Tag Archives: Yudhisthira

Transcending Death


He sacrificed his words and everything into his mind, and that into his life breath. He pressed that breath downward into death and sacrificed that into his five elements.  The five he wisely sacrificed to the triplicate, and that into the singular. All of these together as one self he sacrificed into the spiritual self, which is inexhaustible.

For a bear, the first part of hibernation is to withdraw into a cave. For a turtle, the first part of winter’s sleep is to withdraw its head and limbs into its shell. For a human, the first part of absolute renunciation is to mentally and emotionally withdraw oneself from the world step by step.

The self extends into the world step by step, and we can withdraw it along the same route in reverse. The withdrawal begins with all of the physical activities we perform with our senses. “Sacrificing these into the mind” means stopping all those activities and giving their energy to the mind. Next, we take all the contemplations, opinions, and desires of the mind and grind them all to a halt. The energy released by halting the ever-wandering mind is then placed into our life’s breath. Then we push the life’s breath downward, allowing death to begin taking claim of our body. When death claims the body, it recycles it by breaking it down into the chemical components that form it. There are five categories of components: called earth (solids), water (liquids), fire (energies), air (gasses), and ether (space).

The five elemental components are products of a “triplicate:” three types of energy that produces material phenomena. These three are sattva, rajas, and tamas. To fully relinquish ownership of our body, and go beyond an ordinary death we must consciously give the five components of our body back to the three energies that produced them. These three energies come from a singular substance, called mahat, which more or less is identical to the singularity that the majority of modern astronomers present as being the original source of everything in the universe. To transcend death we must further give the three energies back to the source from which we obtained them: the singularity.

Beyond the singularity is consciousness!

Thus the next phase of mental preparation for transcendence is to end the singularity by giving it back to the conscious self. The conscious self is not the ultimate root of being. There root of the conscious self is the All-Conscious Self. The final stage of dedication to transcendence is to give every energy that has been amalgamated into the conscious self and dedicate all of it fully to the All-Conscious Self, which is avyaye (inexhaustible) and therefore the original root of emanations.

Yudhiṣṭhira performed this mental dedication after fulfilling all his worldly responsibilities and duties and before taking any external dress or behavior of a renunciate.


Dressed in rags, not eating, binding his words, unbinding his hair, he began to see his spiritual form. Like an uncultured insane demon, he waited for and relied on no one and nothing. He listened to no one, as if he was deaf.


He went north, following the great souls who had gone before him for the same reasons. With no concept of time he went forward rapt in meditation upon the supreme spirit within his heart.


All his brothers decisively followed him, having seen that the immorality of Kali-yuga had embraced the relations of all the people of earth. They had done everything saintly and accomplished everything worldly. They knew the ultimate destination and origin of the soul. So, their minds always embraced the lotus-like feet of The Tranquil.

The chances of succeeding in premature absolute renunciation are exceedingly slim. That narrow margin is navigated only by those whose past lives are exceptional and rare. For the vast, vast majority of us, renunciation cannot be truly embraced without first fulfilling all our worldly responsibilities and thus exercise all our worldly desires in a way that simultaneously exorcises them.

The purpose of renunciation is to dedicate the soul into the all-soul, as explained previously in describing how Yudhiṣṭhira prepared himself for renunciation. The result of such dedication is that the soul is always rapt in loving embrace with the all-soul. Thus Sūta describes Yudhiṣṭhira as being rapt in such embrace in the core of his being, and here describes the contemplations of his brothers as constantly rapt in an embrace with vaikuṇṭha-caraṇāmbuja, the lotus-like feet of The Tranquil.

The Tranquil is a name for the spiritual Viṣṇu, Nārāyaṇa – who generates an atmosphere which is absolutely devoid of worry and anxiety.


That meditation of divine love liberated them into completely pure transcendental consciousness. This singular contemplation took them to the destination: Nārāyaṇa’s feet. They attained what is unattainable. Cleansed of the pollution of temporary, unreal, exploitive self-concepts, they went to the place beyond the Viraja River without changing their identities.

The world of Nārāyana is a place of absolute spiritual consciousness beyond the river “Viraja” (a flow of “passions” which contaminate consciousness towards selfishness). Yudhiṣṭhira and his brothers had already cleansed themselves of all such selfish conceptions, therefore they crossed the river without further transformations. They entered the spiritual sky with their same pure identities as Yudhiṣṭhira, etc.


Vidura also completely renounced his material self, in a place called Prabhāsa. His thoughts like clothes wrapped around Kṛṣṇa, he went to his own station surrounded by the Pitṛ.

Vidura was an incarnation of Yāma, the god of death. After finishing his term as Vidura he returned to his place among the exalted deceased (the Pitṛ) and resumed his responsibilities as Yāma. But as a result of his tenure as Vidura, his consciousness was now completely wrapped around Kṛṣṇa.


Draupadī too, fully aware that her husbands would not take care of her, gave her undivided attention to the All-Attractive son of Vasudeva, and went to him.


He who is interested in this tale of those who are beloved by the All-Attractive,
The departure of the children of Pāṇḍu for their ultimate destination,
Just hearing it, one gains purifying good fotune,
And gets perfected divine love for Hari.


Arjuna’s Non-Duality

SB 1.15.31

Without grief and endowed with spirituality, he [Arjuna] completely cut off all dualistic doubts and dissolved them into energy that is unqualified by shapes and manifestations.

Confusion and grief arises due to dvaita, duality. In the final issue, duality means to consider the self different from Godhead. We are not identical to God, but God is identical to us. It may not be feasible to suitably explain this subtle spiritual principle here in words, which are subject to argument and interpretation. But if the sincere soul meditates upon this with eagerness to please Godhead by the endeavor, it will become clear.

Arjuna felt himself to be separated from Kṛṣṇa, therefore he plunged into extreme doubt and grief. But by deeply contemplating the wisdom he received from Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna was able to rid himself of the grief that arises from dualism. He got rid of the duality (daita-saṁśaya) by dissolving it into spiritual energy, an energy that is beyond qualification (līna prakṛti-nairguṇyāt) by shapes (alinga) and manifestations (asambhava). Specifically, Arjuna felt that Kṛṣṇa was gone simply because his shape could no longer be tangibly seen manifest in the world. He got rid of this ignorance by realizing that Kṛṣṇa is everywhere at all times. The knowledge of Bhagavad Gita helped him realize this.

When he attained this realization his lamentation was finished (viśoka) and in its place he became filled with a wealth of spirituality (brahma-sampattyā). Another interpretation may be that his lamentation became very special, and purely spiritual as a result of realizing the non-duality of Kṛṣṇa and his simultaneous absence and presence.


Yudhiṣṭhira was very troubled about the road taken by the All-Attractive and the destruction of the Yadu family. Feeling lonely and alone, he made up his mind to himself follow the same road.


When Pṛthā [Kuntī] heard the Wealth Winner [Arjuna] speak of the Yadu’s destruction and the final destination of the All-Attractive, with undeviating and nakedly soulful divine love for the transcendent All-Attractive she ceased her material existence.

Arjuna’s mother gave up her life in Bhakti-Yoga Samadhi when she heard the horrible news from Arjuna.


One removes a thorn using another thorn and then discards both. Similarly the Unborn took a body to remove the burdens of the world and then discarded both. He grasps the forms of a fish and so on and then lets go of them, just like a magician. When they have relieved the world of her burdens, he lets go of that body.


When the All-Attractive Lotus Face in this world let go of his body, which is the subject for spiritual discussion and praise, right then and there Kali appeared, causing ill-fortune and underdevelopment of the mind and intellect.


Yudhiṣṭhira comprehended that serpent crawling forth through his city, state, and his home and even his own person. He saw greed, falsehood, trickery, violence and so on forming a wheel of immorality. So, he made ready to leave.


He had educated his grandson to be as qualified as him, and enthroned him to reign in Gajāhvaye City as the emperor of all the earth bordered by the seas.


Then he made Vajra the king of Śūrasena, in Mathurā. Having fulfilled his duties as a householder, he became capable to follow the inner fire.


Letting go of everything, his exquisite clothing and jewelry, without sense of “mine” and without selfishness, he completely cut off unlimited relationships.

Arjuna Remember’s Krishna – Part II


He protected us in the forest when we were in very deep trouble,
When Durvāsa, who eats with unlimited disciples, was sent by our enemy.
When he had a morsel of left over spinach and rice, the three worlds felt full
In their minds, while they were still submerged within the water.

Duryodhana, the main enemy of the Pāṇḍavas, sent the powerful sage Durvāsa with his thousands of disciples to dine with Yudhiṣṭhira while they were exiled in the forest. There was no way Yudhiṣṭhira could feed so many people, so Durvāsa would be inconvenienced. Durvāsa is famous for getting angry easily and cursing people seriously, so Duryodhana made this scheme in the hopes that Durvāsa would curse the Pāṇḍavas.

In this midst of this calamity, Kṛṣṇa also visited Yudhiṣṭhira and ate a small morsel that was still left in the cooking pot. He felt great satisfaction. Because Godhead is the root from which all other souls are branches, when he felt full, Durvāsa and all the sages also felt completely full and did not return to Yudhiṣṭhira after taking their baths in the nearby river..


By his power, once I fought against the Blessed Trident Wielder (Śiva),
And astonished him and the daughter of the mountains (Pārvatī),
so that he gave his own weapon to me.
And others also followed suit. Thus even with my mortal body
I could enter the house of the Great King (Indra) and have half of his throne.


While there, my two scepter-like arms,
Whose trademark is to hold the Gāṇḍiva Bow,
Became the shelter for Indra and the gods, while I killed their enemy.
All because I was empowered by him (Kṛṣṇa).
And now I am robbed of that empowering person.


Because of being with him, the unsurpassable ocean of the Kuru’s strength
I surpassed in a single chariot, full of invincible power.
I retrieved the great wealth stolen by my enemies
And claimed the effulgent bejeweled crowns from their heads.


Bhīṣma, Karṇa, our guru, and Śalya,
Protected by an enourmouse phalax of great warriors
and a circle of decorated chariots
When I went into it, O powerful king,
It was his glance that deflated all their strength, enthusiasm, and longevity.


Because he protected me
The terrible weapons of my guru,
Bhīṣma, Karṇa, Naptṛ, Trigarta, Śalya, Saindhava, Bāhlika and others
Were ineffective
Just like the demons could not even scratch the servant of Nṛhari.

Nṛhari is another way of saying Narahari, or Narasiṁha.


My strange attitude made the soul’s-savior, the Master, my own chariot driver
Though his lotus-like feet are worshipped by the wise who see salvation.
When my horses were thirsty and I had to stand on the ground
The great warriors did not attack!
By his mercy I was completely free of worry.


We joked and jested so delightfully, beautified by his smile.
“Hey Cousin! Hey my friend Arjun! Hey Kuru’s-son!”
Oh god of kings, these conversations touched my very heart
Remembering sweet Kṛṣṇa (Mādhava) floods me to the core.


On a bed, or a seat, or on a walk, boasting, eating… Always we were one!
When one misbehaved the other would sarcastically say,
“Oh what an ideal person you are!”
Like a friend towards a friend, or a father towards his child
That greatest of the great tolerated my horribly familiar attitude.

In extreme grief, reality becomes distorted. Therefore Arjuna now feels that he was wrong to behave so intimately with Kṛṣṇa. But the truth is that Kṛṣṇa was delighted by his friendship incalculably more than he can ever be pleased with endless universes of worshipfully distant awestruck penitents.


Without him, oh lord of kings, without that supreme person
My friend, my beloved, my well-wisher… my very soul becomes a void.
Recently I was guarding the bodies of the The Adventurer’s women,
Was attacked by farmers, and defeated as if I was a woman.

Have you forever lost the friend of your very soul?


The Original Person reclines upon the ocean of the Yadu family with the original Ananta, for the benefit, protection and evolution of all the worlds. The Yadava are fit to live in his own city, protected by the scepters of his arms, and relishing pastimes of paramount bliss.

In these two verses the King very finely crafts a poetic metaphor. He compares Kṛṣṇa to Mahā-Viṣṇu, the Original Person who reclines upon the ocean of causality with a multi-headed dragon who is a form of his own unlimited energy (“ananta”), and from whom the worlds evolve and are preserved. The persons who live with this Mahā-Puruṣa (Viṣṇu) are exalted (Mahā-Pauruṣa), and by association they enjoy Viṣṇu’s own topmost spiritual bliss. The King says that the Yadu family is the ocean upon which Kṛṣṇa reclines as Viṣṇu and Bālarāma reclines as Ananta. Dvārakā is the world that evolves from this “Viṣṇu.” The people in Dvārakā Mahā-Pauruṣa who enjoy the topmost spiritual bliss.


Very attentively caring for his feet is the prime duty
Of the twice eight-thousand women headed by Satyabhāmā.
Undefeated when counted against the thrice-ten, claiming their treasures
And enjoying what belongs to the wives of the thunderbolt’s master.

Here, Yudhiṣṭhira breaks into more elaborate poetry to give an example to illustrate his previous statement that the people related to Kṛṣṇa are enjoying tremendously under his protection and blessings. There are roughly 16 thousand queens of Kṛṣṇa. There are roughly 30 important gods. Satyabhāmā is the queen who induced Kṛṣṇa to fight with the gods and take away a special tree with celestial flowers for her.

This continues the metaphor from the previous verses by stating that Kṛṣṇa’s 16 thousands queens are analogous to Lakṣmī, who always massages Viṣṇu’s legs and feet.


Always living under the protection of his scepter-arms,
The Yadava have become great heroes, ever fearless in every way.
So they strode in on foot and took by force
The Sudharmā assembly house, which belongs to the very best gods.

Yudhiṣṭhira continues to give examples of how those related to Kṛṣṇa enjoy life more fully than even the gods. Fearless and powerful due to the blessings and protection of Kṛṣṇa, the Yadus simply strode into heaven and took away Indra’s assembly hall by force. They brought it to Dvārakā for Kṛṣṇa to use and enjoy daily.


Dear brother, is your health OK? You look very pale and weak. Have you been disrespected and neglected during this long time you have been gone? Could someone have addressed you so carelessly and foully? Have they said they you did not give to a beggar, or did not fulfill a promise? Or that you did not give shelter to intellectuals, children, cows, the elderly, the sick, or women who came to you seeking it? Did you embrace one not fit to embrace, or did you mistreat a woman? Or maybe you were defeated by a person who was not your superior or peer? Or could it be that you dined alone, without also feeding the old and young? Have you done something horrible and unforgivable?

These are the basic moral principles by which an ancient prince of India lived. They valued respect and reputation and this was gained by being a good person and following codes like

  • always giving charity,
  • always fulfilling promises,
  • always taking care of anyone who needs caring for,
  • following principles regarding interaction with the opposite sex
  • never mistreating a woman
  • being undefeated by anyone junior
  • never eating before feeding others

Yudhiṣṭhira is giving one last hope towards there being some tolerable reason for Arjuna’s abject dejection. But Arjuna does not reply to any of these hopes. He merely cries more forcefully as tears pool on the ground beneath his lowered face.


“Alas! I have become a void, having forever lost the most beloved, heart-to-heart friend of my very soul.” Besides this thought, what else could be so troubling you?

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

How to Read Omens


Sūta said:

Jiṣṇu [Arjuna – “The Triumphant”] went to Dvārakā to see his relatives and find out what Kṛṣṇa (whose glories are purifying) was doing.


When he had not returned after a few months, the leader of the Kurus [Yudhiṣṭhira] observed many different omens of ill fortune.


A terrible fate was foretold in unseasonal weather, and by people adopting cruel ways marked by anger, greed, and deceit.


Cheating and duplicity polluted the behavior of protectors: fathers, mothers, well-wishers and brothers. Husbands and wives quarreled.


Many very bad omens indicated that the time had come for humanity to drift away. Seeing so many immoral and base deeds driven by greed and the like, the King spoke to his younger brother.

These are not so much “omens” in general, as they are omens specifically that Kali-Yuga had begun, the age in which the glory of humanity fades and drifts away. This in turn indicates that Kṛṣṇa was no longer on Earth.


Yudhiṣṭhira said:

Jiṣṇu [Arjuna – “The Triumphant”] went to Dvārakā to see his relatives and find out what Kṛṣṇa (whose glories are purifying) was doing.


Bhīmasena, it is now seven months since he went. I have no information about why he has not returned.


Maybe it is what the Sage of Gods [Nārada] told us: The time has come for the All-Attractive to dissolve the manifestation of himself and his expansions?


By his kindness we got our wealth, power, wives and our very lives, and our kingdom and subjects; vanquishing our enemies.


O Lion of Men, look at the ill signs in the sky, on the earth, and in ourselves. These are signs of imminent danger, fear, and bewilderment.


My left thigh, eye, and arm quiver again and again. My heart palpitates fearsomely. These are signs of ill fortune.

Repeated twitching on the left side of the male body portends ill fortune. I have heard that for women it is the right side which is inauspicious. The opposite sides for each gender portend good fortune.


This she-jackal howls at the rising sun, with fire in her mouth. Brother, this dog barks and growls at me without fear!

When things happen out of order, or opposite of their normal behavior, it portends ill-fortune. By this general template, all sorts of events in the world can be interpreted. Wolves and the like are supposed to howl at the moon, not the sun. While so doing the rising sun appeared like flames coming from the jackal’s mouth – making it more pronounced as an ill omen. A dog should be submissive to powerful humans, but here a dog was fearlessly growling angrily and barking in the face of the powerful King.


Auspicious and less auspicious animals pass me with their left side. O Lion of Men, my horses weep when they see me.

This “passing” means to encircle. It is auspicious to be encircled in a clockwise motion. To be circled counterclockwise (which occurs when the encircling person keeps you on their left) is inauspicious.


There is a dead dove like a messenger of death. Owls and their rivals, the crows, shriek disturbingly as if they are trying to dissolve the entire world.

Auspicious (gentle) birds fell to ill, and inauspicious (harsh) birds prospered.


Thick fog and smoke encircles all directions. The earth and her hills tremble. Thunder and lightning comes without clouds.

These are more serious and rare omens.


The blasting wind cuts us. The dust raised creates darkness. Blood rains from the clouds making everything look like a disaster-area.

“Blood rain” arises when red dust mixes with the falling rain. It is a terrible and rare omen.


Look! The Sun has lost its glow. The planets war with one another in the sky. Ghosts possess people, who howl as if they were on fire!

The Sun loses its glow during an eclipse. The planets war with one another when they occupy the same location in the sky (currently we measure it as the same zodiac degree).


Streams, rivers and ponds are polluted, as are our minds. Oil will not catch fire. What fate is about to befall us!?


Calves do not suck the teat, and their mothers do not give milk. The bulls do not play in the fields. They simply stand with tears streaming down their face.


Deities seem to cry and perspire like they want to leave their temples. The beauty and happiness of these cities, villages, towns, gardens, hills, and cottages is ruined. What horrors will we see!?


I believe that these terrible upheavals are omens that the Earth, who bore the beautiful footprints of the All-Attractive, is now dispossessed and her fortune destroyed.

Yudhiṣṭhira now gives a dire interpretation of these severe omens: “The earth was blessed with the greatest fortune. She bore the beautiful footprints of the All-Attractive. All these horrible signs can only indicate that the earth has been cast into the deepest despair over the loss and destruction of her greatest treasure. Śrī Kṛṣṇa is no longer on Earth.”

What is Really a Holy Place?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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?


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?


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.


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.


Gossiping Women Are Far Better Than Hymn Chanting Priests


Saunaka asked:


Having eliminated the aggressors who tried to usurp what was rightfully his, how did Yudhisthira and his brothers, the greatest upholders of morality, enjoy or restrict themselves?


Suta answered:


The Kuru dynasty was thinned like a fire-stricken bamboo forest, but its good seedlings were protected by Hari. The Controller’s mind became pleased by reestablishing Yudhisthira in to his rightful throne.


Having heard the words of Bhisma and the Infallible, he was cleansed of all confusions and took up his duties with deep wisdom. He ruled the globe and even its oceans like Indra protected by Visnu; and his brothers assisted him.



The rains poured as much as desired. The earth produced everything desired. The leaking udders of the happy cows moistened the pastures.


Rivers, oceans, hills, vegetables, flowers, fruits and herbs certainly fulfilled everyone’s desires.


There was no distress or disease nor any sufferings from the gods, creatures, or self. No one ever became inimical towards the king.



Hari stayed in Hastinapura for a few months, too. To console and please his relatives and beloved sister.

Krsna’s sister, Subhadra, was Arjuna’s wife, so she stayed in Hastinapura.


With his permission, embrace, and respect he ascended his chariot being embraced and respected by so many.

After a few months, Krsna again asked Yudhisthira’s permission to return to home.


Subhadra, Draupadi, Kunti, Virata’s daughter, Gandhari, Dhrtarastra, Yuyutsu, Gautama, the Twins, Wolf-Belly, Dhaumya, the royal ladies like the Fisherman’s Daughter, could not tolerate the loss of the Bow-Weilder, and almost fainted.


Subhadra is Krsna’s sister and Arjuna’s wife. Draupadi is the wife of all five Pandavas. Kunti is the mother of the Pandavas. Virata’s daughter is Uttara,, the wife of Arjuna’s son and the mother of Pariksit. Gandhari and Dhritarastra are the mother and father of the children who tried to usurp Yuddhisthira, Yuyutsu is Dhritarastras child from a different wife. Gautama is the family guru. The Twins are the Pandavas Nakula and Sahadeva. Dhaumya is a sage. The Fisherman’s Daughter is the stepmother of Bhisma and grandmother of the Pandavas. The Bow-Wilder is Krsna addressed with reference to his being identical to Visnu, who weilds the unique bow called Sarnga.


Appreciating what is real and casting off what is unreal, an intelligent person could never attempt to give up the kirtan of his fame; which upon the first sound immediately delights. Arjuna had given his very consciousness to him. How could he tolerate losing him after personally touching, conversing, reclining, sitting, and eating together?


Those who can appreciate what is real and unreal cannot give up the pleasure of hearing about Krsna’s name and fame. So just imagine the pain Arjuna felt in having to give up Krsna’s personal intimate company.


All of them could not even blink as they stared at him with hearts melted, moving aimlessly here and there like puppets on the strings of love.


All the palace women tried to stop their flood of tears, out of a great fear that it would be an omen of ill-fortune at the moment of Devaki’s son stepping out from the palace.



Then, mrdanga drums, conch shells; trumpets, flutes and bugles; kettledrums, bells and more sounded rhythmically.



The Kuru princesses went up to the roof of the palace to see Krsna. They lovingly showered flowers upon him, while casting flirtatious glances.



The beloved Sleepless Arjuna took up for his Supreme Beloved a cooling umbrella decorated with lace and pearl, and a bejeweled handle.



Uddhava and Satyaki fanned with the most wondrous fans the Master of Sweetness, who sat amongst the strewn flowers and gave the command to take to the road.


When Krsna left the palace a wonderful concert resounded. The ladies on the rooftops and terraces held back their tears for his sake and instead sent him delightfully flirtatious glances and showers of flowers. Arjuna took the kingdoms finest umbrella and held it above his dearmost friend as they walked from the gate to the chariot, while the driver Satyaki and his constant attendant Uddhava fanned him with wondrously opulent fans. When he arrived at his chariot it was covered in flowers, so he took his seat amongst the glorious spontaneous decorations and gave the order for Satyaki to drive the chariot onto the road.


Here and there you could hear spiritual benedictions pronounced by the priests. It was befitting but not really befitting for the Formless in Form.


The scholars miss the point out of too much affection for scholarship. However it is their nature and therefore not entirely unbefitting. Still their offering of mundane benedictions to the Supreme Personality seemed a bit out of place.

In music a dissonant note well placed increases the beauty of the melody. This is the role filled by these priests at the departure of Krsna.


Far more enchanting and pleasing than all their mantras was the gossip going on between all the women of the city; who had their hearts wrapped around the Subject of Topmost Poetry.


The only need for comment here is to note that there is absolutely no need to comment on the profundity of what Suta has just said in verses 19 and 20. The next group of verses will allow us to be a “fly-on-the-wall” and listen in on some samples of this divine chatter.

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


Śrī Bhīṣma said:

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

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

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


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

Vijaya is Arjuna, the “Especially Victorious.”


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


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

“Pārtha” is Arjuna, the child of Pṛthā.


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

These were his final words.


Sūta said:                                                                                   

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Bhisma's Spiritual Aspiration

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


Sūta said:

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

Ayyavali depiction of Vishnu.

Image via Wikipedia