Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 11 verse 1-20

Chapter 11
Viśvarūpa Darśana Yogaḥ
The Vision of the Cosmic Form

Summary of the Teaching

Thus, for engendering Bhakti Yoga and helping to develop it, Śrī Krishna taught that He is the Over-Self of all beings.

He gave a narration of His unique auspicious attributes which characterize Him as different from all other entities.

He also taught that the entire range of sentient and insentient beings which are likened to the corporeality or “body” of God, are completely dependent upon Him for their origin, existent and activity.

Having heard from Krishna of His marvellous and unique nature and activity; and being convinced of the truth of this revelation, Arjuna became desirous of directly perceiving these things and conveyed his longing to Krishna.

By His grace, Arjuna was able to see Him as described in this chapter.

śrī arjuna uvāca
mad-anugrahāya paramaṃguhyam adhyātma saṃjñitam |
yat tvayoktaṃvacas tena moho-yaṃvigato mama || 1 ||

Arjuna said.
1. Out of compassion for Me, You have personally revealed the most profound mystery concerning the jīvātman; thereby this delusion of mine is completely dispelled.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Previously Arjuna had been labouring under the false illusion of loving his perishable physical body as if it was the imperishable ātma or eternal soul.

Lord Krishna has compassionately dispelled such misconceptions by completely revealing in chapter two the eternal nature of the ātma.

The word adhyātma or wisdom of the eternal soul is that which is embodied within Śrīmad Bhagavad Gītā beginning in chapter two, verse 12 and ending in chapter six, verse 46

Having learned these essential and esteemed subject matters such as the eternality of the ātma, the singular oneness of the Supreme Lord and the dependence of all things moving and non-moving for their very existence on Him from the Supreme Lord Krishna Himself,

Arjuna has come to the conclusion that everything Lord Krishna has revealed is the complete absolute truth. But desiring to perceive this with His faculties of perception he queries the Supreme Lord further as will be revealed further in this chapter.

bhavāpyayau hi bhūtānāṃ śrutau vistaraśo mayā|
tvattaḥkamala-patrākṣa mahātmyam api cāvyayam || 2 ||

2. Indeed, I have heard in great detail about the origination and dissolution of all beings, O Krishna (Lotus-eyed-one), as issuing forth from You; as also about Your inexhaustible excellence.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Likewise from the seventh chapter till the end of chapter ten, Lord Krishna has revealed the reality of the emanating of all beings from Him as well as the influx of all beings back into Himself.

The word avyayam means imperishable and mahātmyam means the majesty and greatness of being neutral to all things sentient and insentient although being their source,

due to complete omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence along with unlimited vibhūti or divine transcendental opulence as the controller of every breath, every thought and every action being the foundation of everything.

The word hi meaning certainly is an adverb indicative of the forthcoming vision of Lord Krishna's universal form.

evam etad yathāttha tvam-ātmānaṃparameśvara |
draṣṭum icchāmi te rūpam aiśvaraṃpuruṣottama || 3 ||

3. O Supreme Lord, I long to actually see Your Sovereign form, exactly as You Yourself have described it, O Supreme-person.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna is addressed as Parameśvara or the Supreme Sovereign Lord.

Although Arjuna has fully accepted all that has been stated by Lord Krishna; he still desires that the Supreme Lord Krishna being the abode of all glorious attributes, out of compassion for His lieges and devotees show His resplendent, unparalleled Viśvarūpa or divine universal form expressive of His divine, transcendental powers such as ruling, protecting, creating, maintaining, sustaining and destroying.

Only the Supreme Lord Krishna, the ultimate reality of all realities, who is sublimely unique from everything else in existence is able to reveal this form.

manyase yadi tacchakyaṃmayādraṣṭum iti prabho |
yogeśvara tato me tvaṃdarśayāmānam avyayam || 4 ||

4. If you consider, O Lord, that I am capable, then reveal Yourself completely to me, O Lord of Yoga in that imperishable form.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word avyayam means in entirety. Arjuna wishes to see the complete Viśvarūpa or divine universal form of Lord Krishna.

The word Yogeśvara means the lord of yoga. As the lord of yoga He possesses all divine attributes such a wisdom, power, sovereignty, splendour and glory to the maximum degree that is not found to be possessed by any other except Himself and is impossible to duplicate even a portion of it.

These will become clearly apparent in the next verse when Lord Krishna tells Arjuna what he will see when beholding His magnificent Viśvarūpa.

To alleviate the yearning of supplication of His disciple who was earnestly desirous to see His divine universal form and who was enlivened and animated in rapturous emotion, the Supreme Lord Krishna spoke as follows:

śrībhagavān uvāca
paśya me pārtha rūpāṇi śataśo’tha sahasraśaḥ|
nānāvidhāni divyāni nānāvarṇākṛtīni ca || 5 ||

The Blessed Lord said:

5. Behold My forms, O Arjuna (Pārtha), hundreds upon thousands of them, manifold, divine, varied in hue and shape,

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna is instructing to behold His all-encompassing, all sustaining transcendental Viśvarūpa or divine universal form in hundreds of thousands of unique transcendental manifestations.

The word divyāni means divine denoting non-material spiritual colours and forms never seen before.

paśyādityān vasūn rudrān aśvinau marutas tathā|
bahūny-adṛṣṭa-pūrvāṇi paśyāścaryāṇi bhārata || 6 ||

6. Behold the Ādityas, the Vāsus, the Rudras, the two Aśvīns and the Maruts. Behold, O Arjuna, many marvels never seen before.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna explains that within His Viśvarūpa or divine universal form the 12 Ādityas, the 8 Vāsus, the 11 Rudras, the 2 Aśvīns, the 49 Maruts etc. can all be seen.

It can be perceived in His magnificent extraordinarily phenomenal universal form, unlimited wonders and marvels.

They are marvels that can be manifest in this world, marvels that can manifest in other worlds and all those marvels mentioned and described in the Vedic scriptures which may include some or all of the previous two categories.

All of these wonders have never before been seen.

ihaikasthaṃjagat kṛtsnaṃpaśyādya sacarācaram |
mama dehe guḍākeśa yac cānyad draṣṭum icchasi || 7 ||

7. Behold here, O Arjuna (Conqueror-of-sleep), the whole universe with its mobile and immobile things centred in My body and whatever else you desire to see.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Now Lord Krishna reveals that the whole creation consisting of unlimited moving and stationary things are all contained in ihaikasthaṃ meaning in only one part of His Viśvarūpa or divine universal form and anything else that could be desired to be seen is in this location as well.

This denotes that there are many other marvels and wonders in other parts that are undisclosed.

na tu māṃ śakyase draṣṭum anenaiva sva-cakṣuṣā|
divyaṃdadāmi te cakṣuḥpaśya me yogam aiśvaram || 8 ||

8. But you will not be able to see Me with your physical eye. I (therefore) give you clairvoyance —behold My Sovereign Glory!

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna is exclaiming to behold His cosmic glory as all existence is contained within a small space of His Viśvarūpa or divine universal form.

But He instructs Arjuna that with his physical eyes which are limited and only conditioned to see mundane material objects, he will not be able to have its transcendental vision which is fantastic, phenomenal and beyond measure and comparison.

Because of this limitation Lord Krishna confers upon him divyam or spiritual vision making his eyes capable of seeing the universal form.

Lord Krishna states paśya me yogam aiśvaram or behold His almighty, transcendental mystic opulence.

The word aiśvaram means unparalleled, extraordinary opulence.

The word yogam denotes the assemblage and conglomeration of all divine qualities and attributes such as omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc. It also denotes the refuge and embodiment of all displayed and as yet to be displayed magnificent opulence.

sañjaya uvāca
evam uktvātatorājan mahāyogeśvaro hariḥ|
darśayāmāsa pārthāya paramaṃrūpam aiśvaram || 9 ||

Saṁjaya said:

9. Having spoken thus, O King, Sri Krishna, the great Lord of Yoga, then revealed to Arjuna the supreme Sovereign Form.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Thus declared it to be the Supreme Lord Krishna who, out of affection for His devotee, accepted the post of charioteer. The Supreme Lord of all lords accepting the position as Arjuna's first cousin being that Vāsudeva was the brother his mother.

The Supreme Being and ultimate personality, the epicentre of all perfection and magnificence, The Sovereign Lord of all power, the glorious Hari or the Supreme Lord who removes all inauspiciousness from His devotee,

now exhibited His divine, transcendental, extraordinary and phenomenal, almighty Viśvarūpa or divine universal form across the complete visible cosmos, indomitable.

aneka vaktra nayanam anekādbhuta darśanam |
aneka divyābharaṇaṃdivyānekodyatāyudham || 10 ||

10. With innumerable mouths and eyes, many astonishing aspects, many divine ornaments and brandishing many divine weapons.

divya mālyāmbaradharaṃdivya gandhānulepanam |
sarvāścaryam ayaṃdevam anantaṃviśvato-mukham || 11 ||

11. Wearing celestial garlands and raiment, anointed with divine perfumes, full of all wonders, resplendent, boundless and facing all directions.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Sanjaya who could visually see everything that transpired on the battlefield by the grace of Vedavyāsa, uses the word divya meaning divine, to show the resplendent and celestial quality of everything associated with the Supreme Lord Krishna.

The word anantam means unlimited - denoting that the Viśvarūpa or divine universal form is the refuge for all creation from the past, in the present and into the future and not subject to time and space.

The words viśvato-mukham means many faces in every direction. So the Viśvarūpa is exhibited with the appropriate divine weapons, divine ornaments and divine apparel.

divi sūrya sahasrasya bhaved yugapad utthitā|
yadi bhāḥsadṛśīsāsyād bhāsas tasya mahātmanaḥ|| 12 ||

12. If a thousand suns were to rise at once in the sky, the resulting magnificence may be (somewhat) like the effulgence of that mighty One.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The example of a 1000 suns is a mere illustration to show the degree of infinite splendour and radiance that the form of Lord Krishna's Viśvarūpa or divine universal form displayed in ever increasing measure.

tatraikasthaṃjagat kṛtsnaṃpravibhaktam enekadhā|
apaśyad deva-devasya śarīre pāṇḍavastadā|| 13 ||

13. There [in that form] Arjuna beheld the entire universe, with its manifold divisions gathered together in one single point within the body of the God of gods.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

In the Supreme Lord Krishna's divine, transcendental and phenomenal Viśvarūpa or divine universal form infinitely high and unfathomably wide

with splendorous effulgence and unlimited faces, heads, eyes and bodies, with unlimited celestial weapons and unlimited celestial ornaments accompanied by celestial unguents, divine garlands and raiment's, all interacting with unlimited wonders and marvels,

Arjuna could clearly see manifested in a single location within the universal form all of creation with its unlimited multifarious and variegated details from the greatly powerful Brahma and all devas down to a humble blade of grass.

He could see the complete animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms and all the diverse planetary systems all composed of prakṛti or the material substratum pervading material existence from the highest Bhur, Bhuvaḥ, Svaḥ etc. all the way down to the lowest planetary system of Pāṭala with all there varying inhabitants, habitats and habits.

He could also perceive the Brāhman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence with its sublimely subtle transcendental presence imperceptible to normal eyes.

All this was seen by Arjuna due to the divine vision bequeathed upon him by Lord Krishna substantiating His declarations in chapter 10 such as verse 39:

That He is the origin of all and nothing can exist separately, independent from Him

and in verse 42 He states that by a mere fraction of His potency He maintains and sustains all moving and stationary beings.

tataḥsa vismayāviṣṭo hṛṣṭa-romādhanañjayaḥ|
praṇamya śirasādevaṃkṛtāñjalir abhāṣata || 14 ||

14. Then Arjuna (Dhananjaya), overcome with amazement, his hair standing on end, bowed his head to the Lord, and with palms pressed together spoke.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Perceiving the entire cosmos with unlimited wonders and marvels within just a part of Lord Krishna's Viśvarūpa or divine universal form which contained innumerable glorious qualities and attributes, such as omniscience and omnipotence etc.,

Arjuna with the hair on his head standing on end became petrified with astonishment in rapturous exultation and like an inanimate rod fell prolong upon the earth prostrating himself with head bowed and hands folded in reverence exclaiming.

arjuna uvāca
paśyāmi devāṃs tava deva dehe sarvāṃs tathābhūta viśeṣa saṅghān |
brahmāṇam īśaṃkamalāsanastham ṛṣiṃśca sarvān uragāṃśca divyān || 15 ||

Arjuna said:

15. I behold, O Lord, in Your body all the gods and all the diverse hosts of beings, Brahma, Śiva who is in Brahma, the sages and the gleaming serpents.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

In the Supreme Lord Krishna's Viśvarūpa or divine universal form could be seen all species of life. Those manifesting from wombs, from eggs, from seeds and from fermentation.

The four faced Brahma seated upon the lotus flower emanating from the navel of Garbodaksayi Vishnu was seen along with Shiva sitting upon his lap and all the devas can be seen on different parts of his body. Also great sages and rishis can be seen as well.

aneka bāhūdara vaktra netraṃpaśyāmi tvāṃsarvato’nanta rūpam |
nāntaṃna madhyaṃna punastavādiṃpaśyāmi viśveśvara viśvarūpa || 16 ||

16. With manifold arms, torsos, mouths and eyes, I behold Your infinite form on all sides. I see no end, nor middle nor yet the beginning of You, O Lord of the universe, O Universal Form!

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Everywhere from every angle of vision could be seen infinite amounts of unlimited arms, stomachs, faces, and eyes.

The word Viśveśvara means Lord of the universe and Viśvarūpa the divine universal form denotes the Supreme Lord to whom all the cosmos is part of His transcendental body.

As the Supreme Lord Krishna is Anantā or endless it is understandable that He has no beginning, middle or end and this was perceived by Arjuna.

kirīṭinaṃgadinaṃcakriṇaṃca tejorāśiṃsarvato dīptimantam|
paśyāmi tvāṃdurnirīkṣyaṃsamantād dīptānalārka-dyutim aprameyam || 17 ||

17. I behold You with crown, mace and discus, as an expanse of light radiating everywhere, hard to look at, blazing like a burning fire and the sun, and immeasurable.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna's Viśvarūpa or divine universal form was a mass of blazing radiant glory, dazzling the vision in all directions.

It had an effulgent brilliance that was more lustrous then the sun and was adorned with unlimited diadems, unlimited sceptres wielding unlimited chakras or discs.

It was immeasurable and beyond any conception of imagination.

tvam akṣaraṃparamaṃveditavyaṃ tvam-asya viśvasya paraṃnidhānam |
tvam-avyayaḥ śāśvata dharma goptā sanātanas tvaṃpuruṣo mato me || 18 ||

18. You are the Imperishable, Supreme One to be realised. You are the Supreme Substratum of this universe. You are immutable; the Guardian of the Eternal Law (Dharma), I know You are the Eternal Supreme Being.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The Vedic scriptures known as the Upaniṣads declare also that Lord Krishna is akṣaram paramam the Supreme immutable ultimate reality and declared in the Vedic scriptures as that which is essential to be known.

The word veditavyaṃ means He is only to be known by the absolute authority of the Vedas.

The word avyayaḥ means that which is imperishable and can never be diminished for in whatever aspect or form or manifestation Lord Krishna wills to be that will eternally be existing.

The phrase śāśvata dharma goptā means the Supreme Lord Krishna is the eternal preserver of eternal righteousness embodied in the Vedic scriptures. This is done by Himself and by His authorised avatars o incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures such as Nārāyaṇa, Rāma, Vishnu, Narasimha dēva, Buddha etc.

The words sanātanas tvaṃ puruṣo means Lord Krishna is the eternal spirit and primal consciousness of all creation as affirmed in the Taittirīya Upaniṣad III.XII beginning vedaham etam Puruṣam, meaning I perceive the magnificent Puruṣa.

Also in the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad I.I.IV beginning dve vidye veditavye meaning: The Puruṣa is more sublime than the most sublime.

All this is as the ornament of the complete cosmic creation Lord Krishna exhibited His Viśvarūpa or divine universal form and is understood as such.

anādi madhyāntam ananta-vīryam ananta bāhuṃ śaśi-sūrya netram |
paśyami tvāṃdīpta hutāśa vaktraṃ sva-tejasāviśvam idaṃtapantam || 19 ||

19. I behold You without beginning, middle and end. Your creative potency is infinite and You are endowed with a countless number of arms. The sun and moon are Your eyes and Your mouth is emitting blazing fire and searing the entire universe with your radiance.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna's Viśvarūpa or divine universal form is infinite being devoid of beginning, middle or end.

The word Anantā means unlimited and vīryam means powerful so the Viśvarūpa is unlimitedly powerful without any restrictions.

Other qualities are also implied by ananta such as cognizance, dominion, might, strength, etc.

The words ananta- bāhuṃ meaning unlimited arms also infers unlimited hands, chests, legs, feet, etc. as well.

śaśi-sūrya netram means eyes like the sun and moon.

The moon's rays denote the cool gentle beaming look that gladdens as it shines upon the Supreme Lords servitors the devas and His votaries the devotees with compassion.

The sun's glowing rays denotes the hot, burning eye that scorches the inimical hosts of asuras or demons and Rākṣasas or devils who are devoid of righteousness to others.

dīpta hutāśa vaktraṃ meaning with fire emitting from their mouths denotes the fire of universal destruction contained within the bosom of time raged therein.

Sva-tejasi means dazzling splendour and unprecedented radiance which illuminated everything around it. This glorious life giving energy flows unrestrictedly throughout all the universes.

Arjuna is explaining that he has seen the reality of the Viśvarūpa according to the manner in which Lord Krishna deigned to teach him by exhibiting the Viśvarūpa in before him

and practically demonstrating that He is the complete creator, the complete sustainer, the total refuge of all and the absolute destroyer as well as being the receptacle for all divine qualities and transcendental attributes such as omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence.

The question may arise as to how is it possible for unlimited bodily parts to be functioning all in one body.

The answer to this would be that one can imagine a single bodily midsection of vast proportions with unlimited chests, arms, hands necks and heads branching upwards from it in every direction and with every head having two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth.

Also branching downwards in every direction it is possible to imagine unlimited legs and feet as well.

So this conception is clearly not impossibility and seeing it along with choice devas and exalted liberated beings they were all inspired with awe and reverence.

dyāvāpṛthivyor idam antaraṃhi vyāptaṃtvayaikena diśaśca sarvāḥ|
dṛṣṭvādbhutaṃrūpam idaṃtavograṃ loka trayaṃpravyathitaṃmahātman || 20 ||

20. The inter-space between heaven and earth, and all the directions are filled by You alone. Beholding Your spectacular and awesome form, O Mahātman, the three worlds are greatly overwhelmed with apprehension.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The words dyāvāpṛthivyor meaning heaven and Earth denotes all the upper and lower planetary systems throughout material existence and the word antaraṃ is all space between them all.

So in all spaces wherein universes revolve and in all spaces and every direction the Viśvarūpa or divine universal form of Lord Krishna could be seen pervading indefinitely.

The phenomenal pervasion of the Viśvarūpa of infinite nature made it irresistibly awe-inspiring and its omnipotence was terrible to behold.

All the three planetary systems such as those inhabited by Brahma, by the Devas or demigods, by the Siddhas or perfected beings, by the Pitris or ancestors, by the Gandharvas or celestial singers, by the Rākṣasas or demons, etc. all were assembled in the air above Kurukṣettra to witness the impending battle between the Pāṇḍavas and the Kaurāvas.

The words mahā- ātman meaning great soul denotes the Supreme Lord being the greatest soul comprised of all souls.

The three planetary systems are distinguished as being inhabited by compassionate beings like Brahma and devas, inimical beings like the demons, and neutral beings like the ancestors.

The word pravyathitaṃ means greatly fearful and panic struck.

The same divine vision that Arjuna was given was also bequeathed at that time in general to all beings and those who were evolved and competent were also able to directly perceive Lord Krishna's Viśvarūpa in all its magnificent and terrible splendour.

If one were to perhaps wonder why would this possibly be so, the answer is that it confirms the reality of the Viśvarūpa from a variety of sources and it irrevocably proves the indomitable power of Lord Krishna's transcendental potency which applies to all living entities.