Srimad Bhagavatam

SB 1.9 - Kṛṣṇa keeps Bhīṣma's promise by breaking His own

Duryodhana criticized Bhīṣma alleging that he was reluctant to kill Arjuna because of paternal affection. Angered by the insult, Bhīṣma vowed that the next day he would kill all the five Pāṇḍavas with special weapons made for the purpose. Duryodhana was satisfied and he kept the arrows with him to be delivered the next day. By tricks Arjuna took the arrows from Duryodhana, and Bhīṣma learning this, took a vow that the next day Kṛṣṇa would have to take up weapons Himself, otherwise His friend Arjuna would die. Kṛṣṇa had vowed before the battle that He would not take up weapons. The next day Bhīṣma fought so violently that both Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa were in trouble.

At that time, in order to please His devotee, Bhīṣma, by keeping Bhīṣma’s promise, Kṛṣṇa got down from the chariot, took up the wheel of the chariot and rushed at Bhīṣma in an angry mood. Kṛṣṇa, situated on the chariot, quickly got down from the chariot in such a manner that no one could see it. Or Kṛṣṇa, though He got down, remained on the chariot to protect it in another form invisible to others. He dropped His outer garment on the way. While rushing this way, Kṛṣṇa trampled the earth and the earth trembled because Kṛṣṇa allowed the weight of the entire universe to rest in His body. Bhīṣma at once gave up his weapons and stood to be killed by his beloved Lord. The fighting of the day ended at that very moment, and Arjuna was saved. Of course Arjuna could not have been killed because Kṛṣṇa was on the chariot. To keep His devotee’s promise, the Lord broke His own promise.

SB 1.9 - The transcendental rasa exchanged between Bhīṣma and Kṛṣṇa

On the battlefield, Kṛṣṇa charged at Bhīṣma as if angry because of the wounds dealt by Bhīṣma’s arrows. Kṛṣṇa’s shield was shattered, and His body smeared with the rivers of blood from the slain warriors. Bhīṣma prayed to have that Lord Kṛṣṇa, who awards salvation, be his ultimate destination. The astounding feature of the dealings of the Lord with His devotee is that a devotee can please the Lord by playing the part of an enemy, as in the case of Bhīṣma. The Lord has no enemies nor can a so-called enemy harm the Lord. But still the Lord takes pleasure when His pure devotee beats Him like an enemy or rebukes Him from a superior position. Bhīṣma played the part of a valiant warrior and he pierced the body of the Lord so that to the common eyes it appeared that the Lord was wounded, but this was just to bewilder the non devotees. The all spiritual body of the Lord cannot be wounded, and a devotee cannot become the enemy of the Lord. Had it been so, Bhīṣma would not have desired to have Kṛṣṇa as his ultimate destination, and Kṛṣṇa could have killed His enemy easily. The warrior devotee wanted to see the beauty of the Lord decorated with wounds created by a pure devotee. This is transcendental rasa exchanged between the devotee and Kṛṣṇa.

SB 1.9 - The beautiful Pārtha-sārathi

Bhīṣma prayed to have Kṛṣṇa as his ultimate attraction at the moment of death. He concentrated his mind upon the chariot driver of Arjuna who stood with a whip in His right hand and a bridle rope in His left. Those who saw Him on the battlefield attained their spiritual forms (gatāḥ sva-rūpam) after death. Even being killed by others they attained liberation of merging in Brahman similar to jñānīs. Bhīṣma had a desire that even the unrighteous should develop prema for Kṛṣṇa. A pure devotee constantly sees the presence of the Lord in trance. The yogī controls his senses to concentrate upon the Supersoul and ultimately attains samādhi. A devotee more easily attains trance by remembering the Lord’s personal feature along with His holy name, fame, pastimes etc. Therefore the concentration of the mystic yogī and that of the devotee are not on the same level. The concentration of the mystic is mechanical, whereas that of the pure devotee is natural in pure love and spontaneous affection.

Bhīṣma, being a pure devotee, always remembered the battlefield feature of the Lord as Pārtha-sārathi. He could die when he chose, and now he had developed great greed for directly participating in Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. The Lord’s pastimes beginning from His birth at the prison house up to His disappearance all move one after another in all the universes. And in such pastimes His associates like the Pāṇḍavas and Bhīṣma are constant eternal companions. The fighting pastimes are also eternal. So Bhīṣma never forgot the beautiful feature of Pārtha-sārathi. The form of Kṛṣṇa as the charioteer bestowed liberation even to the unqualified persons. Simultaneously at that time the most extraordinary of all the Lord’s forms, full of the greatest sweetness, characterized by no power and great power made its appearance for the devotees.

The Lord was merciful to even the enemies of the Pāṇḍavas and all of them attained their spiritual forms after death because of seeing the Lord in the battlefield. The material forms are awarded by material nature. When a conditioned soul becomes liberated he attains his original form. The impersonalist wants to attain the impersonal Brahman effulgence but that is not at all congenial to the living sparks. Therefore, the impersonalists again fall down to get material forms, which are all false to the spirit soul. A spiritual form like the lord’s, either two handed or four handed is attained by the devotees either in the Vaikuṇṭhas or in the Goloka planet, according to the original nature of the soul. Bhīṣma wanted the same facility and that was his prayer to the Lord, although his position as an associate of the Lord is assured in all circumstances.

SB 1.9 - The exalted prema of the gopīs

Bhīṣma fixed his mind on Kṛṣṇa, whose motions and smiles of love attracted the gopīs of Vraja, who imitated the characteristic movements of the Lord after His disappearance from the rāsa dance. By intense ecstasy in loving service, the damsels of Vraja, attained qualitative oneness with the Lord by dancing with Him on an equal level, embracing Him in nuptial love, smiling at Him in joke, and looking at Him with a loving attitude. Arjuna was fortunate enough to have the fraternal service of the Lord as chariot driver, but the Lord did not award Arjuna with equal strength. The gopīs, however, practically became one with the Lord by attainment of equal footing with the Lord. The gopīs had the most exalted prema among all devotees. Bhīṣma aspired to have the mercy of the gopīs at the last stage of his life. The Lord is satisfied more when His pure devotees are glorified, and therefore Bhīṣma has not only glorified the acts of Arjuna but has also remembered the gopīs. The equality of the gopīs with the Lord is one of perfect ecstasy where the differential conception is completely eradicated for the interests of the lover and the beloved become identical. In the extreme state of madness in separation, some of the gopīs even merged with the Lord. This is the highest level of exalted prema.

Kṛṣṇa was expert at physical arts such as dancing in the rāsa-līlā, expert in expressing mental qualities such as dhira-lalita, expert in words with joking, expert with the eyes at glancing to show all aspects of prema. The gopīs were to be worshipped by all these skilful actions of Kṛṣṇa. In order to please them, Kṛṣṇa endowed them with all the best, outstanding qualities of Himself. The result of their extreme prema, was that Kṛṣṇa, in giving all His own qualities, attempted to please them with conciliating love. That display of love, which is without restraints for either party, showed extreme control of Kṛṣṇa by the gopīs and was filled with great bliss. Control of the Lord, manifested as a result of Arjuna’s prema, was that Kṛṣṇa became His messenger and charioteer. That role had restraints for both parties. Kṛṣṇa did not give His unique, extraordinary power to Arjuna.

SB 1.9 - Kṛṣṇa, the cynosure of everyone's eyes

Bhīṣma remembered how at the Rājasūya sacrifice performed by Yudhiṣṭhira Kṛṣṇa was worshipped by one and all as the most exalted personality of Godhead. After ascending the throne, the emperor would send a challenge horse all over the world to declare his supremacy. Any king who does not accept this supremacy would capture the horse and would fight the emperor. The defeated person would have to sacrifice his life making way for another ruler. Yudhiṣṭhira also dispatched a horse and all rulers accepted his supremacy. After this the rulers were invited to participate in the Rājasūya sacrifice. In that assembly Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa was the cynosure of everyone’s eyes. Everyone wanted to see the Lord and pay their respects to Him. Kṛṣṇa was accepted as the greatest personality while He was actually present, and He was not a mere human being. Thus it is misleading that a great person can be worshiped as God after his death.

Bhīṣma said he could concentrate upon Lord Kṛṣṇa, who was standing before him, and that he had transcended the misconception of duality in regard to the Lord’s presence in everyone’s heart, even in the hearts of the mental speculators, just as the sun is one although it may be perceived differently. Kṛṣṇa is the one Absolute Lord but has expanded Himself into His multi plenary portions by His inconceivable energy. By His inconceivable energy He is present as Paramātmā in everyone’s heart, and also expands Himself as the brahmajyoti effulgence. The less intelligent consider the brahmajyoti and Paramātmā to be different from Kṛṣṇa. Bhīṣma realized that Vāsudeva is all in all and that there is no existence without Him.

SB 1.9 - Bhīṣma's worshipable form

Bhīṣma desired the Lord as a charioteer. He had attained Him, who was the charioteer of Arjuna, holding the whip and bridle in His hands, and who was now appearing in Bhīṣma’s heart. But the charioteer is not the Lord in the heart. Because Kṛṣṇa, the charioteer, had already entered and pervaded his heart completely by practice, it was not possible for Paramātmā to enter. Though He appeared to Bhīṣma’s eyes in this form at the time of battle, even before the battle Kṛṣṇa was already in his heart because of his spontaneous desire. Kṛṣṇa is unborn because He had always been visible to Bhīṣma. The Supreme Lord alone situated in the heart ordains good fortune or misfortune of the jīvas. He is situated in the hearts of all jīvas, who create their own bodies.

Bhīṣma knew the charioteer Kṛṣṇa and the four-handed form in Dvārakā were not different, just like the one sun appears to be many situated above each person’s head. Though Kṛṣṇa appeared in Bhīṣma’s heart and in the hearts of Yudhiṣṭhira, Vasudeva, Uddhava, Nanda and the gopīs with various degrees of prema with different pastimes for each, Bhīṣma knew that this was one Kṛṣṇa only. But Bhīṣma could never give up his natural attachment to the form of Kṛṣṇa as the charioteer. The worshipable object of Bhīṣma is Kṛṣṇa as Pārtha-sārathi, and that of the gopīs is the same Kṛṣṇa as Śyāmasundara. Sometimes the foolish think that the two are different personalities.

SB 1.9 - Bhīṣma attains Kṛṣṇa

Merging his mind, speech, sight and actions in Kṛṣṇa, Bhīṣma became silent and his breathing stopped. Bhīṣma merged his self into thinking of the Lord and his mind into remembering Kṛṣṇa’s different activities. He chanted the glories of the Lord, and by his sight he saw the Lord personally present before him, and thus all his activities became concentrated upon the Lord without deviation. This stage attained by Bhīṣma is called nirvikalpa-samādhi. By practicing any one or all of the nine methods of devotional service under the guidance of an expert devotee, one can achieve the same perfection as Bhīṣma. For Bhīṣma the Lord was personally present, but we can use the sound incarnations of the Lord in the form of hearing from Bhagavad gītā and Śrīmad Bhāgavatam and die like Bhīṣma which is the perfection of human life.

Knowing that Bhīṣma had merged into the unlimited eternity of the Supreme Absolute, all present there became silent like birds at the end of the day. Viśvanātha Cakravartī says that it was the ignorant, who were like birds who think that day has been destroyed at the approach of evening, thought that Bhīṣma had attained the Brahman and became silent. Bhīṣma had attained his cherished form of Kṛṣṇa as the charioteer. Just as the day is not destroyed at the approach of evening but it still exists, for after twelve hours daylight appears again, Bhīṣma at that very moment in an invisible form fights on the ground with Kṛṣṇa holding the chariot wheel in His hand. And in a future appearance of Kṛṣṇa, Bhīṣma would also appear with Him.

The living beings are parts and parcels of the Lord, and therefore they are eternally related with Him as the servitor and the served. The conditioned souls in the material world have separated themselves from the whole, but the eternally liberated are always integrated. One can attain the Supreme thru jñāna, yoga or bhakti. The jñānīs and yogīs enter into the impersonal rays of the Supreme but the bhaktas enter the spiritual planets of Vaikuṇṭhas. Bhīṣma entered the spiritual realm in one of the Vaikuṇṭha planets where the Lord in His eternal form of Pārtha-sārathi predominates. One cannot explain that Bhīṣma merged into the Brahman since Bhīṣma did not desire liberation and it would be improper for the Lord to give undesired results forcibly. By giving him something devoid of his goal, Kṛṣṇa would be cheating His eternal associate Bhīṣma of prema.

SB 1.9 - Bhīṣma - an eternal associate of Kṛṣṇa

Thereafter, both men and demigods sounded drums in honor, and the honest royal order commenced demonstrations of honor and respect. And from the sky fell showers of flowers. The living beings on earth and on the Bhūr and Bhuvar planets, and the demigods from the Svar planets all knew Bhīṣma as a great warrior and devotee. They all paid respects to him by showering flowers. This showering of flowers is a sign of recognition by great demigods and should not be compared to the decoration of a dead body. Bhīṣma’s body had become completely spiritual due to his being a great devotee of the Lord. Special ceremonies are observed for such spiritual bodies, and should never be imitated to honor a material person however great he may be by observing a so-called jayanti ceremony.

After performing funeral rituals for the dead body of Bhīṣmadeva, Yudhiṣṭhira was momentarily overtaken with grief. Bhīṣma was a well wisher, grand father, friend and philosopher to Yudhiṣṭhira even up to the last moment of his life. Thus the king did the funeral rites, although Bhīṣma was a liberated soul and so did not need the customary rites to be performed. Though Bhīṣma is an eternal associate of the Lord, his aṁśa had entered into Vasu, who then descended from the heavenly planets to earth. Thus Bhīṣma is shown by the Lord to give up his body. His aṁśa who was situated in Vasu gave up his body and Bhīṣma himself attained the spiritual world. The Vedānta (3.3.33) says that those designated by the Lord remain in their posts on earth as long as the Lord chooses. It has been said that Bhīṣma, an eternal associate of the Lord, attained Kṛṣṇa as the charioteer in aprakaṭa-līlā. Thus when it is said that Bhīṣma stopped breathing and gave up his body, it means he simply became detached from his manifested body on earth. Yudhiṣṭhira was sad for a short period to follow the custom of the people since he understood that Bhīṣma did not have a material body.

SB 1.9 - The ideal monarch

All the great sages then glorified Kṛṣṇa by confidential hymns – His names etc (guhya-nāmabhiḥ). Then all of them returned to their respective hermitages bearing Lord Kṛṣṇa always within their hearts. The devotees are always in the heart of the Lord, and the Lord is always in the hearts of the devotees. Although He has nothing to do, and nothing to aspire for, the Lord is always busy in attending to the welfare of His devotees. The devotees are under the direct care of the Lord, whereas the ordinary living beings are under the laws of nature. All Vedic hymns are chanted to please Kṛṣṇa. All the Vedas, Upaniṣads, Vedānta etc are seeking Him only, and all hymns are for glorifying Him only.

Thereafter, Yudhiṣṭhira went to Hastināpura, accompanied by Kṛṣṇa, and there he consoled his uncle Dhṛtarāṣṭra and aunt Gāndhārī, who had lost all their sons and grandsons. After this, Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira executed the royal power strictly according to the codes and royal principles approved by his uncle and confirmed by Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. A king must know that human life is meant for liberating the encaged soul from the bondage of material conditions, and therefore his duty is to look after the citizens properly. Thus the king is as important as a father or spiritual master. Yudhiṣṭhira is the ideal monarch and monarchy under a trained king is by far the most superior form of government. The people of Kali yuga are most fallen and they do not know the highest perfectional aim of life. Therefore, votes cast by them have no value, and thus persons elected by them cannot be responsible representatives like King Yudhiṣṭhira.

SB 1.10 - Yudhiṣṭhira, the king representing Kṛṣṇa

Śaunaka asked how Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira ruled his subjects after killing his enemies in battle. Yudhiṣṭhira was not at all inclined to fight with his cousins but he fought nevertheless for a right cause under the guidance of Lord Kṛṣṇa. But he could not freely enjoy his kingdom with unrestricted consciousness. The enemies desired his wealth and obtained it. But he took it back from them. Sūta replied that Kṛṣṇa, upon whom Śiva meditates, became pleased by protecting Parīkṣit and after reestablishing Yudhiṣṭhira in his own kingdom. Just as a forest fire occurs automatically by the cohesion of bamboos, in the material world the fire of war takes place by the wrath of those who want to lord it over material nature. The Lord has nothing to do with such wars but the Lord wants the suffering souls to come back to Him. The whole plan of creation is made in that way, and the illusory energy punishes the rebellious souls. Kṛṣṇa established the righteous rule of the Pāṇḍavas and was fully satisfied to see Yudhiṣṭhira on the throne, and the seedling of the dynasty of Kuru, Mahārāja Parīkṣit saved. And Yudhiṣṭhira took up the ruling of the country only after seeing that Kṛṣṇa was pleased.

Yudhiṣṭhira, after being enlightened by Bhīṣma and Lord Kṛṣṇa, engaged himself in matters of perfect knowledge. Thus he ruled the earth and seas with the cooperation of his younger brothers, who acted as his ministers and commanders of state. This was just like Indra, having taken shelter of Upendra, rules over heaven extending in all directions with the compliance of Upendra. Yudhiṣṭhira was the ideal king or representative of Lord Kṛṣṇa to rule over the earth and was comparable to Indra, the ruler of the heavenly planets. The demigods like Indra, Candra, Sūrya, Varuṇa and Vāyu are representative kings of different planets of the universe and similarly Yudhiṣṭhira was one of them ruling over the earth. Even if the modern elected executive head of a state is enlightened like Yudhiṣṭhira, he cannot do anything out of his own good will due to his constitutional position. Therefore, there are so many states quarreling because of ideological differences or other selfish motives. But a king like Yudhiṣṭhira had no ideology of his own, but simply followed the instructions of the Lord and His representative, Bhīṣma. Therefore, it was possible for him to rule the whole world because the principles were infallible and universally applicable to everyone.