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Sri Bhishma Stavam

Dear all,

While digging up material for my study of the Ishvara gIta in the kUrma purANa, I came upon this. In the Santi parva of theMahabhArata, there is a touching stOtra by shrI bhIshmAchArya. He recognizes the Lord nArAyaNa as the Supreme Being, and as krishNa who is standing before him.



It is an incredibly touching stOtra of one who was such a great jnAni, yet reduced to the bed of arrows, who has realized the supreme tattvas. Also touching is fact that the Lord to whom it has been addressed to, is full of auspicious attributes, who “a-mAni” as per the sahasranAma (never proud), who stood respectfully at the side of bhIshma as though he was an inferior, exhibiting his sousIlya (accessibility).

The stOtra begins with the following:

hariṃ sahasraśirasaṃ sahasracaraṇekṣaṇam

prāhur nārāyaṇaṃ devaṃ yaṃ viśvasyaparāyaṇam

(bhiShma:) You are called Hari, who has a thousand heads, a thousand feet and a thousand eyes. You are called nArAyaNa, the God who is the Supreme Object of Attainment for the Universe.

srI bhIshma, by addressing Hari as "sahasrasIrsha..,” etc, recognizes him as the self of all, having everything as his body. A few verses later, he puts this into practice, as below.

I am not commenting on the entire stOtra, but only a few verses which are exceptionally beautiful. Please note that the translation is rudimentary and done in haste for the sake of basic understanding. There may be a few minor errors as I did not proofread, but readers can be assured that no error will be so great as to cause confusion or impart an entirely opposite meaning.

Also, readers should note that this exposes how bogus the shiva sahasranAma is. For it makes no sense for shrI bhIshma to first eulogize shrI krishNa as higher than all, then reveal a sahasranAma about the Lord, then follow it up with a sahasranAma about a deity supposedly higher than krishNa!
hiraṇyavarṇaṃ yaṃ garbham
aditir daityanāśanam ekaṃ dvādaśadhā jajñe tasmaisūryātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Which abode (of the sun), that is golden hued, brought forth by Aditi, as one that is in 12 forms for the destruction of thedaityas, Salutations to Krishna, who is the inner controller of the Sun (sUryAtma)!

 śukle devān pitṝn kṛṣṇe tarpayaty amṛtenayaḥ
     yaś ca rājā dvijātīnāṃ tasmai somātmanenamaḥ

Meaning: That which by virtue of its’ ambrosia satiates the gods in the bright half of the fortnight and the Pitrs by the dark fortnight, which also rules (ie, is sought after by) the kings and dvijAs, Salutations to Krishna, who is the inner controller of Soma (sOmAtma)!

(Note: This is an upabrahmaNa for the “sOmaH pavatE…” mantra. While “sOma” in that mantra can be directly taken asparamAtma sriman nArAyaNa, it can also be taken as the Soma juice that nourishes all gods including vishNu who partakes of it as part of his avatAra leela. This is mentioned by srI sudarshaNa sUri. Either way, it proves it doesn't refer to any lesser deity).

  mahatas tamasaḥ pāre puruṣaṃjvalanadyutim
     yaṃ jñātvā mṛtyum atyeti tasmaijñeyātmane namaḥ

Meaning: He who is the great effulgentPurusha, beyond the darkness of prakrti, knowing whom one surpasses death, Salutations to Krishna, who is of the nature of being the object of knowledge (jnEyAtma)!

  yaṃ bṛhantaṃ bṛhatya ukthe yam agnauyaṃ mahādhvare
     yaṃ viprasaṃghā gāyanti tasmaivedātmane namaḥ

Meaning: He who is sung by the groups of the wise (bhakti yOgIs and prapannAs) as the greatness of great praise (ie, praise is great only when it is about him), as one who abides in the mind of his devotees  upon such praise (upon) which (mind) moves swiftly away from sense-objects and towards him (mahAdhvarE). Salutations to Krishna, who is of the nature of enlightening others with true knowledge (vedAtma)!

  ṛg yajuḥ sāma dhāmānaṃ daśārdha havirākṛtim
     yaṃ sapta tantuṃ tanvanti tasmaiyajñātmane namaḥ

Meaning:  Whose abode is the Rg, Yajur and Sama Veda, who is of the form of the five oblations characterized by Abhigamana,Ijya, UpAdhAna, SvAdhyAya and Yoga, who is of the form of the seven fibers (senses, mind and intellect) used to reach him, Salutations to Krishna, who is the Self of Worship as all that is done for attaining him (yajnAtma)!

  yaḥ suparṇo yajur nāma chando gātrastrivṛc chirāḥ
     rathaṃtara bṛhaty akṣas tasmaistotrātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Who has beautiful wings (as garuDa), whose name is Yajus or Sacrifice, whose limbs are the chhandas, whose heads are the three Vedas, whose speech is the greatrathAntara, Salutations to Krishna, who is the inner controller of Garuda, who is the instrument of praise (Vedas) as he supports the Vedas that praise the Lord (stOtrAtma)!

(stOtra – stu – to praise, shTran – means of praise. Garuda has the Vedas which are praise as his body and hence is the instrument for praising bhagavAn).

 yaḥ sahasrasave satre jajñe viśvasṛjāmṛṣiḥ
     hiraṇyavarṇaḥ śakunis tasmaihaṃsātmane namaḥ

Meaning: You are the seer, ie, omniscient one (rishi) who had appeared in the sacrifice of the thousand fold mind by the progenitors of the Universe (the prajApatis and Brahma). You are the golden swan. Salutations to Krishna, who is of the nature of everything that is good and nothing that is not good (hamsAtma)!


padāṅgaṃ 
saṃdhiparvāṇaṃsvaravyañjana lakṣaṇam
     yam āhur akṣaraṃ nityaṃ tasmai vāgātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Words with affixes and suffixes are your limbs. The Sandhis are your divisions. The consonants and the vowels are your ornaments. Who is declared by the Vedas to be the eternal “OM”. Salutations to Krishna, who is the Self, abiding in speech (vAgAtma)!

  yaś cinoti satāṃ setum ṛtenāmṛta yoninā
     dharmārthavyavahārāṅgais tasmaisatyātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Who constructs the bridge (means) for the sAttvikas by (propagating) the shAstras which are Truth, who is the cause (means) of immortality, who has the conducts pertaining to dharma and artha as his limbs, Salutations to Krishna, who is the Self, abiding in Truth (satyAtma)!

  yaṃ pṛthag dharmacaraṇāḥ pṛthagdharmaphalaiṣiṇaḥ
     pṛthag dharmaiḥ samarcanti tasmaidharmātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Those who practice diverse varNAshrama dharmas, who are desirous of fruits bestowed by diverse sacrifices that constitute dharma, worship you by diverse means. Salutations to Krishna, who are of the nature of being the Means (dharmAtma)!

  yaṃ taṃ vyaktastham avyaktaṃvicinvanti maharṣayaḥ
     kṣetre kṣetrajñam āsīnaṃ tasmaikṣetrātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Maharishis seek that unmanifestform (body) of yours which is the individual self, situated in the manifest form which is the body. The one abiding within the bodies (in the form of) the individual self (having it as his body) known as “kShetrajna”. Salutations to Krishna, who is the inner controller of the embodied individual self (kShEtrAtma)!

  yaṃ dṛg ātmānam ātmasthaṃ vṛtaṃṣoḍaśabhir guṇaiḥ
     prāhuḥ sapta daśaṃ sāṃkhyās tasmaisāṃkhyātmane namaḥ

Meaning: He who is the perceiver, the self situated in the individual self, hidden within. The sAmkhyAs speak of you with 16 attributes and of the form of the 17th. Salutations to Krishna, who is the Self to be realized by discrimination (sAmkhyAtma)!

(Here, this 16 attributes and 17 fold state is similar to the mAndUkya Upanishad’s descriptions of the states. If memory serves me right, it refers to the panchabhUtAsconstituting the body, the 10 indrIyAs and the mind. The 17th is the Self.  The acharyas have described it, but it really goes over my head, so I won’t bother explaining it anymore.)
yaṃ vinidrā jitaśvāsāḥ
sattvasthāḥsaṃyatendriyāḥ
     jyotiḥ paśyanti yuñjānās tasmaiyogātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Those yogIs who cast off sleep, restrain breath, situated in sattva, withdrawn senses, perceive you as the (supreme) light. Salutations to Krishna, who is of the nature of “yOga” or being associated with innumerable auspicious attributes (yOgAtma)!

  apuṇya puṇyoparame yaṃ punar bhavanirbhayāḥ
     śāntāḥ saṃnyāsino yānti tasmaimokṣātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Freed of pApa, distant frompuNya, with no fear of rebirth, those tranquil sanyAsis obtain you. Salutations to Krishna, who is of the nature of liberation from samsAra (mOkShAtma)!

  yo 'sau yugasahasrānte pradīptārcirvibhāvasu
     saṃbhakṣayati bhūtāni tasmaighorātmane namaḥ

Meaning: He who, at the end of a thousandyugAs, in the form of a resplendent fire with brilliant flames, consume all creations. Salutations to Krishna, who is the self, abiding in a terrible form (ghOrAtma)!

  saṃbhakṣya sarvabhūtāni kṛtvācaikārṇavaṃ jagat
     bālaḥ svapiti yaś caikas tasmaimāyātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Having consumed all beings, and making the Universe an expanse of water, you sleep on the waters in the form of a child. Salutations to Krishna, who is the self, abiding in that wondrous form (mAyAtma)!

  sahasraśirase tasmai puruṣāyāmitātmane
     catuḥsamudraparyāya yoganidrātmanenamaḥ

Meaning: You have a thousand heads and you are the Purusha of an immeasurable nature. You are the means for the four large collections (samudra) of seekers – arTa,arthArthin, jignyAsu and jnAni. Salutations to Krishna, who is the self, abiding in the form of the yoga-nidra on the milky ocean, meditating on how to secure the welfare of all beings (yoganidrAtma)!

  ajasya nābhāv adhyekaṃ yasmin viśvaṃpratiṣṭhitam
     puṣkaraṃ puṣkarākṣasya tasmaipadmātmane namaḥ

Meaning: From the navel of the lotus eyed one, arose a lotus in which the Universe is established. Salutations to Krishna, who is the inner self of the lotus which is the Universe (padmAtma)!
yasya keśeṣu jīmūtā nadyaḥ sarvāṅgasaṃdhiṣu
     kukṣau samudrāś catvāras tasmai toyātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Whose hairs are the clouds carrying water, whose limb joints are the rivers, whose belly contains the four oceans. Salutations to Krishna, who is the inner controller of water (tOyAtma)!

  yugeṣv āvartate yo 'ṃśair dinartv anaya hāyanaiḥ
     sarga pralayayoḥ kartā tasmai kālātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Birth (samsAra) and the changes caused by death arise from you, ie, you sustain samsAra. Who is the cause of dissolution of the Universe as well, Salutations to Krishna, who is of the nature of death to the death of his devotees (kAlAtma)!

 brahma vaktraṃ bhujau kṣatraṃ kṛtsnam ūrūdaraṃ viśaḥ

pādau yasyāśritāḥ śūdrās tasmai varṇātmane namaḥ

Meaning: The brAhmaNAs are your mouth, the Kshatriyas are your 2 arms, the Vaishyas are your stomach and thighs and the Shudras abide in your feet. Salutations to Krishna, who is the inner controller of the varNAs (varNAtma)!

 yasyāgnir āsyaṃ dyaur mūrdhā khaṃ nābhiś caraṇau kṣitiḥ
     sūryaś cakṣur diśaḥ śrotre tasmai lokātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Whose mouth is fire, Whose crown is the celestial region, whose navel is the sky, whose feet is the Earth, whose eye is the Sun, whose ears are the directions. Salutations to Krishna, who moves about in the world, permeating it (lOkAtma)!

(Bhattar uses the root of Atma - “ata” – to move about)

  viṣaye vartamānānāṃ yaṃ taṃ vaiśeṣikair guṇaiḥ
     prāhur viṣayagoptāraṃ tasmai goptr ātmane namaḥ

Meaning: The beings who abide in sense objects, according to attributes peculiar to them (karma-vAsanas), call you the protector of the sense-objects. Salutations to Krishna, who moves about as a protector in his condition as the inner self of all entities (gOptrAtma)!

 annapānendhana mayo rasaprāṇavivardhanaḥ
     yo dhārayati bhūtāni tasmai prāṇātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Being of the form of food, drink and wood (used for kindling), you augment tastes and vital breaths. Who is the sustainer of all beings, Salutations to that Krishna, the inner controller of the prANAs (prANAtma)!


 paraḥ kālāt paro yajñāt paraḥ sad asatoś ca yaḥ
     anādir ādir viśvasya tasmai viśvātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Who is higher than time that controls all, who is higher than sacrifice which represents actions performed due to karma, who is higher than the sentients and insentients, who is without a beginning, who is prior to the Universe, Salutations to Krishna, who is the self of the Universe (viSvAtma)!


 yo mohayati bhūtāni sneharāgānubandhanaiḥ
     sargasya rakṣaṇārthāya tasmai mohātmane namaḥ

Meaning: By the bonds of attachment and desire, you delude all beings for protection, ie, continued sustenance of the creation. Salutations to Krishna, who is the inner self of the deluded jIva designated as “mOha” (mOhAtma)!

 ātmajñānam idaṃ jñānaṃ jñātvā pañcasv avasthitam
     yaṃ jñānino 'dhigacchanti tasmai jñānātmane namaḥ

Meaning: Understanding the jIvAtma which is called “jnAnaM” that is abiding in the five senses to be the self-knowledge, who is approached by people of knowledge, Salutations to Krishna, who is of the self, abiding in the jIvAtma called “knowledge” (jnAnAtma).

aprameyaśarīrāya sarvato '
nanta cakṣuṣe
     apāraparimeyāya tasmai cintyātmanenamaḥ

Meaning: Your body is indescribable (as it is made of suddha sattvam which is incomparable), you have infinite eyes on all sides (as you have others as your body too). You are immeasurable, Salutations to Krishna, who is of the nature to be known or deliberated about (cintyAtma)!

jaṭine daḍine nityaṃ lambodara śarīriṇe
     kamaṇḍaluniṣaṅgāya tasmaibrahmātmane namaḥ

Meaning: You as Vamana, bear the matted locks, staff, who is eternally having a body with a spacious stomach that protects all during pralaya (despite his diminutive form), clinging to a kamandalu, salutations to Krishna, who is the self, abiding in the great body of Trivikrama (brahmAtma)!

“brahma” – refers to vastness or greatness. It is a reference to the vast body of Trivikrama. He is the Atma, abiding in his own divine body. Thus is because he cannot be called the inner self of vAmana or Trivikrama as they are identical to him.


 śūline tridaśeśāya tryambakāyamahātmane
     bhasma digdhordhva liṅgāya tasmairudrātmane namaḥ

Meaning: You  bear the shUla, are the lord of the gods beginning with Indra, who has 3 eyes, who is a great soul, who is smeared with ashes, whose inferential mark (linga) is “urdhva” or rising above desire, ie, detachment. Salutations to Krishna, who are the inner controller of Rudra (rudrAtma)!

(Note: When bhagavAn’s own form such asTrivikrama is described, the term used is not “vAmAnAtma” or “trivikramAtma”. As he cannot be the Atma of himself, the term “brahmAtma” was used to denote that he is residing in his own large body. However, when deities like Surya, Soma, Garuda and now Rudra are mentioned, the terms used are “sOmAtma”, “rudrAtma” etc which indicate they are jIvAs who are his body.

He is the Atma abiding in his own body, and he is the Atma who has the jIvAs and their bodies as his bodies as well and hence their attributes are also his by inseparable association. This clearly differentiates the likes of Garuda, Soma, Rudra, etc from his own avatArAs).

 pañca bhūtātmabhūtāya bhūtādinidhanātmane
     akrodha droha mohāya tasmaiśāntātmane namaḥ

Meaning: You are existing as the self of the panchabhUtAs, you are of the nature of being the refuge of all beings, you are without anger despite the trespasses of the jIvAs, who destroy delusion. Salutations to Krishna, who is of a tranquil mind (SAntAtma).

(Here, “Atma” is taken as mind.)

yasmin sarvaṃ yataḥ sarvaṃ yaḥ sarvaṃsarvataś ca yaḥ
     yaś ca sarvamayo nityaṃ tasmaisarvātmane namaḥ

Meaning: In whom is all (ie, you sustain all), from whom arises all (ie, you are the cause), who is verily all (ie, everything is your body, so that explains how you sustain and create as well) and who is everywhere (ie, just likeAtma pervades the body, you pervade everything which is your body). You who are also eternally containing all (ie, protecting them as they being your bodies, are dear to you), Salutations to Krishna, who is inner controller of all (sarvAtma)!

This shloka explains the sharIrAtma bhAva that bhIshmAchArya had used for this stOtra. “sarvAtma” sums up everything that was said earlier.
 This is not the end of the stOtra. It continues for awhile. But for us, and especially with relation to this blog, which interprets so many things based on sharIrAtma bhAva, this portion of the stOtra is relevant.

This is a moving praise of the God of sAttvikAs (shrI krishNa) by the chief of sAttvikas (bhIshma), who had fully realized the truth. It is very touching. At the end of the entire stOtra, the following is mentioned (taken frkm sacred texts, rough translation is enough):

“Having uttered these words, Bhishma, with mind concentrated upon Krishna, said, 'Salutations to Krishna!' and bowed unto him. Learning by his Yoga prowess of the devotion of Bhishma, Madhava, otherwise called Hari, (entering his body) bestowed upon him heavenly knowledge compassing the Past, the Present, and the Future, and went away. When Bhishma became silent, those utterers of Brahma (that sat around him), with voices choked in tears, adored that high-souled chief of the Kurus in excellent words. Those foremost of Brahmanas uttered the praises of Krishna also, that first of Beings, and then continued in soft voices to commend Bhishma repeatedly.”

It should move anyone thinking of how this great devotee, lying down on that bed of arrows, drained of strength but full of knowledge, eulogized the Lord in recognition of him being Supreme over all, who is of an incredibly soft nature and who by his accessibility, was close to bhIshma, protecting him even in death.

What did all this prove? The following:

1) That shrI krishNa and no one else is the Supreme who was meditated upon at the time of death by bhIshma.

2) That this stOtra is extremely beautiful and full of meanings, as opposed to interpolated stOtras in the mahAbhArata and Harivamsha which are clearly inferior and at times incomprehensible.

3) That the praise of shrI krishNa as the supreme, as the inner controller of all, shows that it makes no sense for a "shiva-sahasranAma to be sandwiched in the mahAbharata amidst vishNu stOtrAs. 

4) That shrI krishNa is the only sAttvika god worthy of worship and is the God meditated upon at the time of death.

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