“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)Download this episode (right click and save)
The Supreme Lord can accomplish any task. His actions are easy. He doesn’t have to work hard. The concept carrying the most complexity is the entire universe, with its amazing variety, its timely and predictable operation, and its vast population of creatures. That creation comes into being through the exhaling of Lord Vishnu. His breathing is while lying down in rest on the serpent bed known as Ananta Deva.
“If I narrate about Rama, her dear husband whose actions are effortless, she will not be frightened, as her mind will be absorbed in thoughts of her husband.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 30.41)
Shri Hanuman attests to the fact. He describes Shri Rama to be of effortless actions. Rama is the same Vishnu, part of the Vishnu-tattva category of Divine Beings. The Supreme is one, but He is kind enough to expand Himself into different personal forms to accommodate variety in devotional sentiments.
Though His actions are effortless and thus any work for Him easy to accomplish, God puts people into positions to succeed and earn fame. They act as His instruments. The Divine will is already set; these important personalities act in ways to welcome destiny, to share in the resplendent glory of the Supreme Lord.
Hiranyakashipu was a terror. He asked to become very powerful, and through demigod worship you can get pretty much anything available in the material world. There are opulences such as strength, wealth, fame, and beauty. A person can get any or all of these things in great quantity through pleasing devas, gods who are specifically empowered to grant benedictions.
Of course the wise know that such power is not that important. If it exists, it should be used in service to God. Hiranyakashipu was an asura; the best of them in fact. He used his abilities to trample on the security of the innocent. He became the most feared man in the world.
Vishnu easily could have taken care of the terrorizing king. He had previously done so with Hiranyakashipu’s brother Hiranyaksha. That was one of the reasons Hiranyakashipu so despised Vishnu and any trace of worship of Him.
Hiranyakashipu’s destiny was already sealed, and the five year old son Prahlada acted as the instrument. The boy tolerated the persecutions of his father, which were irrational. The boy wasn’t bothering anyone. He had no power to compel anyone to do anything. After surviving so many deadly attacks, Prahlada’s devotion invited Vishnu Himself to appear on the scene as Narasimhadeva, who literally tore Hiranyakashipu apart.
Vishnu descended to earth as Rama, who was a capable and chivalrous prince. Rama lost His wife Sita Devi to Ravana through a nefarious plot. Since He is antaryami, or the all-pervading and all-knowing witness, Rama easily could have located and rescued her.
He gave Hanuman the opportunity to act as the instrument of destiny. Hanuman bravely searched through Lanka until he found Sita. He played a significant role in Rama’s army that eventually marched to Lanka and returned triumphantly, with Ravana dead and Sita rescued. Hanuman was chosen because of his great devotion. He too is extremely powerful. He is capable of defeating anyone, yet he refrained from destroying Ravana so that Rama would get the chance later on.
The leading fighter for the Pandava side in a great war, Arjuna was hesitant to participate. He was something like a conscientious objector. He knew the cause was right. He understood the other side was wrong. Still, he preferred giving up to seeing people on the other side perish. He did not want to be a party towards violence against friends and family.
“Therefore get up and prepare to fight. After conquering your enemies you will enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyasachin, can be but an instrument in the fight.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.33)
Vishnu as Krishna informed Arjuna that destiny was already set. The Kauravas were going to lose. There was even the vision of the universal form, showing the opposing side rushing into Krishna’s mouths. Arjuna should stand up and fight and act as Krishna’s instrument. Then he would get the glory. Indeed, Arjuna received that and more. He is today also known as the best disciple whose insightful questions gave rise to the singing of the Bhagavad-gita, the timeless wisdom of the Vedas that continues to rescue bewildered souls to this day.
Jarasandha attacked Krishna in Mathura a total of seventeen times. The guy had no shame. Though embarrassingly defeated each time, he continued to come back for more. At the final attempt there were two options for Krishna. Either kill the king once and for all or flee to somewhere else. He chose the latter option. Since He fled from the battlefield, Krishna earned the name Ranchor.
Jarasandha’s destiny was set, and the instrument this time was Bhima. He is another of the five Pandava brothers. Bhima is particularly known for his strength. Being the son of the wind-god, that quality is only natural. Since he is a voracious eater, he is also known as Vrikodara.
Bhima defeated Jarasandha in a wrestling match. They fought for days, and victory did not come until Krishna gave Bhima some advice on how to end things. Bhima is a devotee, and so it is not surprising that the Supreme Lord would put him in a position to earn tremendous glory.
Arjuna represented the Pandavas. One of the people he was concerned about fighting against was Bhishma, who was on the side of the Kauravas. Bhishma was the grandfather to both sides. He was like the oldest living ancestor, respected by everyone.
Bhishma was such a great soul that he had the boon of being able to choose the time of his exit from the world. This meant that after he was showered with arrows on the battlefield, he did not yet give up his life. While lying down ready to depart, he gave valuable instructions to Yudhishthira, the eldest of the Pandava brothers. When quitting his body he thought of Krishna in His form of Vishnu, and thus attained liberation. The Supreme Lord gave Bhishma this wonderful opportunity to show his true character, which may have been in doubt due to his siding with the Kauravas.
Supreme Lord anything can do,
But seeks glory for devotees too.
Like Prahlada his father against,
Alive through persecutions sent.
Hanuman search for Sita tried,
On his love for Rama relied.
Bhima the shameless Jarasandha killed,
Bhishma teaching with body of arrows filled.