Chapter 11 – Vishwarūpa Darshana Yoga

The name ‘VISHWAROOPA’ – what does it mean?
Vishwa means the entire existence – that is all universes, galaxies put together. Not just those that exist in space, but also the time – past, present and future. This, all encompassing existence is Vishwa. Roopa means form. So VISHWAROOPA means the form of such all encompassing divine existence.
In the previous previous couple of chapters, Arjuna heard about the infinite, all pervasive nature of the Lord, how his manifestations can be seen across every aspect of existence. Theoretical knowledge alone, leaves the seeker thirsty of experience. Hence, Arjuna wants to practically experience the supreme, all-pervasive nature of the Lord. He wanted to know how such lord would look like, or sound like, or feel like – a complete experience. How lucky of him, how blessed he was to have the lord himself as his friend all this while in his life, and with this request of Arjuna too, lord readily obliges – to give him that COMPLETE experience – VISHWAROOPA DARSHANA!

Arjuna’s request – for the most divine experience..

The chapter begins with Arjuna expressing his gratitude to the lord, for blessing him with the knowledge of self – the eternal truth, thereby destroying his delusion about existence. With that, he places his request – his desire to see that divine forms that the lord described in previous chapter. The lord agrees to show his form that represents every aspect of existence – VISHWA ROOPA.
Arjuna is popularly known to be a great friend of Lord Krishna. To this point, let’s not forget that he was also a great devotee of the lord. When Pāndavās and Kauravās were preparing for the battle, Arjuna chose just Lord Krishna to be by his side, instead of the mighty army of Yādavās, that the Lord (also king) Krishna commanded. This shows his conviction in the Lord. It is the conviction (Bhakti) of Arjuna that the lord rewarded, by readily obliging to show his supreme, divine, all powerful form.

To enable Arjuna to see his divine form, the lord blesses him with divine vision (enlightened wisdom?), as otherwise it is impossible to perceive such a magnificent, spectacular, divine form using just the naked eyes. In this same instance, another blessed soul gets to witness this divine form – Sanjaya – the narrator/commentator for Dhritarāshtra! He too was blessed with this divine vision, thanks to Lord Veda Vyāsa. Thus, Sanjay starts narrating about this brilliant form – numerous eyes, mouths, numerous wonderful sights, numerous divine weapons, ornaments, garlands, all enchanting and endless in every sense. He says if a thousand Suns were to be put together, that’s how radiant this form would be! Certainly, not a sight plain eyes can behold!

THE experience of Arjuna

Arjuna’s initial reaction that of being completely bedazzled!

The chapter elaborates on what Arjuna observes, how Arjuna’s thoughts moved, what were the resulting emotions. This chapter is not to be just read, it is to be experienced. What the words magnificent, spectacular etc means, is personal to us, based on our past experiences. Hence, our understanding of the supreme is limited by the thoughts and experiences of our past. Here the lord presents an opportunity to break those shackles, think beyond what you have imagined or seen so far, to perceive and experience what we may never have imagined.

Arjuna first observes all divine things – He sees all the various gods, celestial beings, the creator (Brahma), the rishis – every thing in him.
He next observes the all pervasive nature – with numerous arms, stomachs, mouths, eyes – spread across endlessly from every side, that he’s unable to see the beginning, the mid or the end of the form. Don’t brush aside such description as just figment of imagination – these organs essentially represents various functions necessary for any creation to sustain. And such functions are also varied based on form of manifestation. Thus, this numerous arms, stomachs, mouths etc is representation of such varied forms that exist, which are ultimately a part of that supreme being. (Recall from previous chapter, where the Lord indicated that the best amongst each form of creation, is a representation of him)

He next observes the all powerful nature of this supreme being – all the divine weapons radiating brilliance so intense and bright, that he’s unable to see them all. The emphasis here is on the inherent overpowering nature of the divine, supreme being.

Next comes his sudden realisation. In the conversations until previous chapters, he was only listening and noddingly understood the words of Lord, about the nature of that supreme being. Now, based on his new experience he exclaims – you are imperishable, you are all that is to be ever known, you are the ever lasting essence in every being, you truly are the PURUSHA – the supreme being. He goes on to describe what are the varied reactions are from other celestial/divine beings, that are observing this phenomenon of the lord. Some are of surprise, some of fear, some prayerful, some feeling terrified.

He now starts seeing the terrifying aspects – Arjuna’s emotion of being amazed, slowly starts transforming to be that of fear. Looking at the destructive side of the supreme – with large fiery eyes, the fire emitting mouths with fearsome teeths – all set to consume everything around. Arjuna says he’s terrified and losing his courage and peace of mind.
Arjuna now starts seeing how that all consuming fire blazing out of the mouths is even consuming Bhishma, Drona, the sons of Dhritarashtra, and many more. They are being pulled into the mouths, like how moths go rushing into the fire, helplessly to their ends!

Seeing and experiencing the glorious, yet terrifying form of the supreme being – Arjuna asks the lord – who are you! For Arjuna certainly did not expect to see the all consuming nature – where he saw a peep into the future that he could relate to – about the people ready in the battle field.

The Lord declares that HE is TIME (kāla), engaged in the act of destroying all the worlds. Thus, with or without Arjuna, the inevitable destruction is bound to happen. So the Lord advices Arjuna, to stand up and get ready to engage in the battle, and play his role in this journey of destiny.

Arjuna probably here understands the real depth of words Lord spoke of in previous chapters, where he had already explained this in principle – that the Lord is really at the source of every creation, every destruction, every action, every form of support for entire existence. He yet again praises the supreme nature of the Lord. He quickly adds on to seek forgiveness of Lord, for being playful and addressing the Lord as just Krishna, or Yādava, or friend – in his earlier days. Forgiveness for what may have been disrespectful, while interacting with Lord in his earlier days. He requests the lord to forgive him, like how a father would forgive his son, or a friend his friend, or as a loved one would forgive the beloved. How beautiful their relation must have been, for Arjuna to ask that way! We can only start refining our actions so we lead ourselves somewhere nearer to Lord, when he manifests again!

Arjuna here requests the lord to withdraw his magnificent, supreme form and show him the divine and calming form with four hands holding the conch, lotus, chakra and Gadā – that he can recover from the terrified state of mind.

The lord concludes the chapter by saying it is very rare and hard for anyone to witness the divine form that Arjuna witnessed. Even Vedas, Tapas (austerity), Yajnas cannot help one in seeing such a form. Only by unflinching conviction and faith, can one see and experience this form and also reach me! One who performs all his actions as an offering to me, one who is devoid of attachment and has full conviction in my supremeness, one who bears no enmity to any being – he reaches me. What a declaration that is – a simple emotion – Bhakthi; so powerful!

DISCLAIMER: This our sincere attempt to summarise the Gitōpadesha, via a series of short blogs. This is NOT the whole translation, or commentary of the divine book. We seek forgiveness of reader and the lord, for omissions which is inevitable to keep the blog short. The write-ups include both, writer’s personal opinion and summarised version of many shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita. Intent of blog was never to be a commentary of Bhagavad Gita, but simply inspire the reader to read Bhagavad Gita in it’s entirety. The writer is neither a scholar, nor a bummer, somewhere in between, with a firm belief that the lord gets him to do all the things he does. Being human, he still keeps erring. Forgive him for all such mistakes.

Sarvam Krishnarpanamasthu!