Five Questions About The Virata-Rupa

[virata-rupa]“All the sons of Dhritarashtra along with their allied kings, and Bhishma, Drona and Karna, and all our soldiers are rushing into Your mouths, their heads smashed by Your fearful teeth. I see that some are being crushed between Your teeth as well.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.26-27)

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अमी च त्वां धृतराष्ट्रस्य पुत्राः
सर्वे सहैवावनि-पाल-सङ्घैः
भीष्मो द्रोणः सूत-पुत्रस् तथासौ
सहास्मदीयैर् अपि योध-मुख्यैः
वक्त्राणि ते त्वरमाणा विशन्ति
दंष्ट्रा-करालानि भयानकानि
केचिद् विलग्ना दशनान्तरेषु
सन्दृश्यन्ते चूर्णितैर् उत्तमाङ्गैः

amī ca tvāṁ dhṛtarāṣṭrasya putrāḥ
sarve sahaivāvani-pāla-saṅghaiḥ
bhīṣmo droṇaḥ sūta-putras tathāsau
sahāsmadīyair api yodha-mukhyaiḥ
vaktrāṇi te tvaramāṇā viśanti
daṁṣṭrā-karālāni bhayānakāni
kecid vilagnā daśanāntareṣu
sandṛśyante cūrṇitair uttamāṅgaiḥ

1. Where was it shown?

It is the image of everything, but the word “rupa” indicates a form, referencing a distinct entity. It has been shown several times based on documented evidence, but likely the most famous exhibition was on the battlefield of Kurukshetra to the bow-warrior named Arjuna.

[Rama chasing Kakabhushundhi]Shri Krishna, the person displaying the virata-rupa at the request of Arjuna, revealed that no one had been witness to such a vision before. There were similar experiences for mother Yashoda in Vrindavana, the foe Duryodhana prior to the Bharata War, and the crow Kakabhushundhi.

2. Why was it shown?

In Arjuna’s case, there was a direct request. He knew that Krishna is the Almighty. He believed the words spoken to him thus far in the conversation. The sage Markandeya had previously informed the Pandava brothers as to the Divine nature of their well-wishing friend and relative, that Krishna is the same Narayana, who is known as the source of men.

Arjuna made the request specifically for the doubters. Anyone who would question the authenticity of their sacred conversation in the future. We see from the popularity today of the Bhagavad-gita that Arjuna was prescient. He knew that in every era there are challengers to dharma and the source of it, so as much evidence as can be amassed passed forward to future generations is beneficial.

3. What is the image?

As mentioned above, it is the form representing everything. It is one way to understand God, at an abstract level. Take the entire collective. Even if you can’t see it, at least conceive of it. We acknowledge that there are objects and people. Take whatever can be identified and put it inside of a single image.

[virata-rupa]The virata-rupa is also three-dimensional and with a time element. Arjuna sees the warriors assembled on the battlefield rushing into Krishna’s many mouths. This is symbolic of the future and also representative of the formidable nature of time. Krishna is the same kala, and so everyone else was destined for an end. Notably absent is Krishna Himself, who is both without beginning and without end.

4. What does it indicate?

The virata-rupa is one way to understand God. A person may argue against the idea of a bluish flute-playing figure, who is ever-youthful, being the Almighty, but they cannot deny that the sum total of everything exists. Take that everything and you get one way to confirm the identity of the origin of everything. At the very least a person can worship this impersonal form.

मया ततम् इदं सर्वं
जगद् अव्यक्त-मूर्तिना
मत्-स्थानि सर्व-भूतानि
न चाहं तेष्व् अवस्थितः

mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ
jagad avyakta-mūrtinā
mat-sthāni sarva-bhūtāni
na cāhaṁ teṣv avasthitaḥ

“By Me, in My unmanifested form, this entire universe is pervaded. All beings are in Me, but I am not in them.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.4)

5. Can I see it?

Arjuna already saw it. Vyasadeva, the great compiler of Vedic literature, witnessed it, as well. Through Vyasadeva’s grace, Sanjaya was able to see. It is Sanjaya’s conversation with Dhritarashtra passed on in the written down version of the Bhagavad-gita.

If we are fortunate, maybe one day Bhagavan will show it to us, as well. But such a vision is not needed. Others have seen it. We know that the virata exists. It is one rupa of the Almighty. It is an impersonal one at that, which means that there is no interaction beyond appreciation, awe, fear, respect and the like. The individual is spirit soul, so they are meant for a higher interaction, one which can be tasted today through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

In Closing:

To Arjuna on battlefield shown,
Of all objects and places known.

Even time element to include,
Similar by others viewed.

But my witnessing not needed,
Better if in bhakti proceeded.

From personal much more to gain,
With virata not entirely the same.

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