The Final Instructions of Grandfather Bhishma
Maharaja Yudhisthira then began to rule the kingdom under the direction of thetwice born brahmanas. After the coronation ceremony had been completed, KingYudhisthira approached Lord Krishna and offered the following prayers, ThroughYour grace, O Krishna, I have received this ancestral kingdom. O foremost ofthe Yadus, O lotus-eyed Lord, I repeatedly offer my humble obeisances unto you.You have been glorified as the Supreme Lord, one without a second. The greatsages and brahmanas know You by many names. Obeisances unto You, O Creator ofthe world. You are the soul of all universes, and You are the support of thismanifest creation. You are Vishnu, Hari and Krishna. You are the Lord ofVaikuntha and the foremost of all beings. Previously You have taken Your birthas Prishnigarbha, the son of Prishni and Sutapa. Another of Your names, O Lord,is Triyuga. You are the Lord of the senses and are, therefore, known asHrishikesha. You are the great swan, Hamsa Avatara; the boar, Varaha; and thehalf man, half lion, Nrisimhadeva. You are the sun, the moon and the firmament.You are the chief of the celestials, Indra, and You are the beginning, themiddle and the end of all creation. You are Dhruva, You are Garuda and You arethe great sage Kapila. You are the Supersoul in the heart of every livingbeing. Obeisances unto You, O Lord, who wield the Sarnga bow, the Sudarshanadiscus and the Kamodaki club. Hearing the pure glorification by KingYudhisthira, Lord Krishna smiled. That smile captivated the hearts of allpresent. The lotus eyed Lord then conversed with His pure devotee, gladdeningthe pious King’s heart.
Emperor Yudhisthira then instructed his brothers
Emperor Yudhisthira then instructed his brothers, Your bodies have beenscorched by the weapons of the enemy. You are greatly fatigued and needsufficient rest. Go to the palaces assigned to each of you and begin to enjoythis opulent kingdom. With the permission of the King, Maharaja Bhima thenentered the palace that was once the home of Duryodhana. It was very opulentand was filled with male and female servants. Arjuna then entered the palacethat formerly belonged to Duhshasana. This palace had a gateway that was madeof solid gold. Lord Krishna and Satyaki also took up their residence in thatopulent palace. Nakula and Sahadeva then entered the palaces that formerlybelonged to Durmashana and Durmukha. These palaces vied in opulence with theabodes of Kuvera.
After resting the night, King Yudhisthira came to Arjuna’s palace and greetedLord Krishna and his brother. In King Yudhisthira’s presence, Lord Krishnabegan to glorify Grandfather Bhishma, That foremost descendent of the Kururace, Bhishma, is lying on a bed of arrows about to pass away. He is alwaysthinking of Me. Because of this, My mind is also fixed on him. The sound of hisbowstring and the slap of his palms, even Indra was unable to bear. I canremember how he vanquished all the great Kings at the svayamvara ceremony ofthe princesses of Kashi. I am thinking of him who fought with his martial gurufor twenty three days continuously. Parashurama was unable to subdue him. I amthinking of him who took his birth as the son of Ganga. He became the intimatestudent of Vashistha Muni, and because of this, he is the veritable abode ofthe four Vedas and their branches. There is nothing that is not known to him. OYudhisthira, I think that at this time you should approach him and inquireabout anything that you wish to know. Time is short. When the sun set itscourse in the northern regions, the son of Ganga will leave his body and attainto the higher regions. Before that happens, you should approach him andquestion him concerning the rulership of this kingdom. Agreeing to the proposal of Lord Krishna, King Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna,Nakula and Sahadeva ascended their chariots and made their way in procession toKurukshetra. At that time Maharaja Bhishma was surrounded by the foremost ofthe sages and rishis. By his side was Vyasadeva and Narada Muni. There wereother great sages present such as Devala, Asita, Sumantu, Jaimini, Maitreya,Chyavana, Vashistha, Sanat Kumara, Kapila, Valmiki and Lomasa. There was alsoParashurama, Pulaha, Kashyapa, Pulastya, Parasara, Gautama and the great sageMarkandeya. Stretched out on a bed of arrows, that tiger among men was in raptconcentration on the transcendental form of the Lord. He was glorifying theLord with a cheerful and strong voice. O Krishna, Maharaja Bhishma prayed, O foremost of all beings, be pleasedwith my words praising Your glories. My Lord You are the only transcendentreality. You are the Supreme Lord, and I seek Your refuge with all my heart. OLord of all creatures, You are without beginning and without end. You gloriescannot be enumerated. Not even the great sages and rishis can know You fully.All the worlds and all created beings have their abode in You. Like jewelsstrung together on a thread, all things that have attributes reside in thee.You are called Hari, having a thousand hands, a thousand feet, a thousand eyesand a thousand crowns. Thou art called Narayana because You are the restingplace of all living beings. In all the Vedas, You are referred to as theSupreme Being of irresistible force. You are the Lord of those that are boundto You in faith and devotion. You have been born from Devaki and Vasudeva asfire is generated from two sticks. For one’s eternal salvation, the devoutworshipper, with mind withdrawn from all material objects, beholds You, OGovinda, in the core of the heart. O Lord of all creatures, I place myself inYour hands. In the Puranas You have been spoken of as the Purusha, as Brahma,and as Sankarshana. You are the greatest of all beings, and therefore, I adorethee. O my Lord, You are the panacea for all sorrow. Assuming the form of aboar, whose limbs were constituted by sacrifice, You raised the earth after ithad been submerged in the waters of devastation. Obeisances to You, My Lord, inYour form as all devouring time. The brahmanas are Your mouth, the kshatriyasare Your arms, the vaishyas are your belly and the shudras are Your legs. Fireconstitutes Your mouth. The heavens are the crown on Your head. The sky in Yournavel, and the earth is Your feet. The sun and moon are Your eyes, and thedifferent directions are Your ears. Although You are without origin, You arethe origin of this universe. The two syllables Hari constitute the sum andsubstance of the sojourn through the wilderness of life. Your holy name is themedicine that cures all worldly attachment. As truth is full of Vishnu, as theuniverse is full of Vishnu, as everything is full of Vishnu, so let my soul befull of Vishnu and my sins destroyed. I seek Your protection, O lotus eyedLord. Bhishma then became silent and the rishis and sages uttered words ofpraise for the dying Bhishma. At this time the Pandavas arrived at the field of Kurukshetra. They sawmountains of charred bodies scattered here and there, which were the funeralpyres of the slain warriors. The bones of the horses, elephants and humanbeings lay piled up like mountains. As they proceeded further, they came uponthe grandsire laying on a bed of arrows, like a fallen demigod. He wassurrounded by many sages, and because his consciousness was fixed on LordKrishna, he appeared very effulgent. The Pandavas and Lord Krishna descendedfrom their chariots. They offered obeisances unto the great sages present andunto their fallen grandfather. Lord Krishna stood at the feet of Bhishmadeva. The sons of Maharaja Pandu were sitting silently, overcome with affection fortheir dying grandfather. Seeing this, Bhishmadeva congratulated them withfeeling. There were tears of ecstasy in his eyes, for he was overwhelmed bylove and affection. Grandfather Bhishma exclaimed, Oh, what sufferings andinjustices you good souls suffered for being the sons of religion personified.You did not deserve to remain alive under those tribulations, yet you wereprotected by the brahmanas, Lord Krishna and religion. My daughter-in-lawKunti, upon the great King Pandu’s death, became a widow with many children,and therefore she suffered greatly. And when you were grown up she suffered agreat deal more because of Duryodhana’s actions. In my opinion, this is all dueto inevitable time, under whose control everyone in every planet is carried,just as the clouds are carried by the wind. O how wonderful is the influence ofinevitable time. It is irreversible+otherwise, how can there be reverses in thepresence of King Yudhisthira, the son of the demigod controlling religion;Bhima, the great fighter with the mace; the great bowman Arjuna with his mightyweapon Gandiva; and above all, the Lord, the direct well-wisher of thePandavas? O King, no one can know the plan of Lord Sri Krishna. Even thoughgreat philosophers inquire exhaustively, they are bewildered. O best among thedescendants of Bharata, I maintain, therefore, that all this is within the planof the Lord. Accepting the inconceivable plan of the Lord, you must follow it.You are now the appointed administrative head, and, my lord, you should nowtake care of those subjects who are rendered helpless. “This Sri Krishna is no other than the inconceivable, original Personality ofGodhead. He is the first Narayana, the Supreme Enjoyer. But He is movingamongst the descendants of King Vrishni just like one of us, and He isbewildering us with His self-created energy. O King, Lord Shiva, Narada, thesage amongst the demigods, and Kapila, the incarnation of Godhead, all knowvery confidentially about His glories through direct contact. O King, thatpersonality whom, out of ignorance only, you thought to be your maternalcousin, your very dear friend, well-wisher, counselor, messenger, benefactor,etc., is that very Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Being the absolutePersonality of Godhead, He is present in everyone’s heart. He is equally kindto everyone, and He is free from false ego of differentiation. Thereforewhatever He does is free from material inebriety. He is equibalanced. Yet,despite His being equally kind to everyone, He has graciously come before mewhile I am ending my life, for I am His unflinching servitor. The Personalityof Godhead, who appears in the mind of the devotee by attentive devotion andmeditation and by chanting of the holy name, releases the devotee from thebondage of fruitive activities at the time of his quitting the material body.May my Lord, who is four-handed and whose beautifully decorated lotus face,with eyes as red as the rising sun, is smiling, kindly await me at the momentwhen I quit this material body. Upon seeing His devotee about to leave his body, the Personality of Godhead,Lord Sri Krishna said, O Bhishma, I hope your mind is not in a clouded state.O best of eloquent men, I hope your limbs are not tortured by the pain fromthese arrows. Ordinarily, the smallest pin will produce pain for this body,what to speak of hundreds of arrows. Surely, however, pain can not afflict you.You are competent, O Bharata, to instruct the very gods about the origin anddissolution of all created beings. Just now the eldest son of Pandu isoverwhelmed with lamentation because of the death of so many kinsmen. All theduties of the four varnas and the four ashramas are well known to you. You arealso conversant with the four Vedas and their branches and corollaries. O bullamong men, there is no other person who can destroy the doubts that are in theheart of Yudhisthira. With the aid of your vast intelligence, drive away thesorrow that sits in the heart of this first son of Pandu. Your devotion to Me,O son of Ganga, is very great, and for this reason I have appeared before youat these last moments of your life. O foremost of Kings, I never display Myselfto those who are not devoted, or who have not conquered their senses. Throughyour sincere devotion, you are able to behold Me. After leaving this body, youwill never take birth again. I assure you that upon entering My own abode inVaikuntha, you will never come back to this world. When you have left thismortal plane, all your vast knowledge will be lost to mankind. Therefore, Ohero, before leaving this body pacify the grieving son of Pandu, who islamenting on account of the slaughter of his kinsmens. Hearing the request of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the great grandsireof the Kuru dynasty replied, O master of the worlds, O mighty-armed one, ONarayana, O Lord of unfading glory, hearing the words spoken by You, I amfilled with joy. But what instructions can I give in Your presence, especiallysince all instructions emanate from the Vedas, which come from Your divinemouth? My mind, O slayer of Madhu, is agitated because of the pain of all thesearrows. O Govinda, I am so afflicted that I barely have the power to sayanything. My strength is waning, and my life breaths will soon be exhausted.How then can I venture to speak? O my Lord, I will not be able to say anything.Pardon me for my unwillingness. I can no longer understand whether it is day ornight. It is only through Your mercy that I am still in this body. O Krishna,will You not therefore speak to Yudhisthira to dispel his grief? The Supreme Personality of Godhead replied, What you have spoken is justworthy of the best members of the Kuru race. O Bhishma, I now grant you abenediction that you will not feel pain, hunger or thirst. O son of Ganga, yourmemory of the Vedic conclusions shall not fail you. What ever questionYudhisthira will ask, you will be able to answer by My grace. After speakingthese words, a celestial shower of flowers fell from the sky. The Gandharvasbegan to play on their instruments, and the Apsaras sang sweetly in theheavens. In all directions there were auspicious omens. Lord Krishna then puthis transcendental hand on Bhishma, and his pain disappeared. Just at this timethe sun began its descent on the western horizon. Agreeing to hear Bhishma’sdiscourse the following day, the Pandavas entered the city of Hastinapura. The following morning the Pandavas awoke and prepared themselves to travel toKurukshetra. They once again approached Grandfather Bhishma and offered theirobeisances. Lord Krishna then inquired of Grandfather Bhishma, Have you, Obest among Kings, passed the night happily? Has your intelligence become clear?I hope that your body no longer feels the pain of all these arrows. O descendent of Vrishni, Bhishma replied, by Your grace I have beenrelieved of my suffering and fatigue. I can behold the past, the present andthe future like a crystal clear lake. Due to the benediction granted by You, Ican behold the duties laid down by the Vedas and the Vedantas. Everything thatrelates to the four varnas has come within my power of memory. O Janardana,because I have been favored by You, I have become competent to discourse onthat which will be beneficial to the world. Why, however, do You not speak toPandu’s son about these matters? O descendent of Bharata, Vasudeva said, I am the source of fame andeverything that is auspicious. All things, good or bad, emanate from Me. Ifsome one says that the moon has cool rays, no one will be struck with wonder.Similarly, if I speak to Yudhisthira about transcendental knowledge, it willnot add to My fame. I have resolved to enhance your fame, O best among men. Itis for this reason that I have inspired you with intelligence. As long as theearth will last, your fame will be known through the three worlds. Whatever yousay to the inquiring son of Pandu will be regarded as authoritative as theVedas. All the Kings and rishis desire to listen to your discourses on duty andmorality. Therefore, you should speak to them for the benefit of the world. King Yudhisthira then approached the grandsire of the Kuru dynasty. He touchedhis feet, and Bhishma welcomed him with affectionate words. Bhishma smelledYudhisthira’s head and ask him to sit near him. Ganga’s son then addressed himsaying, Do not fear, O best of the Kurus! Ask me any question withoutanxiety. O grandsire of the Kuru dynasty, Yudhisthira inquired, persons conversantwith duty and morality say that kingly duties constitute the highest science.Please, therefore, speak in detail on the duties of Kings and of duties of theother orders of life. O son of Pandu, Bhishma said, the suppression of anger, truthfulness,justice, forgiveness, begetting children by one’s own wife, purity, avoidanceof quarrel, simplicity, and maintenance of dependents+these nine duties belongto all the four orders equally. I shall now declare the duties which belong tobrahmanas exclusively. Sense control has been declared to be the first andforemost duty of a brahmana. Study of the Vedas and performance of austeritiesare also other duties of the brahminical order. Worship of the deity andteaching others how to worship the deity are duties of the brahminical order.Also there is accepting charity and giving in charity. O Yudhisthira, Bhishma continued, I shall now tell you the duties for thekshatriyas. A kshatriya should never beg, but should acquire wealth by taxingthe citizens. He should study the Vedas, but not engage in the profession ofteaching. He should offer protection to the citizens and put forward hisprowess on the field of battle. There is no higher duty for a kshatriya than toprotect the citizens. Gifts of charity, study of the Vedas and performance ofsacrifice bring prosperity to a king. A king should engage all the subjects intheir occupational duties according to their order of life. If a King does notperform any other act other than protect the citizens, he is regarded assuccessful in religious performance and has carried out all duties of akshatriya. O Yudhisthira, Bhishma continued, a vaishya should give in charity, studythe Vedas, perform sacrifices and acquire wealth by fair means. A vaishyashould protect all animals especially the cow and the bull. These two are themother and father of all mankind. By protecting the cow, he will achievelasting prosperity. O Bharata, a shudra should perform service to the other three orders accordingto seniority. By such service he will obtain happiness. He should never amasswealth for if he does he might make the higher orders his servants. Worn outumbrellas, turbans, beds, and seats, shoes and fans should be given to theshudra servants. Torn clothes which are no longer fit to wear should be givento the shudras as their clothing. Men conversant with morality say that if ashudra approaches one of the higher orders for service, then that servantshould be immediately engaged in some duty. The weak and old amongst the shudraorder should be maintained. A shudra should never give up his master no matterwhat condition of distress he falls into. Grandfather Bhishma went on to explain the Varnashrama system in more detail.He also explained in divisions, acts of charity, the practical duties of a kingand activities of salvation. Then he briefly described the duties of women anddevotees, both briefly and extensively. Then he described the occupationalduties of different orders and statuses of life, citing instances from history,for he was himself acquainted with the truth. While Bhishmadeva was describingoccupational duties, the sun’s course ran into the northern hemisphere. Thisperiod is described by mystics who die at their will. Thereupon that man who spoke on different subjects with thousands of meaningsand who fought on thousands of battlefields and protected thousands of men,stopped speaking and, being completely freed from all bondage, withdrew hismind from everything else and fixed his wide-open eyes upon the originalPersonality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, who stood before him, four-handed, dressedin yellow garments that glittered and shined. By pure meditation, looking atLord Sri Krishna, he at once was freed from all material inauspiciousness andwas relieved of all bodily pains caused by the arrow wounds. Thus all theexternal activities of his senses at once stopped, and he prayedtranscendentally to the controller of all living beings while quitting hismaterial body. Grandfather Bhishma prayed, Let me invest my thinking, feeling,and willing, which were so long engaged in different subjects and occupationalduties, in the all-powerful Lord Sri Krishna. He is always self-satisfied, butsometimes, being the leader of the devotees, He enjoys transcendental pleasureby descending to the material world, although from Him only the material worldis created. Lord Sri Krishna is the intimate friend of Arjuna. He has appearedon this earth in His transcendental body, which resembles the bluish color ofthe tamala tree. His body attracts everyone in the three planetary systems. MayHis glittering yellow dress and His lotus face, covered with paintings ofsandalwood pulp, be the object of my attraction, and may I not desire fruitiveresults. On the battlefield, the flowing hair of Lord Krishna turned ashen dueto labor, and beads of sweat wetted His face. All these decorations,intensified by the wounds dealt by my sharp arrows, were enjoyed by Him. Let mymind thus go unto Sri Krishna. In obedience to the command of His friend, LordSri Krishna entered the arena of the Battlefield of Kurukshetra between thesoldiers of Arjuna and Duryodhana, and while there He shortened the life spansof the opposite party by His merciful glance. This was done simply by Hislooking at the enemy. Let my mind be fixed upon that Lord Krishna. When Arjuna was seemingly polluted by ignorance upon observing the soldiersand commanders before him on the battlefield, the Lord eradicated his ignoranceby delivering transcendental knowledge. May His lotus feet always remain theobject of my attraction. Fulfilling my desire and sacrificing His own promise,He got down from the chariot, took up a wheel, and ran towards me hurriedly,just as a lion goes to kill an elephant. He even dropped His outer garment onthe way. May He, Lord Sri Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, who awardssalvation, be my ultimate destination. On the battlefield He charged me, as ifangry because of the wounds dealt by my sharp arrows. His shield was scattered,and His body was smeared with blood due to the wounds. At the moment of death, let my ultimate attraction be to Sri Krishna, thePersonality of Godhead. I concentrate my mind upon the chariot driver of Arjunawho stood with a whip in His right hand and a bridle rope in His left, who wasvery careful to give protection to Arjuna’s chariot by all means. Those who sawHim on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra attained their original forms afterdeath. Let my mind be fixed upon Lord Sri Krishna, whose motions and smiles oflove attracted the damsels of Vrajadhama. The damsels imitated thecharacteristic movements of the Lord. At the Rajasuya sacrifice performed by Maharaja Yudhisthira, there was thegreatest assembly of all the elite men of the world, the royal and learnedorders, and in that great assembly Lord Sri Krishna was worshiped by one andall as the most exalted Personality of Godhead. This happened during mypresence, and I remembered the incident in order to keep my mind upon the Lord.Now I can meditate with full concentration upon that one Lord, Sri Krishna, nowpresent before me because now I have transcended the misconceptions of dualityin regard to His presence in everyone’s heart. The sun may be perceiveddifferently, but the sun is one. Thus Bhishmadeva deeply merged himself in remembrance of the Supersoul, LordSri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with his mind, speech, sightand actions, and thus he became silent, and his breathing stopped. Knowing thatBhishma had entered into the unlimited eternity of the Supreme Absolute, allpresent there became silent like birds at the end of the day. Bhishmadeva was apure devotee of the Lord, and thus in a spiritual body he entered the spiritualrealm in one of the Vaikuntha planets where the Lord, in His eternal form ofPartha-sarathi, predominates over the unconditioned living beings who areconstantly engaged in the service of the Lord. Thereafter, both men anddemigods sounded drums in honor, and the honest royal order commenceddemonstrations of honor and respect.s And from the sky fell showers offlowers. After the passing away of his grandfather, King Yudhisthira performed the lastfuneral rites and was momentarily overwhelmed with grief. It was at this timethat all the great sages glorified Lord Sri Krishna as the Supreme Personalityof Godhead. After offering their respectful worship, they returned to theirrespective hermitages, bearing always Lord Sri Krishna within their hearts. Thus Ends the Anushasana Parva, entitled, The Final Instructions ofGrandfather Bhishma. Thus Ends the Anushasana Parva.