“Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahman, the ultimate, the supreme abode and purifier, the Absolute Truth and the eternal divine person. You are the primal God, transcendental and original, and You are the unborn and all-pervading beauty. All the great sages such as Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa proclaim this of You, and now You Yourself are declaring it to me.” (Bhagavad-gita, 10.12-13)
परं ब्रह्म परं धाम
पवित्रं परमं भवान्
पुरुषं शाश्वतं दिव्यम्
आदि-देवम् अजं विभुम्
आहुस् त्वाम् ऋषयः सर्वे
देवर्षिर् नारदस् तथा
असितो देवलो व्यासः
स्वयं चैव ब्रवीषि मे
paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma
pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān
puruṣaṁ śāśvataṁ divyam
ādi-devam ajaṁ vibhum
āhus tvām ṛṣayaḥ sarve
devarṣir nāradas tathā
asito devalo vyāsaḥ
svayaṁ caiva bravīṣi me
“I have realized that nothing in this world is as it seems. For instance, whenever a public figure makes a proclamation that a new medical treatment is entirely safe, you can assume that there is nothing to back up that statement, that there are a whole host of side effects and negative consequences to be discovered in the near future, as more people partake of the experiment.
“If Congress passes legislation claiming to increase choice for people in the workforce, you can safely assume that it does just the opposite; that people will have less opportunities for employment, that they will be forced to choose between working with joining an association and not having a job at all.
“The leaders of nations are the biggest bluffers, it seems. This is a tale as old as time itself, but seemingly more prominent in the modern era, with corrupt politicians cheating their way into office and rigging the game so that they stay at the top.
“Something as simple as a world leader driving a car is not what it seems. The astute observer notices that the car actually has a steering wheel on the passenger side, as well. It was the other person driving the car the entire time; the whole thing was just a show to make it look like the leader was fit and strong, when he is just the opposite.
“I bring this up in relation to Bhagavad-gita. How did Arjuna know that Krishna was not bluffing him? It is a rather bold declaration to make, to say that you are the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Bhagavan. We have heard that the same was said to Lord Brahma, the creator, at the beginning of time, but no one is around to vouch for the conversation. As Brahma creates, there was no one else there but Vishnu, who claimed to be God.
“How was Arjuna so sure that everything Krishna was saying was true? Where were the fact-checkers? Yes, I understand that those people are agenda-driven, as well, that their supposed checking of the facts is as prone to error as the original reporting. But it seems like a giant leap of faith to put your full trust in someone who makes an elaborate show.”
The suspicion is warranted. During Krishna’s time in this manifest world there were cheaters who would display false images. Sort of like projecting a movie onto a screen, the bad characters had the mystic ability to show a scene in the sky. There would be motion to the image, and the intention was to dispirit the side of good and righteousness. They would feel defeated knowing that someone dear to them had been killed, based on the projected image.
The Rakshasas of a previous age were expert in the same illusion. As described in the Ramayana, man-eating ogres of augmented prowess would show false images on the battlefield to dispirit the Vanaras, who were fighting to rescue the distressed princess of Mithila, Sita Devi. Shri Rama acted unilaterally to both figuratively and literally put an end to the illusion. He shot an arrow towards the image and thereby dissipated it.
In Arjuna’s case, there was more to go off than just the image. Indeed, the great bow-warrior of the Pandu dynasty only asked to see the virata-rupa in order to handle skeptics. Arjuna was already convinced, having known Krishna since birth.
In seeing the universal form, Arjuna praised it as best as he could. This was an image of everything. The entire cosmic manifestation, with both detail and abstract. The many planets and their component populations. The guardians of the galaxy, the demigods of the celestial region, the many species – Arjuna saw everything. There was even a time component; Arjuna could see the future, of what was to occur in the aftermath of the war at Kurukshetra, which was moments from commencing.
Arjuna was already convinced, but to assure others that Krishna was not bluffing he cited various authority figures. That is to say there is no need to simply take Arjuna’s word for it. Vyasadeva, Narada, Devala, Asita and others confirm that Yashoda’s son is indeed the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the one from whom many have come.
These references are of impeccable character. They are above reproach, completely sinless, and a model of behavior in spiritual life. More importantly, the teachings themselves are a basis for judgment. Krishna delivered Bhagavad-gita to Arjuna, but He did not force the disciple to accept the principles. Rather, Arjuna should deliberate internally and see if everything made sense.
इति ते ज्ञानम् आख्यातं
गुह्याद् गुह्यतरं मया
यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
Because of the endless compassion, sacrifice and mercy of the spiritual master, we have the same opportunity. We hear directly from Krishna, associating with God through vani, and then make up our own mind. We can attempt the principles in the practical space of daily life, through meditating on the Divine and chanting His names to witness the effect: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
From witnessing the effect,
Confirmation to get.
That principles real,
Not my mind to steal.
As happens with illusion fake,
Where advantage to take.
Arjuna making up his mind,
After Gita wisdom to find.