Guru and Disciple by Aaron Makhijani, Boston USA

The Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu Scripture, depicting a conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, the warrior, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, where a war is being waged between the Kauravas and Pandavas. The dialogue is very much a part of the Mahabharata, a famous Indian epic, and one of the major religious texts in Hinduism.

The conversation is primarily driven by a series of questions. Arjuna, perplexed by the prospect of a major war between the two factions of the same, one family, asks Lord Krishna for the resolutions.

Lord Krishna’s graceful, simple and practical answers have shaped the mind-set and morality of billions who have been exposed to the said passages, directly or indirectly. Indeed, while every chapter of this sacred Scripture has gems of wisdom, chapter 11 in particular – the Yoga of the Vision of Cosmic form – is one of the core 18 chapters.

In this chapter, Lord Krishna bestows on Arjuna the Truth – the true form or the formless God that permeates everywhere. The significance of the presence of a physical Guru in the seeker’s life is also highlighted and described in detail.

Arjuna asks Lord Krishna,
“I wish to see your divine form!”

Krishna replies in shloka (verse) 8 that it is not possible to see his true form without the acquisition of the divine eye (commonly referred to as the third eye). Having been graced with such an eye by Lord Krishna, Arjuna sees the entire Universe residing in the body of Krishna.

For illustration purposes, the next few Shlokas go on to describe what Arjuna is seeing and how fascinated he is by the Lord’s great intricacies; he praises Him and His vastness from the heart. 

However, it gets even more interesting in Shloka 23, where Arjuna makes a confession. He feels fear and remorse. With everything in the Universe being the form of Krishna, how can he proceed to fight this war and defeat the enemies? Wouldn’t that mean killing a part of his beloved Krishna? The Lord responds that He is the creator and destroyer of all, and that Arjuna must go on to fulfil his action (karma) and proceed with the war for the fulfilment of righteousness.

Shloka 39 is probably one of the most well-known verses in the world, where Arjuna is depicted turning in all directions. He is bowing to Krishna, signifying that Krishna is everywhere and in all directions. This part clarifies that Arjuna has truly grasped Krishna’s lesson and that he has seen His cosmic form. Arjuna goes on to apologize to Krishna for the many mistakes he might have made in ignorance. He always saw Krishna as a companion and a friend, but never knowing who he really was.

In Shloka 45, there is a twist in the narrative. Arjuna is distressed yet again and doused in fear. Arjuna here makes a request at the feet (i.e. in all humility) of Krishna. This is perhaps one of the most pivotal moments in the Bhagavad Gita.

He asks Krishna to come back into His PREVIOUS form – the form that Arjuna was seeing prior to his enlightenment with the vision of the Cosmic form – the human form. Arjuna says,

“I desire to see you as before, crowned, bearing a mace, with the discus in hand, your former form only!”

Krishna seems surprised to hear this. He tells Arjuna that he should feel fortunate as others have not seen Krishna’s true form. Why he was asking for his human form back, he could not understand, particularly in view of the fact that people try to discern his form through austerities, bribes and rituals, and still fail to see it. However Krishna assumes his gentle human form and consoles fearful Arjuna.

The chapter ends with a sort of warning by Krishna. In Shloka 54, Lord Krishna says,

“Only by single-minded devotion can I be known, seen and entered into.”

Krishna shows Arjuna his true form, which Arjuna sees and appreciates. Then he asks Krishna to come back into human form. This conversation is at the time of the Great War, and as such makes sense why Arjuna is so afraid. He needs his companion and his partner to physically help win the war. This is why Arjuna specifies that he wants to see Krishna armed with the discus in hand.

The gracious Lord Krishna accepts His request and comes back in physical form, but what can we make of his “warning” at the end?
Krishna ends by saying,

“Only by single-minded devotion can I be known, seen and entered into.”

Single-minded devotion is an important phrase. It is clear that Krishna is telling Arjuna that if he wants to have the vision of the Formless permanently, he must focus all of his attention unequivocally on the Formless itself, with all awareness and concentration. Finally, the most important point, when Krishna says entered into, He is referring to liberation, mutki, which is the end goal of a devotee in Vedic philosophy.
Arjuna needs Krishna physically to fight the battle against evil, which can represent materialism in this case. Similarly, a devotee will always need a physical Guru to teach him/her how to fight the battle against materialism in daily life, as Krishna teaches Arjuna. That is why a Guru is given the utmost importance in the spiritual journey.

However, the devotee must understand and follow what the Guru is saying. The True Guru will always point the devotee in the direction of liberation, which Krishna explains is through concentration and devotion to the cosmic form, the true form. Let us remember that Krishna asks Arjuna to single-mindedly focus on the formless to achieve liberation, which is exactly what our Guru, Satguru Mata Sudiksha ji is reminding us of in Her discourses today.


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