Mahabharata is an epic of' everlasting significance, It contains the philosophy of humanity, every shade of human psyche-its desires and hopes; aspirations and achievements; sorrows and lapses; evil and ill will; greed and aggrandisement; envy and hatred; wrath and revenge; tension and turmoil; love and sacrifice; service and dedication; ease and equanimity-finds its legitimate and architectural niche in it.
The sponsoring direction behind all these subtleties and their expressions on the arena of action is that of the ageless Paramatman embodied as Sri Krishna.
As and when the Pararnatman chooses to come on earth in an incarnation, there will be simultaneously an exemplary character brought along with, to be a model to humanity, When Sri Rama, the incarnation of Divinity came on earth, "He brought Sri Anjaneya a model, worthy of emulation. And Bheeshma the celibate is the ideal character, come along with Sri Krishna to assist Him in the cosmic work and to show in himself, what an ideal man ought to be.
Bheeshma came into world not in search of any- thing as the ordinary Jivas do. He came fully endowed with everything sacred and secular. The purpose of his coming was to serve and not to seek. The parents, public, brothers and grandchildren, righteous and the wicked-all received his help according to their worth and deserts. While giving liberally, the idea of giver was not in him, for ego pollutes charity. He was ever free from every shade of selfishness and was always shining in service. That is his spiritual attainment and that is Dharma. Therefore, his life is an explanation of Dharma. Rather, Dharma reveals itself in him. It is Dharma that has its roots in selflessness, growth in love of humanity and the fruit in service and Bliss.
Bheeshma is a rare and successful combination of the three - hand, heart, and head, a man of strength, devotion and wisdom. His life on earth may be divided into four phases with the underlying equanimity all through. He has been all active until Yudhishthira is made the crown prince. His complete stoicism and silence to the developments of the events till the Mahabharata war can he considered the second part. His display of valour and chivalrous participation in the war with equanimity at heart are the third phase. His discourse on Dharma in Santi and Anusasana Parvas is the matchless wisdom that he bequeathes to posterity is the fourth, which is the fruition of life. And in the fifth he merges with the Source.
In the epic, Bheeshma is next only to Sri Krishna in many respects. In spite of Sri Krishna's grace, Pandavas suffered a lot. Despite Bheeshma's help, Duryodhana was defeated and killed. Both Pandavas and Kauravas received Sri Krishna's help according to their deserts. Similarly Panda vas received Bheeshma's wisdom and Kauravas got his valeur. If Sri Krishna has dispelled the despondency of Arjuna, Bheeshma has driven away the despair of Yudhishthira. If Bhagavad Gita is Sri Krishna's boon to society, Santi and Anusasana Parvas are the gift of Bheeshma to humanity. If the war is preceded by Sri Krishna's Gita, it is succeeded by Bheeshma's Santi and Anusasana Parvas. If Sri Krishna has declared in Gita that he is the all consuming Kala, Bheeshma has displayed his Kalaswaroopa in the battle and has been instrumental in the destruction of many. If Sri Krishna's is the word, Bheeshma's is the deed. If Sri Krishna's is the plan of destruction, Bheeshma's is the execution of destruction. If Sri Krishna's is the Upanishad, Bheeshma's is the commentary. While Sri Siva Sahasranama is Sri Krishna's contribution, Sri Vishnu Sahasranama is Bheeshma's contribution to Bhakti literature.
The way of Bheeshma is like that of Siva. ,If Siva hag reduced Manmatha to ashes, Bheeshma has burnt lust and cremated desire in the fire of celibacy and sacrifice, If Siva is a Tapasvi in a Samsara, Bheeshma is a yati in royal robes, hermit in the palace and'a recluse in the capital. And finally while churning the ocean of milk the world helped itself to all the bounties forthcoming from it, but when death the poison came, it ran to Siva for help. In order to save the world, Siva consumed poison. Likewise, Bheeshma willingly accepted the bed of arrows for having served the world. Bed of roses was always at his disposal. But he denied himself of it for the welfare of others. He is Siva, embodied as the human in the act of self- sacrifice, which is for the good of the world.
And a description of such Bheeshma's sojourn on earth is attempted in the following chapters, to which the benedictory introduction is written by His Holiness Srimad Swami Chidbhavanandaji, President, Sri Ramakrishna Tapovanam, Tirupparaitturai.
Mother Nature" is ever bounteous in productivity. Periodically she brings forth mighty personalities who are the makers of history and shapers of society. One such outstanding personality is that of Bheeshma, born of the lunar race that reigned Bharatavarsha long ago. The boyhood name of this individual was Devavrata. He was constituted of extraordinary elements partly inborn and partly inherited from the parents. The mother took up the responsibility of bringing him up on right lines. The period of his tutela.ge was kept concealed except to those who were directly concerned with it. This is a point worth con- sideration in the educational field. Superb was the stuff this disciple was made of. Sharp and accurate was his power of grasp. Marvellous was the unfoldment of his talents. A novice with the caliber of this stamina was dedicated to learning and martial training. Several masters each adept in his branch of learning undertook to give training to the youth. The disciple proved him exemplary in the art of picking up knowledge and unfolding talents. Whatever is possible to one atom is possible to all atoms. This is the revelation of science whatever is possible to one Jivatman ought to be possible to all Jivatmans. This is the exhortation of the science of self. It became possible to Devavrata to be omnipotent and omniscient. This was how he concluded his period of discipleship.
Mother Ganga offered the fully evolved son to father Santanu. There was an inborn divine trait in Devavrata so long unknown to the parents and the teachers. Now came the time for him to reveal that exemplary merit. Ordinarily people come into the world to acquire and to seek. But that was not the case with Devavrata. He had everything to give and nothing to seek. Lifelong he became a contributor to society while he was not in need of asking for anything from society. Just as a tree offers its fully ripe fruit for the benefit of others without expecting anything in-return, Devavrata spontaneously distributed his valour and wisdom for the good of mankind.
The Upanishad speaks of Sreyas and Preyas as two modes of life -the path of perfection and the path of pleasure. The former is born of self-abnegation and the latter of self-seeking. Spirituality is impossible to the pursuer of the latter path. While the majority of the seekers of spirituality are majority through the path of Preyas to that of Sreyas, Devavhta was firmly established in Sreyas even as a novice. His unassailable stand in self-denial came to light through an act of kindness to his father. Though somewhat advanced in age, King Santanu wanted to marry a second time. But Devavrata's status as a crown prince stood as a barrier to this desire. The son was quick to understand the dilemma of the father. He voluntarily renounced his claim to the throne and he took the vow of unbroken celibacy in order to avoid future trouble to the successor to the throne. Astonished at this daring renunciation of position and pleasure, the celestials shouted "Bheeshma, Bheeshma ". The terrible, the terrible is the meaning of this utterance. Thenceforth Devavrata became Bheeshma, the foremost hero of Mahabharata. All through his career he was terrible in thought, word, and deed.
Satyam and Dharma are the basic principles of Vedic culture and civilization. Bheeshma was the embodiment of these two virtues. He did valiantly whatever duty fell to his lot. He made no distinction between duty personal and duty public. In other words his life was always an exposition of Dharma. To the fully evolved man of action, Dharma is always highly advanced and infallible in execution, but the same appears to be of conflict and complication to the ordinary. And that was the case with Bheeshma all through his earthly career. Understanding his actions and understanding Dharma are one and the same. Again he would not budge an inch from truthfulness. Bheeshma took to the vow of continence very solemnly so that he might give his father another lease of conjugal joy. Later on, the mother demanded that he should marry to save the royal family from extinction for want of progeny. The Dharma of the son is to obey the parents implicitly. But on this issue, Bheeshma refused to obey his mother and later his Guru Parasu Rama because their demand went against his vow of Brahmacharya. Breaking the vow is the same as deviating from truthfulness. The ethical Dharma of obeying the parents and the preceptor was subordinated to the eternal verity of Sat yam. All knowledge automatically and spontaneously dawned in him because he held fast to Satyam.
In the act of adhering to Dharma Bheeshma serves as model to mankind. No deed on earth is absolutely good and no deed is absolutely bad. Any good deed has a tinge of evil inherent in it. On that ground good undertaking should not be abandoned. With all vigour and valour it ought to be too pursued. Evil consequences if any may be quietly ignored. The under- taking should be' pursued with adamant will. This is the lesson that one is bound to learn from Bheeshma.
Vajraayudha is a divine weapon evolving from human excellences. It is more a force of character than a material instrument. This weapon has its superiority over the resources of nature. The latter can be made use of by both the good and the bad, Where- as Vajraayudha can be had access to only by the good for the destruction of the bad. The wicked will not be able to make use of it. Bheeshrna became a Vajraayudha in his own way. In addition to it, he made himself excellent in another way. He dedicate himself and all of his talents for the good of others. Whosoever made whatsoever claim on him and his talents would have them all freely. This self dedication was his unique feature.
Duryodhana, the greedy grandson of Bheeshma pleaded with him to become the generalissimo of his army in the impending war. The grandsire replied: "In conformity with my vow I shall be the head of your army. But you will be defeated and exterminated." Greed for kingdom had clouded the understanding of Duryodhana. He paid no heed to the infallible utterance of the grandfather, about the consequences of the war.
The important characters of Mahabharara play the role of significant categories in the human make up. For example, the five Pandava brothers represent the five senses. Mind is common to all the five senses.
Draupadi the common wife of the brothers’ functions, exactly as the mind does. While serving all the five senses equally,mind retains its individuality and purity. The same is the case with Draupadi. In this all egorical representation. Bheeshma functions in the place of conscience. It is enshrined in the hearts of all. But it is impartial and the same to all. It distinguishes the good from evil and does not take sides. This is exactly the function of the grandsire. Under all eventualities con- science does not desert anybody. It is ever the good counseller to one and all. Bheeshma behaves exactly as does the conscience. Therefore he is called Bheeshmacharya.
Bheeshma is the fully evolved Jivatman. There- fore he is on a par with Sri Krishna, the Paramatman. Sri Krishna's descent from Divinity to the level of mankind and Bheeshma's ascent from the ordinary human level to that of Divinity meet in the Mahabharata. Sri Krishna as the divine incarnation could shower the nectar of the Gita to mankind through Arjuna. As a commentary on it Bheeshma could expound the various intricacies of Dharma to Yudhishthira. The exploits of such Bheeshma are forever the models to mankind.
The exemplary career of this mighty warrior is graphically depicted by Sri K. Subrahmanyam in this book titled "Bheeshma the Superman." The unfoldment and achievement of this outstanding personality are all vividly portrayed in this book. Gripping exposition and apt interpretation of the life incidents in this book make the reader increase his' admiration to this national hero. It induces vigour into the timid. An absorbed perusal of this book is bound to invigorate high ideals in life in the minds of the vegetating young men.
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