Who is the one who reached God through the path of Shanta Bhakti (equanimity in devotion)? It was Bhishma, who made a severe vow and kept it meticulously. He was the son of Ganga. For the good of the world, he sacrificed all his pleasures and all his aims in life. He undertook a fiercely austere vow. He put an end to his physical and mental life and led a Divine life. He was an epitome of self-sacrifice. Finally, for the sake of his country, he led the army to fight the Pandavas.
|Bhishma on the bed of arrows on the battlefield of Kurukshetra talking with the Pandavas and Lord Krishna|
On the ninth day, he collapsed, pierced by the arrows shot by Arjuna. Arrows were sticking out from all over his body. So, when he fell, he did not touch the ground but remained on the bed of arrows. He was an embodiment of peace. He asked Arjuna himself, “O Arjuna! You prepared the bed for me, but where is the pillow? My head needs support!” Arjuna then shot two arrows in the ground in such a way that the head rested between them. Bhishma believed that passing away in an auspicious time would lead to life’s fulfilment. So, until the Uttarayana (sun treading Northern hemisphere) phase of the year started, i.e., fifty six days since the day he collapsed, he kept himself alive, all the while chanting the name of God. He did not care for the pain and suffering that his body was undergoing. He was determined that he would leave the world at the right time, for, life after death was valuable to him. He continued lying on the bed of arrows for fifty-six days. He did not waste time even in such a condition - he preached codes of morality in politics and family life to the Pandavas and showed them the way to peace. This is embedded in the epic Mahabharata as Shanti Parva, the chapter on Peace. That, was the power of self-control the great soul had. For all this, Shanta Bhakti was the basis. Bhishma always remembered God, even as he faced countless problems, setbacks, trials and tribulations. Finally during the war, Krishna, the Lord Himself, came to kill him. In fact, Krishna’s intentions were not to fight Bhishma. Arjuna was drained out of strength and wits. So Krishna, in order to enthuse and incite ferociousness in him, picked up weapons shouting, “Arjuna! You are a coward! Let Me fight the battle Myself.” When Krishna was thus rushing towards him, Bhishma prayed to Krishna peacefully in devotion.
|Krishna rushing towards Bhishma on the battlefield of Kurukshetra|
“How wonderful is the sight of Krishna rushing towards me!
As He leaps down from the chariot, His earrings sparkle
Filling the skies with lightening!
As He sprints, the cosmos contained in His womb is shaken,
Causing earthquakes all over!
He picks up a wheel and is charging ahead unmindful of His shoulder cloth slipping away
And Arjuna is trying to hold Him back, pleading forgiveness,
Begging Him not to put his valour to shame.
Oh! Fierce as a lion pouncing upon a tusker,
“I shall kill Bhishma and save Arjuna”, He swears!
The Lord who is coming to attack me, with fire in His eyes is my Sole Refuge.”
You see! What heights of devotion! Krishna was swearing, “I shall kill this Bhishma, O Arjuna! Let Me go,” and to that very same Krishna, Bhishma was offering his prayers to protect him. He did not say, “This Krishna is coming to kill me, O Rama, come to my rescue, O Ishwara please save me!” That is steadfast devotion and unsullied dedication. Such is Shanta Bhakti, devotion with equanimity.