“Krishna would sometimes perform mock fighting along with the cowherd boys. When Krishna blew His horn in this mock fighting, Shridama, who was on the opposing side, felt his bodily hairs stand up. Similarly, when Arjuna saw Krishna in His gigantic universal form, there was a standing of the hairs on his body.” (The Nectar Of Devotion, Ch 28)
Duryodhana came up with the plan pretty quickly. Forget peace. No reason to even consider the message brought by the emissary, whose preference was known. Krishna was the dear friend to Arjuna. Krishna was related as a cousin to the Pandavas, as well. Duryodhana was on the other side. He took the kingdom that didn’t belong to him. He edged out the cousins, and then to make sure they didn’t try to take back what was rightfully theirs, he tried to have them killed in so many ways.
Somehow or other the brothers and their mother, Kunti Devi, managed to survive. Duryodhana didn’t know it, but the actual reason was Shri Krishna. He protects the devotion of His devotees. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, descending to earth in the original, all-attractive form.
On this visit from Krishna, Duryodhana thought it would be beneficial to have the messenger bound. Of course, this went against protocol and the most basic standards of decency for a head of state; but winning was the only concern for Dhritarashtra’s son.
As antaryami, or the all-pervading witness, Krishna is conscious of everything that is happening, in every space. He knew of Duryodhana’s plan before it could be implemented. He decided to show the virata-rupa, the universal form. The idea is that Krishna is never alone. Though He gives a certain appearance, the size to His transcendental body can never be accurately measured. He is bigger than the biggest and smaller than the smallest.
The vision of the virata-rupa scared Duryodhana straight for the time being; mission aborted. The plan to bind gave Krishna a good chuckle. One may wonder why then such a vision is not always shown. Why doesn’t Krishna walk around as the universal-form instead of His two-handed form, which carries a flute?
1. The vision is a way to remove doubts
Sometimes someone gets to know Krishna very well, but they’re not exactly sure who He is. The universal form provides visual evidence of His divine nature. Arjuna saw a most amazing version of the virata-rupa on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. This was after Krishna’s visit to try for peace and before the actual war began.
Arjuna was not really in doubt, but he asked to see the spectacle nonetheless since he knows its importance. It is one kind of visual evidence of the existence of the Almighty. Even the staunchest atheist wouldn’t be foolish enough to deny that the sum of total of everything exists. I may not believe in a higher power, but I know that there is stuff everywhere. Take all the stuff together, put it into one image, and you have the universal form. A person who can show this image is thus not ordinary; they must be Divine.
2. It is a way to correct the fools who think He is an ordinary being
This was the case in the meeting with Duryodhana. The fool thought that Krishna was an ordinary being, someone who takes birth and eventually dies, like everyone else. He knew that Krishna sucked milk from the breast of mother Yashoda during childhood, that He crawled like an ordinary baby. Duryodhana knew that Krishna fled the battlefield against Jarasandha during adulthood.
Still, there should not have been doubt on the matter. The dear friend to Arjuna and the Pandavas had shown His amazing ability many times. Vidura, the uncle, was not in doubt. Neither were so many others present. Due to his sinful nature Duryodhana couldn’t see properly. Thus he came up with the crazy plan to have Krishna tied up.
“Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.11)
The universal form corrected the false idea. Take note that even after being presented visual evidence by God Himself, Duryodhana did not change his ways. That is the power of the illusory energy known as maya. Not only does it lead to false identification, but even when someone genuine is presented right before the eyes, a change in consciousness does not occur.
3. The devotees don’t require that vision
To show the universal form at all times is not required for those who are constantly with Krishna. They don’t insist on such proof. They already know that God exists. They are already on the proper side of action, dharma. They have turned away from adharma, which is like the back side of God.
4. It is impersonal; only a perspective on the truth
The virata-rupa is not a person. It is a kind of abstract concept. It is impossible to put everything into a single image, since time is always changing things. The virata-rupa is thus impersonal; it is just a way to understand God. It is not something tangible; something with which to interact on a moving forward basis.
5. Krishna is more attractive
The personal form is more attractive, and it is for the pleasure of the devotees that Krishna descends. He delivers the pious and punishes the miscreants. He reestablishes dharma after it has been neglected for too long.
This work can be accomplished by representatives, however. The real purpose of the Divine descent is to give pleasure to the devotees, the servants who have surrendered everything for God. They take more pleasure from seeing Krishna or one of His other personal incarnations, like Rama or Narasimha, than they do from the virata-rupa.
Already in bhakti path proceeding,
So virata vision not needing.
Abstract, a collective representing,
Prefer for personal form presenting.
Impersonal, to interact not a way,
Neither talking with words to say.
Two-handed, with flute in the hands,
The blissful deity, prayers He understands.