“The Blessed Lord said: My dear Arjuna, O son of Pritha, behold now My opulences, hundreds of thousands of varied divine forms, multicolored like the sea.” (Bhagavad-gita, 11.5)
पश्य मे पार्थ रूपाणि
शतशो ‘थ सहस्रशः
paśya me pārtha rūpāṇi
śataśo ‘tha sahasraśaḥ
Friend1: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains how the human being has four general defects.
Friend2: Can you name them?
Friend1: Without peeking…let me see. Committing mistakes. The tendency to cheat. To be easily illusioned. Wow; I cannot remember the fourth one.
Friend2: Imperfect senses.
Friend1: There you go. The list tends to come up when discussing the discovery of God.
Friend2: What do you mean by discovery?
Friend1: Exactly that. Someone is trying to find the Almighty. They are searching for the supreme Divine Being.
Friend2: What if they don’t believe in one?
Friend1: That is part of the discovery process. They debate with themselves if they believe such a being could exist. Then they try contemplating, and so forth.
Friend2: Which is a flawed method.
Friend1: Because of the defects, right?
Friend2: Well, that also, but I was thinking in terms of the Dr. Frog comparison. If I am trying to find someone who is better than everyone else, I should at least have experience with every person in the universe first.
Friend1: Otherwise, I only have what I know to go off of.
Friend2: The frog in the well does not understand the outside world. If you try to explain to them the size of the Pacific Ocean, they will try to contemplate in terms of the well.
“Is the ocean two or three times the size of the well? Is it forty times? What exactly is this ocean you speak of?”
Friend1: Okay, so maybe it doesn’t align exactly, but that limitation is sort of in the category of imperfect senses.
Friend2: Even if you had perfect senses, you don’t have the time, ability, or memory power to consume all there is to see or hear in the universe.
Friend1: Okay, so this is bound to be a follow-up question in the discussion. If I acknowledge that man has the four principal defects, then why am I even listening to you?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: You are explaining these defects to me, but how am I going to understand, considering I have imperfect senses, and all?
Friend2: You listen to the person who lacks the defects.
Friend1: But I didn’t hear of any exceptions. I am listening to a human being. The guru, the spiritual master, is just like you and me. They have their own defects.
Friend2: That is true. The explanation is that since they are connected to the original person, adi-purusha, the information they accept is perfect. They are something like a parrot, passing along the information as it is, as they first heard it. But they make sure not to adulterate, and they also understand the principles based on their own assimilation.
Friend1: Hmm, so it is because of the link to Krishna?
Friend2: He was there prior to the creation. He is here right now and He will be around after everything gets annihilated.
अहम् एवासम् एवाग्रे
नान्यद् यत् सद्-असत् परम्
पश्चाद् अहं यद् एतच् च
यो ऽवशिष्येत सो ऽस्म्य् अहम्
aham evāsam evāgre
nānyad yat sad-asat param
paścād ahaṁ yad etac ca
yo ‘vaśiṣyeta so ‘smy aham
“Brahma, it is I, the Personality of Godhead, who was existing before the creation, when there was nothing but Myself. Nor was there the material nature, the cause of this creation. That which you see now is also I, the Personality of Godhead, and after annihilation what remains will also be I, the Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.33)
Friend1: Okay, but what about the case of direct perception? For instance, Arjuna seeing the universal form. Since he has imperfect senses, how could he authenticate the image? How could he validate that this was indeed everything in the universe and more?
Friend2: For starters, he asked to see the virata-rupa. It was something of which he already had an idea. It wasn’t a concoction or some magic show that Krishna decided to put on. It wasn’t:
“Hey dude, check this out. You don’t know what this is? Let me explain it to you. I am God. I am everything. Surrender unto me.”
Friend1: Still, there is the issue of committing mistakes. How could Arjuna really be sure?
Friend2: This was visual confirmation for something he already knew. Arjuna made sure to reference authorities in his subsequent praise of Krishna. The viewpoint was shared by notable personalities like Vyasa and Narada. We will always have defects, as will others. The claim is that the Vedas are perfect, since they originate in the infallible one, Achyuta. We can test for ourselves through the processes and principles passed on by the acharya to see if there is truth.
Everything in Supreme Divine Being,
Arjuna in virata-rupa seeing.
But how in that case sure?
Since man with defects four.
Idea that origin the one,
From whom knowledge has come.
Others confirming the same,
Arjuna referencing by name.