The Mahabharata Home
"Janamejaya said, 'When that tiger among men, of righteous soul and great energy, firmly adhering to truth and with passions under complete control, viz., the son of Santanu and Ganga, named Devavrata or Bhishma of unfading glory, lay on a hero's bed with the sons of Pandu sitting around him, tell me, O great sage, what converse ensued in that meeting of heroes after the slaughter of the troops.'
"Vaisampayana said, 'When Bhishma that chief of the Kurus, lay on his bed of arrows, many Rishis and Siddhas, O king, headed by Narada, came to that spot. The unslain remnant of the (assembled) kings with Yudhishthira at their head, and Dhritarashtra and Krishna and Bhima and Arjuna and the twins also came there. Those high-souled persons, approaching the grandsire of the Bharatas who looked like the Sun himself dropped from the firmament, indulged in lamentations for him. Then Narada of godlike features reflecting for a short while, addressed all the Pandavas and the unslain remnant of the kings saying, 'The time, I think, has come for you to question Bhishma (on subject of morality and religion), for Ganga's son is about to expire like the Sun that is on the point of setting. He is about to cast off his life-breaths. Do you all, therefore, solicit him to discourse to you? He is acquainted with the varied duties of all the four orders. Old in years, after abandoning his body he will obtain high regions of bliss. Solicit him, therefore, without delay, to clear the doubts that exists in your minds.' Thus addressed by Narada, those
princes approached Bhishma, but unable to ask him anything, looked at one another. Then Yudhishthira the son of Pandu, addressing Hrishikesa said, "There is no one else than Devaki's son that can question the grandsire. O foremost one of Yadu's race, do thou, therefore, O slayer of Madhu, speak first. Thou, O sire, art the foremost of us all and thou art conversant with every duty and practice." Thus addressed by the son of Pandu, the illustrious Kesava of unfading glory, approaching the unconquerable Bhishma, spoke unto him as follows.'
"Vasudeva said, 'Hast thou, O best of kings, passed the night happily? Has thy understanding become unclouded? Does thy knowledge, O sinless one, shine in thee by inward light? I hope thy heart no longer feels pain and thy mind is no longer agitated.'
"Bhishma said, 'Burning, stupefaction, fatigue, exhaustion, illness, and pain, through thy grace, O thou of Vrishni's race, have all left me in a single day. O thou of incomparable splendour, all that is past, all that is future, and all that is present, I behold as clearly as a fruit placed in my hands. All the duties declared in the Vedas, all those laid down in the Vedantas, I behold clearly, O thou of unfading glory, in consequence of the boon thou hast granted to me. The duties that have been declared by persons of learning and righteous behaviour, dwell in my remembrance. I am conversant also, O Janardana, with the duties and practices prevailing in particular countries and among particular tribes and families. Everything relating again to the four modes of life has come back to my recollection. I am acquainted also, O Kesava, with the duties that relate to king-craft. Whatever should at whatever time be said, I would say, O Janardana! Through thy grace, I have acquired an auspicious understanding. Strengthened by meditation on thee, feel as if I have become a young man again. Through thy favour, O Janardana, I have become competent to discourse on what is beneficial (for the world). Why, however, O holy one, dost thou not thyself discourse to Pandu's son upon all that is good? What explanation hast thou to give in respect of this? Tell me quickly, O Madhava!'
"Vasudeva said, 'Know, O thou of Kuru's race, that I am the root of fame and of everything that leads to good. All things, good or bad, proceed from me. Who on earth will wonder if the moon be said to be of cool rays? Similarly, who will wonder if I were described as one possessed of the full measure of fame? 1 I have, however, resolved to enhance thy fame, O thou of great splendour! It is for this, O Bhishma, that I have just inspired thee with great intelligence. As long, O lord of earth, as the earth will last, so long will thy fame travel with undiminished lustre through all the worlds. Whatever, O Bhishma, thou wilt say unto the inquiring son of Pandu, will be regarded on earth to be as authoritative as the declarations of that Vedas. That person who will conduct himself here according to the authority of thy declarations, will obtain hereafter the reward of every meritorious act. For
this reason, O Bhishma, I have imparted to thee celestial understanding so that thy fame maybe enhanced on earth. As long as a man's fame lasts in the world, so long are his achievements said to live. The unslain remnant of the (assembled) kings are sitting around thee, desirous of listening to thy discourses on morality and duty. Do thou speak unto them, O Bharata! Thou art old in years and thy behaviour is consistent with the ordinance of the Srutis. Thou art well conversant with the duties of kings and with every other science of duty. No one has ever noticed the slightest transgression in thee from thy every birth. All the kings know thee to be conversant with all the sciences of morality and duty. Like a sire unto his sons do thou, therefore, O king, discourse unto them of high morality. Thou hast always worshipped the Rishis and the gods. It is obligatory on thee to discourse on these subjects in detail unto persons desirous of listening to discourse on morality and duty. A learned person, especially when solicited by the righteous, should discourse on the same. The sages have declared this to be a duty. O puissant one, if thou dost not speak on such subjects, thou wilt incur sin. Therefore, questioned by thy sons and grandsons, O learned one, about the eternal duties (of men), do thou, O bull among the Bharatas, discourse upon them on the subject.'"
111:1 The sense is, I who have already the full measure of fame can scarcely add to my fame by doing or saying anything.
Next: Section LV