Virāṭ-rūpa — The Universal Form

Jul 15 2022 - Article

In the Mahābhārata, Śrī Kṛṣṇa displays His universal form in the court of the Kurus when Duryodhana tries to capture Him, and in another instance to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukṣetra. The universal form is known in different places as viśvarūpa, virāṭ-rūpa, virāṭ-puruṣa, viśvatanu, viśvamūrti, viśvatomukha, virājam, and sometimes just as puruśa. As a first-hand witness to Kṛṣṇa’s majestic display of the complete material universe as His body, Arjuna describes what he sees using many adjectives expressing wonder, bewilderment, and fright. Arjuna’s vision is vividly described in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. Not only did Arjuna see all the fourteen planetary systems (lokas) of the universe along with their residents, but his vision also encapsulated the past, present, and the future of everything, exhibited as the virāṭ-rūpa. Arjuna was blessed by Kṛṣṇa with a divine vision (divya dṛṣṭi) to enable him to see His universal form. This means that even though the virāṭ-rūpa is a material manifestation, without the will of the Lord, it is impossible to see it with our ordinary fleshy eyes, aided or unaided with any piece of technology.

Besides, in the vedic understanding, the sun and the moon are not just physical celestial bodies floating in space, but they are conscious entities indispensably connected with our lives. The sun is not just a source of light that enables our eyes to see; but here, the sun is also a personality, considered as the presiding deity controlling the function of illumination and that of sight itself. Likewise, the moon is not just a piece of rock, but as a conscious entity, the moon is considered as the presiding deity of the mind. Fantastical as all this might sound, everything becomes quite clear when firstly, consciousness is accepted as the cause of physical matter as against the generally held opinion that matter produces consciousness, and secondly when it is accepted that consciousness presupposes a personality.

These presiding or controlling deities (devatas) and their abodes (lokas) are considered to be situated as the different limbs of the virāṭ rūpa. And as mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (8.4), this cosmic form of the supreme person is known as the adhidaivata.

The following sections will throw light on the ontology of the virāṭ-rūpa as a non-eternal material form superimposed on the spiritual form of the Lord, the subjective nature of the vision of virāṭ, the special type of divine eyes (divya cakṣu) required to view it, the nature of worship of the virāṭ-rūpa, who worships the virāṭ-rūpa, and how it is different than the worship of the śrī-mūrti, which represents the eternal forms of the Supreme Lord.

The Origin

In the Brahma Samhita, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is glorified as the Supreme Person, having an eternal transcendental form (sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha), is beginningless (anādiḥ), yet the origin of everything (ādiḥ), and the root cause of all causes (sarva kāraṇa kāraṇam). Directly or indirectly He is the ultimate source of everything that exists. Situated in the innermost realm of the transcendental domain of Vaikuntha, is Goloka Vrindavana, where Śrī Kṛṣṇa is eternally engaged in relishing mellows of His ever-fresh pastimes with His dearmost associates. In the Vedas it is mentioned that the one Supreme Lord is always engaged in His eternal pastimes, extending Himself to His devotees, and present as the Supreme Soul within their hearts (eko devo nitya-līlānurakto bhakta-vyāpi bhakta-hṛdy antar-ātma).

The transcendental domain of Vaikuntha, sometimes figuratively known as the three-fourth manifestation of the Lord’s opulence (tripāda vibhūti) is where the thoughts and movements of all living entities are spontaneously centered towards the sole interest of Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure. The remaining one-fourth opulence (ekapāda vibhūti) is the material manifestation necessitated by the inherent free-will of the individual living entities (jīvas) that grants them the ability to seek pleasure for themselves, independent of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa, being continuously engaged in loving pastimes with His devotees, is not directly involved in the task of the creation of the material world. In the Upanishads we find the following —

na tasya kāryaṁ karaṇaṁ ca vidyate
na tatsamaścābhyadhikaśca dṛśyate
parāsya śaktirvividhaiva śrūyate
svābhāvikī jñānabalakriyā ca 

The Supreme Lord has nothing to do, nor does He need material senses for anything. No one is found to be equal to or greater than Him. Everything is done naturally and automatically by His multifarious energies categorized into complete knowledge, infallible will, and creative energy. (Śvetāśvatara 6.8)

The material manifestation is therefore delegated to the Viṣṇu expansions of Śrī Kṛṣṇa.  In particular, the puruṣāvatāras are considered as the origin of the material creation —

viṣṇos tu trīṇi rūpāṇi puruṣākhyāny atho viduḥ
ekaṃ tu mahataḥ sṛaṣtṛ dvitīyaṁ tv aṇḍa-saṁsthitam
tṛtīyaṁ sarva-bhūta-sthaṁ tāni jñātvā vimucyate

Viṣṇu has three forms called puruṣas. The first, Mahā-Viṣṇu, is the creator of the total material energy (mahat), the second is Garbhodaśāyi, who is situated within each universe, and the third is Kṣīrodaśāyi, who lives in the heart of every living being. He who knows these becomes liberated from the clutches of māyā. (Quoted in Laghu-Bhāgavatāmṛta, Pūrva 2.9, from Sātvata Tantra)

The first puruśāvatāra, Mahā-Viṣṇu is described in the Brahma Samhita (5.12-13) as follows —

nārāyaṇaḥ sa bhagavān āpas tasmāt sanātanāt
āvirāsīt kāraṇārṇo nidhiḥ saṅkarṣaṇātmakaḥ
yoga-nidrāṁ gatas tasmin sahasrāṁśaḥ svayaṁ mahān
tad-roma-bila jāleṣu bījaṁ saṅkarṣaṇasya ca
haimāny aṇḍāni jātāni mahā-bhūtāvṛtāni tu

He is Śrī Nārāyaṇa, a portion of Saṅkarṣaṇa. From Him, the eternal person, appeared the vast expanse of water known as the Causal Ocean (kāraṇārṇava). The Great Bhagavān Himself, who has thousands of forms, entered into yogic-sleep (yoga-nidra) on that water. In the pores of His body the seeds of Saṅkarṣaṇa appeared as universes in the form of golden eggs, covered by the material elements.

The golden egg (haimāny aṇḍāni) mentioned in the above verse is also sometimes referred to as hiraṇyagarbha, which is thought to be the collective self of the infinite living entities (samaṣṭi) of the subtle unmanifest universe. 

The second puruśāvatāra, Garbhodhaśāyī Viṣṇu is the supersoul of the collective self (hiraṇyagarbha). Therefore, Garbhodaśāyī Viṣṇu is Himself sometimes designated as the Hiraṇyagarbha. He is described as follows —

praty-aṇḍam evam ekāṁśād ekāṁśād viśati svayam
sahasra-mūrdhā viśvātmā mahā-viṣṇuḥ sanātanaḥ

That Mahā-Viṣṇu enters into each and every universe (or cosmic egg) in His individual plenary portions (Garbhodaśāyī). All those divine portions are His supramundane almighty form—the eternal form of Mahā-Viṣṇu with thousands upon thousands of heads—the Soul of the universe. (Brahma Samhita—5.14)

‘sahasra-śīrṣādi’ kari’ vede yāṅre gāi
ei ta’ dvitīya-puruṣa — brahmāṇḍera īśvara
māyāra ‘āśraya’ haya, tabu māyā-pāra

Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, known within the universe as Hiraṇyagarbha and the antaryāmī, or Supersoul, is glorified in the Vedic hymns, beginning with the hymn that starts with the word ‘sahasra-śīrṣā.’ This second Personality of Godhead, known as Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, is the master of each and every universe and the shelter of the external energy. Nonetheless, He remains beyond the touch of the external energy. (CC Madhya 20.292-293)

From the cosmic egg, the universe manifests itself by the will of the Lord. As the third puruśāvatāra, Kṣīrodaśāyī Viṣṇu is the supersoul (antaryami) of the individual living entities (vyaṣṭi-jīva), in the manifest universal form (virāṭ). Kṣīrodaśāyī Viṣṇu is therefore sometimes designated as Virāṭ.

virāṭ vyaṣṭi-jīvera teṅho antaryāmī
kṣīrodakaśāyī teṅho — pālana-kartā, svāmī

Kṣīrodakaśāyī Viṣṇu is the universal form of the Lord (virāṭ) and is the Supersoul within every living entity. He is known as Kṣīrodakaśāyī because He is the Lord who lies on the ocean of milk. He is the maintainer and master of the universe. (CC Madhya 20.295)

A Superimposed Material Form 

In order to further the conception and creation of the material universe, the Supreme Lord in His expansions as the puruśāvatāras, accepts material designations (upādhī). However, the Supreme Lord being eternally situated in a transcendental position (turīya) beyond the material world, He is completely unattached to any material designations. 

virāḍ hiraṇyagarbhaś ca kāraṇaṁ cety upādhayaḥ
īśasya yat tribhir hīnaṁ turīyam tat padaṁ viduḥ

Virāṭ, hiraṇyagarbha, and kāraṇa are the three upādhīs (designations) of Lord. But devoid of these three upādhīs, the Supreme Lord Vāsudeva is situated in the transcendental fourth position called the turīya. (Bhāvārtha Dīpika 11.15.16, quoted in Paramātma Sandarbha, anu. 20)

Further, quoting the following verse from Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī comments that virāṭa and hiraṇyagarbha are respectively the gross (sthūla) and subtle (sūkṣma) forms of universe, superimposed on the Supreme Lord (bhagavaty āropite), for the sake of worship (upāsanārtham). However, the wise reject these forms and do not worship them, considering them to be manifestations of the Lord's external energy (bahiraṅga śaktī) as stated by the term māyā-sṛṣṭe (creation of māyā), and not an expression of His internal potency (svarūpa śakti).

amunī bhagavad-rūpe mayā te hy anuvarṇite
ubhe api na gṛhṇanti māyā-sṛṣṭe vipaścitaḥ

Neither of the above forms of the Lord, as just described unto you from the material angle of vision, is accepted by the pure devotees of the Lord who know Him well. (SB 2.10.35, quoted in Paramātma Sandarbha, anu. 57)

Nonetheless, the puruṣāvatāras that accept material designations of virāṭ, hiraṇyagarbha, and kāraṇa, are themselves fully transcendental, and not manifestations of the external energy. This is confirmed in the following verse by Śrīla Rūpa Goswāmī —

viṣṭabhyāham idaṁ kṛtsnam ekāmśeneti te vacaḥ
tac cāmśatvaṁ bhavet satyaṁ virāḍvan na tu māyikam

O Lord, in Bhagavad-gita (10.42) You said: "With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe." The forms of the puruṣāvatāras are spiritual. They are not manifestations of the material energy, as the universal form (virāṭ) is. (Laghu Bhāgavatāmṛta, Pūrva Khanḍa)

Non-Eternal — Manifest and De-manifest

The universal form is not one of the eternal forms of the Lord, a fact implied by the constantly changing nature of the material manifestation. In his commentary to Śrīmad Bhāgavatam verse 3.6.4, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes, 

“Kṛṣṇa exhibited the virāṭ-rūpa; it is not that Kṛṣṇa was exhibited by the virāṭ-rūpa. The virāṭ-rūpa is not, therefore, an eternal form of the Lord exhibited in the spiritual sky; it is a material manifestation of the Lord.”

In his commentary to the verse 1.3.30 he says —

In the virāṭ-rūpa the material manifestations of different planets have been conceived as His legs, hands, etc. … The conclusion is that the material conception of the body of the Lord as virāṭ is imaginary.

Similar to the development of a human body within the womb, the universe as mentioned in the previous section, is also first conceived as a golden egg (hiraṇyagarbha), that holds the unmanifest universe along with the sum-total of all jīvas in the subtle form, which then manifests the gross expression of the universe as the virāṭ rūpa.

tatas tenānuviddhebhyo yuktebhyo ’ṇḍam acetanam
utthitaṁ puruṣo yasmād udatiṣṭhad asau virāṭ

From these seven principles (the five material elements, the total energy, i.e. mahat-tattva and the false ego), roused into activity and united by the presence of the Lord, an unintelligent egg arose, from which appeared the celebrated Cosmic Being (virāṭ). (SB 3.26.51)

At the close, the universal form is given up by the Lord.

tato virājam utsṛjya vairājaḥ puruṣo nṛpa
avyaktaṁ viśate sūkṣmaṁ nirindhana ivānalaḥ

Then the soul of the universal form, gives up his universal body, O King, and enters into the subtle unmanifest nature, like a fire that has run out of fuel. (SB 11.3.12) 

Subjective Nature

While exhibiting the viśvarūpa, Kṛṣṇa mentions to Arjuna at-least thrice that he was seeing something that has never been seen before by anyone (adṛṣṭa-pūrvam), even though the viśvarūpa was exhibited in the court of the Kurus before the Mahābhārata war.

Śrila Jīva Gosvāmī in his Bhakti Sandarbha (anu. 26) explains that whatever a yogi perceives in the virāṭ is similar to how any person, as the witness of a dream, is the only seer of all the people and things presented to the person in that dream. Furthermore, he also establishes that the Lord is the creator even of dreams. Therefore, the assertion of Kṛṣṇa to Arjuna that no one before him has seen this universal form, can be attributed to the sweet will of Kṛṣṇa, that He is in complete control of whatever we see. This understanding is also confirmed by Srila Śrīdhara Maharaja —

If the Supreme wills, one may see a sight that another may not see. He controls our vision like in hypnotism. Just as in viśvarūpa darśana, Arjuna prayed, “I want to see that sort of Your representation.” “Yes, you may see.” Arjuna is seeing, and then he says, “I can’t see this any longer. Please stop,” and so it was stopped. How is this possible? The super subject is controlling the subject, the seer, the feeler. That is the way. And these things (laws of nature) may seem very rigid and very stable, but actually every experience comes from the higher, and it is controlled from the higher subjective world. As He wants us to see, we cannot but see that.

Eyes to See the Universal Form

In the battlefield of Kurukṣetra, everyone present saw the Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the charioteer of Arjuna. This two-handed transcendental form of the Supreme Lord is considered to be the most original eternal form of the Lord that one could possibly see. However, not everyone could observe the universal form without receiving the benediction of divine eyes (divya cakṣu) from the Lord, even though the universal form is much inferior compared to the two-handed eternal form of the Lord. In this context, presenting the verse-essence of the Bhagavad Gita verse 11.8, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura writes —

You are My devotee, so you always see My form as Kṛṣṇa with eyes that are always anointed with love of God (nirupādhika prema-cakṣu). But, My universal form is a separated manifestation and so cannot be seen with eyes that are smeared with love of God, or even the gross material eyes (sthūla cakṣu) that the conditioned souls use to see gross material objects. Divine eyes (divya cakṣū) refer to those that are materially designated but not composed of gross matter. Now I will give you divine eyes by which you can see My mystic opulence. People whose divine eyes are anointed with the salve of dry reasoning and argument naturally take more pleasure in contemplating My universal form than in My original transcendental form as Kṛṣṇa.

Moreover, when Kṛṣṇa appeared on the earth to perform His transcendental pastimes several people saw Him in His most charming eternal two-handed form, but not everyone perceived Him in the same way. There are gradations in the vision of the Supreme Lord even though apparently Kṛṣṇa appeared in the same form to everyone. In the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam this fact is nicely explained in the following verse —

mallānām aśanir nṛṇāṁ nara-varaḥ strīṇāṁ smaro mūrtimān
gopānāṁ sva-jano ’satāṁ kṣiti-bhujāṁ śāstā sva-pitroḥ śiśuḥ
mṛtyur bhoja-pater virāḍ aviduṣāṁ tattvaṁ paraṁ yogināṁ
vṛṣṇīnāṁ para-devateti vidito raṅgaṁ gataḥ sāgrajaḥ

The various groups of people in the arena regarded Kṛṣṇa in different ways when He entered it with His elder brother. The wrestlers saw Kṛṣṇa as a lightning bolt, the men of Mathurā as the best of males, the women as Cupid in person, the cowherd men as their relative, the impious rulers as a chastiser, His parents as their child, the King of the Bhojas as death, the unintelligent as the Supreme Lord’s universal form, the yogīs as the Absolute Truth and the Vṛṣṇis as their supreme worshipable Deity. (SB 10.43.17)

The Worship of Virāṭ

Actually, the devotees of Kṛṣṇa are not inclined to worship the ghastly viśvarūpa knowing it to be non-eternal and material. As mentioned in the verse above, only the unintelligent imagined Kṛṣṇa as the universal form (virāḍ aviduṣām). Arjuna, on the other hand, is an eternal friend and devotee of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, therefore he is fully satisfied with the charming two-handed form of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and not concerned with the opulent and majestic display of His universal form. Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swāmī Prabhupāda says the following in his commentary to Bhagavad Gita (verse 11.8) —

Devotees who are correctly situated in a transcendental relationship with Kṛṣṇa are attracted by loving features, not by a godless display of opulences. The playmates of Kṛṣṇa, the friends of Kṛṣṇa and the parents of Kṛṣṇa never want Kṛṣṇa to show His opulences. They are so immersed in pure love that they do not even know that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In their loving exchange they forget that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Lord.

So, when Arjuna requests Kṛṣṇa to display His universal form, he does not do so for himself, but only to convince others. In his commentary to Bhagavad Gita verse 11.3, Śrīla Prabhupāda states —

Now as far as Arjuna is concerned, he is inspired by the statements of Kṛṣṇa, but in order to convince others in the future who may think that Kṛṣṇa is an ordinary person, he desires to see Him actually in His universal form, to see how He is acting from within the universe, although He is apart from it. 

And further in the same commentary, he states — 

Kṛṣṇa also understands that Arjuna wants to see the universal form to set a criterion, for in the future there would be so many imposters who would pose themselves as incarnations of God. The people, therefore, should be careful; one who claims to be Kṛṣṇa should be prepared to show his universal form to confirm his claim to the people.

Persons that lack śraddha have neither the knowledge nor inclination in serving Kṛṣṇa in one of His eternal forms, such as the four-handed Viṣṇu forms or the two-handed form of Śyāmasundara, through the path of pure devotion. Excessively attached to material existence, such people are influenced by the fear and wonder-inducing features of the universe, and sometimes accept the pantheistic approach that views the totality of the universe itself as God. 

yad etad dṛṣyate mūrtam etaj jñānātmanas tava
bhrānti-jñānena paśyanti jagad rūpam ayoginaḥ

O Lord, although You are the embodiment of transcendental knowledge, the non yogīs consider this materially formed universe to be Your original form due to mistaken understanding. (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.4.39)

Among them are persons solely interested in material enjoyment through the vedic process of karmakānḍa. Such persons as described in the Bhagavad Gita, care for nothing but elevation to the heavenly planets through the performance of vedic rituals. 

yām imāṁ puṣpitāṁ vācaṁ pravadanty avipaścitaḥ
veda-vāda-ratāḥ pārtha nānyad astīti vādinaḥ
kāmātmānaḥ svarga-parā janma-karma-phala-pradām
kriyā-viśeṣa-bahulāṁ bhogaiśvarya-gatiṁ prati

Men of small knowledge are very much attached to the flowery words of the Vedas, which recommend various fruitive activities for elevation to heavenly planets, resultant good birth, power, and so forth. Being desirous of sense gratification and opulent life, they say that there is nothing more than this. (BG 2.42-43)

Being engrossed in ritualistic performances, people desirous of material enjoyment are encouraged to meditate on the universal form at the culmination of their prescribed duties or rituals, for such a meditation will ultimately help one develop a devotional attitude towards the Supreme Person.

yāvan na jāyeta parāvare 'smin
viśveśvare draṣṭari bhakti-yogaḥ
tāvat sthavīyaḥ puruṣasya rūpaṁ
kriyāvasāne prayataḥ smareta

Unless the gross materialist develops a sense of loving service unto the Supreme Lord, the seer of both the transcendental and material worlds, he should remember or meditate upon the universal form of the Lord at the end of his prescribed duties. (SB 2.2.14)

In the Bhakti Sandarbha (anu. 26), Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī mentions that after reaching maturity in meditation on the virāṭ-rūpa, a yogi should only focus on Nārāyaṇa, the abode of truth and bliss, Who is the indwelling soul of virāṭ (virāṭ-antaryāmi). The yogi must not degrade himself by becoming attached to anything within the virāṭ, for such attachment will lead only to material bondage (ātma-pātaḥ).

Even then, the yogic process of meditation on the universal form or the virāṭ-antaryāmi ultimately brings one only to the paramātma conception, that exhibits some traits of bhakti, but falls short of śuddha-bhakti which is the only way to worship svayam-bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In this regard, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thakura writes the following in his essay, “Analysis of Pure Bhakti” (originally in bengali, and later translated and included in the book “Bhakti-tattva-viveka”) —

Those who pursue the path of yoga in the end arrive only at realization of the all-pervading paramātma-tattva. They cannot attain realization of śuddha-bhāgavat-tattva. Paramātma, Īsvara, personal Viṣṇu and so on are the objects of research in the yoga process. In this process we can find a few attributes of bhakti, but it is not śuddha-bhakti

In this process, realization of the eternal form of Bhagavān and the variegated characteristics of transcendence is not available. The form which is imagined at the time of upāsana or meditational worship whether it be the virāṭ (the gigantic form of the Lord conceived in the shape of the universe) or the hiraṇyagarbha form within the heart is not eternal. This process is called paramātma-darśana or realization of the Supersoul. Although this process is superior to the cultivation of impersonal jnana, it is not the perfect and all-pleasing process … 

In this regard it is said in Bhakti-sandarbha — antaryāmitvamaya-māyā-śakti-pracura-cic chaktyaśa viśiṣtaṁ paramātmeti — after the creation of this universe, the expansion of the Supreme Lord who enters it as the controller of material nature and who is situated as the maintainer of the creation is known as jagadīśvara or the all-pervading paramātma. His function is related more to displaying the external potency rather than the internal potency. Therefore, this tattva is naturally inferior to the supreme and eternal bhagavat-tattva.

Virāṭ And Śrī Mūrti 

The concept of Virāṭ as a superimposed material form, apparently looks similar to how one might think about the Lord’s deity form or the śrī mūrti. In the eyes of the novice, both may appear akin to idolatry. However, on the plane of śraddha, the two cannot be compared, whereas the worship of virāṭ-rūpa may be deemed as the most original and primeval form of idolatry, if nothing else.

The virāṭ-rūpa is an imagined material form (māyā-guṇair viracitam) ascribed onto the Paramātma Who factually is transcendental and devoid of any material form (arūpasya cid-ātmanaḥ). This is so for the sake of meditation by those that either have no knowledge or due to an impersonal understanding, have not developed śraddha towards the eternal forms of the Lord, and cannot conceive anything beyond matter. Whereas, in the enlightening words of Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Thakura, the śrī mūrti is conceived thus —

It has been shown that God is personal and all-beautiful. Sages like Vyāsa and others have seen that beauty in their souls' eyes. They have left us descriptions. Of course, word carries grossness of matter. But truth still is perceivable in those descriptions. According to those descriptions, one delineates a śrī mūrti and sees the great God of our heart there with intense pleasure. Brethren! Is that wrong or sinful? Those who say that God has no form either material or spiritual and again imagine a false form for worship are certainly idolatrous. But those who see the spiritual form of the Deity in their souls' eyes, carry that impression as far as possible to the mind, and then frame an emblem for the satisfaction of the material eye for continual study of the higher feeling are by no means idolatrous. (Śrī Caitanya — His Life and Precepts)

In an interview in 1929, with Prof. Suthers of Ohio State University, Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī in his answer to a question on idolatry, also spoke the following — 

It is true that God has no material body, but He has His sat (eternal), cit (all-sentient), ānanda (all-blissful) transcendental body visible only to the eye that is clear (devoid of matter). To the material eye, God is formless, but to the transcendental eye He is with His body of cit or All-Sentience. The mūrtis (forms of body) prepared and worshiped by those who have not seen this cit body of God with their true and eternal eye cleansed with the collyrium of the love of God are of course idols and all the worshippers of those idols must be idolaters. The worship of mūrtis of God prepared from imagination may be called idolatry…

…If a pure entity or unmixed soul sees that eternal form of God and receives It in his own pure receptacle and then places this transcendental form in the world from his heart as illumine the intrinsically and essentially true Form of God, that never deserves to be called an idol. Just as even by coming down to this phenomenal world, God remains untouched by the influence of māyā by dint of His inscrutable  power, so does His true form too, as revealed to the unmixed entity of His devotee, remain above it, even though brought down here, For this reason the Vaishnava Philosophy terms śrī mūrti as His “Arcāvatāra” (worshippable descent).


In the above sections we have tried to understand the position of the universal form of the Lord with a neutral standpoint, collecting and assimilating quotations from the works of our acaryas. Nonetheless, to check our pride of our possessions, capabilities, and position, the Supreme Person displays His supreme majesty, presiding above everything and everyone. In this universe everything is but a part and parcel of the Supreme Person Himself. Nothing exists beyond Him. 

tāṅhā ba-i viśve kichu nāhi dekhi āra
ataeva ‘viśvarūpa’ nāma ye tāṅhāra

The gigantic universal form is called the Viśvarūpa incarnation of Mahā-saṅkarṣaṇa. Thus we do not find anything within this cosmic manifestation except the Lord Himself. (CC Adi. 13.76)

Anything perceived as distinctively unique and the most glorious in all comparison, ultimately is only a fragment of supreme majesty. The universal form of the Supreme Person stands as a testimony to this fact. The Supreme Person pervades everything and He is the basis of everything.

yat kiñca loke bhagavan mahasvad
ojaḥ-sahasvad balavat kṣamāvat
śrī-hrī-vibhūty-ātmavad adbhutārṇaṁ
tattvaṁ paraṁ rūpavad asva-rūpam

Anything and everything which is exceptionally possessed of power, opulence, mental and perceptual dexterity, strength, forgiveness, beauty, modesty, opulence, and breeding, whether in form or formless-may appear to be the specific truth and the form of the Lord, but actually they are not so. They are only a fragment of the transcendental potency of the Lord. (SB 2.6.45)