Tag Archives: Vyasa

Enlightened by Krishna’s Kiss

I have finished the first draft of Chapter Four of Beautiful Tales of the All Attractive, Volume 2. I will celebrate by explaining a little bit about this chapter, and quoting you one of my favorite ślokas from it.

radha_and_krishna_love_and_longing_be53The Fourth Chapter of Śrīmad Bhāgavatam’s Second “Canto” is mainly about this:

King Parīkṣit asked Śukadeva Goswāmī to answer a question, “What is the most important thing to do, especially since I am about to die?” Śuka answered that in the first three chapters in such a complete and thorough manner that Parīkṣit and all who were listening were astonished. Parīkṣit did not want the discussion to end, even though his question had been completely satisfied, so he asked more questions.

Since Śuka had told him that he had enough time left in his life to be systematic and sequential in his approach to hearing about Krishna, Parīkṣit began by asking questions that are not inherently “intimate” or “advanced” yet nonetheless are fascinating, delightful, and essential for properly understanding the essential nature of Krishna. He asked several specific questions about how the universe exists, and admitted that it is basically impossible for anyone to answer such questions.

Śuka would then ask how he could be expected to reply properly, so Parikṣit explained that those who are intimately connected with the All-Attractive by the link of heartfelt devotion can comprehend the incomprehensible due to their direct proximity to the Divine.

Accepting this, Śuka set out to answer Parikṣit’s questions. He began by evoking his proximity to the Divine by glorifying Krishna and confirming that divine knowledge comes from his favor alone. One śloka he spoke towards the very end of the chapter (śloka 24) is a particular favorite of mine. I would like to share it with you.

My respects to the All-Attractive Son of Vasudeva. The affectionate souls who drink the delicate taste emanating from his lotus-like lips become full of knowledge and can create the Veda.

Śrīla Prabhupāda quotes Viśvanātha Cakravartī when explaining this śloka: On one level it refers to Vyāsa, Śuka’s father. On another level it can refer to Brahmā. On still another level it refers to the Gopīs, who become full of all artistic excellence and knowledge simply by receiving the kiss of Krishna.

Knowledge comes from the divine. It emanates from the mouth of the All-Attractive. Generally we think of words emanating from the mouth – and this is how Brahmā and Vyāsa received comprehension of the incomprehensible: by hearing the words spoken from the mouth of the All-Attractive. They then became capable of creating books of true knowledge: the Veda. But words are not all that emanates from the mouth. Kisses also come from there. The gopīs enjoy Krishna’s kisses, and thus they become infinitely surcharged with extremely powerful and abundant knowledge and expertise in all subjects – from philosophy to sciences to arts such as dance, music, cooking, poetry, cosmetics, fashion, etc.

We who are very low and ordinary souls also have the chance to taste Krishna’s kisses and become thus surcharged. But, in our thick stupidity we tend to ignore this opportunity or not pay much attention to it. How can we fools taste Krishna’s kisses? It is very simple – chant Krishna’s names, and Krishna then comes in contact with your lips. You are kissing Krishna!

Be aware of this intimatcy and you will become fully enlightened, like Vyāsa, Brahmā and the Gopīs.

“Hare Krishna”

Advertisements

History of the Vedas

History of the Vedas

The Rig Veda is one of the oldest religious te...

The Rig Veda is one of the oldest religious texts. This Rig Veda manuscript is in Devanagari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bhāgavatam clearly states (1.4.14) that the Vedas as we know them are not ahistorical. It says that Vyāsa’s efforts to organize the Veda into its current form began “when Age Two was in its third phase.”

Translating this into years is complicated because there are many types of “ages.” Ṛg Veda’s Vedāṁga Jyotiṣa, for example, defines a five-year age. Manu Smṛti and some sections of the Purāṇas define four ages as multiples of 1,000 years. While other places in the Purāṇas, and the Surya Siddhānta, define four ages as multiples of 360,000 years. It seems that the duration of an “age” is relative to the context. The five-year age is used in calendric contexts. 1,000 year ages are used in historical context. 360,000 year ages are used in astronomical context. It appears that the correct definition to use in this case is the historical age.

Ages are numbered in reference to their multiple, which is the reverse of their numeric order, and can therefore be confusing: “Age One” is the “Fourth Age” in successive order.

Each age has three parts. The main part of an age lasts for its ordinal (1-4) multiplied by 1,000 years, or 360,000 if the context is astronomical. The two other parts are the “dawn” and “dusk” transitions, each of which lasts 10% as long as the main part.

Scholars and scientists know with significant confidence that Age One began very near 3,100 BCE (and it seems that the historical and astrological ages were synchronous at this point). The age before it, “Age Two,” lasts for 2,000 years, with an additional dawn of 200 years and a dusk of the same duration. Vyāsa’s efforts began in the third part of Age Two, its dusk: roughly 3,300 BCE. This means that the history of the Vedas as we know them begins about 5,300 years ago.

From that date, over a period spanning many generations (ŚB 1.4.23), Vyāsa oversaw the evolution of the vast Vedic library. Towards the end of this process he decided to write Mahābhārata. After this, still unsatisfied after about 200 years of work, Vyāsa conceived of the seed of inspiration to write the Beautiful Tales of the All-Attractive (Śrīmad Bhāgavatam). This was during the very early dawn of Age One.

The modern rational mind raises several questions, among which are, “How can Vyāsa have lived for more than 200 years?” and “How could there have been well developed human culture 5,300 years ago.” The second question is easy considering that the currently accepted archeological model has observed human culture existing about 10,000 years ago, and in India from about 8,000 years ago. As for the first question, I can reply in two ways: (1), the “religious” way: Vyāsa was an incarnation of God, and had an unusual lifespan. (2), the “scholastic” way: Vyāsa was the founder of a school, and successors and students took his name as a title and attributed their works to him.

Our current copy of the oldest Veda, Ṛg, contains astronomical information that dates it in the vicinity of 5,000 years ago, consistent with the statement of Bhāgavatam itself.  The astronomical information found in our current version of Bhāgavatam dates it in the vicinity of 300 AD, this is about three thousand years short of when Bhāgavatam says it was conceived by Vyāsa and first given form by Śuka. In this regard one can conclude: (a) there can be a great deal of time between the original concept and the final version; (b) the scribes of Bhāgavatam may have set the story into a distant past via present tense; and (c) the scribes may add or revise information in their copies, over time.


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.


The Flaws of the Vedas (II)

After directly and indirectly compiling the four Vedas, the histories, their expansions, the Upanishads, the Mahabharata, and the Vedanta Sutra Vyasa still felt incomplete. The divine sage Narada Muni arrived to help him understand why. (This story is told in the Srimad Bhagavata Purana 1.5)

Nārada answered with the same direct honesty as before: “Basically, you neglected to voice the spotless fame of the All-Attractive. I think any such philosophical system is inferior, and cannot really satisfy anyone!”

Vyāsa would think, “But I did glorify the all-attractive throughout all my works!”

So Nārada continues, “O Best of Scholars, again and again you lauded morality and the like as being the true goals of life. Comparatively speaking, how much attention did you give to the greatness of Vasudeva’s son?”

Vyāsa was silent in the face of this truth.

Seeing his acceptance of the facts, Nārada spoke out even more strongly. “What is the use of all the words you have written!? No matter how wondrous or poetic such words might be, since they do not pronounce the fame of Hari – who purifies everything – I think your words are trash; playgrounds for the crows. Beautiful spiritual swans take no delight in them!

“If you would have given your words instead to pronouncing his all-attractive names and limitless fame you would have truly revolutionized the miseries of humanity! Even if each and every line would have been full of flaws, great souls would embrace them, listen to them, and sing them!”


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).


We Want to Hear About All-Attractive Krishna!

SB 1.18.11

The sages said:

Sūta, may your life be smooth, gracious, unending and brilliantly famous! Your glorification of Krishna is just like the nectar of immortality for us mortals.

12

Smoke permeated us, body and mind, and confused our duties. But you are giving us the delicious honey made from the nectar of the lotus flower of Govinda’s feet.

13

What to speak of any mortal desire, not even paradise or enlightenment can compare to a moment’s intimacy with those who are intimate with the All-Attractive.

14

How could anyone who truly understands pleasure ever get enough of discussing he who is the singular haven of the greatest among the great souls? Even the masters of yoga, headed by Śiva and lotus-born Brahmā, cannot comprehend the endless qualities of he who is beyond quality.

15

You are among the greatest of the great souls whose singular haven is the foremost All-Attractive. You possess the knowledge to explain the completely pure and exalted activities of Hari. We are very eager to hear this!

16

Tell us the knowledge spoken by Vyāsa’s son, by which the great devotee Parīkṣit fixed his intellect upon liberation and was carried to the soles of the feet that are adored by the king of birds, Garuḍa.

17

Tell us every meaning of those utterly purifying words, wondrously establishing divine union, brimming with the activities of the Infinite, which magnify the bliss of devotees like Parīkṣit.


Death is not Frightening

SB 1.18.1

Sūta said:

By the kindness of All-Attractive Krishna, whose deeds are amazing, Parīkṣit certainly could not be killed in the womb by the blast from the weapon of Droṇa’s son.

2

But, rising from the anger of a priest, the Takṣaka dragon would take his life. He was never overcome by terrible fear, because his intentions were always fixed upon the All-Attractive.

3

Casting off all connections with the world, he attained realization of the true position of the Unconquerable. He left his body near the Ganges, as a student of Vyāsa’s son.

4

Those who delight upon the nourishment of discussing the Subject of Topmost Poetry shall never be confused when their time has come to an end. They will certainly remember his lotus-like feet.


What is Really a Holy Place?

1.13.1

Sūta said:

Vidura, while doing spiritual pilgrimage, learned about the soul from Maitreya and thus became extremely wise before returning to Hastināpura.

Sūta has just finished answering Śaunaka’s question about how Parīkṣit was born. Now he must answer the question about his deeds and death. To set the stage for this answer, he begins with a backstory related to Vidura.

Vidura is an uncle of the Pāṇḍava’s whose father was Vyāsa (on behalf of the King) but whose mother was a serving maid (it’s obviously a long and very interesting story). Nonetheless he was greatly respected by everyone in the family due to his humility and deep wisdom. The very name Vidura means “wise.” Vidura is not an ordinary person but a temporary incarnation of Yama, the god of death. Vidura tried passionately to stop his brother Dhṛtarāṣṭra from making the terrible Mahābhārata war happen. At a certain point, his brother got very annoyed with the constant good advice and insulted him in such a way that Vidura took the opportunity to leave the city and go on a spiritual pilgrimage.

The purpose of pilgrimage is not sightseeing. A holy place is not a location, but the worthy souls who exist at those locations. Vidura therefore sought out Maitreya, a greatly learned sage, and asked him all sorts of deep questions about the soul.

2

Vidura questioned Maitreya until he attained singular devotion for Govinda. Then he stopped.

Vidura felt that the ultimate goal of self-knowledge and self-realization is to fall singularly in divine love with the source of all bliss and pleasure, the All-Attractive Kṛṣṇa, “Govinda.” Therefore when he attained this state, there was no further need of inquiry from the sage.

3-4

His relatives – the son of Dharma with his younger brothers, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Yuyutsu [Sātyaki], and Sūta [Sañjaya],  Śāradvataḥ [Kṛpā], Pṛthā [Kunti], Gāndhārī, Draupadī, Subhadrā, Uttarā, Kṛpī and all the Pāṇḍava wives, relatives, children and women – saw him arriving.

5

The all went out to greet him, delighted as if life had suddenly returned to their bodies. They greeted him with embraces and respects, as appropriate.

6

Emotional tears of love were shed from the distress of separation from one another. The king arranged a very respectful seat and welcoming ceremony.

7

After feeding him and relaxing, seated pleasantly on a comfortable seat, the King began to speak very gently and humbly. Everyone listened.

8

Yudhiṣṭhira said:

Do you remember how you raised us under your protective wing, saving us and our mother from so many disasters like poisons and fires?

9

Tell us about your pilgrimage. How did you do it? Where in the world did you go? What were the most worthy places you visited?

10

Devotees of the All-Attractive, like you, are themselves “holy places.” They make holy places holy because the Mace-Wielder resides within them.

This is quite an important and frequently quoted text. The only transcendental entity is the All-Attractive Godhead. Everything else is mundane (prakṛti). A person becomes transcendental when divine love brilliantly reveals the All-Attractive in their hearts. A place becomes transcendental due to the presence and influence of such persons. Thus transcendence moves like an electric current from Godhead through the lightning rod of the saintly into the earth itself: creating a holy place. Wherever a true saint resides is a sacred place. Even after a saint departs a place, the residual effect of their influence does not immediately dissipate.

11

Uncle, have you seen or heard news about our protectors and friends who always are enrapt in Kṛṣṇa? Are the Yadus and their city prospering?

This is a very heavy question, as we will see. It is the real question on the King’s mind since he cannot remove his thoughts from his beloved Kṛṣṇa.

 


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.


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.