You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : July 1997


From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Mon Jul 14 1997 - 23:02:24 PDT

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta guravE namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", 

On the 9th evening of the Kurukshetra War it was the turn of the Pandava-
generals to sit around their camp-fires, wring their hands in despair and mope.

Yudhishtra, Bheema and Arjuna and their generals were completely
"shell-shocked" by the havoc they'd just witnessed the mighty Bhishma cause
amongst their ranks that day. 

They collectively took inventory of troop-casualties and found they'd
suffered huge losses.

There was nothing else to do but lick wounds. Never before had they been
more traumatised by a reverse in battle !

After a long session of soul-searching, which then ensued, into why the
battle had so dramatically and adversely turned against them, Yudhishtra
spoke, "This war cannot be won by us as long as Bhishma, our beloved
"pitA-mahar", remains Supreme Commander of the Kaurava forces. What do you
all think ?".

With downcast heads Yudhishtra's brothers and generals agreed .

Yudhishtra then said, "There's only one way to get around this. "Eliminate"
our beloved BhishmAchArya-r".

"Aye,", replied the generals, "but the question is how do we do it ? You saw
yourself the way the old warrior fought today ! He seems quite invincible!",
they cried.

Yudhishtra calmly responded, "I have a way out."

The Pandava generals looked amazed.

Yudhishtra explained, "A short while ago before this war started, I'd sought
Bhishma's support in this war. He was at pains to explain to me why he was
duty-bound to fight on behalf of the Kauravas and why he couldn't stand by
our side.

"The great soul, however, promised me one thing.... "Yudhishtra, although I
cannot fight beside you", he said to me then, "let me assure you my whole-
hearted blessings are with you and your brothers. You are all no less dear
to me than Hastinapur. If ever you want proof of that, my dear child,
hesitate not, even for a moment, to come and seek my counsel at any time you
think you need it during this war. I shall never fail to give you good
advice although I'm sorry I cannot lend you my fighting arm!".

Yudhishtra continued,"I think it's time to take Bhishma up on the word he
gave me. At a moment when defeat seems to be staring at us its better I
approach Sri.BhishmAchArya-r and seek his wise counsel. I'm sure he'll have
a few ideas on the conduct this war. "

Some of the assembled generals were astounded by this statement of
Yudhishtra. They voiced their skepticism.

"Sir, are you saying you'll seek the advice of the enemy Supreme Commander
on tomorrow's battle strategy ??!!"

"Yes, indeed", replied Yudhishtra.

"You must be out of your mind to do such a preposterous thing. Why it's like
going and asking a ferocious lion for tips to de-fang it !!"

Yudhishtra was firm. "I know the heart of that great soul, Bhishma" he said,
"better than anyone else in all of Hastinapur. If that wise and revered soul
has promised me good counsel then, believe me, true and good counsel is what
I will receive in full measure !".

"Let's seek Sri.Bhishma's audience immediately," he commanded . 

His brothers and generals all followed him into the night towards the
Kaurava camp where Bhishma's tent was pitched.


Many of our "AchAryA-s", commentating on this particular "scene" in the
Mahabharatha, draw our attention at this point in the epic to the vast and
sharp contrast between the respective "attitude" DuryOdhana and Yudhishtra
displayed towards the great BhishmAchAryA-r. 

The former, for whom Bhishma fought faithfully, never reposed full
confidence in his own duly appointed Supreme Military Commander. In fact he
suspected (alongwith Karna) Bhishma's real loyalties lay elsewhere. He was
tempted to even resent the old man's presence at the head of the War Council.

Yudhishtra, however, though an "enemy", had nothing less than complete faith
in the good judgment and counsel of BhishmAchArya-r. So full was his faith
in BhishmA's "dhArm-ic" nature that he did not hesitate even for a moment to
go the Supreme Commander of the enemy forces to consult with him on how to
conduct a war which the Pandavas suddenly seemed to be losing grip of!

Yudhishtra was so absolutely sure Bhishma would not refuse him good counsel
and, at the same time, neither would the old warrior compromise his own
moral position vis-a-vis the Kauravas.

This difference between Yudhishtra and Duryodhana in their attitudes to
BhishmAchAryar is one of the most inexplicable ironies in the 'Mahabharatha' 

But then, isn't all human life full of tragic irony ?

A question that we may now ask ourselves, however, is this :

By offering  "military advice/intelligence" to Yudhishtra on the 9th night
of the Kurukshetra War, wasn't Sri.Bhishma really committing a grave act of
treachery to the Kauravas ?

Wasn't this exactly what Duryodhana and Karna had, in fact, a day earlier,
suspected and accused him of ? Wasn't the great "dharmAtmA" guilty of an act
of "a-dharmA" ... a most grievous lapse of ethics ?

Let's try and examine that sticky moral issue in the next post for it has
some bearing (as we shall see later) in the appreciation of the message of
the "bhishma-stuthi".

srimathe srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikaya namaha