Mahabharata (English)

by Kisari Mohan Ganguli | 2,566,952 words | ISBN-10: 8121505933

The English translation of the Mahabharata is a large text describing ancient India. It is authored by Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa and contains the records of ancient humans. Also, it documents the fate of the Kauravas and the Pandavas family. Another part of the large contents, deal with many philosophical dialogues such as the goals of life. Book...

Section XLVIII

"Janamejaya said, 'How did the grandsire of the Bharatas, who lay on a bed of arrows, cast off his body and what kind of Yoga did he adopt?'

"Vaisampayana said, 'Listen, O king, with pure heart and concentrated attention, as to how, O tiger among the Kurus, the high-souled Bhishma cast off his body. As soon as the Sun, passing the solstitial point, entered in his northerly course, Bhishma, with concentrated attention, caused his soul (as connected with and independent of the body) to enter his soul (in its independent and absolute state). Surrounded by many foremost of Brahmanas, that hero, his body pierced with innumerable arrows, blazed forth in great beauty like Surya himself with his innumerable rays. Surrounded by Vyasa conversant with the Vedas by the celestial Rishi Narada, by Devasthana, by Asmaka Sumantu, by Jaimini, by the high-souled Paila, by Sandilya, by Devarata, by Maitreya of great intelligence, by Asita and Vasishtha and the high-souled Kausika, by Harita and Lomasa and Atri’s son of great intelligence, by Vrihaspati and Sukra and the great sage Cyavana, by Sanatkumara and Kapila and Valmiki and Tumvuru and Kuru, by Maudgalya and Rama of Bhrigu’s race, and the great sage Trinavindu, by Pippalada and Vayu and Samvarta and Pulaha and Katha, by Kasyapa and Pulastya and Kratu and Daksha and Parasara, by Marichi and Angiras and Kasmya and Gautama and the sage Galava, by Dhaumya and Vibhanda and Mandavya and Dhaumra and Krishnanubhautika, by Uluka, that foremost of Brahmanas and the great sage Markandeya, by Bhaskari and Purana and Krishna and Suta,—that foremost of virtuous persons, surrounded by these and many other highly-blessed sages of great souls and possessed of faith and self-restraint and tranquillity of mind, the Kuru hero looked like the Moon in the midst of the planets and the stars. Stretched on his bed of arrows, that tiger among men, Bhishma, with pure heart and joined palms, thought of Krishna in mind, word, and act. With a cheerful and strong voice he hymned the praise of the slayer of Madhu, that master of yoga, with the lotus in his navel, that lord of the universe, called Vishnu and Jishnu. With joined hands, that foremost of eloquent men, that puissant one, viz., Bhishma of highly virtuous soul, thus praised Vasudeva.

"Bhishma said, 'O Krishna, O foremost of Beings, be you pleased with these words which I utter, in brief and in detail, from desire of hymning your praises. You are pure and purity’s self. You transcendest all. You are what people say to be THAT. You are the Supreme Lord. With my whole heart I seek your refuge, O universal Soul and Lord of all creatures![1] You are without beginning and without end. You are the highest of the high and Brahma. Neither the gods nor the Rishis know you. The divine Creator, called Narayana or Hari, alone knows you. Through Narayana, the Rishis, the Siddhas, the great Nagas, the gods, and the celestial Rishis know a little of you. You are the highest of the high and knowest no deterioration. The gods, the Danavas, the Gandharvas, the Yakshas, the Pannagas, do not know who you are and whence art you. All the worlds and all created things live in you, and enter you (when the dissolution comes). Like gems strung together in a thread, all things that have attributes reside in you, the Supreme Lord.'[2] Having the universe for your work and the universe for your limbs, this universe consisting of mind and matter resides in your eternal and all-pervading soul like a number of flowers strung together in a strong thread. You are called Hari, of a thousand heads, a thousand feet, a thousand eyes, a thousand arms, a thousand crowns, and a thousand faces of great splendour. You are called Narayana, divinity, and the refuge of the universe. You are the subtlest of the subtle, grossest of the gross, the heaviest of the heavy and the highest of the high. In the Vaks, the Anuvaks, the Nishads, and Upanishads, you are regarded as the Supreme Being of irresistible force. In the Samans also, whose declarations are always true, you are regarded as Truth’s self![3] You are of quadruple soul. You are displayed in only the understanding (of all creatures). You are the Lord of those that are bound to you in faith. O God, you are adored (by the faithful) under four excellent, high, and secret names.[4] Penances are ever present in you. Performed (by other creatures for gratifying you), penances live in your form. You are the Universal Soul. You are of universal knowledge. You are the universe. You are omniscient. You are the creator of everything in the universe.[5] Like a couple of sticks generating a blazing fire, you have been born of the divine Devaki and Vasudeva for the protection of Brahma on earth.[6] For this eternal salvation, the devout worshipper, with mind withdrawn from everything else and casting off all desires, beholds you, O Govinda, that art the pure Soul, in his own soul. You transcendest Surya in glory. You are beyond the ken of the senses and the understanding. O Lord of all creatures, I place myself in your hands. In the Puranas you have been spoken as Purusha (all-pervading spirit). On occasions of the commencement of the Yugas, you are said to be Brahma, while on occasions of universal dissolution you are spoken of as Sankarshana. Adorable you are, and therefore I adore you. Though one, you have yet been born in innumerable forms. You have your passions under complete control. Your devout worshippers, faithfully performing the rites laid down in the scriptures, sacrifice to you, O giver of every wish! You are called the sheath within which the universe lies. All created things live in you. Like swans and ducks swimming on the water, all the worlds that we see float in you. You are Truth. You are One and undeteriorating. You are Brahma, You are That which is beyond Mind and Matter. You are without beginning, middle, and end. Neither the gods nor the Rishis know you. The gods, the Asuras, the Gandharvas, the Siddhas, the Rishis, and the great Uragas with concentrated souls, always adore you. You are the great panacea for all sorrow. You are without birth and death. You are Divine. You are self-created. You are eternal. You are invisible and beyond ken. You are called Hari and Narayana, O puissant one. The Vedas declare you to be the Creator of the universe and the Lord of everything existing in the universe. You are the Supreme protector of the universe. You knowest no deterioration and you are that which is called the highest. You are of the complexion of gold. You are the slayer of Asuras. Though One, Aditi brought you forth in twelve forms.[7] Salutations to you that art the soul of the Sun. Salutations to you in your form of Soma that is spoken of as the chief of all the regenerate ones and that gratifies with nectar the gods in the lighted fortnight and the Pitris in the dark fortnight. You are the One Being of transcendent effulgence dwelling on the other side of thick darkness. Knowing you one ceases to have any fear of death. Salutations to you in that form which is an object of knowledge.[8] In the grand Uktha sacrifice, the Brahmanas adore you as the great Rich. In the great fire-sacrifice, they sing you as the chief Adhyaryu (priest). You art the soul of the Vedas. Salutations to you. The Richs, the Yajus, and the Samans are your abode. You are the five kinds of sanctified libations (used in sacrifices). You are the seven woofs used in the Vedas. Salutations to you in your form of Sacrifice.[9] Libations are poured on the Homa fire in accompaniment with the seventeen monosyllabic sounds. You are the soul of the Homa. Salutations to you! You are that Purusha whom the Vedas sing. Your name is Yajus. The Vedic metres are your limbs. The sacrifices laid down in the three Vedas are your three heads. The great sacrifice called Rathantara is your voice expressive of gratification. Salutation to you in your form of sacred hymns! You are the Rishi that hadst appeared in the great sacrifice extending for a thousand years performed by the creators of the universe. You are the great swan with wings of gold. Salutations to you in your form of a swan.[10] Roots with all kinds of affixes and suffixes are your limbs. The Sandhis are your joints. The consonants and the vowels are your ornaments. The Vedas have declared you to be the divine word. Salutations to you in your form as the word![11] Assuming the form of a boar whose limbs were constituted by sacrifice, you had raised the submerged earth for the benefit of the three worlds. Salutations to you in your form of infinite prowess! You sleepest in Yoga on your snake-decked sofa constituted by the thousand hoods (of the Naga). Salutations to you in your form of sleep! You buildest the bridge for the good (to cross the sea of life) with Truth, with those means by which emancipation may be obtained, and with the means by which the senses may be controlled. Salutations to you in your form of Truth! Men practising diverse creeds, actuated by desire of diverse fruits worship you with diverse rites. Salutations to you in your form of Creed! From you have all things sprung. It is you that excitest all creatures having physical frames containing the principle of desire. Salutations to you in your form of Excitement. The great Rishis seek your unmanifest self within the manifest. Called Kshetrajna, you sittest in Kshetra. Salutations to you in your form of Kshetra![12] You always conscious and present in self, the Sankhyas still describe you as existing in the three states of wakefulness, dream, and sound sleep. They further speak of you as possessed of sixteen attributes and representing the number seventeen. Salutations to your form as conceived by the Sankhyas![13] Casting off sleep, restraining breath, withdrawn into their own selves, Yogins of restrained senses behold you as eternal light. Salutations to you in your Yoga form! Peaceful Sannyasins, freed from fear of rebirth in consequence of the destruction of all their sins and merits, obtain you. Salutations to you in your form of emancipation![14] At the end of a thousand Yugas, you assumest the form of a fire with blazing flames and consumest all creatures. Salutations to you in your form of fierceness! Having consumed all creatures and making the universe one vast expanse of water, you sleepest on the waters in the form of a child. Salutations to you in your form as Maya (illusion)! From the navel of the Self-born of eyes like lotus leaves, sprang a lotus. On that lotus is established this universe. Salutations to you in your form as lotus! You have a thousand heads. You pervadest everything. You are of immeasurable soul. You have subjugated the four kinds of desire that are as vast as the four oceans. Salutations to you in your form of Yoga-sleep! The clouds are in the hair of your head. The rivers are in the several joints of your limbs. The four oceans are in your stomach. Salutations to you in your form as water! Birth and the change represented by death spring from you. All things, again, at the universal dissolution dissolve away in you. Salutations to your form as cause! You sleepest not in the night. You are occupied in day time also. You observest the good and the bad actions (of all). Salutations to you in your form of (universal) observer! There is no act which you canst not do. You are, again, ever ready to accomplish acts that are righteous. Salutations to you in your form of Work, the form, viz., which is called Vaikuntha! In wrath you had, in battle, exterminated thrice seven times the Kshatriyas who had trampled virtue and authority under their feet. Salutations to you in your form of Cruelty! Dividing thyself into five portions you have become the five vital breaths that act within everybody and cause every living creature to move. Salutations to you in your form of air! You appearest in every Yuga in the form called month and season and half-year and year, and art the cause of both creation and dissolution. Salutations to you in your form of Time! Brahmanas are your mouth, Kshatriyas are your two arms, Vaisyas are your stomach and thighs, and Sudras live in your feet. Salutations to you in your form of caste! Fire constitute your mouth. The heavens are the crown of your head. The sky is your navel. The earth is your feet. The Sun is your eye. The points of the compass are your ears. Salutations to you in your form as the (three) worlds! You are superior to Time. You are superior to Sacrifice. You are higher than the highest. Thyself without origin, you are the origin of the universe. Salutations to you in your form as Universe! Men of the world, according to the attributes ascribed to you by the Vaiseshika theory, regard you as the Protector of the world. Salutations to you in your form of Protector! Assuming the forms of food, drink, and fuel, you increasest the humours and the life-breaths of creatures and upholdest their existence. Salutations to you in your form of life! For supporting the life-breaths you eatest the four kinds of food.[15] Assuming also the form of Agni within the stomach, you digestest that food. Salutations to you in the form of digesting heat! Assuming the form of half-man and half-lion, with tawny eyes and tawny manes, with teeth and claws for your weapons, you had taken the life of the chief of the Asuras. Salutations to you in your form of swelling might! Neither the gods, nor the Gandharvas, nor the Daityas, nor the Danavas, know you truly. Salutations to your form of exceeding subtility! Assuming the form of the handsome, illustrious, and puissant Ananta in the nether region, you upholdest the world. Salutations to your form of Might! You stupefiest all creatures by the bonds of affection and love for the continuance of the creation. Salutations to you in your form of stupefaction.[16] Regarding that knowledge which is conversant with the five elements to be the true Self-knowledge (for which yogins strive), people approach you by knowledge! Salutations to you in your form of Knowledge! Your body is immeasurable. Your understanding and eyes are devoted to everything. You are infinite, being beyond all measures. Salutations to you in your form of vastness! You had assumed the form of a recluse with matted locks on head, staff in hand, a long stomach, and having your begging bowl for your quiver. Salutations to you in your form of Brahma.[17] You bearest the trident, you are the lord of the celestials, you have three eyes, and you are high-souled. Your body is always besmeared with ashes, and your phallic emblem is always turned upwards. Salutations to you in your form of Rudra! The half-moon forms the ornament of your forehead. You have snakes for the holy thread circling your neck. You are armed with Pinaka and trident. Salutations to your form of Fierceness! You are the soul of all creatures. You are the Creator and the Destroyer of all creatures. You are without wrath, without enmity, without affection. Salutations to you in your form of Peace! Everything is in you. Everything is from you. Thyself art Everything. Everywhere art you. You are always the All. Salutations to you in your form as Everything! Salutations to you whose work is the universe, to you that art the soul of the universe, to you from whom has sprung the universe, to you that art the dissolution of all things, to you that are beyond the five (elements that constitute all things)! Salutations to you that art the three worlds, to you that art above the three worlds! Salutations to you that art all the directions! You are all and you are the one receptacle of All. Salutations to you, O divine Lord, O Vishnu, and O eternal origin of all the worlds! You, O Hrishikesa, art the Creator, you are the Destroyer, and you are invincible. I cannot behold that heavenly form in which you are displayed in the Past, Present, and the Future. I can, however, behold truly your eternal form (as manifest in your works). You have filled heaven with your head, and the earth with your feet: with your prowess you have filled the three worlds. You are Eternal and you pervadest everything in the universe. The directions are your arms, the Sun is your eye, and prowess is your vital fluid. You are the lord of all creatures. You standest, shutting up the seven paths of the Wind whose energy is immeasurable. They are freed from all feats that worship you, O Govinda of unfading prowess, you that art attired in yellow robes of the colour of the Atasi flower.[18] Even one bending of the head unto you, O Krishna, is equal to the completion of ten Horse-sacrifices. The man that has performed ten Horse-sacrifices is not freed from the obligation of rebirth. The man, however, that bows to Krishna escapes rebirth. They that have Krishna for their vow, they that think of Krishna in the night, and upon rising from sleep, may be said to have Krishna for their body. Those people (after death) enter Krishna’s self even as libations of clarified butter sanctified with mantras enter the blazing fire. Salutations to you that dispellest the fear of hell, to you, O Vishnu, that art a boat unto them that are plunged amid the eddies of the ocean represented by worldly life! Salutations to you, O God, that art the Brahmana’s self, to you that art the benefactor of Brahmanas and kine, to you that art the benefactor of the universe, to you that art Krishna and Govinda! The two syllables Hari constitute the pecuniary stock of those that sojourn through the wilderness of life and the medicine that effectually cures all worldly, predilections, besides being the means that alleviate sorrow and grief.[19] 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 be destroyed! I seek your protection and am devoted to you, desirous of obtaining a happy end O you of eyes like lotus petals, O best of gods, do you think of what will be for my good! Thyself without origin, O Vishnu, you are the origin of Knowledge and Penances. Thus art you praised! O Janardana, thus worshipped by me in the Sacrifice constituted by speech (alone), be, O god, gratified with me! The Vedas are devoted to Narayana. Penances are devoted to Narayana. The gods are devoted to Narayana. Everything is always Narayana!'"

Vaisampayana continued, "Having uttered these words, Bhishma, with mind concentrated upon Krishna, said, ’salutations to Krishna!' and bowed unto him. Learning by his Yoga prowess of the devotion of Bhishma, Madhava, otherwise called Hari, (entering his body) bestowed upon him heavenly knowledge compassing the Past, the Present, and the Future, and went away. When Bhishma became silent, those utterers of Brahma (that sat around him), with voices choked in tears, adored that high-souled chief of the Kurus in excellent words. Those foremost of Brahmanas uttered the praises of Krishna also, that first of Beings, and then continued in soft voices to commend Bhishma repeatedly. Learning (by his Yoga powers) of the devotion of Bhishma towards him, that foremost of Beings, viz., Madhava, suddenly rose from his seat and ascended on his car, Kesava and Satyaki proceeded on one car. On another proceeded those two illustrious princes, viz., Yudhishthira and Dhananjaya. Bhimasena and the twins rode on a third; while those bulls among men, Kripa and Yuyutsu, and that scorcher of foes, Sanjaya of the Suta caste, proceeded on their respective cars, each of which looked like a town. And all of them proceeded, causing the earth to tremble with the rattle of their chariot-wheels. That foremost of men, as he proceeded, cheerfully listened to the speeches, fraught with his praise, that were uttered by the Brahmanas. The slayer of Kesi, with gladdened heart, saluted the people that waited (along the streets) with joined hands and bent heads."

Footnotes and references:


The Supreme Being is called here and elsewhere Hansa, i.e., swan, because as the swan is supposed to transcend all winged creatures in the range of its flight, so the Supreme Being transcends all creatures in the universe. He is called That, as in the Vedic formula of Praise, "You are That," meaning, "You are inconceivable and incapable of being described in words."


Created things have attributes. It is Brahma only that has no attributes, in the sense that no attributes with which we are familiar can be affirmed of him.


The Vaks are the mantras; the Anuvaks are those portions of the Vedas which are called Brahmanas; the Nishads are those portions of the Vedic ritual which lead to an acquaintance with the gods. The Upanishads are those portions which treat exclusively of the knowledge of the Soul.


Quadruple soul, i.e., Brahma, Jiva, Mind, and Consciousness. The four names under which the Supreme Being is adored by the faithful are Vasudeva, Sankarsana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha.


Penances are ever present in you, in the sense you are never without them, penances constituting your essence. Performed by creatures, they live in your limbs, in the sense that penances performed are never lost.


In ancient India, the Rishis living in the woods got their fire by rubbing two sticks together. These they called Arani. Brahma on earth is explained by Nilakantha to mean the Vedas, the Brahmanas, and the Sacrifices.


These are the twelve Adityas or chief gods.


You are pure Knowledge and resident beyond the darkness of ignorance. I bow to you not in any of those forms in which you are ordinarily adored but in that form of pure light which Yogins only can behold by spiritual sight.


The five libations are Dhana, Karambha, Parivapa, and water. The seven woofs are the seven mantras (Ccandas) predominating in the Vedic hymns, such as Gayatri, etc.


The Prajapatis who are the creators of the universe performed a sacrifice extending for a thousand years. The Supreme Being appeared in that sacrifice as an act of grace to the sacrificers.


Sandhis are those changes of contiguous vowels (in compounding two words) that are required by the rules of euphony. Akshara is literally a character or letter; word made up of characters or letters.


The manifest is the body. The Rishis seek your unmanifest self within the body, in their own hearts. Kshetra is buddhi or intelligence. The Supreme Being is called Kshetrajna because he knows every mind. Intelligence or mind is one of his forms.


The sixteen attributes are the eleven senses and the five elements in their subtle forms called Mahabhutas. Added to this is Infinity. The Supreme Being, according to the Sankhya doctrine, is thus the embodiment of the number seventeen. Your form as conceived by the Sankhyas, i.e., your form as Number.


In cases of those that are reborn, there is always a residuum of sin and merit for which they have, in their earthly life, to suffer and enjoy. In the case, however, of those that have betaken themselves to a life of renunciation the great endeavour is to exhaust this residuum.


i.e. that which is chewed, that which is sucked, that which is licked, and that which is drunk.


All creatures are stupefied by love and affection. The great end which the Yogins propose to themselves is to tear those bonds rising superior to all the attractions of the flesh to effect their deliverance or emancipation from rebirth.


i.e. Brahmacarin.


Linum usitatissimun.


Samsara is the world or worldly life characterised by diverse attachments. Reflection on Hari frees one from those attachments. Or, Samsara may mean the repeated deaths and births to which the unemancipated soul is subject. Contemplation of the divine Being may prevent such repeated births and deaths by leading to emancipation.


This concludes Section XLVIII of Book 12 (Shanti Parva) of the Mahabharata, of which an English translation is presented on this page. This book is famous as one of the Itihasa, similair in content to the eighteen Puranas. Book 12 is one of the eighteen books comprising roughly 100,000 Sanskrit metrical verses.

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