Sri Ramakrishna would often explain to his devotees how difficult it was to understand the ways of God through the limited and small human intellect. He would narrate an incident from the Mahabharata to illustrate this point.

As Bhishma lay dying on his bed of arrows, the Pandava brothers and Sri Krishna stood around him. They saw tears flowing from the eyes of the great-grandfather. Arjuna said to Krishna, “Friend, what a strange behaviour! Even a great hero as our grandsire Bhishma, who is known for his truthfulness, self-restraint, wisdom, and is one of the eight Vasus, weeps through Maya at the hour of death.”

Sri Krishna asked Bhishma about it. Bhishma replied, “O Krishna, you know very well the real cause of my grief and that death or giving up this body is not the cause of my grief. I am lamenting that there is no end to the sufferings of the Pandava though God himself is their charioteer. Such a thought makes me feel that I have understood nothing of the ways of God, which are really incomprehensible. Such a realisation stirs up my emotions and that is why I am weeping.”

The Pandavas were not ordinary beings. They were from a princely family and were endowed with enough intelligence. Yet, their life was one of constant suffering although Sri Krishna who was God incarnate on earth was so close to them. It is really difficult to comprehend the ways of God who can be recognised and understood only through His grace.

Even if God is near at hand and ready to help, yet man cannot recognise Him. Such is the deluding power of Maya. Only those on whom he bestows his grace can understand Him in the right way and mould their lives accordingly. Such people alone will be free from sufferings which are in a true sense illusions created by Maya.

By Swami Shantatmananda

Published in the Sunday Guardian – ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column (27 Oct 2012)

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