Thoughts on Sri Krishna’s Revelation of Universal Form


Let us leave aside the assumption around Krishna’s could choose whatever works for you..whether as a King, manipulative schemer, beloved of gopis, as Avatar or anything else. The Vishwaroopam, the vision of the Infinite and Immanent Godhead is infinitely more interesting.

Let us remind ourselves of the context again. The hero of that age, Arjuna, has this crisis of conscience. The stark reality of war is in front of him. All the ills that befell him, his family and clan are forgotten. The brutality of what is going to begin makes his moral being shrink in repulsion. He is not afraid, this is his moral being shrinking from the carnage that is about to begin.

In response to this shrinking, Sri Krishna has expounded the larger basis of action, of morality, of spirituality, of how individual action and living can be perfected, of how laws of conduct can be gradually widened in scope to make every thought and action align with standards of living that transcend time bound social contracts into a veritable prayer. To make the individual see his role in the larger context of the Divine Lila, in the play of the Cosmos.

Sri Krishna has expounded the approaches to the Divine, of the ways of conduct that would assure ones entry into the borders of Heaven, to escape the cycle of Samsara and Maya. He has shared his view of the Sankhya path, the Purusha – Prakriti dance that makes up common life, ethical conduct, how individual Dharma coexists with Universal Dharma, how motive of action has more relevance than the action itself, of the role of ritualism, on how ritualism can be transmuted into an inner sacrifice to the Immanent Divine rather than the offering of material things. He has reiterated the various Yogas by which one can attain the Divine, he has reconciled and synthesized these approaches into one that is wide, all-encompassing and complete.

The human disciple who has received this knowledge is already familiar with the hundred roads using which one can approach the Divine. His mind sees how this tangle has been unified into a complex harmony. He realizes the one in front, his Charioteer in this field of battle, is someone not entirely known to him. Sri Krishna senses in his dear friend a mind at relative ease, but not the heart. Knowledge has been imparted but not the experience.

The unity of all existence, the play of Maya are all but theoretical constructs as yet. Arjuna is no trained Yogi, there is yet a patina of doubt that lives when knowledge has not yet become experience.

“Now”, Sri Krishna declares, “I shall show you my universal form, the one to which even the best Yogis aspire to. Because you are dear to me, I shall give you the Yogic sight, by which you shall see my energy in all its forms and manifestations.”

There is nothing symbolic in this. This is an experience. One that can be had by you and I too. The vision of the Universal Godhead. All its diverse manifestations, all its complex inter dependencies. One vision, one perspective too, of this all pervading Godhead and Power removes the illusion of separation. It destroys doubt, it is the certitude of the Godhead, the confirmation of our bright intuitions. We see ourselves surrounded, not with our eyes but an inner perception. We find ourselves as a speck, surrounded on every direction and dimension at the same time. All dimensions open up. We see that there is a Love, a Power than transcends our mind and being. There is a Beloved who watches and broods over us. That experience is the fruit for which we toil over many lives. All our perambulations through time has led us to this moment. And now we see we have looked in vain for the thing that is within us, and that is us too. All that exists is the Brahman. All is That. Nothing exists apart from It.

This is a qualitatively similar experience that Sri Ramakrishna Parahamsa imparts to a doubting Narendra, our later Swami Vivekananda about the nature of Time and Cosmos. The experience that Fritjof Capra has, as recounted in his preface to Tao of Physics, of seeing all reality as a dance of atoms, of the fact that everything is woven from a single fabric is similar to this. The experience of Sri Aurobindo, when imprisoned by the British, where he saw the jail walls, the jailer, the prisoners..even the bars that were holding him in as Vasudeva is similar to this.

There is nothing symbolic in this. Aspiration and/or the grace of a Guru can give this experience. Doubts vanish to one who has had this experience of the Universal form of the Divine. The unassailable poise of the Buddha, the acceptance of calamity with surrender, the ecstatic poetry of Annamayya, Chaitanya, Meera, Andal..all come from this experience in any of its infinite varieties.

Note: This was my answer to a question on Quora. Have posted it here after some editing.

The Names of the Mahabharata

While reading the Upanishads and Vedas, the thing that strikes you first are the names of Rishis and the Seekers of Knowledge. Vamadeva, Viswamitra, Angirasa, Bhrigu and more. Leave alone understanding of mantras, the very mention of these names seem to wake some primordial impulse to Truth and Godhood. So it should be, since to the Rishi every God, every named power, could be invoked and meditated upon until they manifested in him in all their power. So it is my idea to dwell on these ancient names to perhaps draw something, worth the try I would think.

So it struck me, what of works that I seem to know, what names lurk in there, what powers or qualities do other names hold for the eager seeker? So I picked the Mahabharata, specifically the version available at Project Gutenberg, translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli from the original Sanskrit of Krishna Dwaipanya Vyasa. With some help from Python, NLTK and writing a basic entity recognition algo I managed to extract all the names from the english text of Ganguli. That done, I fed them into the excellent WordCloud in Python tutorial code by Andreas Mueller. And just like that they came out..the heroes, villains, gods, demi-gods..all of them 🙂

So without further ado, let me humbly offer this tiny fruit of my labour for your curiosity and pleasure. Note that each image links to high resolution versions (1200 x 900).

Adi Parva

Mahabharata Adiparva

Sabha Parva

Mahabharata Sabhaparva

Vana Parva 1

Mahabharata Vanaparva1

Vana Parva 2

Mahabharata Vanaparva 2

Virata Parva

Mahabharata Virataparva


Go ahead download and see how many names are familiar to you. It is interesting how mentions of characters varies as the plot progresses. Vaisampayana is the narrator, hence the number of mentions. Arjuna establishes himself as key at the start and the end. In the middle sections Yudhisthira plays a bigger role and so on.

If there is interest I can release my code that did the basic entity recognition with some help from NLTK. In addition I also plan to put out a clickable version of this word cloud, so that curious folks can head to Wikipedia directly.

Let me know if this sort of analysis and visualization on Hindu scriptures and epics seems interesting to you.

Technical Notes:

The size of the image is based on the frequency of mentions in the text and normalized for overall word count. The top 200 names have been pulled out. As you can see the entity recognition could be a lot better. The list of left out names are much larger, I need to try another route to present all of them.

Credits to Python community, the awesome natural language processing library NLTK and Andreas Mueller for enabling this, would not have been possible otherwise.