New Delhi, India
12 December 2003
A Selection from the Sabha Parva of Mahabharata
Sisupala Blasphemes Lord Krsna at the Rajasuya Sacrifice
All the kings who came to see Maharaja Yudhisthira perform the Rajasuya sacrifice presented lavish gifts to him. Indeed, they brought everything in such great quantity that no one gave less than 1000 of any particular item. Each king brought so much wealth, that every one of them thought, "It is only due to my generosity that Maharaja Yudhisthira is able to perform this sacrifice so opulently. "
In return, Maharaja Yudhisthira highly gratified everyone by giving them presents of immeasurable value and supplying them with every sort of royal comfort for the duration of their stay. Thereafter, when the Rajasuya sacrifice commenced, all of the demigods filled the sky with their celestial chariots, to witness the historic event. The sacrifice was then performed to everyone's complete satisfaction, for not even a tiny detail, nor a single person was neglected.
On the last day of the sacrifice, there was an intermission and so all of the rishis and kings who were seated in the arena began to discuss among themselves about various topics of religious understanding. At this time, Narada Muni, who is the leader of all the rishis, thought to himself as follows: "Although Lord Krishna is acting just like an ordinary human being, He is actually the One who is worshiped by all such sacrificial performances. "
Indeed, Narada Muni was astonished just to think about how the Lord of all sacrifices, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, had personally appeared in the sacrificial arena of Maharaja Yudhisthira.
Just then, Bhishma said to Maharaja Yudhisthira, "O King, I think that arghya should now be presented, to honor all the sages and kings that are present here. Let the first presentation be given to the foremost personality in the assembly. "
Maharaja Yudhisthira asked, "O grandfather, who do you consider to be the greatest personality in the assembly?"
Bhishma confidently declared, "There is no doubt that Krishna is not only the foremost person present here, but the Supreme Personality of Godhead as well, having descended upon the Earth to execute the mission of the demigods, who are all His obedient servants. Krishna is the Supreme Lord of all creatures. He possesses all opulence to an unlimited degree, and He is the origin of everything. "
After saying this, Bhishma ordered Sahadeva to present arghya to Lord Krishna. However, when the Lord graciously accepted the offering, Sishupala could not tolerate it, and so he began to shout at Bhishma and Yudhisthira, just like a madman. Sishupala said, "Bhishma, how could you mislead Sahadeva, who is but a child? On what basis did you select Krishna, passing by other, more important personalities?"
"O son of Pandu, if seniority has been the criterion for selection, then certainly Krishna's father, Vasudeva, is elderly. If you consider that one's guru should be given preference, then why was not Drona or Kripa chosen instead of Krishna? Then again, if the distinction is to be given to a saintly personality, how could you choose Krishna, instead of Vyasadeva, Narada or one of the other great rishis present here?"
"O King, if your choice was intended to honor your allies, then is not Drupada a great supporter of the Pandavas and senior as well? Krishna is neither a preceptor, a priest, nor even a king. Indeed, He is not even pious, and so what to speak of saintly, for He acts immorally without even a sense of shame, as in the deceitful killing of Jarasandha. O Yudhisthira, if you had intended to offer the first worship to Krishna, then why did you invite all of these exalted kings to come here and be insulted?"
Then, turning to Krishna, Sishupala said, "O Vasudeva, even if it is granted that the others had foolishly acted out of ignorance by choosing You, still, how could You dare to accept the first offering of arghya? At least You should be enlightened enough to understand that You are unworthy of such worship. Instead, by shamelessly accepting the honor, You have acted no better than a dog that licks up the sacrificial ghee in a secluded place!"
After saying this, Sishupala got up from his seat and stormed out of the assembly, followed by many other kings. Maharaja Yudhisthira got up from his throne and hastily ran after Sishupala, while trying to pacify him with sweet words. However, as Yudhisthira begged Sishupala to refrain from insulting Lord Krishna, Bhishma restrained him by saying, "O King, anyone who does not approve of the worship of Lord Krishna does not deserve words of conciliation. "
Then, addressing the entire assembly, Bhishma declared, "It is not only I, but all of the great authorities who confirm that Lord Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and is thus should be worshiped by all. Krishna is not merely the wisest person present here and also the strongest. He is the origin of the entire universe, and the refuge of everyone and everything. Therefore, I advise all of you not to make the grave mistake of considering Lord Krishna undeserving of the highest respect. Evan as a child, Krishna acted in a superhuman manner that is possible only for the Supreme Lord, and no one else. This Sishupala is a mere child and so he cannot understand the transcendental glories of Lord Krishna. "
Sahadeva the announced, in a very grave voice, "If there is anyone in this assembly who objects to the worship of Lord Krishna, then I am prepared to place my foot upon his head. I challenge everyone present to give me a reply if you feel that my words are faulty. "
After saying this, Sahadeva actually lifted up his foot and pointed it toward the assembly. However, no one dared to say anything by way of objection. Then, suddenly, flowers showered down upon Saha-deva's head, while an unseen voice in the sky declared, "This excellent speech is just suitable as a response to persons who blaspheme the Supreme Lord, or His pure devotees!"
Narada Muni then stood up and loudly declared, "Anyone who does not worship Lord Krishna should be considered a dead body, even though moving, and he should never be seen nor talked to on any occasion, for that is the injunction of shastra. "
After this, the assembly settled down, so that Sahadeva was able to peacefully complete the offering of arghya to Lord Krishna. Sishupala was observing everything from a distance, and when he saw Lord Krishna receiving the foremost worship, he became actually mad with rage. After rushing into the assembly, Sishupala once again addressed the kings with great agitation: "Why should we tolerate the Pandavas' insults, and passively accept this rascal, Krishna? Let us take up our weapons and fight with the Pandavas and Vrishnis! Accept me as your commander-in-chief, so that we can disrupt this sacrifice before the final rituals are successfully completed. "
After hearing this envious talk, a wave of agitation spread throughout the assembly. Since the kings were already very proud of their strength and influence, their minds became further polluted when Sishupala led them to believe that Maharaja Yudhisthira was insulting them.
When he saw that the assembled kings had come under Sishupala's sway, and were discussing among themselves how to disrupt the sacrifice, Maharaja Yudhisthira inquired from Bhishma, "Grandfather, it appears as if the great kings have lost all reason and are about to attack us. What can be done to save the situation?"
Bhishma replied, "My dear Yudhisthira, do not fear, for a dog can never kill a lion. Lord Krishna, who is acting just like a sleeping lion, will give you all protection from these kings, who are no better than barking dogs. "
Sishupala could hear Bhishma's remarks, and so he replied with very harsh words, "This Krishna is a mere cowherd boy, and so it is very painful to hear how His insignificant achievements are being glorified completely out of proportion. So what if He killed a duck (Bakasura) when He was a child? So what if Krishna kicked over a dilapidated old handcart (while killing Shankachuda)? So what if He lifted up an anthill called Govardhana, and defeated a little water snake (Kaliya) in the River Yamuna? Krishna is a most sinful wretch who killed a poor innocent woman (Putana) and then ruthlessly killed the ruler of His own kingdom (Kamsa). "
"Bhishma, you are also a despicable person. Not only are you glorifying Krishna falsely, but you have yourself performed many sinful acts. For example, you cruelly tried to force Amba, the daughter of Kashiraja, to marry Vichitravirya, even though she was unwilling. Due to either impotency or ignorance, you have vowed to live a life of celibacy. However, this act is simply vain and futile, for the austerities performed by a childless person never bear fruit. Thus, all in all, you are simply a senile propounder of false morality, and I predict that you will die at the hands of your relatives, just as the swan did in the following historical incident. "
There was once an old swan that lived by the sea. This swan used to preach the principles of morality to the other birds, but he himself did not act accordingly. The other birds innocently regarded him as being virtuous, however, and they used to bring him offerings of food. In fact, the birds foolishly placed their faith in the old swan to such an extent that they would entrust their eggs to him when they went fishing. This sinful old swan would eat the eggs to his heart's content. Finally, when the older and wiser birds saw how the number of eggs was steadily decreasing, they became suspicious. One day, these wise birds hid themselves so that they could witness the activities of the old swan. In this way, they saw with their own eyes how the swan ate their eggs, and thus they sorrowfully went and informed the other birds of the situation. Upon hearing of the old swans' wicked behavior, the birds became so enraged that they immediately went and killed the false preacher of morality. "
Sishupala then declared, "Bhishma, you are just like this old swan. Therefore, you should be killed by the assembled kings for acting sinfully while simultaneously preaching morality to them!"
When Bhima heard this blasphemy, his eyes became as red as copper and he began to grind his teeth in anger. Indeed, everyone in the assembly saw that Bhishma's face resembled that of Death personified at the end of the millenium when he engages in devouring all creatures. Then, just as Bhima was about to impetuously rush at Sishupala, Bhishma went and restrained him, while pacifying him with words of reason. Astonishingly, even in the face of Bhima's terrifying wrath, Sishupala did not tremble with fear. To the contrary, since he was foolishly confident of his own strength, Sishupala simply laughed and declared, "My dear kings, just wait here a moment so that you can see Bhima scorched by my superior prowess, as if he were a moth falling into the fire!"
Then, as Sishupala continued raving like a madman, Bhishma narrated to Bhima the history of the Chedi ruler's birth, as follows. Sishupala was born with four arms and three eyes, and immediately upon coming out of his mother's womb, he began to bray like an ass. Being very afraid of these inauspicious signs, the parents wanted to abandon their newborn baby, but then, a voice from the sky announced, "This son of Damaghosha will become very fortunate and he will be endowed with superior strength. Although the killer of this child has also been born elsewhere, he should be raised without any fear or regret. "
The mother then inquired, "Who is it that will kill my child?"
In response, the voice from the sky explained, "That person who, while placing your son upon his lap, witnesses the fall of the child's superfluous arms, and the disappearance of his third eye, will later become his killer. "
When news of this wonderful prophecy spread, all the kings of the Earth came to see the little baby Sishupala. And yet, even though thousands of men placed the child on their laps, one after another, that which had been predicted did not occur. Krishna and Balarama also heard the news, and so They left Dvaraka, desiring to see Sishupala's mother, who happened to be Their paternal aunt. After Krishna and Balarama arrived at Maharaja Damaghosha's palace and were comfortably seated, the mother came and happily placed baby Sishupala on Lord Krishna's lap. As soon as this was done, Sishupala's two extra arms fell to the floor, and the eye on his forehead disappeared. At this, the Queen became highly alarmed and so she begged, "O Krishna, please favor me by always pardoning any offenses that my son may commit in the future. "
Lord Krishna replied, "My dear aunt, I can assure you that even if Sishupala deserves to be killed, I will nonetheless pardon up to one hundred of his offenses. "
Bhishma then said, "Bhima, I can assure you that Sishupala's audacity in challenging us is actually inspired from within by the will of Lord Krishna. Therefore, please be patient, knowing that his death will soon be accomplished. "
When Sishupala heard this, his anger once again flared up, and like a deranged man, he continued to speak. Sishupala said, "Bhishma, how dare you pass over the heads of such great heroes as Ashvattama, Kama, Duryodhana and Jayadratha, in order to praise this cowherd boy as being the Lord of the universe? You are like the Bhulinga bird that lives north of the Himalayas. On the one hand, this foolish creature always advises the lion to be cautious. But, at the same time, the Bhulinga bird picks out pieces of flesh that stick between the lion's teeth as it eats. In the same way, you are advising these lion-like kings, upon whose mercy you depend, to worship someone else who is not at all worthy. "
Bhishma retorted, "I do not consider the kings present here to be any better than straw in the street!"
At this, pandemonium broke out as all the assembled kings began to heatedly discuss among themselves about how Bhishma should be chastised. Bhishma then challenged, "There is no ore need for further discussion because words can endlessly be countered by more words. Whether I am killed by you, or you are killed by me, I am ready to end all talks by placing my foot upon your heads. However, if you desire more speedy deaths, then I advise you to pass me by and directly fight with Lord Krishna. "
Upon hearing this, Sishupala challenged, "O Krishna, let us end our battle of words! I am ready to kill You and Your foolish admirers, the Pandavas!"
After saying this, Sishupala paused, and so Krishna took the opportunity of addressing the entire assembly in a soft and calm voice. The Lord said, "O Kings, because Sishupala's mother is my father's sister, I have always treated him with extreme tolerance, in spite of his enmity toward the Yadu dynasty. Now, please hear from Me some of the sinful acts that Sishupala has committed. "
"Once, when I was away at Pragjyotishpura, Sishupala attacked Dvaraka and managed to burn down a portion of the city. Then, later on, as my father was engaged in performing an ashvamedha-yagya, Sishupala came and stole the horse in order to obstruct the sacrifice. On another occasion, he raped Akrura's wife while she was traveling from Dvaraka to Sauvira. Then again, Sishupala disguised himself as the King of Karusha in order to rape the King's intended bride, Bhadra, the princess of Vishala. "
"And yet, in spite of Sishupala's having performed so many acts of aggression against My dynasty, I overlooked them all, because of the boon that I had granted his mother. Indeed, Sishupala has always been My enemy, and he even tried to marry Rukmini, just to give Me pain. Now, it is very fortunate that all of you assembled here can see Sishupala's real character, because I want to kill him without incurring public censure. "
After hearing Krishna's speech, all the kings began to harshly reproach Sishupala. However, Sishupala simply laughed and then asked, "Krishna, how could You be so shameless as to mention in public that your wife was actually intended for another?"
Sishupala foolishly thought that he was so powerful that Krishna could do nothing in retaliation. Nonetheless, as Sishupala stood before Him, Lord Krishna thought of His Sudarshana chakra and thus that blazing weapon immediately appeared in His hand. Lord Krishna then announced, "Sishupala, up to now I have always excused you because I had promised your mother that I would overlook one hundred of your offenses. But, now you have exceeded that limit and so I am going to kill you without further delay!"
After saying this, Lord Krishna released His effulgent disc, and within a second, Sishupala's severed head fell to the floor. Then, as all those present looked in astonishment, a dazzling spark of light came out of Sishupala's body. While stationed in the air, that purified soul worshiped Lord Krishna, and then suddenly entered into His transcendental body. Everyone was struck with wonder to see this, and at this time, even though the sky had been cloudless, rain began to fall profusely. As lightning flashed and thunder boomed, the entire Earth trembled, so that the combined effect was awesome.
Some of the assembled kings were pleased that Sishupala had been killed, but others were outraged, considering Krishna's act to be an atrocity. Still other kings became mediators between the opposing parties, but all of the brahmanas and rishis were highly delighted, without reservation. Maharaja Yudhisthira then commanded his brothers to perform Sishupala's funeral ceremony with great respect, and thereafter, Sishupala's son was installed as the king of Chedi. With all impediments now removed, the Rajasuya sacrifice was successfully completed under the protection of Lord Krishna, who stood guard with His Sharnga bow and Sudarshana chakra in hand. Maharaja Yudhisthira then took his avabhrita bath, and thereafter, all the kings came and congratulated him.
At last, when the assembled kings and brahmanas desired to return home, the Pandavas accompanied them up to the border of Indraprastha. Lord Krishna then approached Maharaja Yudhisthira, to take permission to depart, and at this time the King lovingly acknowledged the great mercy that the Lord had bestowed upon him so that the Rajasuya sacrifice could be successfully performed. After Maharaja Yudhisthira very reluctantly granted permission for Krishna to depart, the Lord went to take leave of Kuntidevi, Draupadi and Subhadra. Finally, after mounting the chariot that bore the flag of Garuda, Lord Krishna set out for Dvaraka, followed by the Pandavas. Then, after going some distance, Krishna stopped his chariot and very affectionately made His unalloyed devotees turn back.