. Ordinary sexuality dimly reflects the external appearance of this necklace; but in truth these women are the direct All-Attractive Energies (bhagavān-prākṛti), the divine goddesses, eternal manifestations of the fullness of the Absolute All-Attractive Being.

36

Their limitlessly exciting and pure emotions expressed through lovely smiles and flirtatious glances overpower cupid himself, who gives up his bow. But the schemes of these utmost intoxicating women never could overpower his senses.

A human male reflexively drools and stupefies over a highly attractive woman out of an involuntary need to fulfill an inner hunger. The All-Attractive Male does not at any time relate to women in this manner, although his legendary pastimes with women crush any playboy or “Don Juan” into shameful dust. The All-Attractive male is exactly opposite to the material imitation of manhood. The deeds of the All-Attractive result from an overflowing of his inner self-satisfaction, a desire to amplify his pure and natural bliss by sharing it in infinite ways with infinite other beings.

37

So many ordinary people think that the unattached is attached. Ordinary people are tied up in ignorance and stupidity, and they think everyone else must be just like them.

38

This is the mastery of the master: Although situated within his energy, he does not merge himself with it but remains always fixed within his true self. This is also true of the wise who take shelter of him.

Godhead can most certainly operate in names and forms and deeds which the human mind can perceive and comprehend, but this does not mean that in doing so he becomes limited to those names, forms, and deeds! There is so much chatter about Krishna from the pens, keyboards and mouths of trolls. Such is not kirtan. We have confidence that we can come to understand and realize the All-Attractive by hearing from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, not from loudmouths who cannot grasp the simple algebras of transcendence.

39

They think he is weak and foolish, secretly led around by women. Their opinion about The Husband is of no importance! He is the Supreme Master!

This verse has another implication: “Kṛṣṇa’s wives, although knowing that their husband is the supreme controller (bhartuḥ īśvaram matayaḥ yathā), still treat him as if he is a weak, simple, submissive man (abalāḥ mūḍhāḥ strainam ca) as they lead him around in private affairs (anuvratam rahaḥ).

In a philosophy class I once took in college I encountered some sort of Zen saying, “In the beginning a teapot is a teapot. In the middle a teapot is not a teapot. In the end a teapot is a teapot.” It is appropriate here. Fools do not treat Kṛṣṇa as Godhead; the enlightened do; but the most enlightened again do not.

Fools do not treat Kṛṣṇa as Godhead because they are bewildered by ignorance and are so egotistical that they think everyone, including Kṛṣṇa, must be fundamentally just like them. The enlightened are not burdened by this ignorance, so they treat Kṛṣṇa as Godhead. But the fully enlightened become intoxicated by the universal desire to amplify the infinite all-expansive bliss of Kṛṣṇa, and thus submerge themselves into roles within the Divine Play. The Queens of Dvārakā take the roles of Kṛṣṇa’s wives.

Here is another way to understand it. The all-powerful awe-inspiring stature of Godhead is like a huge mountain. Blind men cannot see it. The sighted can. But when there is a flood of divine bliss, the mountain submerges. The greater the divine love, the higher the flood. In the topmost divine lovers the mountain is entirely submerged. The mountain, however, never ceases to exist.


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


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