The Ecstasy of Bhagavad Gita
I now have the good fortune of discussing the 45th stanza of the 11th chapter of Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Before doing so I would like to say something simple:
To Śrī Caitanya Prabhu, my respect
Although a child, by his grace I will
Swim past the sharks and crocodiles of various theories
And reach the ocean of conclusive truth.
- Caitanya Caritāmṛta Adi.2.1
All glories to my patient and realized spiritual master
Who labored extensively and thanklessly
To give me the wisdom of Bhagavad Gita
And the order to share it.
Our param-guru Śrīla A.C. Bhaktivedānta Swāmī Prabhupāda, has made it possible for us to discuss the conclusive truth of Bhagavad Gita by giving his translation and commentary. His explanation of the text we will now discuss can be read here: http://vedabase.net/bg/11/45/ . Taking these words deep into my heart, I will now express them to you in my own way. May Śrīla Prabhupāda, Śrī Guru Mahārāja, and the great souls who read this be pleased with my small effort.
अद्र्̣स्̣त्̣अ-पूर्वम्́ ह्र्̣स्̣इतो ऽस्मि द्र्̣स्̣त्̣वा भयेन च प्रव्यथितम्́ मनो मे
तद् एव मे दर्शय देव रूपम्́ प्रसीद देवेश जगन्-निवास
adṛṣṭa-pūrvaḿ hṛṣito ‘smi dṛṣṭvā bhayena ca pravyathitaḿ mano me
tad eva me darśaya deva rūpaḿ prasīda deveśa jagan-nivāsa
This unprecedented vision fills me with happiness,
But also disturbs my mind with fear!
So kindly grant me audience with your divine form
As the master of the gods, and resting place of the universe.
Now I will present the subject to be discussed in summary.
- Arjuna was happy to see the Universal Form… why?
- He was also very frightened by seeing it… why?
- He now asks Kṛṣṇa to show a new vision, a divine form… why this wording?
- Which form does he actually ask to see, and why?
Why was Arjuna happy to see the Universal Form?
The answer is about “rāsa.” Sometimes we think that rāsa means relationship, but it doesn’t. The term rāsa really means experiencing an emotion to the fullest. Every emotion is based on a desire, and every desire is based on an object or subject with which we have some type of existential relationship. Thus, relationship is the most important part of rāsa. Relationship is not rāsa, but it is the foundation of rāsa.
In Sanskrit this foundation is called the sthāyī-bhava. The term sthāyī means the part which never changes. In experiencing emotions to their full depth, many components of that experience are constantly changing to provide fresher and newer appreciations of the subject – but the subject itself is styāyī , it never changes.
Since one’s relationship to Kṛṣṇa is eternal, nothing ever breaks or changes it. The present chapter and text of Bhagavad Gita illustrates this point.
Arjuna is Kṛṣṇa’s friend. That is his permanent relationship to the object of divine rāsa, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Friendship is Arjuna’s sthāyī-bhava. You might think that if you saw your best friend suddenly showing 10 million arms and legs stretching across the galaxies, while creating and destroying solar systems with his or her mouth… well, you might stop being that person’s friend and start being their worshipper or fan or something, right? But this is not the case with sthāyī-bhava, which by its very nature extremely resilient and steady.
So, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains Arjuna’s feelings about seeing the terrible Universal Form of Kṛṣṇa. Arjuna did not think, “Oh no, he is not really my friend, he is really the supreme being! Oh no! I must not act like his friend anymore!!!” No, he didn’t think this way at all. Arjuna thought, “Holy moly! My friend is the supreme being!”
Do you see the difference? He does not think, “Oh no, I thought Kṛṣṇa was my friend, but now I know that he is really God.” Not at all, instead he thinks, “Wow, my friend Kṛṣṇa is God!”
That’s why Arjuna expresses that seeing the Universal Form makes him happy.
There are hundreds or more other examples of this type of thing. I will briefly mention a few delightful ones before continuing to the next point.
- - On my first trip to Vrndavana, my spiritual master took a small group of us to a place called Varāha-Ghāṭ (it is quite near the Kṛṣṇa-Balarām Mandīr in Ramana-Reti). At this place the gopis were being rough with Kṛṣṇa (as he prefers!). Kṛṣṇa was defending himself by saying, “Hey, don’t insult me. Don’t you know I am Vishnu?” The Gopis said, “Ha!!! Absurd! If you are Vishnu show us one your daśāvatāra (ten incarnations) right now!” So without hesitation Kṛṣṇa became the huge boar incarnation, Varāha. Guru Maharaja said, “The gopīs were so happy. They did not think, ‘Oh no, we cannot flirt with this boy anymore because he is God.’ Instead they thought, ‘Oh yes! How awesome! Our paramour Kṛṣṇa is God!’
- - Kṛṣṇa’s mother looked into his mouth when he was a boy accused of eating dirt. She saw there the entire earth, sky, space, etc. She got a little dizzy from the experience, but she did not say, “Oh no, this is not my child, this is God.” She said, “This is very perplexing, but somehow the child I gave birth to is the mother and father of the entire universe.”
Why was Arjuna Frightened by the Universal Form?
Although he was happy to see how wonderful his friend Kṛṣṇa really was – the experience filled Arjuna’s mind with a disturbing sensation of fear. What is this fear? It is a fear that he may not have fully appreciated his friend Kṛṣṇa in the past, and therefore may have taken him to be an ordinary friend.
This is merely the inherent constitutional humility of a soul permeated with divine love. One’s relationship to the divine is very special. There are not enough words in any language to properly describe what a treasure it is. The self-realized beings saturated with the śakti of love cherish their intimate friendly relationships with God. They never for a moment think Kṛṣṇa is an ordinary friend, ordinary child, or ordinary lover. There is no lack of God-realization in prema-bhakti. Quite the contrary, it is the fullest realization of Godhead!
Arjuna never, ever treated Kṛṣṇa improperly for a moment. When a selfless soul loves Godhead so intensely, he treats Kṛṣṇa as though Kṛṣṇa needs him, needs her. Actually, this is what Kṛṣṇa lives for! This is why he took the trouble to exist and manifest existence. He is dying for us to treat him in this way: that we should love him so powerfully that it makes us feel that our service, our affection for him is imperative to his well being. And do not doubt for a millisecond that existentially the conclusive truth, the siddhānta is that Śrī Kṛṣṇa does need our affectionate service, loving friendship, caring paternal protection, and intimate romantic caresses. Without these, there is no meaning to his existence and the entire creation dims and becomes morose.
This is the great mystery of existence, more profound than any other. Those who have not at least, by the incomprehensible kindness of a pure Vaishnava, tasted a brief hint of the fragrance of Śrī Vraja-Prema simply cannot understand what this is really all about. They remain confused and dull headed. May we all be blessed to roll in the dust of Śrī Vraja-Dhāma without interruption, while hearing the beautiful name and glories of Kṛṣṇa through the heartfelt words of Śrī Guru and Śrī Vaishnava-gaṇa 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
In conclusion, there is nothing improper at all in Arjuna’s treating Kṛṣṇa as a friend, etc. But out of the inherent humility which results from true love, Arjuna is worried that he might not have been loving and caring enough as Kṛṣṇa’s friend in the past.
Why does Arjuna ask to see a “divine” form?
Now, since Arjuna has become a bit dizzy and unsteady as a result of this completely amazing vision of the Universe within God… he is asking for it to stop. Roller coasters are fun, but also short. It is better that way.
Why does he use the term, “divine” form (deva-rūpam)? Wasn’t the universal form divine? No. It was divya or celestial, but not deva-rūpa – divine form. This is not splitting hairs, it is common sense. The Universal Form is, at the name defines it, a form pertaining to the universe. The universe is the material manifestation, also called jagat. Now Arjuna is asking to see Kṛṣṇa in a more elevated form, a form that is transcendent to the material universe.
Which Form Does Arjuna Ask to See, and Why?
Arjuna asks to see the form of Kṛṣṇa that is deveśa and jagan-nivāsa – the god of all the gods, and the abode of the Universe. Previously Kṛṣṇa showed Arjuna the Universal Form. Now Arjuna is asking for something better – “please show me the form that is the origin of this universe and this Universal Form.”
Deveśa – the god of all the gods – is Vishnu. Fans of other gods may argue otherwise by their opinion is merely emotional. May they keep their opinion and may it serve them well on their evolution towards the ultimate realization. An objective and thoroughly non-biased study of the Vedic scripture clearly confirms that although Vishnu and Shiva are one, Vishnu is the original and Shiva is the transformation (See Brahma-Samhita, Rg Veda, et. al.). Therefore although Mahādeva Shiva is the greatest of the gods and the master of them all, Śrī Vishnu is the origin of Mahādeva and thus the deveśa.
I offer my respectful obeisances to the devotees of the all auspicious Lord Shiva. May the dust of their saintly feet bless me with love of Kṛṣṇa, such as is possessed by their master, Gopeśwar Mahādev.
Arjuna asks to see Kṛṣṇa in the form of Vishnu, and in case there is any doubt of whether he is asking to see Shiva Ji or Vishnu, he clarifies further that the deveśa he wants to see is the jagan-nivāsa: The resting place of the universe. It is well known by everyone with any Vedic study whatsoever, that Shiva is the destroyer of the universe, Brahma the creator, and Vishnu is its resting place (nivāsa).
One may ask if the form of Vishnu is really deva-rūpa? After all isn’t it a form in relation to the universe which it supports? No. Vishnu is the transcendental Nārāyaṇa who exists outside the Universe, as well as pervading it to maintain its energetic viability.
So, Arjuna is asking Kṛṣṇa to show himself now as Vishnu – whose trademark is the brilliantly dark complexion with four arms holding a conch, lotus, club and discus. Although really, Arjuna would like Kṛṣṇa to return to his original, intimate two-handed form; after such a dizzying experience as we hear described in this chapter, he proposes to proceed, “one step at a time.”