The twenty second of Jan 2010 was indeed an auspicious day. It was Ratha Sapthami. It was on this day that Bhismacharya attained the holy feet of Lord Sri Krishna. In Srimad Bhagavatam, the ninth chapter of the first canto talks about this wonderful event. There is an interesting pattern in Srimad Bhagavatam. The ninth chapter in every canto is indeed unique and precious. The ninth chapter of the first canto expounds on the Bheeshma Stuthi. The direction of the sun is oriented in the northern direction and this is called Uttarayan. Uttarayan starts from today, the twenty second Jan. Before Bheeshmacharya attained the holy feet of Lord Sri Krishna, he recited eleven verses praising Lord Sri Krishna which was also a wonderful prayer to Lord Krishna.
The importance of Satsang cannot be over emphasized. The minds [bhavas] should all be united and one should not bother the physical presence of individuals in a satsang.
Sant Kabirdas a great saint from India, had sung the importance and vitality of Satsangs.
He says that satsangs are the most important relationship that one should maintain and it has to be maintained irrespective of any distractions or any diversions. He substantiates this wonderful concept with a beautiful example. When we buy a very precious ornament, made of pure gold, and when we encounter damage in this gold necklace, we spend a lot of time and money to get it repaired. Whereas on the other hand, if the ornament is made of not so expensive material, we don’t spend any time and money to get it repaired when it wears off.
Sant Kabirdas equates satsang to that of the gold ornament. We have to face all the challenges while one is in a satsang. We need to find the ways and means to make sure we don’t depart from the satsang and we should take all necessary steps to sustain the relationships in a satsang and no excuse is a big excuse for a person to completely depart from a satsang. Kali which is called as the Iron age poses a lot of challenges to come out of satsang which is prowess of Kali Yuga. But by the power of Mahamantra and by the sheer power of discrimination we should make sure that the trivial issues do not separate one from the satsangs. Such is the greatness of satsangs.
Today being the Rathasaptami day, which is the seventh day of Lunar calendar and it is today when the great Yogishwara, Bhismacharya decided to leave his mortal coils and to unite the spirit with Lord Sri Krishna. Lord Sri Krishna was also devoted to Bhismacharya. One may ask as to how the Lord is devoted to his devotee? We have seen in Srimad Bhagavatam at various instances that the lord admits that devotees are as dear to him as he is to the devotee. In fact our Guru Maharaj calls our Takurji as “Bhakta Bhaktaha” and this translates to “devotee of the devotee”. He always fulfills the innumerable wishes of his devotees even if it conflicts with his own dharma of truth.
Let’s reminisce how beautifully Lord Sri Krishna bestowed his grace on Bhismacharya. We all know that after the Mahabharata war, Bhismacharya was lying in the bed of arrows and he let the world know that he was waiting for the auspicious time [punya kala] for the sun orienting its direction northwards [Uttarayan] for departing from his body. Deep inside his heart he was waiting for Lord Krishna to bless him with his darshan during his last moments of his life out of sheer compassion to fructify all the austerities and penance [tapas] that he performed all his life as a bachelor [brahmachari] and a Yogishwara. He very well knew that the lord would not forsake him and that he would certainly bestow him with darshan, akin to how Lord Sri Rama gave his vision [darshan] to Sabari before she departed from the mortal coils in the same way. So Bhismacharya was patiently waiting and he had the firmness of a devotee [bhakta] not to ask directly to the lord and was waiting for the Lord to see how he was going to present himself in front of him. The lord also acted in the same way as his devotee.
Since Bhismacharya did not directly call upon Lord Sri Krishna, the lord also decided that he will not use that as a direct reason for giving him his darshan. Let’s see the small prank played by our Lord Sri Krishna. After the war culminated, there was confusion amidst the Pandavas. Before the onset of the war, Arjuna was perplexed. We know that Lord Sri Krishna gave the Bhagavat Gita to completely clarify all the concerns of Arjuna. After the war, it was now Yudishtira [Dharmaputra] to be disturbed. He went to the Lord who was then getting ready to depart to Dwaraka and Yudishtira wanted to delay the lord’s departure for some reason. We have to remember here that whole of Dwaraka was eagerly waiting for the Lord’s arrival in Dwaraka after the end on Mahabharatha war. Udhistira cited his doubt to make Lord Krishna stay in Kurukshetra for some more time.
He says, Oh Lord Krishna! I cannot sit on the throne which is stained by the blood of all my relatives and all my grandsir’s. I am not unsure about the righteous path and am confused over the path of dharma.” Lord Sri Krishna thought that he probably had to bestow Yudistira with another Bhagavat Gita but decided not to do so. He decided to give him a better option. He told Yudistira that the best person to seek knowledge on dharma is not him but the great Dharmatma, who is none other than Bhismacharya. He goes on to say that when someone is in a disturbed state of mind, it is verily the sadhs who can give the peace of mind.
The lord said “When Arjuna was confused; I thought that my discourse would make his mind light and devoid of any doubts. But I later realized that he was all the more confused and worried.”
So he told Yudishtira that he was going to lead him to a satsang which was a divine communion with a great devotee of the lord. That great devotee was Bhismacharya. So the entire retinue now proceeded towards Bhismacharya. He was lying on a bed of arrows with no food, water and he was sustaining his life only by sheer divine grace. The moment Bhismacharya saw Lord Krishna along with Yudistira, his face wore a smile. He understood that Lord Krishna had given him darshan. Lord Krishna requested Bhismacharya to clarify Udhistira’s questions on dharma.
Lord Krishna had thus created this situation and used this as a pretext to come before Bhismacharya. He wanted to show the greatness of Bhisma. Infact he told Yudishtira that when people are about to depart this world, they would disclose the supreme of all secrets which they have been guarding all their lives. This is akin to the father giving all his wealth to his son only during his last moments. The lord advised him to clarify all his questions related to the highest dharma from Bhisma and Udhistira was very happy to do so.
Later, all the Pandavas and Draupathi arrived at the Kurukshetra battle field where Bhismacharya was lying on the bed of arrows. Bhismacharya’s eyes fell upon the lord, the Pandavas and Draupathi and he became very emotional.. Bhismacharya started off by saying that for even wise people some things are not apparent. He cited Draupathi as an example. She was born from a sacrificial fire as a daughter of a great king. She later got married to five valiant princes and Lord Krishna was her family friend. It is to be noted that Lord Krishna even washed the feet of the guests of Pandavas. Such was the love and compassion the lord had for the Pandavas. He even drove the chariot for Arjuna. But she had to go through hardships that one could ever imagine. Bhismacharya in a perplexed tone said that this indeed worried him.
Finally raising his hand he said “Sarvam kala krutham manyae” It is all the play of time [kala] and none other than Lord Krishna can even comprehend this. Time is no different from Lord Krishna as the lord appears as time outside.
Yudishtira then started to voice his concerns on dharma and requested Bhismacharya to expound on Dharma. Hearing his question, Bhisma started to explain all the dharmas –
Raja dharma – The dharma for politics
Moksha dharma – The dharma for different stages of one’s life as a student, as a house-holder
Varma Dharma – The dharma that one needs to adhere by someone who is ready for renunciation
Ashrama dharma – The dharma for a renunciant
Bhisma also elucidated on the prayachitha dharma [pavana dharma]. This is the dharma or the set of guidelines that one needs to follow if one commits a mistake. In Sanatana Dharma if one falls back from dharma, there is this wonderful dharma called prayachitha dharma that restores one in his mainstream. He also talked about this exceptional dharma.
After patiently listening to the discourse on dharma by Bhisma, Yudishtira, who is the very embodiment of dharma then asked Bhisma to expound on the supreme of all dharmas. Is this a valid question? Can one ever do a comparison between dharmas. Every dharma is unique in its own way. It was only after Udhistira put forth this question that he said that the supreme of all dharmas is verily chanting the divine names of Lord Vishnu. It is superior to any other dharma. It is indeed greatest of all dharma, jnana and bhakti yogas. The chanting of divine names of the lord exists independently of other dharmas. All the great commentators of Bhagavad Gita and Vishnu Sahasarnama gleefully point out of the very fact that chanting the divine names of the lord is indeed the greatest of all dharmas in the age of Kali.
Human mind thinks that if a path has lot of intricacies then it is a supreme. Human mind thinks that if a path is rare then it is great. The same mind also thinks that a simple path cannot be a great path.
Adi Shankara justifies why the path of nama sankirtan is indeed supreme. There are six reasons he cites to substantiate the greatness of this path. Firstly there is no violence involved. It is easy to perform, for it has no ‘apeksha’ (anticipation/ expectations) on six fronts – himsa [violence], purushantara [irrespective of caste/creed], desha [place], kala [time], dravyantara [no material cost], niyama [no rules]. There are absolutely no rules.
Namasankirtan will unite everybody. It will unite countries, people, cultures and races. People will unite and come together irrespective of their religion, tradition and philosophies they follow and everyone will be united by the bond of love which will be further strengthened by the chanting of the divine names of the lord.
The battle of Kurukshertra took only twenty years before the start of the Kali Yuga which is about 5200 years ago. So Bhismacharya gave a fitting dharma which logically, philosophically fulfills the principles of Bhagavad Gita. Srimad Bhagavatam fulfills Bhagavad Gita and it explains Gita with lot of relish by quoting examples and anecdotes. At the end of Mahabharatha war, Udhistira was bestowed with the thousand names of the lord, the Vishnu Sahasarnama. The person who requested for it is the Dharma Putra and the person who gave it is Dharma Swaroopa, the very embodiment of dharma, Bhismacharya. The witness to this wonderful episode was none other than the end of all dharma, Lord Sri Krishna.
It was in such a beautiful way that the chanting of the divine names of the lord was introduced to the world in such an auspicious setting and amidst a holy group. After hearing this, Udhistira was completely satiated and relieved.
Sage Veda Vyasa very joyfully included the divine name chanting in Mahabharatha.
Satsang brings in the aura of peace, ushers into clarity and keeps our intellect intact so that we can enjoy happiness and love of the lord.
He also sang eleven verses extolling the glory of Lord Sri Krishna. Some numbers in Sanatana Dharma are indeed holy. The number seven is indeed holy. Today is the seventh day in the lunar calendar and it is on this day he sang the praise for the lord. The number eleven, hundred and eight and eighteen are also very sacred. They are very special because the lord used them to create the universe. Human beings are made up of seven layers. Time is divided into seven days in a week. That is verily the reason we perform Srimad Bhagavata Sapthaham for every seven days. The number eleven signifies the following: – Bhisma being an exponent of yoga, an Yogishwara, the first five denotes the sense organs, the second five attribute to the five organs of action and lastly the inner controller being the mind. So the ten sense organs including the mind add up to eleven. So in his beautiful Stuthi, he offers his organs one by one to the holy feet of Lord Krishna.
“Ithi mathi rupakalpitha vithrushna bhagavathi shathvatha pungavae vibhumni”
“svasukhamupagathae kvachithviharthum prakruthimupaeyushi yathbhavapravahaha”
He starts off with a wonderful verse, ithi mathihi upakalpita vithrushna
The first thing that one needs to do is to free the mind from the daily trifles and offer the mind to the highest which is verily the Lord’s divine names and the holy feet of Lord Krishna. Sage Sukha also conveys the same principle to King Parikshit. He says, for a person caught in this mundane world, there are so many things to dwell upon. But for a person who is very clear of the purpose of the life, his mind becomes one-pointed towards the holy feet of Lord Narayana. As long as he has one-pointed devotion to the lord, then this world will never have an impact on him. So Bhismacharya says that he is offering his mind to the holy feet of Lord Krishna. My mind is akin to the bride and beautifully says that the lord is the bride-groom and requests the lord to marry his mind, who grew up along with him and embellished it.
He says my lord who is the lord of the universe, please marry this little girl called mind. This girl is completely absolved of other desires [vithrushna], but for the desire of uniting with you. Mathihi means the mind. Bhismacharya offers his mind to the lord, which is completely eschewed of all desires. ’Iti’ refers to dust since mind has become mature by experiences. The mature bride is now ready to join her bride-groom and make sure she lives with you eternally.
Bhisma continued and said “Oh my lord! You are happy by yourself and don’t need any external agency to make you happy. You are completely self satisfied and you are bliss personified. But since my mind wants to dwell in you, please accept it. We know that you are vibhumni and leader of all devotees [shasvatha pungavae] and so you have to accept this little devotee – the mind in your retinue”.
In his final verse, he reminisce the immense love of Gopis and pleads to the lord by saying “I may not be a Gopi. I know the greatness of the love that the Gopis had for you, my Lord. I beseech as a Gopi to take me unto your holy feet.” When we request the lord as an individual, the lord may or might not respond. But when the same request is made through a Bhagavatha, he can never say a no.
“Laliltha gathi vilasa valguhasa pranaya nirikshana kalpithorumaanaha”h
The Gopi prema was the highest of all love [prema]. So all along it appeared as though Bhisma was a very strict person with good intellect and a great Yogishwara. But he expressed his wonderful love and respect for the Gopis which he never disclosed it outside. He completely hid it and during the last phase of his life, he couldn’t contain it and told the lord that this is what he aspired for. He goes on and prays to the lord that if at all he is destined to be born again, he prayed to the lord that he be born as a Gopi.
In the name of the Gopi, he requested the lord to please accept his mind.
The satsang ended with prayers and Nama Sankirtan.