The Echelons in Mysterium Tremendum – Vishwarupa

Dr. N. V. Kulkarni


While unfurling the Divine Canvas of Vishwarupa, Cosmic Atman, Great Transfiguration, Mysterium Tremendum in his various works Prof. Ranade not only depicts the occasions fully but puts them in echelons.  One only has to stand gaping at the panorama.

Enumeration of Vishwarupa Occasions

  1. As encountered in Prof. Ranade’s works:
  1. In his book “A Constructive Survey of Upanishadic Philosophy”, he accounts for Vishwarupa as depicted in Svetasvatara and Mundakopanishad, hinting at the similarity of the expression of Xenophanes with that of Svetasvatara. “In the last passage from Svetasvatara, which in the spirit of Xenophanes tells us that God is all eye and all ear, with his face everywhere, his hands and feet everywhere, who creates the beings of the earth and the fowl of the air, and brings into being both the heaven and the earth.” writes Prof. Ranade.

As against this Prof Ranade states, “… in the Mundakopanishad we find the description of the Cosmic Person with fire as his head, the sun and the moon as his eyes, the quarters as his ears, the Vedas as his speech, air as his Prana, the Universe as his heart, and the earth as his feet.”

Whereas in his book, “The Bhagavadgita as a Philosophy of God Realization”, we encounter the following:

  1. “… the idea of Vishwarupa … probably first originated with the Purusa Sukta” says Prof Ranade. Purusa Sukta appears in the texts of all the four Vedas.  It adumberates Purusa (He) as having thousands of heads, thousands of eyes, thousands of hands and feet, who surrounds this universe only with his ten measure stature and stands outside it.
  2. The second occasion is when Lord Narayana unfolds his cosmic form to Vasu-Uparicara. The original text appears in Mahabharata Shanti Parva, Chapter 336, verse 12, which Prof. Ranade quotes as reference.
  3. The third occasion is when Lord Narayana imparted to Narada the secret of Spiritual Life and we are told in the Mahabharata that Narada had a vision of the Visvarupa of God. (Shanti Parva Chapter 339, Verse 336 to 343)
  4. The Fourth occasion is the famous unfoldment and the great transfiguration shown to Arjuna by Lord Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
  • In “Mysticism in Maharashtra”, Prof. Ranade sets forth to describe Arjuna’s vision of the Cosmic Lord as depicted by Jnaneshwara in detail.
  1. In “Pathway to God in Kannada Literature” he touches upon the Vishwarupa shown by Shiva to Rama in a significant way (we will come to this later).
  2. In addition we meet with Vishwarupa events as follows:
  1. In the Mahabharata ‘Vana’ Parva chapter 188, where Lord Krishna lying in a bed perched on a tree surrounded by the ultimate delusion waters (pralaya period) admits sage Markandeya into his body where the latter has a vision of Vishwarupa.
  2. Also in ‘Udyog Parva’ Chapter 131, when Duryodhana wanted to capture and imprison Lord Krishna, who had come for making peace with the Kourawas, Lord Krishna showed his Vishwarupa to the assembled multitude.
  • Bhagvata refers to Vishwarupa shown by Lord Krishna in his childhood to Yashoda in Section X, Chapter 8 verses 37 & 38.
  1. There is one more reference in Bhagvata Section X Chapter 39, verses 43 to 55, where Akrura is bestowed with the Cosmic vision.

Vishwarupa Echelons

According to Prof. Ranade the grading of the various Vishwarupa descriptions assumes the following form:

  1. “… It is true at the same time that the Mundakopanishad borrows the idea (of Vishwarupa) from the Purushasukta …”
  2. “… We have in embryo a description of the Vishwarupa (in the Mundakopanishad) which later became the theme of the famous Eleventh Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita on the transfigured personality of Krishna…”
  3. As again “… We have a miniature description of the Vishwarupa in the Munduka which we find more fully developed in the Bhagavad Gita.”
  4. Ranade speaks of Vasu Uparicara’s vision “… It was in fact a sort of a miniature Vishwarupa which Narayana unfolded to Vasu Uparicara”.
  5. Regarding Narada’s vision “… It was almost a replica, an earlier replica of the Vishwarupa which Krishna later showed to Arjuna …”.
  6. Regarding XI Geeta Chapter “… In the great theophany in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, we are lifted from the earthly region to the celestial, and there brought face to face with the manifestation of God, as He pervades the whole universe …” and also as “… The great transfiguration which Krishna underwent …”.
  7. “We have got similar experience narrated in the Sivagita. I request you to read the third, fourth and fifth chapters of the famous Sivagita.  … The description that is given in the Sivagita (vision of the Universal Self, Vishwarupa shown to Rama by Lord Siva) is better than any similar description elsewhere, for example, that in the Bhagavad Gita  The relationship between Arjuna and Krishna is not on that high level as between Rama and Siva here …”.

 Poetry or Fact

While expatiating on Arjuna’s cosmic vision, Prof. Ranade remarks “…As to how far this space-filling form of God, as itself filled with an infinite number of divine faces, eyes, hands and feet, could be regarded as a mystical fact or a poetical description …” or elsewhere “How are these points of views to be reconciled?  Is God with hands and feet?  Are these merely imaginary?  That is the important question.”  and answers emphatically that “… These are mystical manifestations, and it is these which Bhagavad Gita has described …”.

It is also a very remarkable statement in case of Vasu Uparicara’s vision of Narayana as depicted in the Mahabharata Verse referred by Prof Ranade, since there is no mention of “miniature Vishwarupa”.  The literal translation of the verse goes as “At that moment Puran Purusha Lord of all Gods Bhagwan Narayana being very pleased showed Himself to the King (Vasu Uparicara), but nobody else could have this vision.”

We have no further remarks here.  We stand gaping at the mystical stature of Prof Ranade, who could apprehend the qualitative and quantitative value of the Vishwarupas and make an escalating echelon of them.  No wonder!  He did experience them all!

Status of other Vishwarupas

As regards the Vishwarupas not considered upon by Prof. Ranade, viewing their quantitative and qualitative description by the eye of the body, we can try to accommodate them in the echelon erected by Prof. Ranade.

Yashoda’s vision may be compared to that in the Upanishads, Akrura’s and Duryodhana’s a degree less than that of Narada and Markendaya’s to a degree more than that of Narada.  These are our views.  One may be a better judge than us.

Vishwarupa in Sivagita

As Prof. Ranade has not dwelt on this topic in detail and that as stated by him “… The relationship between Arjuna and Krishna is not on that high level as between Rama and Siva here …” we have tried to bring out this aspect.

Raison d’être of Vishwarupa

We have incentives to spiritual life as per Prof. Ranade.  An incentive embeds in itself motivation to work hard and a promise of reward for the same.  In spiritual life, the motive is to carry out and perform Sadhana as per the Spiritual Master’s instruction, the reward being vision of God.  However, according to the mystical law “…Whatever a devotee mystically experiences is always an index of his own spiritual achievement.”  Obviously this is not applicable in the case of Vishwarupa where the Divine opens out Himself before the beholder.  Is the Divine compelled and hastened to this act of His?

We find that the Divine is motivated with certain incentives to bestow the Vishwarupa vision on the spectator.

  1. As regards “…Vasu Uparicara, whose mind was fixed on Aranyakas and Upanishads, who was more devoted than any of the others, in fact, who was the only man of real devotion in the entire sacrifice, could see God, because he had not given himself to Himsa. He did not regard mortificatory penance as capable of enabling one to reach God, but it was Bhava or internal devotion that enabled one to see God.  In that way God being pleased showed himself to Vasu Uparicara…” writes Prof. Ranade.
  2. In the case of Narada, Lord Narayana was satisfied with Narada’s spiritual exploits. He went to the length of calling Narada Ekantikotam and blessed him with his Viswarupa.
  3. It was a categorical Imperative, Duty for Duty’s sake to be brought home to Arjuna and hence Krishna’s Vishwarupa.
  4. Siva wanted to impress on Rama’s mind the fact that, Man’s being a puppet in the hands of destiny, the eternal truth that he being totally helpless, only entire self-surrender to the Divine will might possibly save him from the delusion.
  5. Yashoda’s often scolding and punishing of child Krishna, probably led to Vishwarupa as a mild rebuke so that Yashoda might grasp the situation as Lord’s lila.
  6. Sage Markendya wandering in the ultimate deluge – pralaya was worried of the fate of the world. So, child Krishna admitted the sage into his stomach to impress that creator, sustainer and destroyer of the world is none other than Himself.
  7. In Akrura’s case it was his thought that the onus of responsibility of conducting Krishna and Balram to Mathura was with him, and who was afraid that Krishna and Balarama might escape, while he was bathing, was bestowed with Vishwarupa to impress his role.
  8. In Duryodhana’s case, Lord Krishna while addressing Duryodhana that he need not venture into his mad and futile effort, thinking that Krishna is alone, enfolded his Vishwarupa in the Kourawa assembly.)

Siva Gita

Siva Gita appears in Padma Purana and is in Sanskrit and difficult for the common man to understand and comprehend.  It constitutes the advice rendered by Lord Siva to Rama in Dandakaranya.

About 125 years ago, Shri Swami Hansraj had written a detailed commentary in Marathi running into sixteen chapters and 7000 odd verses.  His commentary is entitled “Shri Vedeshavri”.  We have used his commentary for bringing out the rationale of Shri Gurudev’s (Prof. Ranade) remarks.

What is Visvarupa

This is the vision of Universal Atman experienced only by the intuitive vision of the devotee (or whomsoever is chosen for the act of experience) and shown by the Sage who undergoes the great Transfiguration.  The physiological form of the sage normally visible to the eyes before the experience, is transfigured which is then intuitively apprehended.

The Comparison

The Visvarupa vision from both the Gitas will be compared under following criteria:

  1. Occasion for Visvarupa
  2. Approach of the Apprehender
  3. Details of the Vision
  4. Chronology of Shiva Gita and Bhagavad Gita
  5. Mystical Details
  1. Occasion for Visvarupa
  1. i) Siva Gita:

Sita has been abducted by Ravana and Rama goes to the Sage Agasthya for advice and guidance.

The sage instead of encouraging Rama about his mission says that since his mind has been overridden by lust and anger he is in no mood to listen to beneficial advice just as a dying man refuses medicines that could cure him.  The sage, in order to persuade Rama so that he may not venture to wage a war against Ravana, goes at length in describing the strength of Ravana, his son, brother and other prowesses.

Rama puts aside all the philosophy and in clear terms rebounds that it is Kshatriya’s duty to punish the demon who has brought this fate on him.

  1. ii) Bhagavad Gita:

The setting is diametrically opposite.  Being a kshatriya, Arjuna is in no mood to fight with his brothers, relatives, masters, though they are the ones who had dragged him in the battlefield for obtaining what is legitimate and his own.

iii) Remarks:

We thus see Rama is fully aware of his duty whereas Arjuna is confused and reluctant to perform his duty.

  1. Approach of the Apprehender:
  2. i) Siva Gita:

Rama implores the sage Agasthya to tell him some way to defeat Ravana and obtain Sita.  Upon this, the sage advises Rama to surrender himself to Lord Siva by performing Virja Vrata, and initiates him for the same.

With great reverence and diligence, Rama undertook the chanting of Shiva Sahasranama.  Months passed by, he was now living on the air that he breathed.

One day he heard a terrific sound as if it was armageddon.  Fear overtook him.  He started gazing at the water of Godavari.  There was an earthquake.  Mountain’s began to shake and sweet moonlight like luster pervaded in the centre.

  1. ii) Bhagavad Gita:

On the battlefield of Kurukshetra, after lecturing Arjuna about duty for duty’s sake, Krisna in order to once for all clear Arjuna’s mind, states further that all actions are predetermined as per the Will of God and that what one has to perform, has already been accomplished, that God is all Doer, the essence of all existences, stressing that one has to perform his duties as Yajna as the Kingdom of Ends must justify our practice of the Categorical Imperative.

Arjuna dispelled from his doubts, wishes to see Krsna’s  Vishwarupa wherein he can see all that has been told to him so far.

Accordingly Krishna opens up his Cosmic Form in front of Arjuna, but the latter is not able to see it for his intuitive vision has not been opened so far.  Krsna therefore bestows intuitive vision on Arjuna.

iii) Remarks:

The preceding events before the actual Visvarupa in front of Rama viz terrific sound, earthquake, etc. seem mystical (compare description in the poem Anubhavamantapa by Shadakhsari)  Rama’s intuitive vision has already been opened up probably a result of the penance that he had undertaken.

  1. Details of the Vision
  2. i) Siva Gita

Rama slowly opened his eyes and started looking at the luster.  He perceived a well decorated and ornamented bull standing in front of him.  The color of the bull was as white as the butter that would come out after churning Amruta.  Its horns were shining like jewels and their apex was wrapped in gold.  His eyes were like sapphire.  The skin below his neck was perfectly shaped.  On his back was a seat studded with precious stones and had white reigns.  The bell and trinkets around his neck were resonating in all the ten directions.

On this bull Lord Shiva was seated.  He was white like marble, as lustrous as crores of suns luster put together, as cool as  crores of moon’s moonlight.  He wore tiger’s skin and had cobra as his holy thread.  He had worn ornaments on all his body.  His hair had the color of electricity.  His neck was blue.  Cusp of the moon decorated his forehead.  He had ten hands carrying various weapons.  He was three eyed, young, supreme lord full of bliss.

On the same bull to the left of Lord Siva, his better half Goddess Parvati was seated.  Her face was shining like the full moon.  Her luster was like lotus.  The pearl necklaces which she wore shone like stars in heaven.  Saffron and Kasturi ointment had fragranced her body.  ‘Kalpa’ tree flower’s garland decorated her breast.  She appeared to be shaped out from all the beautiful things in the world.

Then Rama visioned Indra and other seven ‘Lokapals’ with their respective spouses chanting Vedas like  stotras from Samved.

Rama saw Lord Vishnu with goddess Lakshmi seated on Garuda chanting with one pointed devotion Lord Shiva’s praises.

Then riding on a swan with his wife Savitri he recognized Lord Brahma who had four faces with long moustaches and hairs and was reciting the four Vedas from his four mouths.

Rama then visualized gathering of various gods, Ganpati, six faced Kartik swami, Mahakar, Chandesha, Rudras, Nagas some dancing some chanting Upanishads, some repeating “Om Nama Shivay”, others praising Lord Siva.  He also saw Narad singing and dancing, Rambha and other Indra’s court dancers, crores of Lord Siva’s army consisting of entities with various shapes and sizes.

Upon which Rama became overjoyed and started praising Lord Siva vehemently.

Then all of a sudden there appeared a huge white gold chariot having well decorated four horses.  The flag of the chariot wore a bull.  The chariot was studded with various precious stones which made a panorama of colors in all the directions.  In addition various instruments were creating melodious sounds all around.  Lord Siva with goddess Parvati dismounted from the bull and took seats in the chariot.

Various goddesses started waving hand fans around Lord Siva.  Whereupon their bangles started beating each other, emitting sonorous melodies, along with anklet sounds.  Veena was being played, sweet songs were being sung, various birds chirped, filling the entire universe with indescribable melody.  Crores of peacocks started dancing,  singing serpents ornamenting around Lord Siva’s neck.

Then Lord Siva lifted Rama from the ground unto his chariot.  He then partook himself some clear water from his Kamandalu and made Rama to partake some.  Then he made Rama sit on his lap.  Thereafter he handed over various weapons including his own “Pashupatiastra” to Rama warning him about its devastating powers.  He further advised Rama to employ the “astra” in extreme conditions viz fear of death, since the “astra’s” power could destroy the worlds and reduce them to ashes.  Lord Siva then made Lord Indra, Narayana, Brahma, Agni and others to bestow their respective weapons to Rama, so that Ravana’s defeat could be brought about.  Ravana had received a boon from Lord Siva that he would be unslayable by any of the gods.  Lord Siva further advised Indra and other gods, in case they wished to help Rama in the battle that would be waged against Ravana, they should take monkey’s birth for achieving the goal.

Lord Siva then instructed Rama that he need not worry as the end of Ravana and company was near; since they had started behaving in demonly fashion, inflicting woes upon various sages, saints, and brahmins.  Ravana had also taken to drinking and committed the sin of abducting Sita,  leaving the path of Dharma, Lord Siva continued “In Kishkindha hundreds of monkeys have taken birth, they being incarnations of various gods.  They are fearless and strong.  They will construct a bridge for you to cross the sea and invade Lanka, kill Ravana and rescue Sita.  Do not employ the various godly weapons unless required.  Do not use them against fleeing soldiers, else they will rebound on you.  What more should I tell you Rama?  I am the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer of the entire universe.  I am verily Death and Death’s Death.  All those who have been inspired for this battle are already in my jaws.  You be the mere cause of their annihilation in the battlefield, which will make you very famous.

  1. ii) Bhagavad Gita

When Krishna unfolded his cosmic form to Arjuna, Arjuna saw that there was neither any beginning, nor any middle nor any end to the vision.  The entire space between earth and heaven seemed to have been occupied by God.  The form of God reached almost to the top of the sky,  being illuminated with beautiful colors and lights.  Inside this space filling appearance, Arjuna visualized various forms of gods with an infinite number of faces, eyes, hands, and feet.  The sun and the moon served as his eyes.  Blazing fire emitted from His mouth and the dazzling splendor of His form equalled the splendor of a thousand suns, simultaneously illuminating the sky.  God had taken the form of Terrific Death and all existing beings rushing towards His mouths were being crushed to death with their heads pounded between His fangs and teeth.  God devoured the worlds with flaming mouths and licked His tongues for want of satiety.

Krishna showed Arjuna the vision of future in order that he might be encouraged to fight to the end the battle in which he was engaged.  Krishna showed him a panorama where Bhima and Drona and Karna alongwith foremost warriors, even on the side of Pandavas were rushing headlong with great velocity into the opened mouths of Krishna like moths towards flaming fires.

Arjuna though was greatly satisfied with the Cosmic Vision heretofore unknown to him, was traumatized with the terrific vision and mortal fear grasped him, entering the very marrow of his system.  He experienced tremor alongwith horripilation, losing all sense of direction and finding the flow of his vital forces as absolutely checked.

Krishna then explained to Arjuna “The armies will be killed in spite of you.  Be, therefore, a willing tool in the hands of God and gain the credit of destroying your enemies.  Rest assured that victory will be yours.”

  1. Chronology of Shiva Gita and Bhagavad Gita

Events depicted in Siva Gita stand hundreds of years prior to Bhagavad Gita, and are more elaborate in detail.

  1. Mystical Comparison (Textual)

Both the visions of Rama and Arjuna are full of morphic, chromic, photic and audile experiences of innumerable varieties.

Arjuna’s vision is both satisfying, striking wonder and mortal fear at the same time.  Whereas Rama’s vision is entirely beautific.

Both Krishna and Siva emphasize their role of creator, sustainer and destroyer of the worlds, imploring Arjuna and Rama to perform their duties, as what was to happen was already fait accompli and since victory and fame would come to them.

Arjuna had to be bestowed with Divya Drishti (intuitive vision) to apprehend the Viswarupa.  Rama with his penance for obtaining the boon of Pashupatiastra from Siva, probably had acquired the intuitive vision.

The apex of Rama’s vision is that Lord Siva touched him, spoke to him regarding various strategies to be adopted later in the war with Ravana.  what is known as Darshana, Sparshana, and Sambhashana in mystical terminology.

End Vote

Great Mystical saints like Prof. Ranade can partake, participate and appreciate Vishwarupa visions.  For little minds only textual comparison is possible.

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