Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 11 verse 35-55

Arjuna’s adoration of the Universal Form.

Sanjaya said:
35. Having heard that speech of Keśava, the crowned one (Arjuna), with joined palms, trembling, prostrating himself, again addressed Krishna, stammering, bowing down, overwhelmed with fear.

Shankara's commentary:

When a man is overpowered with fear or with love, his eyes become full of tears, owing to the attack of pain or owing to the rise of joy: then his throat is choked up with phlegm, and this again causes indistinctness and dullness in speech.

Thus did Arjuna speak in a stammering tone.

Sanjaya’s speech on this occasion is very significant.

— How?

— Sanjaya hoped that on seeing that his (Dhritarāshtra’s) son would certainly be killed for want of support if the unconquerable four, including Droṇa, should be killed by Arjuna, Dhritarāshtra might despair of success and bring about peace.

Thus he hoped there would be happiness to both.

Even to this, Dhritarāshtra did not listen, owing to mighty Destiny.

Arjuna said:
36. It is meet, O Hrishīkesa, that the world is delighted and rejoices by Thy praise; Rākṣasas fly in fear to all quarters, and all hosts of Siddhas bow to Thee.

Shankara's commentary:

Praise: description of Thy glory. This verse may be also rendered so as to mean: The Lord is the proper object of delight and love, for the Lord is the Self of all and the Friend of all beings.

Siddhas- such as Kapila. It is meet that such should be the case so far as Thou art concerned.

For the. following reason also the Lord is the object of delight, etc.:

37. And how should they not, O Mighty Being, bow to Thee, Greater (than all else), the Primal Cause even of Brahma, O Infinite Being, O Lord of Gods, O Abode of the Universe; Thou art the Imperishable, the Being and the non-Being, That which is the Supreme.

Shankara's commentary:

Brahma: the Hiraṇyagarbha. (Because Thou art the Mighty Being), therefore Thou art the proper object of de­light and worship.

Thou art the Supreme Being, as revealed in the Vedāntas (Upanishads):         Thou art the Sat and the A-sat. The existent, as well as the non-existent

i. e., that with reference to which arises our consciousness of non-existence,—form the upādhis (conditions) of the Akṣara, on account of which He is spoken of as the Sat or the A-sat, the existent or the non-existent.

In reality, the Imperishable (Akṣara) whom the Veda-knowers speak of transcends the Sat and the A-sat, and He is Thy­self and none else.

He again extols the Lord thus:

38. Thou art the Primal God, the Ancient Purusha; Thou art the Supreme Abode of all this, Thou art the Knower and the Knowable and the Supreme Abode. By Thee is all pervaded, O Being of infinite forms.

Shankara's commentary:

Primal God: because Thou art the creator of the Universe. Purusha: so called because He lies in the body. Abode: that in which the Universe rests during the Great Pralaya and such other periods. Knower: of all the knowable things. Supreme Abode: of Vishṇu.


39. Thou art Vāyu, Yama, Agni, Varua, the Moon, Prajāpati, and the Great Grand-Father. Hail! Hail to Thee! A thousand times, and again and again hail! Hail to Thee!

Shankara's commentary:

Prajāpati: such as Kaśyapa. Great Grand-Father: the father even of Brahma. Again: This shows Arjuna’s dis­satisfaction due to his extreme faith and devotion.


40. Hail to Thee before and behind! Hail to Thee on every side! O All! Thou, infinite in power and infinite in daring, pervadest all; wherefore Thou art All.              

Shankara's commentary:

Before: in the East. On every side: as thou art present in all quarters. A man may be powerful, but he may not dare to slay the enemies, or he may be slow in daring; but Thou art infinite both in power and in daring.

Pervadest; by Thy One Self. 0 All: without Thee nothing exists.

Arjuna’s prayer for the Lord’s forgiveness.

Because I have been a sinner for want of knowledge of Thy greatness, therefore,

41-42. Whatever was rashly said by me from carelessness or love, addressing Thee as “O Krishna, O Yādava, O friend,” looking on Thee merely as a friend, ignorant of this Thy greatness,

—in whatever way I may have insulted Thee for fun while at play, on bed, in an assembly, or at meals, when alone, O Achyuta, or in company— that I implore Thee, Immeasurable, to forgive.

Shankara's commentary:

Looking on Thee merely as a friend: owing to misconception. Greatness: The Universal Form as Īśvara. Carelessness: the mind being attracted elsewhere. Love: confidence born of affection. That: all those offences.


43. Thou art the Father of this world, moving and unmoving. Thou art to be adored by this (world), Thou the Greatest Guru; (for) Thy equal exists not; whence another, superior to Thee, in the three worlds, O Being of unequalled greatness?

Shankara's commentary:

Thy equal exists not: for there cannot be two Īśvaras or Lords; if there were more than one Īśvara, the world could not get on as it now does. When even Thy equal exists not, how can there exist a being superior to Thee?

Because it is so,

44. Therefore, bowing down, prostrating my body, I implore Thee, adorable Lord, to forgive. It is meet Thou shouldst bear with me as the father with the son, as friend with friend, as the lover with the beloved.

As the father, etc. As a father forgives his son’s offences.

Arjuna’s prayer for the Lord’s resumption of His usual form.

45. I am delighted, having seen what was un­seen before; and (yet) my mind is confounded with fear. Show me that form only, O God; have mercy, O God of Gods, O Abode of the Universe.

Shankara's commentary:

What was unseen before: the Universal Form never before seen by me or anybody else. Therefore show me only that form (which Thou wearest) as my friend.

46. I wish to see Thee as before, crowned, possessed of the club, with the discus in the hand, in Thy former form only, having four arms, O Thousand-armed, O Universal Form.

Shankara's commentary:

Thy former form: as the son of Vāsudeva. Thousand-armed: referring to the Universal Form manifested at present.

Withdrawing Thy Universal Form, do Thou put on Thy former one.

The Lord resumes His usual form.

Seeing Arjuna afraid, the Lord withdrew the Universal Form; and consoling Arjuna with sweet words, He said:

The Blessed Lord said:

47. By Me, gracious to thee, O Arjuna, this Supreme Form has been shown,—by my sovereign power—full of splendour, the All, the Boundless, the Original Form of Mine, never before seen by any other than thyself.

Shankara's commentary:

The Lord praises that Form on the ground that “Thou (Arjuna) shouldst be considered to have attained all thy ends by this vision of My Form.”

48. Not by study of the Vedas and of the sacri­fices, nor by gifts, nor by rituals, nor by severe austerities, can I be seen in this Form in the world of man by any other than thyself, O hero of the Kurus.

Shankara's commentary:

Though a-regular study of the four Vedas includes that of the sacrifices also, the study of the sacrifices is separately mentioned in order to imply that a knowledge of the sacrifices is necessary.

Rituals: such as Agnihotra. Austerity, such as Chāndrāyaṇa.

49. Be not afraid nor bewildered on seeing such a terrible form of Mine as this; free from fear and cheerful at heart, do thou again see this My form­er form.

Shankara's commentary:

Former form: which is so dear to you,—four-armed, wearing a conch, a discus and a club.

Sanjaya said:

50. Having thus spoken to Arjuna, Vāsudeva again showed His own form; and the Mighty Being, becoming gentle in form, consoled him who was terrified.

His own: as born in Vāsudeva’s family.

Arjuna said:
51. Having seen this Thy gentle human form, O Janārdana, now I have grown serene, and re­turned to my nature.

Devotion as the sole means to the realization of the Universal form.

The Blessed Lord said:
52. Very hard to see is this Form of Mine which thou hast seen; even the Devas ever long to be­hold this form.

Long to behold: though they long to see the Form, yet they have not seen It as you have done, nor shall they ever see It.


53. Not by Vedas, nor by austerity, nor by gifts, nor by sacrifice, can I be seen in this Form as thou hast seen Me.

How canst Thou be seen?


54. But by undistracted devotion can I, of this Form, be known and seen in reality, and entered into, O harasser of thy foes.

Shankara's commentary:

Undistracted devotion (Bhakti): that devotion which never seeks any other object except the Lord, and in virtue of which no object other than Vāsudeva is cognized by any of the senses.

Of this Form: of the Universal Form. By this sort of devotion it is possible not only to know Me as declared in the śāstras, but also to intuitively realise Me as I am, and to enter into Me, i.e., to obtain liberation.

The essence of the whole teaching of the Gītā.

Now the essential teaching of the whole Gītā-śāstra which conduces to Highest Bliss will be summed up here, the teaching being such as everyone should follow:

55. He who does works for Me, who looks on Me as the Supreme, who is devoted to Me, who is free from attachment, who is without hatred for any being, he comes to Me, O Pāṇḍava.

Shankara's commentary:

A servant works for his master, but he does not look upon that master as the highest goal for him to reach after death:

but My devotee works for Me and also looks on Me as the Supreme Goal; I am his Supreme Goal. He is devoted to me; he serves Me alone in all manner of ways, with his heart and soul.

He is not attached to wealth, to progeny, to friends, to wife, to kinsmen, or to pleasures; for them he has no attachment or love. He cherishes no feeling of enmity for any of the creatures, even though these latter may have done great injury to him.

Such a man comes to Me. I am his highest Goal, and he seeks nothing else. This is the teaching I have to offer to thee, O Pāṇḍava.