Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 11 verse 1-34

ELEVENTH DISCOURSE.

THE UNIVERSAL FORM.

Arjuna’s prayer for a vision of the Universal Form.

The Glories of the Lord have been described.

Now, on hearing the Lord’s statement that ‘I stand supporting the whole world by one part of Myself,’ Arjuna was desirous to see with his own eyes that Primal Form of the Lord which is manifested as the universe, and accordingly said:

Arjuna said:

1. By that speech which has been delivered by Thee for my benefit,—that highest secret which is called Adhyātma,—this, my delusion, is gone.

Adhyātma: that which treats of the distinction between the Self and the non-Self. Delusion: non-discrimination.

Moreover,

2. The origin and the dissolution of beings, veri­ly, have been heard by me in detail from Thee, O Lotus-eyed, as also Thy inexhaustible greatness.

In detail: not in brevity. Lotus-eyed: having eyes like lotus-leaves.

3. So it is, as Thou, O Supreme Lord, hast declared Thyself to be. (Still) I desire to see Thy form as Īśvara, O Purusha Supreme.

Form etc. that of Vishnu, as possessed of (infinite) wisdom, sovereignty, strength, power, prowess and splendour.

4. If Thou, O Lord, thinkest it possible for me to see it, do Thou, then, O Lord of Yogins, show me Thy Eternal Self.

Then: because I am very anxious to see.

Arjuna endowed with heavenly sight where « with to see the Universal Form.

Thus implored by Arjuna, the Lord said:

The Blessed Lord said:
5. See, O son of Pritha, My heavenly forms, by hundreds and thousands, of different sorts, and of various colours and shapes.

Heavenly: Supernatural. By hundreds and thousands: in­numerable. Colours: such as blue, green and the like. Shapes: arrangements of parts.

6 Behold the Ādityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the Aśvīns, and also the Maruts; behold many marvels never seen before, O Bhārata.

Behold the twelve Ādityas, the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, the two Aśvīns, the seven heptads of Maruts. Behold also many other marvels never seen before by you or any­body else in this world of man.

Not this alone:

7. Now behold here in My body, O Gudākesa, the whole world established in one,—including the moving and the unmoving—and whatever else thou desirest to see.

Whatever else: Your success or defeat, about which you have entertained a doubt (ii. 6).

But,

8. Thou art not indeed able to see Me with this thy eye alone; I give thee a divine eye; behold My lordly Yoga.

Me: putting on the Universal Form. This: Prākṛta, of prakṛti, natural, (fleshy, of the earth). I give thee a divine eye, by which you will be able to see Me. By that eye, behold My great miraculous power of Yoga, that which belongs to Me as Īśvara.

The Lord’s manifestation of the Universal Form.

Sanjaya said:

9. Having thus spoken, O King, then, Hari, the great Lord of Yogins, showed to the son of Pritha the Supreme Form as Īśvara.

King: Dhritarāshtra. Hari: Nārāyaṇa. Form: the Uni­versal Form.

10. Containing many mouths and eyes, possess­ed of many wondrous sights, of many heavenly ornaments, of many heavenly weapons held up;

Such a form He showed.

Moreover,

11. Wearing heavenly garlands and vestures, anointed with heavenly unguents, all-wonderful, resplendent, boundless, with faces on all sides.

With faces on all sides: as He is the Self of all beings. Such a form He showed; or, such a form did Arjuna see.

Here follows an illustration, by an example, of the splendour of the Lord’s Universal Form:

12. If the splendour of a thousand suns were ever to present itself at once in the sky, that would be like the splendour of that Mighty Being.

In the sky: in antariksha or the middle loka; or in the heavenly region, which forms the third (from here). The Mighty Being: the Universal Form.—If no such thing can ever exist, then the splendour of the Universal Form excels all else.

Moreover,

13. There, in the body of the God of Gods, the son of Pāṇḍu then beheld the whole world establish­ed in one, and separated into many groups.

There; in that Form. Many groups: Devas, Pitris, men and other sorts of beings. The son of Pāṇḍu: Arjuna. God of Gods: Hari.

14. Then he, Dhananjaya, filled with amazement, with his hair standing on end, bowed down with his head, and, with joined palms, thus address­ed the God.

Then: having seen Him. The God: putting on the Uni­versal Form. With joined palms: in order to bow down.

How?

—Arjuna declares his own experience, i.e., that he sees the Universal Form shown by the Lord:

Arjuna said:

15. I see all the Gods, O God, in Thy body, as also hosts of various classes of beings: Brahma, the Lord, seated on the lotus-seat, and all ishis and heavenly serpents.

Various classes of beings: both animate and inanimate, and of various forms. Brahma: the Four-faced, the Lord of crea­tures. He is seated in the centre of the Earth-Lotus, on the Meru which forms the cup or seed-vessel as it were of the Earth-Lotus. Rishis: such as Vāsishṭha. Serpents: such as Vāsuki.

16. I see Thee of boundless form on every side with multitudinous arms, stomachs, mouths and eyes; neither Thy end nor the middle nor the begin­ning do I see, O Lord of the Universe, O Universal Form.

Middle: what lies between two extremities.

Moreover,

17. I see Thee with diadem, club, and discus; a mass of splendour shining everywhere, very hard to look at, all around blazing like burning fire and sun, and immeasurable.

Immeasurable: whose limits cannot be fixed.

Vishnu is one with the Unconditioned.

From this vision of Thy power of Yoga (wonder-working) I infer,

18. Thou art the Imperishable, the Supreme Being worthy to be known. Thou art the great Abode of this Universe; Thou art the undying Guardian of the Eternal Dharma, Thou art the ancient Purusha, I deem.

To be known: by seekers of liberation.

The Universal Form (continued.)

Moreover,

19. I see Thee without beginning, middle or end, infinite in power, of manifold arms; the sun and the moon being Thy eyes, the burning fire Thy face; heating the whole Universe with Thy radiance.

20. This space betwixt heaven and earth and all the quarters are filled by Thee alone. Having seen this, Thy marvellous and awful form, the three worlds are trembling, O High-souled Being.

Thee: in Thy Universal Form.

Now, in order to remove the doubt entertained by Arjuna (ii. 6) as to his success, the Lord proceeds to show that vic­tory for Pāṇḍavas is certain.

Seeing Him, Arjuna goes on:

21. Into Thee, indeed, enter these hosts of Suras; some extol Thee in fear with joined palms; “May it be well!” thus saying, bands of great ishis and Siddhas praise Thee with hymns com­plete.

These hosts of Suras: these warriors now fighting, all of them Devas,—the Vasus and others,—who have incarnated themselves as human beings for lightening the earth’s burden.

They are seen entering into Thee. Some of them only call out to Thee, unable even to flee.

Having discover­ed portents and other forebodings of evil as the war approached, the great Ṛishis and Siddhas say ‘May it be well for the world!’ and offer their prayers to Thee in full hymns.

The wonderfulness of the Universal Form.

Moreover,

22. The Rudras, Ādityas, Vasus, and Sādhyas, Viśvas and Aśvīns, Maruts and Ūshmapās, hosts of Gandharvas, Yakṣas, Asuras, and Siddhas, — they are all looking at Thee, all quite astonished.

Ūshmapās: a class of Pitris. Gandharvas: such as Hāhā and Hūhū. Yakṣas; such as Kubera. Asuras: such as Virochana. Siddhas: such as Kapila.

The terribleness of the Universal Form.

For,

23. Having seen Thy immeasurable Form, possessed, O Mighty-armed, of many mouths and eyes, of many arms and thighs and feet, and of many stomachs, and fearful with many tusks, the worlds are terrified, and I also.

The worlds: all living creatures in the world.

Here follows the cause (of my terror):

24. On seeing Thee (Thy Form) touching the sky, blazing in many colours, with mouths wide open, with large fiery eyes, I am terrified at heart and find neither courage nor peace, O Vishu.

Many colours; fearful, putting on different shapes.

Wherefore?—

25. Having seen Thy mouths which are fearful with tusks and resemble Time’s Fires, I know not the four quarters, nor do I find peace; be Thou gracious! O Lord of Gods and Abode of the Universe!

Time's Fires: the fires which consume the worlds at the time of dissolution (pralaya).

I know not the four quarters: I cannot distinguish the East and the West, I cannot discriminate the different quarters.

Arjuna’s vision of the defeat of the enemy.

My fear, too, of defeat at the hands of others is gone; for,

26—27. And all these sons of Dhritarāshtra, with hosts of princes, Bhīshma, Droa and that son (Kara) of a charioteer, with the warrior chiefs of ours, enter hurrying into Thy mouth, terrible with tusks and fearful to behold. Some are found sticking in the gaps betwixt the teeth with their heads crushed to powder.

Sons: such as Duryodhana. Ours: such as Dhriṣṭadyumna. Sticking: like a piece of flesh.

How do they enter into Thy mouth?

— Arjuna says:
28. As many torrents of rivers flow direct to­wards the sea, so do these heroes in the world of men enter Thy flaming mouths.

These: such as Bhīshma.

Why and how do they enter?

—Arjuna says:

29. As moths hurriedly rush into a blazing fire for destruction, just so do these creatures also hurri­edly rush into Thy mouths for destruction.

The splendour of the Universal Form.

But,

30. Thou lickest up devouring all worlds on every side with Thy flaming mouths, filling the whole world with flames. Thy fierce rays are blaz­ing forth, O Vishu.

Vishu: all-pervading.

Because Thou art so fierce, wherefore,

31. Tell me who thou art, so fierce in form. I bow to Thee, O God Supreme; have mercy. I de­sire to know Thee, the Original Being. I know not indeed Thy doing.

The Lord’s advent for destruction of worlds.

The Blessed Lord said:

32. I am the mighty world-destroying Time, now engaged in destroying the worlds. Even with­out thee, none of the warriors arrayed in hostile armies shall live.

Warriors: Bhīshma, Droṇa, Karṇa and others.

Such being the case,

33. Therefore do thou arise and obtain fame. Conquer the enemies and enjoy the unrivalled do­minion. By Myself have they been already slain; be thou a mere instrument, O Savyasāchin.

Shankara's commentary:

Fame: that Bhīshma and other atirathas (great warriors) arrayed in the hostile army, unconquerable even to Devas, have been defeated by Arjuna. Such fame is the result only of good karma. Enemies:     such as Duryodhana.

Savyasāchin: Arjuna who could shoot arrows even with the left hand.

34. Droa and Bhīshma, Jayadratha, Kara and other brave warriors, —these, killed by Me, do thou kill; fear not, fight, thou shalt conquer the enemies.

Shankara's commentary:

The Lord speaks of these warriors—whom Arjuna had any reason to fear—as killed by Himself.

Now it is evident why there should be any hesitation (on the part of Arjuna) concerning Droṇa and Bhīshma:

Droa was his teacher in the science of archery, was possessed of celestial weapons and was especially his (Arjuna’s) own dear greatest Guru.

Bhīshma had his death at his own command and was possessed of celestial weapons. He, once entered into a single combat with Paraśurāma and was not defeated.

As to Jayadratha, his father was engaged in austerity, firmly re­solved that “whoever causes my son’s head to drop down on earth, his head too shall fall.”

Kara, too, was furnish­ed with an unerring Śaktī (missile) given him by Indra. He was a son of the sun, born of a maiden. Wherefore he is also mentioned by name.

Enemies: such as Duryodhana.