“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)
अमी च त्वां धृतराष्ट्रस्य पुत्राः
भीष्मो द्रोणः सूत-पुत्रस् तथासौ
सहास्मदीयैर् अपि योध-मुख्यैः
वक्त्राणि ते त्वरमाणा विशन्ति
केचिद् विलग्ना दशनान्तरेषु
सन्दृश्यन्ते चूर्णितैर् उत्तमाङ्गैः
amī ca tvāṁ dhṛtarāṣṭrasya putrāḥ
bhīṣmo droṇaḥ sūta-putras tathāsau
sahāsmadīyair api yodha-mukhyaiḥ
vaktrāṇi te tvaramāṇā viśanti
kecid vilagnā daśanāntareṣu
sandṛśyante cūrṇitair uttamāṅgaiḥ
“Like many others, for me one of the immediate takeaways from the Bhagavad-gita is the image of the virata-rupa. I think I remember flipping through the pages of the book as a child and seeing that color plate inside. No idea what it was, but it sure looked impressive.
“Today, as an adult, I understand that it is the form of the Divine representing the entire collective. Material and spiritual. Not a static image, mind you. Three-dimensional and with a time element. Arjuna was the witness, and it was at his request that the exhibition came to life.
“The life-giver, so to speak, was Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. I understand that the devotees don’t really require such a vision. Seeing Krishna is enough. Knowing that God is a person is sufficient, especially considering the amazing things He is able to do and the profound wisdom He distributes.
“In researching the history documented in Vedic literature, I notice that a similar form has been displayed several other times. There is the crow named Kaka, who gets playfully swallowed by the Supreme Lord in His avatara of Rama.
“Even in Krishna’s time, there is the display to the foe named Duryodhana. In essence, members of both sides of the great conflict saw the virata-rupa, although Arjuna’s was a unique display. I am wondering how this could be. Shouldn’t such an image be reserved for the devoted souls? Why would enemies to dharma be shown something that they couldn’t understand?”
The incident with Duryodhana involved a wicked plot by that leader of the Kauravas. He wanted to bind Krishna, who was visiting as an emissary. The son of Yashoda was trying to avoid military conflict, to get the Kauravas to see the folly of their ways, to have dharma win out instead.
Duryodhana had no intention of giving anything back to the Pandavas, and he was so cruel at heart that he wanted to bind Krishna as a way to embarrass the other side. Krishna was known for being friendly and supportive of Arjuna and his brothers, though in the upcoming conflict Krishna was not going to take sides.
One of the features of God is antaryami. He is the all-pervading witness. He knows what is occurring at every moment and to every person. He knew of Duryodhana’s plan before it could be enacted. In a playful way, Krishna showed a version of the virata-rupa. This is the entire universe, and so Duryodhana would have to find a way to bind something unimaginably large.
The image should have triggered some contemplation. If such a person is favoring the Pandavas, maybe the military conflict will not conclude as expected. Perhaps being friendly with Krishna will yield more positive benefits.
In the incident with Kakabhushundi, there was a momentary lapse of judgment due to the maya controlled by the Supreme Lord. The crow was witnessing Rama’s pastimes as a child, and he could not understand how Rama could come under the influence of material nature.
Kakabhushundi was swallowed, and within Rama’s stomach he saw the entire universe. The illusion was dispelled. The crow looked back on that incident fondly, as he was directly favored by the person whose opinion matters most.
Bhagavan supports devotion, and so activities like chanting the holy names are so important: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Get the attention of the person who is the entire universe and more, who always favors the devoted souls and is ready to serve them at any moment.
Playfully swallowing the crow,
Similar vision to Duryodhana to show.
Why display almost the same,
For devotee and another of shame?
For different reasons shown,
Asuras thinking through effort alone.
That God easily to defeat,
For Kaka a pastime sweet.