The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'King Yudhishthira, hearing of those feats of Rama, became filled with wonder and said unto Janardana, O thou of Vrishni's race, the prowess of the high-souled Rama, who in wrath had freed the earth of Kshatriyas, was like that of Sakra himself. The scions of Kshatriyas, troubled with the fear of Rama, were concealed (and brought up) by kine, Ocean, leopards, bears and apes. Worthy of every praise is this world of men and fortunate are they that reside in it where a feat, that, was again so righteous, was accomplished by a. Brahmana.' After this discourse was ended, those two illustrious persons, viz., Krishna of unfading glory and Yudhishthira proceeded thither where the puissant son of Ganga lay on his bed of arrows. They then beheld Bhishma stretched on his arrowy bed and resembling in splendour the evening San covered with his own rays. The Kuru hero was surrounded by many ascetics like he of a hundred sacrifices by the deities of heaven. The spot on which he lay was highly sacred, being situate on the banks of the river Oghavati. Beholding him from a distance, Krishna and Dharma's royal son, and the four Pandavas, and the other headed by Saradwat, alighted from their vehicles and collecting their restless minds and concentrating all their senses, approached the great Rishis. Saluting those foremost of Rishis headed by Vyasa. Govinda and Satyaki and the others approached the son of Ganga. Beholding Ganga's son of great ascetic merit, the Yadu and Kuru princes, those foremost of men, took their seats, surrounding him. Seeing Bhishma looking like a fire about to die out, Kesava with a rather cheerless heart addressed him as follows.'
"Kesava said, 'Are thy perceptions now as clear as before? I hope thy understanding, O foremost of eloquent men, is not clouded. I hope thy limbs are not tortured by the pain arising from the wounds by shafts. From mental grief also the body becomes weak. In consequences of the boon granted to thee by thy sire, the righteous Santanu, thy death, O puissant
hero, depends on thy own will. I myself have not that merit in consequence of which thou hast obtained this boon. The minutest pin (inserted) within the body produces pain. What need then be said, O king, of hundreds of arrows that have pierced thee? Surely, pain cannot be said to afflict thee. Thou art competent, O Bharata, to instruct the very gods regarding the origin and dissolution of living creatures. Possessed of great knowledge, everything belonging to the Past, the Future, and the Present, is well known to thee. The dissolution of created beings and the reward of righteousness are well known to thee, O thou of great wisdom, for thou art an ocean of virtue and duty. While living in the enjoyment of swelling sovereignty, I beheld thee forgo female intercourse though sound of limbs and perfectly hale and though surrounded by female companions. Except Santanu's son Bhishma of great energy and firmly devoted to righteousness, possessed of heroism and having virtue for the only object of his pursuit, we have never heard of any other person in the three worlds that could, by his ascetic power, though lying on a bed of arrows and at the point of death, still have such a complete mastery over death (as to keep it thus at bay). We have never heard of anybody else that was so devoted to truth, to penances, to gifts, to the performances of sacrifices, to the science of arms, to the Vedas, and to the protection of persons soliciting protection, and that was so harmless to all creatures, so pure in behaviour, so self-restrained, and so bent upon the good of all creatures, and that was also so great a car-warrior as thee. Without doubt, thou art competent to subjugate, on a single car, the gods, Gandharvas, Asuras, Yakshas, and Rakshasas. O mighty-armed Bhishma, thou art always spoken of by the Brahmanas as the ninth of the Vasus. By thy virtues, however, thou hast surpassed them all and art equal unto Vasava himself. I know, O best of persons, that thou art celebrated for thy prowess, O foremost of beings, among even the very gods. Among men on earth, O foremost of men, we have never seen nor heard of any one possessed of such attributes as thee. O thou of the royal order, thou surpassest the gods themselves in respect of every attribute. By thy ascetic power thou canst create a universe of mobile and immobile creatures. What need then be said of thy having acquired many blessed regions by means of thy foremost of virtues? Dispel now the grief of the eldest son of Panda who is burning with sorrow on account of the slaughter of his kinsmen. All the duties that have been declared in respect of the four orders about the four modes of life are well known to thee. Everything again that is indicated in the four branches of knowledge, in the four Hotras, O Bharata, as also those eternal duties that are laid down in Yoga and Sankhya philosophy, the duties too of the four orders and these duties that are not inconsistent with their declared practices,--all these, along with their interpretations, O son of Ganga, are known to thee. The duties that have been laid down for those sprang from an intermixture of the four orders and those laid down for particular countries and tribes and families, and those declared by the Vedas and by men of wisdom, are all well known to thee. The subjects of histories and the Puranas are all known to thee. All the scriptures treating of duty and practice dwell in thy mind. Save thee, O bull among men, there is
no other person that can remove the doubts that may arise in respect of those subjects of knowledge that are studied in the world. With the aid of thy intelligence, do thou, O prince of men, drive the sorrow felt by the son of Pandu. Persons possessed of so great and such varied knowledge live only for comforting men whose minds have been stupefied.'
"Vaisampayana said, 'Hearing those words of Vasudeva of great intelligence, Bhishma, raising his head a little, said these words with joined hands.'
"Bhishma said, 'Salutations to thee, O divine Krishna! Thou art the origin and thou art the dissolution of all the worlds. Thou art the Creator and thou art the Destroyer. Thou, O Hrishikesa, art incapable of being vanquished by any one. The universe is the handiwork. Thou art the soul of the universe and the universe hath sprung from thee. Salutations to thee! Thou art the end of all created things. Thou art above the five elements. Salutations to thee that art the three worlds and that art again above the three worlds. O lord of Yogins, salutations to thee that art the refuge of everything. O foremost of beings, those words which thou hast said regarding me have enabled me to behold thy divine attributes as manifest in the three worlds. (In consequence of that kindness), O Govinda, I also behold thy eternal form. Thou standest shutting up the seven paths of the Wind possessed of immeasurable energy. The firmament is occupied by thy head, and the earth by thy feet. The points of the compass are thy two arms, and the Sun is thy eye, and Sakra constitutes thy prowess. O thou of unfading glory, thy Person, attired in yellow robes that resemble the hue of the Atasi flower, seem to us to be like a cloud charged with flashing of lightning. Think of that, O best of gods, which would be good, O thou of lotus eyes, for my humble self, that am devoted to thee, that seek thy protection, and that am desirous of obtaining a blissful end.'
"Vasudeva said, 'Since, O bull among men, thy devotion to me is very great, for this, O prince, I have displayed my celestial form to thee. I do not, O foremost of kings, display myself unto one that is not devoted to me, or unto a devotee that is not sincere, or unto one, O Bharata, that is not of restrained soul. Thou art devoted to me and art always observant of righteousness. Of a pure heart, thou art always self-restrained and ever observant of penances and gifts. Through thy own penances, O Bhishma, thou art competent to behold me. Those regions, O king, are ready for thee whence there is no return. 1 Six and fifty days, O foremost one of Kuru's race, still remain for thee to live! Casting off thy body, thou shalt then, O Bhishma, obtain the blessed reward of thy acts. Behold, those deities and the Vasus, all endued with forms of fiery splendour, riding on their cars, are waiting for thee invisibly till the moment of the sun's entering on northerly course. Subject to universal time, when the divine Surya turns to his northerly course, thou, O foremost of men, shalt go to those regions whence no man of knowledge ever returns to this earth! When thou, O Bhishma, wilt leave this world for that, all Knowledge,
[paragraph continues] O hero, will expire with thee. It is for this, that all these persons, assembled together, have approached thee for listening to discourses on duty and morality. Do thou then speak words of truth, fraught with morality and Yoga, unto Yudhishthira who as firm in truth but whose learning has been clouded by grief on account of the slaughter of his kinsmen, and do thou, by this, quickly dispel that grief of his!'
106:1 i.e. One that goes thither is not subject to rebirth.
Next: Section LII