Ch. 11 Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form (part 1)

This article is part 70 of 131 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga


āvudò viśvarahasyaṃ
jīvāṃgaṇakiḻidu janada sukhaduḥkheccā-|
dyāveśadi sahabhāgivò-
lāvirbhavisidudu kṛṣṇananènipa vicitram ||

This strange thing called Kṛṣṇa
a cosmic conundrum,
having entered the jīva’s playground,
Has manifested itself
As a partner to people
In their pleasures, sorrows and desires.

narano naradaurbalyava
pariharisalbaṃda viśvadaṃtassattvaṃ |
dharisida rūpo kṛṣṇaṃ
paramādbhutamenò namage satyaṃ śaraṇaṃ ||

Is he human? Or has the universe’s essence
incarnated as Kṛṣṇa to remedy human frailty?
For us though, he is the wonder of wonders,
the truth, and refuge.


buddhigè baṃdòḍadenupa
labdhamè mānasakè manasigiha vastuvu saṃ- |
baddhamè netrakè netrakè
siddhaṃ tānirada vastuvanubhavakihudeṃ |

Can a thing be realised by the manas
just because the buddhi can behold it?
Is an object seen by the manas
related to the eye?
If the eye can’t catch it,
Can it be felt at all?

pratyakṣamillada raha-
ssatyaṃ saṃpratyayakkè durlabhamadariṃ |
tattvārthigè nijamahimèya
tathyadin-ākāragoḻisidaṃ bhagavaṃtaṃ |

It is hard to be certain of
a secret truth not directly experienced.
Therefore, Bhagavān gave form to
his divine glory for the sake of the seeker.
(To firm up the seeker’s conviction)


Arjuna, to strengthen his spiritual steadfastness, implores Bhagavān to show him a direct vision of the universal form. Śrīkṛṣṇa, after giving Arjuna eyesight with special faculty to witness and withstand such a vision, shows him his immensely wondrous cosmic form. The immediate vision and experience of Bhagavān’s universal form has a profound impact on Arjuna - an impact that mere theoretical understanding of the divine had hitherto not achieved. Arjuna then extols the divine majesty.

Section 12 / Chapter 11 Viśva-rūpa-sandarśana-yoga

(The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form)

The Gītā declares in the third chapter that the Supreme Principle is beyond the reach of buddhi (intellect).

yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ |

BG 3-42

If a principle is out of reach of  the buddhi, how can the latter grasp it?
It was said in the sixth chapter that the bliss of Brahma-experience can be grasped by the buddhi.

buddhi-grāhyam atīndriyam |

BG 6-21

The apparent inconsistency in these two statements can be resolved through some reflection.
The buddhi functions by cooperating with the manas which in turn works in conjunction with the sense organs. Thus, the buddhi is usually influenced by the actions of the sense-organs. That the Supreme Principle - paravastu is beyond such an imperfect and wavering  buddhi is the gist of the statement - yo buddheḥ parataḥ. Therefore, the instruction in the third chapter is to —

jahi śatruṃ mahā-bāho kāma-rūpaṃ durāsadam |

BG 3-43

(O Strong-Armed one! Destroy this enemy—desire—that is difficult to overcome)

In the phrase buddhi-grāhyam from 6-21, buddhi refers to the intellect unsullied by the actions of the sense-organs - a purified intellect. Anything that is imagined or thought of by such a buddhi is an intellectual concept.

Another question arises now. Can everything “understood” by the intellect be truly experienced?

School children are normally posed with problems like the following in arithmetic. Ten workers work for eight hours a day and build a house in a month. How many days will it take to build the same house if ten thousand workers were to work similarly for 8 hours a day? The arithmetical answer can be intellectually understood, but it cannot be realised in experience. Can ten thousand workers even stand in the same space that ten workers work?

Scholars say that zero in a number has a certain value. How can ordinary people experience the value of zero?

Buddhi is generally known to have two aspects. On the one hand, it is tainted by sense organs that connect to it through the manas. On the other hand, it is weakened due to sense experience. Though the buddhi can grasp whatever is inaccessible to the eye, ear and other sense organs through inference and imagination, it is but a fraction of knowledge; surely incomplete. Complete knowledge can arise only from experience.

Not everything grasped by the buddhi can be experienced. The principle independently understood by buddhi must first permeate into the mind. From the mind it should descend to the physical realm of bodily sense organs to become experience. Experience is complete knowledge. That which is only understood by the buddhi is not complete knowledge.

The difference between buddhi-grāhyam (grasped by the buddhi) and buddhi-mātra-grāhyam (grasped only by the buddhi) should be borne in mind. So must the distinction between buddhi-gṛhīta-mātram (understood only by the buddhi) and anubhava-siddham (born of experience). Attainment through experience is higher than attainment via buddhi. Answers to some mathematical problems are attained at the intellectual level only and cannot be experienced.
The heart is the site of experience. The fruit of the activity of the manas and buddhi is experienced in the heart. This is vouchsafed for by several statements from the śruti and the smṛti.

Īśvaraḥ sarvabhūtātmā hṛddeshe | (Īśvara, the self of all beings, in the heart)
Bhidyate hṛdyagranthiḥ | (The heart-knot is rent asunder)
Agnirme vāci śritaḥ  | vāgghṛdaye | hṛdayam mayi | (Agni is in my speech; the speech in my heart; the heart in me.)

The heart is the arena of experience. It is the heart that touches the truth. The heart is larger than the manas and buddhi for it encompasses both.

The knowledge of the Supreme Principle is predominantly experiential. Intellectual comprehension is imperative for experience. Other instruments are also necessary. Man’s external organs bahiṣkaraṇa must be subservient to his antaḥkaraṇa, which in turn must cooperate with one of them - the buddhi. Experience of the supreme principle is possible only when all these instruments unite in harmony. The eleventh chapter of the Gītā - dealing with the cosmic form - illustrates this concept.

The concepts of jñānaṃ vijñāna-sahitam and buddhi-yoga were expanded upon in the ninth and tenth chapters. The theoretical knowledge of the principle (jñāna) was enumerated with śāstric basis as well as logical reasoning. The practical aspect (vijñāna) was expounded with illustrations of well-known personages and well-known phenomena. With this, Arjuna’s confusions and fears were put to rest. It appears, however, that a few doubts continued to bother him. The first - “Will my acquired belief endure firmly?” The second - “How eligible am I to attain spiritual knowledge?” Arjuna felt that only personal experiential testimony could resolve these niggling questions. He therefore implored Bhagavān for such a vision who then bestowed it upon him. This is the gist of this chapter.
Though the entire matter of the chapter can be conveyed in a small number of words, this chapter’s greatness cannot be overstated. It is an established practice to recite this chapter of the viśva-rūpa while the monastic name is given to the ordained renunciate during the rite of accepting saṃnyāsa (renunciation).
At the beginning of this chapter, Arjuna clearly states that his mind was purified.

yat tvayoktaṃ vachas tena moho’yaṃ vigato mama

BG 11-1

Questions such as “Who is the jīva? What is the world? Who is Īśvara? What is the path towards good? What is dharma?” - all received appropriate answers. There was no doubt left uncleared. But was it not Arjuna’s desire to attain the state of a sthitaprajña (one of steady wisdom)? Bhagavān had indicated this to Arjuna in the beginning -

śruti-vipratipannā te yadā sthāsyati niśchalā |
samādhāv-achalā buddhis-tadā yogam avāpsyasi ||

BG 2.53

“Your mind has lost its equipoise by listening to the words of all and sundry. When your mind is concentrated at one point without being scattered hither and thither, your mind will attain yoga.”

Arjuna then inquired about the characteristics of a sthita-prajña. He wanted to be a sthita-prajña (one of steady wisdom) rather than a chala-prajña (whose wisdom is unsteady). The wisdom obtained from Śrīkṛṣna’s words could slip away due to another’s words - like old water pushed away by new flowing water or a lamp getting extinguished by the wind. Arjuna wanted to ensure that this knowledge learnt from Bhagavān remained firm and did not flow away. This was Arjuna’s intent. 

Arjuna entreated -

evam etadyathāttha tvam ātmānaṃ parameśvara |
draṣṭum ichchhāmi te rūpam aiśwaraṃ puruṣottama ||

BG 11.3

“O Parameśvara! I would like to see whatever you told me about your form with my eyes. My certainty (in you) will definitely increase.” 

What did Bhagavān say about his own form?

matsthāni sarvabhūtāni |
amṛtaṃ chaiva mṛtyuśca sadasaccāhamarjuna ||
ahamātmā guḍākeśa sarvabhūtāśayasthitaḥ
āhamādiśca madhyaṃ ca bhūtānāmanta eva ca ||
viṣṭabhyāhamidaṃ kṛtsnam ekāṃśena sthito jagat ||

Bhagavān has uttered such statements in several places. Arjuna’s wish is to directly realise the truth of those statements. But he doubts whether he is fit for such a realisation.

manyase yadi tacchakyaṃ mayā draṣṭum iti prabho ||

BG 11.4

“O Prabhu, if you consider me capable of seeing that vision, please show me your form.”

ihaikasthaṃ jagat kṛtsnaṃ paśyādya sa-carācharam
mama dehe guḍākeśa yaccānyad draṣṭum icchasi ||

BG 11.7

“See the entire world - with its moving and non-moving aspects - here in me. You will see whatever you wish to see in me.”

But your eye now cannot withstand this vision. An eye of this world may be unable to see things beyond the world. Its strength might be unable to bear this great effulgence. Therefore - 

divyaṃ dadāmi te cakṣuḥ paśya me yogam aiśvaram |

BG 11.8

I will give you divine eyes with which you can see my majestic effulgence”.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.


Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...