Arjuna, by now, has had a fairly good exposure of the ineffable Divinity permeating the entire existence. Thus the vast creation now reveals to him more of Divinity and the supreme Source behind it than otherwise. He is now aspiring to see Divinity and Divinity alone in and through everything.
Having listened to the description of akshara Brahma, Arjuna seeks to know in detail the concept of vi¿var£pa, and its place in the life of a devotee or seeker. Keeping all this in mind, he makes his submission before Krishna. With the enlarged vision, filled with humility, devotional allegiance to the Instructor, holding the Instructor to be everything and all in his life, Arjuna seeks further clarity:
You are the supreme Reality, the supreme Abode, pure and Ultimate, eternal purusha, resplendent, premier of gods, unborn and the Lord.
Whatever you have spoken to me, I consider to be true. What are the best ways and forms in which the Supreme can be thought of and contemplated upon?
My heart yearns to hear more about the divine glories. Tell me in some detail about the divine magnificence and excellences. I am never satiated in hearing these.
Krishna, while granting Arjuna’s prayer, becomes quite philosophical and comprehensive. Krishna’s presentation of the supremacy and splendour of the supreme Reality, the Self in every one, facilitates seekers and devotees to evolve their thoughts and conceptions, and attain exclusiveness in their pursuit. For the others, it gives enough room to begin and intensify their devotional pursuit.
Divine splendours (vibhutis) of the Supreme
At this point, Krishna does not differentiate between the supreme Reality and the Self in one. The supreme Reality may be incomprehensible, but the Self is not so. Whenever you look at the living body of anyone, instantly the Spirit that enlivens and activates the body strikes the sensitive mind. Thus the inner Self is never a matter of doubt. This Self, understood in its fullness of permeation and potential, is itself the supreme Reality, Brahman. Every one refers to this Self alone, when he says “I”. Why then refer to anything other than the Self itself?
Krishna thus speaks about the supreme Reality with conviction and lucidity, assuming full identity with It. To enable Arjuna’s mind to think of the Supreme in all fullness and comprehensiveness, he begins to refer to Its special glories, excellences and greatness. These elucidations by their very nature are meant to help the seeker to reflect upon the Supreme in all its aspects.
I shall tell you about some prominent attributes of the Supreme. There is no end to the greatness, power and splendour of the Supreme.
Krishna first draws attention to the fact that the whole of the visible Existence is itself an ineffable glory. It is our familiarity with it that veils its splendour! He explains how in all embodied forms, sentience or consciousness is the causal factor. On seeing any living body, what should strike the observer is the presence and display of the inner consciousness. But, alas, every one is either deluded or overpowered by the physical appearance, even though that too is a creation of Consciousness.
To awaken the mind which misses such an obvious glory of the Supreme as the visible world, Krishna patiently begins to list the many features of the Supreme, thereby leading Arjuna as well as the ardent seekers to think zealously of the supreme Divinity, shining beneath the whole creation and to reflect upon its magnitude and potential.
He first points out that the Supreme reigns in the heart of everything, be it small or big. The mystery of creation is always a work from within. The wonder-worker is inner, not outer. Every form of existence is a resultant of its own inner majesty, grandeur. Any birth anywhere is but a growth, an expression. And it is the display of the power and glory, lurking within that has come to express visibly.
Seated in the core of the very ideational process in every being, O Arjuna, the Supreme reigns as the beginning, middle and end of all existences.
To trace the Supreme or think of its glory or splendour, one has to be focused within, not without. Such exclusive inner focus is the core of true spiritual effort and vision.
Krishna focuses on the visible, invisible, factual, terrestrial as well as mythical creations. Citing Vishnu among all Adityas, for the mythological relevance these hold in the minds of people, he speaks of the Sun, which is the foundation of our life and activities. In the daily sandhya worship laid down by the Vedas, Sun has its special place and esteem. Krishna lists Gayatri as the most prominent of Vedic hymns.
Among the immortal Vedas, he cites Sama Veda in particular, the main statement (maha-vakya) of which, tat-tvam-asi (That Thou Art), reveals that the life-element, the jiva, is itself the supreme Reality. This is the only way the knowledge of the Supreme can be conveyed and imparted to the seeker.
He emphasizes how the mind has its unique prominence, and is fundamental to all sensory organs. He explains how in all embodied forms, awareness is the most important factor, causal and effectual. But every one is either deluded or overpowered by the body, though it is but a creation of cetana, Consciousness.
Krishna’s list covers the conceptual as well as the earthly entities. He asks Arjuna to see the Supreme in Sankara, Kubera, Brhaspati, Skanda, Bhrgu, Agni, Ocean and its salinity. Om, he says, is the most prominent among letters and sounds.
He asks Arjuna to see the Supreme in the holy Asvattha tree, and mentions Uccaisravas (the divine horse), Airavata (the divine elephant), Kamadhenu (the divine cow) as glorious manifestations of divinity, adding that even inanimate events like thunderbolt should kindle the remembrance of the Divine in the devotional mind.
Krishna does not stop at this level but proceeds to include even sensual and sensory perceptions in the list of divine manifestations. Hence he describes the Supreme to be the source of passion, inciting reproduction that perpetuates the race (prajanascasmi kandarpah). The supreme Reality alone is the source, sustenance and dissolution at any time, anywhere, for all. Of all knowledge, spirituality is the most prominent (adhyatma-vidya vidyanam). Among the yajnas he holds japa-yajna as the most sublime.
It is significant that Krishna includes the vices too in his list of prominent attributes of Divinity, thus bringing forth the magnanimity of Hindu dharma. In gambling, the loaded dice is seen as the special expression of Divinity. Silence he lists as the most prominent of secrets. Wisdom of the wise is also the Supreme’s special expression.
Grandeur of the Supreme is beyond conception
Krishna now summarizes the whole enunciation: The Supreme alone is the genesis, the seed, of all beings, alive or non-alive. Nothing, sentient or insentient, exists besides or without the Supreme. In fact, says Krishna, there is no end to the creative, existential and dissolutional excellences of the Supreme. Whatever he lists is only nominal and suggestive of the infinite glories reigning all around:
Know that, whatever appears or strikes as stupendous, great, strong or powerful, is a spark of the manifold brilliance of the Supreme.
Why say much, asks Krishna, in the end:
It will be in vain to try to understand or enumerate the excellences of the Supreme – the source and terminus of all existence and display. Suffice it to say that the Supreme, by just a small speck of its Divinity, holds this extensive and astounding universe.
It is important to understand that Krishna has referred to a multiplicity of factors, all constituting the glory of the Supreme, which is but the Self in every being and all. The outer expressions and glories, visible to the external senses, have their source within. The whole growth and display, wherever it is, is an offshoot of the inner sovereign majesty. This inner source, unlike the visible existence, can and should be accessed by the inner faculties, namely mind and intelligence. All the discussion and deliberation can only be a help to guide this inner perception.
In listing the items, Krishna has included the good, benign and lofty manifestations as well as the opposites. He does not exempt any aspect of creation. The universe as a cohesive expression does need everything and all to make it viable.
Comparison and contrast constitute the foundation of knowledge. Every one has a tendency to compare. Through these, the mind gallops to the height of the incomparable wholesome splendour. And that is where it becomes broad, deep and lofty to perceive the Supreme in its own ineffable manner.
Krishna’s enumeration is harmonious with his earlier pronouncements, whereby the Supreme is shown as a wholesome expression. The real fruition of seeking consists in conceiving the all-embracing sovereign level and realizing it (verse 7.4-7, 10, 11, 13; 8.4; 9.7, 8, 10, 18, 29). All ideas, insights and imageries should be such as to become complementary to each other and facilitate the seeker in actualizing the Supreme.
(From Essential Concepts in Bhagavad Gita - Volume 4)