Monday, August 31, 2009


Although I've been chanting since July, the cosmos has not unfolded psychedelically before me, as I had hoped. What am I doing wrong? Why haven't I seen that apocalyptic vision witnessed by Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurukshetra? Where is that virat-rupa, the Universal Form containing myriad eyes, hands, heads, and flaming mouths devouring worlds?

"If hundreds of thousands of suns rose up at once into the sky, they might resemble the effulgence of the Supreme Person in that universal form."

According to Swamiji, Sri Krishna revealed this form to Arjuna as a special favor. What Arjuna saw, of course, is beyond description and human imagination. He saw the entire creation contained within the Lord's body.

"The pure devotees are not eager to see this form," Swamiji tells us. "Devotees prefer the two-armed form of Krishna as a cowherd boy. The virat-rupa is exhibited to materialistic men who can be impressed only by the might and opulence of the Supreme."

Well, after all, aren't we Western materialists by birth? Isn't this the form meant for us?

I finally gather the courage to approach Swamiji, waiting until he is alone in his room, sitting behind his footlocker, reading.

"Why can't I see Krishna as Arjuna saw Him on the battlefield?" I ask bluntly.

"You can," Swamiji says. "This is the process, chanting Hare Krishna."

"I've been chanting Hare Krishna more than four months," I complain, "but I still don't see that universal form with all the heads and arms. What am I doing wrong?"

Swamiji looks at me a moment, his eyes magnified behind his glasses. Then he silently hands me the manuscript of his recent translations of Eleventh Chapter verses. I read:

O greatest of all personalities, O supreme form, though I see here before me Your actual position, I yet wish to see how You have entered into this cosmic manifestation. I want to see that form of Yours. If You think that I am able to behold Your cosmic form, O my Lord, O master of all mystic power, then kindly show me that universal self.

"There," Swamiji says. "'If You think that I am able to behold Your cosmic form.' So what does that mean?"

I look at the verse again and think more deeply about it. Then I look up at Swamiji. His eyes are fixed on me, awaiting my reply. Suddenly I begin to feel stupid again, as I had when trying to defend the Buddhists.

"It means that Lord Krishna is the best judge," I say at length. "So Arjuna leaves it up to Him."

"Yes," Swamiji says. "That is the process. Arjuna was a great warrior, a great devotee of Krishna's. He didn't want to see the virat-rupa for his personal gratification. He was asking on behalf of the materialists. Yet he says to Krishna, 'If You think that I am able. This is the attitude we should have. Now what do you think?"

Again he looks at me, awaiting my reply, and for a moment I think that if I insist, he might even deliver the vision.

"I don't think I'm ready," I finally say.

"Yes," Swamiji smiles as I hand the verses back. "Yes, my spiritual master used to say, 'Don't work hard to try to see God. But work in such a way that God sees you.' So we should just go on with our chanting, and see Krishna in our service. Carry on devotional service sincerely, and everything will come in time."