Arjuna Asks To See the Divine Form of the Universal Being

The Bhagavad Gita is literally translated as “The Lord’s Song”. It is written in verse and has two predominant metres. The predominant metre runs throughout the entire 18 chapters, except for a short, but intense section of the 11th Chapter when it abruptly and dramatically changes. This chapter relates the experience of Arjuna when he undergoes the vision of the world-spirit, and the change coincides with his relating of what he is seeing and experiencing. This vision represents an emotional and spiritual high point in Arjuna’s seeking, and one can tell from the power and beauty of the poetry in the Sanskrit original that something very extraordinary is being related. The insertion of this inspired passage clearly is intended to have the seeker recognize that this teaching is not about intellectual exercise or philosophical pursuits; rather, it is intended to radically change the standpoint and the basis for action of those who practice the yoga of the Gita.

Sri Aurobindo explores the role that this powerful vision plays in the exposition of the Gita: “The vision of the universal Purusha is one of the best known and most powerfully poetic passages in the Gita, but its place in the thought is not altogether on the surface.”

Arjuna has received thus far a wide-reaching grounding in the standpoint and background that moves him beyond the duality and limitations of the mental consciousness. He recognizes, at least intellectually, the Oneness of all creation and the manifestation of the Supreme through Nature. Arjuna however still wants and requests something more: to have the Divine Being revealed to him in a real and palpable sense. The teaching of the Gita is not “other-worldly” so Arjuna’s request is not to experience a profound depth of silence or abstraction from the energy of the creation: “Not, evidently the formless silence of his actionless immutability, but the Supreme from whom is all energy and action, of whom forms are the masks, who reveals his force in the Vibhuti,–the Master of works, the Master of knowledge and adoration, the Lord of Nature and all her creatures. For this greatest all-comprehending vision he is made to ask because it is so, from the Spirit revealed in the universe, that he must receive the command to his part in the world-action.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 10, The Vision of the World-Spirit–Time the Destroyer, pp. 363-364