The Bhagavad Gita | Study Guide


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The Bhagavad Gita | Chapter 10 : Divine Manifestations | Summary



Krishna continues to instruct Arjuna about his nature as the supreme manifestation of God. Accordingly, all other gods and holy men are actually manifestations of Krishna. He gives examples, such as the god of lightning, Indra, claiming that he is Indra and Indra's lightning bolt. Krishna describes himself as both the positive and negative attributes of the universe: both pleasure and pain, courage and fear. A person who can conceive of Krishna as the source of all manifestations will be freed from the cycle of rebirth. When a sage meditates, he enters into the state of union with God. This, Krishna explains, is a form of worship. The highest form of worship is to enter the state of divinity, understanding that Krishna is the source of all things.

Arjuna believes everything Krishna is telling him and understands him to be the Supreme Being. Arjuna wants to know what other manifestations Krishna takes so that he may always know and recognize them. Krishna then lists all of his embodiments and manifestations, including the Self, the syllable om, the Himalayan mountain range, the sustainer god Vishnu, the god of destruction and rebirth Shiva, and many more.


This chapter is about the yoga of understanding. Arjuna wants to know more about Krishna's specific forms to be able to worship him properly. Arjuna still doesn't quite understand that Krishna is all things everywhere. Krishna has been trying to explain throughout the last two chapters that his current manifestation, as Krishna in the chariot, is the best focus for worship of him. However, Arjuna still desires to know about Krishna's other divine forms even though Krishna has been trying to explain them as ultimately irrelevant.

In stunning terms, Krishna describes his might and magnificence to Arjuna by reciting each place in the cosmos and on the earth where Krishna is present. He describes himself as the god who is the vast ocean, the letter A in the alphabet, and the swift toss of dice. Krishna gives Arjuna a list of his limitless forms that continues through 21 verses to illustrate that he is at the core of all things. In the first of these verses Krishna reminds Arjuna that one of his manifestations is the Self. The Self, or soul, of each being is ultimately Krishna. This means that Krishna is manifest in all beings. Arjuna wants to know where to place his focus, and Krishna reminds him that by meditating on the Self, Arjuna worships Krishna.

In verse 10 Krishna briefly sheds more clarity on the connection between the yoga of action and the yoga of understanding. He tells Arjuna that "to those ... who love me / with true devotion, I give / the yoga of understanding," thereby bringing the person union with God. In other words, when a person worships Krishna in actions, the god then gives that person wisdom as well. In this way the yoga of action leads to the yoga of understanding.

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