Chapter 11. Universal Form

1You have graciously taught me
the grand spiritual truth
of the supreme self.
Your words have cleared my delusion.

2You have taught me in detail
about the origin and dissolution of everything
and also about your own imperishable majesty.

3,4O magnificent lord and master of yoga!
Now I wish to see you with all your divine splendor
just the way you have described it.
If you think that it is possible for me
to see your divine form,
then please show it to me.

5Arjuna see my divine forms
by the hundreds or by the thousands
of many colors and shapes.
6Behold many marvels never seen before!
Look at all the adityas, the vasus, the rudras,
the ashvins, and the maruts.
Adityas are the twelve children of
sage Kashyapa and his first wife Aditi.
Vasus are divinities presiding over the elements of nature.
Rudras are a group of storm gods.
Ashvins are the divine twins who are the physicians of the gods
and are believed to witness all religious ceremonies.
Maruts are a group of wind gods.

7Now, you can see in my body
the assembly of the entire universe,
with every animate and inanimate being
and whatever else you wish to see.

8I grant you divine vision;
else, you won’t be able to see
my universal form.

9Having said this, O king,
the great master of yoga revealed
his majestic universal form to Arjuna.
10,11With countless mouths and eyes,
sporting many divine ornaments, garlands, and garments;
anointed with heavenly fragrances and
armed with divine weapons ready to strike,
the infinite and all-pervading god is full of wonder.

12If a thousand suns were to appear in the sky all at once,
the brilliance of their light would perhaps
resemble the splendor of this glorious being.
13Within the body of the lord of lords,
Arjuna saw the entire universe
with its countless elements
gathered together as one.

14Wonderstruck, with his hair standing on end
and hands folded in salutation,
Arjuna bowed down to the lord, and said:

15,16O lord of the universe
and essence of the cosmos!
In your body, I see the devas,
the rishis, the divine snakes,
lord Brahma seated on his lotus throne,
and beings of all forms and shapes.
Devas are deities, rishis are seer-sages, and
divine snakes are serpents with special powers.

I see you everywhere,
with countless arms, bellies, mouths and eyes;
but I see neither your beginning nor middle nor end.
The universal form is a seamless joining of space-time pieces;
due to the sheer magnitude of the universal form,
Arjuna is unable to see any boundaries.

17I see you wearing a crown
and holding a mace and a discus.
The mace and the discus are
two of Krishna’s divine weapons.

Your brilliance spreads in all directions
with the radiance of the sun and a blazing fire.

It is difficult to fathom
your immeasurable form.

18You are the imperishable, supreme being
worthy to be known.
You are the purpose of all knowledge.
You are the ultimate abode of the universe.
You are the guardian of the eternal law and order.
You are the primeval spirit.

19You are without beginning, middle, or end.
You have countless arms with infinite power,
with the sun and the moon as your eyes.

Your face glows like the burning fire,
whose radiance warms the whole world.

20You pervade the entire space
between heaven and earth
and all the quarters.

The three worlds tremble
upon seeing your intimidating form.
The three worlds or the three ‘realms of existence’ are:
the earth, the heavens, and the skies.
Looking at it in another way, the three realms may also refer to
the past, the present and the future.

21Hordes of deities are entering your body;
some of them, out of fear, are greeting you reverently.

Many great rishis and siddhas are singing your glory
with lofty hymns, chanting: “may all be well!”
Siddhas are people who have attained a high degree of perfection.

22The rudras, adityas, vasus, sadhyas,
vishvedevas, ashvins, maruts, ushmapas, and
several gandharvas, yakshas, siddhas and asuras –
all of them are looking at you with awe.
Sadhyas are a group of accomplished ancient seers who are not bound by time. Vishvedevas are a group of Vedic gods. Ushmapas are ancestors. Gandharvas are a group of divine artists and musicians. Yakshas are spirits with special powers; they are semi-divine and benevolent. Asuras are a demonic group, opposed to the devas.

23O mighty-armed one!
Seeing your immense form
with countless mouths and eyes,
with numerous arms, feet, and thighs, and
with several bellies and dreadful tusks,
the whole world is terrified, and so am I.

24I shudder seeing your body glow in different colors,
stretched as far as the sky,
with wide-open mouths and large fiery eyes;
I am terrified when I look at it.
I find neither courage nor calm.

25Seeing your mouths with terrible tusks
blazing like the fire at the end of time.
I lose sense of direction and find no peace.
Have mercy on me, O refuge of the universe!

26,27I see all the sons of Dhritarashtra and
kings such as Bhishma, Drona, and Karna;
I see our own chief warriors and hosts of others
rushing into your dreadful mouths with fearful teeth.
Many of them are getting stuck between your teeth and
their heads are getting crushed to powder.

28,29Just as rivers having many torrents
swiftly flow into ocean and
as moths are drawn into the blazing fire
only to be burnt,
so do these heroes of the world
rush into your mouths
for their own destruction.

30You are hungrily licking up and devouring
all the worlds from every side
with your fiery mouths.

Your brilliance is scorching
the entire universe!

31I bow to you,
O foremost among gods!

Have mercy on me and
tell me who you are,
in this dreadful form.

I don’t understand your
true nature or purpose.

32-34I am death, the mighty destroyer of the world!
I am engaged now in the destruction of all creation.
With or without you, all these warriors shall die,
for I have already killed them.
Therefore, arise and be victorious!
Fight merely to show the world your skill in archery.
Do not hesitate; kill Drona, Bhishma, Karna,
Jayadratha, and other brave warriors,
whom I have already killed.
Conquer your enemies and
enjoy the bountiful kingdom.
Be fearless! Fight!
You will win!

35Hearing Krishna’s words, Arjuna, trembling
and with palms joined in prayer, offered salutations.
Overwhelmed with fear,
he prostrated over and over again,
and spoke in a choked, faltering voice.

36Demons run away from you in all directions,
while the rest of the world
is truly delighted to sing your glory and
hoards of saints are bowing to you with respect.

37And why would they not bow to you, O great one?
You are the primeval cause,
greater than even lord Brahma.
You are infinite and imperishable,
the abode of the universe and the lord of gods.
You are what all there is, what there isn’t, and beyond that.

38You are the primal god, the primordial person;
you are the ultimate refuge of the universe.
You are the knower and the goal of knowledge.
You are the supreme abode and
you pervade the universe
with your infinite form.

39You are Yama, Vayu, Agni, Varuna,
Shashanka, and the grandsire Prajapati.
I salute you a thousand times,
and over and over again.
Yama is the god of death. He accords punishments to people
during afterlife for sins they committed in their lives.
Vayu is the wind god, Agni is the fire god,
Varuna is the water god, and Shashanka is the moon.
Prajapati is the lord of the creatures and the progenitor of the universe.

40I salute you from every direction!
You have unfathomable energy
and immeasurable courage.
You pervade everything;
therefore you are everything.

41,42Taking you for granted as a mere friend
and unaware of your greatness,
I have arrogantly addressed you as
“hey Krishna”, “hey Yadava”, and “hey friend”
perhaps out of familiarity or sheer carelessness.
In whatever other ways
I may have jokingly offended you,
while at play or at rest,
during conversations or at meals,
either alone or in the company of others –
please forgive me for everything.

43You are the father of the universe,
of the animate and the inanimate;
you are the object of worship and the greatest teacher;
there is no one equal to you in the three worlds.
You are of incomparable greatness!
How can any other be greater than you?

44Therefore, I offer my respects and
plead you to have mercy on me;
just as a father pardons his son,
a friend forgives another,
or a lover is kind to his beloved,
you be merciful to me!

45,46O thousand-armed one!
I am delighted to have seen this rare form,
never seen before and yet I am trembling.
I wish to see you as before;
Please assume that four-armed form,
wearing a crown and holding a mace and discus.
Be kind to me and show me your familiar form.

47With my yogic power and grace
I have revealed to you my universal form –
infinite, unique, and full of splendor.
Apart from you, no one has seen this form before.
48Neither by worship nor by scholarship
nor through charitable or pious activities
and not even by severe austerities
can anyone else see me in this form.
This form was shown for the sake of Arjuna;
Sanjaya saw it by default.

49Don’t be afraid having seen my dreadful form.
Free from fear and with a light heart,
see my gentle form, which is familiar to you.

50Saying thus, Krishna revealed his previous form.
The terrified Arjuna was reassured
once Krishna took on his pleasant form.

51I now feel at ease,
having seen your familiar form.

52The universal form of mine
that you have seen is very rare.
Even the devas are always longing
to see me in that form.
53Neither by study of the Vedas
nor by yajña, dana, and tapah
can anyone see me the way you have.
Yajña refers to worship and a sense of dedication to one’s work.
Dana is charity, but bordering on philanthropy.
Tapah refers to austerity, penance, and single-minded focus on work.

54But I may be known, seen, and attained
through single-minded devotion.

55One who is truly devoted to me
dedicates all actions to me
and looks upon me as supreme;
he is free from attachments
and he does not hate anyone.
Without doubt, he attains me.

<< Chapter 10. Divine Splendor


  1. In 41,42, line 5, there is a missing word--of.

    Original line:
    perhaps out familiarity or sheer carelessness.

    perhaps out of familiarity or sheer carelessness.

    Thank you for this wonderful resource.

  2. @Heinz Insu Fenkl: Thanks so much for your note -- I have made the correction in the blog. Glad you enjoyed reading our work.