Rasa of the Universal Form (Gita 11.20)

dyāv ā-pṛthivyor idam antaraḿ hi

vyāptaḿ tvayaikena diśaś ca sarvāḥ

dṛṣṭvādbhutaḿ rūpam ugraḿ tavedaḿ

loka-trayaḿ pravyathitaḿ mahātman

Although You are one, You spread throughout the sky and the planets and all space between. O great one, seeing this wondrous and terrible form, all the planetary systems are perturbed.

What a cool text!

dyāv ā-pṛthivyor idam antaraḿ hi vyāptaḿ tvayaikena

The sky, the earth, and everything in between you pervade

This is reminiscent of the gayatri mantra – which says bhur bhuvah svah. The divine being exists everywhere are the imagery to covey this is to say that he exists in the sky/heaven, on the earth, and in between too. In this case, Arjuna is literally seeing this imagery visually.

ekena diśaś ca sarvāḥ dṛṣṭvā

Although you are one, I see you in every direction

Sometimes we think that the absolute being cannot really have a shape and form, because that would mean that the infinite is limited in time and space. But this text is giving the revelation that the divine form of the infinite being is simultaneously limited and unlimited.

adbhutaḿ rūpam ugraḿ tavedaḿ

This form of yours, Kṛṣṇa, is astonishing and fearsome

We experience the divine in terms of ecstatic experiences called rāsa. Here, Arjuna is experiencing two intense rāsa – the rāsa of astonishment and the rāsa of fear. Rāsa is the medium by which we exchange true communion with Godhead. The form of Godhead with whom we commune is called the object of the rāsa (viṣaya), and we are the subject – the “shelter” in which the rāsa flourishes (āśraya). Different forms of Godhead evoke different divine experiences of Rāsa. The original form of Kṛṣṇa as the 16 year old prince of the cowheard villiage of Vraja is akhila-rāsāmṛta-mūrti – the perfect object for most fully and completely experiencing all varieties of rāsa. The current form he is taking in the eleventh chapter of Bhagavad-Gita, the Universal Form, is only evoking some secondary rāsas, because it is not the complete form of Godhead, it is only the way God reflects himself into the material world. This form evokes the secondary rāsa’s of astonishment and fear in the āśraya Arjuna.

loka-trayaḿ pravyathitaḿ mahātman

It perturbs the three world, O great soul!

This appears to be a case where secondary rāsa is dominating without the support of a primary rāsa, and therefore may be an illustration of an unsatisfying spiritual experience. It is “perturbing.” Or, perturbation could be seen as a vyabhicari bhava of the experience of adbhuta and bhayanaka rasa. (That is to say it is a passing result of churning the flavors of astonishment and fear). I am not an expert, but it seems that the most important thing for true rāsa to be shared with divine is something called sthāyī bhava – the basic fundamental foundation of emotional relationship between the soul and God. It seems to me that Arjuna does not have the right sthayi bhava (basic emotional connection) with the universal form to be able to actually relish these two rāsas. In fact, perhaps no one really has the right sthayi bhava for that, since the Universal Form is a non-spiritual manifestation of God. Thus there are only symptoms of divine rasa here – like astonishment, fear, and perturbation, but there is no significant transcendental ecstasy.

The point that His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swāmī Prabhupāda makes in his brief comment on this text is that this verse shows that Arjuna was not the only person to perceive this universal form on the battlefield. Not everyone could see it, but that does not mean that only Arjuna could see it. This is important because if an experience is not verified by others, it is less scientifically valid. So Prabhupāda states that Arjuna was not hallucinating or dreaming. Other beings in the “sky” (or the outer space dimensions, you might say?) And other great persons on earth and in the air (the “angels” and similar beings) who did have “divine vision” also saw the Universal Form and were greatly perturbed by the resulting experience of astonishment and fear.

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