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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.