Theosophical University Press Online Edition

Gods and Heroes of The Bhagavad-Gita by Geoffrey A. Barborka


Gods and Heroes and Technical Terms: A - G

H - M | N - S | T - Y
* The asterisk preceding a Sanskrit word herein means 'derived from the verbal root.' (See 'Abbreviations,' and 'Pronunciation Key.')

Achyuta The unfallen, i.e., the imperishable: a philosophical term about which H. P. Blavatsky writes: "Achyuta is an almost untranslatable term. It means that which is not subject to fall or change for the worse: the Unfalling; and it is the reverse of chyuta, 'the Fallen.' The Dhyanis who incarnate in the human forms of the Third Root-Race and endow them with intellect (Manas) are called the chyuta, for they fall into generation." (S.D. II, 47) Achyuta is applied to Vishnu, and to Krishna in his avataric aspect of Vishnu: not, however, as an individualized entity but in respect to the condition or state of essential Cosmic Being. (comp. a, not; chyuta from *chyu, to move to and fro, to fall, to fade. B.G. 132)

 

Adhibhuta lit. 'Original Element,' i.e., the primordial substratum or element of matter and all objects, in its cosmic aspect. (comp. adhi 'above,' therefore implying superiority; bhuta, a word frequently used for 'element.' B.G. 57)

 

Adhidaivata lit. The original or primordial divine, i.e., the divine agent operating in and through beings and objects. A generalizing adjective applying to the divine part of any being from the hierarchical standpoint: applicable to Adhyatman (q.v.). (comp. adhi above, therefore implying superiority; daivata, divine. B.G. 57)

 

Adhiyajna lit. 'Primordial sacrifice.' Cosmologically this refers to the Cosmic Logos, which in the Esoteric Philosophy is represented as in a sense sacrificing itself for the benefit of the world; because due to its own coming into manifestation it enables the waiting hosts of monads to come into being. In the small, every Avatara repeats the sacrifice for the benefit of all that lives. The Bhagavad-Gita refers to this in the words "Adhiyajna is myself in this body," i.e., Krishna the Avatara in a physical body. (comp. adhi upper, paramount; yajna, sacrifice. B.G. 58)

 

Adhyatman lit. 'The Supreme or Original Atman,' the highest of a hierarchy, equivalent to Paramatman. (comp. adhi above, therefore implying superiority; atman, Self. B.G. 57)

 

Adityas The twelve great gods of the Hindu pantheon, sometimes also reckoned as seven (as in early Vedic times, and named, Varuna, the chief, Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Daksha, Ansa, Surya): sons of boundless infinitude (Aditi). These great gods have been known under many names in different kalpas: they are the eternal sustainers of the divine life which exists in all things. "The wise call our fathers Vasus; our paternal grandfathers Rudras; our paternal great grandfathers, Adityas; agreeable to a text of the Vedas." (Manu iii, 284) Astronomically, the seven Adityas are the regents of the seven planets. (S.D. I, 99) (m. belonging or coming from Aditi. B.G. 73)

 

Agni The god of fire: one of the most important of the Vedic deities, to whom the greatest number of hymns are addressed, for he presides chiefly over the earth, and is regarded as the mediator between men and the gods, as protector of men and their homes, and as witness of all their actions. Fire is regarded in three phases: in heaven as the sun, in the air as lightning, and on earth as ordinary fire. Agni is represented as clothed in black, having smoke for his standard and head-piece, and carrying a flaming javelin; he has four hands and seven tongues, with which he licks up the butter used in sacrifices. His chariot is drawn by red horses; the seven winds form the wheels of his car, and he is followed by a ram. Esoterically Agni represents the divine essence present in every atom of the universe, the Celestial Fire; hence in its manifestations Agni is often used synonymously with the Adityas (q.v.) or our spiritual Pitris (q.v.). In this sense Fire is spoken of as the PRIMARY in the Stanzas of Dzyan: "The Spirit, beyond manifested Nature, is the fiery BREATH in its absolute Unity. In the manifested Universe, it is the Central Spiritual Sun, the electric Fire of all Life. In our System it is the visible Sun, the Spirit of Nature, the terrestrial god. And in, on, and around the Earth, the fiery Spirit thereof - air, fluidic fire; water, liquid fire; Earth, solid fire. All is fire - ignis, in its ultimate constitution, ... the three Vedic chief gods are Agni (ignis), Vayu (q.v.), and Surya - Fire, Air, and the Sun, three occult degrees of fire." (S.D. II, 114) (B.G. 85)

 

Ahankara (or Ahamkara) Egoism, the sense of personality or 'I-am-I-ness': in its lower aspect in man it is the egoistical principle which produces the notion of the personal ego as being different from the Universal One-Self. Kosmically speaking, Ahankara is "that which first issues from 'Mahat' or divine mind; the first shadowy outline of Self-hood, for 'pure' Ahankara becomes 'passionate' and finally 'rudimental' (initial); . . ." (S.D. I, pp. 452-3). (comp. aham, I; kara, doer, maker; from *kri to do. B.G. 53)

 

Airavata The elephant produced by the gods at the time of the churning of the ocean. (See Ananta.) He became the special charge of Indra and one of the eight Lokapalas. These latter are the cosmical spirits who preside over the eight points of the compass (Airavata guards the east), and are closely akin to the four Maharajas - the four 'GreatWatchers.' Although the Lokapalas are represented as 'elephants,' H. P. Blavatsky remarks that "all of them have an occult significance." (S.D. I, 128) (m. produced from the ocean, from iravat, the ocean. B.G. 74)

 

Akasa The Fifth Kosmic Element: the spiritual Essence which pervades all space; in fact it may be called imbodied universal Space - in this aspect known as Aditi. It is the substratum for the seven Prakritis (roots) of all in the universe; thus in one sense is Mulaprakriti (the Kosmical Root-Substance). The word itself, without its philosophical meaning, signifies the sky, the open space, hence it is often rendered 'ether' in translations from the Sanskrit works, but as H. P. Blavatsky pointed out, Akasa "is not that Ether of Science, not even the Ether of the Occultist, who defines the latter as one of the principles of Akasa only" (S.D. I, 296). In the Brahmanical scriptures the term is used in the same manner that Northern Buddhists employ Svabhavat - more mystically Adi-Buddhi. Some have associated the Astral Light with Akasa, but the former is but a reflection of the latter: "To put it plainly, ETHER is the Astral Light, and the Primordial Substance is AKASA, the Upadhi of DIVINE THOUGHT." (S.D. I, 326) (* kas, to shine, to appear. B.G. 53)

 

Amba The eldest daughter of the king of Kasi. Through the fault of Bhishma she was rejected by her suitor, whereupon she withdrew to the forest and after practising severe penances she ended her life on the funeral pyre, and was then reborn as Sikhandin (q.v.). The word in the text (last line of p. iii B.G.) should read Ambika (q.v.) - the second daughter of the king.

 

Ambalika The third daughter of the king of Kasi given by Bhishma in marriage to his half brother Vichitravirya. After the latter's death she was wedded to Vyasa, and became the mother of Pandu (q.v.). (B.G. p. iii)

 

Ambika The second daughter of the king of Kasi wedded to Vichitravirya. After his death she was married to Vyasa, and gave birth to Dhritarashtra (q.v.). (B.G. p. iii)

 

Amrita The nectar of the gods, by quaffing which immortality was attained; hence called the waters of immortality or the elixir of life. The amrita was produced when the gods used Ananta (q.v.) for churning the ocean. In the Vedas, amrita is applied to the mystical Soma (q.v.), which makes a new man of the Initiate. "Amrita is beyond any guna [quality], for it is UNCONDITIONED per se"; (S.D. I, 348). Mystically it is the drinking of the water of supernal wisdom and the spiritual bathing in its life-giving power. (comp. a, not; mrita, dying. B.G. 74)

 

Ananta The name of the serpent Sesha, represented as seven-headed and forming the couch of Vishnu (q.v.), on which he reclines during the pralayas. Sesha, is called Ananta (meaning the unending, the infinite) because he perdures through manvantaras as well as during the pralayas, i.e., during the periods of activity and quiescence. Ananta is represented as carrying a plow and a pestle, for during the churning of the waters for the purpose of making Amrita (q.v.), the gods used Sesha as a great rope, twisting his tail around the mountain Mandara, and thus using it as a churn. Ananta is also the symbol of eternity, i.e., a serpent in the form of a circle. In the Puranas Sesha is said to have a thousand heads - an expansion of the legend. The seven beads of the serpent "typifies the Seven principles throughout nature and man; the highest or middle head being the seventh." (S.D. I, 407) (comp. an, not; anta, ending. B.G. 74)

 

Ananta-Vijaya The name of the conch-shell of Yudhishthira. (m. eternally victorious. B.G. 4)

 

Arjuna The hero of the Bhagavad-Gita depicted as the disciple of Krishna is one of the most interesting and lovable characters in the Mahabharata. He is the third of the Pandava brothers, the son of Indra by Pritha (or Kunti) - hence referred to throughout the poem as the son of Pritha, or again as the son of Kunti (in Sanskrit Partha and Kaunteya). His individual exploits are related at great length in the epic, each one being of interest. As the warrior-hero par excellence, his achievements are foremost in the martial line; thus Arjuna is represented as the favorite pupil of Drona (q.v.), as being instructed in arms by the gods themselves (from whom he obtained celestial weapons as well as his remarkable bow, Gandiva, q.v.). By means of his prowess in arms he was chosen by Draupadi (q.v.) as husband at her svayamvara ('self-choice'). During a self-imposed exile, Arjuna traveled to Patala (the Antipodes, the name by which America was known in ancient Hindusthan) and there was wooed by the princess Ulupi who wedded him (see S.D. II, 214).
Arjuna is best known in his relationship with Krishna: the manner in which Krishna became Arjuna's charioteer is related as follows. When it became apparent that a war was to be waged between the Kurus and the Pandavas, both Duryodhana and Arjuna hastened to Krishna in order to obtain his aid. Duryodhana arrived first, but Krishna was in bed asleep: he was still reposing when Arjuna reached the palace, so he stationed himself at the foot of Krishna's bed, so that upon awaking his eyes rested on his brother-in-law (Arjuna was married to Krishna's sister, Subhadra). Immediately each hero implored Krishna to aid his cause: but the latter declared that he would not fight in the coming battle, that he would act solely as an advisor; and as each was entitled to his help, Krishna gave his petitioners the choice of his splendidly equipped army to the one side, and to the other himself as advisor. Duryodhana having arrived first was given first choice, and he chose the army, whereupon Arjuna was overjoyed to accept Krishna as his advisor, and the latter agreed to act as his charioteer in the battle. Because of this Arjuna was victorious.
Of especial interest is the fact that there is a second dialog between Krishna and Arjuna in the Mahabharata, known as the Anu-gita, which is even more philosophical and more occult than the first dialog, but as it is more difficult of comprehension and deals with more abstruse subjects it is not so well known. (See S.D. I, pp. 94-6.)
"Arjuna, who was called Nara, was intended to represent the human monad." (N.B.G. 11)
"Krishna is the seventh principle in man, and his gift of his sister in marriage to Arjuna typifies the union between the sixth and the fifth." (N.B.G. 9) (m. white, clear; cf. rijra and *raj or *ranj, to redden, to glow, also illuminate. B.G. 2)

 

Arya A respectable, honorable, or faithful man; also an inhabitant of Aryavarta (or India). In later times the word is used as a title for the first three castes of ancient India. *ri to rise, to tend upwards. B.G. p. iii)

 

Aryaman The chief of the Pitris (q.v.). Also the name of one of the Adityas (q.v.). (m. a bosom friend. B.G. 75)

 

Aryana (see Aryaman)

 

Asat Not-being, non-being: applied in Hindu philosophy to the manifested universe as being illusory, unreal, false, in contradistinction to Sat - Be-ness, Reality. In this sense Asat is "Nature, or the illusive shadow of its one true essence." (Theos. Gloss. 33) (comp. a, not; sat, being, be-ness. B.G. 119)

 

Asita One of the Vedic Rishis, a descendant of Kasyapa, closely associated with Devala (q.v.). (B.G. 72)

 

Asura Originally the word stood for the supreme spirit (being so used in the Rig-Veda), and equivalent to the Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda; then it became applied to deities, such as Indra, Agni and Varuna; later still it denoted a class of elemental beings evil in nature, and consequently Asuras are termed demons. The Taittiriya-Brahmana represents the Asuras as being created from the breath of Brahma-Prajapati likewise the Laws of Manu, but the Puranas indicate that they sprang from his thigh. "Esoterically, the Asuras, transformed subsequently into evil Spirits and lower gods, who are eternally at war with the great deities - are the gods of the Secret Wisdom. ... They are the sons of the primeval Creative Breath at the beginning of every new Mahakalpa, or Manvantara; ... Evidently they have been degraded in Space and Time into opposing powers or demons by the ceremonialists," (S.D. II, pp. 500-1). (*as, to breathe. B.G. 65)

 

Asvattha The pippala, the sacred Indian fig-tree, ficus religiosa. In Buddhism called the Bodhi-tree - the tree under which the Buddha received full illumination. Mystically, the 'Tree of Life,' the great World Tree, symbolic both of the vital structure of the universe and of the cosmic hierarchies in all their various interrelations. The roots of the Asvattha "represent the Supreme Being, or First Cause, the Logos; but one has to go beyond those roots to unite oneself with Krishna, ... Its boughs are ... the highest Dhyan Chohans or Devas. The Vedas are its leaves. He only who goes beyond the roots shall never return, i.e., shall reincarnate no more during this 'age' of Brahma." (S.D. I, pp. 406-7) (See B.G. 105.) (m. 'under which horses stand': asva, a horse; ttha from stha, to stand. B.G. 74)

 

Asvatthaman The son of Drona and Kripa (sister of Kripa, q.v.): one of the generals in the army of the Kauravas. He was one of the three surviving warriors at the end of the war, and was then made commander. (B.G. 3)

 

Asvins
(or more correctly Asvinau, the word itself meaning 'the two horsemen'). Two Vedic deities represented as twin horsemen, harbingers of Ushas, the dawn. They appear in the sky in a chariot drawn by golden horses, or again by birds. Their attributes pertain to youth and beauty. They are regarded as the physicians of the gods, and avert from mankind sickness and misfortune; hence many Vedic hymns are addressed to them. Yaska, the celebrated commentator of the Vedas, referring to the 'twin horsemen' as precursors of light and the dawn, held that they represent the transition from darkness to light, and the intermingling of both produces that inseparable duality which is expressed by the twin nature of the Asvinau. H. P. Blavatsky remarks: " ... these twins are, in the esoteric philosophy, the Kumara-Egos, the reincarnating 'Principles' in this Manvantara." (Theos. Gloss. 41) (B.G. 78)

 

Bhagavad-Gita lit. Krishna's song (or divine song). The philosophical discourse between Arjuna and Krishna, the latter being represented as the Avatara of Vishnu, but acting as Arjuna's charioteer. It is cast in the traditional form of question and answer between disciple and teacher in verses of metrical prose termed slokas. The meter is called Anu-shtubh and consists of four padas or quarter verses of eight syllables each, or two lines of sixteen syllables each. The dialog is placed in the sixth book of the Mahabharata entitled the Bhishma-parva (the book of Bhishma) slokas 830-1532 thereof. "The work is pre-eminently occult or esoteric," writes H. P. Blavatsky in Theosophical Glossary, p. 56, and also states in The Secret Doctrine that there is a "secret sense contained in the Bhagavad-Gita." (II, 139)

"The main object of the Bhagavad Gita - which is one of the main sources of Hindu philosophy - is to explain the higher principles that operate in the cosmos, which are omnipresent and permanent and which are common to all the solar systems." (N.B.G. 108) (comp. bhagavat, holy, divine; also a name of Krishna; gita, song.)

 

Bharata The name of a great number of kings and heroes. The one referred to in the Bhagavad-Gita is of the Puru branch (or Pauravas) of the Chandravansa (Lunar Race), the son of Dushyanta and Sakuntala. The ninth king in descent from Bharata was Kuru, and the seventeenth from Kuru was Yudhishthira and his four brothers, i.e., the Pandavas. (B.G. 11)

 

Bharata A descendant of Bharata: referable to either the Kauravas or the Pandavas, but most often applied solely to the latter. Arjuna is often referred to as 'son of Bharata' or 'best of the Bharatas.' (B.G. 11)

 

Bhima The second son of Kunti by the god of the wind, Vayu. All through the Mahabharata the remarkable achievements of Bhima provide entertaining reading: his feats of valor and strength are unsurpassable, especially those performed with his enormous club. He shared with Arjuna the honors of valorous exploits in the great conflict, in which the Pandavas were finally victorious. (m. the terrible. B.G. 3)

 

Bhishma The son of king Santanu and the river-goddess Ganga. Although the rightful heir to the throne of the Kurus, he relinquished the kingdom so that the children of his father's second wife, Satyavati might rule instead, but he remained the protector to the throne. Thus he was the ancestor of both the Kauravas and the Pandavas (referred to in the text as the grandsire of the Kurus). He was persuaded to side with the sons of Dhritarashtra and was made the commander-in-chief. He was mortally wounded on the tenth day of the conflict, but as he had been granted the boon to terminate his life whenever he wished, Bhishma remained alive for 58 days and instructed Yudhishthira in the duties of a king. (m. the terrible. B.G. 2)

 

Bhrigu One of the most celebrated of the Vedic Rishis or Sages, regarded as the ancestor of the Bhargavas (in which race Parasu-Rama was born). He is known as one of the ten Prajapatis (or mind-born sons of Brahma - regarded as the fathers of the human race). He is also regarded as one of the nine great Rishis (in the Vishnu-Purana). The Laws of Manu were confided to Bhrigu, and Manu called him his son. Some hymns in the Rig-Veda are attributed to the Rishi. (B.G. 74)

 

Bhutas The decaying remnants of corpses in the astral world - the real part of man having dropped off these grossest portions of its former vehicle; hence phantoms or 'shells', the eidola or shades of the ancients. They are popularly believed to haunt burial places, etc., for these remnants, although in the astral world (and invisible), are still attracted to the localities of their former physical associations. *bhu, to become; lit. 'has-beens', i.e., entities that formerly lived and have passed on. B.G. 68)

 

Brahma The first aspect of the Hindu Trimurti (or triad), the emanator or 'creator' - the other two being Vishnu, the 'preserver,' and Siva, the 'destroyer,' or rather the 'regenerator.' The idea of the Trimurti is not found in the Vedas, nor does the name Brahma occur; the active creator is therein known as Hiranyagarbha, or Prajapati: in later times the term Prajapati was bestowed on Brahma (meaning 'the Progenitor'). In Manu it is said that the supreme soul, the self-existent lord created the waters and deposited in them a seed, which seed became a golden egg (Hiranyagarbha) in which he himself was born as Brahma, the progenitor of all the worlds. The idea of the Trimurti is of course present in the epic poems: Brahma is represented as springing from the lotus which arose from the navel of Vishnu. From Brahma then rise the mind-born sons (the Prajapatis) who people the world. In the Puranas (especially in Vishnu-Purana), Vishnu becomes more prominent than Brahma: the latter is represented as being in its totality the aspect of Prakriti (q.v.), both evolved and unevolved (Mulaprakriti), and also the aspect of Spirit, and the aspect of Time.

Brahma is in fact the vehicle or sheath of Brahman: the spiritual evolving or developing energy-consciousness of a solar system, i.e., the Logos, deriving from Brahman. It should be pointed out that the Sanskrit word Brahman is both masculine and neuter, and therefore has two meanings: in order to distinguish these, in Theosophical literature the masculine is spelled Brahma (the nominative form), whereas the neuter is spelled Brahman (q.v.).

"Brahma, as 'the germ of unknown Darkness,' is the material from which all evolves and develops 'as the web from the spider, as foam from the water,' etc. ... Brahma 'expands' and becomes the Universe woven out of his own substance." (S.D. I, 83). *brih, to expand, to grow, also meaning to fructify.) (B.G. 56 - where it should be spelled Brahman. See B.G. 61.)

 

Brahmacharya Following a life of philosophic and religious training - usually applicable to the first stage in the life of a Brahmana of ancient times, signifying the state of an unmarried religious student of the Vedas. (comp. Brahman, the Cosmic Spirit - in some cases meaning 'spiritual wisdom'; charya, conduct). The person following this mode of life is called a Brahmacharin. (B.G. 46)

 

Brahman The impersonal and uncognisable Principle of the Universe, implying both the aspect of essential consciousness and that of substance: thus it represents the spiritual background of the Universe, the Cause of all Causes. "The student must distinguish between Brahma the neuter, and Brahma, the male creator of the Indian Pantheon. The former, Brahma or Brahman, is the impersonal, supreme and uncognizable Principle of the Universe from the essence of which all emanates, and into which all returns, which is incorporeal, immaterial, unborn, eternal, beginningless and endless. It is all-pervading, animating the highest god as well as the smallest mineral atom. Brahma, on the other hand, the male and the alleged Creator, exists periodically in his manifestation only, and then again goes into pralaya, i.e., disappears and is annihilated." (Theos. Gloss. 62)
Brahman is what is called in Theosophy the Unmanifest Logos: through and from It, therefore, arises Brahma (q.v.). (*brih, to expand, to grow. B.G. 58)

 

Brahmana (often Anglicized as BRAHMAN or BRAHMIN) The highest of the four castes into which the social classes of Hindusthan were divided in post-Vedic times. Originally a Brahmana was one who had been twice-born (i.e., a dvija, or an initiate), but in decadent times the term came to be used simply as a hereditary prerogative, and hence applied to the members of the priestly caste. (B.G. 127)

 

Brihaspati The deity who represents the worshiper of the gods: the suppliant and sacrificer, designated as the Purohita (family priest), because he intercedes with the gods on behalf of mankind, and likewise protects the righteous men from the wicked. He is often called the father of the gods because of his creative powers, and is named the shining one, the golden colored one. Brihaspati is also the regent of the planet Jupiter. The lengthy legend about his wife, Tara, being carried off by Soma, the moon, and the consequent war in heaven (the Tarakamaya) is related in The Secret Doctrine (II, pp. 498-9) and is there interpreted, H. P. Blavatsky. (comp. brih, as noun, 'prayer,' from *brih, to grow great, to expand; pati lord. B.G. 74)

 

Brihat-Saman The name of the hymns in the Sama-Veda, written in the Brihati meter, i.e., meters of 36 syllables (originally written 8-8-12-8). (comp. Brihat, the Brihati meter; Saman, a sacred verse to be sung. B.G. 76)

 

Buddhi The sixth principle in the Theosophical classification of man's component parts. As the vehicle for Universal Spirit, Buddhi is inseparably linked with Atman and regarded as its vehicle. It is the channel for the divine inspiration which streams from Atman, as well as the faculty of discrimination, and the knowledge of discrimination between good and evil, hence spiritual consciousness. When awakened in man the Buddhic principle evokes compassionate love for all, instant understanding, and intuition. A man so fully awakened is termed a Buddha.

"... the Spiritual Soul (Buddhi) ... conceals a mystery which is never given to any one, with the exception of irrevocably pledged chelas," (The Key to Theosophy, pp. 119-20). *budh, to awaken, to enlighten. B.G. 28)

 

Chakra A word with a number of meanings: a wheel; a circle; a discus - the weapon of Vishnu (hence also a symbol of the deity); a cycle or period of time; also the physiological centers of pranic vitality in the human body. In Buddhism the chakra is a favorite symbol, especially associated with Gautama the Buddha, for he is represented as setting a new chakra in motion: his disciples, in broadcasting his message are often referred to as 'turning the wheel.' As the weapon of Vishnu, the chakra means "the whirling wheel of spiritual will and power." (W. Q. Judge, in footnote, B.G. 80.)

 

Chekitana An ally of the Pandavas: a son of Dhrishtaketu (or Kaikeya), the father-in-law of Krishna and Raja of the Kekayas, (one of the chief nations in the war of the Mahabharata). (B.G. 2)

 

Chitraratha The king of the Gandharvas (q.v.). (m. having a fine car. B.G. 74)

 

Daityas lit. Descendants of Diti - by the Rishi Kasyapa. The daityas are the titans (popularly called demons), constantly warring with the gods; at times they are the victors, at others the vanquished. "The first war happened in the night of time, between the gods [and] the (A)-suras, and lasted for the period of one 'divine year.' On this occasion the deities were defeated by the Daityas, under the leadership of Hrada. After that, owing to a device of Vishnu, to whom the conquered gods applied for help, the latter defeated the Asuras. In the Vishnu Purana no interval is found between the two wars. In the Esoteric Doctrine, one war takes place before the building of the Solar system; another, on earth, at the 'creation' of man;" (S.D. I, 419). The meaning of the wars is, therefore, that the Daityas represent the urgers of evolutionary progress in the cosmic scheme. (B.G. 75)

 

Dasra One of the twin sky deities, the Asvins (q.v.), father of Sahadeva - the fifth Pandava - by Madri. (The text is incorrectly spelled 'Darsa' - B.G. iv) (m. accomplishing wonderful deeds.)

 

Deva A divinity, a spiritual being. In the plural the reference is to the heavenly or shining ones called in the Rig-Veda (II, 3, 4) visve devas 'all the gods,' - often reckoned as 33 (figuring 11 for each of the 'three worlds'), or again as the 8 Vasus, the 11 Rudras, the 12 Adityas, and the 2 Asvins. This is also the enumeration in the Mahabharata. The three worlds are the "three planes above us." (Theos. Gloss. 98) The word is generally rendered 'god,' although incorrectly, as pointed out by Subba Row: "Do not make the mistake of thinking that the word Deva means a god, and that because we have thirty-three crores of Devas, we therefore worship thirty-three crores of gods. This is an unfortunate blunder generally committed by Europeans. Deva is a kind of spiritual being, and because the same word is used in ordinary parlance to mean god, it by no means follows that we have and worship thirty-three crores of gods. These beings, as may be naturally inferred, have a certain affinity with one of the three component upadhis [basic principles] into which we have divided man" (N.B.G. pp. 37-8) - i.e., the upadhi of the Karana-sarira. (from div, the sky, the heaven. B.G. 74)

 

Devachan A Sanskrit-Tibetan compound word (deva, a divine being, deity; chan, region): the heaven-world. The state of the ego after death between earth-lives, when it rests in utter bliss and perfect repose. In this state all the spiritual aspirations and intellectual yearnings of the past life find fulfilment. Devachan is "an absolute oblivion of all that gave it pain or sorrow in the past incarnation, and even oblivion of the fact that such things as pain or sorrow exist at all. The Devachanee lives its intermediate cycle between two incarnations surrounded by everything it had aspired to in vain, and in the companionship of everyone it loved on earth. It has reached the fulfilment of all its soul-yearnings. And thus it lives throughout long centuries an existence of unalloyed happiness" (The Key to Theosophy, 148). (B.G. 51)

 

Devadatta The name of the conch-shell of Arjuna. This conch was given to Arjuna by his parent Indra, the deity of the sky, upon the successful conclusion of the expedition which he was requested to make against the daityas of the sea, who had been troubling the deities. They were vanquished by Arjuna. (m. god-given. B.G. 3)

 

Devala A Vedic Rishi descendant of Kasyapa: he is credited with having written some of the hymns of the Vedas, particularly Rig-Veda ix. (B.G. 72)

 

Deva-sthana lit. 'The place of a deity,' or any place in which a deity stays or has its abode. Equivalent to Deva-loka (the word usually employed). (comp. deva, a divine being, a deity; sthana, a place, an abode. B.G. 67)

 

Dhananjaya (or Dhanamjaya) A name of Arjuna. (comp. dhana, prize, wealth, riches; jaya, winner, conqueror: hence 'winner of the prize' or 'conqueror of wealth.' B.G. 16)

 

Dhrishtadyumna The brother of Draupadi son of Drupada, the king of Panchala. He was made the commander-in-chief of the Pandava army, and accomplished the death of Drona, after losing his own father in the great conflict. (m. confident in strength. B.G. 4)

 

Dhrishtaketu An ally of the Pandavas: son of Sisupala, the king of the land of the Chedis living in the district of the modern Bundelkhand (or Bundelcund). The Chedis were renowned for their attachment to ancient laws and institutions. (m. confident in clearness. B.G. 2)

 

Dhritarashtra The eldest son of Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa and Arnbika (widow of Vichitravirya) being born blind. He was the father by Gandhari of Duryodhana (the eldest of 100 sons), to whom he relinquished the government of his kingdom at Hastinapura. Therefore he sided with the Kauravas (i.e., the sons of Kuru, as Duryodhana and his followers were called) rather than with the Pandavas, the sons of his half-brother Pandu. Vyasa offered Dhritarashtra vision, but he refused the gift inasmuch as he could not bear the sight of the fratricide and slaughter in the oncoming battle at Kurukshetra; nevertheless, taking a keen interest in the proceedings, as the opening stanzas show, he has Sanjaya narrate every event that occurs. With the final victory of the Pandavas, Dhritarashtra enthrones Yudhishthira at Hastinapura, and with his wife, Gandhari and Kunti he retires to the forest, where all lose their lives in a conflagration.

W. Q. Judge suggests the interpretation that Dhritarashtra stands for man's physical body - viewing the story from the standpoint of the evolutionary development of man. (m. he whose empire stands firm. B.G. 1)

 

Doab (Hindustani) A region of land situated between two rivers. The particular reference is to the country between the Jumna and Sarasvati rivers, which in ancient times was the land of the Kurus. (Also written duab, from Persian, du, two; ab, water; from the Sanskrit, dva, two; ap, water. B.G. iii)

 

Draupadi The patronymic of Krishna, the daughter of Drupada, king of Panchala. At a svayamvara (a gathering for a display of feats of skill for the purpose of allowing a king's daughter to choose a bridegroom) Draupadi selected Arjuna as her bridegroom, but when he returned with his four brothers to his mother, Kunti and announced that they had made a great acquisition, she told them that they were obliged to share it. Because of this and also through the insistence of their ancestor, the sage Vyasa, it was decided that she should become the wife of the five brothers. The Mahabharata also relates that in a previous life Draupadi had received the boon that she should be wedded to five husbands. The Draupadeyas (i.e., sons of Draupadi) referred to in the text, were the five sons of the Pandavas, by name: Prativindhya (by Yudhishthira), Sutasoma (by Bhima); Srutakirti (by Arjuna), Satanika (by Nakula); Srutasena (by Sahadeva).

Symbolically Draupadi represents 'the terrestrial life of the personality.' (B.G. 2)

 

Drona A Brahmana, son of Bharadvaja, who married Kripa, the half-sister of Bhishma, by whom he had a son, Asvatthaman. He was acharya (teacher of the military art) to the Kaurava princes as well as to the Pandavas. Although loving the princes equally, nevertheless because of his relationship to Bhishma, he sided with the Kauravas in the great conflict at Kurukshetra. The words spoken to the 'preceptor' in the second sloka (as narrated by Sanjaya - B.G. 2) were addressed by Duryodhana to his teacher, Drona. When Bhishma was mortally wounded on the field of battle, Drona became commander-in-chief of the Kaurava army. (B.G. 5)

 

Drupada The son of Prishata, king of Panchala (the region adjacent to the land of the Kurus), father of Dhrishtadyumna ('the clever son' referred to in the text). He was also the father of Draupadi (the wife of the Pandavas). His son was made commander-in-chief of the Pandava army. (B.G. 2)

 

Duryodhana The eldest son of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari leader of the Kurus (or Kauravas) in the conflict with the Pandavas at Kurukshetra. Because of his blindness, Dhritarashtra had intended to make his brother's virtuous son, Yudhishthira, the heir-apparent to his throne, but the Kurus under Duryodhana objected so strongly that instead he allowed his son to take charge of the government, and turned over a portion of his kingdom - that of Indraprastha - to the Pandavas. Owing to further machinations of the Kurus, Yudhishthira lost this kingdom in a game of dice, and Duryodhana forced the Pandavas into exile for thirteen years. When this period had elapsed, however, Duryodhana refused to give up the kingdom, and as a consequence the great conflict was waged, in which he lost his life. In the Mahabharata Duryodhana represents the forces of evil battling with the forces of light: one story represents him as doing wicked deeds in spite of himself, and realizing this he attempted to put an end to his life. He was prevented from doing this by the imps of darkness, so that he might continue imbodied for their purposes.

Duryodhana is represented as an ambitious, malicious prince, the antithesis of the wise and righteous ruler. (m. difficult to conquer. B.G. 1)

 

Dvamdva A pair of opposites (e.g., heat and cold, joy and sorrow, etc.). The dvamdva compound in the text has reference to a copulative compound, i.e., two members of a compound which are in the same case and likewise may be connected with the conjunction and. (m. two and two: the word is the num. adj. dva, two, reduplicated. B.G. 75)

 

Dvipa A zone, region, land, or continent, commonly called 'island,' inasmuch as each dvipa is described as being surrounded by distinct concentric circumambient oceans centering about Mount Meru. Seven dvipas are enumerated as follows: Jambu, Plaksha, Salmali Kusa, Krauncha, Saka, and Pushkara. Esoterically the dvipas refer on the one hand to the seven globes of the Planetary Chain of this Earth, and on the other hand to the seven great continents which come successively into existence as the homes of the seven Root-Races. Jambu-dvipa corresponds to Globe D of the Chain, Mount Meru rising from its center. (S.D. II, 320). This dvipa was divided into nine parts termed varshas (q.v.). (B.G. ii)

 

Gandharvas The musicians and singers of the gods, represented as dwelling in the sky and preparing the heavenly soma-juice for the gods, as they are especially skilled in medicine. In the Vedas they are described as revealing the secrets of heaven and divine truths to men. The Atharva-Veda mentions that there are 6,333 Gandharvas. "Cosmically - the Gandharvas are the aggregate powers of the solar-fire, and constitute its Forces; psychically - the intelligence residing in the Sushumna, Solar ray, the highest of the seven rays; mystically - the occult force in the Soma (the moon, or lunar plant) and the drink made of it; physically - the phenomenal, and spiritually - the noumenal causes of Sound and the 'Voice of Nature.' Hence, they are called the 6,333 'heavenly Singers' and musicians of Indra's loka who personify (even in number) the various and manifold sounds in Nature, both above and below." (S.D. I, 523) (B.G. 74)

 

Gandiva (or Gandiva) A remarkable bow which Arjuna received from the fire-god Agni in order that he might assist the deity in a battle with the god of the sky, Indra. At this time Arjuna also assisted Agni in the burning of the Khandava forest - an episode in the Mahabharata. The bow was originally given by Soma to the god Varuna, who in turn passed it on to Agni. It is likewise said to have belonged to Prajapati Brahma, and Siva. (B.G. 6)

 

Ganges (Ganga) The sacred river of India, represented in the Puranas as taking its rise in the heavens from the toe of Vishnu, and brought down to earth through the prayers of the sage Bhagiratha, in order to purify the ashes of the sixty thousand sons of king Sagara. (These sons had been destroyed by the angry glance of the sage Kapila.) Ganga intended to flood the earth (because of being obliged to descend from her heavenly abode), but the force of the fall was intercepted by the god Siva, who caught the river in his matted locks, and allowed it to descend from his brow in seven gentle streams upon the earth. Ganga is personified as a goddess, the daughter of Mena and Himavat (the personification of the Himalaya mountains). The goddess became the wife of king Santanu and gave birth to Bhishma. (B.G. 75)

 

Garuda The bearer of Vishnu (hence often called Vishnu-ratha): represented as having the body and limbs of a man but the head, wings, talons, and beak of an eagle; the face being white, the wings red, and the body golden. Garuda is regarded as the king of the birds and the great enemy of serpents: his parents were the Vedic sage Kasyapa and Vinata - one of the daughters of Daksha (one of the Prajapatis). The myths also relate that Garuda once took the Amrita (q.v.) from the gods in order to purchase the freedom of his mother from Kadru. Indra pursued Garuda and recovered the Amrita - although the god of the sky was worsted in the battle for it. Garuda is "the symbol esoterically of the great cycle," (S.D. II, 323), while his son, Jatayu "is, of course, the cycle of 60,000 years within the great cycle of GARUDA; hence he is represented as his son, or nephew," (S.D. II, 570). (B.G. 75)

 

Gayatri An ancient meter of 24 syllables (variously arranged, but generally as a triplet of 8 syllables each). The word is also applied specifically to a verse in the Rig-Veda, iii, 62, 10:

tat savitur varen am bhargo devasya dhimahi,
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.

Literal translation: "Let us meditate on that excellent splendor of the divine Sun; may it illumine our hearts (minds)." (B.G. 76)

 

Govinda A name applied to Krishna. It refers to the time of his youth, for he was reared amongst the cowherds. (m. chief of cowherds: go, a cow. B.G. 11)

 

Gudakesa One of the names given to Arjuna. (m. thick-haired. B.G. 79)

 

Guru A Teacher, a Preceptor, especially one who imparts spiritual teachings to a disciple. (B.G. 86)


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