Arjuna has heard of Krsna’s divine glories in chapter ten. He now wants to see for himself the one universal Form containing the whole of creation. He asks Krsna to reveal his splendour. Krsna readily grants his wish. However, He tells Arjuna that he would not see this Form with normal eyes and gives him divine eyes with which the universal Form would be visible. In other words, this is no ordinary perception, it is a visualisation. Thus, only two people – Arjuna and Sanjaya – saw this vision in the battlefield of Kuruksetra which had thousands of warriors. They were granted this extraordinary sight by Krsna and Vyasa respectively.
Arjuna is awestruck, dumbfounded, by this magnificent display. He needs time to digest this experience. Sanjaya steps in and gives him the much needed respite. In six verses he captures the majesty and awesome power of that Divine Being.
This is one of the rare moments a sincere seeker is blessed with when the veil lifts revealing the beauty and grandeur that lies beyond. It inspires devotion and renews one’s conviction. But these flashes cannot be sustained. You need to go back to your level and work yourself up to find this magnificence in your everyday life.
Krsna shows Arjuna a synoptic view of the entire universe. Arjuna sees countless wonderful forms in divine robes, adorned with divine ornaments, with the effulgence and radiance of a thousand suns. All resting in the body of the God of gods. Filled with amazement, Arjuna bows down with folded hands and goes on to describe this spectacular vision.
Arjuna now understands Krsna as the embodiment of the Divine Force. He is not just the dear friend he had mistaken Him for. He remembers the times he spent with Krsna, addressing Him as O Krsna, O friend, unaware of His greatness. He begs forgiveness for inadvertently disrespecting Him.
Krsna comes up with a display of raw power, all-devouring and fearful. Arjuna sees the worlds getting pulverised. Flames blazing from his mouths consume the universe. Arjuna sees Dhrtarastra and all his allies including Bhisma, Drona and Karna as well as his own heroes getting destroyed. He asks Krsna – Who are you? Why are you so fierce? Krsna answers – I am the destroyer of the worlds. I have already killed these warriors. You are merely an instrument. Rise therefore, kill the enemies, win fame and enjoy this vast kingdom. In other words, the law of Karma prevails. The Kaurava forces have asked for destruction. They have to meet their end. Arjuna is not the one who kills them. He is only the instrument of the law.
Overcome with fear at the sight of this terrible form Arjuna asks Krsna to go back to His gentle form. In his enthusiasm he has asked for more than he can assimilate. He now wants to see the benevolent form of Visnu. Sanjaya sees the same vision but is not afraid. He has the strength to understand the fearful form of the Lord. He is exhilarated, inspired and speaks with reverence and adoration.
Krsna tells Arjuna – Nobody else has seen this dazzling vision. A great deal of effort is needed to obtain Self knowledge. It cannot be gained by mere study of the scriptures, sacrifice, charity or severe penances. You are the only one to have seen it through My mystic power. So saying Krsna shows His four-armed form of Visnu, His gentle and gorgeous nature.
The chapter ends with Krsna underscoring the rare privilege earned by Arjuna. Even the gods long to see this form which cannot be seen by mere spiritual practices. But by single-pointed devotion I can be seen, known in essence, and entered. One who acts for Me, is devoted to Me and regards Me as supreme obtains Me.