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In the Mahabharata, when Yudhisthira enters Swarga-loka, he finds Bhishma there:

"Behold Dhritarashtra, the king of the Gandharvas, possessed of great wisdom. Know that this one was the eldest brother of thy sire. This one is thy eldest brother, the son of Kunti, endued with effulgence of fire. The son of Surya, thy eldest brother, the foremost of men, even this one was known as the son of Radha. He moves in the company of Surya. Behold this foremost of Beings. Among the tribes of the Saddhyas, the gods, the Viswedevas, and the Maruts, behold, O king of kings, the mighty car-warriors of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas, viz., those heroes having Satyaki for their first, and those mighty ones among the Bhojas. Behold the son of Subhadra, invincible in battle, now staying with Soma. Even he is the mighty bowman Abhimanyu, now endued with the gentle effulgence of the great luminary of the night. Here is the mighty bowman Pandu, now united with Kunti and Madri. Thy sire frequently comes to me on his excellent car. Behold the royal Bhishma, the son of Santanu, now in the midst of the Vasus. Know that this one by the side of Brihaspati is thy preceptor Drona. These and other kings, O son of Pandu, who had warred on thy side now walk with the Gandharvas or Yakshas or other sacred beings. Some have attained to the status of Guhyakas, O king. Having cast off their bodies, they have conquered Heaven by the merit they had acquired through word, thought and deed.’ (Mahabharata, Svargarohanika Parva, Section IV)

However, in the Srimad Bhagavatam, we see Bhishma merging into Sri Hari at once after leaving behind his material body:

Sūta went on: Having thus merged his soul with all the activities of his mind, speech and the visual sense in Sri Krishna, the universal Soul, Bhishma expired, his breath being dissolved into atmospheric air. Perceiving that Bhishma had entered into the one indivisible Brahma, all those present there became silent even as birds do at the close of the day. (Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto I, Chapter IX, Verses 43-44)

So wouldn't that logically mean that Bhishma attained Vaikuntha? But then, how does Yudhisthira find Bhishma seated in Swarga?

  • May be kalpa bheda. Swarga in one kalpa, vaikuntha in another. – Lazy Lubber Mar 13 at 18:29
  • @LazyLubber I tried that. But it's narrating the Svetavaraha Kalpa which is same for Mahabharata. – Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Mar 13 at 18:31
  • sveta-varaha-kalpa is not unique btw – commonman Mar 13 at 18:45
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    He attained Vasu-loka. He was one of the 8 vasus born on earth due to curse. After life on earth, he returned to his home town. – ram Mar 13 at 20:00
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Your enquiry is about whether Bhishma attained Swarga-Loka or Vaikuntha. And as mentioned in Srimad Bhagavata Purana he became one with Shree Hari and Mahabharata's Svargarohanika Parva he was present in Swarga.

There is description of Bhishma asking the leave of Shree Krishna to leave his body in Mahabhrata - Anushasana Parva - Bhishma-Swargarohana Parva , when he was laying in his death bed and when the right time to depart came Bhishma talked to Shree Krishna and said to him that with his grace he will attain a supreme abode. P. 395

स मां त्ववनुजानीहि कृष्ण मोक्षे कलेवरं |
त्वयाहं समनुज्ञातो गच्छेयं परमां गतिम् || 45 ||

Do thou, O Krishna, grant me leave, I shall cast off my body. Permitted by thee, I shall attain to the highest end!'

Upon that Shree Krishna granted him the leave and said to him that he will attain to the status of the Vasus.

अनुजानामि भीष्म त्वां वसून प्राप्नुहि पार्थिव |
न तेsस्ति वृजिनं किञ्चिदिह्लोके महाद्युते ||46 ||

"Vasudeva said, 'I give thee leave, O Bhishma! Do thou, O king, attain to the status of the Vasus, O thou of great splendour, thou hast not been guilty of a single transgression in this world.


Now coming to main part of answer.

Further ,there is a story in the next chapter i.e. Chapter No. 168 Of Anushasana Parva-Bhishma-Swargarohana Parva of goddess Ganga the great river indulging in lamentations about her son Bhishma's death from the hands of Shikhandi . Shree Krishna then assured her that her son fought a great battle and there was nobody like him and no one could have defeated him in the battle and he was killed by Arjuna and not by Shikhandi. And then Shree Krishna himself told to goddess Ganga that Bhishma has gone to swarga or heaven as mentioned in below shlokas two times.

भिष्मं हि कुरुशार्दुल्मुद्यतेषुं महारणे ||33 ||
न शक्त: संयुगे हन्तु साक्षादपि शतक्रतु: |
स्वछ्न्दतस्तव सुतो गतः स्वर्गं शुभानने ||34 ||

P. 397 Do not yield to grief, O thou of beautiful features! Without doubt, thy son has gone to the highest region of felicity! He was one of the Vasus of great energy. Through a curse, O thou of beautiful features, he had to take birth among men. It behoveth thee not to grieve for him. Agreeably to Kshatriya duties, he was slain by Dhananjaya on the field of battle while engaged in battle. He has not been slain, O goddess, by Sikhandin. The very chief of the celestials himself could not slay Bhishma in battle when he stood with stretched bow in hand. O thou of beautiful face, thy son has, in felicity, gone to heaven. All the gods assembled together could not slay him in battle. Do not, therefore, O goddess Ganga, grieve for that son of Kuru's race. He was one of the Vasus, O goddess! Thy son has gone to heaven. Let the fever of thy heart be dispelled.'


Further if we look - Bhishma was a Kshatriya and he fought the battle according to Kshatriya dharma and died in the battlefield of Kurukshetra , by the law " those Kshatriyas who died at the battlefield according to prescribed law attained Swarga" , like all those he also gone to swarga.


Now coming to your Srimad Bhagavatam quote where it is said that Bhishma became merged with Shree Hari. That means he concentrated on Krishna as supreme Brahman , he went into Nirvikalpa Samadhi or highest stage of meditation where all his activities were focused upon Supreme Brahman. The verses has to be interpreted in this way as mentioned in purport by Swami Prabhupada.

कृष्ण एवं भगवति मनोवाग्दृष्टिवृत्तिभिः
आत्मन्यात्मानमावेश्य सोऽन्तःश्वास उपारमत् ॥ SB .1.9.43

kṛṣṇa evaṁ bhagavati mano-vāg-dṛṣṭi-vṛttibhiḥ
ātmany ātmānam āveśya so ’ntaḥśvāsa upāramat

Sūta Gosvāmī said: Thus Bhīṣmadeva merged himself in the Supersoul, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, with his mind, speech, sight and actions, and thus he became silent, and his breathing stopped.

Purport -The stage attained by Bhīṣmadeva while quitting his material body is called nirvikalpa-samādhi because he merged his self into thinking of the Lord and his mind into remembering His different activities. He chanted the glories of the Lord, and by his sight he began to see the Lord personally present before him, and thus all his activities became concentrated upon the Lord without deviation.

In the chapter of Bhishma-Swargarohana Parva the way with which Bhishma became dead is also mentioned. It is said that his pranas went up through piercing his Brahmarandhra (crown of the head) and went up towards heaven .

P. 396 The life-breaths, restrained and unable to escape through any of the outlets, at last pierced through the crown of the head and proceeded upwards to heaven. The celestial kettle-drums began to play and floral showers were rained down. The Siddhas and regenerate Rishis, filled with delight, exclaimed, 'Excellent, Excellent!' 'The life-breaths of Bhishma, piercing through the crown of his head, shot up through the welkin like a large meteor and soon became invisible

So according to Mahabharata Bhishma did not became one with Krishna but his soul went up to Swarga.


In conclusion:- Bhishma did not attain Vasu-Loka but he became one of the Vasus as he was originally was and took birth on earth by curse of Sage Vashistha. So he merged with Vasus and attain swarga. So Mahabharata, Svargarohanika Parva is correct.

Bhishma merged with Vasus , his original form and attain Swarga as mentioned by Shree Krishna himself in Mahabharata. And the Bhagavatam narration is equally correct but has to be understood by a different way.

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In Text 441 of Laghu Bhagavatamrta Rupa Goswami states:

devady-amsavatarane pravrtte padmajajnaya vasudevadikanam ye svarge 'msah kasyapadayah nitya-hlantarasthais te vasudevadibhir gatah sayujyam amsibhis tatra jayante sura-mukhyatah

When portions of the devatas through order of Brahma appeared on earth, the portions of Vasudeva and others(amsa) such as Kasyapa who were residing in Svarga, merged with Vasudeva and others(who were their amsi) of the eternal pastimes and took birth from Surasena and the others.

This verse explains how the manifested pastimes take place.

Brahma gave following order in Bhagavatam:

SB 10.1.21: While in trance, Lord Brahmā heard the words of Lord Viṣṇu vibrating in the sky. Thus he told the demigods: O demigods, hear from me the order of Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, the Supreme Person, and execute it attentively without delay.

SB 10.1.22: Lord Brahmā informed the demigods: Before we submitted our petition to the Lord, He was already aware of the distress on earth. Consequently, for as long as the Lord moves on earth to diminish its burden by His own potency in the form of time, all of you demigods should appear through plenary portions as sons and grandsons in the family of the Yadus.

When portions of devatas appeared on earth, the portions of eternal associates such as Vasudeva, Nanda and others - secondary forms such as Kasyapa and Droni, merged with eternal associates Vasudeva and Nanda, when Vasudeva and Nanda took birth on earth from Surasena, Parjanya and others. They took names like Vausdeva and Nanda, but are actually eternal associates of Krishna.

Thus in Padma Purana Krishna says to Satyabhama:(6.89.22)

By the prayers of Brahma and the devatas, I have appeared. All my associates have been born along with me. O beautiful woman, All the yadavas are my associates. They are dear to me and possess qualities equal to mine.

In Padma Purana, Vyasa says to Ambarisa(5.73.18)

"[Lord said:]Look! I will show you my form not revealed in the Vedas" O king, I then saw a young boy, the color of a rain cloud, surrounded by young cowherd women, laughing with cowherd boys and men.

Gopa-balakaih means Nanda and other cowherd men as well as the cowherd boys.

Skanda Purana gives evidence of how amsas attain sayujya(merging) with amsi when pastimes are manifest and upon unmanifesting, they get reinstated in their own positions.

In Ayodhyā-māhātmya in Skanda Purāṇa(2.8.2.61-63), describing the disappearance pastime of Lakṣmaṇa, it is said:

tataḥ śeṣātmatāṁ yātaṁ lakṣmaṇaṁ satya-saṅgaram | uvāca madhuraṁ śakraḥ sarvasya ca saḥ paśyataḥ ||

Then while everyone was looking, Indra spoke in a sweet voice to Lakshmana, who is always true to his promise, and within whom Sesa had merged.

Lakshmana had undergone a merging with Sesa when Lakshmana descended. When work of helping devatas was completed, Sesa emerged from Lakshmana and went to Patala again, and Lakshmana went to the spiritual world.

indra uvāca -- lakṣmaṇottiṣṭha śīghraṁ tvam ārohasva padaṁ svakam | deva-kāryaṁ kṛtaṁ vīra tvayā ripu-nisūdana || vaiṣṇavaṁ paramaṁ sthānaṁ prāpnuhi svaṁ sanātanam | bhavan-mūrtiḥ samāyātā śeṣo'pi vilasat-phaṇaḥ ||

Indra said: Lakṣmaṇa! Please rise up and ascend to your own place quickly. O brave one, killer of enemies! You have performed godly tasks. Attain the highest, eternal abode of Viṣṇu which belongs to you. Your aṁśa Śeṣa with shining hoods has also come.

Further it is stated( 6.8.2.81)

ity uktvā sura-rājendro lakṣmaṇaṁ sura-saṅgataḥ | śeṣaṁ prasthāpya pātāle bhū-bhāra-dharaṇa-kṣamam || lakṣmaṇaṁ yānam āropya pratasthe divam ādarāt ||

Having said this, Indra, the king of the devatās, surrounded by the devatās, established Śeṣa, who was capable of holding up the weight of the earth, in Pātāla. He then reverently had Lakṣmaṇa ascend a vehicle. Indra then returned to Svarga.

Therefore, after the death of Bhisma, it should be understood that eternal associate of the Lord went to Vaikunta where as Vasu went back to his position in heaven. Thus, there is no contradiction. It is narrated from different angles.

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