“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
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
They are not necessarily different from one another. God is one. He is the person to whom every living entity is connected. That cow languishing after separation from its newborn. That calf sent for untimely death, in violation of nature’s way. That cancer-stricken celebrity. That leader of the important nation.
Everything that is living is a spirit soul, and the source of both the material and spiritual energies is God. He may be called out to differently based on the time and circumstance. Some traditions of spirituality may only know Him to a slight degree, or have an ill-conceived image of Him being old and angry. Some may only know His shadow portion, the material world, where they vehemently deny that He exists.
The external viewpoint bears no impact on the truth of existence. The rupa is the form, and with Bhagavan it refers to a transcendental vision. The rupas can be different because they display a separate visual for the eyes to understand. The Sanskrit word rupa can also refer to “beauty,” and the double-meaning is applicable in every way to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
This is witnessed on special occasions, though the truth should not be difficult to comprehend. Take the lifetime of one individual. It could be a person from the past; someone from history. They were born at a certain time. While we may identify with them during the adult years, it cannot be denied that the person was once a child.
There is the time element that brings with it constant change. The final shift is at the time of death. The person who previously arrived from the womb departs for another place, leaving the body behind.
Follow the same concept but for every living thing. Include the planets while you are at it. Now try to cram everything into a single image. All three dimensions and all three time periods. This universe and others.
It is impossible to fathom, but the abstract is somewhat analogous to the virata-rupa. This is Bhagavan’s vision that we translate as “universal form.” It is one way to prove Divinity to the doubters. It should not be necessary, but sometimes the less intelligent require fantastic displays of brilliance to be convinced.
The virata-rupa has been shown several times, from the documented evidence available, and likely the most famous exhibition was to the bow-warrior named Arjuna on the battlefield. The best fighter from the Pandava side saw the future in every one of the major military participants rushing into Krishna’s mouths.
Previously, the friend and charioteer to Arjuna showed only one mouth. As Krishna is the Divine Himself, the virata-rupa displayed at Arjuna’s request could have displayed an unlimited number of mouths. The exhibition was symbolic of what was to come. In other words, Krishna produced a spoiler of the real-life drama known as the Bharata War.
This is the rupa that every person sees, irrespective of their belief system. From the staunchest atheist to the greatest, most faithful believer – kala does not discriminate. Kala is both time and death.
Sometimes there is the most ferocious vision, such as with Narasimhadeva shown to Hiranyakashipu. Sometimes kala is there as Krishna, such as with Bhishmadeva preparing to quit his body while lying down filled with arrows released from the enemy.
Kala is the easiest way to understand God, but the tragedy is that no more time remains afterwards. This vision arrives right at the very end, and in the next life the previous experience will most likely be forgotten.
3. The impersonal
This is one way to see God prior to death. It is not a direct vision. That is to say obviously identifiable features like hands, legs and a face are lacking. The impersonal is always there. It is known as the avyakta-murtina.
मया ततम् इदं सर्वं
न चाहं तेष्व् अवस्थितः
mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ
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)
Take everything that exists and understand that spirit is at the foundation. The name is Brahman. Everything belongs to Brahman. We share oneness with one another because of this truth. I am Brahman and so are you. View as a collective and you have connected with God through the impersonal form.
This is the identifiable form. Saguna means “with qualities.” For instance, the person Krishna is saguna from our perspective. Bhagavan is always above distinctions borne of duality. He is above any kind of material concept.
As we live in this material world, we require assistance in our quest to understand that which is beyond this world. What is at the origin? What is the actual influence of time? To where will I go when I am done in this lifetime? Is there a way to never take birth again?
The saguna form is superior for meeting this objective. The other side, nirguna, the impersonal form, requires more time and effort in achieving perfection. Since we are embodied, it is difficult to understand what body-less actually means.
The saguna shows us that God has features like you and me, but that they are also different. He can rest a heavy mountain on the pinky finger of His left hand. He can hear every prayer simultaneously offered to Him. There is unlimited throughput and bandwidth, and so the chanting of the holy names directed at His personal form is a surefire way to make advanced in the purification of the consciousness: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Different forms showing to me,
Like kala at death’s time to see.
Virata-rupa to Arjuna shown,
Consisting of everything known.
Impersonal there in every space,
Saguna resting in temple’s place.
Where identifiable features displaying,
To whom in devotion praying.
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