When different paths have stark differences how can all paths be valid and how can we explain our path offers something more?
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How can an introvert practice bhakti when it is so social and public?
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I can’t think when I am with too many people. And I find public harinam kirtan distracting. But when I try to be alone, devotees say that I will go into Maya. But I feel more disoriented when I am with many people and more focused on Krishna when I am alone. How can I practice bhakti?

Answer Podcast

 
Transcription :

Transcriber: Keshavgopal Das

Question: How can an introvert practice bhakti when it is so social and public?

Answer: If one is an introvert, then it is part of one’s psychophysical nature and one needs to practice bhakti accordingly. Practicing bhakti does not mean going against our basic bodily nature. For introverts, we can find out appropriate services suiting to introvert nature and use those in Krishna’s service. Writing, editing, shastra study, teaching etc., these services are those where introverts generally flourish.

In general, important is that one should not remain unengaged. Association of devotees help in protecting us to become a puppet of one’s mind. This is because in association of others somebody is watching. However, this does not mean that association is the only way to practice bhakti. This is one way which works for many people. Association is also safe for many people.
As introvert, we can choose those services which allow us to remain absorbed more and more.

With respect to kirtans, it is not necessary to do kirtans with hands raised, dancing, smiling looking at others. That is certainly one of way of doing kirtans, but introverts can also do kirtan by closing their eyes, fold their hands, even if introverts dance that can be done inconspicuously. Any seemingly public activity like kirtan can also be done in a way which increases one’s inner absorption.

As far as association is concerned, an introvert may want to find out other introverts and associate with them. In the association of introverts, there will not be a constant pressure to talk something. There will be time in between the talks. There will be time to process the contents of our own consciousness. For extroverts, they talk continuously. For them the focus of action is external, but for introverts the focus is internal. Introverts generally think deeply about their thoughts and then they will speak. I am not saying that either of this way is better or worse. It is just that these are different natures of people. Bhakti Vinod Thakura also says (based on Srila Rupa Goswami’s Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu) that we should have like-minded devotee association (sajatiyashye snigdhe sadhau sangah svato vare). So, introverts can choose to have association of introverts.

It may not be very easy to find people who are introverts but with some search within an association, one may be able to find out. Extroverts find it delighting to be engaged in group conversation, but introverts would like conversation with one or two people at a time. Such a trait is not a form of a weakness, but just that it is a one trait. Introverts need time to think […]

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Are jnana and karma complementary instead of hierarchical?
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From Promila Mataji:

I’ve understood the following points about KY and JnY. However, i am still not clear why Jnana Yoga is considered superior to Karma Yoga in hierarchy (Yoga ladder) when Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga are actually complementary?

1. Karma Yoga (action in devotion) is superior to Jnana Yoga (renunciation of action due to adaption of knowledge) because KY is easier compared to JnY.

2. In the yoga ladder or hierarchy, JnY is superior and yet in practice KY is superior.

3. Karmas performed without transcendental knowledge are materialistic in nature. So it’s transcendental knowledge that imparts the spiritual qualities to Karmas.

4. Without the application of knowledge (TK, not dry philosophical knowledge), knowledge makes one Mithyacharana, as Krishna warns Arjuna.

Considering these points, it seems more appropriate to call them complementary yogas rather than one being superior in hierarchy and the other though superior in hierarchy, is inferior in practice.

Answer Podcast:

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Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Transcription :

Question: Are jnana and karma complementary instead of hierarchical?

Answer: Karma and jnana can broadly refer to action and intellectual analysis whereas karma yoga and jnana yoga are specific processes. Beyond these two, there is the path of bhakti yoga.

Karma yoga and jnana yoga, as yoga sadhanas, are not complimentary. They are mutually exclusive, and it is not that karma yogi’s practice is incomplete without jnana yoga or vice versa. Both are two distinct processes of yoga and if a person is practicing karma yoga then he cannot be practicing jnana yoga which requires renunciation of action. Their essential methodologies involve opposite courses of action because karma yoga involves action and jnana yoga involves inaction.

With respect to their intention, in the Fifth Chapter, Lord Krishna talks about their common goal. The analysis of Third and Fifth Chapter is same but in the Fifth Chapter, Krishna goes deeper into certain subjects. In Bhagavad-gita 5.4 and 5.5, Krishna says,

sankhya-yogau prthag balah pravadanti na panditah
ekam apy asthitah samyag ubhayor vindate phalam
“Only the ignorant speak of devotional service [karma-yoga] as being different from the analytical study of the material world [sankhya]. Those who are actually learned say that he who applies himself well to one of these paths achieves the results of both.”

yat sankhyaih prapyate sthanam tad yogair api gamyate
ekam sankhyam ca yogam ca yaḥ pasyati sa pasyati
“One who knows that the position reached by means of analytical study can also be attained by devotional service, and who therefore sees analytical study and devotional service to be on the same level, sees things as they are.”

Therefore, it is clear from the above two verses that those who think that the paths of sankhya and yoga are two different paths have a childish mentality and Krishna further states that actually if one who attains perfection in one process then one attains the destination that is intended from both the processes. Ultimately, both are meant to take us towards transcendence which is explained by Lord Krishna in Gita 5.2, sannyasaḥ karma-yogas ca niḥsreyasa-karav ubhau […]

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Does karma continue perpetually because we hurt others and they hurt us back as a reaction again and again?
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Answer Podcast
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Gita key verses course 5 – What is spirituality? Is it a state of mind? Why are so few people spiritually minded?
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Podcast
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Gita key verses course 4 – How can we heal after the death of a loved one, should we suppress our grief or express it
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Podcast
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Is the amount of grieving on the death of a loved one inversely proportional to one’s spiritual advancement?
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Can you explain Brahman and Paramatma realizations in detail?
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Answer Podcast

 

Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: Can you explain brahman and paramatma realizations in detail?

Answer: There are different ways in which these realisations can be understood like the sac-cit-ananda progression perspective given by Srila Prabhupada in Sri Isopanisad and another perspective is -Energies of the Absolute given by Srila Jiva Goswami in the Sandarbhas. Srila Prabhupada explains that both – atma and Supreme Lord are sac-cid ananda. Brahman realisation is when one starts perceiving that everything in the material nature is temporary and tries to think about something that must be beyond this which is actually eternal because we all have a longing for eternity and if nothing were eternal then from where would that longing come from. Why would we long to live eternally if there were no such thing as eternal life just like a person who has never seen gold would never desire for gold.

When one starts looking for the eternal and comes to the level of perceiving the eternal then he has perceived the sat aspect of the sac-cid-ananda feature of the Supreme Lord. Thus, perceiving the sat aspect is the characteristic of those who have realised the brahman but the important thing is, it is not that Brahman has only sat feature because brahman, paramatma and bhagavan are non-different and so they all have sac-cit-ananda feature. But the seeker who has realised brahman has realised only the sat aspect of the Absolute Truth. Progressively, when one moves forward and thinks that there is order in this world and realises it is controlled by a conscious being who is overseeing everything and keeping this order then one comes to the cit level. Here, one understands that there is a being who is supreme and the controller. At this level, one’s focus is on God as the controller of the material world and this is the paramatma realization. Beyond this when one evolves, he starts to think about the activities performed by the Supreme Being (most people think of what God can do for them but not about what God himself does in his abode). When one understands that the goal of existence is to be happy and therefore the Absolute Truth must also have this opulence of happiness in full, at that time, one comes to the bhagavan realisation where one understands that God lives with his devotees and performs many pastimes and in those pastimes rejoices eternally.

Srila Prabhupada explains that the realisation of the all-pervasive spirit in the sense that beyond this ever changing matter, there is some substratum which is eternal, is brahman realisation. Progressively, the understanding of the localized expansion of the Supreme Lord who although is present everywhere and can control from anywhere still he is present within the universe and from there he co-ordinates and controls it as explained in Brahma Samhita Chapter 5 Verse 35,
andantara-stha-paramanu- chayantara-stham
(All the universes exist in Him and He is present in His fullness in every one of the atoms that […]

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​Does Brahman always refer to the Lord’s effulgence?
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Answer Podcast

https://www.thespiritualscientist.com/audio/CCD%20QA/2016%20QA/10-16%20QA/Does%20Brahman%20always%20refer%20to%20the%20Lord’s%20effulgence.mp3
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Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: Does brahman always refer to the Lord’s effulgence?

Answer: There are words which have multiple meanings, and, in some context, certain words are given specific meanings. For example, Srila Jiva Goswami, in his analysis, uses the word bhagavan very specifically to refer to that Absolute Truth who has six opulences in full and beyond comparison – strength, wealth, knowledge, fame, beauty and renunciation. However, in the Srimad Bhagavatam, the word bhagavan is also used to refer to great sages – Bhagavan Narada, Bhagavan Vyasa although these personalities do not have six opulences. Thus, the word bhagavan has different meanings in different context.

In a particular analytical framework, brahman may have a precise technical meaning but generally speaking, if we look at the Vedic literature, the word brahman is used to refer to the Absolute Truth and not necessarily just the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth. It is said that Lord Rama when he completed his past-times, he entered into the effulgence (atma jyotir agata). But that does not mean Lord Rama merged, it is a way to refer to the spiritual world in general. Broadly speaking, the Absolute Truth is referred to by the name brahman and in
the Bhagavad-gita 10.12,

param brahma param dhama
pavitram paramam bhavan

Arjuna also addresses Krishna as brahma.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has explained the features of the Absolute Truth and within that context, he uses the word brahman to refer to a particular understanding of the Absolute Truth. That means, the word itself has two different meanings. It cannot be said that in all scriptural references, brahman will refer only to the effulgence. Within a particular analytical framework, the word brahman refers to the effulgence which is the analysis of the Absolute Truth but many times in the scriptures, the word brahman is used to refer to the Absolute Truth in general. To understand with another example, consider the word father which in general refers to one’s own biological father but in Christianity, the word father also refers to the priest of the Church. Both the words are true, and the same word has two different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. Likewise, the word brahman generally refers to the Absolute Truth but specifically and within a particular analytical framework, it also refers to the impersonal aspect of the Absolute Truth.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave the philosophy of achintya bhedabheda (inconceivable oneness and difference of the Absolute Truth and His energies) and when we consider the word brahman referring to the impersonal aspect, we are focusing more on the bheda (difference) where brahman is the impersonal aspect, paramatma is the witness and bhagavan is the personal aspect. But there is also abheda (oneness) which means that actually these three are non-different and they are all one Absolute Truth.

In terms of analysis, we can say that there is an impersonal effulgence and some spiritual seekers focus only on the impersonal effulgence. The […]

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​How could Yudhishthira stake his own wife in gambling?
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Answer Podcast

https://www.thespiritualscientist.com/audio/CCD%20QA/2016%20QA/07-16%20QA/How%20could%20Yudhishthira%20stake%20his%20own%20wife%20in%20gambling.mp3
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Transcribed by: Bhabesh Mishra

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: How could Yudhishthira have gambled his own wife?

Answer: When invited for gambling, Yudhishthira had no desire for gambling because he felt that it would lead to conflict or even lead into a war. However, he was goaded. Consequently, he started gambling more and more. Eventually as the gambling went on, the fever caught him also.

We may ask how a virtuous person like Yudhishthira gambled to such an extent. I would suggest we look at this in another way – even a virtuous person like Yudhishthira could get so much caught up in the frenzy of gambling. Such is the frenzy which gambling can subject a person to.

Yudhishthira of course was thinking, “I have lost so much. I have lost my weapons, jewels, kingdom, in fact lost everything. Somehow, I have to regain these things.” He was hoping that by the next gamble, his luck will turn around and he would regain. That is why, when he lost everything, he gambled Nakula and Sahadeva. After that, Shakuni goaded him and said, “It seems you love Kunti’s sons more than Madri’s. That is why you have gambled Madri’s sons, but you are not ready to gamble Kunti’s sons.” The five Pandavas were one. Although, they were stepbrothers, they were closer than most brothers are. Yudhishthira was infuriated by this accusation. He said, “You fool. We five Pandavas are like the five fingers of a hand. We are all united. How dare you create disassociation among us?” Shakuni immediately became apologetic. He changed his face and said, “Sorry, sorry. In the heat of the moment I might have spoken something, please forgive me. You are my superior in every way. Let us continue gambling.” Shakuni put on a repentant face but he got his purpose served. Then Yudhishthira staked Arjuna and lost him. He then staked Bhima and lost him too. Then he staked himself and lost himself also.

At this point he had lost everything. Now, Shakuni suggested, “You still have one thing to stake and that is Draupadi.” When the name of Draupadi was mentioned, the whole assembly erupted in agony and horror. Yudhishthira himself was shocked at the prospect. Then he thought she has no protectors now. Her husbands have become slaves and surely if I stake Draupadi, at least now I might be able to win. If I can win then I can get back what I have lost. Then we will at least have some life, otherwise what life will Draupadi have? It is not that Yudhishthira’s reasoning was right but that is how it was. Then at this particular point, he decided to gamble Draupadi.

Now if we see, the significant thing is that he gambled his brothers before he gambled himself. He gambled Draupadi afterwards. This means he actually considered Draupadi far more valuable. It was not that he gambled her casually. He was, first of all, bound by instructions […]

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Is ISKCON’s institutionalized structure an import from Christianity?
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Audio Podcast:

https://www.thespiritualscientist.com/audio/CCD%20QA/2015%20QA/08-15%20QA/Is%20ISKCONs%20institutionalized%20structure%20an%20import%20from%20Christianity.mp3
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Transcribed by: Bhabesh Mishra

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: Is ISKCON’s institutionalized structure an import from Christianity?

Answer: This is a very simplistic way of analysing how tradition works.

Institutionalization is a necessary part of every culture and it was there within the Indian traditions long before the Britishers came to India. Shankaracharya had his akhadas and Buddhists had their monasteries. Buddhism itself was very well organised and in response to that, Shankaracharya also organised very systematically. Even the personalistic Vedantic acharyas such as Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, they all organised things systematically. They even made succession plans.
The organisation was very much a part of not just Buddhism, Advaitism or Vedantic Vaishnavism but even before that, there was organization in the brahminical culture in India. There were hierarchies of priests when a particular sacrifice would be performed. In the Rigveda, different priests for different rituals has been prescribed. Institutionalization in itself is not a Western concept. It has been very much there in the Indian tradition.

The specific way in which institutionalization might have been done may vary according to time, place and circumstance. It’s true that in Gaudiya Vaishnavism itself, there was not much institutionalization prior to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati or Bhaktivinoda Thakura. Before that we see that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu himself was not at all an institution organizer, although he empowered and delegated people with different missions.

If we classify on the basis of institutional theory, there is soft, medium and hard institutionalization. Soft institutionalization means that there is a broad overall agreement of theology principle and practice but there is a wide variety of institutionalization. It can be seen in the way kirtans evolved in Bengal and Odisha. There is some difference between the two but they both glorified Krishna as revealed through Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

However, by the time of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, things had changed substantially. Britishers had gained power and there was a systematic attack on the institutions of Vedic culture by both Christian missionaries and British rationalists. Christian missionaries wanted to Christianize India and British Rationalists wanted to rationalize India. Either way Vedic culture was under severe attack. In such a situation, it was important to defend it. If an army is attacking in a particular way, the counter attack has to be befitting. For example, an army attacked by arrows cannot defend themselves simply with swords.

When the British came to India, they were quite organised, whether it was for commercial or for conversion purposes. Therefore, within the broad Indian tradition, there took place the Bengali Renaissance and there was a lot of change that happened in Bengal and India. It was at that time the contemporary spiritual teachers took the responsibility for presenting and representing the tradition in a way that would be intelligible, defensible and appealing to their contemporary audiences. Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and Srila Prabhupada were present in those formative years of what has become modern Hinduism now. Bhaktivinoda Thakura did envision a structure of Namahatta […]

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When everything is destined how can we have free will?
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Answer Podcast

https://www.thespiritualscientist.com/audio/CCD%20QA/2015%20QA/07-15%20QA/When%20everything%20is%20destined%20how%20can%20we%20have%20free%20will.mp3
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Transcriber: Dr Suresh Gupta

Edited by: Sharan Shetty

Question: When everything is destined how can we have free will?

Answer: It is wrong to assume that everything is destined. Baldeva Vidya Bhushan who is a prominent acharya in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition mentions in his Govind-bhashya as well as Bhagavad-gita commentary that if everything is destined then there is no meaning to the existence of scriptures because scriptures tell us what to do and what not to do. So if our own actions were also destined then there is no meaning to scriptures because it means that we do not have free will and we are forced to act according to destiny’s will. Therefore, the very fact that Lord Krishna has given us scriptures which provide instructions about what is and what is not to be done to help us understand that we have free will and we have the capacity to choose.
It is true that certain important things in our life are destined but there are also equally not very important things where we have the capacity to choose. In the Mahabharata, Vidura while talking to Dhritarashtra reconciles destiny and free-will by saying that destiny determines the consequence of our actions, not our actions itself. Therefore, we have free will to choose our actions but once we have chosen our actions then we cannot decide what consequences we will get. For example, if a person boards a flight from Mumbai heading to Calcutta, then that person will have to go to Calcutta. Before boarding the flight, the person has more options to choose from but once he boards the flight, his choices are limited or even restricted (one may say he has the choice to jump off from the plane but that choice will lead to his death and so is not feasible).

It is important to understand that we are not entirely free to choose whatever we like. When we have a human body, we cannot fly like a bird which means that destiny may, at different times and to some extent, restrict the choices that we have. Still, within that restriction also we have certain freedom. For example, consider a horse tied to a pole with a rope. In one sense, the horse is restricted from moving anywhere and so cannot walk beyond the length of the rope but at the same time, the horse is free to move anywhere within the circle. Although there is restriction, there is some amount of freedom also. This means that destiny determines the circumference of our freedom, but it does not take away our freedom entirely.

Therefore, we too have free-will and the wonderful thing about free-will is that the more we use it in a right way, the more freedom we will have to choose our free-will. For example, when a person claims to be lazy, it appears to be a restriction to use free-will more freely but more the person tries to act energetically […]

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How can we know that the Deity accepts the bhoga when it remains as it is?
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Answer Podcast:

https://www.thespiritualscientist.com/audio/CCD%20QA/2015%20QA/06-15%20QA/How%20can%20we%20know%20that%20the%20Deity%20accepts%20the%20bhoga%20when%20it%20remains%20as%20it%20is.mp3
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Transcriber: Dr Suresh Gupta

Edited by: Sharan Shetty

Question: How can we know that the Deity accepts the bhoga when it remains as it is?

Answer: It is a valid question. To understand, we must know that Krishna is bhaava-graahi (one who accepts the devotional emotion in the service). When we offer bhoga (food in a platter), he takes the bhaava in the bhoga. But if we make the mistake of sticking to material vision, then not just offering bhoga, the entire idea of deity worship can be rejected as sentimentalism.

It is important to understand the principle of Krishna manifesting in a deity is an opportunity for us to get sensory access to transcendence. With this understanding, the principle of offering bhoga should be perceived. Suppose a person visits his friend or a relative carrying a box full of sweets and after entering the house he gifts the box to that person. Ideally, in any culture, when someone gives a box full of sweets, the other person would not return it empty and would instead add some sweets in the box and then give it back. This principle is also highlighted by Srila Rupa Goswami in The Nectar of Instruction Text 4 – dadati pratigṛhṇati (offering and accepting gifts). When the meeting ends, the person will leave the friend’s home and return back carrying the box. If somebody watching from outside assumes that the box which went inside is the same box which came outside and so there was no exchange of sweets then he would be mistaken. Similarly, when we offer bhoga to Krishna, what Krishna is interested in, is the bhaava. Thus, metaphorically the bhoga that we offer is like the box and our devotional emotion and love with which we prepare the bhoga is like the sweets in the box. Just like, after gifting the box full of sweets to his friend, the person received the same box with different sweets, similarly, the bhoga after being offered to Krishna is received as it is but is filled with His kripa (His mercy).

Thus, seeing with our external vision, the food may remain the same but by spiritual vision, there has been a reciprocation of bhakti (devotional service) and kripa (divine mercy) and how do we know the difference? At intellectual level, if we understand the philosophy, we can note it whereas at an experiential level, when we take prasad (sanctified food which is offered to Lord) we may find that our heart has become purified. Our heart will become purified because we experience a higher taste and the anarthas (offences) in our heart –lust, anger, greed etc start to decrease. This intellectual and experiential understanding can be understood more clearly by the example of a child who is told by his mother to throw away all the pieces of paper lying in the house. Co-incidentally, the child finds a 100 rupee note lying on the floor and proceeds to throw it in the […]

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Why did Bhishma and other elders stay silent when Draupadi was being disrobed?
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Answer Podcast:

https://www.thespiritualscientist.com/audio/CCD%20QA/2015%20QA/06-15%20QA/Why%20did%20Bhishma%20and%20other%20elders%20stay%20silent%20when%20Draupadi%20was%20being%20disrobed.mp3
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Transcriber: Dr Suresh Gupta

0Edited by: Sharan Shetty

Question: Why did Bhishma and other elders stay silent when Draupadi was being disrobed?

Answer: Bhishma, Drona and other elders did not stay silent; they opposed, but they did not oppose forcefully enough. There is a contextual reason and a transcendental reason for the silence of Bhishma which we will discuss ahead. Draupadi was an honourable princess who later became the queen of Emperor Yudhishthira and to dishonour such a lady by dragging her by the hair, into an assembly full of people was a horrendous act. The Pandavas had lost everything in the gambling match including themselves and their wife Draupadi. Duryodhana, who was goaded by Dushasana, Karna and Shakuni wanted to dishonour Pandavas in every possible way and that is how the heinous act of disrobing Draupadi was carried out. At that time, Draupadi tried holding on to a technicality and said that if Yudhishthira has gambled himself first and lost then how could he have gambled me afterwards. Draupadi was trying to salvage the situation to prevent something heinous from happening and so she raised this question before Bhishma and other Kuru elders. Although Bhishma was the eldest among others present in the assembly but actually in terms of political position, Dhritarashtra, the king of Hastinapur and the father of the Kauravas was the most powerful person. Being a king, he was meant to oppose this disgraceful act but instead he stayed silent due to his greed for the throne and the desire to displace the Pandavas. Dhritarashtra was actually delighted and although normally he concealed his partisanship, on that occasion, his partiality and his sadistic nature did come out.

One of the elders, Vidura, vehemently protested this act but since he did not have any influential political position due to being a step brother born from a maidservant, his protest was put aside. He told various precedents from scripture explaining that when an innocent victim coming to a royal assembly seeking justice, is not provided justice, then the whole assembly, especially those who give decision in that assembly suffer grievously. In this way, he tried to reason based on scripture and morality but Dhritarashtra remained adamantly silent and certainly the disrespectful Duryodhana disregarded Vidura’s words.

When it came to Bhishma, he told Draupadi that the question she has asked is very difficult to answer because at one level a wife always remains connected with her husband (not like a property or a possession but in the sense that she is always under the protection of her husband). Such a situation was unprecedented where a husband has lost himself and then gambled his wife afterwards. Normally, a person would gamble the possession first and oneself at the end as a last measure. It was Yudhishthira’s great esteem for his wife Draupadi that even the thought of gambling her had not entered his mind during the match. When he gambled everyone including himself and lost everything, […]

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