18. Cosmic Vision
We always try to put the cart before the horse.
Our problem always arises from that.
Therefore the teaching concerning cosmic vision and so on seems to be un-understandable, and many of the problems of the world also seem to be totally incomprehensible.
How can God create such a world in which there is so much of suffering and sorrow?
Does he want this?
Only if you have seen God (as the popular saying goes) can you find an answer to these questions.
Only when the heart is pure can it be elevated to an awareness that can become aware of God, of the divine presence.
Once that has been achieved, it is possible to know what God is, and why all these things take place, to know what is right and what is wrong.
So, first you conform, in a manner of speaking, to the social norms, to ethical and moral principles, and so on.
Unless you do that, your ego will be very active and very gross, unable to comprehend the subtle truth concerning the existence of the universe as a manifestation of God, as nothing but God.
Having seen the colossal cosmic form of God, Arjuna was frightened.
It was Krsna's own grace that enabled him to see (or experience) the cosmic form, and yet he was frightened.
If the heart is not pure, and the ego has not been thoroughly thinned out and transparent, then spiritual experiences can even be frightening.
It is like death - even to discipline the ego is death.
Unless you are prepared to die, it is not possible for these truths to be comprehended.
What is the cosmic vision described here in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita?
Let us take just this one verse:
Arjuna said: I see all the gods, O God, in thy body, and also the hosts of various classes of beings, Brahma, the Lord seated on the lotus, all the sages and the celestial serpents. (11:15)
Does it mean that he is having a form of hallucination?
I am not entirely dismissing that possibility.
Books on astronomy often refer to a cluster of what you call stars which, when connected together, give the appearance of the constellation, a lion's head, ram's head, and so on.
Is it possible that that cluster of stars is imagined by the astronomer to resemble a lion's head, or is it really a lion's head, which you and I see as a mere cluster of stars?
Who is to tell?
So, it is quite possible that we are part of this cosmic body of God.
It is quite possible that you and I are part of just one small cell in the body of the one huge deva called Visnu.
Your own body consists of three thousand billion cells.
What sort of idea does one cell have of your whole body? Unimaginable!
Who is it that is seeing this cosmic form?
The description goes on that Arjuna himself is seen in this cosmic form, just as you in your dream create all sorts of people, and you yourself seem to be present in the dream, experiencing various relationships with the dream creations.
How can you be your own object of perception?
What is that cosmic vision?
And yet there is a sense of I-ness.
'I' am. 'I' am experiencing all this.
It is nearly impossible to answer this question.
In this context, it is quite possible that a fragment of the totality is aware of an enormously huge fragment of the totality (or the totality is aware of an enormous fragment of the totality).
Some awareness of God arises in your heart, and it is aware of a fragment of the totality - in other words, God is aware of his own total manifestation.
It cannot be an experience 'of the totality', since you, the experiencer, still seem to be standing outside of it.
Therefore it is called a vrtti.
Though it is of cosmic proportion, it is still a vrtti that arises in that pure awareness within you.
It is still a state, a fragment.
For just one brief moment there is the experience of a fragment of the totality, and the experience is experienced by what is nearly the totality itself - God himself!
Only God can realise himself, not you and I.
What is described here is the ego in its penultimate state.
It is not completely dead, but gasping for the last time.
Once this breathing ends, it concludes.
But in the case of Arjuna, it does not end, he comes back, saying: "Oh, I am afraid. I am frightened even to look at this."
All the sons of Dhrtarastra, with the hosts of kings of the earth, Bhisma, Drona and Karna, with the chief among our warriors, they hurriedly enter into thy mouths with terrible teeth and fearful to behold. Some are found sticking in the gaps between the teeth with their heads crushed to powder. Verily, just as many torrents of rivers flow towards the ocean, even so these heroes in the world of men enter thy flaming mouths. As moths hurriedly rush into a blazing fire for their own destruction, so also these creatures hurriedly rush into thy mouths for their own destruction.(11:26-29)
Arjuna, as Arjuna, has not been completely effaced or merged in the cosmic being.
He still seems to stand aside.
The war has not yet started, and yet Arjuna sees future events as if they are present.
This is another very great puzzle.
How is it possible for someone to see into the future, and foretell precisely what is going to happen?
And, if the future is so definitely fixed, and what is to happen must inevitably happen, then what on earth are we doing here?
Are we then totally mechanical beings whose behaviour is absolutely predetermined?
That does not seem to make any sense at all.
In which case, why do these prophets go and warn someone not to do something, as if destiny could be altered?
It is a very serious problem, which cannot be conclusively resolved, unless we discover the source of the problem within ourselves - the ego interference in life.
You do not know what your destiny is.
Certain things are predetermined, and certain things are left to you.
Which is which, it is not possible for the human mind to determine.
Therefore Krsna says: 'Do what is appropriate at the moment and leave the rest in the hands of God'.
I am the mighty world-destroying time, now engaged in destroying the worlds. Even without thee, none of the warriors arrayed in the hostile armies shall live. (11:32)
Krsna says: "The thing that you are afraid of is God. How can you be afraid of God when you love God?"
The Lord himself is time.
In time things are born, in time things exist, in time they dissolve.
Time is also incomprehensible because it is divine.
Your mind divides it into the past, present and future - but it is indivisible into past, present and future.
You cannot divide time; you cannot divide space.
Here one is reminded of the central teaching of Buddha, that everything that has a beginning must have an end - that is the divine law.
Only when a disciplined and pure heart understands this, can the problems concerning our lives - what to do, what not to do, what is my duty here, what is appropriate that I should do now - also be clearly seen.
After resuming his usual form as Arjuna's friend, Krsna tells Arjuna:
This is an extraordinary experience that was granted to you by me out of pure love and affection just because you are my friend. (Means, you do not deserve it! ) I see that even though you are my friend, you are still frightened. (11:47)
I think there is a great message in that which should not be lost sight of: that the person who desires God probably does not deserve God - desire for God is desire!
So, when you hear the expression 'one should desire God', it merely means one should desire nothing else.
It does not mean that you should go on craving for God and bashing your head against a stone wall.
It is the ego that does that, and God, being beyond ego, is aware of what the ego is doing.
Just as the ego clamours for worldly attainments, achievements and possessions, it also clamours for a thing called God-vision.
But, by single-minded devotion can I, of this form, be known and seen in reality and also entered into, O Arjuna. (11:54)
You cannot attain this vision by whatever you do, or however much you may aspire.
When you grow in love of God, in total devotion - when the heart loves nothing else, sees nothing else, is aware of nothing else - it is only then that the heart can recognise the divine presence in all.
It is then that you enter into that divine presence, and feel the divine presence everywhere.
He who does all actions for me, who looks upon me as the supreme, who is devoted to me, who is free from attachment, who bears enmity towards no creature, comes to me, O Arjuna. (11:55)
When you have not entered into this intimate love relationship with God, regard yourself as an instrument in his hands.
Whatever you do, do it for his sake.
Let God be your only motivation in life.
You are living only for God, for God-realisation.
God, as time, will take everything away.
Everything that has a beginning must have an end, so do not get attached to any of these.
But remain devoted forever to that which is permanent, eternal - God.
Ensure that in your heart there is no hate for any being whatsoever.
One who lives in that fashion, totally devoted to God, dwells in God, and suddenly realises that it has always been so, he has never been away.

The Bhagavad Gita - Introduction | EN

Swami Venkatesananda

The Song of God - Introduction - Swami Venkatesananda - enlarged 4th edition – 1984 - published by The Chiltern Yoga Trust, Cape Town, South Africa
1998 - 2017