Arjuna Seeks the Return of Lord Krishna’s Gentle Form – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 11, Vs 41 – 46

Arjuna prostrates before Lord Krishna
Arjuna prostrates before the omniscient Lord Krishna

This post addresses the glory and greatness of Lord Krishna, the mortification and entreaty of Arjuna, three worlds, and the gentle four-armed form of the Lord.

In the story of the Mahabharata war, this Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Lord Krishna and his devotee and childhood friend, Arjuna. Listening in, we receive the teachings of Lord Krishna as he relates them to Arjuna.

The Blessed Lord Krishna speaks:

41 – 42
Due to ignorance and my affection for You and thinking of You as my friend, I have presumptuously addressed you saying, Hey, Krishna! Hey Yadu! Hey, Friend!, not knowing of Your Glory and Greatness. Having dishonored You so many times—jesting as we played together, lay on the same bed, or sat or ate together, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of others. For all these offenses, please forgive me.

Krishna and Arjuna playing

Arjuna, Krishna’s childhood friend, has come to consider Krishna to be his guru, but he didn’t really know Him until now. Now that he has seen Krishna’s true form, he knows he is indeed God in human form: an avatara. Thinking back on their youthful friendship he is horrified at how casually he has treated Him.

Do you think Lord Krishna will reprimand him for this? If He does, I am going to have some serious explaining to do. I consider God to be my friend, my companion, my beloved, my father, my mother, the boss, and my Guru. I find lightness in this relationship, as well as a presence that permeates body and soul with peace and a soft, embracing joy. In laughter and silliness, joy and sorrow, peace and riotous discord, God is always with me. Living in virtual isolation, I am never alone.

(You may wonder why I don’t speak of being merged into God as One. Well, the answer to this is simple: We like it this way.)

43
You are the father of the whole Cosmos, of the moving and non-moving, its worshipful master. None is your equal in all the three worlds. How could anyone possibly be greater than You, O Lord of Immeasurable Power. 

3 Bodies / Worlds“Three worlds.”
The three worlds according to Hinduism are earth, heaven and the underworld. In Yoga, the three worlds are in the body: earth (up to the diaphragm), sky (from the diaphragm to the eyebrow center), and heaven is above. The three worlds are also associated with the three bodies: the physical body, the astral body (mental), and the etheric body (emotional). Some see the astral body as both mental and emotional, and the etheric as the causal body.

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Nothing in your three worlds is greater about you than the unlimited power of God. This God-power is always at hand. When you are up against difficulties—mental, emotional, physical or material—seek out this God-power and allow yourself to become immersed in it. Then, when you are happy and life is going smoothly, you will rightly thank God.

44
This being the case, I, prostrating my body in surrender to You, ask Your indulgence, Worshipful One. As a father to a son, a friend to a friend, a lover to the beloved, please, O God, have mercy!

Arjuna has gotten terrified experiencing the Cosmic Form of Lord Krishna, and is beside himself with concern….

45 – 46
Though I have seen something that has never been seen before and I am overjoyed, my mind is agitated by fear. Worshipful Lord, please cause me to see that form in which You were previously manifested. O Thousand-armed One whose body is the Universe, I wish to see You crowned and armed with mace and discus in hand as You were before. O You of all forms, become once again Your beautiful four-armed form.

The Four Arms of Vishnu

“Four-armed form”
Arjuna is asking Lord Krishna to return to his gentle form with four arms. Arms represent implements and spheres of action.

In this image, Lord Krishna’s four arms are seen to bear a conch (verse 37), a lotus, a discus, and a mace. On the left side, is Yoga Nidra (conch) and the feminine (lotus), and on the right side, the discus (chakra) and the club. In murtis and icons, the club bears a remarkable resemblance to the scepter of power and sovereignty—independence and dominion over your own realm.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one you really are),
Durga Ma
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The Imperishable Absolute and the Coming and Going of Beings – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 11, Vs 2

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The Power of God in You

Upon seeing the power of God in everything around you, it is only a short hop to realizing that God is also in you. 

The Imperishable Absolute and the Coming and Going of Beings

In this conversation between Lord Krishna and his devotee and childhood friend, Arjuna confirms his understanding that the knowledge that has been given him by Lord Krishna includes both the relative and the absolute.

2
From You, O Lotus Eyed, I have heard in detail of the coming and going of the existences of beings, as well as Your exalted state of Imperishable Absolute.

Arjuna is saying that he understands that Lord Krishna is not only present in things that come and go in the relative realm of beings, but that He is also the Imperishable Absolute from which they have come to be.

The “coming and going of existences” is frequently translated as the “origin and dissolution of beings.” It can also easily be read as birth and death, but I opted for the simple expedient of “coming and going.”

The Sanskrit, bhavāpyaya, is a compound word consisting of bhava and apyaya. The meaning of bhava is, ‘coming into existence, birth, origin, turning into,’ and ‘a state of being, and life in this world’. The meaning of apyaya is, ‘juncture, pouring out, entering into, and vanishing’, and is associated with ‘being in or coming from water.’

There is a strong association with water here. Water is the source life by which living beings of all kinds come into existence. Lord Vishnu’s first avatara (of ten) was a fish. In the verse, Arjuna refers to Lord Krishna as “Lotus Eyed”. A lotus is a water flower, its stem reaching down into the soft watery earth as it floats above the water.

All this works very nicely to lead us to the idea of the coming and going of beings, which Arjuna has heard about in earlier chapters. But here, in the context of these verses, the Sanskrit has lured me into taking a deeper dip into this ‘coming and going’.

Vishnu, Brahman, Creation

Chakra means ‘wheel’, yet chakras are referred to as lotuses. The body of adult humans is 60% water, the brain and heart 73%, and the lungs 83%. The surface of the earth is 71% water. Lord Vishnu is seen seated on the eternal Cosmic Ocean, a lotus streaming from His navel. From this lotus Lord Brahmā is born. Brahmā’s first sound, Aum (OM), signals the beginning of Creation.

  • Water – Fluidity: Of no fixed form; takes the form of its vessel; able to move or change; the fluid transmission of power between two people or things, i.e., shaktpat.

From the Absolute to the Relative and Back Again

We have spoken long on Creation as transitory and Relative, even though it has come about from the Absolute. Beings, states of being, and even life itself, ultimately vanish in the way a river vanishes when reaching its confluence with other waters—it is not gone, but becomes a part of a greater water. It is not the Real Self that vanishes, but the Being. The encompassing veil of the Being that hides the Divine Individual is dissolved upon its confluence with the Cosmic Ocean, and vanishes.

When we enter into the equanimity of nirbija samadhi, we vanish in this way. We return to our original situation in the Absolute where we are merged with That, our individuality in tact. When trying to express this paradox, the experience is often spoken of as ‘a sea of bliss’, or the ‘rolling bliss’ of the ‘ocean of the Absolute’.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one you really are),
Durga Ma
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Time – Bhagavad Gita, Ch 10, Vs 6

“In earlier ages, seven Great Sages and four Manus, who were brought forth from a notion arising from My essence, produced all living creatures in all the worlds.” — Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 10, Verse 6

Read the Prelude to this chapter

Having previously stated that He is the source of all creation, Lord Krishna, avatara of Vishnu, now says that the first Four Manus and Great Sages produced all living beings in all the worlds. This suggests that the worlds were already in existence but living beings were not. He created the Manus and Sages to manage the job of populating them. Having created these ‘creators’ He remains the Source of all Creation.

In previous verses we came to some understanding about Creation. Now Lord Krishna is going to expand on this as it pertains to Himself and all the worlds and universes in existence. In revealing His magnificence in this way, He shows us something about ourselves, and the nature of our own personal cosmology and journey through time.  

Ruling Forces, Sages and Time

Lord Krishna is an avatara of Lord Vishnu, the first self-aware individual in the Absolute. With the awareness of His own individual existence, like a ripple effect, all other individuals became self-aware.

  • Self-aware – The awareness of one’s own existence in the Absolute.

The first four Manus are the first four individuals known to Lord Vishnu. The Sages are the first individuals known to the Manus and consequently known also to Lord Vishnu.

  • Known – Upon becoming self-aware, becoming aware of another as the same as oneself.   

That there can be a ‘first’ in a timeless place (the Absolute) indicates the beginning of time and space and relativity, the effect of which is the vibrations of the sound of OM, “The Word” at the beginning of Creation.

The Manus suggest the nature of the mind as the ruling force in huge time periods called a Manvantaras. There are fourteen Manvantaras, so there are fourteen Manus. We are currently in the seventh Manvantara.

  • Manu – ‘Thinker’. The ruling force of a Manvantara. From the root man (pronounced mun), to think, reason, imagine, have notions, thoughts, ideas. 
  • Manvantara Manu (the ruling force) + antara, (between): A Manvantara is the time period between Manus, 306,720,000 of our years.
  • Sages – Seven perfect beings who bring us knowledge of Truth. Their purpose within any given Manvantara is to guide humanity toward the dissolution of ignorance (enlightenment). There are different Sages in different Manvantaras, who go about this differently.

The root of the word Manu, man, is the same for the word for mind (manas) and man (humankind). The four Manus mentioned in this verse are the first four Manus and are said to be the progenitors of humankind.

The First Four Manus

In the Absolute before Creation, the first individual to become self-aware is known to us as Vishnu (‘all-pervader’). It is Vishnu that gives us a sense of Personal God, or a “Supreme Being”.

Vishnu immediately became aware of four Others, knew them as the same as Himself, and went on to know all Others. The first four Others accepted as the same as Himself are the first four Manus of the first four Manvantaras.

Not all Others accepted those of whom they became aware as the same as themselves. These Others became embodied beings. Those who did accept Others and accepted them all, may come into embodiment if they choose. They have no imposed journey to take, but they may take embodiment for the welfare of others who do. Embodied, they are called avataras (ava, ‘descent’ + tara, ‘liberator’).

This first fully knowing individual, Vishnu, together with the first four Manus, are responsible for our five senses, and one that is different: the ability to know directly (without the aid of the physical senses).

Manvantaras

At the end of a Manvantara there is a dissolution (not destruction) to make way for a new Manvantara. Our current Manvantara began as taught in the story of Noah and the flood in the Bible, and in the story of the Manu of our current Manvantara in which living beings were gathered into a boat to keep them safe from the waters in order to repopulate a new world.

The current Manu, Vaivasvata (‘sunlight’), is also known as Shraddhadeva (god of faith) and Satyavrata (Truth as our sphere of action in our manner of living). This Manu, our Ruling Force, is like the light of the sun that makes things perceptible to us so that we can see (pay attention), have faith, and live in Truth. This is why the yamas and niyamas are so important. They show us how.

We are provided with the means of succeeding in this with Lord Krishna’s teachings, and we have the Sages to guide us with their Divine Sight—their perception is not dependent upon reflected light as is our ownWe see things indirectly. We need light to shine on things in order to see them. Thus depending almost solely on our senses, with our indirect perception we rely on appearances and judge accordingly. This is what we are meant to rise above in our current Manvantara.

In our next installment, we will look at how Manus, Sages and Time pertain to us and the journey we are on, at a more personal level.

Namaste (I bow to the divine one you really are),
Durga Ma
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