Sri Krishna has revealed to Arjuna the supreme secret that He is in everything and He embodies everything. Arjuna believes in everything that Sri Krishna has said. But he desires to see the universal form of Sri Krishna. He wishes to have this special experience. So he says to Sri Krishna, ?I desire to see your divine form O Supreme Being.? (11.3)
Sri Krishna graciously grants Arjuna this experience. ?O Arjuna, behold in My Body the entire universe.? (11.7) But Arjuna’s physical eyes fail to see this vision. So Sri Krishna grants him the supernal vision, so that he can see Sri Krishna’s divine form.
Sanjaya says to Dhratarastra, ?O King, Krishna, the supreme Master of Yoga, the Almighty Lord, reveals to Arjuna His Form divine, supreme. Arjuna now sees Krishna as the Supreme Godhead.? (11.9)
In the divine form of Sri Krishna, Arjuna sees many mouths, numberless eyes, limitless marvels, wielding divine weapons, wearing divine garments and jewels, bearing celestial garlands of supernal fragrance. The effulgence of a thousand suns bursting forth all at once in the skies will hardly equal the supreme splendor of the Lord. Arjuna beheld the whole universe, with its manifold divisions gathered together in one, in the divine person of Sri Krishna. Overwhelmed, with his hands folded, his head bowed, he exclaims, ?O Lord, in You, in Your body, I behold all gods and all grades of beings, with distinctive marks. I see even Brahma seated on His lotus-throne and seers and sages all around, and heavenly nagas.? (11.15)
In verses 15 to 31 Arjuna describes what he sees in Sri Krishna with his Yogic vision.
What surprises Arjuna the most is that even though the war has not begun yet he see the lives of warriors on the enemy side utterly extinguished in Krishna. He sees these great worriers rushing into Sri Krishna’s flaming mouth with great speed to their own destruction. On seeing this Arjuna cries out, ?Have mercy O Great Godhead. Tell me who thou art with form so terrible.? (11.31)
Then Krishna says, ?Time am I. Time, the mighty destroyer, am I. Doomed they are. Whether you fight or not they are already dead. Even without you, your foes will escape no death. Arise, O Arjuna, arise! Victory’s glory and renown you win. Conquer your enemies. Enjoy the vast kingdom, enjoy. By Me is ordained their lives’ surrendered hush. You be the outer cause. Just be a mere instrument.? (11.32-33)
Now Arjuna cries for Sri Krishna’s forgiveness. Because of his ignorance he did not realise who Sri Krishna was and on many occasions may have been disrespectful. He begs for forgiveness for such acts.?Bear with me as father with his son, as friend with his friend, as lover with his beloved.? (11.44)
Krishna tells Arjuna, ?It is by My grace you have seen My Universal form. This form of mine is indeed very hard to see. Even the gods are ever eager to see this form. This form cannot be seen either by the study of the Vedas or by austerities or by gifts or by sacrifices. But by unswerving devotion to Me, O Arjuna, I can be thus known. He who does work for Me, he who looks upon Me as his goal, he who worships Me, free from attachment, who is free from enmity to all creatures, he goes to Me, O Arjuna.? (11.47-55)
(The following English translation is taken from ‘A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy’ Edited by S. Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. 1957 Princeton University Press)
CHAPTER 11: The Lord’s Transfiguration
Arjuna wishes to see the universal form of God
1. The supreme mystery, the discourse concerning the Self which thou hast given out of grace for me-by this my bewilderment is gone from me.
2. The birth and passing away of things have been heard by me in detail from Thee, 0 Lotus-eyed (Krsna), as also Thy imperishable majesty.
3. As Thou hast declared Thyself to be, 0 Supreme Lord, even so it is. (But) I desire to see Thy divine form, 0 Supreme Person.
4. If Thou, 0 Lord, thinkest that by me, It can be seen, then reveal to me, Thy Imperishable Self, 0 Lord of yoga (Krsna).
The Revelation of the Lord
The Blessed Lord said:
5. Behold, 0 Partha (Arjuna), My forms, a hundredfold, a thousandfold, various in kind, divine, of various colours and shapes.
6. Behold, the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the two Asvins and also the Maruts. Behold, 0 Bharata (Arjuna), many wonders never seen before.
7. Here today, behold the whole universe, moving and unmoving and whatever else thou desirest to see, 0 Gudakesa (Arjuna), all unified in My body.
8. But thou canst not behold Me with this [human] eye of yours; I will bestow on thee the supernatural eye. Behold My divine power.
Samjaya describes the form
9. Having thus spoken, 0 King, Hari, the great lord of yoga, then revealed to Partha (Arjuna), His Supreme and Divine Form*.
10. Of many mouths and eyes, of many visions of marvel, of many divine ornaments, of many divine uplifted weapons.
11. Wearing divine garlands and raiments, with divine perfumes and ointments, made up of all wonders, resplendent, boundless, with face turned everywhere.
12. If the light of a thousand suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, that might resemble the splendour of that exalted Being.
13. There the Pandava (Arjuna) beheld the whole universe, with its manifold divisions gathered together in one, in the body of the God of gods.
Arjuna addresses the Lord
14. Then he, the Winner of wealth (Arjuna), struck with amazement, his hair standing on end, bowed down his head to the Lord, with hands folded [in salutation], said:
15. In Thy body, 0 God, I see all the gods and the varied hosts of beings as well, Brahma, the Lord seated on the lotus throne and all the sages and heavenly nagas.
16. I behold Thee, infinite in form on all sides, with numberless arms, bellies, faces and eyes, but I see not Thy end or Thy middle or Thy beginning, 0 Lord of the universe, 0 Form Universal.
17. I behold Thee with Thy crown, mace and discus, glowing everywhere as a mass of light, hard to discern, [dazzling] on all sides with the radiance of the flaming fire and sun, incomparable.
18. Thou art the Imperishable, the Supreme to be realized. Thou art the ultimate resting-place of the universe; Thou art the undying guardian of the eternal law. Thou art the Primal Person, I think**.
19. I behold Thee as one without beginning, middle or end, of infinite power, of numberless arms, with the moon and the sun as Thine eyes, with Thy face as a flaming fire, whose radiance burns up this universe.
20. This space between heaven and earth is pervaded by Thee alone, also all the quarters [directions of the sky]. 0 Exalted One, when this wondrous, terrible form of Thine is seen, the three worlds tremble.
2 1. Yonder hosts of gods enter Thee and some, in fear, extol Thee, with folded hands, and bands of great seers and perfected ones cry ?hail? and adore Thee with hymns of abounding praise.
22. The Rudras, the Adityas, the Vasus, the Sadhyas; the Visvas, the two Asvins, the Maruts and the manes and the hosts of Gandharvas, Yaksas, Asuras and Siddhas, all gaze at Thee and are quite amazed.
23. Seeing Thy great form, of many mouths and eyes, 0 Mightyarmed, of many arms, thighs and feet, of many bellies, terrible with many tusks, the worlds tremble and so do I.
24. When I see Thee touching the sky, blazing with many hues, with the mouth opened wide, and large glowing eyes, my inmost soul trembles in fear and I find neither steadiness nor peace, 0 Visnu!
25. When I see Thy mouths terrible with their tusks, like Time’s devouring flames, I lose sense of the directions and find no peace. Be gracious, 0 Lord of gods, Refuge of the worlds!
26. All yonder sons of Dhrtarastra together with the hosts of kings and also Bhisma, Drona and Karna along with the chief warriors on our side too,
27. Are rushing into Thy fearful mouths set with terrible tusks. Some caught between the teeth are seen with their heads crushed to powder.
28. As the many rushing torrents of rivers race towards the ocean, so do these heroes of the world of men rush into Thy flaming mouths.
29. As moths rush swiftly into a blazing fire to perish there, so do these men rush into Thy mouths with great speed to their own destruction.
30. Devouring all the worlds on every side with Thy flaming mouths, thou lickest them up. Thy fiery rays fill this whole universe and scorch it with their fierce radiance, 0 Visnu!
31. Tell me who Thou art with form so terrible. Salutation to Thee, 0 Thou Great Godhead, have mercy. I wish to know Thee [who art] the Primal One, for I know not Thy working.
God as the judge
The Blessed Lord said:
32. Time am I, world-destroying, grown mature, engaged here in subduing the world. Even without thee [thy action], all the warriors standing arrayed in the opposing armies shall cease to be.
33. Therefore arise thou and gain glory. Conquering thy foes, enjoy a prosperous kingdom. By Me alone are they slain already. Be thou merely the occasion, 0 Savyasacin (Arjuna).
34. Slay Drona, Bhisma, Jayadratha, Karna and other great warriors as well, who are already doomed by Me. Be not afraid. Fight, thou shalt conquer the enemies in battle.
35. Having heard this utterance of Kesava (Krsna), Kiritin (Arjuna), with folded hands and trembling, saluted again and prostrating himself with great fear, spoke in a faltering voice to Krsna.
Arjuna’s hymn of praise
36. 0 Hrsikesa (Krsna), rightly does the world rejoice and delight in Thy magnificence. The Raksasas are fleeing in terror in all directions and all the hosts of perfected ones are bowing down before Thee (in adoration).
37. And why should they not do Thee homage, 0 Exalted One, who art greater than Brahma, the original creator? 0 Infinite Being, Lord of the gods, Refuge of the universe, Thou art the Imperishable, the being and the non-being and what is beyond that.
38. Thou art the First of gods, the Primal Person, the Supreme Resting Place of the world. Thou art the knower and that which is to be known and the supreme goal. And by Thee is this universe pervaded, 0 Thou of infinite form!
39. Thou art Vayu [the wind], Yama [the destroyer], Agni [the fire], Varuna [the sea-god] and Sasanka [the moon], and Prajapati, the grandsire [of all]. Hail, hail to Thee, a thousand times. Hail, hail to Thee again and yet again.
40. Hail to Thee in front, [hail] to Thee behind and hail to Thee on every side, 0 All; boundless in power and immeasurable in might, Thou dost penetrate all and therefore Thou art All.
41. For whatsoever I have spoken in rashness to Thee, thinking that Thou art my companion and unaware of this [fact of] Thy greatness, ? 0 Krsna, 0 Yadava, 0 Comrade ? ; out of my negligence or may be through fondness,
42. And for whatsoever disrespect was shown to Thee in jest, while at play or on the bed or seated or at meals, either alone or in the presence of others, I pray, 0 Unshaken One, forgiveness from Thee, the Immeasurable.
43. Thou art the father of the world of the moving and the unmoving. Thou art the object of its worship and its venerable teacher. None is equal to Thee-, how then could there be one greater than Thee in the three worlds, 0 Thou of incomparable greatness?
44. Therefore bowing down and prostrating my body before Thee, Adorable Lord, I seek Thy grace. Thou, 0 God, shouldst bear with me as a father to his son, as a friend to his friend, as a lover to his beloved.
45. I have seen what was never seen before and I rejoice but my heart is shaken with fear. Show me that other [previous] form of Thine, 0 God, and be gracious, 0 Lord of the gods and Refuge of the Universe!
46. I wish to see Thee even as before with Thy crown, mace, and disc in Thy hand. Assume Thy four-armed shape, 0 Thou of a thousand arms and of universal form***.
The Lord’s grace and assurance
The Blessed Lord said:
47. By My grace, through My divine power, 0 Arjuna, was shown to thee this supreme form, luminous, universal, infinite and primal which none but thee has seen before.
48. Neither by the Vedas, [nor by] sacrifices nor by study nor by gifts nor by ceremonial rites nor by severe austerities can I with this form be seen in the world of men by any one else but thee, 0 hero of the Kurus (Arjuna).
49. May you not be afraid, may you not be bewildered seeing this terrific form of Mine. Free from fear and glad at heart, behold again this other [former] form of Mine.
50. Having thus spoken to Arjuna, Vasudeva (Krsna) revealed to him again His own form. The Exalted One, having assumed again the form of grace, comforted the terrified Arjuna.
5 1. Beholding again this Thy gracious human form, 0 Janardana (Krsna), I have now become collected in mind and am restored to my normal nature.
The Blessed Lord said:
52. This form of Mine which is indeed very hard to see, thou hast seen. Even the gods are ever eager to see this form.
53. In the form in which thou hast seen Me now, I cannot be seen either by the Vedas or by austerities or by gifts or by sacrifices.
54. But by unswerving devotion to Me, 0 Arjuna, I can be thus known, truly seen and entered into, 0 Oppressor of the foe (Arjuna).
55. He who does work for Me, he who looks upon Me as his goal, he who worships Me, free from attachment, who is free from enmity to all creatures, he goes to Me, 0 Pandava (Arjuna).
This is the eleventh chapter, entitled ?The Vision of the Cosmic Form.?
* This is Krsna’s transfiguration where Arjuna sees all the creatures in heaven and earth in the Divine Form.
**Arjuna states that the Supreme is both Brahman and Isvara, Absolute and God.
***Arjuna is asking Krsna to assume the shape of Visnu of whom He is said to be an incarnation.