Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Song of God (Bhagavad Gita) — Chapter XI: 23-24

August 13, 2019

™rūpaṁ mahat te bahuvaktranetraṁ
  mahābāho bahubāhūrupādaṁ
bahūdaraṁ bahudaṁṣṭrākarālaṁ
  dṛṣṭvā lokāḥ pravyathitās tathā ’haṁ (XI-23)

™nabhaḥspṛśaṁ dīptam anekavarṇaṁ
  vyāttānanaṁ dīptaviśālanetraṁ
dṛṣṭvā hi tvāṁ pravyathitāntarātmā
  dhṛtiṁ na vindāmi śamaṁ ca viṣṇo (XI-24)

XI/23. Having seen thy immeasurable form with many mouths and eyes, O mighty-armed, with many arms, thighs and feet, with many stomachs and fearful with many teeth – the worlds are terrified and so am I.

XI/24. On seeing thee touching the sky, shining in many colours, with mouths wide open, with large fiery eyes, I am terrified at heart and find neither courage nor peace, O Viṣṇu.

Swamiji's Commentary

      The scene keeps constantly changing, even as the ‘appearance’ of the universe changes constantly over the unchanging substratum. Good and evil, pleasantness and unpleasantness, beauty and ugliness – are all the attributes which the finite human mind projects on this ever-changing pattern. However, the difference between the obvious (the manifest) and the unobvious (the unmanifest infinity) is that the obvious is capable of being grasped by the senses or the mind whereas the unobvious is not. None- the-less, the finite helplessly tries to delimit the infinite, and the standard way in which it does this is to limit the infinite to a form and stick the label of a name to it. Then, endeavouring to understand this, the finite once again drapes the infinite with the only apparel it has, hence creating the various attributes mentioned above. That is the inevitable  fruit  of  the  finite  trying  to  grasp  the  infinite.  The  vicious  circle  is  now complete. Having bestowed these attributes on the infinite, the finite trembles before it and weeps aloud.

      Expressions like “Oh, it is terrible. It is a catastrophe. It is evil”, and so on, issue constantly from the lips of the finite being as the direct result of his original sin of trying to grasp the infinite, instead of offering himself to it. It is best to surrender to the ocean, there to swim in bliss and peace.

      These two verses should stop us from envying Arjuna’s lot. Sages and yogīs have had similar (though not identical) cosmic visions. We shall see towards the conclusion of this chapter the prerequisite for the cosmic vision, and the risk of testing our strength by trying to lift a hill.

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