The Manifestations of the Divine in the World

Hinduism has a wonderful description of the forces that manifest the universe in the image of the three primary gods, Brahma, the Creator; Vishnu, the Sustainer; and Shiva, the Destroyer. These are elemental powers of creation that bring the universe into existence, maintain and eventually dissolve it, as well as all of the forms and beings within the universe. Sri Aurobindo describes the Supreme in terms that expand upon this basic vision: “He is the unborn and the all-pervading Master of his own innumerable becomings in the universe…; all things are his powers and effectuations in his self-Nature,
Vibhutis. He is the origin of all they are, their beginning; he is their support in their ever-changing status, their middle; he is their end too, the culmination or the disintegration of each created thing in its cessation or its disappearance. He brings them out from his consciousness and is hidden in them, he withdraws them into his consciousness and they are hidden in him for a time or for ever.”

From this standpoint, everything that exists is a power or manifestation of the Supreme, or in the terminology used: Vibhutis of the Supreme.

Vibhuti has also a more specific sense, and in response to Arjuna’s query, Sri Krishna both acknowledges the general statement and the specific usage by recognizing that while the Divine is all, is in all, and all consists of the Divine, nevertheless, for human beings starting from the limited mental framework of division and limitation, we look for and recognize the Divine Being in the pre-eminent forms and forces that we see and experience. Thus, Sri Krishna enumerates that for each type of manifestation, He is the one that stands out. Among stars, he is the sun! Where we see leadership, intelligence, beauty, power of effectuation, we can recognize a special manifestation, or a Vibhuti, in this special sense.

Sri Aurobindo cautions us to remember however that “…the highest power and manifestation is only a very partial revelation of the Infinite; even the whole universe is informed by only one degree of his greatness, illumined by one ray of his splendour, glorious with a faint hint of his delight and beauty.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 8, God in Power of Becoming, pp. 347-348