The Death of Jarasandha

In the last article we observed how Sri Krishna, Arjuna, and Bhima challenged Jarasandha in a hand-to-hand combat; Jarasandha agreed to duel with Bhima. Before starting the fight, he called the Brahmin priests and had his son Sahdeva anointed as the crown prince. The Brahmins then performed the rites for good fortune and both the warriors got ready to wrestle. They bowed to each other and then each holding the other’s shoulder, the fight began.

They used different hand-to-hand techniques, moving the limbs up and down, different body postures, using their hands and feet to get a grip on the other. At the same time they were controlling, contracting and expanding their breathing, using the breath to bring power in their tackles and fist fights. Both were experts in this type of war and alternately were able to get the better of the other in different grips and postures.

A large crowd of people of all castes had come to watch the combat. The two were giants amongst those with body strength and the crowd was totally hypnotised by the fight. The fight started on the first day of the new moon and went on continuously for thirteen days, with both fighters not even taking a break for food or rest. On the fourteenth day, Sri Krishna observed that Jarasandha was tiring. He asked Bhima not to waste time but to go for the kill. Bhima replied to him, “O lion of the Yadu clan, even if I am able to hold him down at the waist, I would still not be able to kill him with all my strength.” Sri Krishna replied, “O Bhima, invoke the divine strength you have and complement it with the strength Vayu has given you, and remember to tear his body into two halves.

Taking heed of Sri Krishna’s words, Bhima lifted Jarasandha over his head and spun him around a hundred times. He then threw him on the ground and broke his back bone with his knees. Further, he split his body into two long parts thus separating the two halves that had been joined at his birth. Jarasandha died and Bhima roared so loudly that the people of Magadha felt an earthquake had shaken them.

Sri Krishna, Bhima, and Arjuna left Jarasandha’s body at the city gate. They then sat in Jarasandha’s gold-plated chariot that was once owned by Brihaspati, the guru of the Devas. Sri Krishna took the reins of the chariot, and with Bhima and Arjuna sitting inside, they went and freed all the kings whom Jarasandha had held captive. The kings were so happy that they presented Sri Krishna with jewels and precious stones.

We have seen in our past few articles that Jarasandha symbolises that whole part of our unconscious minds where we are joined or have compromised with a feeling or situation. The Vedanta view of life is that in ‘dwaita’ or duality there is slavery and identification. ‘Adwaita’ or non-duality is a high state of consciousness called ‘turiya’. Thus, Jarasandha represents slavery or identification where the two parts or duality is joined. We always compromise with duality, not willing to make the effort it takes to raise our consciousness to a non-dual state. In our subconscious and unconscious minds lie layers of habits; of all the chains that bind the soul, the most numerous are habits. We have habits in thinking, feeling, and action. Actually, our psychology is just a mass of habits where we have formed fixed paths in our psychic nature and our consciousness automatically follows these paths of least resistance. Our whole lives we rarely realise how we tie our consciousness to habits.

This is another aspect of Jarasandha – consciousness compromising to a fixed pathway called a habit, making us react to all situations. There are many techniques to work on awareness and attention – we call these meditation techniques. These cannot work against habits; habits have to be struggled with. Just consciousness will not do, we need a strong will to fight with and defeat the habit. It is akin to a hand-to-hand contest. Sri Krishna represents consciousness, Arjuna attention and Bhima represents will. For years, Sri Krishna and his Yadava clan had fought many wars with Jarasandha but could never defeat him. It needed Bhima to kill him in a hand-to-hand combat. Thus consciousness can observe habits but cannot kill them, only will does that. Every spiritual aspirant must work on increasing the force of his will. Habits can ruin the work of many years of meditation.

Sri Krishna, Arjuna, and Bhima went to Jarasandha’s kingdom to fight him. As habits lie in the unconscious, one has to wait for the habit to manifest in the conscious. When the habit manifests, it controls the conscious mind so it becomes his country. Without the power of observation (or Sri Krishna) we cannot become aware that we are in the power of a habit. Once we become aware we struggle with it with our will (or Bhima) and defeat the habit in a hand-to-hand combat. This is the true significance of the story of Jarasandha. The fight lasted for thirteen days. This shows the amount and quality of effort needed. The habit has to tire before we kill it. If it does not tire, then it can come back with revenge.

Sri Krishna asks Bhima to invoke the power that Vayu, the wind god, had given him to kill Jarasandha. This tells us that we can use the power of pranayama to fight both, the habit and increase our will. The best practice is the three step rhythmic breathing. Suppose, I have a habit of getting irritated easily, then at the point of irritation if my breathing is in rhythm, my consciousness has a vantage point from which to observe the irritation and struggle with it.

Even if we can be free from just one small act of irritation, we will be riding the victory chariot of gold, just as Sri Krishna, Arjuna and Bhima did.