Krishna Mahabharata Srimad Bhagavatam

S.B. 01.09..12-19 Bhismadev seminar Part 3 ~ Bhismadev pacifies Yudhisthira


Romapada Swami TalksRomapada Swami speaks:

Bhismadeva said: “Oh, what terrible sufferings and what terrible injustices you good souls suffer for being the sons of religion personified. You did not deserve to remain alive under those tribulations, yet you were protected by the brahmanas, God and religion.” [SB 1.9.12]

Bhismadeva is pointing out a contradiction. What was the wrong committed by the Pandavas? Yudhisthira is the son of religion personified. How can that be a wrong? Yet the great authority Bhismadeva said “You suffered for being sons of religion personified. You did not deserve to remain alive under those tribulations yet you were protected by brahmanas, God and religion.” Often you will find in a series of connected verses in Srimad Bhagavatam wherein the seed message is contained in the first verse, which is then expanded further in the subsequent verses. This is the case here. The seed idea in this set of verses is this: when you experience a situation that is unjust but nonetheless it is happening, it is painful. What should you do in such a circumstance? You should examine the situation through the lens of the following three parameters. “From my actions have I observed these three principles?” If you have observed these three principles then you can remain peaceful.

Bhismadeva is declaring these three principles in this way: “Maharaj Yudhisthira, you and your brothers are cent percent devoted to Krishna. Plus you always behave according to religious principles. Thirdly, you would not even consider doing something without first consulting the brahmanas and vaisnavas. Your whole involvement with the Kuruksetra battle was because Krishna wanted it to take place. You didn’t want it, but Krishna wanted it, and that establishes the highest standard of religious principles. Even in ordinary dealings you and your brothers wouldn’t do anything outside of theistic conduct. You always abide by theistic conduct. The advice that you received from Daumya and the ministers of state, similarly, you always abided by. (In other words, Maharaj Yudhisthira, you get A+, and A+, and A+!) So there is no cause for lamentation. If there was discrepancy in any one of these three categories, then you could feel some lamentation. ‘Oh, I was neglectful. I was selfish. Oh, I performed sinful activities.’ Then you could feel some remorse for that. “

This is something that as devotees we should always be striving for, to abide by these three principles. When you abide by these three principles, when it comes to the outcome of the duties of life — who is in charge of the outcome of the duties of life? Krishna! That is His department. Controlling is Krishna’s department. Serving is our department. We should carefully check these three standards of our service, at the same time allow Krishna to control as He wants to control. There is no cause for despondency for one who lives their life by these principles. In fact, those who live their lives by these three principles are protected by these principles. There is this well-known verse “One who abides by Dharma is protected by Dharma.” When you protect Dharma, dharma protects you. The converse is also true: one who violates Dharma is destroyed. This is a theme that comes up again and again and again in Mahabharata. This message is likewise one of the main “take away” instructions from this 9th chapter of Canto 1 Srimad Bhagavatam. When you are facing a situation of difficulty, step back from the situation and turn your attention to these three factors. “Is my purpose to satisfy Krishna? Am I acting or have I been acting according to the codes of theistic conduct? Am I submissive to the indications given by qualified brahmanas or vaishnavas?” If the answer is no to any one of those three, then you must do some repair work. Fix the problem. If the answer is yes then you should not lament.

I sometimes make reference to these three principles when teaching a course on stress management. I begin the stress management course by stating – “The best way to manage stress is not to have any! Vaikuntha is the spiritual approach to stress management.” For persons who are in Vaikuntha consciousness it isn’t that reversals or misfortune never come. Experience of the misfortune, however, differs in terms of the consciousness of the viewer of the misfortune. The consciousness of the follower of dharma is not ‘Kuntha’, or anxiety, even while passing through misfortune. The activities outside may be difficult, but the consciousness inside is Vaikuntha. How does a Vaikuntha person look at trying circumstances? “This misfortune is happening because of my neglect of religious principles. I did some sinful things sometime in the past, and I am now reaping the results.” Transgression of religious principles inevitably leads to difficulty. “I received good advice from brahmanas and vaisnavas, but I neglected it!” or “My behaviour was okay, but my motivation was selfish. It was not for the satisfaction of the Personality of Godhead.”

In summary the message to Maharaj Yudhisthira is this: The circumstances of life that you had to endure were extreme, but those circumstances of life are not because of violation of these three principles. We must therefore conclude that this misfortune of the upholders of dharma is somehow the plan of the Lord!

“As far as my daughter-in-law Kunti is concerned, upon the great General Pandu’s death, she became a widow with many children, and therefore she suffered greatly. And when you were grown up she suffered a great deal also because of your actions.” [SB 1.9.13]

Even as the Pandavas suffered, Kunti suffered double. She lost her husband and then there was nothing but troubles, from the material point of view. According to Srila Prabhupada, Kunti suffered not because she was sinful or because she acted outside the principles of qualified vaishnava or brahmana or because she didn’t have the interest of Krishna at heart; nonetheless trouble came to Kunti. What happens if tribulations come and it just seems unfair, how should you see it? It is the will of the Supreme Lord. The situation or the hard time is the will of the Supreme Lord. Are you going to go and complain to Krishna? No, you accept it. Prabhupada writes here – “This means that she was destined to suffer by Providence, and this one has to tolerate without being disturbed.” A core understanding from Bhagavad-gita, in fact one of the first instructions that Krishna gives, is very similar.

“Marta-sparsas tu kaunteya sitosna-sukha-duhkha-dah
agamapayino ‘nityas tams titiksasva bharata “

What are you going to do? Whine? Moan? It will not help. If there is sinful tendency, or if devotion to Krishna is less, or if there is need to be more “for Krishna” consciousness, then fix those things. Moaning or groaning, whining and complaining is the mode of ignorance. The mode of ignorance doesn’t solve a problem. Accept it without being disturbed. That is what Yudhisthira is being told. The circumstances and difficulties that you had, and your mother had, it was all the arrangement of the Supreme Lord.

“In my opinion, this is all due to inevitable time, under whose control everyone in every planet is carried, just as the clouds are carried by the wind.” [SB 1.9.14]

Clouds are in the sky. They are being carried by the wind. What is the cloud going to do about being carried by the wind? Nothing! Similarly, there are events in life that are under the influence of the factor of time. For example, this morning’s class began a little bit late because of circumstances, then we started the class, now a half an hour has gone by. Time passes. Time is inexorable. We cannot stop it. Time moves events. This is what Bhismadeva is saying. As the wind moves the clouds, time moves events. Bhismadeva is saying that the difficulties that took place in your life and Kunti’s life was because of time. Another way of saying the same thing is it might be that karma brings difficulties, or we can say that time brings difficulty. For those who are sinful it is due to karma, but for those who are sinless it is time. What can you do about time? There is nothing that can stop it. There is nothing to lament about. Time comes. People get old, people die. Time! We can’t do anything about it. Pious people get old. Pious people get diseased. Pious people die. Pious people get born again. It is just the law of nature. Clouds move by the force of wind. Don’t lament. “So my dear Yudhisthira stop lamenting. These events have happened because of the force of time.” Srila Prabhupada discuss this in the purport.

Yudhisthira should not think that he had committed sins in his previous birth and is suffering the consequence. These three principles are operating once again. Even the most pious has to suffer the condition of material nature. We get old, diseased and die. The circumstances that happen in life are simply the actions of time. Sometimes people object: “But a pious man is faithful to the Lord.” Here is a nice definition of what being faithful is. “Even when there are trying circumstances, one keeps one’s attention fixed upon the Lord.” The faithful don’t complain to the Lord, “It is not fair! I was good. Why certain bad things are happening? Why this difficulty?” No. One remains faithful. Knowing fully Yudhisthira’s virtue, Bhismadeva is invoking the faithfulness which Yudhisthira has for Krishna.

Externally and circumstantially, Yudhisthira appears to be like one of us, but he is not one of us. Our lamentations are different. Yudhisthira’s lamentation is that “Others are suffering so much!” Our lamentation is we are suffering so much. He is lamenting, at least apparently, within the bodily conception in the mode of goodness, considering the inconveniences that others have to undergo because of his existence as King. That is part of life. So as long as one is faithful to the Lord, guided by the qualified brahmanas and vaisnavas, and one is following religious principles — these three guiding principles should be the aim of life – then one should not be disturbed by the tricks of eternal time. Even the great controller of the universe, Brahmaji, is also under the control of time; therefore one should not begrudge being thus controlled by time, despite being a true follower of religious principles.

This is something that devotees can take with you when you go back home. We are moving along the path of life. Life is nice. Suddenly, confronting us on the path of life is a difficulty. At that very moment, do a check within your mind, the feelings moving within the mind, how you regard the circumstance. Then, check these three principles spoken by Bhismadeva, how they are operating in your life lately. If these three things are in proper order, you can face the difficulty with confidence. You will be protected, although it may look like something else is about to happen. The Pandavas had so many difficulties, but they were protected in the end, although not always immediately. They were in one difficult situation after the next, but they were always protected — so much so that Queen Kunti recognised “Being in difficulties is great, because Krishna will come!” In Brihad Bhagavatamrita when Narada makes a visit to Hastinapur, upon entering he hears the Pandavas having a discussion. “Let us arrange a calamity, so that Krishna will come! Or else, let us have a Yajna, then we can invite Krishna for the Yajna. “Similarly Queen Kunti laments, “Now that everything is set in order, you are going away. Don’t forget, with so many people killed we have lots of enemies, so You should stay, for the enemies will try to get back at us. Let calamities come again and again because when calamities come again we get to see You again.”

Those of us who are less advanced than Kunti are not likely to pray for calamities, however they will come anyway. Instead, we should pray for remaining faithful to Krishna and to feel always protected by Krishna in difficult circumstances. If there is any adjustment required, adjust one of those three things or combination. Then you will remain in a happy service mood. If you are taking care of some service, be happy and don’t lament the circumstance. Very practical instruction. In Kunti’s prayers she speaks a very similar message. There is a close resemblance between points made by Kunti and Bhishmadeva. Kunti is seeing Krishna, and she is addressing Krishna, “You are invincible time. Time changes things and people lament.” What a devotee experiences when things change and what a non-devotee experiences when things change are very different. The suffering for a devotee is being separated from Krishna. If our consciousness is connected to Krishna, whatever the situation is will be perceived as wonderful because it is a “connecting to Krishna opportunity”, which is always good. That is Krishna consciousness. In this way you can manage stress very easily, because of being in a strong spiritual position.
Bhishmadeva continues,

“Oh, how wonderful is the influence of inevitable time! It is irreversible — otherwise, how can there be reverses in the presence of King Yudhisthira, the son of the demigod controlling religion; Bhima, the great fighter with a club; the great bowman Arjuna with his mighty weapon Gandiva; and above all, the Lord, the direct well-wisher of the Pandavas?” [SB 1.9.15]

The scene is Maharaj Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, even Krishna as the well-wisher of all these all these exalted personalities are assembled by the side of Grandfather Bhisma. The topic of this verse is the influence of time.

Time is invincible; it doesn’t stop. Srila Prabhupada used to say, “There is a British saying: time and tide waits for no man.” The force of time is something that the devotee of the Lord must take into account. Time is one of the essential things that make events happen. You can’t even have events without time. Even for very qualified individuals, time is invincible.

The understanding from the purport (as told in the Bhagavad Gita too) is that time is not different from Krishna Himself. Who can stop Krishna and who can stop time? Time keeps moving. Reverses happen. Things are moving this way, like the tide, and then things are moving that way. Changes due to the force of time happen. Things were going very well, then all on a sudden things are falling apart. A common expression is “Hey, I am losing control of this situation!” You never had control to begin with. When reverses happen the devotee needs to do a reality check. Are the flow of events merely a manifestation of the flow of time? Kala or time is identical with the Lord Himself, and therefore the influence of kala indicates the inexplicable wish of The Lord Himself. There is nothing to be lamented when a matter is beyond the control of any human being.

Because Yudhisthira was fully submissive to Bhisma, and because Bhisma was an empowered devotee of Krishna, these very words pacified the heart of Yudhisthira. This is another very important lesson – how to associate with saintly persons. When opportunity arises to be in the association of a sadhu, that association should be entered into with faith, because when you hear the words of a saintly person with faith, it becomes like our spiritual intelligence. It controls the mind and senses, emotions and in fact our whole being.

“Vyavasayatmika buddhir ekeha kuru-nandana”
“Tesamam satata – yuktanam bhajatam priti-purvakam
dadami buddhi- yoga tam yena mam upayanti te”

Krishna supplies buddhi or intelligence both from within and from without. From within as the Supersoul and from without as the spiritual master. When there is submissiveness to the spiritual master, or a spiritual superior like Bhisma speaking to Yudhisthira – just by his telling Yudhisthira “Stop lamenting, there is no valid cause for lamenting, so stop lamenting. Instead of lamenting accept the arrangement of Krishna. What is that arrangement of Krishna? You are the appointed king and people are depending upon you to protect them. While you are lamenting, so many people are without a protector. But it is the Lord’s plan that you become their protector. Start protecting them. Be the king.”

Just by Bhisma speaking these simple but deep messages, which were logical and scriptural and right, Yudhisthira became fully pacified because of his submissiveness to Bhisma. Other persons might say the same thing, but if Yudhisthira was not submissive in the same way as he was to Bhisma it would not have the same effect, although the message would be equally true. Submission is a great resource, a great asset, a great wealth – when submission is properly placed. One is protected by that quality. When one veers off track, good counsel will then have the power to get you back on tract, very quickly.

On example was discussed in this morning’s class. When Kunti was in anxiety “Where is my son? He didn’t come back. Where is Bhima?” she went to Vidura. By Vidura’s one word – “Don’t lament. I know he is ok. How do I know he is ok? Because Vyasa said that your sons are invincible! They will live a long life.” Simply by hearing from Vidura that “Vyasa said…” — she was reassured. That is intense! You are mother and just turning off intense maternal emotion ~ not turning off the affection, but the worry ~ on the word of a sadhu. Instantly, everything became OK for Kunti because Vyasa had said it and Vidura is confirming it. That is the power of submission to spiritual acumen, spiritual substance. Bhismadeva also had spiritual substance. He just pressed Yudhisthira’s reset button with his sagacious words. Instantly, Yudhisthira’s lamentation vanished, instead he is now ready act as the king. What a powerful influence Bhishmadeva had over the Pandavas! There are many such exchanges in Mahabharata. I read one of them last night. Yudhisthira was asking Bhismadeva a question, and was immediately prepared to act as advised. Sometimes Yudhisthira asked Narada or Daumya also. He was submissive to qualified persons. That is a Ksatriya’s crowning quality. A qualified king is powerful as a Ksatriya but perfectly submissive to the words of the brahmanas. Now in modern days, so called Ksatriyas don’t pay attention to sadhus advice, all over the world not just in one place. Leaders are fools, tigers among men, the Bhagavatam states, the tigers that devour each other.

There are two more verses where Bhismadeva is further hammering the nail firmly.

“O King, no one can know the plan of the Lord [Sri Krsna]. Even though great philosophers inquire exhaustively, they are bewildered.” [SB 1.9.16]

So don’t you try. This is somehow the plan of the Lord. It is time. It is the will of Providence, it is the will of the Lord. Don’t ask the question, “What is His plan?”
No one can understand it. It is His plan. It is not that you have to understand Lord’s plan and only then accept it. Some people are like that – “Why?” You are not capable of penetrating into the why. Why did this unfortunate thing happen, why not something else?? Better to examine these three things – submissiveness to the vaisnavas and brahmanas, following theistic conduct, wanting very sincerely to please the Personality of Godhead. Ponder that, first. “What is Krishna’s plan — greatest sages have pondered and can’t figure it out, Yudhisthira. You don’t have to figure it out. My dear devotee, please don’t try to figure it out. You can ask questions, but it is not like your ability to go on enthusiastically is dependent upon understanding Krishna’s plan, that is not going to happen!”

The best policy is to simply abide by the orders of the Lord without argument. The sufferings of the Pandavas were never due to their past deeds. The Lord had to execute the plan of establishing the kingdom of virtue, and therefore His own devotees suffered temporarily in order to establish the conquest of virtue. Bhismadeva was certainly satisfied by seeing the triumph of virtue, and he was glad to see King Yudhisthira on the throne, although he himself fought against him. Even a great fighter like Bhisma could not win the battle of Kuruksetra, because the Lord wanted to show that vice cannot conquer virtue, regardless of who tries to execute it.

The Lord had a plan. He set things up in such a way that it looked as if the virtuous were being dominated by the wicked! The entire Mahabharata is a classic good-versus-evil drama, but guess who wins in the end? The Pandavas win, because they stand for virtue. Even a powerful fighter like Bhisma loses because he was on the wrong side. The tribulations of the Pandavas, Bhisma is saying, was a part of Lord’s plan. Powerful, powerful, powerful people were defeated. Even if that powerful exhibition is displayed from the side of vice, virtue will always be victorious in the end. “Abide by virtue” is Mahabharata’s message. That is also the message which Bhismadeva is expressing in this Chapter. In the playing out of events of life, it may look like that the virtuous side might get defeated, but virtue will always win. A faithful person is one who knows that. They don’t lose their faith if it looks like events are going in an unfortunate direction.

“O best among the descendants of Bharata [Yudhisthira], I maintain, therefore, that all this is within the plan of the Lord. Accepting the inconceivable plan of the Lord, you must follow it.” [SB 1.9.17]

This is the summary statement of this little section. “The plan of the Lord shows a certain pattern to the events. Follow it. In this particular case the plan of the Lord is that you should be king. So, stand up Yudhisthira, be the king. It is Krishna’s plan. He wants you to be the king. It is not like ‘shame on you for wanting to be the king’. He wants you to be the king. Get it together. Stop this wishy washy stuff. Be the king. Protect the citizens.” A devotee’s duty therefore is to ungrudgingly accept the tribulations from the Lord as a benediction. I can say that I didn’t join the Hare Krishna movement to do so many things that I find myself doing today. I didn’t join the Hare Krishna movement to take care of the oceans of problems that people have, managing … I didn’t sign up for that, but when you sign up for being Krishna’s devotee then whatever Krishna wants, that should be signed up for. Whatever is Krishna’s plan, one has to be prepared to take Krishna’s plan. It is not that indiscriminately we say yes to everything that is requested of us, but when it is clear that there is a certain plan of Krishna we have to accept it as well as the tribulations that go along with it. As I am speaking, I am dealing with some stuff which is really difficult, but it goes with the territory of being responsible in service to Krishna. Each one of us is dealing with something that is very difficult for our particular level of Krishna consciousness! Take it as a benediction. Trying circumstances provide us an opportunity to stay fixed at Krishna’s Lotus feet despite the difficulty. When you stay fixed at the Lotus feet of Krishna, Krishna takes full charge of the difficulty. It is a very interesting way of life. The choice is struggle or be protected.

daivi hy esa guna-mayi mama maya duratyaya
mam eva ye prapadyante mayam etam taranti te

Which one do you want? If you choose struggle then struggle. If you choose surrender then tribulations are benedictions. Tribulation is just an impetus to take further shelter of Krishna, grab more tightly the Lotus feet of Krishna, calling out all the while “Haribol! Haribol!”

And that is the situation for Yudhisthira. Not being the king had its difficulty, being the king may be more difficult, but it was all an orchestration of Krishna’s plan.
Bhismadeva has been speaking to Yudhisthira up to this point. Now he is done with pacifying Yudhisthira’s state of lamentation. Now Bhismadeva is turning to Krishna. Krishna is right in front of him. With his arm extended he is speaking to Krishna.

“This Sri Krsna is no one other than the inconceivable, original Personality of Godhead. He is the first Narayana, the supreme enjoyer. But He is moving amongst the descendants of King Vrsni just like one of us, and He is bewildering us with His self-created energy.” [SB 1.9.18]

“This younger cousin of yours is the Personality of Godhead. He is making all these things happen. He is part of the tribulation too, but He is in charge of the whole affair. With His own energy He is making everything happen and He wants you to be the king.” The bewilderment of an ordinary living entity is due to his devotion of Maya and the consequent forgetfulness of Krishna. Bhisma has no attraction for Maya. Bhisma only knows Krishna. He sees the other living entities becoming bewildered and he knows the cause of their bewilderment — they are not seeing Krishna for what He is. So the topmost benediction that he can give, beyond the ordinary means one might deploy when assisting another to stop lamenting — is to draw that person’s attention to Krishna. “You can think of Him as your cousin if you like, but He is the Personality of Godhead, and He is moving amongst us like this. Those that are not connected to Him see Him in an ordinary way, but Yudhisthira don’t see Him in an ordinary way. He exists beyond creation but He is moving as if He is part of this creation. Narayana, in the Vaikuntha region is beyond and outside the purview of this deluding potency. Here He is!”

“O King, Lord Siva, Narada the sage amongst the demigods, and Kapila, the incarnation of Godhead, all know very confidentially about His glories through direct contact.” [SB 1.9.19]

This section is about Bhishmadeva citing various glories of Krishna. He is also citing the glories of those who know Krishna. There are twelve Mahajans. In the sixth canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam when the Yamadutas go back to Yamaraj, they ask “Who were those beautiful four armed creatures? We have never seen anything like them before. The agents of death have never been stopped by anybody. Who can stop death? But they did! That means there is someone who is superior in authority to you.”

Yamaraj replied, “Yes. There is someone superior, but most people don’t understand. There are certain people who can understand the topmost superior authority.” He lists them and counts himself as one of them. Those persons understand the Personality of Godhead. Most persons cannot understand. Narada, Siva, Kapila, and Bhisma make four who can understand the Personality of Godhead and His glories. Such persons don’t get bewildered when they see unexpected things happen. They see Krishna. When they see Krishna they see the reason why things happen. They all know very confidentially about His glories through direct contact. Through the medium of devotional service there is contact with Krishna. Because of their elevated status in devotional service they are in direct contact.

In the purport of Text 19 Srila Prabhupada quotes Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura primarily regarding the first phrase ‘ asyanubhavam bhagavan’. He analyses this word ‘anubhava’. Anubhava is a phrase that Rupa Gosvami used to describe one of the stages in love of God, one the various ‘bhavas’~ such as sthai bhava, the anubhava and sancari bhava, for those who are familiar with Nectar of Devotion. Srila Prabhupada discusses this term in the purport.

“Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, one of the great acaryas in the modern age, explains that anubhava, or the glory of the Lord, is first appreciated by the devotee in ecstasy manifesting the symptoms of perspiring, trembling, weeping, bodily eruptions, etc., which are further enhanced by steady understanding of the glories of the Lord. Such different understandings of bhavas are exchanged between Yasoda and the Lord (binding the Lord by ropes) and in the chariot-driving by the Lord in the exchange of love with Arjuna. These glories of the Lord are exhibited in His being subordinated before His devotees, and that is another feature of the glories of the Lord.”

Arjuna understands what is going on when The Lord becomes his chariot driver. Arjuna knows that He is the Lord. He allows the Lord to be his chariot driver because he knows that the Lord gets pleasure being his chariot driver. In contrast, Mother Yasoda doesn’t exactly understand that Krishna is the Personality of Godhead. Yet He derives pleasure when mother Yasoda comes after Him with a stick. Now if other people come after Him with a stick they are finished. When mother Yasoda comes after Him with a stick, He cries, He rubs His eyes and she drops the stick and then she gets the rope, but she can’t bind Him, she can’t bind Him, she can’t bind Him, finally she binds Him. This exchange of love is what allows one to be in such a relationship with Krishna. Arjuna would sometimes forget Krishna’s supremacy due to his loving friendship with Krishna, but he again realized after seeing the universal form! “Oh! What offences I have made! We sat together, conversed together, lay down together. I have offended You. You are the Personality of Godhead, please forgive me!” When He is the chariot driver, “Go left, go right,” he was instructing. Krishna is serving him and enjoying. Krishna’s was moving to catch the arrows of Bhismadeva so the arrows would not strike Arjuna. In Brihad Bhagavatamrita Arjuna laments, “You think that I am such an intimate devotee of Krishna, but how do you think I feel – Krishna is taking arrows in His chest, so that I won’t be hit by the arrows. How horrible! How do you think I feel when that happens? You say I am an intimate devotee of Krishna! How can an intimate devotee of Krishna like it when Krishna takes arrows on His chest? What kind of service is that?”

This verse is saying that the great souls, the Mahajanas — because of the intimacy of their love, they can understand the glories of Krishna.

When Arjuna comes back to Hastinapura from Dwaraka, after Krishna leaves this world, to tell the Pandavas that Krishna has left — he is feeling terrible. As he is describing the intimacies that he had with Krishna, he realises how kind Krishna was. Speaking and thinking about Krishna, he gets revived again. When Krishna instructed the Bhagavad Gita He was actually preparing to be with him at all times, just by those instructions. The message here is the glories of Krishna are realised through intimacy of service. That is the main point.

“Sukadeva Gosvami and the Kumaras, although situated in the transcendental position, became converted by another feature of bhava and turned into pure devotees of the Lord.” [SB 1.9.19 purport]

There is a science to stimulation for ecstatic love. When The Kumaras smelled the fragrance of the sandal wood paste and Tulsi buds decorating the Lotus feet of the Lord, the stimulation of ecstatic love erupted and their neutrality became changed to devotion. Tribulations imposed upon the devotees by the Lord may constitute another exchange of transcendental bhava between the Lord and the devotees. Tribulations can be an opportunity for the devotees to realise more their intimate relationship with Krishna and the glories of Krishna, if taken in the right way. If one is Krishna conscious, he will take them in the right way. More intimate contact with Krishna, more the glories of Krishna can be understood.

“The Lord says, ‘I put My devotee into difficulty, and thus the devotee becomes more purified in exchanging transcendental bhava with Me.’ Placing the devotee into material troubles means delivering him from the illusory material relations.” [SB 1.9.19 purport]

This can be a manifestation of special favour by Krishna – difficulty! It is special mercy. It takes pretty good amount of Krishna consciousness to see tribulations in that way, but that is what Bhismadeva is saying. Ordinary people cannot understand great tribulations in that way. “Narada, Shiva, Kapila, myself we can understand Krishna’s glories.” What about the rest of us? We can understand by following the example of those great personalities.

“mahajano yena gatah sa panthah” That statement is made by Yudhisthira at the lake, where the Yaksha asked him several questions. One of those questions was, “How do you understand the proper thing to be done in circumstances where the details of dharma get really complicated. How do you understand what is to be done?” Yudhisthira’s answer is, “It is true that discerning proper dharma can be very complex. Therefore one can understand by following the path of the great souls.” One can understand proper dharma, but there must be a degree of faithfulness. One who doesn’t have faith, Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, such a person is lost.

“moghasa mogha-karmano mogha-jsana vicetasah
raksasim asurim caiva prakrtim mohinim sritah” [BG 9.12]

One who takes shelter of bad ideas, demonic and atheistic views, is defeated. Therefore one must remain faithful. In the beginning of the ninth chapter of Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains “asraddadhanah purusa”, the confidential knowledge about Krishna is understood by one who is faithful to Krishna. You don’t have to be a super star or Mahajana, but one has to be basically faithful and Krishna will help you in all respects. When you feel Krishna is helping you, that is a very encouraging feeling. We want to feel Krishna’s helping hand, Krishna’s kindness, Krishna’s affection, Krishna’s protection. We will feel that if we are faithful. We won’t feel that if we are not faithful and then we are easy prey for Maya or illusion.

I find these words spoken by Bhismadeva very inspiring. I take courage. Thinking overall about this section, Bhismadeva is such an important person in Mahabharata and in the life of Yudhisthira! The whole chapter is focusing on Bhismadeva. He is one of the twelve Mahajanas. Here we are, spending this time together in Vrindavan, focusing on Bhismadeva. If we pay close attention and absorb our thoughts on Bhismadeva properly, in the end we should be really fixed in the essential conviction that he is conveying to us.

This section that we have just covered is very important. In practical life, difficulties do come. We have to face them. Tribulations come. How do we regard them? How do we stay fixed, determined with great faith, enthusiastic even in the face of tribulation? If we heard properly we will have a proper understanding how to deal with adversity. To the degree that we understand who Bhismadeva is, what he represents for the Pandavas, and for us as a Mahajana — our best interests in life can be fulfilled. Bhisma is giving us full preparation to go forward during tribulations of life and perform our duties in Krishna consciousness. That is great opportunity. May you all enter your next situation of adversity being fixed in Krishna consciousness, and prepared to address the adversity in the manner that Bhisma has given. You should read this chapter again and again and again to be fixed.

Question: What is the correlation between faith and submission?

Answer: They certainly are closely connected. Faith is what you feel and submission is what you do. When you are faithful you submit. The symptom of faith is submission. Submission has a connotation of abandonment of false ego and false designations. In that condition consciousness is directed towards the soul, who you really are. Faith is the regard or trust that one has in the scriptures or another elevated personality or in a principle of life. One can be faithful say to the principle of truthfulness – “I shall always speak the truth. I should always be straightforward.” That is faithfulness to something or someone. Submission means abandonment of all other shelters and acting with conviction according to the quality of faith that one holds.

About the author

Romapada Swami

Romapada Swami‘s first encounter with Krishna consciousness came in Buffalo, in the shape of a lecture at the State University of New York in 1969. The lecturer was His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The following year, Romapada Swami joined the movement in Boston and was initiated in 1971. Despite being admitted as a pre-med student, he decided to follow his spiritual path 100% and never looked back. He took sannyasa in 1983 and became an initiating spiritual master in 1985.

Under Romapada Swami’s guidance, congregational groups of devotees of Krishna have grown in many places in the US and abroad, including Chicago, Washington DC, St. Louis, Seattle, Detroit, New York, New Jersey, Houston, Orlando, Tennessee, Boston, Hyderabad and Guyana.

More information on Romapada Swami is available on

1 Comment

  • One of the key takeaways for me–In any circumstance, but particularly in difficult circumstances, do a little self-assessment along the following three lines: 1) is my intention to please Krishna? 2) Are my actions in line with religious conducts? 3) Have I followed the directions given to me by my spiritual authorities?
    If answer is no to any of these questions, I have found where I need to focus. This will likely be my situtation. But if the answer is yes to all, I have done my part, i.e. service. The rest (controlling part) is up to Krishna.