“Whatever you wish to see can be seen all at once in this body. This universal form can show you all that you now desire, as well as whatever you may desire in the future. Everything is here completely.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.7)
To think that the world revolves around you is not very wise, but to avoid it is very difficult. The same routine that you have right now, the same worldview and perspective that you keep in your day-today affairs, existed prior to your time with others. Just as you marvel at the birth of your first child, your parents did so as well when their first child was born. As you ponder over the meaning of life and worry over the future, others pondered the same dilemmas, sometimes hundreds of years prior to you. The more you can break away from the false notion that everything only happens because you are present, the wiser you will be. Expanding this vision out to the largest scale is one way to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is not a sectarian figure nor a figment of the imagination.
Is all the stuff in the world unreal? Is it mythology to believe that there is a giant cosmos, which consists of all the planets, species, elements, and the sun? Is it a dogmatic principle to believe that the individual is puny in comparison to not only the sum collection of other individuals but the creation itself? This gigantic, abstract image that automatically incorporates every nuance and detail imaginable exists for real, though it is difficult for us to perceive.
The desire to go where eagles dare helps in some ways to acquire the broader perspective. We have images from outer space available today because of advancements in technology, the relatively new study of aerospace engineering. The aviation buffs and the “geeky” rocket scientists found ways to manipulate the material elements so that they could put man into outer space, allowing him to soar to new heights. From that distance they could see the earth as a whole and the vast outer space that it remains a small part of.
From the pictures from outer space, one can realize that they are not that important in the grand scheme, that they can’t manipulate much of the material energy. Surely man can discover new things, and going forward there are many more things to discover, but still nothing can be done to create a planet. That planet doesn’t even have to be the size of the earth or the moon. Just take one small particle of dust if you like and keep it floating in the same orbit in perpetuity. Let it revolve and rotate, and don’t provide it any outside source of energy.
Of course it is impossible for man to do this, and yet even with the vision acquired from outer space there is little humbling of the ego. If there is an acknowledgment of a higher power, there is assuredness that life is meant to be enjoyed, that the material elements should be manipulated for one’s own personal satisfaction. “After all, studying science and doing experiments got man into outer space, so perhaps with more work he can go even beyond, finding new ways to enjoy the experience that is life.”
But is this really enjoyment? The birds already fly high into the sky without the help of scientists. They know nothing of glide ratios, yet they can go pretty much wherever they want via the aerial path. The eagle can see something miles away perfectly, and the vultures have no problem feasting on carcasses. Thus where is the advancement of the human being when it takes them so much effort, years of research and experiment in fact, just to artificially imitate the birds?
The real meaning to life is to understand God. This is the point stressed by the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India. “Well, what is God? Seems like an abstract concept, so perhaps I can make up my own God, as there are competing visions with the different religions anyway. Who’s to say that aviation and science won’t please the Supreme Lord? We are His children, so shouldn’t He want us to enjoy.”
Though devotion is certainly stressed in the Vedic literatures, as the personal aspect of the Supreme Lord is what brings sweetness in association that ignites a fire of service that never dies within the individual, the scientific basis for spirituality is also presented. The human beings are not the only sons and daughters on the earth; all creatures come from God. The enjoyment is already sanctioned with birth, but at the same time that enjoyment is illusory. It is temporary and coupled with so much misery. The animals also eat, sleep, mate and defend, so should we, as a more intelligent species, follow suit, taking those behaviors to be the summit of existence?
The spirit soul evolves through the different species to reach a point where it can learn about God. From that understanding there is a higher pursuit, a push to achieve the association of the Divine so that pleasure can increase. If one is not so inclined to understand the personal aspects to the Supreme Lord, mistaking their descriptions to be dogmatic or sectarian, then one can still understand the universal form. That vision exists for real, though we can’t see it. But to begin to understand it, we have to break out of the vision that the world revolves around us. This is a wise course regardless, as the more we understand the nature around us, the better suited we will be to deal with others, to follow pious behavior, and to establish a good relationship with our fellow man. Only the lowest among men, who imitate the jackals in their behavior, think that their needs are of utmost concern and that whatever others desire should be cast aside. This is considered foolish thinking because every person has a right to pursue the same enjoyment, to live a vibrant and worthwhile life.
The universal manifestation is one way to think of God, but actually seeing and appreciating it are difficult through one’s mental effort alone. Therefore God, who is a person at heart, kindly discloses that universal form, the virat-rupa, to a few fortunate individuals. What they see is then recorded in the Vedic scriptures, to be recreated for the listener sincerely interested in finding out the meaning to life. Arjuna saw the virat-rupa on the battlefield of Kurukshetra after having received sublime words of wisdom from Shri Krishna, the original form of the Supreme Lord. The same Krishna previously showed a version of that universal form to mother Yashoda in Vrindavana.
“How do I worship that universal manifestation? How do I worship God once I start to appreciate His creation?” The understanding of that vision naturally gives rise to humility, the release of feelings of pride and ego. As it is easy to get distracted with one’s personal affairs and thus think oneself to be the sole determining factor of personal fortunes, that shedding of ego is vital to a fruitful existence. The life is deemed perfect when at the time of death thoughts focus on the Supreme Lord. If that vision of the Supreme Godhead is of His universal form, which is a kind of impersonal aspect, then there is still a spiritual existence in the next life, but one lacking personal association of the divine.
If, on the other hand, the consciousness is fixed on the Supreme Person and His wonderful attributes, then the next residence is in a place where His association is available constantly. The same pursuit of enjoyment exists with that birth, except the results are permanent and blissful. The root cause of the shift is the inherent difference in desires. Rather than try to enjoy without God, who is the proprietor of every land, the devoted souls seek to please Krishna at every step, to see to it that He is happily engaged with His dearest servants, who can assume many different roles in this sacred land.
“And whoever, at the time of death, quits his body, remembering Me alone, at once attains My nature. Of this there is no doubt.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 8.5)
The belief in the deliverance at the time of death for the Krishna conscious soul certainly requires some faith to be extended in the beginning, but then again Krishna has earned that faith based on the perfect teachings He presents in works like the Bhagavad-gita. He is so kind that if you should choose not to worship Him, He still gives you information of the universal form, which can be conceptualized right now, by every single person, regardless of their religious persuasion. Know that there is a sum collection of stuff in this world, and when sections of that stuff are used for finding the spiritual kingdom, the time on earth goes well spent.
“Everything around, including sun and moon too,
Revolves around me, everything that I do.”
When by pictures from outer space be awed,
Know that your former understanding seriously flawed.
Without you everything else still to move on,
In past people same issues dwelt upon.
If towards spirituality you are not so inclined,
At least you can keep universal vision in mind.
To His devotees Krishna better engagement gives,
In His company devoted souls always live.