All of us know that even the largest tree came from a tiny seed. But our eyes cannot see the miniscule changes that transform the seed into a sapling, then into a plant and so on. Only when we take a series of photographs each day and play them at high speed can we actually see the seed turn into a tree. Our other senses have similar limitations. The mind, which gives meaning to the information from our senses, chops up time and space. It can never view the unity of things.
Arjuna was aware of this limitation. Having heard about Ishvara’s vibhootis or grand expressions in the prior chapter, he desperately wanted to get rid of this limitation. In response to his request, Shri Krishna granted him divine vision that enabled him to see the universe without the limitations of space and time. Without the limitation of time, Arjuna did not just see the tree, he saw the seed, the sapling and the tree all at once. Without the limitation of space, he saw not just that tree, but all the trees in the universe all at once.
Our mind has another limitation. It tends to get attracted to some things, and gets repelled from other things. To highlight this limitation, Shri Krishna first showed Ishvara’s pleasant form, and then followed it with his frightful, menacing form. Everything that existed in the pleasant form was violently destroyed by the same Ishvara. Shri Krishna later emphasized that creation and destruction were to be viewed in the same light, because creation cannot happen without destruction. Both have their place in the universe. Also, when one’s actions or karmas are exhausted on earth, they are destroyed. There is no randomness or personal bias in who gets destroyed.
Shri Krishna concluded this chapter by instructing Arjuna on how to attain Ishvara. The key qualification is ananya bhakti, or single-pointed devotion. Combined with karma yoga, jnyana yoga, subduing likes and dislikes and giving up attachment to the material world, we are able to access Ishvara in his cosmic form. The previous shloka enabled us to see the one Ishvara in everything, the one in all. This chapter urges us to see the all in one.