Theosophical University Press Online Edition

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


Gods and Heroes and Technical Terms: N - S

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

Naga The word means a snake, especially a cobra; but in the Mahabharata it refers to a race of beings inhabiting Patala, the daughter of whose king, Ulupi married Arjuna. "But as Patala means the antipodes, and was the name given to America by the ancients, who knew and visited that continent before Europe had ever heard of it, the term is probably akin to the Mexican Nagals the (now) sorcerers and medicine men." (Theos. Gloss. 222)

One myth relates that the Nagas were the offspring of the Rishi Kasyapa (the son of Marichi, q.v.). Regarding this H. P. Blavatsky wrote: "What is the fable, the genealogy and origin of Kasyapa, with his twelve wives, by whom he had a numerous and diversified progeny of nagas (serpents), reptiles, birds, and all kinds of living things, and who was thus the father of all kinds of animals, but a veiled record of the order of evolution in this round?" (S.D. II, 253)

Another tale represents the Nagas as a semi-divine race (the race of Kadru) inhabiting the waters, or the city of Bhogavati situated under the earth: they are fabled to possess a human face with serpent-like lower extremities. Ananta (q.v.) is king of the Nagas.

In The Secret Doctrine the word Naga stands for a Serpent of Wisdom, a full Initiate - the serpent has ever been used in Occultism as the symbol of immortality and wisdom. "In the Secret Doctrine, the first Nagas - beings wiser than Serpents - are the 'Sons of Will and Yoga,' " (S.D. II, 181).

"Some of the descendants of the primitive Nagas, the Serpents of Wisdom, peopled America, when its continent arose during the palmy days of the great Atlantis," (S.D. II, 182). (B.G. 75)

Nakula The son of Madri (the second wife of Pandu) and the twin gods of the sky, the Asvinau: the fourth of the Pandavas. Madri had been given by Kunti the use of her mantra for calling to her side a god, but she was clever enough to summon the twin sky-gods, hence she gave birth to two sons: Nakula and Sahadeva. Nakula excelled in the art of training and managing horses, which he learned from Drona. (B.G. 4)

Nara A man. In the Mahabharata and the Puranas, Nara is sometimes used as an equivalent for Cosmic Purusha (q.v.), 'Primordial Universal Man,' and associated with Narayana (the Logos). Arjuna is identified with Nara, and Krishna with Narayana - the difference in the human sphere suggesting the difference in the cosmic sphere. Thus, as Subba Row explains, Arjuna represents Nara or the human monad, whereas Krishna represents the Logos (N.B.G. 9). (B.G. p. viii)

Narada One of the ten great Rishis, or Prajapatis, known as the mind-born so ns of Brahma. This Rishi is credited with the authorship of some of the hymns of the Rig-Veda. In the epic poems he is represented as the virgin-ascetic frustrating creative functions, nevertheless he is a helper of mankind and appears as the friend of Krishna. Then too Narada is the leader of the heavenly musicians (Gandharvas, q.v.), the inventor of the vina (lute); he also descends into Patala (the infernal regions). Narada is called "in Cis-Himalayan Occultism Pesh-Hun, the 'Messenger,' ... a kind of active and ever incarnating logos, who leads and guides human affairs from the beginning to the end of the Kalpa." (S.D. II, 48) (B.G. 72)

Nasatya One of the twin Asvins (q.v.), the sky deities. By Madri he became the father of Nakula - the fourth of the Pandava brothers. (m. the helpful one. B.G. p. iv)

Nirvana A super-spiritual status: the state of supreme bliss, of complete absorption of the consciousness in pure Kosmic Being: it is the state of those beings who have reached superhuman knowledge and spiritual illumination and are enabled to live in their own spiritual essence, casting off the inferior parts of the pilgrim-monad's sheaths - such is the meaning of the word Jivanmukta (a 'freed monad'). To attain Nirvana one has to identify oneself with one's divine Parent (the 'Father in Heaven' - the divine Monad). (comp. nir, out or away; vana, past participle of va, to blow, hence 'blown out' - referring to man's lower principles, which are indeed discarded by the Jivanmukta.) (B.G. 21)

OM (or AUM) The syllable which has come to have a holy significance in India, particularly in Brahmanical literature. It has the meaning of benediction and affirmation, it opens and closes invocations or prayers (see B.G. 119), and is pronounced by Yogins during meditation.

"It is a compound of three letters a, u, m, which, in the popular belief, are typical of the three Vedas, also of three gods - A (Agni) V (Varuna) and M (Maruts) or Fire, Water and Air. In esoteric philosophy these are the three sacred fires, or the 'triple fire' in the Universe and Man, besides many other things." (Theos. Gloss. 240) (B.G. 1)

Oosana (see Usanas).

 

Panchajanya The name of Krishna's conch-shell, which he obtained in the following manner: Panchajana was an elemental of the sea, using the form of a conch-shell (sankha). He had seized the son of Sandipani (who had instructed Krishna in the use of arms), whereupon Krishna attacked and slew Panchajana, taking the shell for use as his conch.

It is significant and interesting that the word Panchajana itself means 'five classes,' having reference to the five lower classes of beings which in a general way were considered by the ancient Hindus to inhabit the universe. The name therefore could properly be applied to a head of any one such composite group of beings; and to speak of Panchajana as a 'demon,' as Orientalists often do, is to forget the fact that one of the Panchajanas or five classes of animate beings are men, who can hardly be called 'demons,' even in the Hindu mythological sense. (m. lit. descended from Panchajana. B.G. 3)

Pandu The son of Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa and Ambalika, half-brother of Dhritarashtra, and parent of the five hero princes Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva - who were known as the Pandavas (i.e., sons of Pandu). When Pandu became of age, he was given the throne of Hastinapura by his regent-uncle Bhishma, because Dhritarashtra was considered unfit to rule the kingdom on account of his blindness. Pandu, however, relinquished the kingdom because of a curse pronounced upon him while hunting, and retired to the Himalayas, where he died. (B.G. 2)

Pandus (or Pandavas) The sons of Pandu, referring to the five brothers - Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva - who sought to regain their kingdom of Indraprastha, which had been taken from them by the Kauravas under the leadership of Duryodhana. This led to the great battle at Kurukshetra, in which the Pandavas were victorious. (B.G. 2)

Parabrahman lit. Beyond Brahman, i.e., that which is beyond the summit of a manifested kosmic hierarchy; referred to in Vedic literature as TAT, THAT (the world of manifestation being Idam, This). Parabrahman is very closely connected with Mulaprakriti (Root-Substance) inasmuch as Mulaprakriti is the veil of Parabrahman (N.B.G. 62). Krishna speaks of Parabrahman as his Avyaktamurti because Parabrahman "is unknowable, and only becomes knowable when manifesting itself as the Logos" or Isvara (N.B.G. 62). Parabrahman "is the field of Absolute Consciousness, i.e., that Essence which is out of all relation to conditioned existence, and of which conscious existence is a conditioned symbol." (S.D. I, 15) (comp. para, beyond; Brahman, 'Universal Spirit.' B.G. 71)

Paramatman The Supreme Self. In man Paramatman is the three highest principles, with especial emphasis upon the atman, hence the reference is to the root-base of man. The term may likewise apply to the Root-Base of a hierarchy, and cosmically, to the First or Unmanifest Logos of the Universe. (comp. parama, beyond; atman, Self: hence the SELF which is higher than the Self of the human ego. B.G. 96)

Paundra The name of the conch-shell of Bhima. (B.G. 4)

Pavaka A name applied to one of the eight Vasus (q.v.), the Vasu fire. Also applied to the god of fire, Agni (q.v.). (m. bright, shining. B.G. 74)

Pavana An alternative name for the god of the wind, Vayu (q.v.). (B.G. 75)

Pimpala (more correctly Pippala) The sacred Indian fig-tree, ficus religiosa, called in Buddhism the Bo-tree. Mystically the Cosmic World-Tree, or Tree of Life, the Asvattha (q.v.). (B.G. 74)

Pitris lit. Fathers: referring to (a) the deceased father, grandfathers, and great grandfathers of a person, and (b), the Progenitors of the human race. To both classes rites are performed (Sraddhas) and oblations presented (Pindas) - to which the text refers. The Progenitors are of seven groups or classes: the three higher classes are called Arupa-Pitris - commonly Solar Pitris or Agnishvatta-Pitris, i.e., those who have no physical 'creative fire' albeit the enlighteners of the mind of man (the Minasaputras of The Secret Doctrine); the four lower classes are called Barhishads - commonly Lunar Pitris who fashion mankind's vehicle, i.e., the Monads undergoing evolution in the Lunar Chain who, transfer their energies to the Earth-chain at the time of its reimbodiment. (See Marichi.)

"The Progenitors of Man, called in India 'Fathers, Pitaras or Pitris, are the creators of our bodies and lower principles. They are ourselves, as the first personalities, and we are they. ... they were 'lunar Beings.' " (S.D. II, 88) (B.G. 68)

Prahlada The son of Hiranyakasipu of the Daitya race (i.e., Titans), who waged wars with the gods, in one of which they overcame Indra and took possession of Svarga (heaven). Prahlada, however, as a boy, instead of following the Daitya practice, became an ardent worshiper of Vishnu. This was told his father who in anger ordered that his son be killed. But no Daitya weapon could cause his death, nor even the flames of fire, whereupon Prahlada was sent back to his preceptor and he continued his adoration of Vishnu. Because of Prahlada's persecution, Vishnu took on incarnation as the Narasinha ('man-lion') Avatara, slaying Hiranyakasipu and expelling the Daityas from heaven. (See under Krishna.) They took up their abode in Patala under the rule of Prahlada. At his death Prahlada attained union with Vishnu. The Padma-Purana narrates that in a previous birth, as a Brahmana named Sornasarman, he was desirous of uniting himself with Vishnu, but was distracted in his meditations by the Daityas, and so was born again as one of them, (B.G. 75)

Prajapati lit. 'Lord of progeny,' or lord of creation: a title applied originally to several of the Vedic gods, as divinities presiding over the production of worlds and men; later applied to the Hindu Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu, Siva) especially to Brahma as the chief progenitor, evolver, and producer (as in Manu). Likewise Manu Svayambhuva is termed a Prajapati as the son of Brahma, and as the secondary creator of the ten Rishis - the mind-born sons of Brahma from whom mankind is descended, hence termed Prajapatis. These are enumerated as: Marichi Atri Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasishtha, Prachetas (or Daksha), Bhrigu, Narada. Occasionally only the first seven are enumerated, and they are made equivalent to the seven great Rishis (q.v.). The Prajapatis "are neither gods, nor supernatural Beings, but advanced Spirits from another and lower planet, reborn on this one, and giving birth in their turn in the present Round to present Humanity." (S.D. II, 611)

"What are all the myths and endless genealogies of the seven Prajapatis, and their sons, the seven Rishis or Manus, and of their wives, sons and progeny, but a vast detailed account of the progressive development and evolution of animal creation, one species after the other?" (S.D. II, 253) *pra-jan, to give birth to; pati lord. B.G. 85)

Prakriti Broadly speaking equivalent to Nature - in the sense of the great producer of beings. Through Nature acts the ever-moving Spirit - Brahma or Purusha. Thus Purusha is Spirit and Prakriti is its productive veil or sheath. Although Prakriti is commonly rendered 'matter,' matter is rather the productions that Prakriti brings about (i.e., the Vikritis) through the excitation or influence of Purusha. Some Hindu schools use Prakriti in the sense of Sakti or Maya (Illusion), the Vedantins, however, teach that every particle of Prakriti contains Jiva (divine life) and is the sarira (body) of that Jiva which it contains. (comp. pra, forwards, progression; *kri to do, to make; hence lit. production, bringing forth. B.G. 65)

Pritha The name of the daughter of Sura, a Yadava prince, who gave her to his childless cousin Kunti (or Kuntibhoja) by whom he was adopted - hence she was called Kunti (q.v.). She is the mother of the Pandavas. Throughout the text Arjuna is referred to as the son of Pritha (in Sanskrit, Partha). (B.G. 20)

Purujit A hero on the side of the Pandavas, brother of Kuntibhoja (q.v.). (m. conquering many. B.G. 2)

Purusha lit. 'Man': used in the sense of the Ideal Man (i.e., the Primordial Entity of Space), likewise for the Spiritual Man in each human being - equivalent to Spiritual Self. Purusha also sometimes stands as an interchangeable term with Brahma, the Evolver or 'Creator.' In another aspect Purusha (Spirit) is equivalent to the energic force in the universe of which Prakriti (Matter) is the other pole. Purusha and Prakriti are but the two primeval aspects of the One and Secondless. They produce all things, but they are essentially one and not two. (S.D. I, 281) (B.G. 59, see also 96.)

Rajas In Hindu philosophy, one of the three gunas (qualities) running through the web or fabric of Nature: the quality of longing, activity, passion. (See B.G. chapters xiv, xviii.) (B.G. 28)

Rajarshi comp. of rajan, 'king'; rishi 'sage': a kingly or royal sage, i.e., kings and princes who follow the path of illumination and initiation. The Rajarshis in India were the same as the King-Hierophants of ancient Egypt.

"There were three classes of Rishis in India, who were the earliest adepts known; the royal, or Rajarshis, kings and princes, who adopted the ascetic life; the Devarshis, divine, or the sons of Dharma or Yoga; and Brahmarshis, descendants of those Rishis who were the founders of gotras of Brahmans, or caste-races." (S.D. II, pp. 501-2) (B.G. 30)

Rakshasas Popularly regarded as demons (evil elemental beings) residing in the sixth of the material spheres (Rakshasa-loka); in the scriptures, however, they are grouped into three distinct classes: (1) elemental beings not necessarily evil; (2) giants engaged in warfare with the gods; (3) fiends and demons haunting cemeteries, etc., disturbing sacrifices, and afflicting mankind in various ways. In the epic poems 'Rakshasa' is rather loosely applied to any pre-Aryan people - such as the inhabitants of Lanka under the leadership of Ravana - ultimately defeated by the Aryans. "The Rakshasas, regarded in Indian popular theology as demons, are called the 'Preservers' beyond the Himalayas. This double and contradictory meaning has its origin in a philosophical allegory," (S.D. II, 165). *raksh, to protect. B.G. 65)

Rama Three heroes are known by the name of Rama: Parasu-rama, Rama-chandra, and Bala-rama (see Kansa). The second is the one to whom the name is especially applied, for he is the hero of the Ramayana, wherein his exploits are fully recounted. Rama was the eldest son of king Dasaratha of the Suryavansa (the Solar Dynasty) reigning at Ayodhya; he is represented as the seventh Avatara of Vishnu, incarnating at the end of the Treta-yuga (the second 'Great Age') for the especial purpose of delivering mankind and the gods from the iniquities caused by Ravana, the Rakshasa king of Lanka (Ceylon). Rama was known as the mightiest of those who carry arms, inasmuch as he was the only one able to bend the mighty bow of the god Siva. To him who could bend this bow, Janaka (q.v.) offered the hand of his daughter, Sita, in marriage; thus she became the bride of Rama. With the help of Hanuman (q.v.), Rama accomplished the purpose of the gods.

The Ramayana "is the mystic narrative in epic form of the struggle between Rama - the first king of the divine dynasty of the early Aryans - and Ravana, the symbolical personation of the Atlantean (Lanka) race. The former were the incarnations of the Solar Gods; the latter, of the lunar Devas. This was the great battle between Good and Evil, between white and black magic, for the supremacy of the divine forces, or of the lower terrestrial, or cosmic powers. ... The Ramayana - every line of which has to be read esoterically - discloses in magnificent symbolism and allegory the tribulations of both man and soul." (S.D. II, 495-6) (B.G. 75)

Rik (or Rich) A verse, especially a sacred verse recited in praise of a deity - one of the four kinds of Vedic composition. (B.G. 66)

Rishi An adept, a seer, an inspired person. In Vedic literature the term is employed as referring to the seers through whom the various mantras or hymns of the Veda were revealed. The Satapatha-Brahmana enumerates seven as: Gotama, Bharadvaja, Visvamitra, Jamadagni Vasishtha, Kasyapa, and Atri. In later times (in the epic poems and Puranas) the Rishis are regarded as a particular class of beings, distinct from gods and men, the patriarchs or 'creators' (see under Makarshi). The Mahabharata enumerates the seven Rishis of the first manvantara as: Marichi Atri Angiras, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastya, Vasishtha. These are also called the seven great Rishis (Saptarshis) especially associated with the Great Bear - being, in fact, seven Planetary Regents. The above-named Rishis are also called in most of the texts the seven Rishis "of the Third Manvantara; the latter referring both to the Third Round and also to the third Root-Race and its branch-Races in the Fourth Round. These are all the creators of the various beings on this Earth, the Prajapatis, and at the same time they appear as divers reincarnations in the early Manvantaras or races." (S.D. II, 78) (B.G. 80)

Rudras An alternative name for the stormgods or Maruts (q.v.), who are under the leadership of Rudra or Siva. "These deities are only another aspect, or a development of the Kumaras, who are Rudras in their patronymic, like many others." (S.D. II, 613) (m. howlers, or roarers. B.G. 73)

Sadhyas A class of divine beings: in the Vedas represented as dwelling in regions superior to the gods - in later works they are placed in Bhuvar-loka (between heaven and earth). In Manu the Sadhyas are stated to be the offspring of the Soma-sads from Viraj, i.e., children of the Ancestors from the Moon - the Pitris (q.v.). The Sadhyas are termed 'divine sacrificers,' "the most occult of all" the classes of the Pitris (in S.D. II 605) - the reference being to the Manasaputras. *sadh, to be fulfilled, completed, attained. B.G. 81)

Sahadeva The son of Madri (the second wife of Pandu) and the twin sky-gods, the Asvinau: brother of Nakula (q.v.). Regarded as the youngest of the five Pandava princes. Sahadeva excelled in the science of astronomy, which he studied under Drona (q.v.). He was also very proficient in the management of cattle. (B.G. 4)

Saibya The king of the Sibis (an ancient people of India): an ally of the Pandavas. (B.G. 2)

Saman A metrical hymn, or song of praise; especially a sacred verse which is to be sung, rather than recited or muttered - one of the four kinds of Vedic composition. (B.G. 66)

Sanjaya A suta (i.e., a charioteer, as well as a royal bard who recounted the heroic actions of the king, etc.) of the monarch Dhritarashtra, also an ambassador of that king, bearing the family-name Gavalgani. He was granted by Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa the divine sight of seeing everything in minutest detail, so that he might thus recount all that he saw in regard to the conflict at Kurukshetra to the blind monarch Dhritarashtra. Therefore, as the opening stanzas tell, Sanjaya relates the preliminaries of the battle, at which time the dialog between Krishna and Arjuna occurs - this dialog being known as the Bhagavad-Gita. (m. completely victorious. B.G. 1)

Sankalpa (or Samkalpa) Conception or idea formed in the mind or heart; hence the word has the further meaning of will, volition, desire. *sam-klrip, to be brought about, to come into existence. B.G. 31)

Sankara (or Samkara) lit. 'The auspicious': a name of Siva (q.v.), in his aspect of chief of the Rudras (or Maruts, q.v.). Also and especially in his auspicious or beneficent character: that of regenerator, hence popularly regarded as the creator. (B.G. 73)

Sankhya (or Samkhya) The name of the third of the six Darsanas or Hindu schools of philosophy, which may be rendered 'the school of reckoners.' It was so called because this school divided or 'reckoned' the universe (and likewise man, as a child of the universe) into 25 elementary principles (Tattwas) - 24 of which formed the vehicles or bodies in which the true self (Purusha) works. This school was founded by Kapila (q.v.). H. P. Blavatsky states that the system was established by the first Kapila (as stated in the Puranas) and written down by the last Kapila, the sage and philosopher of the Kali-yuga period. (S.D. II, 572) There were several sages of the name of Kapila. *khya+sam, m. to reckon, to enumerate. B.G. 15)

Sannyasa Renunciation of the world and material affairs and the taking up of the path leading to mystic knowledge. (comp. sam, with; *ni-as, to reject, to resign worldly life.) One who practises Sannyasa is called a Sannyasin. (B.G. 44)

Santanu (or Samtanu) The son of Pratipa (of the Lunar Dynasty), a king of the Kurus, and younger brother of Devapi who became a hermit when Santanu usurped his throne. He married Ganga, who gave birth to Bhishma (q.v.). He later wedded Satyavati by whom he had two sons, Chitrangada and Vichitravirya (q.v.). Santanu was the fourteenth descendant of Kuru and was remarkable for his devotion, charity, modesty, constancy, and resolution. It was further related of him that every decrepit man whom he touched became young again. (B.G. p. iii)

Sat Being, or rather Be-ness - the state of existence. The term is used as the Real (true being), in contradistinction to Asat (the illusory world). In the Vedanta it is equivalent to the self-existent or Universal Spirit (Brahman). "Sat is in itself neither the 'existent,' nor 'being.' SAT is the immutable, the ever present, changeless and eternal root, from and through which all proceeds. But it is far more than the potential force in the seed, which propels onward the process of development, or what is now called evolution. It is the ever becoming, though the never manifesting." (S.D. II, 449) (present participle of *as, to be. B.G. 119)

Sattva (or Sattwa) The quality of truth, goodness, purity: one of the three qualities (Trigunas) running through the web or fabric of Nature. (See B.G. chs. xiv and xviii.) (sat, being; tva - a noun-suffix, hence: 'true essence.' B.G. 16)

Satyaki A member of the Vrishni family, kinsman of Krishna, and acting as his charioteer. He also lent his aid to the Pandavas in the battle to regain their kingdom. (B.G. 4)

Satyavati The daughter of Uparichara, a king of Chedi and Adrika, about whom it is related that although an Apsaras ('celestial nymph'), she was doomed to live on earth in the form of a fish. Satyavati was the mother of Vyasa by the Rishi Parasara, giving birth to him on an island (dvipa) - hence he was called Dvaipayana. Later Satyavati wedded king Santanu (king of the Kurus) giving birth to Chitrafigada and Vichitravirya (q.v.). (B.G. iii)

Siddhas A class of semi-divine beings of great purity and perfection, represented as possessing the eight supernatural faculties (the Siddhis), and inhabiting Bhuvar-loka (the region between earth and heaven). In later mythology they are often confused with the Sadhyas (q.v.). "According to the Occult teachings, however, Siddhas are the Nirmanakayas or the 'spirits' (in the sense of an individual, or conscious spirit) of great sages from spheres on a' higher plane than our own, who voluntarily incarnate in mortal bodies in order to help the human race in its upward progress. Hence their innate knowledge, wisdom and powers." (S.D. II, 636) *sidh, to attain; hence 'the perfected ones.' B.G. 81)

Sikhandin A son of Drupada, king of Panchala, who accomplished the death of Bhishma in the great conflict. The story regarding Sikhandin, is one of the specific instances portraying reincarnation, with which the Mahabharata is studded. The epic relates that the eldest daughter of the king of Kasi Amba (q.v.), was rejected by her betrothed through the fault of Bhishma, whereupon she retired into the forest and by severe penances and sacrifices obtained a boon from Siva promising her immediate rebirth as a man in order to mete out judgment upon her wrongdoer, Bhishma. She thereupon ascended her funeral pyre and was forthwith reborn as Sikhandin. (B.G. 4)

Siva The third aspect of the Hindu Trimurti commonly called the destroyer, but with the idea intimately associated therewith of regeneration, hence also the regenerator. The name Siva does not appear in the Vedas, nor does the concept of the Trimurti; but the deity Rudra does occur (associated in the Vedas with Agni the fire god), and in later times Siva is known under the name of Rudra, hence the association of the two has been made. Rudra is hailed in the Rig-Veda as the lord of songs and sacrifices, the lord of nourishment, he who drives away diseases and removes sin - the beneficent aspect of Siva. In the Mahabharata, Siva's place in the Trimurti is maintained, although he is not quite as prominent as Vishnu (the preserver), nevertheless the deity comes in for his share of reverence.

Siva is described as the beautiful white deity with a blue throat - blue because of the poisons he drinks in order to preserve mankind thereby; his hair is of a reddish color and piled on his head in matted locks - for Siva is the patron deity of ascetics. He is depicted with three eyes, one placed in the center of his forehead, representing the eye of wisdom (Called by Occultists the eye of Siva or the third eye): the three eyes represent Time, present, past, and future. A crescent moon above his forehead indicates Time measured by the phases of the moon, while a serpent around his neck indicates the measure of Time by cycles: a second necklace (of human skulls) refers to the races of men which Siva continuously destroys in order to regenerate new races. The serpents which surround him represent the deity as king of the Nagas (q.v.), standing also for symbols of spiritual immortality. Siva is often represented with five faces - representing the five manifested elements.

In many of the Puranas Siva is regarded as the greatest of deities, hence he is called Mahadeva (the great god). He is also spoken of as the patron deity of Esotericists and as the divine protector of the mystic Occultists. For Siva is "the howling and terrific destroyer of human passions and physical senses, which are ever in the way of the development of the higher spiritual perceptions and the growth of the inner eternal man - mystically," (S.D. I, 459).

Siva, although the destroying deity, is Evolution and Progress personified, he "is the regenerator at the same time; who destroys things under one form but to recall them to life under another more perfect type." (S.D. II, 182)

In the Bhagavad-Gita Siva is referred to under his alternative name of Sankara (B.G. 73).

Skanda The name of the god of war, also known as Karttikeya (so called because he was reared by the six Pleiades, Krittikas), hence he is described as six-headed. For the purpose of destroying the Daitya Taraka, who had become a potential source of trouble to the deities because of the austerities he had performed and his strict religious observances, Skanda was produced, springing from the seed of Siva which had been cast into the fire and then carried to Ganga (the Ganges river). He is represented as riding the peacock, Paravani holding a bow in one hand and an arrow in the other.

Skanda is also the regent of the planet Mars. (B.G. 74)

Sloka A stanza, especially a particular kind of epic meter, also called the Anushtubh, which consists of 4 padas (quarter verses) of 8 syllables each; or it may be 2 lines each containing 16 syllables. The syllables of each line may be altered as desired except for the 5th, 13th, 14th, and 15th syllables which have a fixed method for composition. The following indicates this:

 . . . . , . . . | . . . . , - , .

The dots represent syllables which may be either long or short. The 6th and 7th syllables should be long; but if the 6th is a short syllable then the 7th is short also. As an example the first sloka of the Bhagavad-Gita is given illustrating this (although the 14th syllable is short in both lines):

dharmakshetre kurukshetre samaveta yuyutsavah,
, , , , / , , , , | , , , - / , , , ,
mamakah pandavaschaiva kimakurvata sanjaya.
- , - / - , - - , | , , , , , / , , ,

The Ramayana relates that the first sloka was composed by Valmiki who was moved to such sorrow by seeing the mate of a bird killed by a hunter during the wooing of the pair, that in his grief he developed the spirit of poesy. The word sloka means sound, or noise; in the Rig-Veda it means a hymn of praise. (cf. *sru, to hear. B.G. p. i)

Soma Astronomically, the Moon - an occult mystery, for the moon as a symbol stands for both good and evil. "Soma is the mystery god and presides over the mystic and occult nature in man and the Universe" (S.D. II, 45).

In mystical phraseology Soma is a sacred and mystic beverage which was drunk by Brahmanas and Initiates, during their mysteries and sacrificial rites, producing mystic visions. "The partaker of Soma finds himself both linked to his external body, and yet away from it in his spiritual form. The latter, freed from the former, soars for the time being in the ethereal higher regions, becoming virtually 'as one of the gods,' and yet preserving in his physical brain the memory of what he sees and learns." (S.D. II, 499).

"The Soma-drink known to Europeans is not the genuine beverage, but its substitute; for the initiated priests alone can taste of the real Soma; and even kings and Rajas, when sacrificing, receive the substitute." (Theos. Gloss. 304) (B.G. 67)

Somadatta A favorite name in ancient times: many kings bore this appellation. The son of one so named sided with the Kurus. (m. gift of Soma. B.G. 3)

Subhadra The daughter of Vasudeva: a younger sister of Krishna, wife of Arjuna, and mother of Abhimanyu (the son referred to in the text of B.G. 2). Subba Row suggests that the gift of Krishna's sister to Arjuna typifies the union between the sixth and fifth principles in man's constitution, i.e., Buddhi and Manas. (N.B.G. 9) (m. very auspicious. B.G. 2)

Sudra The fourth and lowest of the four castes of Vedic India, whose duty consisted in serving the three higher classes. (B.G. 69)

Sughosha The name of the conch-shell of Nakula. (m. making a loud noise. B.G. 4)

Sura A king of the Yadava line of the Lunar Dynasty, who ruled over the Surasenas at Mathura. He was the father of Vasudeva and Kunti (q.v.), hence the grandfather of Krishna. (B.G. p. iv)

Sursooty The modern name of the ancient Sarasvati river: although small it was held very sacred by the Hindus. In ancient times it marked with the Drishadvati river one of the boundaries of the region Aryadesa and of the sacred district called Brahmavarta (Manu, ii, 17). The river joins the Ganges and Jumna at Allahabad. (B.G. iii)

Svasti An interjection: well, happily: hence a salutation meaning, may it be well with thee! hail! so be it! (As a noun the word means success, prosperity. B.G. 81)