essays – 18
While giving a brief list of His Vibuthi, Lord Krishna declared that the entire universe is supported by a fraction of His power only. This makes Arjuna desirous of seeing that form of Lord that sustains the world system with a fraction of Its power. So at the start of the eleventh chapter, he praises the Lord and His teachings and then expresses his desire to see that Divine form. Arjuna’s tone also changes with the growing respect for Lord Krishna. In chapter 1, he said to Lord in a commanding tone “Krishna, place my chariot between the two armies” (1-21). And now he says in a pleading tone :
“O Lord, If you think it is possible for me to see It, do You please, then, O Lord of the Yogis, show me Your imperishable Self (form)!” (11-4)
Here he does not simply make a request to the Lord to show His cosmic form but also leaves it to Lord’s choice to reveal It or not. Lord readily agrees to bless him with the vision of Viswarupam, which spans all the lokas and beyond. Before revealing the form, Lord gives a preview in verses 5, 6 &7 as follows:
O Arjuna, Behold My divine forms by the hundreds and thousands, of different kinds and of various colours and shapes! (11-5)
Behold the (twelve) Adityas, the (eight) Vasus, the (eleven) Rudras, the (two) Aswini kumaras and also the (forty-nine) Maruts; and also witness many more wonderful forms never seen before, O Arjuna! (11-6)
Now behold, O Arjuna, in this body of Mine, the whole universe consisting of both the moving and the unmoving and whatever else thou desire to see! (11-7)
But Lord also sounds a warning that Arjuna cannot see this form with his ordinary eyes and so Lord says He will bless him with the Divine Eye, Divya Chakshu, with which Arjuna can behold Lord’s Divine power. Swami Paramarthananda explains that Divya Chakṣhu means a refined mind, a mind free from ahamkara and mamakara, for if one is to see everything in the universe as belonging to the Lord only, then He should not feel anything belongs to him. This means a refined mind that is purged of all feelings of ahamkara and mamakara. When by Lord’s Grace Arjuna gets this refined mind, he is wonderstruck and dumbfound gazing at the Cosmic form of Lord. As he remains speechless, we have Sanjaya’s description of the scene to the blind king Dhritarashtra in verses 9 to 14. In this interlude we have an initial brief description of the Viswarupam among other things. Apparently Sanjaya who had been blessed with the telescopic vision to see the happenings in the battlefield was also blessed with the Divine vision of the Viswarupam. His short description of the Cosmic form is as follows:
Lord revealed the resplendent, limitless Cosmic form with faces on all sides, with numerous mouths and eyes, with numerous wonderful sights, with numerous divine ornaments, wielding many uplifted divine weapons, wearing divine garlands and garments, anointed with divine perfumes, and full of wonders. (11-10&11)
The indescribable dazzling brilliance of the Cosmic form, Sanjaya narrates in a devious way, by describing that it looked as if thousand suns were shining simultaneously. He sees the Cosmic form with numerous mouths, eyes etc., because heads and bodies which he has been seeing individually ordinarily, now he sees as a mass collectively with no space in between because the transformed refined mind is free of the concept of space and time as well. That is why Sanjaya also says that Arjuna is now seeing in the Cosmic form various divisions of the world, all clubbed together and presenting a limitless, divisionless entity.
When Arjuna recovers from the initial shock, he starts praising the Lord with words of appreciation of the Cosmic form and with a feeling of wonder, from verse 15. Arjuna goes through various phases of emotion as he gazes at the Cosmic form, the first response being that of wonder. Like Sanjaya he also sees the Cosmic form with many arms, stomachs, mouths and eyes, stretching limitless in all directions making it impossible to know the start, or the end or the middle of the Cosmic form. He sees the sun and the moon as the eyes and blazing fire pouring out from the mouth. There is a dazzling mass of radiance like burning fire and blazing sun about the Cosmic form making it difficult to look at it. He could see all the Gods in the body including Brahmaji, all the sages and celestial serpents besides various classes of beings. He sees a host of devas entering the Divine form, some in fear and some in supplication and he sees in the body great siddhas and rishis praising the Lord in sublime Hymns. He also sees Rudras, Vasus , Sadhyas, Visve devas, Aswins, Maruts, Usmapas and hosts of Gandharvas, Yakshas, Asuras and Siddhas all standing quiet amazed.
Arjuna’s description is similar to the description of Lord Vishnu in the Dhyana sloka of Vishnu sahasranamam which runs as follows:
bhuḥ padau yasya nabhir viyadasur anilas candra suryoca netre
karṇavasaḥ siro dyaur mukham api dahano yasya vasteyamabdhiḥ |
antasthaṃ yasya visvaṃ suranara khaga go bhogi gandharva daityaiḥ
citraṃ ram ram yate taṃ tribhuvana vapuṣaṃ viṣṇum isaṃ namami
I bow to Lord Vishnu who has the three worlds as His body. The Earth is His feet, and the sky His navel. Wind is His breath, and the Sun and the Moon are His eyes. Directions are His ears, and the Heaven is His head. Fire is His face and ocean His abdomen. In Him is situated the universe with diverse kinds of Gods, men, birds, cattle, serpents, gandharvas and daityas (demons)- all sporting in a charming way.
With wonder changing to devotion, Arjuna breaks into a prayer praising the Lord as the imperishable protector of eternal dharma, the ultimate refuge of this universe, and the eternal imperishable Being. He further says that the three worlds are trembling with fear at seeing the wonderful and terrible form spanning all the three worlds with no space anywhere to be seen. Again Arjuna’s emotions change, now to fear and he says openly that he is also terrified along with the others at seeing the dreadful form, effulgent and multi-coloured with many mouths wide open and fiery eyes, many thighs and feet, many bellies and fearsome tusks, and he confesses that he has now lost peace of mind and courage and is totally confused as well not knowing the directions.
Lord is srishti-sthithi-laya karanam. Arjuna was filled with wonder and amazement when he saw the srishti aspect. He was filled with reverence and devotion when he gazed from the sthithi angle. Now seeing the laya manifestation he is terrified. With overwhelming feeling of fear, Arjuna now watches Bhishma, Drona, Karna, all the sons of Dhritharashtra and a host of monarchs and warrior-chiefs on both sides rush into the form’s blazing mouth with fearful tusks, to be destroyed, as not only past and the present but future is also being played before Arjuna’s eyes. Death is as much a part of Reality as birth and growth. What Arjuna saw as mouth was only the time principle taking its toll of people as it moves on. He compares the warriors rushing to their death to rivers running towards the ocean for merger and moths flying towards the fire to be destroyed and now he cries in fear and appeals to the Cosmic Form to reveal Its identity and function and prays for mercy in the following words:
Swallowing all the worlds on every side with Your flaming mouths, You are licking Your lips (relishing the act). Your fierce rays, filling the whole world with radiance, are burning, Oh! Vishnu. (11-30)
Tell me who are you with a form so terrible? Oh Supreme Lord! Salutations to You. I desire to know You, O Primeval One. Have mercy, I know not indeed Your purpose. (11-31)