This post is in continuation of the series of posts highlighting the ten guNas that bhimasena displays in the mahabharata. The ten gunas have been explained by Sri Madhwacharya in his mahabharata tatparya nirnaya as follows
भक्तिर्ज्ञानं सवैराग्यं प्रज्ञा मेधा धृतिः स्थिथिः |
योगः प्राणो बलं चैव वृकोदरो इति स्मृतः || २-१४१ ||
Vrikodara is the personification of bhakti, jnana, vairagya, prajna, medha, dhruti, sthithi, yoga, prana and bala — devotion, knowledge, detachment, grasping ability, retention (of wisdom), courage, steadfastness, endeavour, activity and strength respectively.
The word ‘yoga’ has numerous meanings in the samskrita language. One such interpretation is to describe zeal or endeavour in a person.
Yoga: “exertion , endeavour , zeal , diligence , industry , care , attention ( योग-तस् ind. strenuously , assiduously ; पूर्णेन योगेन , with all one’s powers , with overflowing zeal) Mn. MBh”
In the context of the mahabharata, this particular meaning become very appropriate when talking about the effort to perform the duties of kshatriyas, and the efforts put in by various people.
On more than one occasion, bhimasena displays an extra ordinary enthusiasm for discharging one’s duty — performing one’s dharma. No matter how inconvenient the situation was, or what the challenges ahead were, bhima never backed away from doing the right thing. That is a hallmark of the bhagavata dharma he exercised.
The best example of such a display of ‘yoga’ by Bhimasena occurs in the adi-parva. The pandavas are given the kingdom of indraprastha and dharmaraja is crowned king. Lord krishna returns to his place at dwaraka and performs the ekaha-ashwamedha — ashwamedha sacrifice in one day! After some time, the divine sage narada visits indraprastha and meets with the pandavas.
After enquiring about his well being, dharmaraja requests narada to describe the various devata-lokas to him. Sage narada gives a detailed account of the various ‘urdhva’ — higher — lokas. While listening to the wonderful narration of how the various lokas are — and who the residents of these worlds are — dharmaraja realizes that the great emperor harishchandra was residing in the indra-sabha — the court of devendra — while his own father panduraja was occupying a seat in the yama-sabha — the court of yama.
Dharmaraja questions the sage to reveal the reasons behind his father occupying a lesser loka than king harischandra. Sage narada states that the same issue was also raised by pandu himself and he had sent directions to the pandavas to help him reach indra-loka. Since harischandra had performed the rajasuya yajna, while pandu had not, the former was granted a higher loka while the latter remained in yama’s court. Pandu therefore had sent a message asking his sons to perform the rajasuya yaga.
The pandavas immediately decide that it was their duty to perform the yajna, and send a messenger to lord krishna asking him to come over and help them. Lord krishna duly arrives and listens to the whole story. He agrees, in principle, to the idea. However, he puts forth one big question, without answering which the pandavas will never be able to complete the rajasuya.
नतु शक्यं महाराज जरासंधे महाबले |
राजसूयं त्वया प्राप्तुं तस्मिन् जीवति पार्थिवे || Adi — Mantraparva — 16–5 ||
“O King! It is not possible for you to perform the rajasuya yajna when the powerful jarasandha is still alive”
Lord krishna says that while other kings like duryodhana, bhishma, karna, shishupala and rugmi and others can somehow be won over, it was very difficult in the case of jarasandha. He had already captured thousands of kings, and wished to offer them to mahadeva, his favorite deity, and become invincible! And without defeating jarasandha, there was no way for dharmaraja to claim to be the emperor of the world.
Lord krishna goes on to describe very vividly, the strengths and achievements of jarasandha. He even narrates the unique circumstances of his birth.
Listening to all of this, dharmaraja panics and thinks that is not possible for him to perform the yajna at all. He suggests that the very idea be dropped.
At this stage, bhimasena enters into the discussion. Being possessed with the quality of ‘yoga’ in abundance, bhima was not one to give up on any goal. He describes that any position can be attained in this world by the right efforts.
आरम्भे पारमेष्ट्यं तु नाप्राप्यमिति मे मतिः | | Adi — Mantraparva — 17–7 ||
“It is my firm belief that even the position of brahma can be obtained through the right efforts”
He advises his elder brother that without efforts, a king gets destroyed just like an abandoned ant-hill. On the other hand, if a king sheds laziness and tries continuously, even a powerful enemy can be won over.
Bhima then reveals the real reason why the pandavas can kill jarasandha.
कृष्णे नयो मयि बलं जयः पार्थे धनञ्जये |
मागधं साधयिष्यामो वयं त्रय इवाग्नयः || Adi — Mantraparva — 17–10 ||
“Krishna has the right tactics. I have strength. Arjuna has invincibility. The three of us — the three fires — can definitely win against jarasandha”
Bhima indicates that when the blessings of lord krishna and the support of arjuna is along with him, he can surely fight and kill jarasandha. In the mahabharata tatparya nirnaya, sri madhwacharya explains this proposition of bhimasena even further. He describes the three attributes that are necessary for success in any endeavour.
निजानुभाववर्जिता हरेरनुग्रहहोज्झिताः |
महाप्रयत्नवर्जिता जना न जग्मुरुन्नतिम् || MBTN — 20–95||
“Without inherent ability, without the blessings of the lord and without great efforts people can be never attain growth and prosperity”
Thus, for one to succeed in life, three factors are vital:
- Swaroopa yogyate — Inherent ability. In other words, one must have a very good understanding of the ground realities, including one’s own strengths and limitations. Only those tasks that fit in with one’s inherent strengths must be attempted.
- Devata anugraha — grace of lord. Without the blessings of paramatma, no strength is useful. This is the most important component amongst the three.
- Mahaprayatna — great efforts. One must strive with all dedication even after possessing the inherent ability. Further, devata anugraha will only fructify when one puts in efforts.
The pandavas, by virtue of being avataras of devatas had the natural qualification or swaroopa yogyate. Further, they had the complete blessings of lord krishna. Hence, mahaprayatna, or great effort, was the only missing piece in their quest for victory over jarasandha, and consequent performance of the rajasuya yajna.
After listening to these words of bhimasena, lord krishna gives the go-ahead for this task. Dharmaraja still retains some doubts in his mind. Lord krishna explains further how bhimasena, with his immense strength, will be able to definitely overcome jarasandha. He asks dharmaraja to send his two brothers — bhima and arjuna — with him for this task.
Finally, dharmaraja agrees and the three of them — lord krishna, bhima and arjuna — proceed towards magadha kingdom.
After a 15-day personal duel with jarasandha, bhimasena kills him and conquers the kingdom. They establish his son sahadeva as the king and return after receiving lots of gifts. Subsequently, bhima and arjuna go on separate digvijayas and conquer the entire world.
With the blessings of lord krishna, dharmaraja then performs the rajasuya successfully and becomes the chakravarti of the entire world!
This incident in the mahabharata is thus a great illustrator of the yoga-mindedness of bhimasena.