Mahabharata (abridged)

258,337 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933

The English translation of the Mahabharata: one of the two major Sanskrit epics of India. Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life". NOTE: this is a Summary Study (...

Anushasana Parva

The Final Instructions of Grandfather Bhishma

Maharaja Yudhisthira then began to rule the kingdom under the direction of the twice born brahmanas. After the coronation ceremony had been completed, King Yudhisthira approached Lord Krishna and offered the following prayers, Through Your grace, O Krishna, I have received this ancestral kingdom. O foremost of the Yadus, O lotus-eyed Lord, I repeatedly offer my humble obeisances unto you. You have been glorified as the Supreme Lord, one without a second. The great sages and brahmanas know You by many names. Obeisances unto You, O Creator of the world. You are the soul of all universes, and You are the support of this manifest creation. You are Vishnu, Hari and Krishna. You are the Lord of Vaikuntha and the foremost of all beings. Previously You have taken Your birth as Prishnigarbha, the son of Prishni and Sutapa. Another of Your names, O Lord, is Triyuga. You are the Lord of the senses and are, therefore, known as Hrishikesha. You are the great swan, Hamsa Avatara; the boar, Varaha; and the half man, half lion, Nrisimhadeva. You are the sun, the moon and the firmament. You are the chief of the celestials, Indra, and You are the beginning, the middle and the end of all creation. You are Dhruva, You are Garuda and You are the great sage Kapila. You are the Supersoul in the heart of every living being. Obeisances unto You, O Lord, who wield the Sarnga bow, the Sudarshana discus and the Kamodaki club. Hearing the pure glorification by King Yudhisthira, Lord Krishna smiled. That smile captivated the hearts of all present. The lotus eyed Lord then conversed with His pure devotee, gladdening the pious King's heart.

Emperor Yudhisthira then instructed his brothers, Your bodies have been scorched by the weapons of the enemy. You are greatly fatigued and need sufficient rest. Go to the palaces assigned to each of you and begin to enjoy this opulent kingdom. With the permission of the King, Maharaja Bhima then entered the palace that was once the home of Duryodhana. It was very opulent and was filled with male and female servants. Arjuna then entered the palace that formerly belonged to Duhshasana. This palace had a gateway that was made of solid gold. Lord Krishna and Satyaki also took up their residence in that opulent palace. Nakula and Sahadeva then entered the palaces that formerly belonged to Durmashana and Durmukha. These palaces vied in opulence with the abodes of Kuvera.

After resting the night, King Yudhisthira came to Arjuna's palace and greeted Lord Krishna and his brother. In King Yudhisthira's presence, Lord Krishna began to glorify Grandfather Bhishma, That foremost descendent of the Kuru race, Bhishma, is lying on a bed of arrows about to pass away. He is always thinking of Me. Because of this, My mind is also fixed on him. The sound of his bowstring and the slap of his palms, even Indra was unable to bear. I can remember how he vanquished all the great Kings at the svayamvara ceremony of the princesses of Kashi. I am thinking of him who fought with his martial guru for twenty three days continuously. Parashurama was unable to subdue him. I am thinking of him who took his birth as the son of Ganga. He became the intimate student of Vashistha Muni, and because of this, he is the veritable abode of the four Vedas and their branches. There is nothing that is not known to him. O Yudhisthira, I think that at this time you should approach him and inquire about anything that you wish to know. Time is short. When the sun set its course in the northern regions, the son of Ganga will leave his body and attain to the higher regions. Before that happens, you should approach him and question him concerning the rulership of this kingdom.

Agreeing to the proposal of Lord Krishna, King Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva ascended their chariots and made their way in procession to Kurukshetra. At that time Maharaja Bhishma was surrounded by the foremost of the sages and rishis. By his side was Vyasadeva and Narada Muni. There were other great sages present such as Devala, Asita, Sumantu, Jaimini, Maitreya, Chyavana, Vashistha, Sanat Kumara, Kapila, Valmiki and Lomasa. There was also Parashurama, Pulaha, Kashyapa, Pulastya, Parasara, Gautama and the great sage Markandeya. Stretched out on a bed of arrows, that tiger among men was in rapt concentration on the transcendental form of the Lord. He was glorifying the Lord with a cheerful and strong voice.

O Krishna, Maharaja Bhishma prayed, O foremost of all beings, be pleased with my words praising Your glories. My Lord You are the only transcendent reality. You are the Supreme Lord, and I seek Your refuge with all my heart. O Lord of all creatures, You are without beginning and without end. You glories cannot be enumerated. Not even the great sages and rishis can know You fully. All the worlds and all created beings have their abode in You. Like jewels strung together on a thread, all things that have attributes reside in thee. You are called Hari, having a thousand hands, a thousand feet, a thousand eyes and a thousand crowns. Thou art called Narayana because You are the resting place of all living beings. In all the Vedas, You are referred to as the Supreme Being of irresistible force. You are the Lord of those that are bound to You in faith and devotion. You have been born from Devaki and Vasudeva as fire is generated from two sticks. For one's eternal salvation, the devout worshipper, with mind withdrawn from all material objects, beholds You, O Govinda, in the core of the heart. O Lord of all creatures, I place myself in Your hands. In the Puranas You have been spoken of as the Purusha, as Brahma, and as Sankarshana. You are the greatest of all beings, and therefore, I adore thee. O my Lord, You are the panacea for all sorrow. Assuming the form of a boar, whose limbs were constituted by sacrifice, You raised the earth after it had been submerged in the waters of devastation. Obeisances to You, My Lord, in Your form as all devouring time. The brahmanas are Your mouth, the kshatriyas are Your arms, the vaishyas are your belly and the shudras are Your legs. Fire constitutes Your mouth. The heavens are the crown on Your head. The sky in Your navel, and the earth is Your feet. The sun and moon are Your eyes, and the different directions are Your ears. Although You are without origin, You are the origin of this universe. The two syllables Hari constitute the sum and substance of the sojourn through the wilderness of life. Your holy name is the medicine that cures all worldly attachment. As truth is full of Vishnu, as the universe is full of Vishnu, as everything is full of Vishnu, so let my soul be full of Vishnu and my sins destroyed. I seek Your protection, O lotus eyed Lord. Bhishma then became silent and the rishis and sages uttered words of praise for the dying Bhishma.

At this time the Pandavas arrived at the field of Kurukshetra. They saw mountains of charred bodies scattered here and there, which were the funeral pyres of the slain warriors. The bones of the horses, elephants and human beings lay piled up like mountains. As they proceeded further, they came upon the grandsire laying on a bed of arrows, like a fallen demigod. He was surrounded by many sages, and because his consciousness was fixed on Lord Krishna, he appeared very effulgent. The Pandavas and Lord Krishna descended from their chariots. They offered obeisances unto the great sages present and unto their fallen grandfather. Lord Krishna stood at the feet of Bhishmadeva.

The sons of Maharaja Pandu were sitting silently, overcome with affection for their dying grandfather. Seeing this, Bhishmadeva congratulated them with feeling. There were tears of ecstasy in his eyes, for he was overwhelmed by love and affection. Grandfather Bhishma exclaimed, Oh, what sufferings and injustices you good souls suffered for being the sons of religion personified. You did not deserve to remain alive under those tribulations, yet you were protected by the brahmanas, Lord Krishna and religion. My daughter-in-law Kunti, upon the great King Pandu's death, became a widow with many children, and therefore she suffered greatly. And when you were grown up she suffered a great deal more because of Duryodhana's actions. In my opinion, this is all due to inevitable time, under whose control everyone in every planet is carried, just as the clouds are carried by the wind. O how wonderful is the influence of inevitable time. It is irreversible+otherwise, how can there be reverses in the presence of King Yudhisthira, the son of the demigod controlling religion; Bhima, the great fighter with the mace; the great bowman Arjuna with his mighty weapon Gandiva; and above all, the Lord, the direct well-wisher of the Pandavas? O King, no one can know the plan of Lord Sri Krishna. Even though great philosophers inquire exhaustively, they are bewildered. O best among the descendants of Bharata, I maintain, therefore, that all this is within the plan of the Lord. Accepting the inconceivable plan of the Lord, you must follow it. You are now the appointed administrative head, and, my lord, you should now take care of those subjects who are rendered helpless.

"This Sri Krishna is no other than the inconceivable, original Personality of Godhead. He is the first Narayana, the Supreme Enjoyer. But He is moving amongst the descendants of King Vrishni just like one of us, and He is bewildering us with His self-created energy. O King, Lord Shiva, Narada, the sage amongst the demigods, and Kapila, the incarnation of Godhead, all know very confidentially about His glories through direct contact. O King, that personality whom, out of ignorance only, you thought to be your maternal cousin, your very dear friend, well-wisher, counselor, messenger, benefactor, etc., is that very Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Being the absolute Personality of Godhead, He is present in everyone's heart. He is equally kind to everyone, and He is free from false ego of differentiation. Therefore whatever He does is free from material inebriety. He is equibalanced. Yet, despite His being equally kind to everyone, He has graciously come before me while I am ending my life, for I am His unflinching servitor. The Personality of Godhead, who appears in the mind of the devotee by attentive devotion and meditation and by chanting of the holy name, releases the devotee from the bondage of fruitive activities at the time of his quitting the material body. May my Lord, who is four-handed and whose beautifully decorated lotus face, with eyes as red as the rising sun, is smiling, kindly await me at the moment when I quit this material body.

Upon seeing His devotee about to leave his body, the Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna said, O Bhishma, I hope your mind is not in a clouded state. O best of eloquent men, I hope your limbs are not tortured by the pain from these arrows. Ordinarily, the smallest pin will produce pain for this body, what to speak of hundreds of arrows. Surely, however, pain can not afflict you. You are competent, O Bharata, to instruct the very gods about the origin and dissolution of all created beings. Just now the eldest son of Pandu is overwhelmed with lamentation because of the death of so many kinsmen. All the duties of the four varnas and the four ashramas are well known to you. You are also conversant with the four Vedas and their branches and corollaries. O bull among men, there is no other person who can destroy the doubts that are in the heart of Yudhisthira. With the aid of your vast intelligence, drive away the sorrow that sits in the heart of this first son of Pandu. Your devotion to Me, O son of Ganga, is very great, and for this reason I have appeared before you at these last moments of your life. O foremost of Kings, I never display Myself to those who are not devoted, or who have not conquered their senses. Through your sincere devotion, you are able to behold Me. After leaving this body, you will never take birth again. I assure you that upon entering My own abode in Vaikuntha, you will never come back to this world. When you have left this mortal plane, all your vast knowledge will be lost to mankind. Therefore, O hero, before leaving this body pacify the grieving son of Pandu, who is lamenting on account of the slaughter of his kinsmens.

Hearing the request of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the great grandsire of the Kuru dynasty replied, O master of the worlds, O mighty-armed one, O Narayana, O Lord of unfading glory, hearing the words spoken by You, I am filled with joy. But what instructions can I give in Your presence, especially since all instructions emanate from the Vedas, which come from Your divine mouth? My mind, O slayer of Madhu, is agitated because of the pain of all these arrows. O Govinda, I am so afflicted that I barely have the power to say anything. My strength is waning, and my life breaths will soon be exhausted. How then can I venture to speak? O my Lord, I will not be able to say anything. Pardon me for my unwillingness. I can no longer understand whether it is day or night. It is only through Your mercy that I am still in this body. O Krishna, will You not therefore speak to Yudhisthira to dispel his grief?

The Supreme Personality of Godhead replied, What you have spoken is just worthy of the best members of the Kuru race. O Bhishma, I now grant you a benediction that you will not feel pain, hunger or thirst. O son of Ganga, your memory of the Vedic conclusions shall not fail you. What ever question Yudhisthira will ask, you will be able to answer by My grace. After speaking these words, a celestial shower of flowers fell from the sky. The Gandharvas began to play on their instruments, and the Apsaras sang sweetly in the heavens. In all directions there were auspicious omens. Lord Krishna then put his transcendental hand on Bhishma, and his pain disappeared. Just at this time the sun began its descent on the western horizon. Agreeing to hear Bhishma's discourse the following day, the Pandavas entered the city of Hastinapura.

The following morning the Pandavas awoke and prepared themselves to travel to Kurukshetra. They once again approached Grandfather Bhishma and offered their obeisances. Lord Krishna then inquired of Grandfather Bhishma, Have you, O best among Kings, passed the night happily? Has your intelligence become clear? I hope that your body no longer feels the pain of all these arrows.

O descendent of Vrishni, Bhishma replied, by Your grace I have been relieved of my suffering and fatigue. I can behold the past, the present and the future like a crystal clear lake. Due to the benediction granted by You, I can behold the duties laid down by the Vedas and the Vedantas. Everything that relates to the four varnas has come within my power of memory. O Janardana, because I have been favored by You, I have become competent to discourse on that which will be beneficial to the world. Why, however, do You not speak to Pandu's son about these matters?

O descendent of Bharata, Vasudeva said, I am the source of fame and everything that is auspicious. All things, good or bad, emanate from Me. If some one says that the moon has cool rays, no one will be struck with wonder. Similarly, if I speak to Yudhisthira about transcendental knowledge, it will not add to My fame. I have resolved to enhance your fame, O best among men. It is for this reason that I have inspired you with intelligence. As long as the earth will last, your fame will be known through the three worlds. Whatever you say to the inquiring son of Pandu will be regarded as authoritative as the Vedas. All the Kings and rishis desire to listen to your discourses on duty and morality. Therefore, you should speak to them for the benefit of the world.

King Yudhisthira then approached the grandsire of the Kuru dynasty. He touched his feet, and Bhishma welcomed him with affectionate words. Bhishma smelled Yudhisthira's head and ask him to sit near him. Ganga's son then addressed him saying, Do not fear, O best of the Kurus! Ask me any question without anxiety.

O grandsire of the Kuru dynasty, Yudhisthira inquired, persons conversant with duty and morality say that kingly duties constitute the highest science. Please, therefore, speak in detail on the duties of Kings and of duties of the other orders of life.

O son of Pandu, Bhishma said, the suppression of anger, truthfulness, justice, forgiveness, begetting children by one's own wife, purity, avoidance of quarrel, simplicity, and maintenance of dependents+these nine duties belong to all the four orders equally. I shall now declare the duties which belong to brahmanas exclusively. Sense control has been declared to be the first and foremost duty of a brahmana. Study of the Vedas and performance of austerities are also other duties of the brahminical order. Worship of the deity and teaching others how to worship the deity are duties of the brahminical order. Also there is accepting charity and giving in charity.

O Yudhisthira, Bhishma continued, I shall now tell you the duties for the kshatriyas. A kshatriya should never beg, but should acquire wealth by taxing the citizens. He should study the Vedas, but not engage in the profession of teaching. He should offer protection to the citizens and put forward his prowess on the field of battle. There is no higher duty for a kshatriya than to protect the citizens. Gifts of charity, study of the Vedas and performance of sacrifice bring prosperity to a king. A king should engage all the subjects in their occupational duties according to their order of life. If a King does not perform any other act other than protect the citizens, he is regarded as successful in religious performance and has carried out all duties of a kshatriya.

O Yudhisthira, Bhishma continued, a vaishya should give in charity, study the Vedas, perform sacrifices and acquire wealth by fair means. A vaishya should protect all animals especially the cow and the bull. These two are the mother and father of all mankind. By protecting the cow, he will achieve lasting prosperity.

O Bharata, a shudra should perform service to the other three orders according to seniority. By such service he will obtain happiness. He should never amass wealth for if he does he might make the higher orders his servants. Worn out umbrellas, turbans, beds, and seats, shoes and fans should be given to the shudra servants. Torn clothes which are no longer fit to wear should be given to the shudras as their clothing. Men conversant with morality say that if a shudra approaches one of the higher orders for service, then that servant should be immediately engaged in some duty. The weak and old amongst the shudra order should be maintained. A shudra should never give up his master no matter what condition of distress he falls into.

Grandfather Bhishma went on to explain the Varnashrama system in more detail. He also explained in divisions, acts of charity, the practical duties of a king and activities of salvation. Then he briefly described the duties of women and devotees, both briefly and extensively. Then he described the occupational duties of different orders and statuses of life, citing instances from history, for he was himself acquainted with the truth. While Bhishmadeva was describing occupational duties, the sun's course ran into the northern hemisphere. This period is described by mystics who die at their will.

Thereupon that man who spoke on different subjects with thousands of meanings and who fought on thousands of battlefields and protected thousands of men, stopped speaking and, being completely freed from all bondage, withdrew his mind from everything else and fixed his wide-open eyes upon the original Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, who stood before him, four-handed, dressed in yellow garments that glittered and shined. By pure meditation, looking at Lord Sri Krishna, he at once was freed from all material inauspiciousness and was relieved of all bodily pains caused by the arrow wounds. Thus all the external activities of his senses at once stopped, and he prayed transcendentally to the controller of all living beings while quitting his material body. Grandfather Bhishma prayed, Let me invest my thinking, feeling, and willing, which were so long engaged in different subjects and occupational duties, in the all-powerful Lord Sri Krishna. He is always self-satisfied, but sometimes, being the leader of the devotees, He enjoys transcendental pleasure by descending to the material world, although from Him only the material world is created. Lord Sri Krishna is the intimate friend of Arjuna. He has appeared on this earth in His transcendental body, which resembles the bluish color of the tamala tree. His body attracts everyone in the three planetary systems. May His glittering yellow dress and His lotus face, covered with paintings of sandalwood pulp, be the object of my attraction, and may I not desire fruitive results. On the battlefield, the flowing hair of Lord Krishna turned ashen due to labor, and beads of sweat wetted His face. All these decorations, intensified by the wounds dealt by my sharp arrows, were enjoyed by Him. Let my mind thus go unto Sri Krishna. In obedience to the command of His friend, Lord Sri Krishna entered the arena of the Battlefield of Kurukshetra between the soldiers of Arjuna and Duryodhana, and while there He shortened the life spans of the opposite party by His merciful glance. This was done simply by His looking at the enemy. Let my mind be fixed upon that Lord Krishna.

When Arjuna was seemingly polluted by ignorance upon observing the soldiers and commanders before him on the battlefield, the Lord eradicated his ignorance by delivering transcendental knowledge. May His lotus feet always remain the object of my attraction. Fulfilling my desire and sacrificing His own promise, He got down from the chariot, took up a wheel, and ran towards me hurriedly, just as a lion goes to kill an elephant. He even dropped His outer garment on the way. May He, Lord Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who awards salvation, be my ultimate destination. On the battlefield He charged me, as if angry because of the wounds dealt by my sharp arrows. His shield was scattered, and His body was smeared with blood due to the wounds.

At the moment of death, let my ultimate attraction be to Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead. I concentrate my mind upon the chariot driver of Arjuna who stood with a whip in His right hand and a bridle rope in His left, who was very careful to give protection to Arjuna's chariot by all means. Those who saw Him on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra attained their original forms after death. Let my mind be fixed upon Lord Sri Krishna, whose motions and smiles of love attracted the damsels of Vrajadhama. The damsels imitated the characteristic movements of the Lord.

At the Rajasuya sacrifice performed by Maharaja Yudhisthira, there was the greatest assembly of all the elite men of the world, the royal and learned orders, and in that great assembly Lord Sri Krishna was worshiped by one and all as the most exalted Personality of Godhead. This happened during my presence, and I remembered the incident in order to keep my mind upon the Lord. Now I can meditate with full concentration upon that one Lord, Sri Krishna, now present before me because now I have transcended the misconceptions of duality in regard to His presence in everyone's heart. The sun may be perceived differently, but the sun is one.

Thus Bhishmadeva deeply merged himself in remembrance of the Supersoul, Lord Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with his mind, speech, sight and actions, and thus he became silent, and his breathing stopped. Knowing that Bhishma had entered into the unlimited eternity of the Supreme Absolute, all present there became silent like birds at the end of the day. Bhishmadeva was a pure devotee of the Lord, and thus in a spiritual body he entered the spiritual realm in one of the Vaikuntha planets where the Lord, in His eternal form of Partha-sarathi, predominates over the unconditioned living beings who are constantly engaged in the service of the Lord. Thereafter, both men and demigods sounded drums in honor, and the honest royal order commenced demonstrations of honor and respect.s And from the sky fell showers of flowers.

After the passing away of his grandfather, King Yudhisthira performed the last funeral rites and was momentarily overwhelmed with grief. It was at this time that all the great sages glorified Lord Sri Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. After offering their respectful worship, they returned to their respective hermitages, bearing always Lord Sri Krishna within their hearts.

Thus Ends the Anushasana Parva, entitled, The Final Instructions of Grandfather Bhishma.

Thus Ends the Anushasana Parva.  

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