Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.8 - Undeviating affection for Kṛṣṇa and His devotees

Kuntī prayed just as the Ganges forever flows to the sea without hindrance, her attraction be constantly drawn unto Kṛṣṇa without being diverted anywhere else. Cutting off her ties with the Yādavas would mean cutting off her affection for Kṛṣṇa also. But she wanted undeviating affection for Kṛṣṇa. To cut off the tie of affection does not mean complete negation of the finer elements like affection for the Lord and devotees. The symptoms of life such as desire, anger, hankerings, feelings of attraction etc cannot be annihilated. Only the objective has to be changed. When the desire is directed toward satisfaction of the Lord, it is called devotional service. Arjuna did not desire to fight at the beginning but after hearing Bhagavad-gītā, he changed his decision and served the lord. Thus he attained spiritual perfection by devotional service to the Lord in friendship. And that is what Kuntī also prays for here.

Kuntī’s affection for the Pāṇḍavas and the Vṛṣṇis is not out of range of devotional service because service of the Lord and the service of the devotees are identical. Sometimes service to the devotees is more valuable than service to the lord. But here the affection is due to family connection. This tie of affection in terms of material relation is the relation of māyā, but relations of the soul established in relation with the Supreme Soul are factual relations. Since it was a prayer in front of Kṛṣṇa, Kuntī meant to cut off the relation of the body, which is a cause for bondage. The relation of the soul to the soul can be established by the via medium of the relation with the Supersoul. Just as the Gaṅgā does not consider any obstacles on its course, Kuntī wished her mind also should not consider any obstacles that might arise while thinking of the Lord.

In conclusion, Kuntī offers her respects to Kṛṣṇa, who is the destroyer of the disturbing elements on this earth, whose prowess never deteriorates, who descends to relieve the distress of the cows, the brāhmaṇas and the devotees, who is the master of all mystic power, and the preceptor of the entire universe. Kṛṣṇa is the Lord of His transcendental abode, where He keeps surabhi cows, and served by hundreds and thousands of goddesses of fortune. He creates, maintains and annihilates by His unlimited energies, and still He is always full with prowess.

SB 1.8 - Yudhiṣṭhira's bewilderment

Hearing the prayers of Kuntī composed in choice poetry, Kṛṣṇa smiled as if bewildered by prema, and this smile was as enchanting as His mystic power. Anything that is enchanting in the world is a representation of the Lord. The conditioned souls, who try to lord it over the material world, are also enchanted by the lord’s powers but His devotees are enchanted in a different way by the glories of the Lord, and His merciful blessings are upon them. No amount of chosen words is sufficient to enumerate His glories, and yet He is satisfied by such prayers as Kuntī’s.

Kṛṣṇa went away from the chariot stable and returned to Hastināpura. Entering the palace of Hastināpura, Kṛṣṇa informed the other ladies headed by Subhadrā of His departure to Dvārakā. But He was stopped by King Yudhiṣṭhira. Conquered by the loving service of His devotee, the Lord agreed to remain for a few more days. Yudhiṣṭhira was very much aggrieved because of the mass massacre of human beings in the battle of Kurukṣetra. He could not be consoled despite instructions by great sages headed by Vyāsa and the Lord Himself, and despite all historical evidence. Although Duryodhana was doing well in his administration, on the principle of justice, Yudhiṣṭhira had to replace him. And thus all the kings of the world became involved in the fight and about 640 million men were killed in the 18 days of the battle. This mass killing to enthrone Yudhiṣṭhira was mortifying, and the sages tried to convince the king that the fight was just because the cause was just.

SB 1.8 - Kṛṣṇa's will that Bhīṣma instruct Yudhiṣṭhira

Although Kṛṣṇa is the performer of superhuman feats, here He could not convince Yudhiṣṭhira. This does not mean the Lord failed but He desired this course of events. As Supersoul of Yudhiṣṭhira, He did not allow the king to be convinced by His words or Vyāsa’s because He desired the king hear the instructions from Bhīṣma, who was another great devotee. The Lord wanted that at the last stage of his life Bhīṣma see Him personally and see His beloved grandchildren now situated on the throne, and thus pass away peacefully. Bhīṣma had to take the side of the evil Duryodhana because he was maintained at the expense of Duryodhana. The Lord desired that Yudhiṣṭhira be pacified by the words of Bhīṣmadeva so that the world could see that Bhīṣma excelled all in knowledge. Vyāsa and other sages either knew or did not know this intention of the Lord. Kṛṣṇa made Yudhiṣṭhira completely incapable of understanding His own teachings and that of Vyāsa. The Lord wanted the world to know that Bhīṣma had more knowledge of dharma than Vyāsa, other sages or even Kṛṣṇa. But because Yudhiṣṭhira had even greater prema for Kṛṣṇa than Bhīṣma, Kṛṣṇa stayed back with him.

Yudhiṣṭhira became deluded by worldly affection by the will of the Lord, just as Arjuna was apparently deluded. A common man thinks of violence and non violence in terms of the body, but that is a kind of delusion. A kṣatriya is bound to fight for the right cause, and in such discharge of duty one should not be disturbed by annihilation of the material body. A man who sees knows well that the living entity is neither the body nor the mind but is transcendental to the material conception of life. The reason for Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira becoming deluded was the Lord willed he be instructed by Bhīṣma.

SB 1.8 - Yudhiṣṭhira feels responsible for the war

The King felt he was most sinful and said that the body, which was ultimately meant for others, had killed many, many phalanxes of men. A solid phalanx of 21870 chariots, 21870 elephants, 109,650 infantry and 65,600 cavalry is called an akṣauhiṇī. While there is life it is meant for the service of others, and when it is dead it is meant to be eaten by dogs and jackals. Yudhiṣṭhira felt hell awaited him for all sins committed by killing many boys, brāhmaṇas, well wishers, friends, parents, preceptors and brothers. There is no sin for a king who kills for the right cause, who is engaged in maintaining his citizens, but Yudhiṣṭhira felt this injunction did it apply to him. He felt he had caused all the killing only for his personal gain of the kingdom from Duryodhana, who was ably ruling the kingdom. The killing was done not in the course of administration but for self aggrandizement, and as such Yudhiṣṭhira thought himself responsible for all the sins.

Yudhiṣṭhira said he had killed many friends of women, and had thus caused enmity to such an extent that it was not possible to undo it by material welfare work. Most people do welfare work for the sake of material prosperity. Such prosperity is sometimes hampered by sinful activities, for the materialist is sure to commit sins, even unintentionally, in the course of discharging duties. The Vedas prescribe several sacrifices like the Aśvamedha-yajña to get relief from sinful reactions. Yudhiṣṭhira felt it was not possible to get relief from his sins even by performing yajñas. When people are killed, a fresh enmity is created with the surviving relatives and thus a chain of actions and reactions is set in. The way of work is like that. Karma binds one by creating actions and reactions, and only by working on behalf of the Supreme can one be free from material bondage. Factually no sin touched the Pāṇḍavas, who were only the order carriers of the Lord.

Yudhiṣṭhira felt that it was not possible to counteract the sins of killing men by sacrificing animals just as it is not possible to filter muddy water thru mud or purify a wine-stained pot with wine. Horse and cow sacrifices were not for the purpose of killing animals, for the sacrificed animals get a new life. The sacrifice was meant to prove the efficacy of the hymns of the Vedas. By proper conduct of sacrifice, the performer gets relief from sins and the animals are also rejuvenated. In Kali yuga there are no expert brāhmaṇas to conduct such yajñas and so the only sacrifice recommended is the hari-nāma yajña. The whole purpose of life is to serve the will of the Lord.

SB 1.9 - Yudhiṣṭhira goes to see Bhīṣma along with great souls

Being afraid for having killed so many people on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra, Yudhiṣṭhira went to the scene of the massacre to meet Bhīsma, who was lying on a bed of arrows, about to pass away. Bhīṣma was endowed with the power of leaving his body at will. His passing away attracted the attention of all the contemporary elites, and all of them assembled there to show their feelings of love and respect for the great soul. By the will of Kṛṣṇa, Bhīṣma would impart instructions to King Yudhiṣṭhira on the subject of occupational duties.

All his brothers followed the king, and with them were Vyāsa, ṛṣis like Dhaumya and others. Kṛṣṇa also followed, seated on a chariot with Arjuna. Thus Yudhiṣṭhira appeared aristocratic, like Kuvera surrounded by the Guhyakas. Kṛṣṇa wanted the Pāṇḍavas to be present before Bhīṣma in the most aristocratic order so that he might be pleased to see them happy at the time of his death.

Seeing Bhīṣma lying on the ground, Yudhiṣṭhira along with his brothers bowed down. Kṛṣṇa behaved in a humanly custom and so also bowed down before Bhīṣma. Bhīṣṁa understood Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and he would later address Kṛṣṇa as bhagavān sākṣād and ādyo nārāyaṇaḥ. Just to see Bhīṣma, all the great souls like the ṛṣis amongst the demigods, brāhmaṇa sages and kings who were sages, all situated in the quality of goodness, were assembled there.

SB 1.9 - Parvata, Nārada and Dhaumya

Some of the great souls who accompanied Yudhiṣṭhira to see Bhīṣma:

Parvata Muni – a constant companion of Nārada. He was present at the sacrificial ceremony of Janamejaya, son of Parīkṣit. In this sacrifice all the snakes of the world were to be killed. Parvata and Nārada are called Gandharvas also because they can travel in the air singing the glories of the Lord. They observed Draupadī’s svayaṁvara from the air. Mahārāja Sṛñjaya got the benediction of a son by Parvata Muni.

Nārada Muni – In his previous life he was the son of a maidservant but by serving the pure devotees he became enlightened in devotional service. He is the chief sage among the demigods. He is the son and disciple of Brahmā. He initiated Prahlāda, Dhruva and many other devotees including Vyāsadeva. In the Bhāgavatam he instructed Prahlāda while he was still in the womb of his mother, and he instructed Vasudeva as well as Yudhiṣṭhira.

Dhaumya – A great sage who was the royal priest of the Pāṇḍavas. He acted as the priest at the betrothal of Draupadī. He was present even during the exile of the Pāṇḍavas and instructed them how to live incognito for one year. He was also present at the general funeral ceremony performed after the battle of Kurukṣetra. He gave very elaborate religious instructions to Yudhiṣṭhira.

SB 1.9 - Vyāsadeva, Bṛhadaśva and Bharadvāja

Some of the great souls who accompanied Yudhiṣṭhira to see Bhīṣma:

Vyāsadeva - He is known as Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana, Bādarāyaṇa etc. He was the son of Parāśara in the womb of Satyavatī prior to her betrothal with Śantanu, the father of Bhīṣma. Vyāsa is an incarnation of Nārāyaṇa and he is offered respects before one chants the Vedic literature, especially the Purāṇas. Śukadeva Gosvāmī was his son. He is the author of Mahābhārata and the Bhāgavatam. The Vedānta Sūtras were compiled by him. By the order of his mother, Satyavatī and by the request of Bhīṣma, he begot three brilliant sons – Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Pāṇḍu and Vidura. His Mahābhārata, which was complied after the battle of Kurukṣetra was first spoken in the royal assembly of Janamejaya, the son of Parīkṣit.

Bṛhadaśva – An ancient sage who first met Yudhiṣṭhira at Kāmayavana, and who used to meet the king now and then. He narrated the story of Nala.

Bharadvāja – One of the seven great ṛṣis. He was present at the time of the birth of Arjuna. While taking bath in the Ganges, he met the beautiful heavenly girl Ghṛtacī and discharged semen, which was kept and preserved in an earthen pot and from which Droṇa was born. Some say that the father of Droṇa was a different Bharadvāja. Once he approached Droṇa and requested him to stop the battle of Kurukṣetra.

SB 1.9 - Paraśurāma, Vasiṣṭha, Trita, Gṛtsamada, Asita, Kakṣīvān, Atri

Some of the great souls who accompanied Yudhiṣṭhira to see Bhīṣma:

Paraśurāma – He is the son of Jamadagni and Reṇukā. He killed the kṣatriya community as a whole 21 times, and with their blood he pleased the souls of his forefathers. After taking the earth from the kings, he gave it in charity to Kaśyapa. Paraśurāma instructed the Dhanur-veda, or the science of fighting, to Droṇa. He was present during the coronation of Yudhiṣṭhira. He met Rāma and Kṛṣṇa at different times. He fought with Rāma and accepted Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Lord. When Bhīṣma refused to obey his order to marry Ambā, Paraśurāma fought with Bhīṣma, and finally being pleased with Bhīṣma gave him the benediction of becoming the greatest fighter in the world.

Vasiṣṭha – He is known as Brahmaṛṣi. He is a prominent figure in both the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata periods. He celebrated the coronation ceremony of Lord Rāma. Viśvāmitra wanted Vasiṣṭha’s kāmadhenu but the latter refused. So Viśvāmitra killed Vasiṣṭha’s one hundred sons. On account of Viśvamitra’s torture, he tried to commit suicide but was unsuccessful in all his attempts. He is the husband of Arundhatī and one of the seven ṛṣis.

Trita: One of the three sons of Gautama. By dint of severe penances, he and his brothers were promoted to Brahmaloka. Once he fell into a well. He was one of the seven sages in the Varuṇaloka.

Gṛtsamada: He was a close friend of Indra and used to visit the assembly of Yudhiṣṭhira. He explained the glories of Śiva before the king. He was the son of Vitahavya and resembled Indra. Sometimes the enemies of Indra mistook him to be Indra and arrested him. He was a great scholar of the Ṛg-veda, and lived a life of celibacy.

Asita: A great sage who explained to his father 1,500,000 verses from the Mahābhārata. A devotee of Lord Śiva. he was present during the snake sacrifice of Janamejaya. He gave instructions to Yudhiṣṭhira on the Añjana hill.

Kakṣīvān: One of the sons of Gautama and the father of the great sage Candakausika.

Atri: One of the mental sons of Brahmā. In his family the great Pracetās were born. He is one of the 21 prajāpatis. His wife is Anasūya, and he helped Parīkṣit in his great sacrifice.

SB 1.9 - Sudarśana, Śukadeva, Kaśyapa, Āṅgirasa

Some of the great souls who went with Yudhiṣṭhira to see Bhīṣma:

Sudarśana: The wheel of Lord Kṛṣṇa which is more powerful than the brahmāstra. In some Vedic literatures it is said that Agni presented this weapon to Kṛṣṇa but factually this weapon is eternally carried by the Lord. Agni presented this weapon to Kṛṣṇa in the same way that Rukmiṇī was given by Rukma to the Lord. The Lord accepts such presentations even though they are eternally His property. Kṛṣṇa used this to kill Śiśupāla and Śālva.

Śukadeva: The son and disciple of Vyāsa, who taught him first the Mahābhārata and then Bhāgavatam. He recited 1,400,000 verses of the Mahābhārata in the councils of the Gandharvas, Yakṣas and Rākṣasas, and he recited Bhāgavatam for the first time in the presence of Mahārāja Parīkṣit. Śuka inquired from his father extensively about religious principles, and Vyāsa taught him the yoga system, difference between karma and jñāna, the four āśramas, the position of the Lord, the process of seeing Him eye to eye, the bona fide candidate for receiving knowledge etc. Sometimes he went to the sun planet. He is known by different names like Araṇeya, Vaiyāsaki and Vyāsātmaja.

Kaśyapa: One of the Prajāpatis, the son of Marīci and the son in law of Dakṣa. He is the father of Garuḍa. He married 13 daughters of Dakṣa and begot many children both demigods and demons. From Aditi, the 12 Ādityas were born; one of them is Vāmana. He received a presentation of the whole world from Paraśurāma, and later on he asked Paraśurāma to go out of the world.

Āṅgirasa: He is the son of the sage Aṅgirā and is known as Bṛhaspati, the priest of the demigods. He challenged Śukrācārya, the spiritual master of the demons. He begot six sons by his wife Candramāsī and could travel in space. Once he cursed Indra to become a hog.

SB 1.9 - Bhīṣma welcomes the great souls

Bhīṣma received and welcomed all these great personalities, for he knew perfectly all the religious principles according to time and place. Since he could not rise, he worshipped them mentally and with words. All great ācāryas or reformers of the world executed their mission by adjustment of religious principles in terms of time and place. Bhīṣma was one of the 12 great authorities in preaching devotional service, and thus could receive and welcome all the powerful sages who had come from all parts of the universe. Though physically incapacitated, by the activities of his sound mind he could utter sweet words with hearty expressions to welcome the sages.