Brahman, God, pervades the whole universe and exists beyond it as well, in Its pristine Glory. Thus there are two dimensions to Brahman – the pure, unmanifested aspect that cannot be conceived by the human intellect and the manifested aspect which expresses as the myriad glories in the world. Krsna begins by pointing towards the unmanifest, transcendent facet. Even the gods and great sages do not know this aspect as Atman is not an object of comprehension. It is the very subject enabling you to understand. It is unborn, without beginning and the substratum of the universe. One who knows the yoga and vibhuti realises the Self – one who understands Brahman and how exactly It manifests in the world knows all that needs to be known. He is the Enlightened One.
Arjuna is a man of the world. He needs endorsement by way of tangible expressions. When you are bound to the world you get blinded by it. You lose the insight to see the wonders of the Lord everywhere. Divinity abounds in the world. But enchanted by worldly temptations the average person fails to see Its glorious expressions. It needs a certain sense of detachment and subtlety even to see the expressions of Brahman. Then you begin to see awesome wonders all around. As Wordsworth said:
And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; ….well pleased to recognise in nature…
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
The chapter entitled Vibhuti Yoga details Brahman’s manifestations. Arjuna understands the importance of keeping the mind anchored in the higher. He knows he is led astray by superficial attractions. He asks Krsna to help him see God’s immanence in the world so that he may remain focussed on the Divine even while he is living in the world and interacting with it.
Krsna begins by saying that He is the core of all beings. He is the beginning, middle and end of all beings. They originate in Him, exist in Him and dissolve into Him. He subtly points to the fact that alas Arjuna is asking for expressions and not the Power behind it all. Krsna, God incarnate is standing before him and he asks for his expressions. It is as absurd as asking for the photograph of a person who is standing before you!
Krsna then goes on to enumerate some of the manifestations of Brahman, taking care to highlight the best in each category. This enables even the least developed to get inspired. Such people need spectacular expressions of Divinity to feel connected. Like the mighty Himalayas or the breathtaking Niagara. As one grows spiritually one gains the sensitivity to see Divinity even in ordinary manifestations, like a flower or leaf. At the highest level one is rooted in Brahman, immersed in the contemplation of Brahman, and does not need any manifestation to remind oneself of the Divine.
Krsna ends by saying that the enumeration of His astounding glories is only a small fragment of His power. Do not get stuck with the mere expressions. Go beyond to the very essence. The entire universe is only a minuscule, insignificant part of the limitless expanse of Brahman. That Brahman you are. Rise above the universe and understand your sublime Grandeur.