June 26, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar
Commentary and Chapter 11, God Shows Himself to Arjun
Chapter 11 is the most dramatic chapter of the Gita. It begins with Arjun thanking Lord Krishna for His secret words and His goodness. Arjun says he now is free of his mistakes because he has heard the truth. He accepts all that God tells him and begs God to show Himself. God does so in a spectacular fashion.
The Lord says He appears in hundreds of thousands of forms, colors, and shapes. The thirty-three gods of the Hindu pantheon can be seen in His body as can wonderful forms that have not been seen before. Hinduism believes in one God – ever present as an unmanifest power who manifests at His will or when needed. However, it also acknowledges a pantheon of gods, the superior beings with many powers who populate myths and legends. The Lord tells Arjun that the whole universe can be seen in His body. Furthermore, He says that Arjun can see in Him anything he wishes to see.
The notion that humanity can see anything at all in God is remarkable. It suggests that our perception of God is limited only by our imagination. But the Lord says that because human eyes cannot see Him, He will give Arjun a divine heavenly eye. We can make of this what we will, but Gita’s clear message is that it takes transcendental vision to grasp the reality of God.
What Arjun sees next is an awesome sight. The Lord appears before him transformed, with multiple mouths and eyes and faces on all sides. He wears heavenly jewels, garlands, and garments. He carries divine weapons. He is covered with perfumed pastes. He glows with a light that exceeds the glow of a thousand suns all shining together in the sky.
Full of wonder, Arjun indeed envisions the entire universe in God. He bows down and tells the Lord that he sees thousands of beings in Him as well as the Lord Himself but that he cannot find His beginning, middle, or end. Arjun describes and comments on all that he sees. He says that God is the protector of goodness, that God fills the space between heaven and earth, that the worlds are frightened of God’s wonderful and terrible form and that crowds are entering into God and calling out praises to Him. Arjun himself admits that he fears God’s large shining eyes and His faces with terrible teeth that are like a fire burning the world.
Arjun sees the warriors on both sides of the Mahabharata war rushing into God like rivers rushing into the sea, like moths rushing into a fire toward destruction and he sees the world burning with God’s terrible brightness. He says he cannot understand the reason for this frightening form.
God answers that He is revealing Himself as burning Time, The Destroyer of the World. His purpose is to destroy Arjun’s enemies who will not live even if Arjun does not kill them. God explains that Arjun is merely His instrument and urges Arjun to fight and conquer his foe.
Shaken, Arjun says that he now understands that God is everything real and unreal and beyond both. He sees that all beings are in God and acknowledges God as the Creator, indeed as the father of the Creator. He begs forgiveness for his earlier failure to recognize God’s perfect greatness and asks to again see God in the gentle four-armed form of Vishnu (of whom Krishna is an incarnation).
God agrees and shows Himself garlanded and crowned, holding His disc, club, and conch. He praises Arjun and once again reminds us all of the Gita’s essential message: Whoever works for the Lord alone, whoever loves and trusts Him alone and is filled with kindness toward all beings reaches the Lord.
Chapter 11: God Shows Himself to Arjun
Arjun said: Thank you God for your secret words. Thank you for your goodness to me. Now all my mistakes have disappeared because I have heard the truth from you.
Oh Lord, You are all that You tell me. But I am longing to see You. Oh God, Oh Krishna, if you think I am good enough to see how You look, Oh God, show Yourself to me.
Bhagvan said: Look! I am in hundreds of thousands of different forms, and colors, and shapes.
See in Me all twelve sons of Aditi, the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras who are gods of destruction, the twins who are the gods’ doctors, the forty-nine wind gods, and many many other wonderful forms never seen before.
Arjun, see in my body, the whole world and anything else you want to see.
You cannot see Me with your human eyes so I will give you a devine heavenly eye. With it you will see My power and My greatness.
Sanjay said: After saying this, Krishna showed Arjun His divine universal form.
Arjun saw God with many mouths and eyes, a wonderful sight, with divine jewels and weapons, and heavenly garlands and clothes, and covered with fragrant paste, full of wonder, endless, and having faces on all sides
The glow of a thousand suns all shining together in the sky would hardly be as bright as the shine of God.
The Arjun saw in God the whole universe. Then Arjun, full of wonder, with his hairs standing on end, bowed down to the Lord and pressing his hands in prayer said:
Oh Lord, I see all the gods and thousands of beings in You: Brahma sitting on his lotus; Siva, and the wise men; and heavenly serpents.
Oh God of the Universe, I see You with many arms, many bellies, many faces and many eyes. Oh Lord, I cannot see Your beginning or Your middle or Your end.
I see You with a crown, a club, a chakra, all round and bright like the fire and sun, shining on all sides.
You are the protector of goodness. You never end.
I see You with no beginning, no middle and no end, with unending power and countless hands, with the moon and sun for eyes, and fire for Your mouth burning the world with Your brightness.
The space between heaven and earth is filled by only You. Oh Lord, seeing this wonderful and terrible form of You, God, all these worlds are frightened.
Crowds of divine forms are entering You; some with joined hands are calling out Your names and glories. Some are saying “let there be Peace” and praising You. All are looking at You and are amazed.
Lord, the worlds are afraid, seeing all Your faces and eyes and arms and legs and bellies and teeth, so am I.
Arjun went on: Your many colored forms and wide open mouth and large shining eyes frighten me. Your faces with terrible teeth like fire burning the world frighten me.
Bhishma, Drona, and Karna with some of our warriors are entering You. All the sons of Dritarashtra with kings and warriors are entering You. They are rushing into Your fearful mouth with terrible teeth. Some are stuck between Your teeth with their heads smashed. Like the rivers rushed in the seas, so these warriors are rushing into Your burning mouths. They are going to be destroyed like moths rushing into a fire. Oh God, You are swallowing through Your burning mouths. You are licking all those people. Your terrible brightness is burning the whole world, filling it with light.
Lord, tell me who You are, looking so terrible! I bow down to You. Be kind. Oh God! I wish to know You because I do not understand the reason for Your frightening form.
Bhagvan said: I am burning Time, the destroyer of the world. My reason now is to destroy these armies. All your enemies will not live, Arjun, even though you yourself do not kill them.
So arise, fight, and win glory! Enjoy victory. These warriors, your enemies, will be killed by Me, God, not by you. I am just using you, Arjun, to destroy them.
Kill Drona and Karna and others who are already killed by Me. You will be sure to conquer your enemies and win, so fight!
Sanjay said: Hearing these words of Bhagvan, Arjun trembled and bowed down and spoke in a very frightened and shaky voice.
Arjun said: It is right, Oh God, that the world rejoices and is filled with love by singing Your names and glory. Frightened demons are running away and the saints are bowing to You.
Oh God they bow to You because You are the greatest of the great. You are the Lord of Heaven. You are Sat, what is real. You are Asat, what is not real. And you are beyond both.
You are the main God, the oldest God; You know; You are the knowable. You fill the whole world in different shapes.
You are the wind god, Vayu; the god of death, Yama; and the fire god, Agni. You are the moon god. You are Brahma, the Creator. Indeed, You are the father of Brahma, the Creator.
I bow to You. I bow to You a thousand times. I salute You and I salute You again and again.
Oh Lord of endless strength, I salute You from all sides. I salute You who have endless power, who fill everything. You are all.
Oh God, I did not realize Your greatness. I thought of You only as a friend. I treated You as a friend. Oh God, I beg You to forgive me. Please God, You are perfect. Forgive me!
You are the father and also the greatest teacher. No one can be as great as you. How can anyone be greater?
So, Oh Lord, I bow at your feet and bow low. I want to please You, the ruler of all. Please forgive my mistake. Forgive me like a father forgives his son, like a friend forgives his friend, and like a lover forgives his beloved.
After seeing what was unseen before, I feel happy. At the same time, my mind is afraid. Please show me again Your divine for of Vishnu with four arms, Oh Lord.
I wish to see You again with a crown, and a club, and a chakra, wheel in Your hands. Oh God with a thousand arms, appear again in Your calm four armed form.
Bhagvan said: Arjun, I am happy with you so I have shown you my Universal form which no one before has ever seen. Arjun, in this world no one except you can see Me like this.
Oh Arjun, do not worry or feel afraid from seeing this terrible form of Mine. Feel calm and unafraid. Look, see Me again in my same four armed form, with the conch, the chakra, the club, and the lotus.
Sanjay said: After saying this, Bhagvan appeared again in his gentle four armed form and comforted Arjun.
Arjun said: Oh Krishna, seeing Your gentle form again, I am calm.
Bhagvan replied: This form of Mine is very hard to see. Even the gods are always anxious to see it.
I cannot be seen in this form through studying the Vedas or through suffering. I cannot be seen through charity or in ceremonies.
But by endless love I can be seen in this four armed form. By endless Love I can be known. By endless love I can be entered into.
Oh Arjun, whoever works for My sake alone, reaches Me. Whoever trusts Me, loves Me, loves nothing else, and is full of kindness toward all living beings, reaches Me.
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