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Issue 12 – Assumption 2022


What Is the Sacred?

On holy fear.


In the eleventh chapter of the Baghavad Gita, the divine Lord Vishnu reveals himself to the warrior, Arjuna in the form of vishvarupa, that is, his “Universal Form.” In this form, Vishnu has the appearance of one with many faces displaying an infinite range of emotions, many arms wielding an infinite array of weapons, bedecked in a countless variety of majestic garments, blazing with the radiance of more than a thousand suns shining in the sky. Indeed, “there, in the person of the God of gods, Arjuna beheld the whole universe, with its manifold divisions, all gathered into one.”

Arjuna is completely overtaken with fearful awe and reverence before such a terrible theophany. As he beholds the all-encompassing expanse of Vishnu’s universal form, he cannot help but tremble and utter a hymn of worship, in which he several times confesses his fear: “By Thee alone are filled all the space between heaven and earth, and all the quarters of the sky. O Mighty One, the three worlds behold Thy marvelous and appalling form and tremble with fear. . . . Beholding Thy great form, O Mighty Lord, with myriads of mouths and eyes, with myriads of arms and thighs and feet, with myriads of bellies, and with myriads of terrible tusks—the worlds are affrighted, and so am I.”

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About the author

Jonathan Culbreath