The Vision of the Destroyer of Worlds

Even when we acknowledge that there is only One truth and One existence, and that “The Spirit who is here in man and the Spirit who is there in the Sun,lo, it is One Spirit and there is no other,” (Taittiriya Upanishad, Bhrigu Valli, Chapter 10), we still try to separate the “good” from the “evil” and attribute the “good” to God and the “evil” to something “else”, whether we call it “devil”, “original sin”, or “illusion” or “samsara”. The Bhagavad Gita directly confronts this issue and unflinchingly accepts that our interpretations of events or circumstances notwithstanding, it is nevertheless all ONE creation and ONE being.

Arjuna’s vision therefore encompasses not just the vastness, serenity and beauty, but also the immediacy and power of destruction of this One Being. Sri Aurobindo describes this aspect of the vision: “But in the greatness of this vision there is too the terrific image of the Destroyer….This Godhead who embraces the worlds with his numberless arms and destroys with his million hands, whose eyes are suns and moons, has a face of blazing fire and is ever burning up the whole universe with the flame of his energy. The form of him is fierce and marvellous and alone it fills all the regions and occupies the whole space between earth and heaven….It has enormous burning eyes; it has mouths that gape to devour, terrible with many tusks of destruction; it has faces like the fires of Death and Time.”

But this vision is not just one of the cosmic or the universal. It also embraces the individual level and the destruction waiting before Arjuna on the battlefield: “The kings and the captains and the heroes on both sides of the world-battle are hastening into its tusked and terrible jaws and some are seen with crushed and bleeding heads caught between its teeth of power; the nations are rushing to destruction with helpless speed into its mouths of flame like many rivers hurrying in their course towards the ocean or like moths that cast themselves on a kindled fire. With those burning mouths the Form of Dread is licking all the regions around; the whole world is full of his burning energies and baked in the fierceness of his lustres.”

The sages, the whole world are terrified and in pain, and this pain is shared by Arjuna as he experiences the vision in its intensity. “He cries to the dreadful Godhead, ‘Declare to me who thou art that wearest this form of fierceness. Salutation to thee, O thou great Godhead, turn thy heart to grace. I would know who thou art who wast from the beginning, for I know not the will of they workings.’ ”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 10, The Vision of the World-Spirit–Time the Destroyer, pp. 365-366