ŚLŌKA NO.10 : Seven is Bigger Than Eleven

Seven is Bigger Than Eleven

A step once taken cannot be withdrawn; having stepped into the battlefield, there was no point pondering over it. Victory had to be gained, one way or the other. In any case, weren’t 11 akṣōhiṇis on his side? This way, try as he might to console himself, his voice latent in the sub-conscious, prompted him that their seven was bigger than this eleven. Unable to hold this back any longer, he expresses this in the presence of ācārya Drōṇa –

अपर्याप्तं तदस्माकं बलं भीष्माभिरक्षितम् |

पर्याप्तं त्विदमेतेषां बलं भीमाभिरक्षितम् ||१०||

aparyāptaṁ tadasmākaṁ balaṁ bhīṣmābhirakṣitam |
paryāptaṁ tvidamētēṣāṁ balaṁ bhīmābhirakṣitam ||10||

[Inadequate, thus is our army, under Bhīṣma’s aegis.  Adequate is this, the battalion of Pāndavas, under Bhima’s protection].

Duryōdhana gives a clear shape to his inner thoughts here. Considering the present circumstances, whatever be the strength in numbers on his side, victory was not his but that of Pāndavas, for certain. At the very beginning of the war, Duryōdhana’s inner conscience predicts its course to him. Unable to restrain himself, he expresses this in the presence of Drōṇācārya.

To many commentators steeped in tradition, this ślōka has posed challenges. Though these ślōkas elegantly bring out into open, the subtle psychological aspects, they have completely failed to understand it.

Deeming the intent of this ślōka to be clear, Ācārya Śankara, Ācārya Madhva did not cover it in their commentaries. But, some of the later commentators, did not reach their exalted levels. Caught in confusion, they drew wrong conclusions. The entire ślōka was interpreted wrongly. The cryptic – unclear meanings in the words of this ślōka left them befuddled. Therefore, they ended up writing meanings that go against the basic motif of the Gītā.

Let us now see what has led them to this confusion; which terms have left them in uncertainty –

The dual meanings of पर्याप्त -अपर्याप्त (paryāpta – aparyāpta), is the reason for their faulty conclusion. पर्याप्त (paryāpta) = limited, अपर्याप्त (aparyāpta) = abundant, are also the sense in which these words are used. पर्याप्त (paryāpta) = competent; अपर्याप्त (aparyāpta) = of insufficient competence is also another sense that exists for these words.

It is this duality that caught the commentators in doubt. पर्याप्त (paryāpta) can also mean limited, incompetent. Commentators who thus lost their way, picked up the first meaning. Their flaw was in the interpretation that Duryōdhana who had entered the war brimming with confidence would not now be talking of loss or be dismayed.

The meaning of the ślōka as per them is this – ‘The massive army under Bhīṣma’s command is sufficiently competent to defeat the Pāndava army. The army under Bhīma’s protection however is not comparable to ours; it is incapable of facing us.’ Let us see if this meaning make sense here.

We have seen the tone of Duryōdhana’s discussion with Drōṇa. If he had referred to eleven people and in all, eighteen valiant ones on the Pāndavas side, on his own side he referred to only seven people. Even in those seven he trusted none completely and this becomes clear from his manner of speaking. Doubting victory and steeped in fear he approaches his guru. Let there be some monitoring over Bhīṣma – was his intent as he alerted Drōṇa. Post all these developments, it does not make sense, if suddenly he states that the Pāndava battalion is incompetent and that victory is his only.

Further as we proceed, it comes to light that hearing the conches of Pāndavas, there was trepidation in the hearts of the Kauravas. In line with this is the doubt that haunts Duryōdhana; this is what emerges as the correct explanation of this ślōka.

Earlier, Duryōdhana himself had termed the Pāndava army as ‘महतीं चमूं (mahatīṁ camūṁ) – a very big army. Details of the army – army chiefs were enumerated by him. He had referred to each of Pāndavas’ sons, individually. On the other hand, there was no praise for the army on his side; no reference to its commanders; there was also no reference to his own brothers or children. In addition, there was also the snide comment that the existing 11 akṣōhiṇis was there ‘त्यक्तजीविताः (tyaktajīvitāḥ) i.e. to lay down their lives for me.’

Going ahead, in order to please him, it is stated that Bhīṣma blew his conch that roared like a lion. If so, is it not clear that he had right at the beginning come with a sense of displeasure and dismay? The reason behind his dismay is clearly that he had lost trust that he would be victorious. How could he have moved against all this in the backdrop and declared that victory was reliably his? Did the intellect of the commentators become so dull!

If one pays proper attention to this ślōka, it would become clear as to how inane is their explanation.

Here while he says his army is ‘Bhīṣmābhirakṣita,’ he goes on to say, Pāndava army is ‘Bhīmābhirakṣita.’ This is not merely to suit a rhyme scheme. What then is the purport of this statement?

Bhīṣma was the commander of the Kaurava army, therefore it was proper to say that it is ‘Bhīṣmābhirakṣita.’ In relation to this, he should have referred to the Pāndava army commander Dhṛṣṭadhyumna as, ‘पर्याप्तं त्विदमेतेषां धृष्टध्युम्नाभिरक्षितं (paryāptaṁ tvidamētēṣāṁ Dhṛṣṭadhyumnābhirakṣitam).’ But instead, Duryōdhana said ‘Bhīmābhirakṣitam!’ Without understanding the tone of this statement, a few of the ancient commentators committed a big mistake. That great commmentators like Anandagiri, Madhusūdanasaraswati, Nīlakaṇtha etc., flip-flopped here, is truly very surprising.

Only a handful of commentators, namely Ācārya Rāmanuja and Vendantadeśika, Śridharaswāmy, Vallabhācarya, Rāghavendra Swamy, Vanamali Miśra – touched the heart of Gītā, while explaining. The reference to Bhīma in relation to Bhīṣma, has been correctly brought out by them.

There is a treatise on Gītā by a strange name: Paiśacabhāṣya. This person was referred to earlier in connection with the discussion on the term ‘Mahāratha.’ How did such a name come about? It is said that it was written by Hanumanta: ‘श्रीहनुमद्विरचिते पैशाचभाष्ये(śrihanumadviracite paiśācabhāśyē).’ One who followed Śankara Bhaṣya letter to letter, cannot definitely be the Hanumanta of trétāyuga. He must be either Hanumantaiyya or Hanumantarāya, who followed Śankara’s philosophy. The surprise here is that when explaining the meaning of this ślōka, he stands apart from the other commentators from the Śankara school. As one who has really understood the heart of Śankara, he gives his explanation –   

तत् =तथाभूतैर्वीयैर्युक्तमपि, भीष्मेण अभितो रक्षितमपि, अस्माकं बलं = सैन्यम्, अपर्याप्तम् = तैः सह योद्धुमसमर्थं  भाति। इदं एतेषाम् = पांडवानाम्, बलं भीमेन अभितो रक्षितं सत् पर्याप्तं समर्थं भाति। भीष्मस्य  उभयपक्षपातित्वात् अस्मद्बलं पांडवसैन्यं प्रत्यसमर्थम्, भीमस्य एकपक्षपातित्वात्  एतत्  बलमस्मद्बलं  प्रति समर्थम्।

(tat=tathābhūtairvīrairyuktamapi, bhīṣmēṇa abhitō rakṣitamapi, asmākaṁ balaṁ=sain’yam, aparyāptam=taiḥ saha yōd’dhumasamarthaṁ bhāti. idaṁ ētēṣām=pāṇḍavānām, balaṁ bhīmēna abhitō rakṣitaṁ sat paryāptaṁ samarthaṁ bhāti. bhīṣmasya ubhayapakṣapātitvāt asmad- balaṁ pāṇḍavasain’yaṁ pratyasamartham, bhīmasya ēkapakṣapātitvāt ētat balamasmadbalaṁ prati samartham).

Duryōdhana’s enmity was great towards the Pāndavas. He faced a challenge only from Bhīma. Even in his childhood days he had fed poison to Bhīma, wishing to finish him off. Even in his last moments he had longed for a mace duel with Bhīma only. It was only Bhīma who threatened his future, was his feeling. In response, just before leaving for the forests, Bhīma avowed to finish off the Kauravas. He had pledged that he would smash Duryōdhana’s thighs; drink Duḥṣāsana’s blood.  Duryōdhana too had a curse to that effect from sage Maitréya. All his fears are centered on Bhīma. The killing of Kīcaka, who was second to none in the mace warfare, deepened his fears.

He did not fear Kṛṣṇa as He was not fighting the war. In a mace war, he felt that he could subdue Arjuna. As such the only one who was an eye sore for him from the Pāndavas side, was Bhīma. Even though Dhṛṣṭadhyumna was the operational commander, in Duryōdhana’s view it was Bhīma who was the leader of that army.

In this way, a determined fighter, a gritty sworn enemy who could fight to finish without pause, was Bhīma; a great hero, incomparable across the world as an intrepid as well highly skilled person in the mace warfare. On the other hand, there was Bhīṣma, the ageing veteran standing alongside, who within his heart loved the Pāndavas; mentally wished them to be victorious.

Caught in the confusion of this duality, Duryōdhana was made to think. Was it possible for his army led by Bhīṣma to win? Was it possible for the Pāndava army, supported by the most valiant, fearless and tenacious Bhīma, to lose? This was the doubt that ruled Duryōdhana’s mind.

There is another wonderful issue here. He refers to his army as ‘तत् बलं(tat balaṁ)’ = ‘that army’ indirectly. [तत् (tat) = therefore, the distinction is clear that his army, unlike that of Pāndavas, is not well knit and organised]. He refers to the Pāndava army as इदं बलं(idaṁ balaṁ) = ‘this army’ i.e. one which is in proximity. Actually it his army that is in proximity. He should call it as ‘this army.’ Pāndava army is far away. He should call that as ‘that army.’ In the ślōka however, ‘this army’ becomes ‘that army’ and ‘that army’ becomes ‘this army.’ This interchange gives rise to a new tone in the meaning.

His army that stands next to him, at some point in time, slipped out of his hands and is beyond his grasp, is how it seems to Duryōdhana. It is thus he calls it ‘that army.’ Pāndava army, though located far away in their camp – at this juncture seems to have surrounded and gripped him. Therefore, he calls it ‘this army.’ In this way, Duryōdhana appears to be fully ailing, psychologically –

तत् (tat) = therefore, भीष्म+ अभिरक्षितम् (bhīṣma+abhirakṣitam) = protected under the army command of Bhīṣma; अस्माकं(asmākaṁ) = ours, बलं (balaṁ) = army, अपर्याप्तं (aparyāptaṁ) = not sufficiently prepared; एतेषां(ētēṣāṁ)= the one, of these Pāndavas, इदं (idaṁ) = this army, भीम+अभिरक्षितम् (bhīma +abhirakṣitam) = protected by Bhīma, पर्याप्तं (paryāptaṁ) = in sufficient preparedness to win.

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About Dr. Bannanje Govindacharya