Commentary on the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 33: The Eleventh Chapter Continues – The Visvarupa Darshana

It is very difficult to explain the Visvarupa unless you yourself become it. Unless you ‘be’ it, you cannot explain it; and I cannot ‘be’ it at present.

Arjuna’s request was: “May I, O compassionate Lord, be blessed with this grand Universal vision of Yours, to which You have made reference here and there in Your instructions to me—and especially Your emphasis on the presence of Your glories in different forms. May I know? May I see? Would You condescend to grant me this vision of Your grand, grand, great, glorious Universal Form, which I shall have the blessing and fortune to behold?”

Suddenly there was a blinding light dazzling the entire space, as if thousands of suns were rising together in the sky. One can only imagine what kind of light it could be, because such a thing we can never behold. Suddenly, distances vanished. Stars in the heavens seemed to touch the dust of the earth. A tiny object like a little flower in a cranny of a wall in a garden was seen to be touching the galaxies. The entire earth started glowing as if it was molten gold. Every leaf, every plant, every rock, every mountain—the entire space started exuding a light which was impossible for anyone to see with physical eyes. It was only light and light everywhere. The forms melted, as it were, into their original essence of light.

Today modern physics tells us that matter can be converted into light. There is an inter-convertibility between matter and form, and all the contents of the physical universe can be decomposed into a rarefied radiance. Actually, the sun and the stars, which are repositories of light, are constituted of rarefied matter which becomes gaseous; so light is also a kind of gas. But light is something more than gas. It is impossible to know what physical substance light is made of. We do not know whether it is made up of particles or waves. Light is just radiance, and such light flooded the entire atmosphere even as Arjuna asked to see the Lord’s grand Universal Form. The materiality of the world, the outsideness of the world, the visibility of objects, vanished into the menstruum of this inundating blaze, the ocean of light. “Arjuna, you cannot see this form with your eyes.”

Śrībhagavānuvāca: paśya me (11.5): “Look at Me!” Sri Krishna also said this to Duryodhana, in the court of the Kauravas: “Look at Me!” And immediately there was a burst of light that made everyone shut their eyes, and nobody could see what it was. Paśya me pārtha rūpāṇi śataśotha sahastraśaḥ: “In hundreds and thousands, in myriad forms, am I manifest here. Look at Me!” That is what the Lord said in answer to Arjuna’s query.

Nānāvidhāni divyāni nānāvarṇākṛtīni ca: “Every form, every colour, every detail, anything that you would like to see is here just now. And it is not just spread out in a distance or a spatial expanse; it is a distanceless compactness of the presence of all things at one and the same place.” There, when one thing was touched, everything was touched. Everything looked like a mirror reflecting every other thing. It appeared that everything could be seen everywhere. “Look at Me then, in this Form. Look at the suns dazzling everywhere! Look at the Vasus, the Adityas, the Rudras!” Everywhere these divinities could be seen. “You see here whatever you want to see—Asvinau, Maruts, all divinities, and all those things which you cannot even imagine with your mind. Those gods, divinities and powers which are not described even in the scriptures because the human being cannot comprehend them even with the farthest stretch of imagination, those too you see here. The whole world is concentrated here. You need not travel by air or by any vehicle to see other parts of the earth. It is here just now—every part of the earth, every part of creation, all creation in the fourteen worlds. It can be contacted, touched and experienced without travelling, because space has vanished.”

There is no need of travelling anywhere because at one moment, in an instantaneous consciousness of grasp, one comes in contact with the total whole of the entire universe—without distance, without time, without duration, without having to travel, without using any instruments. Unimaginable! One does not know what one is talking about!

“You cannot behold Me like this. I have to bless you with another eye altogether, called the eye of insight, which will enable you to behold this togetherness of things.” We see things in succession; here is one thing, here is the next thing, here is another thing. We see objects in a series. But here, in this vision, the succession of events, and also the succession of the series of objects and things in the world, gets melted down into a simultaneity of perception. It is what is called the ‘here and the now’ of all things. Anything whatsoever, whatever it be, whatever we can think of in all the heavens, it is here just now, and at this point.

Here, I am reminded of that majestic power that Bharadvaja Rishi exercised when Bharata, the brother of Rama, went to the forest in search of Rama. Bharata was accompanied by a large retinue, with elephants and horses and chariots, thousands in number. I do not know why he took such a large retinue. Perhaps he was under the impression that Rama would yield and come back, and he would take him back in all glory. That may have been the pious intention of Bharata. Otherwise, what is the purpose of taking this army? Anyway, he happened to pass through the ashram of Sage Bharadvaja, who was living in a little hut; and he wanted to offer his obeisance to the great Maharaj before continuing. Three miles from the ashram, Bharata told the army, “Stop here. No noise should be made here.” He removed his shoes, removed his royal attire, put on ordinary clothing, and walked barefooted.

When he went to the sage’s ashram and prostrated before him, there was a little conversation between the sage and Bharata.

“Have you come alone, all the way from Ayodhya?” asked Sage Bharadvaja.

“No, Maharaj. There is a big army with me,” replied Bharata.

“Why did you not bring them here?”

“I did not want to disturb the sanctity of this place. The elephants and horses will neigh and make noise, and I would not like to disturb your holy atmosphere.”

“I would like to entertain you today with dinner for all people,” said the sage.

Bharata could not understand what Sage Bharadvaja was talking about. Bharata had some thousands and thousands of people, and animals of various kinds, and here was a sage sitting in his hut, with nothing in his hand. They could not sit in a forest full of thorns!

Bharata said, “Maharaj, we don’t require any dinner. We have got our own preparation. We require only your blessing.”

Bharadvaja knew that this boy was thinking that he had nothing, and said, “No! You shall bring all of them. It shall be a pleasure to serve you with a repast. Let there be thousands of people; let all the elephants and horses come. Everybody will be fed.”

It was very difficult for Bharata to understand what this instruction was, but he summoned his entire host.

The sage went to his yajnasala, lit the fire and poured ghee, and said, “Indraya svaha. Indra! Come with all your glory, retinue, everything. I want to serve Bharata and all his host with a repast. Varuna! Bring rivers of honey and milk here. Let the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati flow here, just now. Let them all take bath here itself. Visvakarma! Come just now and build palaces, hundreds in number. Remove this forest. Make the ground level, and let there be scintillating light everywhere. Kubera! Send all your musicians and dancers immediately. And the best of dishes have to come just now, in a few minutes. Let it be done! Let my wish be fulfilled! Let all the denizens of the heavens descend just now to serve these people whom I consider as my guests.”

When he uttered these words, immediately, there was a dazzling light. The forest vanished; there was no forest. Celestials carrying golden plates started descending from the skies. Visvakarma levelled the whole ground in one minute, and thousands of palaces started shining everywhere—with swimming pools, with attendants, musicians, dancers, and all sorts of servants. Thousands of cooks, with food which was so fragrant that it could be smelt even from a distance, started serving such delicacies that even the emperor had not tasted. All the elephants and horses were properly groomed by suitable persons coming from heaven itself. Each person was served by four or five people from heaven; and all were bathed in oil and warm water. There were beautiful rivers flowing with cool refreshing water, rivers flowing with honey, and rivers flowing with milk. During dinner there was beautiful music, and celestial Apsarasas came and danced. There was celestial bedding for everybody, thousands in number, which had been instantaneously manufactured by Visvakarma.

Nobody could imagine what was happening. They wondered whether they were blind or had gone mad by what they were seeing. They all had such a beautiful dinner that, it seems, the soldiers said, “Let Bharata go in search of Rama. We shall be here.” This was because they had not seen this glory, this entertainment, even in Ayodhya. Then they all slept, and had a good rest. In the morning, everything vanished. There were no Apsarasas, no palaces, nothing remained.

The sage called Bharata and enquired, “Did you have a good dinner? Did you have a good rest?” Bharata did not know what to say. He was weeping with joy.

The idea is that these people are Godmen; and what God can do, these great heroes of spirit also can do. So when Sri Krishna assumed this Cosmic Form, the very earth started melting down into the liquid of consciousness, and it was God everywhere; the great ‘I’ was scintillating in everything. Brahma, Rudra, Asvinau—all the gods were there in different forms, the very limbs of this Virat Purusha.

Bhagavan Sri Krishna said to Arjuna, “I shall give you an eye with which you can instantaneously see this great, wonderful joy.” Paśya me yogam aiśvaram (11.8): “Look at My glory! Behold this majesty of My yoga, Arjuna. See, I am here! See that which you wanted Me to show you. Look!”

Evam uktvā tato rājan mahāyogeśvaro hariḥ, darśayāmāsa pārthāya paramaṁ rūpam aiśvaram (11.9). Sanjaya then spoke to Dhritarashtra: “O king! Look at this miracle! Having uttered these words, the great Lord of yoga revealed His majesty.” The Mahayogesvara, Lord Krishna, revealed His eternal form, aishvara rupa—His supreme, deathless form.

There were faces everywhere—everywhere eyes, everywhere hands, everywhere feet, everything was grasped by everything, as it were. Sarvataḥpāṇipādaṁ tat sarvto’kṣiśiromukham, sarvataḥśrutimal loke sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati (13.13) is a verse in the Thirteenth Chapter. Everywhere were faces and eyes and hands and feet of this Mighty Being. Anekavaktranayanam (11.10): Marvel of marvels, wonder of wonders, giddy does the mind become even by thinking about it. All glorious ornamentations, attractions, all kinds of weapons, even of war, were lifted up. Not only the glories of beauty, but also the glories of power and energy—all things were seen there at once. Celestial garlands were decorating every form. All the faces were radiant with ornamentation.

Sarvāścaryamayaṁ (11.11). Again Sanjaya says, “Wonder! What can I tell you—wonder of wonders! Glory of glories!”

Even Sage Bharadvaja’s act was really a glory of glories. We will not sleep after hearing all these stories.

Anantaṁ: The Infinite Form was shown, with faces spread out everywhere. Wherever Arjuna cast his eyes, he saw the face of this Almighty gazing at him in different forms—in beautiful forms, in terrific forms, in blazing forms, in fierce forms, in kind forms, in every kind of form that we can imagine. How many kinds of attitudes and formations of psyche can we imagine in this world? All the navarasassringara, vira, karuna, adbhuta, hasya, bhayanaka, bibhatsa, raudra and shanti—were manifest in all things. The whole essence of attraction through the kavya rasas that we read in books were visibly manifest in this form.

Divi sūryasahastrasya bhaved yugapad utthitā, yadi bhāḥ sadṛśī sā syād bhāsas tasya mahātmanaḥ (11.12). Here, 1,000 does not necessarily mean 999 plus 1. The word ‘sahasra’ is used for an infinite number. Visvam anantam sahasram sarvam akshaya vachakam: In the Amara Kosam, visvam and sahasram also mean infinite. Infinite suns rose, as it were. We only hear these words, but we do not know what kind of light it is, because the sun does not shine there. Na tatra suryo bhati, it has been said. The sun will not shine; the sun’s light is like darkness before this great light. And yet, for our entertainment and for our education, we are told it is the light that surpasses all sunlight.

In that vast, mysterious, spread-out Universality, Arjuna saw the whole creation somewhere in a corner. The ananta koti brahmanda nayaka was showing His Visvarupa. This Brahmanda is not the only thing that God has created. Endless, endless, endless are the worlds that have been created. This particular world, these fourteen realms that are called this Brahmanda, which is ruled by Chaturmukha Brahma, is only one; and that entire thing was seen in some corner. Millions of them were rolling as fireballs, like solar orbs, and this universe was seen in some corner.

Tatraikasthaṁ jagat kṛtsnaṁ pravibhaktam anekadhā (11.13): Divided into multifarious shapes, this entire creation was seen there as if it is only a fraction of this total manifestation. Pādo’sya viśvā bhūtāni (P.S. 2): Only one-fourth of the Supreme Being is manifested in this cosmos, as it were. Tripādasyā’mṛtaṁ divi: Three-fourths is invisible. The imma- nent form of God is only one-fourth, as it were; the transcendent form is three-fourths, as it were. It is not actually an arithmetical division that is intended here; the idea is that it is a very small fraction. Viṣṭabhyāham idaṁ kṛtsnam ekāṁśena sthito jagat (10.42): “With a little fraction of Myself, I am supporting the entire cosmos.” The idea is that a little bit of the glory of God is revealed in the whole cosmos, and the real glory is transcendent. Estasyaivānandasyānyāni bhūtāni mātrām upajīvant (B.U. 4.3.32). Yajnavalkya says that with a little spoonful of the bliss of the ocean of Brahman, the whole universe is sustained. And we are licking it in a mild, adulterated, spread-out, dense, concretised form of one spoonful only. What would be the ocean of that bliss? Such a thing Arjuna beheld.

Tatraikasthaṁ jagat kṛtsnaṁ pravibhaktam anekadhā, apaśyad devadevasya śarīre pāṇḍavas tadā (11.13): In that great God of God’s Being, Arjuna had the blessing of beholding the wonder. There is no word in language to describe this wonder, except that it is a wonder.

Gaganam gagana karam sagarah sagaro panam, rama ravanayor yuddham rama ravanayor iva (Ramayana): “How was the battle of Rama with Ravana? Can you compare? What was it like?” somebody asked. It is like asking what the sky is like. The sky is like the sky only. What is the ocean like? The ocean is like the ocean only. How was the battle between Rama and Ravana? It was like the battle between Rama and Ravana; there is no other comparison. Such superb events which surpass understanding cannot have a comparison. In this wondrous Form which cannot bear comparison with anything else, Arjuna lost his consciousness, as it were, and he prostrated himself in dizzy heights of awareness when he beheld this might.

Tataḥ sa vismayāviṣṭa (11.14): Wonderstruck, fear struck, dizzied with horripilation; hṛṣṭaromā: prostrating himself in utter surrender; praṇamya śirasā devaṁ kṛtāñjalir abhāṣata: “O God! What can I say?”

Arjuna uvāca: paśyāmi devāṁs tava deva dehe sarvāṁs tathā bhūtaviśeṣasaṁghān, brahmāṇam īśaṁ kamalāsanasthaṁ ṛṣīṁś ca sarvān uragāṁś ca divyān (11.15): “O Lord! I behold everything here. Brahma, the Creator himself, is seen here. I am seeing him.” Who can have darshan of Brahma? We cannot see him, but here he was, and here Rudra was. “In Your form, I see all the gods. Every form of creation, including every created essence—all animals, all creatures, all human beings, all the denizens of heaven—I am seeing here just in front of me. I am seeing all the rishis. All the Nagas, Yakshas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, I am seeing them here just now. All the multifaceted forms of Yours, I am beholding in front of me.”

Anekabāhūdaravaktranetraṁ paśyāmi tvāṁ sarvato’nantarūpam, nāntaṁ na madhyaṁ na punas tavādiṁ paśyāmi viśveśvara viśvarūpa (11.16): “In this multifaceted manifestation of Yours, with faces everywhere turned in my direction, with all eyes gazing at me, I see the infinity of Yours everywhere. I cannot know where You begin, where You end, or where is Your middle is. I cannot understand how vast is this personality of Yours. Hey Visvesvara! O Lord of the universe! O Visvarupa! The All-form, Omni-form! I am not able to gauge how vast You are. I am simply struck with surprise.”

Kirīṭinaṁ gadinaṁ cakriṇaṁ ca tejorāśiṁ sarvato dīptimantam, paśyāmi tvāṁ durnirīkṣyaṁ samantād dīptānalārkadyutim aprameyam (11.17): “With diadems on every head of this multifarious form, I am seeing you shining. With gadas, with astras, together with this radiance that You are manifesting, I am unable to locate what is what at any place. Like blazing fire, I am seeing Your form spread out everywhere. You have a gada, chakra, shankha and diadem on Your heads—on all the millions of heads that I am seeing in front of me. And all these heads, all these faces, look like masses of fire. Columns of radiance, that is what I am seeing in front of me, and they have dazzled the whole space. I cannot see anything properly because my eyes are dazzled, dimmed completely in this light. Impossible it is for me to behold You, O Lord!” Durnirīkṣyaṁ: “Really I am speaking, I cannot behold You. It is not possible for me even with this blessing of a new eye that You have given me. This is too much for me, and I cannot behold You any more because You are fire, You are radiance, You are the Sun of suns. Immeasurable Thou art, O Lord!”

Tvam akṣaraṁ paramaṁ veditavyaṁ tvam asya viśvasya paraṁ nidhānam, tvam avyayaḥ śāśvatadharmagoptā sanātanas tvaṁ puruṣo mato me (11.18): “Lord! Thou art the Eternal Being.” Arjuna is in ecstasy. He does not know how to express himself. He does not even know what he is speaking. “Thou art the immortal essence! Thou art the thing that is to be known through the scriptures, the Vedas, the Upanishads and all the texts that deal with liberation! O Supreme Being! O the Abode, the very support and substratum of this universe, I am addressing You. You are really the endless Being that is making me behold You here as something located in some place. You are not in one place; everywhere Thou art.” Śāśvatadharmagoptā: “I am seeing all dharma, all law and regulation, all blessing, all righteousness, all justice, all goodness, everything wonderful ethically, aesthetically, philosophically and spiritually. Truth, goodness and beauty are scintillating everywhere. ‘Eternity’ is the only word I can use for you. Supreme Purusha Thou art.”

Anādimadhyāntam anantavīryam anantabāhuṁ śaśisūryanetram, paśyāmi tvāṁ dīptahutāśavaktraṁ svatejasā viśvam idaṁ tapantam (11.19): “You are Yourself light. It is not that some light is emanating from You. Thou art Thyself the entire mass of light, and it is that light that is radiating everything. There is no beginning, no end, for this radiance.” Anantavīrya: “What is Your prowess, what is Your energy, what is Your strength? They cannot be measured. Immeasurable strength, immeasurable prowess, is embedded in this vision of Virat.” Anantabāhuṁ: “Millions of hands are everywhere.” The Svestasvatara and Isavasya Upanishads tell us that without feet, He runs fast; without hands, He grasps everything. Even the fastest thing cannot overtake Him.

Arjuna repeats what he said. “I see You as columns of flames of light and radiance. I cannot see anything else in front of me, because Thou art Thyself. You glorify all things with Your presence, and it is Your glory that is glorying in the form of this vision. You are glorifying Yourself with Your own glory. Who can glorify You? Which thing in the world can glorify You? You are glorifying Yourself by Yourself.” We cannot glorify God. He has to glorify Himself with His own powers and grandeur. Svatejasā viśvam idaṁ tapantam: “The entire space and time is filled up with You. All the stars look like twinkling essences before this radiance. They have lost their radiance; they are dark before You.”

Dyāvāpṛthivyor idam antaraṁ hi vyāptaṁ tvayaikena diśaś ca sarvāḥ, dṛṣṭvādbhutaṁ rupam ugraṁ tavedaṁ lokatrayaṁ pravyathitaṁ mahātman (11.20): “The whole creation is trembling because Your form is terrific and it is striking fear in everything. Earth and heaven, the skies and whatever is between them, is filled with this radiance of Yours.”

The Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata describes how the whole creation was trembling when Sri Krishna took up his weapon against Bhishma and jumped from the chariot in the middle of the war. They say the earth shook and the oceans started throwing fierce waves, and Brahma himself could not understand why the end of the world was coming before its expected time. When Sri Krishna ran with the thud of his foot in the direction of Bhishma, Brahma felt that the Creator Himself had started destroying what He had created.

Amī hi tvāṁ surasaṁghā viśanti kecid bhītāḥ prāñjalayo gṛṇanti, svastītyuktvā maharṣisiddhasaṁghāḥ stuvanti tvāṁ stutibhiḥ puṣkalābhiḥ (11.21): In the tremendous unity that Arjuna was perceiving, he also saw the little details. All the gods, all the rishis, all the Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras—all of them were also seen in detail at the background of this universal unity. On this canvas, or the substratum of this unity of perception, he also saw the details of creation simultaneously. “All the gods I see. They are entering into You. Some are running away from You in fear. Some are prostrating before You. Some are crying, ‘Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! O God! O God!’ and they are running hither and thither. Maharishis, siddhas and all other groups are unable to visualise this vision. They are also wonderstruck. ‘Glory! Glory! Glory!’ they say, and dance in ecstasy.”

Rudrādityā vasavo ye ca sādhyā viśve’śvinau marutaś coṣmapāś ca, gandharvayakṣāsurasiddhasaṁghā vīkṣante tvāṁ vismitāś caiva sarve (11.22): “All the Rudras, all the Adityas, all the Vasus, all the Sadhyas, all the Visvadevas, Asvini Kumaras, Maruts, and all the other gods like the Ushmapas, Gandharvas, Yakshas, the other demi-gods and siddhas—all of them are looking at You, gazing at You with unwinking eyes, and are struck with the wonder of this manifestation.”

Rūpaṁ mahat te (11.23): “Great, grand, glorious is this form, O Lord, that Thou are manifesting before me. Bahu- vaktranetraṁ: With all faces and eyes. Mahābāha: O all-armed one! Bahubāhūrupāda: With all kinds of feet everywhere, all kinds of hands are grasping varieties of weapons, and myriads of manifestations of these arms and feet. Many stomachs, many eyes, many arms, many chests—I do not know how I can manage to see them with this blessing of the third eye that you have given. Even that is very feeble in front of this Might of all mights. Daṁṣṭrākarālaṁ: You are very cruel in some forms, because You seem to be biting and crushing and chewing and swallowing—that also I am seeing in some forms. In some other forms it is all grace, blessing and beauty and majesty. The whole earth is unable to bear this any more. It is frightened and, O Lord, I am also very much frightened!”