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Bheeshm's Teachings
By opposing anything and everything including faith is totally wrong and will mislead one in life. It is not wise to oppose everything. The lesson from Mahaabhaarat is : however virtuous it may be personally to hold to the values, protection of Dharm supersedes all, demonstrated by the Lord upholding the Vaidik Vaakya: "Dharmo Vishwasya Jaat Pratishthaa" the entire cosmos is supported by Dharm. Its another parallel incident is of Yayaati, who was cursed of being old and then relaxed that he could exchange his old age with anyone who is ready to give his his youth. Yayaati had five sons, he asked every one of them to give their you to him in exchange of his old age, but only his youngest son got agreed to exchange his youth with his old age. When Yayaati asked him that why he got ready to exchange his youth as he had not even tasted the life, the boy replied that he had already understood that all these enjoyments had no meaning when his father at that old age was still craving for those short-lived pleasures.

Bheeshm's character teaching in Mahaabhaarat is this: Just like Raam in order to fulfill His father's promise undertook Vanavaas giving up away the kingdom demonstrating upholding father's promise to someone, takes precedent over any material gain. Likewise Bheeshm, also sacrificing his own sensual pleasures in life, fulfilled his father Shaantanu's desire of marrying Satyavatee.

Shaantanu is no ordinary king or man. We cannot equate Shaantanu to a very lowly man just because he desired to marry an ordinary fisherwoman. This is evident from the boon of Ichchhaa Mrityu, which is so extraordinary in its nature, Shaantanu gave to Bheeshm. Therefore, Bheeshm did the right thing by fulfilling the desire of his father Shaantanu, as Bheeshm must have had the knowledge of his father's character and greatness. He ordinarily could not have fallen in love with an ordinary fisherwoman. Neither we can give boon of "death when one desires", nor we can make such a great promise on such a non-serious issue sacrificing our own life for our father's pleasure.

Bheeshm stands for his character in upholding his promise against all odds and temptations to rule the land and marry, discharging gratitude towards his kingdom (promise of protecting the land from enemies whoever were they - though they were only Paandav guided by the Lord Himself. And of course Bheeshm had to pay the price for taking the side of A-Dharm.

In the midst of the battle, when Yudhishthir lost mental peace because he had been losing all his people and there was no hope to win the battle unless Bheeshm is fallen. Bheeshm could not be killed as he had the boon of Ichchhaa Mrityu and till he was holding the front for Kaurav, Kaurav could not be defeated. So he went to Krishn and finds Him in meditation. Upon asking Him as on whom He was mediating upon, Lord says He is meditating on Bheeshm!, while Bheeshm himself lying on the bed of arrows meditating on the Lord taking the suffering as atonement for eating food from Duryodhan.

After the war is over, Bheeshm imparts his lessons to the Paandav. Among the stories and lessons, Bheeshm mentions many times that a good king must know when to step outside Dharm to be a good king. Learn lesson from MBH - how one recognizes when one can step outside Dharm for a righteous purpose.

Such is the greatness of Bheeshm and his personality. He is the only Poorn Purush for whom Tarpan is recommended. Lord Himself presented before Bheeshm to hear the matchless Vishnu Shahastra Naam is another thing to prove Bheeshm is Lord's choicest of the devotees.

Dharm in MBH
Not playing against a cheating player and safeguarding his kingdom is perhaps one good example where Yudhishthir could have followed the greater Dharm. And nobody is Krishn's "tool" in the Mahaabhaarat. Everyone reaps the consequences of their actions. However Yudhishthir does evolve and follows the greater Dharm by lying to Drone about Ashwatthaamaa on Krishn's suggestion.

There are many stories of Dharm and morality in which people have followed the higher Dharm instead of following normal Dharm and morality. Read some stories here --

Great leaders are transformational in nature. Forsaking conventional morality in order to rise up to the level of higher morality is one of the qualities of a transformational leader. Leadership that transforms the leader and his followers from the inside out and raises them into higher moral planes, develops a sense of collective identity in them, produces superior motivation and commitment to goals, and creates greater levels of performance and yields more intense performance satisfaction, an expert says: “Transformational leaders deal with issues from a higher moral plane”.

In MBH, there are two such leaders - Bheeshm and Krishn. Bheeshm, even as a young prince when he is handed over to Shaantanu, impresses the people as a personality, by his competencies, and by his values. He sacrifices his kingdom and all worldly pleasures just to see his father happy by taking two vows - of giving up his kingdom and to observe celibacy throughout his life. Only after taking these vows Daash Raaj married his daughter Satyavatee to Shaantanu.

Later when Satyavatee's two sons had died leaving Vichitraveery'a two widows childless, Satyavatee requested Bheeshm to observe his Dharm to have children from them by Niyog method. But Bheeshm so politely refused to do this by saying - “I shall give up the three worlds, I shall give up the empire of the gods, and if there is anything greater than these, I shall give up that too. But never shall I give up my truth. The five elements may give up their nature – earth the fragrance it exudes, water the taste it brings, light the forms it reveals, air the sense of touch and space its capacity for sound. The Sun may give up its splendor, the Moon its coolness, Indra, slayer of Vritra, his valor and the Lord of justice, justice itself, but I shall not give up my truth. Let the world end in dissolution, let everything go up in flames, but I shall not go back on my word. Immortality holds no temptations for me, nor even the lordship over the three worlds.”

(1) In this way Bheeshm proved the strength of his character earlier by taking the vows of sacrificing the kingdom and observing the celibacy, at this time also he proves his character by not breaking his those vows. Thus taking a vow sensibly and then not breaking it for one's selfishness is a great quality. But at the same time to become obsessed with it while other suffer because of that, which is not good. Bheeshm lacks here of rising the higher morality plane. He considers himself more important than the whole world and thus his morality becomes egoistic, selfish, an ordinary and conventional morality. Throughout his life he was tied o his vows and could not see beyond them. That is why Vidur Jee did not tell him about Paandav being alive after the Laakshaa Grih incident, because if he would know it, he would tell this to Dhritraashtra, Dhritraashtra to Duryodhan and Vidur's whole plan will be failed.

(2) His same ego, to be faithful to his vows, stopped him to object Dhritraashtra also at the occasion of Dice game and Draupadee disrobing. He could not reply Draupadee's question, "whether she was Kaurav's slave or not?" He kept thinking upon this. At this Krishn rises at the higher morality plane and helps Krishnaa by extending her cloth to an endless length.

(3) His another example is at the time of MBH war time. In spite of repeating several times that "Dharm is on Paandav's side" And yet, because of his loyalty to the Kuru King on the throne at that moment and because he is bound to Duryodhan by the ‘debt of wealth’ as he puts it, he not only fights the war on the Kaurav side, but also becomes the Commander-in-Chief of the Kaurav army for the first 10 days of the war, until his fall. He had the same relation with the Paandav too, as both were his grandnephews, but if he had not stuck to his vows, then.... the whole history and geography would have changed. Read some "Ifs" here

Drone - never a Guru, only an Aachaarya
The difference between a Guru and an Aachaarya is: a Guru may or may not teach subjects but he is sure to guide the genuine Shishya (disciple) not only in his spiritual pursuit but will ensure that he has elevated his own (Guru's) level. Drone, the son of Bharadwaaj, was taught warfare by his father. He was elevated to Aachaarya's position by Dhritraashtra and Bheeshm. As a mark of gratitude Dron remained ever faithful to Duryodhan etc by taking their sides against Paandav, although he knew it is against Dharm.

In the whole Mahaabhaarat, we find almost all characters, except Krishn, getting tossed between their Dharm and A-Dharm.

Kalyani has wrong role models!

Bheeshm, like Shankar, played neither a role nor was a model. I doubt if Shankar even existed.
Bheeshm's only role was that of passivity.
He is the model of what we should not do!
Vidur comes out as a man of conviction, courage and action even in the limited role he was assigned. Bheeshm kept quiet when Paandav were sent to Baaranaavat. Vidur warned Yudhishthir that he had to act like a rat. Vidur even sent a miner to dig a tunnel through which the
Paandav escaped. He advised against the dice game; and when he was ignored he absented himself from the scene. The youngest of
Dhritraashtra's sons, by a Vaishya wife, Yuyutsu objected to the shameless act of disrobing of Draupadee but ignominiously Bheeshm kept silent. He was bound by his pledge to Satyavati's father! That is what happens when you are bound by words.

Whilst Bheeshm behaved like a caged lion and was bound to lead the Kaurav army to its death, Vidur silently slipped away on the pretext of a pilgrimage. He returned to hear Bhaagavat.

Compare Bheeshm's behavior with that of Krishn.
--Krishn did not hesitate to slaughter Shishupaal (literally meaning lord of a child) when He was insulted by Shishupaal.
--He even arranged to kill Jaraasandh by drawing him out to a battle.
--He also arranged to eclipse the Sun, the event that brought Jayadrath out of hiding so that Arjun could fulfill his vow to kill him before sunset.
--He arranged for a transvestite, Shikhandee, to drive Arjun's chariot so that Bheeshm could be killed.
--He also asked Yudhishthir to tell a lie to kill Drone.
--He signaled Bheem to hit Duryodan on the thigh to remind him about his vow and kill him.
--It was Krishn who saved Pareekshit the unborn son of Abhimanyu.
--He sought death for Ashwatthaamaa but Draupadee granted him mercy. Ashwatthaama was spared after his protecting gem was plucked out.
--Krishn saved Bheem from the deadly embrace of Dhritaaraashtra.

Krishn was the master of strategy. Hinduism produced only one more strategist, Shivaaji.
Although Bheeshm is known as Pitaamaha but he was neither a Pitaa (he had no children) nor a Maha.
That is why Krishn was celebrated as the Jagat Guru even as Bheeshm was cremated with full military honors.
That is why we say to this day, Krishnam vande Jagadgurum.



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Created by Sushma Gupta On 05/27/04
Modified on 10/18/12