Bhisma’s Passing Away

Today we observe the Disappearance of Bhismadeva or “Bhismastami” with these verses from the Srimad Bhagavatam describing this monumental event.

The perfect yogīs or mystics can leave the material body at their own sweet will…

In the momentous hour of leaving his material body, Bhīṣmadeva set the glorious example concerning the important function of the human form of life. The subject matter which attracts the dying man becomes the beginning of his next life. Therefore, if one is absorbed in thoughts of the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, he is sure to go back to Godhead without any doubt. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.5-15):

Srimad Bhagavatam
By His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Canto 1, Chapter 9, Text 29-30
Bhisma’s Passing Away

dharmaṁ pravadatas tasya
sa kālaḥ pratyupasthitaḥ
yo yoginaś chanda-mṛtyor
vāñchitas tūttarāyaṇaḥ

dharmam—occupational duties; pravadataḥ—while describing; tasya—his; saḥ—that; kālaḥ—time; pratyupasthitaḥ—exactly appeared; yaḥ—that is; yoginaḥ—for the mystics; chanda-mṛtyoḥ—of one who dies according to one’s own selection of time; vāñchitaḥ—is desired by; tu—but; uttarāyaṇaḥ—the period when the sun runs on the northern horizon.

While Bhīṣmadeva was describing occupational duties, the sun’s course ran into the northern hemisphere. This period is desired by mystics who die at their will.

The perfect yogīs or mystics can leave the material body at their own sweet will at a suitable time and go to a suitable planet desired by them. In the Bhagavad-gītā (8.24) it is said that self-realized souls who have exactly identified themselves with the interest of the Supreme Lord can generally leave the material body during the time of the fire-god’s effulgence and when the sun is in the northern horizon, and thus achieve the transcendental sky. In the Vedas these times are considered auspicious for quitting the body, and they are taken advantage of by the expert mystics who have perfected the system. Perfection of yoga means attainment of such supermental states as to be able to leave the material body as desired. Yogīs can also reach any planet within no time without a material vehicle. The yogīs can reach the highest planetary system within a very short time, and this is impossible for the materialist. Even attempting to reach the highest planet will take millions of years at a speed of millions of miles per hour. This is a different science, and Bhīṣmadeva knew well how to utilize it. He was just waiting for the suitable moment to quit his material body, and the golden opportunity arrived when he was instructing his noble grandsons, the Pāṇḍavas. He thus prepared himself to quit his body before the exalted Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the pious Pāṇḍavas and the great sages headed by Bhagavān Vyāsa, etc., all great souls.

tadopasaṁhṛtya giraḥ sahasraṇīr
vimukta-saṅgaṁ mana ādi-pūruṣe
kṛṣṇe lasat-pīta-paṭe catur-bhuje
puraḥ sthite ‘mīlita-dṛg vyadhārayat

tadā—at that time; upasaṁhṛtya—withdrawing; giraḥ—speech; sahasraṇīḥ—Bhīṣmadeva (who was expert in thousands of sciences and arts); vimukta-saṅgam—completely freed from everything else; manaḥ—mind; ādi-pūruṣe—unto the original Personality of Godhead; kṛṣṇe—unto Kṛṣṇa; lasat-pīta-paṭe—decorated with yellow garments; catur-bhuje—unto the four-handed original Nārāyaṇa; puraḥ—just before; sthite—standing; amīlita—widespread; dṛk—vision; vyadhārayat—fixed.

Thereupon that man who spoke on different subjects with thousands of meanings and who fought on thousands of battlefields and protected thousands of men, stopped speaking and, being completely freed from all bondage, withdrew his mind from everything else and fixed his wide-open eyes upon the original Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who stood before him, four-handed, dressed in yellow garments that glittered and shined.

In the momentous hour of leaving his material body, Bhīṣmadeva set the glorious example concerning the important function of the human form of life. The subject matter which attracts the dying man becomes the beginning of his next life. Therefore, if one is absorbed in thoughts of the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, he is sure to go back to Godhead without any doubt. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.5-15):

5: And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.

6: Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.

7: Therefore, Arjuna, you should always think of Me in the form of Kṛṣṇa and at the same time carry out your prescribed duty of fighting. With your activities dedicated to Me and your mind and intelligence fixed on Me, you will attain Me without doubt.

8: He who meditates on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, his mind constantly engaged in remembering Me, undeviated from the path, he, O Pārtha [Arjuna], is sure to reach Me.

9: One should meditate upon the Supreme Person as the one who knows everything, as He who is the oldest, who is the controller, who is smaller than the smallest, who is the maintainer of everything, who is beyond all material conception, who is inconceivable, and who is always a person. He is luminous like the sun and, being transcendental, is beyond this material nature.

10: One who, at the time of death, fixes his life air between the eyebrows and in full devotion engages himself in remembering the Supreme Lord will certainly attain to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

11: Persons learned in the Vedas, who utter oṁkāra and who are great sages in the renounced order, enter into Brahman. Desiring such perfection, one practices celibacy. I shall now explain to you this process by which one may attain salvation.

12: The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga.

13: After being situated in this yoga practice and vibrating the sacred syllable oṁ, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.

14: For one who remembers Me without deviation, I am easy to obtain, O son of Pṛthā, because of his constant engagement in devotional service.

15: After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogīs in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.

Śrī Bhīṣmadeva attained the perfection of quitting his body at will and was fortunate enough to have Lord Kṛṣṇa, the object of his attention, personally present at the time of death. He therefore fixed his open eyes upon Him. He wanted to see Śrī Kṛṣṇa for a long time out of his spontaneous love for Him. Because he was a pure devotee, he had very little to do with the detailed performance of yogic principles. Simple bhakti-yoga is enough to bring about perfection. Therefore, the ardent desire of Bhīṣmadeva was to see the person of Lord Kṛṣṇa, the most lovable object, and by the grace of the Lord, Śrī Bhīṣmadeva had this opportunity at the last stage of his breathing.

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