Sunday, December 30, 2012

the great bhisma

Verse 1.8: There are personalities like you, Bhīṣma, Karṇa, Kṛpa, Aśvatthāmā, Vikarṇa and the son of Somadatta called Bhūriśravā, who are always victorious in battle.

Here, for the first time, we are introduced to the personality of Bhisma. Bhisma was the grandfather of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas. His prowess was legendary and he was very righteous.

His name was originally Devavrata but he was given the name Bhisma upon taking a vow to always remain celibate throughout his life. During Devavrata's youth, his father, King Shantanu, wanted to marry a fisherwoman and asked for her hand in marriage. The fisherwoman's father, although happy, objected on the grounds that no grandsons of his would ever get claim to the throne since Devavrata was already the heir. The King morosely left and did not tell Devavrata. Devavrata noticing the sadness in his father's demeanour, found out about the situation and at once took an oath to remain celibate and give up his claim to the throne so that his father could be happy. His father, being so pleased with him, blessed Bhisma with the boon of being able to choose his time of death.

Bhisma, had also vowed to serve whoever sat on the throne and so due to this promise he was fighting on the side of the Kauravas. It was with great internal pain and displeasure that Bhisma fulfilled this duty, as he loved the Pandavas greatly due to their love for Krsna and morality. In fact, he vowed that he would not kill any of the five Pandava brothers which annoyed Duryodhana greatly.

This brings us back to the verse for today. Despite having such great warriors on his side that were, as Duryodhana tells us here, always victorious, it means nothing. The goal of bhakti is to serve Krsna in a favourable and loving mood. Here, with the exception of Bhisma, the rest of these personalities were not trying to serve Krsna but were trying to serve the senses of Duryodhana. And what was the result? They were all defeated.

Similarly, when we try to satisfy our own senses and go against the blissful tenants of bhakti, we too will feel defeated. Therefore, we should always try to absorb ourselves in hearing and remembering such narrations. They serve to teach us how we can become better bhakti yogis.

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