Summary of Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 11: Universal Form
In Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10 Arjuna accepts Krishna’s position and requests to hear more of his opulence’s or potencies. Therefore Chapter 10 describes the Lord’s opulence on which a devotee can fix his mind and will be able to remember Him, thereby increasing his devotion to the Lord. Krishna at the end of chapter 10 mentions to Arjuna there is no point in understanding all the different things that exists, separate opulence’s and his grandeur . “With a single fragment of Myself, I pervade and support the entire universe” (10.42), so Arjuna wishes to see that all pervasive form of the Lord and requests Krishna to show him the all-pervading, universal form.
Beginning of chapter 11, Arjuna says that his illusion is dispelled. Here the illusion is accepting Krishna as the Supreme Personality of God head. Earlier Arjuna was treating Krishna as an ordinary friend or a human being. Now that illusion has gone. In chapter 10 Krishna was talking about 3 Chatur-sloki verses. Chatur-sloki verses are those in which entire essence of Bhagavad Gits is squeezed in. And in these verses Krishna says he is the source of all spiritual and material world. Everything emanates from him. In BG 10:8 Krishna says
aham sarvasya prabhavo
mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam
Translation: I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who know this perfectly engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.
After hearing the 4 verses that helped Arjuna to dispel all his doubts. In chapter 10 itself Arjuna says
param brahma param dhama
pavitram paramam bhavan
purusam sasvatam divyam
adi-devam ajam vibhum
ahus tvam rsayah sarve
devarsir naradas tatha
asito devalo vyasah
svayam caiva bravisi me
Translation: Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.
Arjuna is personally convinced that Krishna is Supreme Personality of God head, then why he is requesting Krishna to show his universal form. Srila Prabhupada mentions in BG: 11.3 regarding this. Actually Arjuna is representing us. Krishna can understand that Arjuna has no special desire for confirmation to see Him in His universal form, for Arjuna is completely satisfied to see Him in his personal form of Kṛṣṇa. The Lord can understand also that Arjuna wants to see the universal form to convince others. So Arjuna acts like a bewildered conditioned human being. Kṛṣṇa also understands that Arjuna wants to see the universal form to set a criterion, for in the future there would be so many imposters who would pose themselves as incarnations of God. The people, therefore, should be careful; one who claims to be Kṛṣṇa should be prepared to show his universal form to confirm his claim to the people.
In BG verse 11.4 if we notice Arjuna pleads to Krishna for his inconceivable grace so that he could see the universal form. He does not give order to Krishna . This is very important because Arjuna shows us how we have to approach a Spiritual Master to receive knowledge. Krishna is not obliged to reveal himself unless we surrender to him fully. Surrender should not be like a business like I did something (chanting, devotional service) so I expect something from Lord. In BG chapter 7, Text 25 Krishna says
naham prakasah sarvasya
mudho ‘yam nabhijanati
loko mam ajam avyayam
Translation: I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.
So if one does not surrender or have the right approach it is more like an order and Krishna does not manifest to such people rather he covers them with his Yoga Maya and they never will be able to understand Krishna . Srila Prabupada writes very nicely It is said that one can neither see, hear, understand nor perceive the Supreme Lord, Kṛṣṇa, by the material senses. But if one is engaged in loving transcendental service to the Lord from the beginning, then one can see the Lord by revelation. Krishna has to reveal himself according to our attitude or surrender towards him. So we learn from Arjuna what is the mood of understanding Krishna. We are very finite beings, very tiny and Krishna is infinite, Yogeshwar, the Lord which has inconceivable potencies, the master of mysticism. Therefore it is only by the grace of Lord by which we can understand Krishna. With materialistic education, intelligence, advancement in technology we cannot understand Krishna. We are limited and within this creation we are not able to comprehend so many things, so what to speak of outside of this creation which is transcendental.
So how can we understand Krishna. Krishna says in the verse 11.54 that
bhaktyā tv ananyayā śakyaaham evaṁ-vidho ’rjunajñātuṁ draṣṭuṁ ca tattvenapraveṣṭuṁ ca paran-tapa
Translation: My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.
So here Krishna says that if you have the devotion and surrender then if you are lacking something I will give you the intelligence, so you can understand me.
teṣāṁ satata-yuktānāṁbhajatāṁ prīti-pūrvakamdadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁyena mām upayānti te
Translation: To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.
If we take the example of service. During Srila Prabupada’s time devotees did not have skills but still some devotees managed to build the palace of gold as an offering to Srila Prabhupada. What they had was only true love for Krishna and Srila Prabupada, so Krishna empowered them with intelligence to do the service. Krishna is not obliged to reveal Himself until one ‘fully surrenders’ in Krishna consciousness and engages in transcendental loving service , so Arjuna is telling Krishna please give me the vision to see you.
In BG 11.5-11.8 Krishna is preparing Arjuna what he is going to show it is like how a teacher prepares the students giving a brief summary before beginning the class what they are going to learn during that period. Krishna gives the divine eyes to see his universal form, his gigantic Vishvarupa or Virata rupa. This universal form was shown before also 6 times.
1)Twice to Mother Yashoda: First when Krishna yawns and secondly when Mother Yashoda asks Krishna to open his mouth to see if he had eaten mud as complained by Balarama and other friends. (Srimad Bhagavatam 10th canto) .
2)When Krishna went as a peace maker to Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana on the behalf of the Pandavas. And Duryodhana wanted to tie Krishna with ropes , and that time Krishna displayed his partial universal form and Duryodhana was not able to see due to the glaring effulgence that came out of universal form of Krishna.
3)Krishna is showing his universal form to Arjuna. The uniqueness of this form compared to other universal form (shown to Mother Yashoda) is the time factor or Kala rupa. The ghastly form manifestation of time, past, present and future is going to be shown now.
4)Krishna as Caitanya MahaPrabhu showed his form to Advaita Acharya .
5)Krishna shows his virat rupa to his old friend, a sage called as Uttanka: Uttanka was not happy to see the after effects of Mahabharata war and was very much disturbed and accuses Krishna he could have stopped the war by negotiation or by peace treaty and there was a heating argument between them and in the end the sage wanted to curse Krishna with his yogic powers and Krishna says to him that his curse will not have any effect because he is God, source of mystic powers, Yogeshwara . Uttanka doubted Krishna to be the powerful person who can avert the curse. So he said if you are the Supreme Lord show me your universal form and Krishna manifested his Virata Rupa.
Acharya’s say that there is different level of visions specific to this chapter. Material vision where one can see mundane material forms. Spiritual vision is Krishna is going to give divine eyes, “divya-caksuh” to Arjuna to see this gigantic universal form. Devotees usually like to see the Madhurya form of Krishna the original, two handed Shyama Sundara form.
Why is Arjuna who is able to see the two-handed form of Lord( the source of all other forms) not able to see the universal form of Krishna which is the partial expansion of the Lord and why does he need the divine vision to see the form of the Lord. Acharya’s have given the explanation that devotees are not inclined to see the opulence’s of the Lord. Example, the Vrindavana Vasis, they saw Krishna doing extra ordinary past times like killing of Putana, who was a demoness. Everybody can be awe struck thinking how can a small boy kill a huge demoness but the Vrindavana Vasis were not interested to know that. They actually want to know if their Krishna is safe or not. Devotees who are correctly situated in a transcendental relationship with Kṛṣṇa are attracted by loving features, not by a godless display of opulence’s. The playmates of Kṛṣṇa, the friends of Kṛṣṇa and the parents of Kṛṣṇa never want Kṛṣṇa to show His opulences. They are so immersed in pure love that they do not even know that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In their loving exchange they forget that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord. Of course they are covered by the Yoga Maya potency of the Lord so they cannot see. Same way devotees are also not interested to know about the opulence of the Lord, they are convinced that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of God head and they want to have a devotional relationship with the two- handed form of Krishna. So Arjuna was also not interested to see the form of Krishna which proves him to be God. Srila Prabupada mentions in purport of BG :11. 8 : A pure devotee does not like to see Kṛṣṇa in any form except His form with two hands; a devotee must see His universal form by His grace, not with the mind but with spiritual eyes. To see the universal form of Kṛṣṇa, Arjuna is told not to change his mind but his vision. Krishna has two sides basically:- beautiful young cow herd boy with pea cock feather playing a flute captivating the heart of his devotees and the other side is for the non-devotee where he looks like a ghastly form .Because non-devotees don’t accept or believe in God. Krishna meets them in the form of time in death.
Now from BG: 11. 9 to 31 SANJAYA’S DESCRIBES THE UNIVERSAL FORM—by the Grace of Vyasadeva, Sanjaya could see all that happened in Kurukshetra.
1)Unlimited divine, wondrous and brilliant forms (11.10 – 11.11)
a)Unlimited mouths, eyes, ornaments, weapons, garlands etc
b)By inconceivable potency of the Lord, Arjuna could see the unlimited sitting in one place)
2)Hundreds of thousands of suns were to rise at once into the sky, their radiance might resemble the effulgence of the Supreme Person in that universal form. (11.12)
a)Sanjaya is trying to give a mental picture of indescribable revelation to Dhrtasrashtr
3)Seeing everything in one place- All unlimited expansions of the universe including planted of gold, jewels and all other kinds (11.13)
a)Others on the battle field could not see- because Krishna gave the vision “divya-caksuh” only to Arjuna
4)After seeing the universal form of Lord Arjuna is bewildered and astonished – The symptoms are
a)His Hair standing on end, Arjuna bows down and begins to pray with folded hands (11.14) and offering his obeisances with great respect
b)Once the divine vision is revealed, the relationship between Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna changes immediately. Before, Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna had a relationship based on friendship, but here, after the revelation, and Arjuna praises the universal form. The Rasa changes from “friendship” to “wonder” ( Adbuta Bhav) – This proves that Krishna is the reservoir of all relationships (12 rasas)
Symptoms of wonder – indicated by a calm, sober and quiet personality being changed to ecstatic, astonished personality with hairs standing on end and offering prayers with folded hands and also fearful because he has never seen his dear Friend Krishna because of time factor he was seeing.
ARJUNA’S DESCRIPTION OF THE UNIVERSAL FORM
1)All living entities at one place – See’s all demigods and living entities assembled in that form – Lord Brahma sitting on a lotus flower, also Lord Siva and all the sages and divine serpents (11.15)
a)To see all at one place is possible only by Krishna’s grace
2)Krishna is unlimited – See’s many arms, bellies, mouths, eyes without any limit and with no end, middle and beginning (11.16)
3)Through Him, everything could be seen blazing like sun (11.17) – a)Analogy: Glaring effulgence on all sides like a blazing fire or immeasurable radiance like the sun. This form is very difficult to see 4)Arjuna attempts to describe immeasurable – He is trying to say “You are the Supreme Lord” by the following statements: (11.18)
a)You are the Supreme primal objective .
b)Ultimate resting place of all the universe Inexhaustible / oldest .
c)Maintainer of eternal religion.
5)Sun and moon are your eyes (11.19)
Then the Rasa changes to fear – Arjuna further describes the Universal form as “Kala-Rupa”. Arjuna experiences a terrible fearsome sight (11.23)
a)Blazing fire coming forth from your mouth, burning this entire universe (11.19) .
Numberless arms and sun and moon are the eyes
Without origin, middle and end
b)Repetition of glories is not a flaw – It is a sign of bewilderment, wonder or great ecstasy
3)Spread throughout – Spread throughout the sky and planets and all space in between; and all the planetary systems are perturbed seeing you (11.20)
a)‘Dyav-a-prthivyoh’ (Space between heaven and earth) and ‘Loka-trayam’ (Three worlds) – indicate that not only Arjuna saw, but other planetary systems, whoever endowed with divine vision, also saw this form and got perturbed. This proves that Arjuna’s seeing was not a dream
4)Petitioned by Demigods – Kala-rupa is petitioned by demigods and sages – All are fearful (11.21 – 11.22)
a)Demigods are surrendering and praying with folded hands
b)Great sages are praying with Vedic hymns
c)Siva, Adityas, Vasus etc. beholding Krishna in wonder
5)Rasa changes to fear – Arjuna experiences a terrible fearsome sight (11.23)
a)Arjuna loses steadiness and equilibrium of mind, because mind is perturbed by fear (11.24)
b)Arjuna sees blazing death-like faces and awful teeth (11.25)
c)Text 11.26 through 11.30 describes the future occurrences that Arjuna sees within the Kala-rupa that Bhishma, Drona and Karna, three most feared members of the opposing army will be destroyed
6)Two Analogies: Devouring all soldiers of both armies on both sides, including Bhishma, Drona & Karna, rushing into Your mouth (11.26 – 11.27) ïAnalogy:
a)As many waves of river flow into the ocean (11.28)
b)Analogy: As moths dash to destruction in blazing fire (11.29) ( example Duryodhana who is after kingdom , wealth and so forth and did committed so abdominal acts were meeting death by going to the mouth of the Lord)
c)Indicates that Arjuna could see his awaited victory
7)All-devouring – You are devouring all people from all sides, your effulgence is covering all the universe with terrible scorching rays(11.30)
After seeing the Universal form, Arjuna in great fear asks two questions (11.31) Who are You? And What is Your mission? – Because although Arjuna knew Krishna as his friend and Supreme Personality of Godhead, but he was puzzled by various forms exhibited by Krishna. So in 11.32 Krishna says TIME I AM, BECOME MY INSTRUMENT”… and my mission is to destroy everything-“ all the people in all the worlds, except the Pandavas” .This form of the Supreme Lord is the all-devouring giant, and here Kṛṣṇa presents Himself in that form of all-devouring time. This indicated that even if Arjuna did not want to fight, they will die anyway.
Yudhisthira Maharaj was asked this question by a Yaksha in Mahabharata, what is the news of this world to which Yudhishthira Maharaj replies that this world is like a large iron pot, with sun as the fire and days and night as fuel , month and season as wooden ladle , all creatures are cooked by time. Basically world is like a frying pan. Krishna in the form of time is the cook. What is time . SB explains in the 3rd Canto (3.11.3). Time is the potency of the almighty Personality of Godhead, Hari, who controls all physical movement although He is not visible in the physical world. In Bhagavad Gita time is one of the 5 topics covered, the other 4 are Jiva, Paramatma, Prakriti and Karma. Time does not have attributes or features hence it is imperceptible like how the wind cause the movement of clouds, it is limitless, no beginning or end. Karma is not eternal. Time is not subjected to the relativities of the world yet it acts as an instrument kala Shakthi of the Supreme Lord moving the material nature. It is not easy to comprehend the nature of time just like how we cannot understand Krishna how inconceivable he is , but we can understand that time has supreme influence on everything and every being in this universe. Knowing to the manifestation of the Lord it is identical with him. Therefore we should co-operate with the plan of the Lord revealed to us by the agents like Guru, Saddhu and Shastra. This the advice given by Bhismadeva to Yudhisthira Maharaj , who was a compassionate soul, could not comprehend the after effects of the war thinking he was the course of the destruction and loss of life and due to arrangement of Krishna he was able to take final instructions from Bhisma Deva who says we cannot understand the plan of the Lord but it can be revealed to us if we follow the plan of the Lord through his instructions, with the guidance of Spiritual Masters , Saddhus and devotees.
The most valuable possession we have in our life is time and it is said time and tide never wait for no man. If we lose money, house, land , reputation we can work hard to get it back. One moment which is wasted is gone for ever we cannot buy back with all treasures of the world. Time is the impersonal feature of the lord. It is subtle does not have form and it is passing by even before we realizing it. But we have choice, free will how to utilize our time. Srimad Bhagavatam nicely gives a verse every rising and setting of the sun we are a day closer to death but those who utilize their time to understand the true purpose of life , hear, chant the glories of Supreme Lord every rising and setting of sun we are closer to eternal life. We are actually investing in the time which has a value. So our goal should be to develop true love of God and go back to Krishna. So the time spend of those goals become an investment not an expense . Srila Prabupada said that the greatest importance of utilizing this human form of life is to realize or revive our lost relationship with the Supreme Lord because how we utilize time depends on how you utilize our life. In the ledger of life, all the time engage in Krishna Consciousness is profit and all the time engage in material activities is lost. Going to work is a material activity but it is loss if we are not conscious of Krishna. What Krishna says is include me in your activities and that itself changes the material activity into spiritual. Do your duty do it for him. In BG 6.22 Krishna says
yaṁ labdhvā cāparaṁ lābhaṁmanyate nādhikaṁ tataḥyasmin sthito na duḥkhenaguruṇāpi vicālyate
When actually comes to the perfection of Krishna consciousness he realizes there is no greater gainand again in BG: 2.40 Krishna says
nehābhikrama-nāśo ’stipratyavāyo na vidyatesv-alpam apy asya dharmasyatrāyate mahato bhayāt
Translation: In this endeavor there is no loss or diminution, and a little advancement on this path can protect one from the most dangerous type of fear.
Activity in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or acting for the benefit of Kṛṣṇa without expectation of sense gratification, is the highest transcendental quality of work. Even a small beginning of such activity finds no impediment, nor can that small beginning be lost at any stage. Any work begun on the material plane has to be completed, otherwise the whole attempt becomes a failure. Our bank balances, title, designations, property everything we leave here while we go. But any work begun in Kṛṣṇa consciousness has a permanent effect, even though not finished. The performer of such work is therefore not at a loss even if his work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is incomplete. One percent done in Kṛṣṇa consciousness bears permanent results, so that the next beginning is from the point of two percent, Material activities and their results end with the body. But work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness carries a person again to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, even after the loss of the body. At least one is sure to have a chance in the next life of being born again as a human being, either in the family of a great cultured brāhmaṇa or in a rich aristocratic family that will give one a further chance for elevation. That is the unique quality of work done in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
So if we do not practice Krishna consciousness, does not utilize our time in Krishna conscious activity properly we wont have the consciousness to remember Krishna during our last breath and when we do not follow scriptures, do sinful activities we go down or slide down in to lowest form of life among 8.4 million species of life where one animal becomes a food to another. So we have to utilize our time perfectly . Hearing, chanting, worshipping, serving devotees , praying, remembering Krishna is a profit. Because anything we see, do or associate with, will create an impression on our mind and it stays with us and from those imprints comes desires and when we try to fulfill those desires by association with things that will take away from the devotional life.
Krishna does not force us to love him, we have the free will. He arranges Scriptures, Acharya’s, creates the environment to go back to him. We cannot say that Krishna is partial to some (non- devotee) because these people are not interested to take the path of devotional service. They do not accept Bhagavad Gita if freely given during book distribution. Example) The sun is outside, and we are in a room. We cannot complain sun is not coming to our room. Sun is equally distributing its light everywhere but it is our responsibility to go out in the sun. Another analogy is if you have two kids. One kid is obeying to you so much whatever you say that kid is doing and he loves you so much but the other kid is rebellious. But as a father you love both the kids equally whether they obey you or not doesn’t matter. To the kids who is obeying you, you reciprocate more. That reciprocation you cannot say it is partiality. It is the love that is shown to you and you are reciprocating to that love. That way devotee surrenders to Krishna and show love to him and Krishna reciprocate to it, but still he loves all the living entities.
A person is working very hard to earn his daily bread to maintain his family. Even though scriptures are there time is not there to do devotional service. If the same person has gone to work he will be still remembering his kids whether they had come back from school, whether they have eaten their food. This is due to attachment or love for the kids. When we say we don’t have time for devotional service we can see that we have time to cook food and eat. So in the beginning we can offer the food to God as prasadam, and eat the remnants. Then slowly follow the scriptures. If scriptures say don’t kill other living entity and eat, follow those instructions. This requires some adjustments of life. If we have desire and no time Krishna will make arrangement, so that we will find time. It is the devotee’s duty to help those people by book distribution, prasadam distribution. Devotees mercy will bring them some Sukriti. We need to give them association so they can relate to. If we go to them and directly tell them chant 16 rounds you will be purified they wont be able to appreciate that is why Krishna is giving the practical instruction. In BG: 9.27 Krishna says
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsiyaj juhoṣi dadāsi yatyat tapasyasi kaunteyatat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
Translation: Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform – do that, O son of Kuntī, as an offering to Me.
So you can do small things for the satisfaction of the Lord and that will build punya, then will build Sukriti, then they will associate with devotees and get more knowledge and they will see the value of devotional service and allocate their time and the Lord also helps in such a way that they will get more time to practice devotional service and finally come back to him.