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From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Tue Jul 29 1997 - 01:18:07 PDT

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta guravE namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s", 

An eerie silence descended on the battle-fields of Kurukshetra.

Both camps stood still and watched, in shock and horror, the crippled body
of their beloved "pitA-mahar", shot to shreds, slowly sinking to the ground.

Bhishma looked at his own frame brutally mangled beyond recognition by
Arjuna's arrows. Momentarily, he was shaken by the sight.

It was the sight of incipient Death, fearful and pathetic.

A searing pain numbed his body .... what body?, he thought, in a flash of
irony ...soon it would be called a decaying caracass...

His head spun. And in his throat suddenly began to rage a burning thirst.

Everything around seemed to be swirling. Through dimmed eyes he saw the
blurred shapes of the Kaurava and Pandava armies all crowding around
him..... shocked, silent and helpless....

He saw the hazy outlines of Duryodhana, DrOnA, Karna, Yudhistra, .....

None came readily forward to aid him in his moment of extreme pain.... his
moment of death. They all remained transfixed, unable to believe the sight
before them.

It was a moment of indescribable agony that Bhishma experienced.

It was a morbid moment of death the closest description of which is,
perhaps, given in our holy literature nowhere as brutally and graphically as
in PeriAzhwAr's "pattha-rAya irrapAr perum pEru" :

         mEl ezhun-thathu-Or vAy-kiLirnthu
           mEl mIdaRRinai uLL-ezha vAngIk
         kAlUm kaiyUm vidhir vidhirthu Erik
           kaNn urrakamad Ava ....... etc.

        (Gasping, rasping; heart palpitating;
         Limbs twisting in spasms; rheumy eye-balls turning inside
sockets ..etc.)

and then again,
        madi vazhi vandhu neer pulansOra
          vAyil attiya kanjiyUm mIndE
        kadai vazhi vArak kandam adaippak .....
          todaivazhi ummai nAygaL kavara .... etc.

       (Bladder ruptured, urine dripping;
        body-bile seeping out of a stenchful mouth ;
        foul mucus drooling down the chin.....etc.)

and further,

         vAy oru pakkam vAngI valippa
          vArntha nIrk-kUzhi kaNgal mIzhartha ...

       (mouth twisted in ugly pain ... incoherent
          eyes swollen in utter terror ...etc.)        

It was a moment of sheer loneliness and complete despair... for BhishmAchAryar.

He despaired that the last moments of life would now be spent lying supine
on the unholy soil of Kurukshetra.... a futile champion to the cause of a
"visEsha-dharmA" whose purpose was not even so clear to him ...

He despaired that his dying body would be under the custody of moral pygmies
like Duryodhana, Karna and the rest of the gang...                   

He despaired that his parched throat would now be quenched with water
fetched by the unclean, impure hands of the Kauravas and Pandavas ...
stained by the blood of so many thousands of his beloved poor, innocent

He despaired... and feared ... that in the terminal moments when life and
body parted, his lifeless head would probably be cradled in the wicked arms
or lap of the likes of Duryodhana, Karna or DussAsana .....

Although what PeriAzhwAr wrote cannot be strictly applied to him, the words
quoted below nevertheless carry an indirect but poignant relevance to
BhishmA's final plight:

            "thAi oru-pakkam thandhai oru pakkam
              tAramUm oru pakkam alarRa ...etc."

or perhaps,

            "koodi koodi utrArgal irundu
              kutram nirka natrangal paraindu
            pAdi pAdi Or pAdayil eetu .....etc."

In Bhishma's case, all of Hastinapur and its peoples, gathering then to
watch him die, were collectively, so to speak, his loving mother, father,
spouse ..... He had none else on earth to call as kith or kin.

And the insincere ones, to gather, perhaps, at his funeral to sing requiems
for him, would be the Kauravas Duryodhana, Karna and the rest of the
notorious pack.

Such dark thoughts brought unbearable pain into his heart. 

Bhishma then murmured to himself :

"Is this how it all ends then ?"

"Is this the result for all the "dharmA-s" I lived and fought for all my
life ? Is this the kind of exit that I am destined for ? Must it all end for
me in this inglorious way ? Oh, my Lord, Woe unto me !"

It was in that instant of supreme despair that BhishmAchAryar's glance
suddenly fell on Lord Krishna on His chariot :

Krishna dazzled ! Bhishma saw Him in a new light as never before. The Lord
appeared to him in a halo of majesty never witnessed earlier. He was like an
extraordinary piece of grace-filled sculpture, one hand clasping the reins
of His magnificent horses and the other one casually draped around Arjuna's
shoulder .... a furtive, bewitching smile spanning His lips !

It was the Lord in a vision of Dawning Glory, "vijaya-sakhE" Himself !

              triBhuvana-kamanam tamAla-varNam
                 ravikara-goura-varAmbaram daDhAnE  I

Bhishma's near-dead eyes cleared instantly and brimmed with the enchanting
image of Krishna. That glance of Bhishma, we can imagine, spoke volumes !
The endearing appeal in that glance, perhaps, is what Saint TOndar-adi-podi
had in mind when he composed those stirring words in Verse #29 of the
"tirumAlai" :

          oorilEn kAni-illai uravu-matrOrUvar illai
           pAril nin pAdha moolam paRRilEn, parama-muthi !
          kAr-OLi vaNNaNe ! kaNNaNe ! kadari-kinrEn !
           Arular ! kaLai-kann ammA ! arangamA nagarUlANE !

          (There's nothing now left in this world to call my own, Oh Kanna!
           Not a stretch of earth (on Kurukshetra or Hastinapur);
           Not a soul whom I can call my kith or kin (neither the Kauravas
or            Pandavas)!
           Not even the means I've used to endear myself to You, my Lord !
           (Not even all the "dharmA-s" for which I, BhishmA, have become so
renowned for !)
           My lustrous One, I prithee, helpless and damned am I
           My Beauteous One, Oh tarry not! If You won't save me in this Moment 
           Who will ?) 

Suddenly, Bhisma felt a strange lightness fill up his whole being. 

In a moment, gone was the darkness of despair! 

Effortlessly, Bhishma's torn lips curled and lucidly whispered : "HarE
Pain vanished. 

Fear fled to be replaced by the bliss of an ineffable certainty that
Arjuna's UNFAILING friend and savior of many, many long years
..."vijaya-sakhE" .... the Supreme One, this time around, would stand no
less resolutely by Bhishma in his moment of extinction. 

Swami Desikan describes the emotion of such CERTAINTY, many ages later, in a
verse of rare insight into human death.

"abhiti-stavam" (Verse # 7):

       rama-dayita ranga-bhu-ramaNa krishna vishnO harE
         trivikrama janArdana triyuga nAtha nArAyANa       I
       ithIva shubha-dAni yaf paTTa~thi nAma-dhEyani thE 
         na tasya yama-vashyathA naraka-pAtha-Bheethi kutha-ha II 
(Meaning:  How can there ever be place, in the hearts of men, for Fear of
death or of Yama's horrors when the names ring, loud and clear, in them ...
the names of Ramadayita, RangabhUramaNa, Krishna, Vishnu, HarE, Trivikrama,
JanArdanA, Triyuga, Natha, NarAyaNa ?!)



srimathe srivan satagopa sri narayana yatindra mahadesikaya namaha