The Puranas describe the characteristics of the four yugas that constitute the historic evolution of life. In the Krita Yuga, dharma is in the ascendant, and there is a progressive erosion of moral values through the Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yugas. The atmosphere in Kali Yuga does not conduce to upholding dharma and virtue, and the tendency to seek God is lost in the maze of distractions.

Anticipating this laxity towards dharma in Kali Yuga, Krishna desires that it be preserved among people in some form. The Lord bids Bhishma restate the scriptural ideals embedded in its laws so that these values trickle down as moral codes and spiritual practices, said Sri L. Sampathkumar in a discourse.

It is a poignant scene when Krishna, along with the Pandavas visits this noble warrior with exceptional commitment to moral courage and unalloyed truth lying on a bed of arrows, awaiting his departure from this world. Seeing Krishna making an appearance at this time, Bhishma is moved at the Lord’s infinite compassion to bless him during his last moments.

Bhishma is further overwhelmed when Krishna, the very light of knowledge and embodiment of dharma, bids him to expound his views on dharma and share his wisdom with the Pandavas.

Earlier, in the Santi Parva, Bhishma had spoken at length on righteousness, morals and ethics that can survive only if people uphold these virtues with commitment against the powerful effects of evil. He now accedes to the Lord’s bidding, knowing this to be His lila.

Saluting the Lord with love and reverence, Bhishma says that by Krishna’s grace, he feels inspired to speak on dharma that is the basis of universal order. The highest dharma that can relieve one from the cycle of birth and the only solace in Kali Yuga is to worship God with devotion. To love God and remain devoted to Him is the best antidote to the evils of anger, malice, avarice and sinful tendencies. He expounds the Lord’s various names that describe His infinite nature as well as His various forms and auspicious qualities. These names thus become useful aids to people in their spiritual effort at meditation.