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719. Bhishma’s Vow

Bhishma means ‘the terrible'. He was a towering figure in the tale of The Mahabharatha. Whoever sat on the throne, he ruled. He was the power, the power behind the throne. His wishes were always ascertained and orders were given to honour his wishes. He was the son of goddess Ganga. His attainments were perfect. His character was flawless. He was uniformly revered and loved. He was affectionately called Pitamaha. Everyone looked up to him. He was a first rate warrior who could not be defeated. His sagacity was well known. He commanded an implicit obedience. Still, he had to lie on a bed of arrows for days on end. He could not protect the honour of Draupadi when she was disrobed. Nor could he stop his King Dhritharashtra from the evils he inflicted on the Pandavas. The wax house, the game of dice, life in the forest, and ultimately the war all took place under his very nose. This contradiction needs a resolution.

Bhishma vowed on his own, unprompted by his father, that he would give up his claim to the throne so that Satyavathi might marry his father Santanu. To all appearances it looks noble, magnanimous. Yes, it certainly is, in the human context. Looked at from the spiritual point of view, Bhishma was pampering his father, pandering to his ignoble desire for a pretty face that put a price on it. To indulge one's desire is anti-spiritual. To indulge another's desire, even if it is one's father, will have the consequences of desire satisfied, not sacrifice made. The criminal procedure code views conspiracy to murder more seriously than murder itself. The moment Bhishma took his vow, impelled by filial duty, he forfeited all claims to the native strengths of Spirituality.

Duryodhana and Dushasana were evil incarnate. Draupadi inadvertently offended Duryodhana's pride. Her disrobing was evil in action. There is no force on earth within the human compass to prevent it. Spiritual power could. Bhishma was bereft of it. In taking the vow, he did not transform his sex urge, nor even sublimate it. He suppressed it. What is suppressed goes into the subconscious and surfaces when the circumstances permit.  His suffering on the bed of arrows was the releasing of the suppressed urges of sex finding expression. Any strong urge suppressed emerges as pain. Hence he had to suffer that long. It can be explained that he had to do so in view of the other part of his vow to protect Hastinapur and therefore, until Hastinapur came to the Pandavas, he was lying in pain. Suppressed urges seek outlets that suit their coming out and are powerful enough to arrange the other circumstances to suit them.

story | by Dr. Radut