Commentary on the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 34: The Eleventh Chapter Continues – The Visvarupa Darshana Continues

The Eleventh Chapter of the Bhagavadgita—the Visvarupa Darshana—continues. Arjuna exclaimed his wonder at this great vision. Diśo na jāne na labhe ca śarma, prasīda deveśa jagannivāsa (11.25): “I am unable to locate even the quarters of the heavens. I have lost my wits when I behold this terrifying mysterious form of Yours. O Lord of Lords! Be gracious to bless me so that I may know who You are.”

Though the Bhagavadgita was spoken prior to the commencement of the war, in another realm of existence the Mahabharata had already taken place, the events had been recounted and the conclusion had been drawn, and victory had been won by the Pandavas. Everything had been done in another realm; we may call it the fourth dimensional realm, where events occur prior to their manifestation in the three-dimensional world. A lot of time is taken for events to manifest themselves as concrete appearances in the physical world. Even when wars take place in the world, they occur in heaven first. Ideas clash before people physically clash. An ideological war takes place first in the ethereal realm. Just as disease manifests inside first before it manifests itself outside in the body, in a similar manner, the decision as to what would be the outcome of the Mahabharata war had already been taken in higher realms, and the implementation of the decision in the form of an actual conflict, from the point of view of the process of time, was yet to take place.

There are wonders and wonders in the world. It is said that in some of the realms of creation, the Mahabharata has not yet occurred. It is to take place. In some of the realms of creation, the Mahabharata has already happened; and in other realms it is happening just now. It is something like the procession of a king moving from one part of the country to another part of the country. Suppose a king comes in a procession from Delhi to Laxmanjhula. For the people in Delhi, the procession is about to start, and he has moved. He has reached Muzaffarnagar. The people in Delhi say the procession is over. The people in Muzzafarnagar say the procession is taking place. The people in Rishikesh say it has not yet taken place. Thus, for one it has already happened, for another it is just happening, and for a third person it has not happened at all. This applies to all the events in the world. Every event takes place simultaneously in every part of the world, but they appear to be manifest at different times due to the action of the processes into which time is cast—namely past, present and future.

Dhṛtarāṣṭrasya putrāḥ (11.26): As Arjuna beheld this wondrous form of the Lord, the Kauravas—Duryodhana and his henchmen, with all their army—were entering the mouth of this Multi-formed Being. Their destruction had already been confirmed. Amī ca tvāṁ dhṛtarāṣṭrasya putrāḥ sarve sahaivāvanipālasaṁghaiḥ, bhīṣmo droṇaḥ sūtaputras tathāsau sahāsmadīyair api yodhamukhyaiḥ; vaktrāṇi te tvaramāṇā viśanti daṁṣṭrākarālāni bhayānakāni, kecid vilagnā daśanāntareṣu saṁdṛśyante cūrṇitair uttamāṅgaiḥ (11.26-27): “What am I seeing? The Mahabharata war has not yet taken place. It is just at the beginning.” The Bhagavadgita was told before the commencement of the war, but what does Arjuna see in that form? The entire army of the Kauravas, with Duryodhana, with Bhishma and Drona, with Karna, and even all the army of the Pandavas, which would not survive, were all rushing into this all-destroying mouth of the Cosmic Being. They were stuck, as it were, in the crevices between the terrific set of teeth of this all-destroying Time Spirit, manifest here as the Visvarupa. Some of them were caught between the teeth, and some were crushed into paste and powder, as it were, by the jaws of this mighty Yawning Face.

Yathā nadīnāṁ bahavo’mbuvegāḥ samudram evābhimukhā dravanti, tathā tavāmī naralokavīrā viśanti vaktrāṇyabhivijvalanti (11.28): “As rivers rush into the ocean, I am seeing all beings rushing into You. Into this flaming series of mouths of Thy wondrous form, I am seeing the rivers of kings and armies rushing inward. They are being reduced to ashes because they are like moths rushing into the flame, not knowing what will happen to them.”

Yathā pradīptaṁ jvalanaṁ pataṅgā viśanti nāśāya samṛddhavegāḥ (11.29): “As moths rush in great haste towards their destruction in the flaming fire, so do I see the entire world rushing towards its own destruction through the all-consuming mouths of this great Virat Purusha.”

Lelihyase (11.30): “You are lapping Your tongue, licking.” Lelihyase grasamānaḥ samantāl: “You, like a magnet, pull everything into Yourself.” Lokān samagrān vadanair jvaladbhiḥ, tejobhir āpūrya jagat samagraṁ bhāsas tavogrāḥ pratapanti viṣṇo: “What is it I am seeing? The Time Spirit in this tremendous form, swallowing everything through its mouths, is lapping its tongue as if it is not yet satisfied by the swallowing of all the worlds into its own mouths. O Vishnu! Hey Narayana, Who are now here in this great form of Visvarupa. Thy great radiance is burning the worlds around with its heat and light.”

Ᾱkhyāhi me ko bhavān ugrarūpo (11.31): “Who are You? I cannot understand. I thought this is Krishna, my friend, but I am seeing something here that I cannot recognise. Would You kindly tell me who You are? O Mighty Being, are You Krishna? I cannot see Krishna here; I see something else. I would like to know who this is that is standing before me and terrifying me with this Universal Form. Please tell me who You are, manifesting Yourself before me in this fear-striking form.” Namostu te: “Prostrations to You. In humble submission I beseech Thee to tell me who You are.” Devavara prasīda, vijñātum icchāmi bhavantam ādyaṁ: “O God of gods, I would like to know Your beginning, Your middle and Your end—who You are. I cannot know what it is that is in front of me, from where it has come, how it is sustained, and what its intention is.”

Śrībhagavānuvāca: This Great Being speaks now. Kālo’smi lokakṣayakṛt pravṛddho (11.32): “I am the all-destroying Time.” The very Spirit of Time is speaking. “I am here in this form for the destruction of the world through this war that is going to take place, to see that everything is put an end to.” The avatara of Sri Krishna was for the destruction of all evil and wickedness in the world, and in that Universal Form he did it in one instant—in a timeless instantaneity, as it were. Kālo’smi lokakṣayakṛt pravṛddho lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ: “I am here to withdraw everything into Myself. Even if you do not raise a finger, the Kauravas are not going to survive.” Ṛte’pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣyanti sarve ye’vasthitāḥ pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ: “None in this entire army is going to survive. You may say that you will not take up arms. You have your own flimsy arguments not to do anything and keep quiet. Okay, don’t do anything. But they shall not survive whether you take up arms or not, because their destruction has been already predetermined. They have been doomed by My will. So why do you consider yourself as a great instrument in bloodshed? You are nothing of the kind. They have already gone to the other world, and you are under the impression that you are going to do something which is not very pleasant. Therefore, wake up! Do not be pusillanimous. Do not be weak-hearted. I have already done the work that you are expected to do. Why are you unnecessarily talking to Me?”

Tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha (11.33): “May the glory go to you, though the work has been done by Me.” Everyone says that Arjuna won the war; nobody says that Krishna won the war. Even today, nobody speaks of Krishna’s work. After the war was over, Sri Krishna met Yudhishthira and spoke to him, “After all, victory has been won due to the power of your righteousness, the strength of Bhima, and the dexterousness of Arjuna.” He never said that he had also contributed something. Yudhishthira actually wept upon hearing these words. Naturally, he could do nothing except weep because the Lord had given credit to Yudhishthira’s righteousness, Bhima’s strength and Arjuna’s dexterity, while the work had been done by somebody else—by the one who spoke these words as if he had done nothing. Sri Krishna never asked Draupadi whether she received his long sari. When a gift is given, sometimes we want it to be acknowledged. The work of God and the work of Godmen is never visible to the eyes, and these great beings expect no thanks from us. They do not wish that we should utter even a word of recognition. They do what they have to do; and when it is done, the matter is over and there is no further talk.

“Great glory be to you, O Arjuna, as the winner of the victory in this war. Conquer the enemies, and then rule this kingdom.” Jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham: “I have already done the work for you.” Mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva nimittamātraṁ bhava: “You be only an instrument. Let people know that you have won the victory, though the victory has already been won.”

Droṇaṁ ca bhīṣmaṁ ca jayadrathaṁ ca karṇaṁ tathānyān api yodhavīrān, mayā hatāṁs tvaṁ jahi mā vyathiṣṭhā yudhyasva jetāsi raṇe sapatnān (11.34): “Drona, Bhishma, Jayadratha, Karna, and all other warriors whom I have already destroyed, you may destroy a second time. Take up arms! Go and thresh—the threshing of old straw, it is called—and kill the corpses. They are already dead; their energy has gone.”

Many of the contributors to the victory in the war are not known to history. Of course, Sri Krishna’s participation in this great Armageddon is well known, and we need not say anything about it. The hypnotic effect that he cast on the entire army when he gazed at the warriors was also a great contributory factor, as it drew fifty percent of the strength of the Kauravas. Hanuman, who was invisibly present on top of Arjuna’s chariot—Arjuna is known as Kapidhvaja because of this—terrified the nerves of all the soldiers with his roar, and they were practically paralysed by the very sound of it. But something more was there.

After the war was over, Arjuna was sitting calmly at one place, and Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa came to see him. Receiving the honoured guest and seating him, Arjuna posed a question: “Great Master! I have some doubt in my mind. During the war, which is now over, I saw something in front of me every day—some human-being-like figure whose feet were not touching the ground. It was whitish and greyish, with a trident in hand. It was visible and not visible. Every day this vision was in front of me. I had no occasion to ask this question to anybody. But now thou art here, O Master, will you tell me what it is that I have seen?”

Vyasa replied, “Blessed you are, Arjuna. It was Lord Siva. He knew that you were helpless. Before Bhishma, Drona and Karna, even a hundred Arjunas could not stand. Knowing this, knowing your goodness and your physical incapacity to meet these people, Rudra himself was standing in front of you. He did not take up arms. He did not use his trident. He only exuded a fragrance around him—sugandhiṁ puṣṭi-vardhanam (R.V. 7.59.12). That fragrance killed them, and they had no life afterwards. Though they appeared to be alive, they were actually corpses. Who could win this victory except Rudra, that great yogi of yogis? O Arjuna, you are really blessed because you had that darshan. You had darshan of the great Sankara.” This is mentioned in the Drona Parva.

“So whatever has to be done has already been done by Me. Take up arms only for the sake of portraying the picture of the war that is taking place, and you shall have the victory. You shall have the kingdom, and I will go to Dvaraka,” said Sri Krishna.

Etacchrutvā vacanaṁ keśavasya kṛtāñjalir vepamānaḥ kirīṭī, namaskṛtvā bhūya evāha kṛṣṇaṁ sagadgadaṁ bhītahītaḥ praṇamya (11.35): Sanjaya says, “After having heard these frightening words from this mysterious Being gazing at him, Arjuna speaks once again in tremor, joy and fright combined. Frightened to the core, with choked words, prostrating himself again and again before this Mighty Being, trembling, fear-struck, Arjuna speaks these words once again.”

Sthāne hṛṣīkeśa tava prakīrtyā jagat prahṛṣyatyanurjyate ca, rakṣāṁsi bhītāni diśo dravanti sarve namasyanti ca siddhasaṁghāḥ (11.36): “There is no wonder that all the worlds are rushing into You, because You said You are the Time Spirit come to destroy all things. The world is happy and unhappy at the same time. It is happy because it has Your vision. It is unhappy because it is going to be destroyed by You. All the Rakshasas—some of them are running away from You in fright, some are entering into You, to their doom.”

Kasmācca te na nameran mahātman garīyase brahmaṇo’pyādikartre (11.37): “Why should they not prostrate themselves before You, O Lord of lords? You are the Might of all mights, the Ruler of all the worlds, and the Dispenser of the justice to everybody that is created. The Creator of the world, Brahma, is nowhere near You. You are superior to Brahma, the Creator, because You are the Creator of even the Creator, Brahma himself.” Ananta: “O Infinite one!” Deveśa: “O Lord of lords, God of gods!” Jagannivāsa: “O Abode of the universe!” Tvam akṣaraṁ: “Thou art the Imperishable Eternal.” Sad asat: “You are existence and non-existence.” Tatparaṁ yat: “You are something more than that. I see You as the existence of all things, the non-existence of all things, and something beyond all concepts of existence and non-existence. Transcendent Eternity Thou art.”

Tvam ādidevaḥ (11.38): “The Original Ancient one, the God of gods, Thou art.” Puruṣaḥ purāṇas: “The ancient Purusha, Purushottama, Narayana.” Tvam asya viśvasya paraṁ nidhānam: “The very support and life-breath of this universe, Thou art. Who can know You except Yourself?” Vettāsi vedyaṁ ca paraṁ ca dhāma: “Thou knowest everything, whatever is to be known, because in Thy knowing Thyself, everything has already been known. The Supreme Abode is already attained in the vision of Thy Great Form. Thou art all things, spreading Thyself everywhere, O Visva Anantarupa, O All-formed One!” Tvayā tataṁ viśvam: “Thou hast spread Thyself everywhere in all space and time.”

Vāyur yamo’gnir varuṇaḥ śaśāṅkaḥ prajāpatis tvaṁ prapitāmahaś ca (11.39): “Thou art Vayu, Thou art Yama, Thou art Agni, Thou art Varuna, Thou art the Moon, Thou art Prajapati, Thou art the grandfather of the gods, the supreme Brahma himself. Thou art not merely pitamaha, grandfather; Thou art also great-grandfather.” Namo namas te: “What can I say except prostrations to You.” Sahastrakṛtvaḥ: “A thousand prostrations to You. Myriad prostrations to You.” Punaś ca bhūyo’pi:Again and again, I prostrate myself before You.” Namo namas te: “Again, prostrations. How many times I can say I prostrate myself before You? Prostrations! Prostrations! Prostrations!” Sahasranama: “One thousand times I prostrate myself before Thee. Infinite times I prostrate myself before Thee. I have nothing. I am not capable of doing anything else except to surrender myself and plead inability to understand Thee, and place myself at Thy disposal. Prostrations!”

Anantavīrya (11.40): “O infinitely powerful one! From all sides I prostrate, not only in the front.” Sarvata eva: “From all sides.” Anantavīrya: “O All! From all sides I offer my prostrations.” Ᾱmitavikramas tvaṁ: “O all-powerful one! Thy power nobody can measure. Immeasurable power is Thine.” Sarvaṁ samāpnoṣi tato’si sarvaḥ: “Being all things Thyself, Thou includes within Thyself all things.”

Eko’thavāpyacyuta tatsamakṣaṁ tat kṣāmaye tvām aham aprameyam (11.42): “What a mistake I have committed by calling You a friend once upon a time. O Krishna! O Yadava! O dear one! Did I not refer to You with those words? I am frightened to see that You are something else altogether. I thought You were a friend of mine. In humorous moods during our times together, at all times, sometimes in joke, sometimes in sarcasm, I have disrespected You, O Lord. I thought You are a human being, and I called You friend, I called You Krishna, I called You Yadava. When we were sitting together, when we were reclining together, when we were eating together, when we were walking together, I addressed You as my friend. Please forgive me for this mistake that I have committed. I did not know who You are. Sometimes when I was alone with You, I spoke to You in a disrespectful manner. Sometimes I spoke to You in a disrespectful manner even before other people, thinking that You are my best friend and I can take liberties with You. I did that. Now I feel Thou art something else. Will You kindly forgive me for this error that I have committed under the impression that You were a friend, a human being like me. Thou art something else, O Eternal One! Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me! Pardon me for this mistake that I have committed in imagining that You are a human form.”

Pitāsi lokasya carācarasya (11.43): “Thou art the Father of all creation. Thou art the most adorable of all beings.” Sa eṣaḥ pūrveṣām api guruḥ kālenā anavacchedāt (Y.S. 1.26): “Thou art the Guru of all Gurus.” Tvam asya pūjyaś ca gurur garīyān: “You are the Guru of all the millions of Gurus in the world.” Na tvatsamo’styabhyadhikaḥ: “Nobody is equal to Thee.” Kuto’nyaḥ: “Nobody can be outside Thee.” Lokatray: “In all the three worlds, who can there be except You?” Apratimaprabhāva: “O Glorious One, incomparably great and puissant.”

Tasmāt praṇamya praṇidhāya kāyaṃ prasādaye tvām aham īśam īḍyam, piteva putrasya sakheva sakhyuḥ priyaḥ priyāyārhasi deva soḍhum (11.44): “Therefore, I once again prostrate myself before Thee. I offer my entire being to Thee. Sashtanga namaskara I do, offering myself entirely at Thy disposal. In humble surrender through sashtanga pranama, I beseech Thee to be gracious, kind, and merciful. Prasadaye tvam aham isam idyam: As a father would forgive a son, as a friend would forgive a friend, as a dear one, a beloved one, would forgive a beloved one, so I request Thee to forgive me and bear with me. The character of forgiveness is mentioned in three degrees. A father’s forgiveness, a friend’s forgiveness and the beloved’s forgiveness are the three different categories. In all the three categories I beseech Thee.”

Adṛṣṭapūrvaṁ hṛṣito’smi dṛṣṭvā bhayena ca pravyathitaṁ mano me, tad eva me darśaya deva rūpaṁ prasīda deveśa jagannivāsa (11.45): “In fear, my mind is not able to even think, because this is something which I have never seen up to this time. I am happy and elated, I am in a state of ecstasy, but fear-struck at the same time. Will You kindly come down and show Your original form as Sri Krishna, my old friend? Enough of this terrible form! I am fear-struck. Therefore, I request You to come down to the original level.”

Kirīṭinaṁ gadinaṁ cakrahastaṁ (11.46): “Please bless me and be gracious. I would like to see You once again with the diadem of that beloved, beautiful, grand, majestic, attractive Sri Krishna, with four hands holding the sankha, chakra, gadha and padma. I cannot bear this vision any more. Grand and great as it may be, enough of it! I shall have my old, dear friend Sri Krishna, and not this Visvarupa any longer.”

Śrībhagavānuvāca: mayā prasannena tavārjunedaṁ rūpaṁ paraṁ darśitam ātmayogāt, tejomayaṁ viśvam anantam ādyaṁ yan me tvadanyena na dṛṣṭapūrvam (11.47): Sri Bhagavan replies, “With great compassion, I have shown this form to you. With the power of My Universal Selfhood, I have manifested Myself for your welfare. Because you wanted to see Me in this form—because you are My beloved, you are dear to Me—therefore, I have shown this form to you. This great, wondrous Light, the Light of all lights, the Universal Reality, the Endless, the Origin—nobody has seen this kind of vision up to this time. This is something very strange, that in all creation nobody has seen this vision of the Virat. This is the first time that someone is beholding it, O Arjuna. You are blessed.”

Na vedayajñādhyayanair na dānair na ca kriyābhir na tapobhir ugraiḥ, evaṁrūpaḥ śakya ahaṁ nṛloke draṣṭuṁ tvadanyena kurupravīra (11.48): “This form, this Viratsvarupa, this Vaisvanara-tattva, this Universal Spirit, in which form you have beheld Me—this cannot be beheld by any kind of ritual, by study of the Vedas, by teaching, by charity, by ritualistic performances, by tapas or austerity of any kind. Whatever be the intensity and ferocity of that tapas, nothing of the kind can touch Me.”

Human action cannot touch Eternity, because all action is in the process of time. All action is in space and in time. This Eternal terror which was beheld by Arjuna is not in space, not in time. Therefore, our studies of the Vedas, our tapasyas, our charities, our philanthropies, our deeds—whatever their merit, they are, after all, like performances in the dream world. When we wake up, the merits of all our good deeds in dream disappear. Similarly, in the quality of the perception of the Supreme Being, actions of the human being in the world of space and time bear no relevance. No action which is conditioned by time can take us to the Unconditioned Reality, which is not in time. Na hy adhruvaiḥ prāpyate hi dhruvaṁ tat (Katha 1.2.10): The Imperishable, Eternal Reality cannot be contacted through the instrumentality of perishable deeds. Actions, deeds that we perform in this world have a beginning and an end. They are not eternal. How could we have the vision of that Eternal, contact with the Eternal or attain realisation of that Eternal, which is timeless, when the instruments that we are using for that purpose are in time?

“Nobody can behold this form. Do not be frightened. Do not be deluded. Be up and doing. Why are you afraid of seeing Me? Be happy that you have beheld Me. I look terrific because I am a terror to the egos of individuals.”

Who is saying, “I am afraid”? It is the ego of Arjuna that is saying that. The ego of Arjuna has not melted. It is frightened, as we are frightened to touch the oceanic waves. We are afraid to touch the elephant’s body because of our ego that gets humiliated immediately and feels that it is no more.

The Eternal is death to everything that is in time. Therefore, God looks like a terrific being to all who is afraid of death, because God is the death of all death—mṛtyoḥ mṛtyuḥ. God is called mṛtyoḥ mṛtyuḥ, the death of death. Therefore, “Knowing this truth of Mine, be not bewildered. Don’t say ‘I am afraid’. There is nothing here to be afraid of.” Vyapetabhīḥ (11.49): “Be fearless.” Prītamanāḥ: “Be pleased, and be subdued in your mind.” Punas tvaṁ tad eva me rūpam idaṁ prapaśya: “All right, here I am as the Yadava Krishna. Do you see me?”

In one moment of that stupendous vision, the world vanished before Arjuna. The fourteen worlds of the entire creation melted down into the liquid of the flame of the Eternal Godhead. Unable to behold it for a long time, he beseeches the Lord to come down to the original human form. This request is granted, and Sri Krishna is standing there as before—with a whip in his hand, grooming the horses.

Ityarjunaṁ vāsudevas tathoktvā svakaṁ rūpaṁ darśayāmāsa bhūyaḥ (11.50): Sanjaya speaks. “Having said this, the beautiful, charming, mighty Krishna of Dvaraka is now standing before Arjuna once again. Patting him on the back, he says, ‘How are you? All is well with you?’”