In the summer of 1966 I became an initiated disciple of the teacher who told me that the Supreme Absolute Truth is a person. This teacher is now known by the name His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, often referred to simply as Prabhupada.
Under his guidance I learned the principles of understanding the Bhagavad Gita in a way I had never heard or read from any other teacher.
I learned that Krishna means what he says. When Krishna says, “There is no truth higher than me,” he does not mean that he is representing some other truth, maybe some hidden truth inside himself. He means that he himself is the highest truth.
I also learned that we have to follow Arjuna’s understanding because it is perfect, as Krishna says in the fourth chapter: “You can understand because you are my devotee and my friend.”
By following Arjuna, I avoided a mistake many people make in trying to understand the Bhagavad Gita. In the eleventh chapter Krishna shows his universal form, the form by which he pervades the material creation, to Arjuna:
Arjuna saw in that universal form unlimited mouths, unlimited eyes, unlimited wonderful visions. The form was decorated with many celestial ornaments and bore many divine upraised weapons. He wore celestial garlands and garments, and many divine scents were smeared over his body.
All was wondrous, brilliant, unlimited, all-expanding. If hundreds of thousands of suns were to rise at once into the sky, their radiance might resemble the effulgence of the Supreme Person in that universal form.⁓Bhagavad Gita
Like many others, I assumed that the vision of the universal form, with its cosmic immensity and its brilliance greater than thousands of suns, is the ultimate revelation, the supreme goal of all yoga practice.
Dazzling light and cosmic visions—this is what revelation is supposed to be, isn’t it?
But Arjuna has a different thought, as he tells Krishna:
O mighty-armed one, all the planets with their demigods are disturbed at seeing your great form, with its many faces, eyes, arms, thighs, legs, and bellies and Your many terrible teeth, and as they are disturbed, so am I.
Please bestow your grace upon me and reveal again your form as the Personality of Godhead, O Lord of lords, O abode of the universe.
If the universal form is the ultimate revelation, why does Arjuna, who understands the goal of the Bhagavad Gita, turn away from this form and ask to see his friend Krishna? And why does Krishna give us no guidance for seeing this cosmic vision but shows himself once more as Arjuna’s two-handed friend and gives us many instructions throughout the Gita for seeing him that way?
Only one possible answer: The ultimate revelation of the Bhagavad Gita is not the universal form but Arjuna’s friend Krishna.
Arjuna’s vision of the universal form also offers us protection against any unscrupulous teacher or yogi or other person who claims to be God. We can ask to see the universal form. If he cannot show it, he is not God.
Eternally touching my head to the lotus feet of my spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada,
⁓Umapati Swami, August 1, 2018
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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is the teacher who brought Krishna Consciousness from India to the West and then to the rest of the world. He is the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna Movement as well as the author and compiler of many works of Vedic knowledge. He left this world in 1977.
One of the first American devotees of the Hare Krishna Movement, he became Srila Prabhupada’s disciple in 1966. Since then, he has preached Krishna Consciousness in many countries and is the author of “My Days with Prabhupada,” available from Amazon. Now 84 years old, he has started this blog to share what he has learned.
© 2018 Umapati Swami
Scriptural passages © Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International