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What is the supersensuous sight granted to Arjuna by Krishna? || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita(2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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इहैकस्थं जगत्कृत्स्नं पश्याद्य सचराचरम् ।

मम देहे गुडाकेश यच्चान्यद्द्रष्टुमिच्छसि ।। 7 ।।

ihaika-sthaṁ jagat kṛitsnaṁ paśhyādya sa-charācharam

mama dehe guḍākeśha yach chānyad draṣhṭum ichchhasi

See now, O Gudakesha, in this body of mine, the whole universe centered in one including the moving and the unmoving and all else that thou desires to see.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, Verse 7

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अहं सर्वस्य प्रभवो मत्त: सर्वं प्रवर्तते ।

इति मत्वा भजन्ते मां बुधा भावसमन्विता: ।। 8 ।।

ahaṁ sarvasya prabhavo mattaḥ sarvaṁ pravartate

iti matvā bhajante māṁ budhā bhāva-samanvitāḥ

But thou cannot see me with these eyes of thine; I give thee supersensuous sight; behold me, behold My supreme yoga power.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, Verse 8

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Questioner (Q): What is the divine form of Shri Krishna? What is there for Arjuna to understand from it? How is this divine form different from the Truth that can't be seen or known?

What is meant by the divine sight given to Arjuna? Is there any way to experience the Supreme while being in this body through such sight usually referred to as siddhis (extraordinary powers), or some esoteric powers?

Acharya Prashant (AP): All forms of the Truth are divine. It’s just that we are not able to perceive the divinity in all forms. It is not so much about a particular form of Krishna being divine; it is actually about Arjuna’s inability to recognize divinity in the form of Krishna that he is habituated to.

So, there is the usual form of Krishna that Arjuna has been seeing since long—the form of Arjuna’s friend, Arjuna’s relative, Arjuna's guide. And in that form, when Krishna is trying to teach him, awaken him, then Arjuna is not quite responding. Actually, he is not cooperative. And Krishna has been trying for ten chapters now, and Arjuna cannot forget the fact that he has been friends with Krishna—and a friend is your peer, your equal. There is a limit to which you can be receptive to learning from a friend; there is a limit to which you can surrender to your friend, because surrender by definition is to someone far bigger than yourself, and a friend by definition is your equal.

So, there has been this hurdle. Krishna has not been finding Arjuna as receptive as he must be. That’s when the Virāṭ-rūpa (cosmic form) is displayed. The display of the Virāṭ-rūpa merely means that Krishna is now revealing to Arjuna, exposing to Arjuna a part of his personality, an aspect of his personality that Arjuna had not hitherto seen. Now Krishna is coming in front of Arjuna with a persona that Arjuna is not familiar with—and this persona is grand.

Obviously, all personas of Krishna are bound to be grand. It’s just that, you see, as they say—familiarity breeds contempt. The normal persona of Krishna would be greatly enamoring and greatly enthralling to someone who encounters Krishna for the first time, but both the Kauravas and the Pandavas are habituated now. You very well know that Krishna tried to persuade Duryodhana for a peace treaty, and Duryodhana tried to even arrest him. That is the kind of contempt that familiarity can breed in you even towards Godhead. If you come to know even Krishna, you will become disrespectful towards him—just because you have come to know him.

The same kind of disrespect that Duryodhana displayed, is being displayed by Arjuna as well, but in a subtler way. Duryodhana displayed his disrespect by actively trying to arrest Krishna; Arjuna is displaying his disrespect by failing to comprehend Krishna over the ten chapters. The common reason behind Duryodhana’s and Arjuna’s behavior is just the same—they have known Krishna’s personality for long, so the blaze has gone off, the sheen has worn off. They are no more bedazzled by Krishna’s aura. They say "Oh, but we know him." His brilliance has now ceased to enchant them, just because they have been exposed to that brilliance for long now. A fresh person who comes in contact with Krishna will be totally bowled over; he would find Krishna miraculous. But the ones who know him, be it Duryodhana or Arjuna, do not find anything special anymore in Krishna, just because they have been exposed to the brilliance of Krishna on an everyday basis. Every day they encounter his brilliance, so that brilliance no more appeals to them. That’s the practical situation.

Now, how does Krishna resolve it? He is a multifaceted one, right? Obviously he is not going to be a prisoner of one particular persona of his own. He reveals another aspect of his personality that Arjuna has never known before, and now Arjuna is taken aback; now Arjuna does not know what to do. And this particular form that Krishna displays to Arjuna is pretty ferocious, I suppose, going by the description in Chapter 11.

And now, Arjuna is thrilled, and afraid, and shivering, and he starts apologizing to Krishna. He says, "O’ Krishna, many a time I've insulted You in private as well as in public. Sometimes I have just called You 'Hey, Krishna! Hey sakha (friend)!' Please, forgive me! Please, forgive me! I totally forgot who You really are. Just because You gave me the opportunity to be close to You, I started taking You for granted. Please, forgive me!” But all that is happening just because Krishna is displaying a new and fresh and ferocious form to Arjuna. Had Krishna not done that, Arjuna would have kept underestimating him. So, that is what is happening.

All these questions that you are asking are not very relevant. What happens in Chapter 11 has very little to do with Arjuna. Arjuna does not do anything. Arjuna is at the receiving end of an experiment conducted by Krishna. Chapter 11 is a lesson not to Arjuna, but to all would-be Krishnas. Krishna has left behind a lesson for all future Krishnas. He has said, "It’s important to occasionally display an unknown and ferocious side of your personality if you want to stay relevant to your disciples."

What is the lesson that the disciples, the Arjunas can draw from this?

Remember that we are people of habit. Remember that we are people of perception, not of Truth. Remember that we are impressionable people, so we proceed on impressions, not on Truth. Hence, remember that your estimates of who stands where, and what is what, are bound to be very-very haywire. Do not be too confident of how things are.

Arjuna must have been thinking that he already knows Krishna quite well, and that’s when Krishna delivers him a rude shock by displaying his Virāṭ-rūpa. It is necessary. Now, Arjuna's receptivity has opened up. He is trembling and apologizing to Krishna.

The Arjunas of the world will not always be so lucky that they will get to see a divine form. The onus then is upon the learner, the student, the Arjuna to keep this tendency to underestimate Krishna ,in check.

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