What is DHARMA? Lessons from the life of the greatest warrior BHISMA.

By - Abhudai Pal

He was the invincible, indefatigable and the greatest warrior of his time. He was the son of Maharaja Shantanu and River Ganges.  The stories of his valor were deep-rooted in the minds of his enemy. Even his Teacher Lord Parshuram wasn’t able to defeat him in a war.

The Ganges Son Bhisma was the ardent follower of dharma. He denied being the King of Hastinapur just for the sake of his Stepmother Satyavati. She aspired to make her children the King. To fulfill her stepmother wish.

Without an iota of doubt or hesitation, Bhisma committed himself to live an ascetic life and to serve as the Protector of Hastinapur throughout his life.

For BHISM abiding by his commitments was his DHARMA.

The magnanimous heart of Bhism permitted him to sacrifice Kingship for his parent's Happiness is one among the many sacrifices he made for his Dharma. He has only dream throughout life, to witness “Justice and Dharma” ruling on Hastinapur's Throne. 




The commitments of Bhism never went in vain. What Bhism commits to, he will follow throughout life. Living an exemplary life like him requires deep-rooted Dharma in a person’s Character and an extraordinary level of dedication.

He saw his dream-fulfilling when his Grandson Yudhistira matured. Yudhistra was the eldest son of Pandavas and Kauravas whose strength was DHARMA. He was also known as the DHARMA RAJ. YUDHISHTHIRA did become the King of Hastinapur but after a lot of massacres!

The Hastinapur when guarded by a righteous warrior as BHISMA had to face the War, famously Known as the Greatest Indian Mythology Epic – THE Mahabharata.

Was there anything wrong with Bhism Dharma that he couldn’t save his beloved Hastinapur and Grandsons fighting to kill each other?

Bhism was undefeatable yet he lost?

Being the eldest in Kuruvansh, why he didn’t make an effort to subvert the war and resolve the issue?

Bhism was undoubtedly the most influential man, but his strength became his weakness. The commitments which he was proud of, forced him to be a silent observer of the violent storm. His definitions of Dharma might be flawed.

He was unwilling to change his Mindset, he advocated for rights by birth i.e. he never appreciated KARNA’s archery and treated him like a SHUDRA PUTRA.

He was free from planning and plotting conspiracies, but his decision to stay mute on the deeds of Dhritarashtra's son Duryodhana resulted in the Mahabharata.

Bhism followed all orders of Dhritarashtra. He was blind by choice but Dhritrastra by birth. The reason he obeyed each and every Adharmic (iniquitous) order of his King.

Bhisma was the dynamic follower of dharma, but if his dharma did not push him to oppose the ADHARMA of Duryodhan? Was Bhisma Dharma worth emulating and appreciating?

If Bhishma really wanted to See JUSTICE and DHARMA on the throne of Hastinapur. Why did he tolerate the Adharmas of DHRITARASHTRA which were the brainchild of SHAKUNI and he knew it.

If BHISM had decided to rebel against HASTIANPUR KING illegitimate orders, who was having the mettle to face him? Being so powerful and righteous. Why did he not use his power to crown Yudhistra as King Of Hastinapur?

If his DHARMA couldn’t prevent his own Grand-daughter in law being STRIPPED by his own Grandsons. His dharma must be insidious, self-destructing and worth loathing. 

I think, if Arjun might read it he might have used his Divya Astra on me!

But, Arjun your Grandfather if once, just once decided to disobey the ADHARMA promoting orders of Dhritarashtra. Not a single person in KURURASTRA had the courage to face him in the fight. Your elder brother must become the king earlier and the incidence of stripping of Draupadi in the RAJYA SABHA had been avoided. 

If he decided to broke his promise considering the consequences of his own family, I bet Mahabharata must be avoided and Duryodhan deeds must be buried earlier.

The promises he made to Dhritarashtra "To be always with his son's side polluted his Dharma". The non-rebellious nature of Mr. BHISM against injustice cost him his and his family grandsons life. The family which was supposed to serve him in the old-age compelled him to sleep on the bed of arrows.

He died too because of his promise to give up weapons if SHIKHADANI appeared to confront him.

His dream was fulfilled but he enjoyed it by resting on the bed of arrow waiting for his death rather than hugging and blessing his YUDHISTRA.

Practical Wisdom:

Every commitment does not deserve to be followed.

If your commitment binds you to do ADHARMA then such commitments do not need to be abided.

Don't be the blind follower of anyone.

If breaking your commitments can prevent war then do it and it will be DHARMA.

Dharma definition is to follow zero tolerance on injustice to yourself and to others.

Dharma frees you from the ill notions of anything while BHISM was bounded thus his DHARMA was unclear. 



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