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(Chapter-wise Summary)


This chapter is unique among all the spiritual literature.  Here, Shri Krishna shows Arjuna His Cosmic Form with all the fury and splendour of the universe contained in Him.  Many devotees get Lord’s vision, but in the form they visualise Him and worship Him.  But the vision described here is beyond the ordinary.


In the previous chapter, it was mentioned that Brahman is the root place of the Supreme Soul from where first the Prakriti (Maya) and then the three attributes (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), the five elements etc. are created as the foundation for creation of the universe.  It is also the place where all these entities merge at the time of its dissolution.  Shri Krishna revealed this secret, which is not given even in the Vedas, to Arjuna because of their mutual love.  After understanding the various manifestations of the Lord (i.e. Shri Krishna), Arjuna now regards the universe as His form.  The realisation that he was not a separate entity from Shri Krishna (as Bhagwan) now humbles Arjuna.  But worldly customs regrettably compel him to speak as if he was different from Him.

Arjuna’s ego that he was an individual named Arjuna, his impression that Kauravas were his relations, his worry that killing them would be a sin for which he would receive punishment in the afterlife, have all vanished with this realisation.  He expresses his gratitude for getting rid of his ignorance and for having been introduced to the Ultimate Principle that is the Brahman.  His mind has now become calm.


Arjuna is now eager to see Shri Krishna’s incomprehensible, Divine Cosmic form which, by mere thought, creates the expanse of this universe and then destroys it.  This is the form, which Shri Krishna called His original form from where He takes avatars for Divine purposes (of saving Dharma) and returns after that purpose is fulfilled.  Arjuna now requests to be shown this form provided of course he was worthy of seeing it.  But he is sure that Shri Krishna, who is so large-hearted as to grant liberation even to His enemies (Kamsa, Shishupal etc.) and charitable towards both the fit and unfit, will show it to him.  He wishes to see this Cosmic form with his own eyes.


Shri Krishna agreed to the request and began to show him the entire universe contained in His divine form.

Diverse forms within the Cosmic form

There were all kinds of forms within the Cosmic form. The forms had diverse characteristics: lean and fat, short and tall, spread out and straight, uncontrollable and tame, active and inactive, impersonal and loving, alert and negligent, shallow and deep, generous and miserly, angry and calm, noisy and silent, awake and sleepy, armed and unarmed, very fearful and very sociable, some decimating people in anger and some merely witnessing everything.  Also, forms that were limitless, very strict, arrogant, quiet, happy, sociable, greedy, detached, satisfied, in difficulties, frightening, strange, in trance, some busy in social work and some busy lovingly sustaining them.  There were countless forms like this in it with various colours, shapes, brightness and beauty.

Activities of the forms

The forms were active, creating and destroying different entities, soft as well as fierce.  For example it was seen that the twelve Adityas (suns) are created and vanish with the opening and closing of the eyes of the forms.  The eight Vasus (Pavaka etc.) are born from the flames emanated by the form and the eleven Rudras are born when the eyebrows of the form meet together in anger.

But when the form becomes soft, countless life-givers like Ashwinikumars are formed, and various Vayus are generated through the ears.  Thus, by the simple play of the same form, gods and siddhas are created.  And there are countless number of forms in the Cosmic form which neither Vedas nor Brahmadeo could fathom.

Shri Krishna said that the seeds of the world were carried in each pore of the forms.  Many universes flew around in the joints of the organs of the forms.

[NOTE: 1: Though Puranic of Universe does not agree with the scientific findings of today, this particular description surprisingly is the same as what the astrophysicists’ description of the universe today.

2:  The entities mentioned above are the 33 Vedic Gods consisting of  8 Vasus, 11 Rudras, 12 Adityas and 2 Ashwinikumars].


But Shri Krishna suddenly noticed that Arjuna was silent and unresponsive, though his face still showed eagerness.  Realising that the Cosmic form cannot be seen with ordinary eyes of ignorance,  He immediately bestowed the power of divine vision upon Arjuna.  Arjuna could now see the glory of the Cosmic form.

Arjuna noticed that the entire familiar world as well as his sense of direction had vanished.  Surprised, he looked around and immediately saw the four-armed form of Shri Krishna before him.  But it was not of the usual form he was familiar with, but a colossal one present everywhere, and everything was Shri Krishna.

[NOTE: It is implied here that Arjuna knew Shri Krishna as an avatar of Lord Vishnu with a four-armed form ascribed by the pious to Lord Vishnu.  Mahabharata does not depict Shri Krishna as a four-armed person except when he gives that vision to his devotees.  This exposition of Shri Krishna creates very ridiculous situations in the Mahabharata scenarios, but the pious love it, believe it, get visions of it and even have realised the Brahman through it.  As mentioned earlier in the Introduction, spiritual path is a mind exercise wherein the mind itself is used to silence the mind through various means.  Since the goal is noble and has been achieved by many, the means do not matter as long as they are not harmful].


Arjuna observed the many faces of Lord Vishnu, all full of beauty and magnificence.  They were heavenly and soft as well as mysterious and frightening, but he could not see where the faces ended.

He noticed rows and rows of eyes like opened lotus flowers of various colours, shining like the sun.  He realised that there were innumerable such wonderful scenes in the single Cosmic form.

All the organs of that limitless Cosmic form were bedecked with ornaments.  This ornamentation was actually the Divine effulgence that lights the auras of the Sun and the Moon and illuminates this universe.  The ornaments, which Shri Krishna the Cosmic form was bedecked with, were also He.  The hands of the Cosmic form were straight, holding weapons shining like the deluge of fire.

Shri Krishna Himself was the organs, Himself the ornaments, Himself the arms and the weapons held in them, Himself the individual soul and Himself the body.  The stars were bursting like popcorn due to the rays from the weapons held in the innumerable hands; fire itself was getting scorched by it and trying to take shelter in the ocean.
The neck, the crown and rest of the body were all decorated in the manner of the usual four-armed image (with garlands, yellow cloth i.e, pitambar etc., with sandal paste on the body).

The form was visible even when Arjuna closed the eyes or turned his back.  The brilliance of that Cosmic form was more than that of the combined brilliance of twelve suns.  The entire expanse of the whole universe could be seen on the Cosmic form.

[NOTE: Sun as a deity is known by twelve different names.  One of the names is Aditya. Adityas are also  the sons of Aditi (from Rishi Kashyapa). There were twelve Adityas. Sometimes, the names are  associated with the twelve months. There is a lot of poetic imagintins involved  in the Puranas].

Duality vanishes

Seeing the all pervading, all devouring form on the body of Shri Krishna the Supreme God, whatever feeling of duality he had about the universe being different from himself vanished and his mind dissolved.  He was flooded internally with joy and his external organs loosenrd.  From head to foot hair on his body stood erect and he was drenched in sweat.  The internal bliss made his body shake.  Tears of happiness flowed and his mind choked with emotions.  But even in that bliss of the Brahman there still remained some degree of non-identity between him and Shri Krishna.  Because of it, Arjuna looked around, sighed and prayed to Shri Krishna with folded hands describing what he was seeing in the Cosmic form.


Arjuna said,

“Everybody and everything, including deities like Brahmadeo, Shiva, Parvati, families of all the great Rishis, the creation and destruction of living beings and in short, all the fourteen worlds are contained in the Cosmic form.

“I see that all your hands are active at the same time.  Your limitless bellies look like treasures of Cosmic eggs thrown open.  Your thousands of heads look like fruits hanging on the tree that is the Brahman.  Similarly, there are rows and rows of countless mouths and eyes.  The heaven, the nether world, the earth, the directions and the space have lost their distinguishing identities and the entire universe appears on your Cosmic body.  Not an iota of space may be found to be without you.  You have occupied everything and pervaded all the different kinds of creatures in this universe.

“I realise that you need no support because you are your own support.  You are without origin and are self-born.  You are neither standing nor sitting, you are neither tall nor short; you yourself are above you and below you too.  Your back, belly are all yourself and I find that whatever I see is all you.  You do not have a beginning, a middle or an end.

“Oh Shri Krishna, in spite of your being all-pervasive, you assume this loving human form only to shower favours on your devotees.  Mind and eyes get satiated seeing your four-armed dark form and if one desires to embrace it, it can be easily embraced by the span of two arms.  Our sight is limited, therefore we think of it as ordinary. Now, because of the divine sight you have bestowed upon me, this deficiency has gone and I can see your true greatness.

[NOTE: Though Aryans are generally fair skinned, Shri Krishna and Shri Rama (and so also Arjuna’s wife Draupadi) were of darker shade. Lord Vishnu is also depicted as  having darker skin].

“But the brightness of this vast form is unbearable.  It is getting increasingly intense and scorching.  Even with my divine sight, I cannot bear looking at the brightness, which is like the fire dormant in the third eye of Lord Shiva.

You are the Brahman

“Shri Krishna, you are the immutable Supreme Brahman and are beyond the sound AUM of three and half syllables.  You are the root of all forms, and one and the only place in which the universe dissolves.  You are inexhaustible, unfathomable and imperishable.  You are the life of Dharma and though birthless you are ever new.  You are the master of this universe, and you are, beyond the thirty-six principles, the thirty-seventh principle Purusha (The thirty-six principles are explained in Ch 13).  You have limbs all over.  Sun and Moon are your eyes exhibiting the play of pleasure and displeasure, punishing some and supporting others with benevolence.

Your Form is Frightening

“But your form has frightening aspect too.  Your mouth spits fire and the universe is getting scorched by its heat and from the brilliance of your Cosmic form.  I see that the heaven and the nether world, earth and the sky, the ten directions and all horizons are all pervaded by you alone.

“I cannot even imagine this gigantic and all-pervading form of yours and neither can I bear the brilliance of that ferocious form.  Instead of feeling pleased by watching your Cosmic form I find it difficult even to survive.  Until I saw your Cosmic form I used to enjoy the pleasures of the worldly life but now I am disgusted with them and actually feel frightened.  Oh! How the desire of seeing your Cosmic form has been fulfilled!

Sages, Gods, all Surrender to You

“I am seeing that some of the sages are happily dissolving into your form after burning the seeds of their karmas by your brightness; while some others are frightened and have surrendered to you in all aspects, praying to you to save them from ignorance and the web of sense-objects.

“The eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, eight Vasus, all Sadhyas, Ashwinikumars, Vishwedeo and Vayu with all their splendour as also the Manes, Gandharvas, Yakshas, demons, Indra and other gods and all siddhas are observing your divine form from their respective planes.  And wonder-struck, they are bowing to you.  Seeing your form itself is the reward for their humble obeisance.

“But even the gods are feeling frightened by your all encompassing form because from whatever direction one looks it is always facing the observer.  Though the form is one, it has strange, frightening mouths and eyes and countless hands wielding weapons.  This form has countless beautiful arms, legs and stomachs and various hues and each mouth appears to be eager to swallow.  These huge mouths of yours appear frightening because they are not able to hide the teeth.

“You have reduced me, a person of whom even Rudra and Yama are afraid, to a state of shivering inside and out, due to fright.  It is really surprising that this plague, frightfulness of which defeats very fear itself, should be called Cosmic form.

[NOTE: It is mentioned in Mahabharata that Arjuna fought Rudra (Shiva) and Yama the god of death].

“I have started feeling the fear of death.  Seeing your Cosmic form has made me lose my knowledge and understanding.  I have doubts whether even the consciousness will survive.  Oh Master, my desire to see your Cosmic form is now fulfilled and I am now satisfied.”

Arjuna now repents for having asked Shri Krishna to show him the Cosmic form and prays to him to wind up the show, describing how he is watching the Kauravas, Bhishmacharya, Dronacharya, Karna and all the kings and warriors from both sides (See Ch 1) entering the jaws of the Cosmic form along with their horses and deadly weapons.  He thinks that it is his prayers to show the form that has brought about this destruction.

Thus, Shri Krishna tried to remove Arjuna’s delusion that he was the slayer and the Kauravas were the slain.  Shri Krishna showed him the Cosmic form to remove this misunderstanding and to demonstrate to him that nobody kills anybody but it is He, Shri Krishna who destroys everybody. But Arjuna still could not reach that realisation and was feeling distressed by the fright. He then repeated the description of the destruction he was observing in the Cosmic form and asked why He, the creator of the three worlds should appear to be so eager to swallow them and why he was holding in His hands so many weapons and competing with death.


Shri Krishna then told Arjuna who He was and why He had assumed this ferocious form in the following terms:

“I am really death and am extending my form to destroy the universe.  My mouths are extended everywhere and I am going to swallow all people except you Pandavas who are mine and are safely outside the range of the calamity of destruction.  You have seen this universe enter my mouth and surely, nothing out of it will survive.  The boasts of this army are meaningless.  Their utterances may appear to be sharp and scorching, but these warriors are merely decorative toys.  I have already destroyed their life force.  These warriors are now as lifeless as the statues in a potter's house.  The gathering of the army is only an illusion.  They were dead at the instant you saw them falling into my mouth.  I have already killed them.  You will merely be instrumental in killing them.

“So Arjuna, come to your senses, get up, fight and be victorious.  Let the world say that those relatives, who had become oppressive by their arrogance and unconquerable by their strength, were destroyed effortlessly by Arjuna."

Arjuna then asked why He was playing the role of the destroyer of the universe when it is not yet time for it.   To this Shri Krishna replied that he had demonstrated that the life span of this army was over and that other persons would die in their own time.

And then He disabled the divine vision from Arjuna who now saw the world as it was earlier.


Arjuna now started praising Shri Krishna for sustaining the world in which good beings (like gods, humans, Siddhas, Yakshas) and all the living and nonliving bow to Him out of joy with great love for Him, while the demons are running away from Him because He destroyed the evil.  The reason why they are running away is that He was the source of inner light and had appeared in person; therefore the demons were blown away like dust.

The vision of the Cosmic form had made Arjuna see this unworldly greatness of Shri Krishna and he continued his praise.  Substance of the praise was that Shri Krishna was the eternal limitless Principle beyond the truth and the untruth.  He was the origin of both Prakriti and Purusha and was beyond Maya.  He was the sustainer of this world and He alone knew the past and the future.  He was the highest place in which the Brahman rests after the end of the universe.  In short, it was Shri Krishna who had created this expanse of the universe and therefore it was impossible to describe Him.  All the forms were merely His manifestations.

[NOTE: Describing Arjuna as “the highest place in which the Brahman rests etc.” implies that Shri Krishna is Para Brahman, i.e; beyond Brahman].

Arjuna also felt repentant at having behaved with Shri Krishna in the past as if He was an ordinary person and asked His forgiveness for any indiscretions committed directly or indirectly.  He then begged to be shown Shri Krishna’s usual more relaxing four-armed form.


Hearing this, Shri Krishna rebuked Arjuna for being cowardly and getting frightened by the Cosmic form which was His most secret form that no human being or even Brahmadeo had ever seen.  He usually showed His favours by granting only worldly things.  He had arranged this demonstration of the Cosmic form only for Arjuna.   The Avatars like Krishna etc.  take place only from this Cosmic form.  It is formed of only the effulgence of Knowledge and pervades the universe.  There is no end to it, it is steady and is the root of all world.  Nobody has seen or heard of this Cosmic form because it cannot be seen by any external means like yajnas, yoga, study of Shastras, penance(Tapas) etc.  Arjuna should therefore consider himself fortunate instead of getting frightened.

The four-armed form was not his real form and Arjuna should not indulge in loving it eagerly.  He should leave the desire for the four-armed form and should not ignore the Cosmic form.  He may meditate on the four-armed form for external satisfaction, but should not let his faith deviate from the Cosmic form even if it was frightening and vast.  Shri Krishna then resumed his human form.  And Arjuna heaved a sigh of relief.

(NOTE: Thus Shri Krishna has told once more that idol worship by itself is infructuous but may be practised only as an aid.  One should concentrate only on the formless Brahman).


Shri Krishna once more reminded Arjuna that there were no worldly means (like yajnas, yoga, study of Shastras, Tapas etc.) of reaching the Cosmic form.   It can be found by only one means and that is by filling the mind with devotion.  Shri Krishna added,

“But, in order to reach Me and become one with Me, that devotion must be ceaseless and with all the feelings.  Real devotion is that which sees My presence everywhere, right from a small ant onwards and in all living and non-living things.  And when the devotee sees thus, then he will experience My form and naturally see Me.  As soon as he experiences it, his ego will be destroyed and duality will vanish.  He will then realise the natural oneness between himself, Me and the entire universe.  What is more, by becoming one with Me, he will get absorbed in Me.

“All actions of such a devotee are for My sake alone and apart from Me he loves nothing else in this world.  I am his goal in life and the fruits of his actions in this world as well as the next.  He forgets the word "creatures" because he sees Me in everything and thus, with an attitude of equality and without enmity, he worships everything.  Such a devotee, when he leaves his material body, reaches Me and remains unified with Me."




CH:  1 / 23  / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18

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Dr V. V. shirvaikar,                                     email: vshirvaikar@yahoo.com
A-23 Yashodhan Soc.
Chintamaninagar 2,
Pune 411037, INDIA

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