Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.7.19

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ŚB 1.7.19

यदाशरणमात्मानमैक्षत श्रान्तवाजिनम् ।
अस्त्रं ब्रह्मशिरो मेने आत्मत्राणं द्विजात्मज: ॥ १९ ॥
yadāśaraṇam ātmānam
aikṣata śrānta-vājinam
astraṁ brahma-śiro mene
ātma-trāṇaṁ dvijātmajaḥ

Synonyms

yadā — when; aśaraṇam — without being alternatively protected; ātmānam — his own self; aikṣata — saw; śrāntavājinam— the horses being tired; astram — weapon; brahmaśiraḥ — the topmost or ultimate (nuclear); mene — applied; ātmatrāṇam — just to save himself; dvijaātmajaḥ — the son of a brāhmaṇa.

Translation

When the son of the brāhmaṇa [Aśvatthāmā] saw that his horses were tired, he considered that there was no alternative for protection outside of his using the ultimate weapon, the brahmāstra [nuclear weapon].

Purport

In the ultimate issue only, when there is no alternative, the nuclear weapon called the brahmāstra is applied. The word dvijātmajaḥ is significant here because Aśvatthāmā, although the son of Droṇācārya, was not exactly a qualified brāhmaṇa. The most intelligent man is called a brāhmaṇa, and it is not a hereditary title. Aśvatthāmā was also formerly called the brahma-bandhu, or the friend of a brāhmaṇa. Being a friend of a brāhmaṇa does not mean that one is a brāhmaṇa by qualification. A friend or son of a brāhmaṇa, when fully qualified, can be called a brāhmaṇa and not otherwise. Since Aśvatthāmā’s decision is immature, he is purposely called herein the son of a brāhmaṇa.

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