Feb 11: Bhishmacharya

11 Feb

Sadhana is the path and ‘Sadhya’ is the goal.  The ultimate goal is God realization. Interestingly, when Mahans speak about God Realization, they say it ca cannot be explained by words and is beyond description and hence it cannot be really comprehended by reading books or by having it imparted as mere knowledge. Then how can perceive that state when it cannot be comprehended and is beyond imagination? It is verily when that very goal desires to let the seeker experience the state that one can really experience it; not by one’s own dint and this is ‘grace’ – that He showers through the Sadguru. 

After a short round of introductions, Sri Narayananji from Bostondelivered a beautiful lecture on Bhishmacharya, in view of Bheeshmashtami that fell on the 11th February 2011.

The Eleventh canto of Srimad Bhagavatam speaks about how a true devotee of the Lord celebrates His Leelas. These Leelas are not confined to the ones performed during His incarnation, but also the ones that He does till date – about how He showers His grace and takes care of their own lives, instant by instant.  The Bhagavatha attributes every event in his life as a divine leela of Lord Krishna, not being a small boy in Brindavan but being as a small boy right in his own heart and as a small boy in his home as Srimad Bhagavatham. He thus extols every small incident in his life as the divine grace of the Lord. It is this quality of a Bhagavatha that is indeed liked by the Lord.

In Ajamila Charitra in Bhagavatam, after the episode at Ajamila’s, the Yama Dhutas go to Yama Loka and ask their Master for a clarification for about the events that happened in the residence of Ajamila. King Yama first meditated on the Lord and then replied to his servile followers that there is a very secretive dharma called Bhagavatha Dharma and there are twelve people who are conversant with this dharma Lord Brahma, Narada, Shiva, Sanatkumaras, Kapila, Manu, Prahlada, Janaka, Bheesama,Bali, Sage Sukha and Yama Himself.

When he annotated the path of Bhagavatha Dharma, he says “Guhyam Vishudham Durbhodam”. One would believe that this path is one of the easiest and simplest paths to attain the Lord since it involves chanting the Divine Names of the Lord even without thinking the Lord. On the contrary, King Yama turned it down and said that this path is indeed the most difficult [Durbhodham] to comprehend and also very secretive [Guhyam].  Right in the dhyana sloka where we meditate on Sage Suka and Veda Vyasa- “Purana Guhyam” which means Bhagavatha Purana is a very secretive purana. When Bhagavata Dharma (shown by Bhagavatam) is so open and clear in stating its import, what is so secretive about it?

In Gita Govindam, Sri Jayadeva says – “Keshava Keli Rahasyam”. He sings about the various leelas of the Lord and yet terms them as ‘secretive’!

There are three Granthas that are considered to give us the greatest truths. They are called “Rahasyatraya”. They are Brahmasutra, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita. What is so Guhya about the three granthas?

When Sage Narada initiates Dhruva into ‘Dwadasaakshari’, he openly gives the Mantra to Dhruva (and to us through Bhagavatam!) and yet terms it as ‘extremely secretive’.(‘paramo guhyam’)

What is the meaning of secret here?
Something may be right in front of our eyes, exposed, as it were, and yet remain secret, if we don’t understand the utility or meaning of it, is it not?  The moment we relish its import and utility, the ‘rahasya’ is revealed.  – and that is the ‘secret’!

Yama identifies only 12 people as knowing Bhagavata Dharma, and interestingly, Bhagavatam is the story of these Bhagavatas! One in the dozen shows Bhagavata Dharma in a very beautiful way – Bheeshmacharya.

It is on Bhishmashtami that Bhishma shed his mortal coil and attained the holy feet of the Lord. When the Sun is oriented towards the North, it is Uttarayana.  It is said that Beeshma waited for the Uttarayana (which starts on the Rathasaptami day, which is the seventh day of the bright fortnight of lunar calendar).

A staunch keeper of his oath, Bheeshma demonstrated how a devotee should lead a life, by keeping up the promise of Bhakti and devotion. He had immense confidence [Drida Vishwasa] on the Lord throughout his life and that’s the key takeaway from his life. He had an inherent love for Krishna; he was from the same clan asKrishna-  He was the son of Mother Ganga which is verily the water from the feet of Lord Krishna!

Beeshma’s bhakti was concealed all throughout his life. It was once in his lifetime that he depicted his love for the Lord and it happened when Dharmaputra was performing a sacrifice. During the sacrifice, Shisupala started to bad mouth Lord Krishna. Beeshma stopped him and chided Shishupala expounding onKrishna’s glories – but he did it in a Asathsabha and hence he stopped short since it was not a satsang. He then understood the heart of the Lord that he wanted take Shisupala unto himself.

He was eventually waiting to pour his love for Lord Krishna and that is why he patiently waited for Lord Krishna to come right in front of him before he shed his mortal coil. That’s the truth behind Beeshma waiting for Uttarayana was only for the world, while truly, he was waiting for Lord Krishna to come and see him. This is akin to how Vritrasura concealed his love for Bhagawan and he never revealed it. Eventually Vritrasura demonstrated his love in four verses and Beeshmacharya exhibited his love for the Lord in eleven verses, in the midst of a satsang of great devotees, along with Dharmaputra who was the epitome of all Dharma, with Lord Krishna who being the end of all Dharma and along with all Devas, Yakshas, Gandharvas and Kinnars and Beeshma lying on the bed of arrows.

Beeshma called out all the Pandavas and revealed that Lord Krishna was indeed the Lord, whom the Pandavas were thinking as a mere cow-boy friend.

“Yam manyasae mathuleymam priyam mithram suhrutamam
Akaroho sasivam dootam sourudhadada saratim
Sarvathmana sama dhrusho hrudhyathasyana hankruthae
Thath krutham mathi vaishamyam niravadhyasya na  kvachith”
[Srimad Bhagavatham 1.9.20 and 1.9.21]

Beeshma summoned the Pandavas and showed the Lord to them who is controlling the entire universe, the end of all quests, who is none but their uncle’s son, their most dear friend, a well-wisher and a charioteer.

One who leads someone to the Lord is indeed a Guru in which ever form they may be. Beesha now became the Guru to the Pandavas since he showed them the Lord. Dharmaputra, the personification of Dharma, knew that Beeshma was ready to take their questions and requested him to expound on all Dharmas.

“Dhaana Dharmaan raaja Dharmaan Moksha dharmaan vibhaagashah”
“Stri Dharmaan Bhagavat Dharmaan Samaasavyaasayogatah” [Srimad Bhagavatham 1.9.27]

“Dharmaarthakaamamokshaamscha sahopayan yathaa munae|
“Nanakyaanaethihaaseshu varnayaamaasa tatvavit||” [Srimad Bhagavatha 1.9.28]

Bhishma beautifully expounded on the different Dharmas, the Dhaana Dharma, Raja Dharma, Moksha Dharma, Stri Dharma and Bhagavatha Dharma with reference to the Vedas and the Ramayana and also by taking excerpts from the eighteen Puranas.  He also expounded on the four Purusharthas in detail. Dharmaputra not satisfied with Bhishma’s questions finally asked a question as to what it the supreme dharma of all and that dharma that needs to be followed by everyone.

“Ko Dharma Sarva dharmanam bhavata paramo mathaha |
Kim Japan Muchyate Jantur janma samsara bandhanath ||”

Bhishma beautifully replied that the supreme path of God Realization is indeed the path of chanting the divine names of the Lord and bestowed with thousands names as Vishnu Shashranama and by chanting the Divine Names it would lead one to the holy feet of Lord Krishna. One can satiate all the desires by chanting the Divine Names of the Lord along with the holy feet of the Lord.

After expounding on all the dharmas, Bhishma was satisfied that he had given all his discourses and was getting ready to depart his mortal coil and was getting ready to present himself in full form. In his momentous hour of leaving his body, even though Lord Krishna was standing in front of Bheeshma with a peacock feather on his crown, a flute in his hand and his face wearing a beautiful smile and his hands on his hips, Bheeshma however saw the beautiful form of Vishnu,with four hands and clad in a golden pitambara.

“Krishne lasatbita-pute chathurbhuje purah sthite amilitadrig vyadharayat”
“visudhaya dharanaya hatasubhaha tadikshayaivasu gata-yudhau vyathaha”                                         [Srimad Bhagavatham 1.9.30 and 1.9.31]

If we see in the life-history of Dhruva, he was immersed in the penance with the form of the Lord that Sage Narada had inscribed in his heart.  He was enjoying the form of the Lord to the extent that when the Lord came in front of him, he did not even open his eyes. He was in the divine ecstasy enjoying the form of the Lord within himself and so the Lord had to shake him and wake him up. The moment he removed the form of the Lord from Dhruva’s heart, he immediately woke up and was able to have the darshan of the Lord right in front of him. But in Bheeshmacharya’s case, he did not attempt to meditate on the Lord at all, being a Yogi of the greatest order. When he lay on the bed of arrows, he did not even close or wink his eye and his eyes were fully focused on Lord Krishna and got ready to do a beautiful stuthi on Lord Krishna in eleven verses, which is the epitome of Sadhya Bhakti and hence it starts with the term – “Ithi”. He embarked on the song of praise on Lord Krishna by saying –

“itimatir upakalpita vitrishna bhagavati satvatapungave vibhumnih
svasukham upagate kvacith vihartum prakritim upeyushi yadbhavapravahah”   [Srimad Bhagavatham 1.9.32]

 The term ‘Ithi’ connotes ‘thus’. In general the term ‘Ataha” is used to start any great verse and great compositions start with an auspicious term. Bhagavad Gita begins with “Dharmaha”, Srimad Bhagavatham starts off with “Janmadyasya” which is verily the Brahma Sutra, Ramayana beings with “Thapah”, Kunti embarked on her stuti with the term “Namaste”, Gajendra Stuti “Namo Bhagavathae Thubyam”.

The reason Bheeshma starts the stuti with the term ‘thus’ is because he is winding down all his thoughts, actions and other occupational duties. Now that the Mahabharata war is over which is a battle between divine [satvika] and demonic [rajasa] people, and with divine people finally with triumph, it is now time to offer myself to you, says Bheeshma.

 I have followed all the dharmas in my life and today I have the fruit of all Dharmas standing in front of me – Dharmasya Prabhurachyutah”. Having been a Yogeshwara – practicing strict vows like celibacy and the Ashtanga Yoga all my life, I am now here to enjoy the fruit of all Sadhanas.’

 He then offered himself to the Lord by offering his mind to the Lord. The moment we understand that the Lord is beyond one’s intellect, it is easy to attain the Lord.  He reminisces all the divine leelas of the Lord in his life , where He captivated Bhishma at his first sight. He also recollected the leelas of the Lord during the Mahabharatha war.

“bheeshma pratignya palana thae mangalam sukshma swarropa sundarathae mangalam” – A beautiful Mangalam kirtan of our Guru Maharaj, where he says “you protected the vow of Bheeshma by breaking your own vow”

He remembers the Gopis who are the greatest Bhagavathas, the epitome of Bhakti. ‘Let me think of them since they were in constant thought of you and they finally got merged in you.’

 lalitagativilasa valguhasa pranaya nirikshana kalpitorumanah
kritamanu krita vatya unmadandhahprakritim agan kila yasya gopa-vadhvah

He recollects all the divine leelas of the Lord since by fondly reminiscing the leelas of the Lord, will one focus their mind on the Lord. He is able to think about the Lord since he had led a life thinking about Lord Krishna always.

Lord Krishna thus takes Bhishmacharya unto him. Yoga means ‘communion’. He was a Yogeshwara not because he performed the Ashtanga Yoga but because his communion with the Lord was so touching. His submission to the Lord was so beautiful and divine. That’s why Bhishma was called as “Bhishma Yogeshwara”. He was a greatest devotee of the Lord.

The satsang ended with prayers and Namasankirtan after reminiscing about Bhishmacharya.

3 Responses to “Feb 11: Bhishmacharya”

  1. Subramaniam November 28, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    A Very beautiful and informative write up on Srimad Bhagavatam.
    May GOD bless you and I pray he will stimulate and inspire you to continue extoling the divine message of Srimad Bhagavatam.
    A million thanks to you deep from my heart

  2. jayasree December 1, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    Wonderful write up

  3. sujatha February 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    Radhe Radhe!
    Wonderful elucidation. Its so nice to be able to reminisce the telecon satsangs! Thanks a bunch for the transcripts!

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