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bhishma-stuthi-17

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Fri Jul 11 1997 - 23:07:14 PDT

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta guravE namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", 

                     triBhuvana-kamanam tamAla-varNam
                       ravikara-goura-varAmbaram daDhAnE  I
                     vapuralaka-kulA-vrtAna-nAbjam
                       vijayasaKhE ratirastu mEnavadyA  II

In the "bhishma-stuthi" the practical utility of the "nAmA" "vijaya-sakhE"
("vijayanakku-thOzhan")in Verse #2 above is two-fold.

              (A) It reminds us about "AchArya-anubhavam"
              (B) It induces in us "svaya-anubhavam"

Let me explain the above :

In (A) we see how the word enabled our great "pUrvAchAryA-s" (just a brief
sample was given in my earlier post #14 from their "eedu") to "recall"
instances where the Lord exhibited endearing Condescension ("parAdInam" or,
as in Tamil they say, His "eLimai") in carrying out many menial tasks and
errands for His true devotees like Arjunan

In (B) we see how the word "vijaya-sakhE" "triggers" off in our own minds,
"svaya-anubhavam" --- what the language of modern pychologists call
"non-verbal/ non-symbolic mental processes"). More specifically, the word
"vijaya-sakhE" "triggers" off in our minds a whole host of historical scenes
from the great epic, the 'Mahabharatha' --- somewhat like a 'video-clip'
inside our minds !
                   
                ***************************************
 
Let us, in this post and the next few ones, first deal with (B) above i.e.
"svaya-anubhavam". Let's quickly survey the historical context in which the
"bhishma-sthuthi" was composed. A proper understanding of the events and
circumstances in the epic leading to the "antima-prayANam" of Bhishma
enables one to better appreciate the many subtle messages hidden in the
remaining verses of Sri.BhishmA's hymn. 

So let's look at a "slice of history" as described in the 'Mahabharatha'.

We will later return to deal with (A) above i.e. "AchArya-anubhavam" of the
holy 'nAmA' : "vijaya-sakhE !".

                       ********************************

The War of Kurukshetra, as we all know lasted for full 18 days.

By the time of the seventh/eighth day it was clear the Pandavas were slowly
getting the upper hand in the bloody engagement.

One evening after the bugle had sounded the cessation of hostilities for the
day, Duryodhana and his war-council members, including Karna, huddled around
a camp-fire in the former's tent and "brain-stormed" over battle-strategy.

Duryodhana was perplexed over the course the war was taking. He could'nt
understand how the formidable Kaurava army could be repulsed by enemy-forces
much inferior in numbers and in the quality of equipment possessed, as well.
Duryodhana and his generals could not fathom where their battle-strategy had
gone awry. In the beginning it'd looked as if it would deliver them a quick
and decisive victory over the Pandavas. But what they now had on their hands
was a battle of grinding attrition on "D-Day minus 10".

Karna, the most powerful of generals in the Kaurava camp, was the first to
offer a "situation-analysis" of what he believed was the chink in their
battle- strategy.

According to Karna their battle-forces were unable to make headway simply
because Bhishma was their Supreme Commander ! 

"Bhishma," he began, "Bhishma as the Commander of our forces, lacks ruthless
leadership skills. And this shows up in the lack-lustre, ineffective and
unimaginative tactics our forces are employing on the battle-field ! Bhishma
leads our forces with his body only, O Duryodhana, and not with his whole
heart!".

On hearing the impudent words of Karna, Duryodhana and the assembled War
Council members were shocked ! 

"Explain yourself, Karna," said Duryodhana quietly and knowing fully well
that his most trusted general would not be saying something so sensitive and
explosive without good reason.

Karna continued,"Duryodhana, we all know the soft corner that Bhishma has
for Arjuna and Krishna. I fear that it is those "soft" feelings that make
Bhishma seemingly pull his punches in battle against the Pandavas. I suspect
Bhishmacharya-r is not throwing the entire weight of his formidable battle-
skills behind our forces.And that's because he does not want in any way to
hurt his beloved Arjuna !".

The War Council heard Karna out and then pondered and debated over the
matter for long. Some believed it to be an accurate analysis; others begged
to differ.

Duryodhana finally decided as follows:

"My dear comrades-in-arms, we have all discussed this matter enough. The War
has reached a critical stage now and there is no time for uncertainties. If
our strategy is ineffective because of Bhishma then it is better to directly
confront the "pita-mahar" with our misgivings. If what Karna fears is true
then I will have no hesitation in removing BhishmachAryA-r from his position
as Supreme Commander and appoint someone else in his place to carry out the
commission. But let's first ascertain the actual fact from Bhishma himself!".

They all trooped into Bhishma's tent and confronted him with their
misgivings as voiced by Duryodhana.

When he heard what his own Council of Generals had to say the great
Bhishma's heart was wrenched with pain !

It seemed to him Death had struck him down that very instant! Hardly was
there any need to meet another "end" on the battle-field like a good and
honourable warrior !

Indeed, what the mighty forces of the Pandavas could not achieve --- i.e.
his death and exit from the battle-field--- his own dearest Kauravas had
accomplished in a trice by simply casting doubts on his very integrity as
Supreme Commander of their forces in battle !

It is narrated in the Mahabharatha that an extremely pained Bhishma then
replied to Duryodhana in a muted voice tinged with the suppressed sadness
and anger of a soul whose leonine nobility had been spat upon by a pack of
filthy, ugly hyenas.

"My dearest Duryodhana", the venerable Bhishma said,"you ask me why our
great forces are unable to make any sort of headway against the Pandava
troops. You ascribe our lack of success to the inadequacy of my leadership.
You even insinuate that my own loyalty lies more with your cousin, Arjuna,
than with yourself and your family. Alas, how mistaken you are, my dear
child ! How mistaken you are, as you always are ! Why is it that a brave
heart such as yours so woefully lacks sound judgment ! "

Bhishma continued, "Hear me now, my dear Duryodhana, for I speak to you as I
would to a beloved heir to the throne of Hastinapur which is my very soul
...and in whose service I have spent all the best years of my life. I speak
to you alone Duryodhana and not to these great generals around you who seem
to have all given you their wise opinions about the "quality of leadership"
Bhishma gives the Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra !"

"The real reason for our lack of success, O Duryodhana, is, however, not the
"quality of my leadership" or the valour of these great generals assembled
here or the bravery of our troops. 

"The real reason, my dear child, is that in the Pandava-camp there are two
beings who are an extraordinarily formidable pair to overcome! That pair,
believe me, is capable of thwarting any of our military strategies or tactics. 
"That pair, Duryodhana, is the pair called "nara" and "Narayana" --- the
most potent duo in all of this Creation. Mark my words, Duryodhana, Arjuna
is the "nara" and Krishna is the "Narayana" and that pair will be the real
undoing of us in battle !"  

"The time is still not too late, my dear Duryodhana, for reconciliation with
your cousins, the Pandavas. Declare a cease-fire and let's begin to talk
peace with them! Who are the Pandavas ? Remember, after all, they are your
own flesh and blood. 

"Let's stop this madness, this gruesome bloodshed, my dear Duryodhana! Let's
not add any more to the numbers of widows and orphans in this blessed land
of Hastinapura ! Let's put a stop to more senseless death of innocent men !
Let's put an end to this senseless war ! Heed me, my dear one, heed the
words of an old man who wishes his conscience to be as clear in death as it
has been in my long life ! And you know it, I have nothing but your
well-being, Duryodhana, and the prosperity of Hastinapur at heart when I say
all this!"  

When Duryodhana heard Bhishma out he fumed !

If it hadn't been Bhishma who'd uttered such words, Duryodhana would have
had his famous fury and temper immediately unleashed. In deference to the
pre-eminent status of the "pita-mahar", however, Duryodhana reined in his
simmering rage. 

Yet, in place of furious invective, Duryodhana is reported in the epic to
have used scalding sarcasm to devastate Bhishma.  

"Bhisma-pita, my good Sire", he said, "I have not come here to listen to my
Supreme Military Commander explain the reasons for his lack of success in
battle but to hear him tell me how he proposes to realize it. What you tell
me is a fancy tale of "nara" and "Narayana" ! What I want to hear from you,
my Supreme Military Commander, is a concrete plan of battle at daybreak."

Everyone assembled there in Bhishma's tent that night was simply aghast at
Duryodhana's terse and acerbic retort to the venerable Bhishma.

For the venerable Bhishma it was sheer excruciation to hear young Duryodhana
not only insult him thus but to have him do it in the presence of the War
Council  member-generals.... all of whom were not only his subordinates in
battle but his moral inferiors, as well.

It was the moment when Bhishma painfully realized, deep within himself, that
the Hour of his Death had arrived!

The battle of Kurukshetra, for him, ended in that moment... 

There was no further need for Arjuna or Krishna to finish Bhishma off ! His
dear Duryodhana had accomplished it easily .... not with powerful arrows,
chariots or armies ..... but with a single, nonchalant venomous remark
tipped with insolence and discourtesy far deadlier than the razor-edge of
any "brahmhAstra"!!

Next post.

srimathe srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha
sudarshan