“Suta Gosvami said: Thus Bhishmadeva merged himself in the Supersoul, Lord Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with his mind, speech, sight and actions, and thus he became silent, and his breathing stopped.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.9.43)
कृष्ण एवं भगवति
आत्मन्य् आत्मानम् आवेश्य
सो ऽन्तःश्वास उपारमत्
kṛṣṇa evaṁ bhagavati
ātmany ātmānam āveśya
so ‘ntaḥśvāsa upāramat
“I know that in my experience, forgiveness is difficult. That probably explains the reason people of other faiths tend to harp on it. Forgive and forget. Let bygones be bygones. Don’t harbor resentment. Let go of the past.
“Well, that is easier said than done. For me in particular, I have a difficult time setting aside political differences. I follow the news closely. Not necessarily what the corporate media types push upon us, but digging deeper into the issues. I try to be as fair and objective as possible, and then make a rational decision accordingly.
“I see that others around me are consumed by hate. They make up stories to justify their positions. It’s ridiculous, if you ask me. These are grown adults, with children. Some of them are trusted professionals in society, such as doctors and teachers. How can anyone take them seriously after studying the hateful material they post online?
“This brings me to the story of Bhishma. He lay on the battlefield, body filled with arrows, ready to depart this world after defeat against Arjuna, the leading bow-warrior of the Pandava side. By any rational estimation, Bhishma chose the wrong party to support. His politics were off. He aligned with Duryodhana, who was so wicked as to question Bhishma’s loyalty.
“In the famous image, we see the Pandava brothers approaching Bhishma. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is with them. I’m wondering how the Pandavas could be so forgiving. This was an enemy releasing arrows with lethal intent just moments prior. How could they forgive? Why did they not lose respect for Bhishma, considering that he made a mistake in lead-up to the Bharata War?”
The Pandavas went to Bhishma at the urging of Krishna, who is the well-wisher to the entire species. Though Duryodhana was aligned with adharma, or sinful life, Krishna was also wishing him well. The son of Yashoda tried to avoid hostilities, acting as a sort of mediator between the two parties.
As a reward for that peaceful approach, Krishna learned of Duryodhana’s plan to capture and bind. Krishna could only laugh at the proposal, as who will find enough material to cover the entire universe and more? Because that is one manifestation of that son of Yashoda, who is the origin of the material and spiritual energies.
Despite our turning away from the service to the Divine for countless births, the position as well-wishing friend is fixed. That is to say at any time I can make the turn in the direction of Krishna, who happened to be Arjuna’s charioteer in the great conflict.
Bhishma remained steady in devotion, even if his politics may have fallen on the wrong side. This material world is full of nuance and detail, with the tide changing so rapidly that people get a headache trying to keep track of which way is right and which is wrong.
Fighting nobly for the Kaurava side was not a negative on Bhishma’s spiritual assessment. He was soon to merge into the spiritual energy, associating with Krishna’s four-handed, personal form of Narayana. As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada comments, this is the perfect way to die. Every human being should pass from this world in the way of Bhishma.
As he is one of the twelve mahajanas, Bhishma was able to impart valuable wisdom to the Pandavas prior to leaving the world. That is the reason for the approach. A person may be a bitter rival, an enemy in the ordinary estimation, but if they are devoted to Shri Krishna they have something valuable to share with others. At the very least, they have attachment to the holy name, which others can hold on to for rescue: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
With valuable knowledge to give,
So not necessary to forgive.
That Bhishma improperly aligned,
In him pure devotion to find.
Enough that merging properly so,
Since of Shri Krishna to know.
The consciousness fixed and sure,
For best fate assured.