Karma Binds us all


Bhishma, the great Vasu, cursed to be born amongst humans for trying to steal the sacred cow of sage Vashistha.  Born as the son Ganga, he gave up his right to the Kuru throne and took the vow of celibacy to secure a fisherwoman for his father.  In exchange, Shantanu gave his son the ability to die at will !!  Bhishma – of the terrible vow – was unbeatable in battle and even the might Parshuram had to concede he could not be defeated. 

Yet, the great man fell in the battle of MahaBharat and waited an agonising four months before relinquishing his mortal coils to rejoin the Vasus in the heaven.  Lying on a bed of arrows, with arrows for a pillow, the Kuru elder suffered long and hard, watching the family he worked so hard to hold together disintegrate in front of his very eyes.  The terrible slaughter of kings, princes, men and animals must have been heart wrenching for him to see, especially as he had worked so hard, compromised on so many occasions, just to hold all this together.

Question arises than, why did he wait so long ?
Why not die earlier and close your eyes to such carnage ?


Karma and runaubandh are the only answers !

Bhishma was a cursed soul.  Karma is merciless and mechanical.  Once a person comes within its jaws, karma only relinquishes you once the balance is thoroughly paid.

Being a divine Vasu, Bhishma knew how karmic bonds work and hence directed his own actions to minimise his karmic bonds.  To limit his karmic burdens to a single lifetime, he took a vow never to marry or have children.  This precluded anyone falling in love with him (as everyone knew his vow) or anyone carrying his genes beyond his life time.  He used his father’s lust for a fisherwoman to help him achieve this aim. 

Many a child prodigies and geniuses are “fallen angles”, great being cursed to be born as humans.  Often these geniuses have no progeny.  People assume its because they are too absorbed in their work to have children.  Its not always so.  If the divine being is sufficiently alert, he / she works the karmic circus in such a way so as to avoid getting entangled in the maya of marriage and children. 

However, “trying to help” often has its own karmic load.  Bhishma also promised to “protect the throne of the Kurus.”, thus binding him to politics and all it involves for many decades to come.  Trying to help his brother acquire brides caused him karmic entanglement with Amba, the princess of Kashi.  Her dreams of wedding Shalya were shattered and Amba vowed to avenge herself by becoming the cause of Bhishma's death.  Reborn as Shikhandi, she stood between the grandsire and Arjun as a human shield so that Arjun's arrows could topple the ancient giant.  Even good deeds should be done with care as they too carry karmic load of their own.

Bhishma could have extricated himself from the quagmire of family affairs by being impartial and fair.  However, its not always possible to do that in politics.  As a consequence of his vow to protect the throne, Bhishma tied himself to the person who sat on the throne, rather than the throne itself.  In his attempts to maintain his father’s blood line, he excluded Vidur from inheriting the throne though of the three sons of Vyas, Vidur was the most able.  By first placing a sickly Pandu and than the blind Dhritrasta on the throne, Bhishma unleashed a chain of events that led to the great Mahabharat war.  Everytime Bhishma sought to compromise on justice and fairness for sake of status quo and “peace” amongst the family, he erred from dharma and incurred karmic balances that grew to be a terrible burden on his aged shoulders. 

Despite all his best efforts, Bhishma was unable to keep peace amongst his kin.  He even sanctioned dismemberment of his father’s kingdom to achieve peace, but it was not to be.  Though he was feared and respected all over India, he was mocked and ignored in his own court.  With his own eyes he saw brothers loot brothers, family members dishonoured in public, lies touted as truth and eventually, murder sanctioned as “dutiful war”.  Propelled by karma, his own interpretation of dharma / duty and by Kala – the all pervading TIME, Bhishma slaughtered thousands before being cut down by his own grand nephew Arjun. 

After the battle, on a bed of arrows that pricked his entire body, Bhishma had time enough to ponder on the finer points of karma and dharma.  Not wishing to return, Bhishma decided to pay off the karmic balance by waiting a few months, his continual pain and his lectures to Yudhisthir being the painful payment.  All those times he missed his chance to do the right thing, all those warriors he killed - all those karmas were paid off by willingly staying alive in pain.  Shri Krushna came himself to wipe off the final karmic debts and on the day Sun entered the constellation of Capricorn, Bhishma could see the abode of the Vasus directly above him.  Paying his final respects to everyone, the great soul left the earth, leaving behind a legacy of the Mahabharat.


To this day, when Indians see a person in pain, or with a disability, we surmise that person must be paying off some terrible karmic balance.  As a result, we often do not have sufficient empathy or sympathy for the sufferer – because we conclude “Its their fault anyway !!!”  What we don’t realise is, at least that person has started to pay off his / her karmic balance, we haven’t even started !!! 

Read about how the disabled feel in India.
Other articles on Bhishma


Return to Index

Return to Mahabharta Index

Return to ShriNathji's Haveli 

© Bhagwat Shah    [email protected]