Shrimad Bhagavad-gita

by Narayana Gosvami | 2013 | 327,105 words

The Bhagavad-gita Verse 2.5, English translation, including the Vaishnava commentaries Sarartha-varsini-tika, Prakashika-vritti and Rasika-ranjana (excerpts). This is verse 5 from the chapter 2 called “Sankhya-yoga (Yoga through distinguishing the Soul from the Body)”

Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration, Word-for-word and English translation of verse 2.5:

गुरून् अहत्वा हि महानुभावान् श्रेयो भोक्तुं भैक्ष्यम् अपीह लोके ।
हत्वार्थ-कामांस् तु गुरून् इहैव भुञ्जीय भोगान् रुधिर-प्रदिग्धान् ॥ ५ ॥

gurūn ahatvā hi mahānubhāvān śreyo bhoktuṃ bhaikṣyam apīha loke |
hatvārtha-kāmāṃs tu gurūn ihaiva bhuñjīya bhogān rudhira-pradigdhān || 5 ||

gurūn–superiors; ahatvā–by not killing; hi–certainly; mahā-anubhāvān–great personalities; śreyaḥ–more auspicious; bhoktum–to maintain my life; bhaikṣyam–even by begging; api–even though; iha loke–in this world; hatvā–by killing; artha-kāmān–motivated by wealth; tu–but; gurūn–superiors; iha–in this world; eva–certainly; bhuñjīya–one has to enjoy; bhogān–sense enjoyments; rudhira–with blood; pradigdhān–tainted.

It would be better to maintain my life in this world by begging than to kill these great personalities who are my gurus. Even though motivated by material gain, they remain my superiors. After killing them, any worldly enjoyment I might attain will be smeared with their blood.

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Ṭīkā

(By Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura; the innermost intention of the commentary named ‘the shower of essential meanings’)

Arjuna is saying to Kṛṣṇa, “You may ask how I will maintain my life if I do not desire to accept my own kingdom. My answer is that it is better for me to eat food acquired by begging, an act condemned for kṣatriyas, than to kill my superiors. Even though such an act may bring defamation, I will not be beset with spiritual inauspiciousness. It is not proper to abandon my gurus simply because they are following the proud and irreligious Duryodhana, who is unable to discriminate between what is duty and what is not.

“If You say that it is recommended in the scriptures on morality (Mahābhārata, Udyoga-parva) to reject the guru if he is proud, unable to discriminate between good actions and bad and engaged in abominable activities, then my reply is, mahānubhāvān: ‘Where is the possibility of these defects in such great personalities as Bhīṣma and Droṇa, who have conquered lust, time and so forth?’ It may then be argued that man is a servant of wealth, but wealth is not the servant of anyone. This is confirmed in Bhīṣma’s statement to Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja: ‘O Mahārāja, it is true that I am bound by the wealth of the Kauravas.’ Thus, if You say that Bhīṣma’s reputation as a mahānubhāvān, or great personality, has already been ruined by his admitting to being desirous of wealth, then I must reply, ‘Yes, this is true.’ Still, if I kill them, I will only feel distress. For that reason I am using words such as artha-kāmān (desirous of wealth). I can enjoy this wealth after killing all of the Kauravas, who are very greedy for it, but that wealth will be tainted with their blood.

“In other words, despite their greed for wealth, they will always be my superiors. I will become a traitor by killing them, and any pleasure derived from that will be adulterated with sinful deeds.”

Commentary: Sārārtha-Varṣiṇī Prakāśikā-vṛtti

(By Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja; the explanation that illuminates the commentary named Sārārtha-varṣiṇī)

Being inattentive to Kṛṣṇa’s words due to being overpowered by grief and delusion, Arjuna once more asserted, “What to speak of my own family members and relatives, I consider it an extremely inauspicious and sinful act to kill my gurus who are standing before me in this battle array–Droṇācārya, Kṛpācārya, my most worshipful Grandsire Bhīṣma and others–just for the sake of this petty material kingdom. The chance of attaining a place in the higher planets is completely lost for one who kills such superiors. Therefore, I consider it better to maintain my life in this world by begging.”

It is stated in the Kūrma Purāṇa:

upādhyāyaḥ pitā jyeṣṭha-bhrātā caiva mahī-patiḥ
mātulaḥ śvasuras trātā mātāmaha-pitāmahau
bandhur jyeṣṭhaḥ pitṛvyaś ca puṃśyete guravaḥ smṛtāḥ

That person who gives instruction on the Vedas, as well as one’s father, elder brother, king, maternal uncle, father-in-law, protector, maternal grandparents, paternal grandparents, relatives and those who are elderly, are all considered one’s superiors.

Śrī Droṇācārya and Kṛpācārya were born in high-class brāhmaṇa families. Besides possessing knowledge of the science of archery, they were also scholars of the Vedas and the scriptures dealing with morality (dharma-śāstras), and they were also religious by nature. Arjuna saw them as his gurus. Droṇācārya, who had foreseen the possibility of war, made Arjuna vow that if for any reason they came face to face in battle, Arjuna must fight against him.

Grandfather Bhīṣma, the son of King Śāntanu and Gaṅgā-devī, remained a lifelong celibate. According to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (9.22.19), he was a devotee of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, extremely chivalrous, in control of his senses, generous, conversant about the Absolute Truth, and always true to his vows. Even death was under his control.

He is prominent among the twelve mahājanas, or authorities on devotional service to the Supreme Lord:

svayambhūr nāradaḥ śambhuḥ kumāraḥ kapilo manuḥ
prahlādo janako bhīṣmo balir vaiyāsakir vayam

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (6.3.20)

These twelve authorities are Lord Brahmā, Nārada, Śambhu, the four Kumāras, Kapila, Manu, Prahlāda, Janaka, Bhīṣma, Bali, Śukadeva Gosvāmī and Yamarāja.

Thus Bhīṣma, who knew the Absolute Truth and was therefore the spiritual master of the whole world, was Arjuna’s teacher in the same category as Droṇācārya. Even though he supported the Kauravas in their fight against the Pāṇḍavas, who were devotees of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, he is Kṛṣṇa’s very dear devotee, and he always acts only for His pleasure. Bhīṣma is counted among the jñānī-bhaktas. He said to Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja, “What can I do? I am completely bound by the wealth of the Kauravas. Although it is not my desire, I have to fight on their side. But I give you this benediction: you will be victorious in the battle.”

Here, even though Grandsire Bhīṣma externally appears to be greedy for wealth and dependent on others, he is in fact the master of his senses and supremely independent. Therefore, to glorify him, in the present verse, Śuddha-Sarasvatī, the transcendental knowledge potency, has combined the two words hi and mahānubhāvān into himahānubhāvān. Hima indicates ice or snow. That which destroys hima is called himahā (sun or fire), and anubhāvān means ‘one who has the capability’. Therefore, a person who is extremely powerful like the sun or fire is himahānubhāvān. The powerful sun and fire can burn all impure objects without becoming contaminated themselves. They always remain pure. Similarly, Bhīṣma is himahānubhāvān, a greatly powerful person. It is said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.33.29) that the sun or fire can burn all pure and impure objects and is thus known as sarva-bhuk, that which can consume everything without becoming impure itself. Similarly, even if a pure and powerful person appears to transgress the principles of religion, he remains completely free from all defects.

Someone may say that the powerful Bhīṣma committed no injustice by taking the side of the Kauravas and fighting the Pāṇḍavas. One may question, however, how Kṛṣṇa’s topmost devotee could pierce the body of his worshipable Lord with sharp arrows? Is this a symptom of his bhakti? In answer it is said:

(1) To allure the demons, Śrī Kṛṣṇa made His great devotee Mahādeva Śaṅkara (Lord Śiva) preach the theory of illusion called māyāvāda. Māyāvāda is nothing but covered Buddhism and it is against the principles of the Vedas. From an external perspective, Mahādeva’s preaching does not seem to be bhakti, but from the transcendental perspective, it is bhakti, because Mahādeva simply carried out the order of Bhagavān.

(2) Just as the great devotee Śaṅkara took the side of Bāṇāsura and fought against Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, similarly Bhīṣma took the side of the Kauravas against Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Where, then, is the question of his bhakti becoming lost?

(3) To relieve Mother Earth from the burden of demonic forces, Śrī Kṛṣṇa wanted to annihilate their power in the Mahābhārata conflict and re-establish religious principles. If Grandfather Bhīṣma and gurus like Droṇācārya had not assisted the opposing, demoniac side, then the battle at Kurukṣetra would never have been possible. Therefore, by the personal will of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is omniscient, His bewildering spiritual potency, named yogamāyā, infused the heart of Bhīṣma with wicked tendencies to fight on the side of the opposing party. Thus Bhīṣma performed this act for the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa.

(4) In his commentary on a verse from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī explains that in the Mahābhārata War, by the will of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, a demoniac mood entered Grandsire Bhīṣma’s heart. Imbued with that mood, he aimed sharp arrows at Kṛṣṇa; otherwise, it would have been impossible for a pure devotee like Bhīṣma to act in such a way.

(5) The great devotee Grandsire Bhīṣma teaches ordinary devotees in the stage of practice (sādhakas) that even if a great personality like him accepts the food, water or association of materialistic persons, his mind will become contaminated and he will lose his discrimination.

(6) Śrī Bhagavān understood that Jaya and Vijaya wanted to satisfy Him by fulfilling His desire to fight. He therefore inspired the four Kumāras to visit Him and, in order to infuse inimical thoughts into the hearts of Jaya and Vijaya, He intentionally inspired the four Kumāras to curse them. This curse was just a pretence, because there is no possibility of any anger existing in Vaikuṇṭha, what to speak of a curse. In fact, for the satisfaction and pleasure of Śrī Bhagavān, Jaya and Vijaya personally begged to have an inimical mood, and by doing so, there was no diminution in their bhakti.

Had Grandsire Bhīṣma shown any symptom of desiring to kill Kṛṣṇa instead of pleasing Him, he would have fallen from his position as a devotee forever.

The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam describes that on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra, Grandsire Bhīṣma offered the following prayer glorifying Śrī Kṛṣṇa:

yudhi turaga-rajo-vidhūmra-viṣvak-kaca-lulita-śramavāry-alaṅkṛtāsye
mama niśita-śarair vibhidyamāna-tvaci vilasat-kavace’stu kṛṣṇa ātmā

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.9.34)

In his commentary on this verse, Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura gives a very rasika description of Grandsire Bhīṣma’s devotional mood. He says that Bhīṣma perceives that just as the dust raised from the hooves of the cows in Vraja decorates the charming face of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and increases His beauty and sweetness, in the same way, the dust raised from the hooves of the horses on the battlefield also increases Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s beauty and sweetness. There is nothing ugly in a beautiful object. Although dust in itself is not beautiful, when it falls on the soft, lotus-like face of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, it enhances His beauty and charm. When Kṛṣṇa ran towards Bhīṣma carrying the wheel of a chariot, His hair was dishevelled. Bhīṣma was then reminded of how Kṛṣṇa’s hair looks when, upon returning from cow-grazing, He runs behind the lowing cows as they quickly move toward their sheds. In this verse, the words śrama-vāri mean that due to Kṛṣṇa’s forceful exertion in running toward Bhīṣma on the battlefield, drops of perspiration fell from His lotus-like face and beautiful limbs. To Bhīṣma, they appeared to be like the drops of perspiration caused by Kṛṣṇa’s exertion in the amorous war of cupid.

Kṛṣṇa’s running at Bhīṣma is also a manifestation of His mood of affection for His devotees. [Kṛṣṇa broke His own vow that He would not fight in order to keep Bhīṣma’s vow to make Śrī Kṛṣṇa take up weapons against him.] Grandsire Bhīṣma observes, “The reddish marks appearing on the limbs of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, which are bruised and cut by my sharp arrows, look like the love-bites made by the teeth of a passionate lover absorbed in passionate battle with her beloved.” Although a young beloved may behave haughtily with her lover, whom she loves millions of times more than her own life, by marking him with her nails and teeth, she cannot be said to be devoid of love. Similarly, Bhīṣma’s madness in vīra-rasa (the chivalrous mellow) is not an indication that he is devoid of kṛṣṇa-prema.

Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa is raso vai saḥ (Taittirīya Upaniṣad 2.7), meaning that He embodies the nectar of all mellows (akhila-rasāmṛṭa-mūrti). In order to fulfil Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s desire to taste feelings of chivalry (vīra-rasa), Bhīṣma, one of His prominent devotees, took the side of the Kauravas and wounded the limbs of Śrī Bhagavān. In this way Bhīṣma fulfilled Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s desire and thus pleased Him.

In Śrī Mahābhārata, it is seen that Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa took a vow to not use any weapon in the battle. On the other hand, Bhīṣma, His devotee, took a vow that if he could not induce Kṛṣṇa to take up weapons, he could not be considered the son of Mahārāja Śāntanu.

Bhagavān, who is affectionate to His devotees (bhakta-vatsala), broke His own vow to protect Bhīṣma’s pledge:

sva-nigamam apahāya mat-pratijñām ṛtam adhikartum avapluto rathasthaḥ
dhṛta-ratha-caraṇo’bhyayāc caladgur harir iva hantum ibham gatottariyaḥ

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.9.37)

Grandsire Bhīṣma says, “I offer my obeisances again and again unto Śrī Bhagavān, who is particularly affectionate to His devotees. In order to protect my vow, He broke His own promise, jumping from the chariot, taking a wheel in His hand and running towards me with great speed.”

Although he took the side of the opposing party, Grandfather Bhīṣma is a pure devotee. Of this there is not even the slightest doubt. From the character of Bhīṣmadeva, we learn that whatever he does is favourable for the pleasure of Kṛṣṇa and assists in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. His profound character is beyond any mundane reasoning. However, if a conditioned soul, while making a show of being a guru, imitates Bhīṣma and engages in prohibited action or commits offenses, he can never be considered a bona fide guru.

Bhagavān Ṛṣabhadeva has said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.5.18):

gurur na sa syāt sva-jano na sa syāt pitā na sa syāj jananī na sā syāt
daivaṃ na tat syān na patiṣ ca sa syān na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum

That guru is not a guru, that father is not a father, that mother is not a mother, that demigod is not a demigod and that relative is not a relative who cannot protect us from the clutches of death, cannot bestow eternal life upon us and cannot protect us from the ignorance of māyā, which keeps us engrossed and bound in this material existence of birth and death.

Only a great personality who is thoroughly expert in the imports of the scriptures, who is endowed with realization of the Absolute Truth, and who is detached from this material world is qualified to be a guru. Bali Mahārāja rejected Śukrācārya for this reason, because Śukrācārya was opposed to the principles of bhakti. Thus, it is the injunction of the scriptures to reject such an unqualified guru. There is no sin or fault in not surrendering to, or not following, an unqualified guru, nor indeed in rejecting him.

In a svayaṃvara, a test of prowess to win the hand of a king’s daughter, lifelong celibate Bhīṣma won the three daughters of the king of Kāśī (present-day Vārāṇasī) –Ambā, Ambikā and Ambālikā. He arranged the marriage of Ambikā and Ambālikā to his brother Vicitravīrya. The first girl, Ambā, insisted on marrying Bhīṣma, but he had taken a vow of lifelong celibacy and thus rejected her request. Not finding any other solution, Ambā approached Paraśurāma, Bhīṣma’s spiritual master in the science of weaponry. Paraśurāma called Bhīṣma and ordered him to marry Ambā, but Bhīṣma remained resolute. Paraśurāma told him either to marry her or fight with him.

Bhīṣma accepted the fight while speaking the following words:

guror apy avaliptasya kāryākāryam ajānataḥ
utpatha-pratipannasya parityāgo vidhīyate

Mahābhārata, Udyoga-parva (179.25)

A guru who is engrossed in sense gratification, who is a fool, with no ability to discriminate between proper and improper behaviour, and who is following a path that is devoid of pure devotion is a false guru. One should immediately reject him.

A devotee as great as Bhīṣma cannot perform any activity opposed to the principles of bhakti, and Paraśurāma is an incarnation of Bhagavān. Considering the vow of Bhīṣma to be righteous, Paraśurāma accepted defeat in this fight, which would have continued indefinitely because they were evenly matched.

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