Astanga Yoga London

16th of May
16th May 2020

Sorry lost a day somewhere, sure you’ve had the same experience. And just so you know I do more than gaze out of the window, not that there is anything wrong with gazing out of the window. Here are some of the things I do to pass time.

So a bunch of origami. Ganesh at the back surrounded by elephants and swans on the left with some dragons and koalas a few foxes and an owl. On the right mice, birds, monkeys and some fish. There’s also a butterfly, some squirrels an angel and some cats.

Ok, back to the Mahabharata. We’ve had an 18 day break from the Mahabharata due to Arjuna and Krishna having a little chat in between the two armies. People have often asked ‘really the two armies hung out while Arjuna got enlightened and Krishna rattled on for 18 chapters?’ Well, obviously Krishna being God he froze time. I think we need a little synopsis of what has happened so far. Who’s on what side and who said what to who. Just remember even if there appears to be baddies and goodies no-one is completely good or bad.

So there are two sets of cousins the Pandavas of which there are five, Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva. And the Kauravas of which there are 100 and Duryodhana is the eldest. His best friend is Karna who has the same mother as the three eldest Pandavas but only his Mum and Krishna know this. Duryodhana’s dad Dhritarashtra, is blind physically and metaphorically. The cousins grew up together learning warfare from Drona. Bhishma is in effect a grandfather to both sets of cousins. Dhritarashtra gives the Pandavas Indra-prastha as their part of the Kingdom. And Draupadi marries all five Pandavas. The Kauravas challenge the Yudhishthira to a game of dice in which he looses everything and the Pandavas and Draupadi are condemned to live in the forest for 12 years and then spend one year in disguise. Which they do, then they ask for Indra-prastha back. But Duryodhana tells them where to get off. Krishna tries to arrange peace but Duryodhana is having none of it so war is declared. They sort out the rules, no killing women, defenceless people etc. Short interlude while you grab and ice cream, G&T, turmeric latte and Krishna whacks out the Bhagavad Gita. Phew, curtains raise. Enter Bhishma the leader of the Kaurava army. For nine days the battle went sometimes one way sometimes another. Bhisma was un-defeatable. So Krishna suggests that they make a sacrifice to the Goddess Kali. ‘But who shall we sacrifice’ Only three people had the list of 32 special body marks making them eligible for sacrifice. Krishna, Arjuna and Iravan, mmm, guess who gets the chop.

Wait up what are these 32 special marks? Well some of them and you can look up the rest. Small bump on the top of the head, fingers that touch the knees standing up, 40 teeth, webbed fingers and toes and blue eyes. So slightly strange. Anyway Iravan is Arjuna’s son, not that Arjuna remembers, shame on him. It was when he had a quicky with Ulupi the Naga princess. Anyway Iravan for some unbeknownst reason agrees to be sacrificed. But he doesn’t want to die a virgin. But know one is going to marry a man about to die. So Krishna transforms in to Mohini and they get married for the day/night. Iravan has temples in South India dedicated to men who feel like women.

Now every day the battle rages Krishna urges Arjuna to kill Bhishma. Arjuna is very reluctant as Bhishma is like a Grandfather. ‘Only when he puts down his bow can I kill him’ complains Arjuna ‘and he’ll never let go of his bow’. ‘Will he hold his bow up in front of a woman?’ enquires Krishna. ‘But there are no women here’ replies Arjuna. ‘Ah but how about Shikandi, born a woman and became a man’. And so Shikandi stands before Bhishma with Arjuna behind her. Bhishma lowers his bow. He knows his time is up. And so Arjuna fills him with arrows and Bhishma lies on a bed of arrows above the ground. But because of his great vow to remain celibate he can choose the time of his death. And so the last part of the tenth day is honouring Bhishma. And Bhishma lies like this for 58 days until after the winter solstice. Arjuna shoots another arrow into the ground which produces a spring of water so that Bhishma never goes thirsty.

Was it a sneaky thing to do? There’s a part of the story that fits it all together. Each evening all the warriors retire. Yudhishthira makes a visit to Bhishma’s tent on the evening of the ninth day. They hug (no social distancing thank God). Bhishma is very fond of all the Pandavas and says ask me any question and I will give you the truth. And Yudhishthira asks how Bhishma may be defeated. Did Bhishma have any inkling that Yudhishthira would ask this? I suspect Krishna had a lot to do with it all.

Bhishma is an interesting character, seemingly indestructible even at an old age. He never lets go.  Did he do right? He certainly upheld dharma to the letter but also not in spirit. Should he have had children, should he have supported Duryodhana? Neither hermit or householder. He is still revered all over India and has a couple of temples.

The war is half way though. But things have changed. Rules are starting to be broken…

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