|AHYMSIN NEWSLETTER, ISSUE - June 2019|
Blessing of a Death Conqueror
by Swami Veda
[This passage has been taken from the book titled Mahabharata’s Bhishma, Death Your Servant: Examples from a World Classic by Swami Veda Bharati, published by Himalayan Yoga Publications Trust in cooperation with New Age Books. This book is to be released in Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) on the 14th of July 2019].
In those days, and up to very recently in the history of Indian civilisation, no hostile acts were permitted at night. Soldiers picked up weapons only after morning prayers, which was a daily duty, and laid them down for evening prayers. In the night, enemies might even feast with each other on occasion.
Doffing their armour, the five Pandavas and Krishna, weapon-less, go to Bhishma and honour him by placing their heads at his feet, as if entering a refuge.
"Welcome, welcome to each of you." Bhishma addresses each one by name. "What service can I give you today that would be pleasing to you? I will do even the most difficult task for you with my whole self."
Yudhisthira says to him in a very loving and pitiful voice:
Bhishma replies, "There is no way that you could win while I am alive. I am telling you the truth, and you all know it yourselves. If you manage to defeat me, then, and only then, will you win the war. Therefore, organise your attack on me soon if you wish to gain victory in this war. I permit you, attack at your pleasure."
Yudhisthira asks again how they might go about doing this very thing which they have not failed in doing for so many days. Bhishma now counsels them seriously, "I do not fight someone who has thrown away his weapons, has fallen, has lost his armour or flag, is running away, is scared, or who says ‘I am yours.’ I do not fight a woman, someone with a woman's name, someone who is maimed, has only one child, or is an ignoble person.”
Readers of the Mahabharata will recall that Draupadi's brother, Shikhandi, was born a girl and had later become a boy. Bhishma always regarded him as a girl even though he was now a warrior fighting on the Pandava side. Bhishma advises Arjuna to place Shikhandi in front of the latter in the chariot and to shoot from behind Shikhandi so that Bhishma will not be able to return the attack. The Pandavas gratefully honour Bhishma, who has, through his counsel, taken initiation to enter the next world. The Pandavas return to their camp. Arjuna is in despair:
Thus Arjuna repeatedly echoes the earlier sentiments of The Bhagavad Gita 1.8. Krishna again uplifts Arjuna from the mire of depression, reminding him of his duty, so that the depressed mood of his friend and disciple does not disturb the Lord's divine plans for Bhishma.
The next day, in the battle, Arjuna follows Bhishma's advice and by the end of the day not two fingerbreadths of Bhishma's body are without an arrow sticking into them. Finally he falls. It is said, that at the moment of his fall, as he stumbles from his chariot, some divine force enters him. He becomes part of the divine essence so that when he falls, he does not touch the ground. The arrows stick, and he is supported on them. He sees that the sun is not yet in the right place for him to leave his body. A yogi waits for all the forces of the universe to be in a certain harmonious position with his own spirit before he drops the body. Because Bhishma knows the relationship of prana with the sun, and sees that the sun is not yet in the right place, he will not yet depart.
Published works of Swami Rama and Swami Veda Bharati are also available at other venues.