My Toastmaster CC2 Speech.
Bhishma’s Teachings for the Modern World.
Mahabharata is perhaps one of the greatest epics of all time, an epic in which every character is present to serve a purpose, to provide teachings of life. Among the myriad of players in the great epic, one characters stand out prominently towering over the rest. Bhishma or aptly called as Bhishmacharya. The scion who renounced his right to the kingdom to fulfill his father’s wishes, a great archer and a scholar, who had the combined wisdom of balance, purity, devotion, serenity and chivalry. My motive here is to explain the qualities of Bhishma that we can emulate in this trying modern world. Let me start by giving some glimpses into the life of Bhishma.
Born as Devavrata, to Goddess Ganga and King Shantanu, he was the legal heir to the throne of Kuru dynasty. Devavrata had to part ways with his mother soon after he was born. . He was brought up and trained by many eminent sages. Devavrata learnt archery from none other than lord Parasurama. He had all the qualities and abilities to become an excellent king. But that was not to be. King Shantanu who had fallen in love with a fisher woman named Satyavathi, wanted to marry her. But Satyavathi and her father had a condition that Satyavathi children should have the access to the throne to which Shantanu could not agree. Shantanu fell into deep depression. Understanding his father’s predicament, Devavrata met Satyavathi and her father and to get the consent for the marriage he took a vow that he will never have the throne and will remain a celibate lifelong. He also promised that his entire life will be dedicated to serve the throne of Kuru dynasty. For the sacrifice which Devavrata had given, he was named Bhishma (he who took terrible oath) by his father King Shantanu.
The first quality that Bhishma teaches us is ‘Sacrifice to our loved ones’. But in this modern world how often we do sacrifice for our parents. Forget about sacrifice, we sometime even don’t find time to find to talk to them.
On the other side Bhishma had to pay heavily for the vow. Despite being a great warrior and possessing all the qualities of a great king, Bhishma was reduced to playing the role of an administrator and advisor without any actual powers. He had to lead a life full of loneliness, frustration and sadness. But on no occasion did Bhishma swerve away from the oath that would have helped him having life of eternal happiness. This shows his commitment to truth and values. We all take oath in on the other form but if faced with even a small disturbance we happily break them off, that too without any regrets. A big challenge faced by companies today is how they adhere to their corporate values while finding appropriate means to achieve desired ends. We have seen big conglomerates falling down due to bribery, inside trading, scams, etc. Bhishma’s life teaches us to focus on the need to have principles and values as guiding posts so that context and situations do not derail us.
There is another side of Bhishma which is less known. His loyalty to the crown never came into conflict with his loyalty to God. With his devotion, goodness and sacrifice, he was one of the greatest devotees of Lord Krishna. In the battle of Mahabharata Krishna broke his own vow to suffice the vow of his beloved devotee Bhishma. In the modern times we pray to god only when we are in trouble. We forget god in good times. Bhishma teaches that no matter what is the state of mind we always need to devote our time to God.
Bhishma wasn’t without his flaws after all he was human. His biggest concussion was that he had to witness silently all inhumanities including the insult of Draupadi. Notwithstanding the negatives, overall, the impression Bhishma proffers is one of man of great dignity, forbearance, courage, integrity, justice, and above all, selfless service for a chosen cause. There is much that the present and future generations of leaders can emulate in their respective spheres of activity and influence from the glorious life of Bhishma.