Visvarupa Darsana Yoga

Between this chapter and the last there is a delicate
epistemological distinction. In the last chapter it was taken
for granted that there were certain unique values expressed
through actual entities belonging to the visible or at least
the conceptual world. They thus had a status of their own.
Starting with Chapter vii it was an empirical or
ontological approach from which the earth at one end of a
series and egoism at the other end, were reviewed. In
chapter ix the items or categories were seen further
sublimated in Verses 17-19 in terms of personalized aspects of
the Absolute. In Chapter x again, the Absolute was the origin
of all the entities involved. Personal endowments and
qualities of contemplative life were referred to in x, 4-5.
The absolutist touch in persons or entities was recognized
indirectly through somewhat vague generalities such as
perfections, graces or valid truths in X, 19-39. The approach
through the ontological aspects of the Absolute did not
however, really make the notion of the Absolute clear
enough. Naturally, therefore, Arjuna is left with a feeling of
dissatisfaction, and here he takes the initiative and begins
this chapter with an express desire to satisfy himself with a
more definite view of the Absolute. The answer to this desire
is in the form of a universal vision of the Absolute which
occupies the greater portion of this chapter.

We find three different sets of descriptions of the vision
presented in this chapter. Samjaya comes in again, and as an
impartial reporter of events he takes a cold and matter-of-fact
view of the vision from his own standpoint, somewhat
cosmologically, after the style of the Purusha Sukta of the
Rig Veda. There the cosmic man has innumerable hands and
heads. In Samjaya's picture the element of awe is not
predominant. On the other hand there is a conventional
complacency and childish references to perfumes and jewels.
Secondly, there is Arjuna's standpoint, most of which is in
a special metre attuned to a note of religious exaltation,


characterizes his whole attitude. It is coloured more by
theology than by cosmology. It ranges from the
conventional starting-point of a Vishnu known to
mythology, through various other forms of religious
exaggeration, to the desire to return (in Verse 46) to the
same conventional picture of a mild and soothing Vishnu.
Thirdly, running through these two varieties we hear the
steadying voice of Krishna himself, referring to his own
absolutist nature which, although free from the
cosmological or theological presuppositions or prejudices,
he attributes an even higher value to his own innate
spiritual supremacy, than what is implied in the more
conditioned vision of the other two. Krishna points out
clearly in Verses 48 and 52 that the vision here is beyond
the reach of all conventional religious notions hitherto
known, in spite of its being a marvel, as he says in Verse 6.

Moreover according to him it is a vision to be
seen only through the eye of Yoga (Verse 8). It is given
to the contemplative only. Whether Arjuna availed himself
of this offer is not reported by Samjaya.

According to Krishna in Verse 7, the vision is not a static
one. There is no fixed mould into which the vision is
supposed to fit. The man who has the vision can see
whatever he desires to see, according to his own
conditionings. Without conditioning, that is to say in
the case of a man without religious or other prejudices,
it is to be inferred that there is no vision, or that
the vision is of no importance. The vision vanishes,
and instead we have a person who is capable of making
a proper distinction between the field and the knower
of the field and does not therefore confuse or mistake
one for the other, which is the important philosophic
subject dealt with in Chapter xiii.

Chapter xii is apologetic in favour of those who are unable
to rise to such a philosophical state.

The vision in this chapter thus passes from conditioned
ideas of a cosmological person through a vision conceived
in theological terms and attains finally to the full status
of a positive picture of the Absolute in terms of an
imperative force of becoming which reaches tragic heights.


Arjuna uvacha
madanagrahaya paramam
guhyam adhyatmasa samjnitam
yat tvayo 'ktam vachas tena
moho 'yam vigato mama

Arjuna said: by that speech which has been spoken, by You out
of favour for me, the highest secret known as pertaining to the
Self, this, my confusion, has vanished.


The initiative passes again to Arjuna, and he recalls
that it was a special favour conferred on him in the two
previous chapters wherein it was Krishna who took
the initiative in instructing his disciple. At the opening
verse of each of these chapters we noticed the attitude of
full adoption and of favour reflected in the words addressed
to Arjuna. In Chapter ix, as one free from disadoption or
uncarping in respect of the teaching, Arjuna does not
mistrust any more and, therefore, Krishna is willing to open
his heart and confide in him deeper and more secret aspects
of the wisdom that he represents. At the beginning of 
Chapter x we noticed that the confidence gained further
ground. Krishna is there positively interested in the welfare
of Arjuna and therefore in teaching him once again.
This present verse refers backwards to what has been
dealt with in the last two chapters. Krishna's initiative is
definitely referred to here, and that is sufficient justification
for us to believe that the reference is to the two preceding
chapters. The matter developed in previous chapters generally
could come under the title of adhyatma (pertaining to the Self).
Arjuna says now that such was the subject-matter of what
Krishna has just finished discussing. We are therefore led to
think that the two central chapters contain the essential
teaching on the Self which the, Gita intends to present to the
reader. It is true that a superficial scanning of their contents
does not make this fact particularly evident, but in dealing
with these chapters we have taken sufficient care already to
indicate how the subject of the Self is implied throughout
them both. It is not an elaborate or systematic treatise on the
Self that we should expect in these chapters, but a treatment
of the subject of the Self in that neutral, dispassionate and
absolutist way. It is this which gives these chapters the status
of dealing with the Absolute in a way most fitting to the
subject of the Self. It is in this sense that


Arjuna's reference here to the secret Science of the Self
should be understood as having just been declared by

Arjuna, further adds significantly that his own moha
(confusion) has been dispelled by the teaching in the two
previous chapters. This further confirms our view that
these two central chapters contain the teaching of the Gita,
at least in a form which would dispel confusion on the
subject. In xviii, 73, we notice that Arjuna repeats the
statement with the additional remark that he has not only
come out of confusion but has regained his memory. The
teaching of the Gita must accordingly serve other disciples
like Arjuna to dispel their confusion also in the first place,
and then to reorientate their own personalities in terms of

The part covered by the Gita so far has to do with the
first mentioned purpose, and what is to follow may
therefore be legitimately looked upon as having the second
purpose in view, as we shall try to confirm as we proceed
with these chapters which constitute the latter half of the


bhavapyayau hi bhutanam
srutau vistaraso maya
tvattah kamalapattraksha
mahatmyam api cha 'vyayam

The origin and dissolution of beings have been heard by me
in elaboration from You, 0 Lotus-petal-eyed, as also Your
unexpended greatness.


A confident and more intimate attitude on the part of
Arjuna towards Krishna is implied here, especially by the
appellation kamalapattraksha (O Lotus-petal-eyed). This is
to be contrasted with his own attitude after he has seen
Krishna in his universal form in Verses 35 and 42 later.
However, normal relations are again established by Verse 51.
The intermediate phases of Arjuna's exaltation, trance, or
spiritual agony are implied in the words of Arjuna himself
in the rest of the chapter or through the report of

As seen in this chapter, the personality of Krishna ranges
from the most intimate or ordinary human form of a relative
and friend of Arjuna to one where it touches impersonal
heights of transcendentalism, as near to the Absolute as
could be, as it were, from this side of reality. Before
coming to such a presentation there is here a backward


to the appraisal of the Absolute as envisaged in the two
previous chapters. In ix, 4-10, a picture of the Absolute
was already given. The Absolute was referred to both as a
source as well as an emanating principle in ix, 8. In x, 20,
the Absolute is not only the beginning but the end of all
beings. These various references to origin or end are what
justifies the reference here to bhavapyayau (origin and
dissolution). Though these processes are aspects which
seem to contradict each other as phases of a centralized
process of pure becoming, they are attributes of the same
Absolute. Chapter x made an attempt to present a picture
of the Absolute under various categories, each separate
from the other, and all belonging to items widely apart and
lacking in any space-time unity.

A vestige of duality suggested by the dual number employed
in the word srutau ("the two" have been heard) may be
accepted in the sense that the origin and end are not
identical. These have to be treated unitively and such
treatment has already been attempted in parts of the
previous chapters (Cf. ix, 17 ff. and x, 2,14,19 ff).
Thus, taking Verses 1 and 2 of the present chapter, we
find that there is a summary of the title, subject-matter and
characteristics of the two previous chapters, summed-up
by the author himself. This is done with a view to contrast
such contents with what is to follow, where the Absolute
is to be confronted in a more positive, unitive and
objectively conceived manner.

The actualization of the Absolute might have its limitations
and drawbacks in a purely philosophical sense, but
philosophy is not limited to merely idealistic abstractions.
When it does not become too anthropomorphic or puerile or
a localized and temporarily fixed vision, such a
visualization of the Absolute need not necessarily, merely
because of definiteness of treatment, fall outside the
scope of a respectable form of philosophizing. The
philosophical character of the vision of this chapter
will be evident to anyone capable of penetrating behind
the literary device consciously used by the author.
In fact, when we examine minutely the implications of
the vision of Arjuna as meant by Vyasa or as seen through
the direct words of Krishna, the charge that this chapter
represents a childish or very ordinary form of religious
theophany falls to the ground. Arjuna in fact reveals
himself as a full-fledged philosopher in Verse 18 here.
The difference between


this chapter and the two previous ones is the question
confronting us in the present verse.

Hitherto, the Absolute was looked upon through what may
be called pure becoming, non-localized in time and space.
In this chapter, however, Arjuna feels the need for
appraising the Absolute in a more positive, fixed or actual
manner. Krishna's own personality has been tacitly treated
as representing the Absolute from the very beginning of
this work. One is not charged with puerile anthropomorphism
when one uses such an expression as "the body politic".
The more positive a notion becomes, the more it may be
said to be conceived in terms of actuality in location and
time. Making allowances, therefore, for such considerations
and limitations, we come in this chapter to a section
wherein the Absolute is seen as a vision involving a
superior person who in turn represents the Absolute.


evam etad yatha 'ttha tvam
atmanam paramesvara
drashtum ichchhami te
rupam aisvaram purushottama

So it is as You have said Yourself, supreme Lord; I desire to
see Your divine Form, 0 supreme Person.


This verse repeats the idea of x, 15, to call our attention once
again to the fact that the Absolute is best seen from its own
standpoint. To objectify the Absolute, whether concretely or
through abstract concepts, can only be indirect. The vision that
follows in this chapter is therefore to some extent discredited,
but presented as one to be understood with the allowance for the
limitations as implied here.

When Arjuna is said to see the form of Krishna we have to
take it that Arjuna sympathises with Krishna to such an extent as
to identify himself with Krishna and thus to see the vision as
Krishna would see it himself. An externalized vision is not what
is meant here. Verse 8 later implies the same principle of
sympathetic intuition when it refers to the divine eye.
The express desire of Arjuna to have a vision such as
many religious people naturally, believe in, or claim to have
had in their lives, lends its plausibility to support Vyasa's
inclusion of a vision of this kind in the Gita, a vision which


at least be normal in a purana (legend). The request to see
the rupam aisvaram (form divine) comes from Arjuna, who
is theologically conditioned, but this request is not granted
by Krishna, as we have pointed out. It is neither a merely
philosophical description nor a religious vision which is
given in this chapter. Concessions are made both ways and
the vision is both awe-inspiring and real.


manyase yadi tach chhakyam
maya drashtum iti prabho
yogesvara tato me tvam
darsayi 'tmanam avyayam

If You think that it is possible for me to see it, 0 Powerful
One, then do You, 0 Yoga-Master, show Me Your never-decreasing


Arjuna here refers to the vision he is about to have. In the
context of religion and mysticism in general, various kinds
of visions have been described. Some of them depend on
the special psychic state of the contemplative himself, or
the type of mysticism he represents. Well-known mystics
in the Christian and Sufi worlds present a variety which
has been the subject-matter of study on the part of writers
such as William James. From quietism and even erotic
mysticism, through practical religious works, to the heights
of ecstasy and even agony - they present a vast range of
possibilities in the world of spiritual experience.
On the other hand special circumstances may be said to
evoke certain states of mind which may be called exalted
states of ecstasy. These also have their corresponding
visions. A highly mature philosopher can have his own
version of a vision which can be treated both as an allegory
or a true vision in the actual sense.

On the Indian soil there is a tendency for the religious and
the philosophical visions to meet, and one is capable
of being interpreted in terms of the other. In the vision
which is to follow we should notice it is neither the subject
who feels the ecstasy nor the person inducing the ecstasy is
totally responsible for the vision. Arjuna asks for a vision,
but whether the vision is possible for a human being is still
a matter of doubt with him, as he expresses here.


It is again significant that Krishna is addressed as a
Lord of Yoga. A yogi is one capable of assuming whatever
form he likes. In other words, he is one capable of sliding
upwards or downwards in the contemplative scale of
values represented in his own personality. He is not
statically fixed to any one type of personal expression, but
enjoys a certain degree of freedom.

The request here by Arjuna is that Krishna should
present himself as the One Self incapable of suffering any
decrease or deterioration. What we should particularly
notice is that the vision is a double-sided phenomenon; by
request on one side and consent on the other, instead of
being of the nature of a one-sided personal weakness.
Samjaya is the mildest visionary; Arjuna is capable of a
higher degree of exaltation - and Krishna himself, as
representing the Absolute, goes beyond what is
understandable or pleasing to either. The full implications
of Krishna's own absolutism are left beyond the reach of
not only Arjuna himself but that of most persons who have
hitherto tried to visualize the Absolute.


Sribhagavan uvacha
pasyame partha rupani
sataso 'tha sahasrasah
nanavidhani divyani
nanavarnakritani cha

Krishna said:
Behold, 0 Partha (Arjuna), My forms, by hundreds
and thousands, various in kind, divine, and of
varied colours and shapes.


Except for what is implied in the expression divyani
(divine), there is nothing in this verse which requires any
special vision at all. Coloured, therefore, by this quality
called divine, which merely suggests a contemplative value,
the vision, instead of starting with any hair-raising item,
refers rather to ordinary physical realities, such as the
multiplicity of forms and varieties therein, and the colourful
nature of the phenomenal world as seen by the ordinary
man. In referring to all of them together in generalized
terms, there is to be recognized however, a mildly
philosophical approach.


pasya 'dityan vasan rudran
asvinau marutas tatha
bahuny adrishtapurvani
pasya 'scharyani bharata

Behold the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the two Asvins,
and also the Maruts; behold many marvels never seen before,
0 Bharata (Arjuna.).


The contemplative vision rises one degree higher here.
Instead of phenomenal aspects that every man can see,
here are ranged certain values which are familiar, as they
have once been covered in the last chapter. The sun
(Aditya) as the largest of luminaries having a direct
influence on human happiness is mentioned first in this
series. The series passes on to include other entities known
to the Vedic world which tend to become more hypostatic
in character, rather than remaining purely phenomenal. The
element of marvel or wonder is correspondingly heightened
one degree.

These marvels described as adrishtapurvani (never seen
before) gives us the hint to what is more explicitly stated
in Verses 52 and 53 later. The claim implied here is that
the teaching of the Gita is a revaluation and a restatement
beyond what has been accomplished by anyone previously.
In other words, a more thorough-going absolutism is
represented in the Gita.


ihai 'kastham jagat kritsnam
pasya 'dya sacharacharam
mama dehe gudakesa
yach cha 'nyad drashtum ichchhasi

Now behold here in My body, 0 Gudakesa (Arjuna), the whole
world, including the static and the dynamic, unitively
established, and whatever else you desire to see.


In the last chapter where unique values were enumerated,
Arjuna was required to arrive at the notion of the Absolute
indirectly through a variety of examples chosen from a vaster
range distributed all over space and time or as contained in
the mind itself. Here in this verse Krishna points out that
there is no need of such distribution in the vision Arjuna


is going to have. The vision is localized in Krishna's own
body, of course, symbolically understood. In the last
chapter the recognition was pluralistic and partial, but here
it becomes a more complete or centralized, unitive vision.
The ambivalent aspects involving static and dynamic
values, here comprised under the expression sacharaharam
(both static and dynamic) are to be viewed as if brought
into a central, unitive focus, ihai 'kastham (here, standing
as one). Arjuna is further asked not to limit himself to what
is given only by such values, but to extend his imagination
if he likes, to whatever else he is capable of visualizing.
Therefore, though localized and fixed, the vision is fully
credited with its own dynamic aspects. This latitude or
concession kindly made in favour of the visionary really
amounts to calling upon him to be more a philosopher than
a visionary. By implication, this suggests that no vision,
however superior, is to be made into a fetish. Even modern
physics gives us an expanding universe full of indeterminism
and not one that is statically fixed.


na tu mam sakyase drashtum
anenai 'va svachakshusha
divyam dadami te chakshuh
pasya me yogam aisvaram

But if you are unable to see Me with this your (human) eye,
I give you a divine eye: Behold My sovereign Yoga.


What is objectively divine evidently presupposes its
counterpart which is the capacity in the subject to recognize
divinity. This law of mutual accord is further confirmed
here, over and above what was implied with reference to
the divine in Verse 5.

The "divine eye" here may be said to be that capacity to
recognize spiritual values, but because the vision is enclosed
in the brackets, as it were, of the first degree or Sanjaya
literary device, so there is no need to take it as seriously as
the descriptions of the vision belonging to the third degree
or samvada (discussion) order. Mere "human eyes", however,
are too weak even to see the continuous flow of events in
time. They can comprise only an empirical view of reality
consisting of disjunct events. A vision of


creative becoming or flux is given only to the yogic or
divine eye. It is the intuitive element implied in such a
vision which is called jnanachakshush (Wisdom-eye)
elsewhere (e.g., xiii, 34 and xv, 10).


Samjaya uvacha
evam uktva tato rajan
maha yogesvaro harih
darsayam asa parthaya
paramam rupam aisvaram

Samjaya said
Having thus spoken, then, 0 King (Dhritarashtra),
Hari (Krishna) the great Yoga-Master showed to Partha
(Arjuna) the supreme Godly Form.


This verse begins the section in which Samjaya again
reports to King Dhritarashtra what happened. Samjaya is
essentially a religious man and besides referring to Krishna
as Hari, which is a name for Vishnu, he looks upon the
vision of the universal form itself through his own
theological conditionings as expressed in the word
aisvaram (divine, godly, pertaining to Isvara, or God).
Isvara is a theological concept belonging to the relativist
and not to the absolutist viewpoint, which latter is proper
to Vedanta.

As a mere reporter in the Puranic or epic setting of the
Gita, this position of Samjaya is only to be expected. But
even as a mere reporter we find such expressions as maha-
yogesvara (the great Yoga-Master) and paramam (supreme).
In effect these words lift the report above the merely
epic or Puranic context towards a Vedantic status.
This is confirmed by Verse 12 later, where Krishna is
described without any conventional religious or theological
reservations. But even here the limitations of the epic
outlook are not altogether absent, as the reference to a
thousand suns is not the same as referring to innumerable
suns. The first degree (Samjaya) device is responsible for
the conservative tinge that still remains.


aneka vakira nayanam
aneka bhuta darsanam
aneka divyabharanam


With many mouths and eyes, with many marvellous aspects,
with many divine ornaments, with many divine weapons held


This verse is reminiscent of the cosmic man familiarly
known as the Purusha Sukta in the Rig Veda (ix, 4, 90).
The Vedic conditioning of Samjaya is sufficiently evident
here, although in the next verse we can definitely
distinguish tendencies belonging to the counterblast to
Vedism in the iconographic language which has distinctly
characterized South Indian spirituality (see "The Word of
the Guru", Ch. xvi. P. Natarajan, Bangalore). Even in the
present verse, the reference, to ornaments and weapons is
more iconographic than purely Vedic.


divya malyambara dharam
divya gandhanulepanam
sarvascharyamayam devam
anantam visvatomukham

Wearing divine garlands and vestures, anointed with
divine perfumes and unguents, a God representing
sheer marvel, without end universally-facing.


Notice here that the element of awe is not yet evident. It
is rather a benign and even luxury-loving god of ritualistic
worship who is portrayed. The universal touch implied in a
truly contemplative attitude comes into evidence only in
the references to the ascharya (marvel), anantam (without
end) and visvatamukham, (universally-facing). The latter
occurred before in x, 33. Taken altogether, the vision, even
according to the report of Samjaya, does not fall short of
an absolute dignified enough for Vedanta, although
cosmological and theological limitations are still evident.


divi suryasahasrara
bhavedyogapad utthita
yadi bhah sadrisi sa syad
bhasas tasya mahatmanah

tatrai 'kasthamjagat kritsnam
pravibhaktam anekadha
apasyad devadevasya
sarire pandavas tadi


If the splendour of a thousand suns were to rise together in
the sky that might resemble the splendour of that great Soul.

There the Pandava (Arjuna) then beheld the whole world,
divided into many kinds, unitively established in the body of
the God of gods.


These verses supplement the description of the cosmic
man in the version of Samjaya. Though still sober and not
given to exaggerations or specialized elaboration, these traits
that necessarily characterize a full cosmic vision are
contained even in this description in what might be called a
nuclear form. Verse 12 in particular, in referring to the
splendour of a thousand suns, uses the favourite simile of
light which has always represented wisdom. The comforting
imagery of the previous verses is discarded in favour of
more positive aspects, such as the brilliance which penetrates
every object. In spite of being. a light, the Being is still
referred to as mahatma (great soul), which keeps the vision
from being understood too diffusedly or as a mere abstraction.
The manifold parts of a cosmic vision referred to in Verse
13 could be the three worlds; bhur, bhuvar and svar, familiar
to the gayatri prayer of the brahmins; or they could be the
fourteen worlds known to tradition, seven below reaching
down to Patala, the lowest, and seven above rising to
Brahma's world or Satya-loka (the world of Truth) where there is
eternal life. Intermediate lokas (worlds) belong to other
spiritual entities such as rishis (seers). A serial or graded
cosmos is here suggested, consisting of the abodes of the
most trivial of creation to that of the highest Brahma. A
contemplative scale of values is here implied.
The reference to the body of Krishna is in the same sense
as we have pointed out under verse 7. The localization does
not detract from the philosophical status of the vision; as
each vision must be necessarily limited by the power to see
on the part of the subject and the power to manifest on the
part of the object (the Absolute).

The expression devadeva (God of gods) ought to absolve
even the vision of Samjaya's report from any charge of being


merely theological, although a markedly theological outlook
was his natural starting-point. The epithet is suggestive of
purushottama (the most high Spirit) elaborated in xv, 18-19.


tatah sa visvamayavishto
hrishtaroma dhanamjayah
pranamya sirasa devam
kritanjalir abhashata

Then he, Dhanamjaya (Arjuna), struck with amazement, with his
hair standing on end, reverently bowing his head to the God,
and with joined palms, said:


In the construction of this chapter we should notice there
is a graded continuity in the vision, irrespective of the
person or character through whose words the vision itself
happens to be described. Arjuna's own vision follows
naturally on the vision reported by Samjaya, and Samjava's
own mood blends with it, except for the difference here
stated that Arjuna was very excited. The tendency to religious
or spiritual exaggeration is therefore only to be expected
in the description that Arjuna himself gives, which now follows.
The reference to hrishtaroma (the hair standing on end)
being a physiological symptom of exaltation, was referred
to already in I, 29. Whenever a situation overwhelms
Arjuna or is too much for him, this symptom appears.
The familiar attitude of a devotee is reflected in Arjuna here
as Samjaya sees him, but Arjuna himself, on recovering
from his exalted state, is seen to establish normal relations
with Krishna once again (as at the beginning of this
chapter) in Verse 51. He apologises however in Verse 42
for any possible irreverence shown to his friend Krishna.
Between these three attitudes of Arjuna, revealed in the
same chapter, the intelligent reader is free to surmise for
himself what Arjuna's proper attitude actually was, in
keeping with his status of a purva pakshin (anterior-sceptic
or questioner-disciple) in the context of wisdom; or of a
mere supplicant in a more traditional or religious sense.
The retention of the word devam (god) in this last verse of
Samjaya's reporting indicates the theological limitation to
which his version of the vision as a whole is to be taken its


Arjuna uvacha
pasyami devams tava deva dehe
sarvams tatha bhuta visesha samghan
brahmanam isam kamalasanastham
rishims cha sarvan uragams cha divyan

Arjuna said:
I see the gods, 0 God, in Your body, and all specific groups
of beings, Brahma the Lord, established on his lotus-seat and
all seers (rishis)and divine serpents.


Arjuna covers the same cosmological and theological entities
or groups in his own way, after the same has been covered
twice already in the words of Krishna and Samjaya. The
elemental or phenomenal expressions are viewed as belonging
to specific groups or categories in the first instance.
To recognize specific groups is the first step towards a
philosophic generalization which is implicit in a
contemplative vision of the whole universe. A plant or an
animal of a particular species has its own status in reality.
Hence the reference in the phrase bhuta visesha samghan
(specific groups of beings) is legitimately of a
contemplative order. Contemplation does not tend to
abolish specific manifested realities, but by grouping them
in a serial order of importance, gives them their legitimate
place in a scale of values ranging from the most ordinary to
the highest spirituality known to man. Ontological aspects
are therefore not omitted but transcended. The reference to
Brahma, seated on a lotus, savours of the favourite
theological-mythological imagery of Hinduism. He is the
first god of creation. A lotus with a thousand petals has
been the favourite symbol of creation both in Hinduism
and Buddhism. Brahma, therefore, represents a unique or
specialized manifestation of a cosmic value. The reference
to such a god after referring to groups of actualities is
therefore quite in place. The lotus seat of Brahma is on the
actual side, while Brahma himself may be considered as
lifted up into a world of contemplative values.

The rishis (seer-sages) as wise men have a superior value
to mere created things however perfect.

The value of serpents in the contemplative context perhaps
consists in their representing time or eternity. The
world of serpents is often spoken of as belonging to a


nether-world of spirituality, and thus may be said to cover
all retrospective values generally. Their divinity consists
in their being included in the contemplative scale of values

The first mentioned in the series here is devas (gods),
suggestive of all the gods of the Vedas. This is
counterbalanced by the reference to the divine serpents.
Vedic gods represent the foreground of the Indian spiritual
scene, while the superseded naga (serpent) worship belongs
to the remote background.


aneka bahudara vaktra netram
pasyami tvam sarvato 'nantarupani
na 'ntam na madhyam na punas tava 'dim
pasyami visvesvara visvarupa

I see You of boundless form on every side, with
multitudinous arms, stomachs, mouths and eyes; neither Your
end, nor Your middle, nor Your begining do I see, 0 Lord
of the Universe, 0 Universal Form!


The difference of treatment of the notions of the Absolute
here and in the previous chapter becomes clear in this
verse. While in x, 2 and 32, the Absolute was viewed from
the angle of a process of becoming and considered as a
source, beginning, middle and end, each distinguishable,
here in Arjuna's vision, these three aspects of the process
tend to be abolished. Samjaya's picture in Verse 10, earlier, is
accentuated on the same lines here to the point of infinity,
instead of being merely numerical. The transition from the
relative to the Absolute must be noted. When a number
becomes too great it tends to be in effect the same as
infinity. A mild relativist vision conforming to general
verities, such as that of Samjaya, when intensified as seen
here, leads to a finalized notion of the Absolute represented
by Krishna's version of his own absolutist glory mentioned
in this chapter and elsewhere.


kiritinam gadinam chakrinam cha
tejorasim sarvato diptimantam
pasyami tvam durniriskshyam samantad
diptanalarkadyutim aprameyam

I behold You with diadem, mace and discus, glowing everywhere
as a mass of light, hard to look at, everywhere blazing like
fire and sun, unpredicable.



There is reference here to the familiar form of Vishnu of
Indian mythology, with diadem, mace and discus. If Arjuna
already sees Vishnu in the universal form presented here, it
would seem incongruous for him again to pray, as he does,
for a vision of the same as stated in Verse 46. There is
perhaps a minimal and maximal degree in the exaltation
implied in the vision. The vision is not one to be conceived
as the product of a single uniformly continued state of mind.
The first reference to the figure of Vishnu which he sees
must be taken as marking a minimal degree of exaltation.
The exaltation becomes too much for him as it proceeds.
By the time the vision develops to what is represented
in Verse 44 it gains the character of an agony rather than
one pleasant or sufferable. It can therefore be thought
that the second reference to Vishnu is by way of a request
to regain normality.

Though a conventional static figure, Vishnu corresponds to
a stage in a scale of values representing the Absolute. Hence
his inclusion in the vision of Arjuna, who is himself
conditioned by the conventions of his time, is not to be
considered out of place.

Further we notice here that it is a dazzling Vishnu rather
than a beneficent godhead. His glory transcends the
conventional relativist limits usually associated with
Vishnu as a beneficent god.

The epithet aprameyam (unpredicable) gives the hallmark of
philosophy even to this verse which seems to stem from a
theological Vishnu. The verses that follow accentuate the
same tendency much more specifically. There is no reference
here to Vishnu as one of the avatars, which is an idea later
than the Gita as Prof. Lacombe of Paris has pointed out.
The Bhagavata partiality for the vyuha (distributive
arrangement) theory of four divine persons of whom Vasudeva
is the highest, is also absent here (cf. p. 26, "L'Absolu
selon le Vedanta").


tvam aksharam paramam veditavyam
tvam asya visvasya param nidhanam
tvam avyayah sasvata dharma gopta
sanatana tvam purusho mato me

You are the Imperishable, the Supreme (that is) to be
known; You are the ultimate Basis of this universe;
You are the unexpended and everlasting Custodian of
(natural) law; You are the immemorial Person; I believe.


Here there is a mixed reference to widely differing values
from the philosophical and ethical to the cosmological,
reminiscent of the later style of the Svetasvatara Upanishad,
where notions such as dharma (naturally right law) are
treated side by side with merely ontological references.
As the metre itself indicates, a state of high exaltation
and synthetic vision is reflected here, hardly capable of
being analysed.

The expression veditavyam (to be known) implies a far-
off philosophical goal of understanding; while nidhanam
(basis) hearkens backwards to the ontological aspect of the
same reality. Both extremes are further described as either
paramam (supreme) or param (ultimate). The ontological
ultimate coincides with the teleological goal.

The eternal moral conscience and the primordial man also
come together in the second half of this verse, marking the
height of philosophical vision of which Arjuna is capable.
The expression mato me (my conviction is this or, I
believe) indicates that Arjuna himself takes a sure stand
here. He is no more in doubt. When we remember that the
Gita finally recommends the discarding of all dharma (law)
in xviii, 66, Arjuna's reference to moral value here may be
considered as belonging to a merely human context.


anddimadhyantam anantaviryam
anantabahum sasisuryaretram
pasyami tvam diptahutasavaktram
svatejasi visvam idam tapantam

I see You without beginning, middle or end, of never-ending
force, of numberless arms, having moon and sun for eyes;
Your face like a lit fire of sacrifice burning this universe
with Your own radiance.


Here we have another confection in which different concepts
are mixed together to give a new flavour to a revalued
spirituality approximating to the absolutist vision of the
Gita as a whole.

The first line is a repetition of the idea of the urge of
pure becoming, knowing neither middle, beginning nor end. The
second line suggests the cosmic purusha (spirit) with sun
and moon for eyes. The third line is taken from the context


Vedic sacrifices, the brightness of which is a moment in the
eternal present. The fourth line suggests the whole universe
as being consumed by this radiant glow of the Absolute.
In philosophic content this picture is not different from
Krishna's own version in Verse 32.


dyavaprithivyor idam antaram hi
vyaptam tvayai 'kena disas cha sarvah
drishtva 'dbhutam rupam ugram tave 'dam
lokatrayam pravyathitam mahatman

The space between heaven, earth and the intermediate realm
is pervaded by You alone, as also the quarters (directions);
having seen this wonderful, terrible form of Yours, the
three worlds are in distress, 0 Great Self.


The different levels into which earth and heaven and the
space between are familiarly divided, as being populated by
different grades of spiritual entities, ranging between simple
humans to devas (divinities), are here telescoped unitively
into a more comprehensive vision with a tragic touch about
it. The Vedas had the more comforting picture in which
souls were described as floating up to heaven or returning to
earth by a slow accumulation of merit. This naive picture has
been deprecatingly alluded to in ix, 20 and 21.

The present unitive though tragic picture is in keeping with
the spirit of the Gita and with Krishna's own idea of the
Absolute as seen at the end of the present chapter.
The Absolute is for the first time represented by the term
pravyathitam (distressed), as suggestive of unhappiness or
tragedy. This term also suggests a Rudra or a Siva more
than a Vishnu.


ami hi tvam surasamgha visanti
kechid bhitah pranjalayo grinanti
svasti 'ty uktva maharshisiddhasamghah
stuvanti tvam stutibhih pushkalabhih

rudraditya vasavo ye cha sadhya
visve 'svinau marutas cho 'shmapas cha
gandharva yakshasura siddha samgha
vikshante tvam vismitas chai 'va sarve


Into You enter those hosts of the Suras (gods), some
in fear of You mutter with joined palms, bands of great
rishis (seer-sages) and Perfected Ones (siddhas) hail
You with the cry "May it be well!" and praise You with
resounding hymns.

The Rudras, Adityas, Vasus and Sadhyas, Visvas and the
two Asvins, Maruts and Ushmapas hosts of Gandharvas,
Yakshas, Asuras and Siddhas, all gaze at You, wonderstruck.


Different orders of spiritual beings, some purely Vedic
and others belonging to other contexts, including that of
ancestor-worship (the Ushmapas being a class of pitris or
ancestors) are all brought together here as praising the
Absolute. In Verse 22 even the Asuras, the demonic enemies
of the Vedic gods, the opposites of the Suras of verse 21, are
not omitted.

When a god is to be praised in India, it is usual to heighten
the effect by reference to sages like Narada and others who
come to worship him. The gods are thus given a revalued
status. Following the same method here, the status of the
Absolute implied in the vision of Arjuna is said to have the
approbation of all kinds of spiritual entities without
distinction. It is the special privilege of maharshis (great
seer-sages) alone to welcome the vision with svasti (May it be
well!). Others either worship - or watch with fear or amazement.


rupam mahat te bahuvaktranetram
mahabaho bahubahurupadam
bahudaram bahudamshtrakaralam
drishtva lokah pravyathitas tatha 'ham

Seeing Your great form, with many mouths and eyes,
0 Mighty-armed One (Krishna), of many arms, thighs and
feet, with many stomachs, with many terrible teeth,
the worlds are distressed, as also myself.


Beginning with mouths and eyes, here the cosmic man is again
portrayed from top to bottom. The object here is evidently
to refer to his terrible destructive aspect. The reference
to terrible teeth in the third line is evidence of this
intention. In Verse 25 the teeth themselves are compared to


flames. In the irresistible process of becoming, all specific
entities have to be absorbed and lost. Instead of stating this
philosophic verity in plain language, here is the allegorical
representation of a cosmic man with all his limbs, each of
which represents a particular grade in the hierarchy of
transformed values in the cosmic process. The distress at the
same time affects both Arjuna on the one side and the
cosmos on the other side. This is a subtle way of suggesting
a parallelism between the subjective and the objective
aspects of the vision. Contemplative methodology tends to
minimize the distinction between subject and object.


nabhahsprisam diptam anekakavarnam
vyattanam diptavisalanetram
drishtva hi tvam pravyathitantaratma
dhritim na 'vindami samam cha vishno

damshtrakaralani cha te mukhani
drishtvai 'va kalanalasamnibhani'
diso na jane na labhe cha sarma
prasida devesa jagannivasa

On seeing You touching the sky, shining in many
a colour with mouths wide open, with large fiery
eyes, my inmost self intensely distressed, I find
neither courage nor control, 0 All-pervading One.

Having seen Your mouths fearful with teeth like
time's devouring flames, I lose my spatial bearings
and find no joy; be gracious, 0 Lord of Gods,
Container of the World!


These verses continue the picture of the cosmic man with
more subtle touches than in the last verse. Visual aspects
and the light element gain prominence. The teeth are
compared to flames. The epithet "Vishnu" in Verse 24 is used
perhaps as in Verse 30 in the sense of all-pervading as the
word means, and need not suggest a deity.

The overpowering effect of the vision on Arjuna is clearly
stated. This must be due to the highly positive character
of the representation - as scraping the sky, rainbow-coloured,
and then the flamelike teeth spreading everywhere - all of
which portrays an accelerated process of becoming, as the
term kalanalasamnibhani (resembling the fire of
time) suggests.


ami cha tvam dhritarashtrasya putrah
sarve sahai 'va 'vanipalasamghaih
bhishmo dronah sutaputras tatha 'sau
saha 'smadiyair api yodhamukhyaih

vaktrani te tvaramana visanti
damshtrakaralani bhayanakani
kechid vilagna dasanantareshu
samdrisyante churnitair uttamangaih

All these sons of Dhritarashtra, with hosts of rulers,
Bhishma, Drona, and that son of a charioteer (Kama),
with our warrior chiefs

are rushing into Your fearful mouths terrible with
teeth; some are found sticking in the gaps between
the teeth with their heads crushed to powder.


The reference here is to the context of warfare. War may be
compared to a landslide in human affairs. When it is let
loose there is a general reshuffling, fusing or melting of
values, and a new order of things, social, economical, not to
mention political, emerges. It is not merely enemies that are
involved, as each one of the contending parties might
mechanistically think. Kings are involved in it as much as
the adopted son of a charioteer. All belong equally to a
single situation.

Hence the reference to Sutaputra (i.e. Karna), adopted son
of a charioteer. He was a hero and a nobleman in his own right,
but only indirectly connected with the Kauravas and even
the Pandavas. The reason why warriors and heroes are all
put together for destruction must be because they constitute
dynamic social elements. Bhishma and Drona more particularly
represent types of spirituality in their own persons, even
outside the concept of heroism.

The reference to heads being crushed to powder is particularly
ghastly, as in keeping with the warfare which is both actual
and terrible at once. The gaps between the teeth in which some
of these warriors are caught must refer to those like Arjuna
himself who, though hesitating to fight, have no option.
They are hemmed in by two aspects of necessity and


obliged to be pressed onwards, caught in a surging queue
as it were. That everybody is equally involved, including
Arjuna, is again stated in its converse form by Krishna in
Verse 32.

An item such as warfare ought to be thought of in the
process of becoming as one among many such in the cosmic
process as a whole. Hence it is that mouths are
plural here rather than singular. The plural employed in
reference to the interstices between the teeth need not,
therefore, apply to one and the same mouth only. Thus the
meaning we have given above is further justified.


yatha nadinam bahavo 'mbuvegah
samudram eva 'bhimukha dravanti
tatha tava 'mi naralokavira
visanti vaktrany abhivijvalanti

As many rushing torrents of rivers race towards
the ocean, so do these heroes in the world of men
enter Your flaming mouths.


The figure of speech is here modified, from the picture of
a cosmic man devouring all, to one of a cosmic principle
above which absorbs into itself all the varied items of
becoming found in the existing cosmos. These varied
processes are compared to rivers that enter the mouths
which lead presumably into an ocean. The urge of necessity
seems reversed in the present verse. Instead of devouring,
the rivers by themselves, by the force of their currents,
push into the mouths of the sea. The plurality of mouths
employed here becomes a negligible factor, and when we
read also that the mouths are flaming, the realism becomes
completely violated in the mixed metaphor. There is a
strange mixture of realism and symbolism here. This verse
only prepares the way for the picture presented in Verse 31
where realistic imagery is abandoned in favour of a
numinous presence representing the Unknown, attaining the
point of being merely a "tremendous mystery".


yatha Pradiptam jvalanam patanga
visanti nasaya samridhhavegah
tathai 'va nasaya visanti lokas
tava 'pi vaktrani samriddhavegah


As moths speed into a blazing fire to be destroyed,
just so do these worlds also speed into Your mouths
unto their destruction.

Heliotropism is a phenomenon familiar in natural science.
Life turns towards the sun. The bright fire of the cosmic
principle, which has been compared to a vast sea with bright
mouths, is treated here as a light into which everything is
reabsorbed in the great cosmic process of becoming. Just as
knowledge is attractive or interesting to man, so a brilliant
light fills the whole of the interest of an insect and blinded,
as it were, by the interest, it seeks to merge itself in the
supreme light. In the world of human values all unitary
items strive to reach the unitive Absolute. The individuality
of each unit thus becomes extinguished in the boundlessness
of the Absolute. Such are some of the philosophical
implications of the vision represented here.

The reference to lokah (worlds) refers to value systems which
may be said to merge in the supreme value of the Absolute.


lelihyase grasamanah samantal
lokan samagran vadanair jvaladbhih
tejobhir apurya jagat samagram
bhasas tavo 'grah pratapanti vishno

You lick up, devouring all worlds on every side with Your
flaming mouths, filling the whole world with glory;
Your fierce rays are blazing forth, 0 All-pervading One.


The image presented here is not unlike the one in the
Mundaka Upanishad (I, ii, 4), where reference is made to the
seven tongues of fire, the most important one of which is
called visvaruchi (the universe-taster). The universe may be
said to leap into visible form by the principle of light, while
colours, shapes and forms may be said to be gradations in
light. This principle may be said to contain all varieties.
If we extend the figure of speech further backwards and
think of light as representing wisdom, all kinds of values in
this world are implied in the supreme value of the Absolute.
It is in this sense that the glory of the Absolute is said to
fill the very worlds that have entered into Its mouths.


The all-pervading Vishnu conforms to a supreme Sun rather
than a cosmic man as hitherto pictured. Ontological
imagery has given place to one teleologically conceived.
The reference to filling the whole world with glory cannot
be understood if a cosmic man devoured all the worlds. It is
rather the supreme Sun which illumines the worlds, bathing
them all in his own glory. The subtle reversal of the imagery
in the very same vision thus becomes evident.


akhyahi me ko bhavan ugrarupo
namo 'stu te devavara prasida
vijnatum ichchhami bhavantam adyam
na hi prajanami tava pravrittim

Tell me who You are, so fierce in form; I bow to You,
0 superior God; Be gracious! I want to understand You,
0 Prime One, nor do I know Your(positive) continued becoming.


The limit of the vision is reached in this verse in which
it is only a mark of interrogation and exclamation that remains
for Arjuna. The Absolute is still to be known. The vision
only covers aspects of the Absolute, beginning from the
ontological and leading up through the teleological to a
notion that culminates in a tremendous mystery beyond
which it is evidently impossible to reach through visions
and descriptions. Arjuna is left in bewilderment, even at the
end of the most direct of visions that could possibly be


Sribhagavan uvacha
kalo 'smi lokakshayakrit pravriddho
lokan samahartum iha pravrittah
rite 'pi tvam na bhavishyanti sarve
ye 'vasthitah pratyanikeshu yodhah

tasmat tvam uttishtha yaso labhasva
jitva satrun bhunkshva rajyam samriddham,
mayai 'vai 'te nihatah purvam eva
nimittamatram bhava savyasachin

dronam cha bhishmam cha jayadratham cha
karnam tatha 'nyan api yodhaviran
maya hatams tvam jahi mi vyathishtha
yudhyasva jetasi rane sapatnan


Krishna said:
I am world-destroying Time, grown into hardened
maturity, operating here continuously, desolating
the worlds. Even without you, none of the warriors
standing in the opposing armies shall continue to

Therefore do you arise and gain fame. Conquering
your foes, enjoy the realm of abundance. By Me
even they have been already slain. Be you the inci-
dental cause only, 0 Left-handed One (savyasachin)

Drona and Bhishma, Jayadratha, Karna and other
great battle-heroes, these are all slain by Me. Do
not be distressed. Fight on, you shall conquer in
battle your rival (co-warriors).


These three verses coming from Krishna form a section of
their own and offer certain problems connected with the
teaching of the Gita.

There is apparently a definite incitement to war and
encouragement on the part of Krishna here. Many scholars,
especially those who have no religious affiliations to India,
have very pertinently put their finger on this most important
problem. It could be stated thus: "How could Krishna, who
represents the Absolute or God and thus goodness and the
highest of spiritual and ethical values, encourage warfare
in which the killing of fellow-men is involved?"
Various answers have been put forward by people, ranging
from mere religious apologists to philosophers, but the
vagueness that has surrounded this problem remains to
this day. We shall therefore scrutinize these verses very
closely for an answer consistent with the teaching of the
Gita as a whole. The following considerations could be
(1) Throughout the Gita, which is part of an epic poem,
there is a general background of warfare which comes into
evidence in such expressions describing Arjuna as
paramtapa (O Burner of Foes) and purusharshabha (O Bull
among Men). We might say therefore that the epic setting is
the canvas,


and that the Gita teaching itself is the painting which should
not be mixed up with the canvas. The incitement to war
therefore forms part of the natural or inevitable background
of the Gita, which Vyasa could not completely efface without
lifting the painting from its natural canvas.

(2) Arjuna himself is but one of the ordinary human characters
of the epic narrative. He has his own status outside the
wisdom-context as one of the Pandavas with his own interests
to safeguard. However much a man might be a philosopher,
there are human limitations to the reaction that a given
actual situation might have on an individual. Taking Arjuna
as a simple man among men, it is but natural that his
brother-in-law whom he loves and confides in intimately,
should advise him not to be a backslider when caught in the
imperative necessity of a war situation. As Narayana Guru
once put it briefly, Arjuna would have repented for not
fighting if he had retired from the battlefield in a moment
of philosophical confusion.

(3) We have noticed throughout that each chapter of the
Gita formed a close system of its own or darsana (special
vision of reality) and the consistency of statements in each
chapter had to be referred to its own proper frame of
reference and not crossways between two different visions
of reality.

We noticed further that in the earlier chapters which make
the anterior half of the book, the problem is approached in
a realistic spirit. For example, there was reference in ii,36
to the extreme distress that ill repute would bring to Arjuna
if he should run away from the battlefield. There are
situations in the necessary context of life in which it
is no more possible to make any choice between alternatives.
The vulgar name for such a force may be destiny or fate.
More respectable names for it would be providence or chance.
There is an element of determinism running side by side
with indeterminism in the nature of the physical, world, as
scientists recognize. Newton's laws hold good side by side
with Einstein's theories. The man who is caught in a surging
queue can hardly decide which way to move. A woman
advanced in pregnancy has hardly any choice whether to
give birth to a child or not. The imperative urge of
becoming has a force that has to be reckoned with,
especially when circumstances have become hardened around it.
A war situation represents exactly this kind of hardening.
This is what has been referred to in Verse 32 as pravriddhah


(grown into hard maturity). A benignant god is not implied
in this chapter. On the contrary Krishna says definitely that
he has come to destroy. We remember that Krishna in ix,
29, represented a neutral if not a benign personality. In v,
25, he pronounces himself as the friend of all beings.
The structure of the Gita is conceived in such a way that
if the earliest chapters are like the stones on one side of an
arch, tending to support it from the ground, the later
chapters have to perform the same function starting in
another direction. The role of the keystone is fulfilled by the
two central chapters. The present chapter comes after the
symmetrical centre of the arch has been passed, and in
keeping with the general scheme we can expect the
treatment here to be different from the central and earlier
chapters. The discussion in the earlier chapters centred
round a doubting Arjuna. Here in the later chapters, the
centre of interest is shifting degree by degree to Krishna
himself, as an actively positive and determining Godhead or
Providence. In fact such a tendency reaches its culmination
in xvi, 19, where he becomes an angry or chastising deity.
The Absolute is not to be looked upon as an impotent or
spent force. It is a virile and radical principle, sometimes
evident with a touch of tragic heroism. Creation is both
comic and tragic, benign and terrible, when viewed from its
own negative or positive side. The necessary and the
contingent aspects exchange positions, yielding primacy to
one or the other, depending on the angle from which reality
is viewed.

When all the different possible views about the Absolute
are put into one living whole as finally given to the intuition
of a wise man, that should represent reality; and this is what
the Gita attempts to accomplish. It is usual even on the part
of scholars to say that the Gita contradicts itself in numerous
places. In the light of the suggestion we have made here that
each chapter is a distinct darsana (vision of reality), and
that each has a general innate structure of its own, with its
own frame of reference, and that statements can tally strictly
only within the four walls of each chapter, the charge of
contradiction in the Gita would fall to the ground.
Further the oft-repeated saying that the Gita gives an
answer to any question of any man at any stage of life, which
cannot be a compliment to the definiteness of the Gita's
teaching, becomes understandable in a new light by which


the different statements fall into a certain organic and
symetrical order which the author has in mind.

(4) Coming to the philosophical content of these verses
we have the key-word when it is indicated by Krishna that he
represents kala (time). In earlier chapters and even in the
present chapter in Arjuna's words, the Absolute was
represented as being without beginning, middle or end. This
is not the same as pure duration. It is conceived in terms of
events belonging to the outer world, even when understood
as the ticking of a clock.

Krishna therefore refers to himself here as an irreversible,
inexorable factor of necessity in terms of the flow of
outward physical events. We see people dying as time, like
the great car of Jagganath, passes on. The imperative tragic
march of time is known to literature, especially to great
writers such as Shakespeare who speaks of a providence
that shapes our ends, or of a tide in the affairs of man. The
choice is "to be or not to be" and "to be" has necessarily to
be voted for. Such is the imperative nature of necessity in
which warlike or tragic heroes get caught. The jaws of time
hold them between its teeth as pictured earlier, with no
choice whatever between "to be" or "not to be". Such a
crude and harsh picture of war actualities subjected to a
contemplative vision of the first degree extends from Verse
9 to Verse 35 inclusive. These are brackets enclosing crude
actualities of the order of the first degree device of Samjaya.

(5) This stress on the necessary aspect of the Absolute,
though stated so unmistakably in this chapter and carefully
enclosed within the brackets of the first degree Samjaya
device, does not, however, compromise the philosophical
nature of the Gita as a whole. There are categoric statements
inserted throughout the chapters which retrieve it from such
a disastrous one-sided and fatalistic teaching. We shall refer
to them as we pass on.


The purushottama (supreme spirit) of Ch. xv.18 and 19, is above both necessity and contingency, as we shall see. en when speaking of the gunatraya (three specific natural factors) in xiv, 23, it is the man who takes a neutral position above necessity who is held up as an example, and not one who merely succumbs to necessity, however strong that necessity might be. The overall philosophical nature of the Gita is finally confirmed by the well-known Verse in xviii, 68.It is true that the primacy given to necessity continues unabated till Verse 35 of the present chapter, and continues in a more toned-down form, even up to xviii, 62, but finally we notice




that the tone again changes where it catches up with the
general spirit in which the Gita has been conceived by its
author as a whole. Finally, it is only the neutral Absolute and
the establishing of a bipolar relation with it that matters.
In answer then, to the major problem stated earlier, the
position reduces itself to this: besides the requirements of an
epic and consideration for the sentiments of a human
Arjuna, there is a simple recognition here of the need for
Arjuna to understand the imperative force of necessity in
which he happens to be caught without any choice. The
Absolute cannot reverse its own necessary laws, and one is
obliged to be part of it.

Freedom, however, remains in its own domain, unaffected
by any limitations of necessity. Krishna's role is not that
of a war-monger in the ordinary sense, but that of a wise
friend who is capable of appraising the situation in both
philosophical and actual terms. He is speaking here merely
as a representative of both the field and the knower of the
field, as explained in Chapter xiii, but this in no way affects
his own status as purushottama (the supreme spirit), that is,
as one who transcends this duality.

Verse 34 makes it clear that it is the possible regret of
Arjuna with which he is concerned. When the inevitable is
anyhow to win the battle for Arjuna, Arjuna is merely, as it
were, one swallow in relation to a summer as pointed out in 
 ii, 32. Even his fighting does not count because it is only
to be looked upon as incidental to the larger situation, as
stated in Verse 33.

To sum up, if one should ask for a pointed and simple answer
to the problem raised above, we could state that Krishna found
that Arjuna would lapse into regret later if he did not give
him the encouragement to play his natural role.

The negation of trying to live in a vacuum was the danger
that Krishna helped his friend successfully to avoid under
very special circumstances.

In Verse 32 the word kala (time) should not be understood
in pure terms, because of the reference to its active agency
in destroying the world. Arjuna wanted to know what the
active agency of the Absolute could be (at the end of Verse
31). The expression pravrittah (positive continued becoming)
must there fore refer to the same action implied in the
question. But pravriddhah (grown into hardened maturity)
implies that even


activity can have a more hardened manifestation in which
any flexibility, choice or adaptability to circumstances
becomes out of the question. Necessity clinches all

The reference to the opposing armies in Verse 32 is different
from what is treated more dualistically in Verse 34 as
sapatnan (rival co-warriors). In Verse 32 the two parties
are referred to without distinction. The absence of Arjuna
would not make an appreciable difference to the situation
taken as a whole. Moreover the warriors are not referred to in 
ii, 32 as dying, but rather as na bhavishyanti (shall not be)
or as ceasing to exist.

The process of becoming should be visualized with both of its
aspects together. Life or food is referred to as living upon 
life or food itself in the Taittirya Upanishad (valli, iii).
Something like a Zeno paradox is presented here. Time
visualized, even objectively as here, is a process of ruthless
becoming, constituting the tragic problem of evil that has
never been explained away by any philosophy, however


In Verse 33 Arjuna is personally addressed in his own
individual interest. Philosophy is not allowed to cloud or
vitiate the commonsense issue involved. The necessary side
of life in its most pressing aspects is not to be and cannot
be brushed aside. Wisdom is not meant to cloud commonsense,
as in so many forms of vague opinion or religious piety. Both
wisdom and commonsense are complementary, and have their proper places, as developed and conclusively stated in xiii, 23 and


The neutral attitude of the wise man results from the cancelling
out of the necessary against the contingent and not by giving
undue prominence to one or the other. Yoga theoretically amounts
to this.


The reference in Verse 33 to anticipatory killing could be looked
upon in two ways: first, that all objective existence, being
subject to change, has no intrinsic existence in the eternal;
and secondly that evil, being based on something false and
non-existent, has no proper being as such. A bad man is already
dead. Good men approximate to values that are eternal, and
bad men to the extent that they are bad may in principle be said
to have already perished. The yasha (fame) must be construed here
to mean fame based on something real or good, and likewise rajyam
samriddham (realm of abundance of goods) need not necessarily refer to that particular kingdom that Arjuna can legalistically claim.
It might refer more generally to the way that leads to a more
abundant life.




Nimittamatram (incidental cause only) should also be understood
with its logical implications. Taking the familiar example
of a potter at his wheel, the clay he uses is the material
cause which is of a fundamental nature. The potter and the
wheel could vary according to circumstances. The particular
potter does not count, nor the particular pattern of the wheel.
These are often distinguished in India as upadana (the material
cause) and nimitta (the efficient cause) respectively.
The potter and wheel are merely instrumental, or of incidental
importance only, varying according to circumstances. Arjuna here
as a person is therefore just an incidental factor in a larger
situation that is given; he is only being reminded of this verity.
Whether the reference in Verse 33 to savyasachin (left-
handed one) is intended to reflect discredit on Arjuna is not
quite clear, but according to Sankara the word can be
interpreted as referring to the ambidextrous skill of Arjuna
rather than his being merely left-handed.

In Verse 34 specific names are mentioned. Although all of
them are to be feared, they are by no means the worst
examples of bad men ranged against Arjuna's side. Why
therefore specific reference should be made to such good
teachers and warriors of worth is a relevant question. They
represent superior values in themselves, even outside the mere
context of warfare, as we have already pointed out early in
this work. The spirituality imparted to Arjuna now, being
thoroughly absolutist in its character, supersedes every other
value, however esteemed it might have been till now in the
anterior context of the Mahabharata war. Therefore the
specific mention of these names must be intended to point out
the superiority of the revalued spirituality of Krishna which is
now Arjuna's also. Karna and Jayadratha are warriors who
hold secret weapons or boons of a divine nature. Drona
represents values implicit in Vedic ritualism, and Bhishma is
a patriarch and model of a man of abnegation and chastity.
The expression ma vyathishtha (be not distressed) refers to
any possible hesitation remaining in the attitude of Arjuna
even after the explanation given, more particularly in regard
to the Gurus (teachers) such as Drona and Bhishma. It does not
recommend ruthless or pitiless killing as some loose
translators would seem to imply.

In the last line Krishna is not deteriorating into a fortune-
teller. In keeping with the Upanishadic dictum that truth alone
prevails, the meaning is to be construed in comprehensive


terms, rather than as referring to the incidental
personalities involved. An absolutist victor, as Arjuna is
recommended here to be, need not even know the names of
his individual rivals. He is not to think of them
relativistically as acquaintances belonging to narrow or
limited contexts.

The expression sapatnan (rivals) so reminiscent of sapatna
(co-wife of a common husband), would seem to suggest that
there is at least one interest common between them and
Arjuna, while in certain other matters the interests
clash. It is the final truth that should prevail as against
any parties dualistically understood, whatever their status.


Samjaya uvacha
etach chhrutva vachanam kesavasya
kritanjalir vepamanah kiriti
namaskritva bhuya eva 'ha krishnam
sagadgadam bhitabhitah pranamya

Samjaya said
Having heard that speech of Kesava (Krishna) the Diademed One
(Arjuna) with worshipfully joined palms, trembling, inclining
himself again before Krishna, with emotional stuttering, in
sustained fear, bowing down, spoke.


The intervention of Samjaya here is perhaps intended to
punctuate the climax of the vision that has been reached as
Krishna describes his own form. The vision itself was lifted
somewhat out of the human context and, having fulfilled its
purpose, had to be discarded for the continuation of the
theme of the Gita again from a more human standpoint.
Samjaya, therefore, brings in his religious note wherein there
is Arjuna in a crisis of emotion, unable to pronounce his
words with clarity, sagadgadam (with emotional stuttering).
He is even said to be prostrating completely, cowed down
with an abject form of fear, bhitabhitah (in sustained fear).
This is not at all in keeping with the self-respect of a warrior.
The conventional picture of a supplicating worshipper here
might be in place in a Puranic (legendary) religious setting,
or perhaps when a seeker of wisdom finds the Guru's teaching
too much for him. Whatever may be the consideration here,
Samjaya's words are meant to punctuate the climax of the vision.


Arjuna uvacha
sthane hrishikesa tava prakirtya
jagat prahrishyaty anurajyate
cha rakshamsi bhutani diso dravanti
sarve namasyanti cha siddhasamghah

Arjuna said:
0 Hrishikesa (Krishna), it is but right that the world
is delighted in praising You, that demons fly in fear
to every quarter, and (that) all hosts of perfected
ones bow in adoration to You.


Verses 36 to 43 contain Arjuna's words in the form of a
panegyric of exalted devotion. The awe-inspiring picture is
abandoned in favour of a state of world rejoicing as
indicated by jagat prahrishyate (the world rejoices). Only
the rakshasas (demons) are terrified. The siddhas (beings
perfected through psychic discipline) take a worshipful
attitude. There is a return to conventional scales of values
and devotion in the sense of ordinary bhakti (adoration).
We thus approach the vision once again from the more
human standpoint. We notice here also that Arjuna speaks
with a certain authority of his own, even as a philosopher, in
the next verse.


kasmach cha te na nameran mahatman
gariyase brahmano 'py adikartre
ananta devesa jagannivasa
tvam aksharam sad asat tatparamyat

And why should they not bow to You, 0 Great Self, more
venerable even than Brahma the first maker, 0 Endless God of
gods, Basis of the Universe! You are the Imperishable One,
Existence and Non-Existence, and What is beyond (even) that.


Although starting conventionally, Arjuna here transcends
conventional limits altogether and by using sad-asat
(existence and non-existence) together, again reaches the
highest point in Vedantic philosophical speculation. The
reference to the Absolute as being greater than Brahma
himself, who is the first creator, lifts the vision above the
level of theology. The reference to the Absolute as the basis
of the whole universe and as tatparam yat (that which is
beyond) brings together two extreme aspects of the vision
that we have noticed in Verse 28.


tvam adidevah purushah puranas
tvam asya visvasya param nidhanam
vetta 'si vedyam cha param cha dhama
tvaya tatam visvam anantarupa

You are the first of the gods and the Ancient Spirit
You are the Supreme Basis of the Universe ; You are both the
Knower and the Knowable; You are the (transcendent) Beyond
and the (immanent) Receptacle (here); the universe is pervaded
by You, 0 One (capable) of Limitless Form!


The same mixed imagery in which ontological factors alternate
with the hypothetical, continues. The references to vetta 'si
vedyam cha (the knower and the knowable) and also to param
(the transcendent beyond), i.e., the hypothetical, and to
dhama (basis) here and now, i.e., ontological, in pairs
together, mark the synthetic style adopted.


vayur yamo 'gnir varunah sasankah
prajapatis tvam prapitamahas cha
namo namas te 'stu sahasrakritvah
punas cha bhuyo 'pi namo namas te

You are Vayu (wind deity), Yama (death deity), Agni
(fire deity), Varuna (sea deity), Sasanka (lunar deity),
Prajapati (first of progenitors) and the Great-grand-sire;
Hail! Hail to You! A thousand times and again, Hail!
Hail to You!


The juxtaposition here of the idea of Prajapati (first of
progenitors) and prapitamaha (great-grandsire) is unusual.
Any one of them would have sufficed normally, but the two
epithets are intended to fuse the Vedic cosmology with the
tradition of ancestor-worship.


namah purastad atha prishthatas te
namo 'stu te sarvata eva sarva
ananta viryamita vikramas tvam
sarvam samapnoshi tato 'si sarvah


Prostrations to You before and after; prostrations to You
on every side; 0 All, of endless potency and immeasurable
strength; You terminate all, then You become all!


The prostrations in the first line, before and after, may
refer to the time-dimensional aspect of the Absolute, and the
prostrations in the second line to points in space.
The reference to virya (potent power) has to be distinguished
from vikrama (overt strength). Potency is what comes into
effect through duration, while overt strength expresses itself
at a given moment in all directions like a bomb that bursts.
Or the difference can be said to be something like that
between a snake and a tiger.

The two expressions samapnoshi (you bring to conclusion) and
tato 'si sarvah (so you are all) must also be understood as
implying the same contrast between time and space. There is
a subtle interrelation between time and space implied here


sakhe 'ti matva Prasabham yad uktam
he krishna he yadava he sakhe 'ti
ajanata mahimanam tave 'dam
maya pramadat pranayena va 'pi

yach chi 'vahasartham asatkrito 'ti
vihara sayyasana bhojaneshu
eko 'thava 'py achyuta tatsamaksham
tat kshamaye tvam aham aprameyam

Whatever I have said rashly from carelessness or
fondness, addressing You as "0 Krishna, 0 Yadava,
0 Comrade" thinking of You as an intimate and ignorant
of this Your greatness,

and for whatever jesting irreverence I may have shown You,
whether at play, reposing, or seated, or at meals, either
when remaining by myself, or when You were present, that
I ask, 0 Achyuta (Krishna), to forgive, 0 Unpredicable One!


The section covering Verses 41 to 46 alludes to various
forms of devotional or bhakti (adoration) relationship
extant or possible. This is to be dealt with on its own in
the next chapter.


The review of the different varieties in this section must be
by way of preparation, and to contrast them with that single
type of devotion recommended in the last verse of this
chapter, and throughout the Gita generally.

The method of the Gita is never to condemn a lower form
of ritual worship or devotion in opposition to the highest
form recommended, but always to treat them hand in hand.
Various forms of sacrifice and Yoga have been similarly
covered in the earlier chapters, without decreasing the
stress on the best form recommended at the end of each
discussion (see iv. 23-32 and also chapter vi.).

The Puranic (religious, legendary) type of devotion was
reflected in Samjaya's speech in Verse 35. Arjuna's own
pattern of worship conforms to what may be described as
that of an upasana-murti (worship of a fixed form for
purposes of ritual offering) of the four-armed Vishnu.
This predilection is sufficiently evident from Verse 17
of this chapter, again repeated in verse 46. But within
the limitations of such a conventional worship, Arjuna is
capable of thinking of different varieties of affiliation
to the Absolute which are correct even in the light of the
canonical text-books likely to have been known to him. But
the Gita as a sastra (canonical text-book) sets its own
standard of devotion which is higher than the conventional.
In Verses 41 and 42 wrong or accidental relationships
possible outside the context of contemplation are all
referred to, with a view to their elimination in establishing
the proper relationship to be described later.

The reference to Yadava is one based on Arjuna's marital
relationship with the clan to which Krishna belonged. This
is but one example of the miscellaneous nature of Arjuna's
relations implied in these epithets.

The phrase tatsamaksham (when you were present) often
translated "in the presence of others" has been so translated
because the relation between Krishna and Arjuna is the
chief subject-matter throughout.

The detailed references to play, repose, seated at meals,
are to show that there are various moments in our everyday
life which are casual and incidental in which one might not
be properly related to the Absolute as recommended in v, 9
and 10 The pardon here prayed for by Arjuna is really for
his acts of omission in conforming to the pattern of life
of a true contemplative in his odd moments.


pita 'si lokasya characharasya
tvam asya pujyas cha gurur gariyan
na tvatsamo 'sty abhyadhikoh kuto 'nyo
lokatraye 'py apratimaprabhava

You are the Father of the world, of the moving and unmoving;
You are to be reverenced by this (world) and (are) the
supreme Guru; none is Your equal; how then could there be
one greater than You, even in the three worlds, 0 One of
incomparable greatness!


The father-son and the guru-sishya (teacher-disciple)
relationships are mentioned here. Krishna is referred to as
the one who has no equal and as the highest to be reverenced.
The attitude is therefore one of intense unitive affiliation
to the Absolute as far as Arjuna is able to understand.


tasmat pranamya pranidhaya kayam
prasadaye tvam aham isam idyam
pite 'va putrasya sakhe 'va sakhyuh
priyah priyaya 'rhasi deva sodhum

Therefore bowing down and prostrating my body, I seek Your
grace, 0 adorable Lord; (it is but proper that) You, O God,
should bear with me, as father to son, as friend to friend,
as lover to beloved.


Bhakti (devotion) in such writings as the Narada Bhakti
Sutras (Verses on Devotion by the Sage Narada) is said to
have different modes. There are, for instance, the dasya
bhava (servant attitude), the asrita bhava (refugee attitude)
and the suhrid bhava (friendly attitude). Coupling worshipper
and worshipped into one situation conforms to a correct
contemplative approach to devotion which cannot be understood
unilaterally. Hence the references here to father-son, etc.,
are very apt, though coming from Arjuna only.


adrishtapurvam hrishito 'smi drishtva
bhayena cha pravyathitam mano me
tad eva me darsaya deva rupam
prasida devesa jagannivasa


kiritinam gadinam chakrahastam
ichchhami tvam drashtum aham tathai 'va
tenai 'va rupena chaturbhujena
sahasrabaho bhava visvamurte

I am glad, having seen what has never been seen by anyone
before, and my mind is troubled with fear; show me that
very form, 0 God; be pleased, 0 God of gods, 0 Abode of
the Universe;

I want to see You even so, diademed, with mace and discus
in Your hand; assume that very form with four Arms,
0 Thousand-armed, O One of Universal Form!


Arjuna here speaks of both fear and gladness at the same
time. Every devotee in his position has to draw the line
between the picture of the Absolute that he can bear and
what is natural to his own previous conditioning. A more
philosophic temperament would perhaps be able to
approximate nearer to an abstract or unconditioned idea of
the Absolute. This largely depends upon temperament and
conditionings depending on each individual.

In keeping with Arjuna's own conditioning, he asks for the
more comforting form of the four-armed Vishnu. He plainly
confesses that the multiplicity of arms and the protean
character of the possible shapes that Krishna is capable of
assuming is too much for him. Arjuna's devotion thus gains
here stable ground again.


Sribhagavan uvacha
maya prasannena tava 'rjune 'dam
rupam param darsitam atmayogat
tejomayam visvam anantam adyam
yan me tvadanyena na drishtapurvam

Krishna said:
By My favour, 0 Arjuna, this supreme form has been shown,
by the Yoga pertaining to the Self, made up of light,
universal, endless, primal, never before seen by any
other than yourself.


In this section of three verses (47 to 49) Krishna examines the
nature of the vision in his own words from his own standpoint
and says, as he has said already and will repeat again, that
the vision is far superior to what is possible through the
Vedas, sacrifices, studies, gifts, rituals and austerity. It
is a culminating vision of the Absolute as revalued and
restated for the first time by Krishna himself. He stresses
the supreme value of such a vision and resumes his normal
form as a human being.

The term atmayogat (through the Yoga pertaining to the Self)
in this verse, refers to the distinguishing feature of the
vision according to Krishna, which should be understood
side by side with the epithets mahatman (great Self) and
yogesvarayogi) which occur in this chapter and
elsewhere. The Absolute is appraised most directly in terms
of the Self, and this truth has already been mentioned in x,

The favour conferred on Arjuna consists of allowing him
to place himself as Krishna's own Self, and thus help him in
having a vision that is superior to all other approaches.
Atma-yogat (through the Yoga pertaining to the Self) is a
new approach different from other theological or
cosmological approaches known generally.


na vedayajna dhyayanair na danair
na cha kriyabhir na tapobhir ugraih
evamrupah sakya aham nriloke
drashtum tvadanyena kurupravira

Neither by the Vedas, sacrifices, nor by study, nor by gifts,
nor by ritual, nor by severe austerities, can I possibly be
seen in such a form in the human world, by anyone other than
you, 0 Hero of the Kurus (Arjuna).


The reference here to nriloka (the human world) admits
that the vision hitherto described is not normally given to
men. Arjuna alone has this unique favour through Krishna.
This brings out the verity so well known in Indian
spirituality that no knowledge is valid without a guru.
True vision of the Absolute comes only by the cancelling
out of two counterparts, one represented by the disciple and
the other by the teacher. Being essentially dialectical,
absolutist wisdom cannot be reached by any one-legged
argument, by ratiocination or eristic forms of reasoning, or
any such one-sided methods, all of which fall short of the
mark as far as the truth of contemplative wisdom is concerned.


As the Gita is never tired of repeating, this underlines
further, as seen in Verse 53 later, that the hitherto usually
recognized approaches to wisdom do not reach that
culminating point implied in the finalized doctrine of the


ma te vyatha ma cha vimudhabhavo
drishtva rupam ghoram idrin mame'dam
vyapetabhih pritamanah punas tvam
tad eva me rupam idam prapasya

Be not distressed, do not be confused, having seen such
a terrible form of Mine; free from fear, mentally
comforted, again behold that very form of Mine (presently)


This verse consoles Arjuna, but definitely admits that the
terrible form did not fit in with the normal human context.
There was a harsh and specialized quality which belonged
perhaps, according to Krishna, to the context of war in
which Arjuna was involved. Krishna would perhaps have
avoided showing this terrible aspect if it had not been for
the hard actualities of warfare which made such a vision,
though somewhat abnormal, necessary all the same. It is
further suggested indirectly that visions and ecstatic states
properly belong to the field of abnormal psychology. The
reference to the human world in the previous verse would
support such a view.

Tad eva me rupam (even that form of Mine) is construed
by Sankara as meaning the four-armed Vishnu. Sankara's
introduction to the Gita itself refers to Vishnu as being
born as the son of Vasudeva, to preserve order and protect
brahmanical values. For our part we do not see why here,
in the absence of any reference to a return to a non-human
four-armed form, such a construction should be given. We
see that Arjuna in Verse 51 refers to manusham rupam (the
human form) which normally should be the antecedent of
the present reference.

Sankara's Puranic (religious legendary) predilections
must be responsible for dragging in the four-armed Vishnu
form into a context where it is absent and unnecessary. This
attitude of Sankara goes well with his condoning of and
conniving at the injustices involved in caste which we had
occasion to point out already.


The reference to Vasudeva as a historical person and to
Krishna being born as an avatar (incarnation from on high)
of Vishnu, even if they should have any validity, hold no
direct interest to the modern man who wants to get at the
root of the Gita teaching as a universal textbook. That the
Bhagavata doctrine of vyuha and the Puranic idea of the ten
avatars are both foreign to the Gita has already been
pointed out under Verse 17 earlier.


Samjaya uvacha
ity arjunam vasudevas latho 'ktva
svakam rupam darsayam asa bhuyah
asvasayam asa cha bhitam enam
bhutva punah saumyavapur mahatma

Samjaya said:
Having thus spoken to Arjuna, Vasudeva (Krishna) again
showed his own form and the Great Self, becoming mild
in form, consoled him who was terrified.


Samjaya's words are meant to close the brackets, as it
were, around the parenthesis of the terrible vision which
was introduced into the Gita to meet the gross requirements
of a war situation. Samjaya makes his appearance again only
at the end of the book.


Arjuna uvacha
drishtve 'dam manusham rupam
tava saumyam janardana
idanim asmi samvrittah
sachetah prakritim,gatah

Arjuna said:
Beholding again this Your mild human form, 0 Janardana
(Krishna), I am now calm, with the living mind restored to
its natural state.


Beginning from this verse to the end of the chapter there
is an absence of the exaltation produced by the vision, and
Krishna and Arjuna continue the dialogue, standing, as it
were, off-stage.


The expression sachetah (with the living mind regained)
suggests that Arjuna has recovered from the exaggerated
after-effects of the vision that was too much for him. He is
conscious of his own personality and normal relationships
as an intelligent and responsible living man.


Sribhagavan uvacha
sudurdarsam idam rupam
drishtavan asi yan mama
deva apy asya rupasya
nityam darsanakankshinah

Krishna said:
This form of Mine which you have seen is very hard to see
indeed; even the gods ever aspire to behold this form.


By saying that even the gods are aspiring for the vision
that Arjuna as a mere human being has had the privilege of
seeing, the status of the Absolute as representing the vision
is raised far above the scope and context of religion
altogether. It must be thought of as being of a highly
mystical or contemplative order.

The expression nityam (ever, always) implies that the
gods can never attain to such a high vision, even if they
should wait for all time. The vision is therefore completely
outside the scope of the theological context to which the
gods belong.


na 'ham vedair na tapasa
na danena na che 'jyayi
sakya evamvidho drashtum
drishtavan asi mam yatha

Not by Vedas, nor by austerity, nor by gifts, nor by
sacrifice, can I be seen in this form as you have seen Me.


This is a repetition of Verse 48 and rejects categorically
all approaches to the vision of the Absolute by religious
methods such as here enumerated.


bhaktya tv ananyaya sakya
aham evamvidho 'rjuna
jnatum drashtum cha lattvena
praveshtum cha paramtapa

But by devotion that excludes all else, 0 Arjuna, I
can be known, seen, and in principle entered into,
Paramtapa (Arjuna).


The way that will surely succeed, not only in producing the
full effect but also in comprehending the full import of
the vision is stated here without ambiguity. This touches the
central doctrine of the Gita, expressed in various ways
throughout the work, in the familiar form of "you shall even
attain to Me".

The attaining here referred to has implications of an
absolutist nature which it would be wrong to overlook.
There is always implied in such instances an identity or
unity of a very thorough character as between the seeker and
the wisdom of the Absolute. Such references by no means
suggest the weak variety of bhakti (devotion), which mostly
consists of clashing cymbals, bell-ringings and parrot-like
muttering of mantrams (sacred syllables). But of course
such practices have their justification, in so far as they
displace worse practices.

The expression ananyaya (to the exclusion of all else) referred
to in viii, 22 and ix, 22, is to secure for the superior
type of devotion meant here, that necessary bipolar condition.
The reference to tattvena (according to principle) also touches
another prerequisite of a proper affiliation to the Absolute,
also insisted on in iv, 9, vii, 3, x, 7, and xviii, 55, and to
be considered as part of the finalized doctrine of the Gita.

The idea of entering into the Absolute indicated by the
word praveshtum (to enter) is also a favourite form of
expression in the Gita. Attaining, reaching or entering into
the Absolute, can only suggest a form of unification between
the subject and the object, the worshipper and the
worshipped. When Krishna says that such and such a devotee
is dear and would reach him surely, it is this same kind of
union which is implied.

Thus something more than a mere vision is promised here by
Krishna, if Arjuna could establish that particular kind of
bipolar affiliation which forms, as we have said, part of the
finalized doctrine of the Gita.


matkarmakrin matparamo
madbhaktah sangavarjitah
nirvairah sarvabhuteshu
yah sa mam eti pandava

He who does actions that are Mine, whose Supreme is Myself,
whose devotion is to Me, devoid of attachment, free from
enmity to all beings, he reaches Me, 0 Pandava (Arjuna).


By way of conclusion there is a summing up of approaches to
the Absolute which refer backwards to subjects such as karma
(action) already covered in earlier chapters. The reference
to bhakti (devotion) brings the subject up to the present,
leading up to the next chapter. The expression matparamah
(having Me as the supreme) is peculiar to the style of the
Gita, in the same way as machchittah (with their relational
mind in Me) in vi, 14, x, 9, and xviii, 57 and 58. Other
expressions like madgataprana (their life-tendencies
penetrating into Me) of x, 9, express clearly what is in
the mind of the author, when such seemingly strained
expressions have to be resorted to by him. Intimate bipolar
relationship between the factors involved in each case
should be clearly understood if the Gita doctrine is to
be grasped in the form intended by the author.

The reference to nirvairah (without enmity) seems an anti-
climax to the chapter as a whole, which has been geared to
war-mindedness and even to the recommendation of slaying
of foes. But when we consider the parenthetical character of
the vision, as we have explained, and remember that the Gita
intends hereafter to proceed more normally, the reference to
lack of enmity becomes understandable. Read together with
the other expression sangavarjitah (devoid of attachment),
the treatment attains the usual contemplative level.
These two references compensate for any over-emphasis
on the harsh or necessary aspects of the Absolute that may
still linger in the mind of Arjuna or of any student of the
Gita. Hard necessity was recognized and given due place in
the highly realistic vision which could not omit hard facts
of evil that form the inevitable counterpart of an existence
included in an all-inclusive unitive view. Existence is not
always harsh and therefore the rest of the Gita continues in
a more normal style.


The next chapter passes on to the question of the Unitive
Contemplation of the Absolute.

ity srimad bhagavadgitasupanishatsu brahmavidyayam
yogasastre srikrishnarjunasamvade
visvarupadarsanayogo namai 'kidaso 'dhayah

Thus ends in the Upanishads of the Songs of God, in the Science
of the Wisdom of the Absolute, in the Dialogue between Sri
Krishna and Arjuna, the Eleventh Chapter entitled Unitive Vision
of the Absolute.