anekabaahoodaravaktranetram pashyaami tvaam sarvatonantaroopam
naantam na madhyam na punastavaadim pashyaami vishveshvara vishvaroopa || 16 ||

 
I see you with numerous hands, bellies, mouths and eyes, with infinite forms from all sides. I see no end, middle and beginning of you, O lord of the universe, O cosmic form.
 
aneka : numerous
baahuhu : hands
udaraha : bellies
vaktra : mouths
netram : eyes
pashyaami : I see
tvaam : you
sarvataha : from all sides
anantaroopam : infinite forms
na : no
antam : end
madhyam : middle
punaha : and
tava : your
aadim : beginning
pashyaami : I see
vishveshvara : O lord of the universe
vishvaroopa : O cosmic form
 
Arjuna, in his hasty speech, fleshes out the detailed imagery of Ishvara’s cosmic form. He now sees an infinite number of forms, but his mind cannot in any way comprehend or point out what is being seen. It is only able to process parts of this image – hands, mouths, eyes and so on, but is not able to make sense of the whole picture. The fable of the blind men who could only touch parts of the elephant comes to mind here. One blind man thought that the trunk was a rope, the ear was a sieve and so on, but they did not realize that they were touching an elephant.
 
When Arjuna could not figure out how the various eyes, hands, bellies and mouth fit together, he tried to see whether the entire cosmic form had a shape or an outline to it. As a warrior, he was trained to look at a gigantic military formation and make sense of it based on its shapre. But his mind failed there as well. He was not able to locate where that cosmic form began, where its middle was, and where it ended. All our mental functions are useless when we cannot distinguish one thing from another.
 
We may be tempted to visualize the cosmic form based on some artistic rendition of this shloka that we would have seen in our childhood, especially when we were growing up in India. Most paintings of this shloka show Shri Krishna as a tall entity with many arms, legs and faces but we can still see the battlefield where he is standing on. However, Arjuna was completely engulfed and surrounded by this cosmic form in all three dimensions, “from all sides” as the shloka reads. It is impossible for a human to visualize and capture it accurately in a painting.
 
Through this shloka, Shri Krishna reveals the limitations of the mind with its tendency to chop up everything into fragments. It fails to understand Ishvara’s mind which is operating at the cosmic level. Our thoughts are limited to what we consider “me” and “mine”, but Ishvara’s thoughts take the entire universe into account. Furthermore, it also indicates that all names and forms arise from Ishvara and merge back into Ishvara.

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