Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Over the last 10 years or so, I have been drawn to particular sacred verses, in specific sacred texts. And I have set these to melody, as devotional songs or chants, in Sanskrit, Pali, Arabic, Hebrew etc.
Recently, I happened to pick up the Sanskrit verses from the Bhagavad Gita describing the cosmic vision of Krishna revealed to Arjuna just before the Mahabharata war. These are verses 10-12 in Chapter 11, the chapter on vision of the cosmic form, or Visvarupa. I hope to set these to melody and add it to my small repertoire of songs.
As Robert V Moody writes:
"The verses represent one of the great moments in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna, the great warrior, stands on his chariot between the two contending armies of what is about to be an epic internecine battle. With him is his chariot driver who is no less than Krishna, one of the manifestations of Vishnu. Arjuna, mighty warrior though he is, seeing the carnage about to ensue, with his family and friends pitted against each other, loses heart and feels his spirit fading. He wants no part of this battle. Turning to Krishna, he begins to question him. The text, which is something akin to the sermon on the mount for millions of Hindus, is a theological and philosophical discussion of the nature of reality and divinity, and as well as a practical spiritual manual for daily living. Arjuna knows that Krishna is not only a personal friend but also nonetheless a manifestation of the supreme godhead itself. Still,when he asks Krishna to show his real form he is completely unprepared for what he sees. This is the source of the often quoted "...now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds…" which Robert Oppenheimer used to describe the testing of the first atomic bomb."
I am reproducing the verses below, together with Edwin Arnold's poetic transcreation of the Sanskrit original.
sarvaashcharyamayaM devamanantaM vishvatomukham.h
Hear these verses in Sanskrit here.
Out of countless eyes beholding,
Out of countless mouths commanding,
Countless mystic forms enfolding
In one Form: supremely standing
Countless radiant glories wearing,
Countless heavenly weapons bearing.
Crowned with garlands of star clusters,
Robed in garb of woven lustres,
Breathing from His perfect Presence
Breaths of every subtle essence
Of all heavenly odours; shedding
Blinding brilliance; overspreading
Boundless, beautiful - all spaces
With His all regarding faces.
divi suuryasahasrasya bhavedyugapadutthitaa
yadi bhaaH sadRishii saa syaadbhaasastasya mahaatmanaH
Hear this verse in Sanskrit here.
So He showed! If there should rise
Suddenly within the skies
Sunburst of a thousand suns
Flooding earth with beams undeemed of,
Then might be that Holy One's
Majesty and radiance dreamed of!