Commentary on the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 32: The Eleventh Chapter Begins – Introduction to the Visvarupa Darshana

We concluded the Tenth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita, which gave a fairly good account of the glories of the Almighty as manifest in prominent and excellent forms in this world. The Lord said, “Wherever there is immense knowledge and immense power, I am manifest there.” If great genius, great strength, dexterity and great capacity to execute any work is discovered in a person—such as in geniuses like Srinivasa Ramanujan and Albert Einstein, who were exceptional human beings—it can be said that they are also one of the Vibhutis. Though poets like Shakespeare and Kalidasa are not mentioned in the Gita, we may infer that they are all exceptional human beings, not ordinary persons.

We have been gradually moving onward in the direction of comprehending God in His Reality as He Himself is. The emphasis in the early chapters was on discipline and the performance of one’s duty. Then it became the duty of self-integration through dhyana, as explained in the Sixth Chapter. In the Seventh Chapter, when we were found to be fit seekers to understand the mystery of the cosmos, we were introduced into the cosmology of the entire creation of the universe. In the Eighth Chapter, we were told what happens to a seeker after he departs from this body. In the Ninth Chapter, further light was thrown on the religion of humanity, what may be called true religion, and God gave us His promise that ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham (9.22): “Whoever is undividedly united with Me, him I shall take care of, and all shall be well with that person.”

Then Arjuna put a question: “I have understood everything that You say, but I want to know how You are visibly present in this world. What are Your special manifestations? I understand that You are, generally speaking, present everywhere; but where are You especially manifest?” Then Lord Sri Krishna gave a long list of special manifestations of great glories, powers and magnificences.

The whole point is that the Lord wants to drive into the mind of Arjuna the truth of God not merely being all things, or God being everywhere, God being present in highly excellent manifestations, God being the Creator, and God being the Procurer of all the welfare of people. This kind of teaching is good, but it is not enough for God, because God does not tolerate the presence of anyone outside Him. He is a supremely selfish person, we may say. God does not tolerate anything outside Him, not even the world. There is no question of transmigration, going to another realm, taking rebirth in some other place, becoming a yogi and again practising yoga to reach God, and contemplating on the creation of the universe as if creation is outside God—as if there is a material out of which He fashions the world. These ideas must be completely removed from the mind.

Though the intention of the Almighty is to say that nothing exists outside Him and He alone is, He did not proclaim it immediately because it is a hard nut to crack. Such a thought cannot easily enter the mind of a person. Hence, He slowly polished the mind of the student through karma and bhakti and philosophical initiation, in order to finally say something startling which nobody would have expected. We would like to reach God and we would like to enjoy the presence of the Almighty, but we cannot understand anything at all when it is said “God only is”. This statement has no sense for us because we are here as devotees of God and we pray to Him and do yoga, and our entire ambition in life is to unite ourselves with God. We are here as seekers of God, and the world is there as an evolutionary process tending to perfection in Godhead. If that is the case, the meaning of “God only is” is incomprehensible to anyone who sees a world, who sees himself or herself, who sees the evolutionary process taking place, who deduces effects from causes and knows that when somebody dies they will be reborn. This conglomeration of ideas is the stock-in-trade of human thought, and the only way in which the human mind can operate. With these appurtenances of confusion in the mind—though they are philosophical confusions and metaphysical chaos—with all this, we are not prepared to understand when God says that He alone is.

“I cannot understand. Please tell me what exactly it is that You mean when You say that outside You nothing is. You have told me about Your glories as manifested in this world, but You also told me that finally the world is not in You though You are in the world.” Thus, the Eleventh Chapter starts with a prayerful question by Arjuna. Madanugrahāya paramaṁ guhyam adhyātmasaṁjñitam, yat tvayoktaṁ vacas tena moho’yaṁ vigato mama (11.1): “The nectarine teachings which You have poured into my ears have dispelled all my confusion and ignorance. All my delusion has gone. I understand what You say about the coming and going of beings.”

Bhavāpyayau hi bhūtānāṁ śrutau vistaraśo mayā, tvattaḥ kamalapatrākṣa māhātmyam api cāvyayam (11.2): “I heard Your glory from You Yourself. Who can describe You except Yourself? You have told me everything. You have glorified Your Atman, Your Self, as the be-all and end-all. Now I would like to see this wondrous existence of Yours, outside which nothing is. It startles me out of my wits when I hear that You are the Creator of this universe, that the universe is in You and yet You are not in it, that nothing can operate anywhere, not even prakriti and the three gunas, without Your being there as the substratum. You have told me all that. You have asked me to discipline myself through the performance of duty, and You have asked me to contemplate and meditate through the yoga techniques which You have mentioned. But You have also perplexed my mind by the additional statement that You frequently make together with other instructions: that everything is You, everything proceeds from You, everything is sustained by You, and everything recedes back into You, and finally saying that only You exist. This true existence of Yours, which is independent of all the manifestations that You speak of, is the true glory that You have been referring to now and then. I would like to be blessed with this vision. O Supreme Purusha! Purushottama! I would like to behold Your glorious Being, if You deem it proper for me, if You condescend to grant this boon to me, and if You graciously accept that I am fit enough to visualise this Great Form.”

Manyase yadi tac chakyaṁ mayā draṣṭum iti prabho (11.4): “O Supreme Lord! Master of yoga! If You think that I am ready for this vision, let me be granted the vision of the immortal Universality that You are.” This is the introduction to the Visvarupa Darshana in the Eleventh Chapter.

We also have a curiosity, as Arjuna did, in the matter of this Universal vision. Every one of us would also like to behold it. And our desire to behold this Universal Form has a peculiar conditioning factor which perhaps prevented Arjuna from actually uniting himself with it, and left him in the same condition that he was after the vision was withdrawn. He was the Arjuna that had the blessing of the great radiance, but he did not in any way become a different person. He could not get transformed and transmuted into that light, because he saw it, but he did not become it. The vision of God that we think of in our meditations is mostly of this kind. We say that so-and-so had darshan of Lord Krishna—which means to say, we want to see Lord Krishna with our own eyes, standing before us, but we do not know the fact that Lord Krishna, or whatever our concept of God is, is an all-pervading presence and, therefore, we cannot stand outside God.

A dry piece of grass cannot carry hot embers; the grass will be reduced to ashes. So when we ask for the vision of the Almighty, perhaps we do not know what it is that we are asking for. We are asking for the abolition of our existence in order that God may exist. There is an old saying: Where there is desire of any kind in terms of the mind and the sense organs, there God is not. Where God is, this kind of operation through the mind and the senses cannot be there. Either we are or God is; we can choose between the two. There is no bargaining: “Let me be there a little bit, and You also be there little bit.” This kind of bargaining is not possible with God. He is utterly special, Who wants everything to be cut and dried. “Do you want Me? Then you should not be.” We will be frightened. “If I am not there, what good is there in my asking You to have this vision? If You are there, how will I know that You are there? You say I should not be there. Okay, maybe You are there. How would You expect me to know that You are there if I am not there?” God says, “I do not know all that. Either you are and I am not, or I am and you are not.” We are not prepared for this kind of logic on the part of the Absolute. This is the reason why none of us can be said to be wholly fit for this kind of realisation, and neither was Arjuna.

After the entire war was over, one day Sri Krishna and Arjuna were sitting leisurely in a garden and chatting. Arjuna, who had doubts about this vision, asked Sri Krishna: “Great Master! You said something to me at the beginning of the war. I do not remember it fully. Will You kindly recount it once again?”

Sri Krishna replied: “Foolish man! I thought you were very intelligent, but you have forgotten everything that I told you.” Paraṁ hi brahma kathitaṁ yogayuktena tanmayā (Anu 1.12): “At that time I was one with That which alone is. I shall not summon this kind of unity at all times. At that time I assumed the form of Supreme Yoga, and the words were spoken by that Universal Existence with which I was one at that time. I will not once again summon that form, that vision, that power, that perfection, merely for titillating your curiosity. Anyway, I will tell you some stories, which are a kind of secondary substitute for what I told you earlier.”

That secondary substitute in the form of certain stories, illustrations, etc., that occurs towards the end of the Mahabharata epic is called the Anugita—a secondary Gita, not the primary one. The primary Gita is here; and once it is told, it is told forever, and nobody can repeat it. Krishno janati vai samyak kinchit partho dhananjayah, vyaso va vyasaputro va is an old saying: Only Sri Krishna knows the real meaning of the Gita. Arjuna knows something. Vyasa and Suka know. Others only hear it.

So here is a great treasure for us, and in this wondrous treasure of the Gita we have the supreme treasure of the description of the eternity and infinity that God is, the form which is called Visvarupa Darshana—Vaisvanara Tattva, which was revealed to Arjuna.

Sri Krishna showed this Visvarupa four times in his life. When he was a little baby, his elder brother complained to their mother that he was eating mud. His mother caught hold of the child and gave him a slap, “You are eating mud!”

“No, I didn’t eat mud. You can see my mouth,” he said.

He opened his mouth, and that lady saw the whole universe—all the oceans and rivers—and she was stunned. Then maya immediately cast a veil over her and she entirely forgot the vision, and placed the child on her lap.

The second time Sri Krishna showed this terrific vision was in the court of the Kauravas, when Duryodhana would not listen to any good advice. The third time was this Bhagavadgita Visvarupa Darshana. The fourth time was when Sri Krishna was returning to Dvaraka after the war was over and on the way, near Rajasthan, he met a sage called Uttanka.

Uttanka stopped Sri Krishna and said, “Please! What happened, after all? There was a quarrel between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, and you were trying to mediate. What was the outcome of it?”

Sri Krishna replied, “Oh, it was all no good. I tried my best to make peace, but Duryodhana would not listen. War took place, they were destroyed, and the Pandavas were crowned king.”

“Oh! You are a very partial person. This is very bad. You could have stopped the war if you wanted to. No! I’ll curse you just now,” said Uttanka.

Then Sri Krishna said, “Why do you waste the little tapasya that you have gained by the service of Guru, etc.? Your curse cannot affect Me, because the Universal Power is in Me.”

“Is it so? Is it? Are you the Universal Power? May I know that, then?”

Immediately Lord Sri Krishna showed the Visvarupa once again, and then he left for Dvaraka.