Theosophical University Press Online Edition

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


Gods and Heroes and Technical Terms: T - Y

A - G | H - M | N - S
* The asterisk preceding a Sanskrit word herein means 'derived from the verbal root.' (See 'Abbreviations,' and 'Pronunciation Key.')

 Tamas One of the three gunas – essential attributes or characteristics of manifested beings and things: the quality of darkness, illusion, ignorance. In a different sense Tamas also means passivity, repose, inertia. (See B.G. chs. xiv and xviii.) (B.G. 41)

Tat (also Tad) The word used by Vedic sages to represent that which is beyond expression, the unnameable principle – rendered THAT – in contradistinction to the manifested world, Idam (This). (The neuter form of a pronominal particle used as a noun. B.G. 119)

Uchchaihsravas The white horse produced by the gods at the churning of the ocean (see Ananta). He became the steed of Indra (q.v.), and is regarded as the model horse, ‘the king of horses.’ (m. neighing aloud. B.G. 74)

Uragas A class of semi-divine serpents, usually associated with the Nagas (q.v.) and represented as a serpent with a human face. W. Q. Judge comments "it must refer to the great Masters of Wisdom, who were often called Serpents." (B.G. 80) (m. breast-going, i.e., a serpent.)

Usanas An ancient sage and prophet-seer, descendant of the Kavyas or Kavyas. (Also the name of the planet Venus and its regent.) (B.G. 76)

Ushmapas A class of semi-divine beings, associated with the Pitris (q.v.). (from ushma, heat, vapor, steam. B.G. 81)

Uttamaujas A warrior on the side of the Pandavas. (m. of excellent valor. B.G. 2)

Vaisya lit. ‘A man who settles on the soil’ thus a peasant or working-man. The third of the four social classes or castes into which society was divided in Hindusthan. It also referred to one whose occupation was that of trade as well as of agriculture. (B.G. 69)

Vaivasvata-Manu The name of the seventh Manu (q.v.) who presides over the present Manvantara: lit. the sun-born Manu, also called Satya-vrata because of his piety. He is sometimes described as one of the 12 Adityas (q.v.), and is regarded as the progenitor of the present race of living beings. In the Mahabharata Vaivasvata is the hero of the deluge. As the story runs, while he was observing his devotions by the side of the river, he was interrupted in his worship by a small fish who entreated the monarch to shield him from the larger fish who was about to seize his victim. Being moved by compassion, Vaivasvata placed the little fish in a vase, but was very soon astonished to find that the receptacle could no longer contain it. Whereupon the fish was placed in a larger vessel. But the fish kept on growing, so that in time no tank was large enough to hold him, therefore the river became his abode. Still the fish grew so much in girth, that he had to be transferred to the ocean. Then the fish commanded Vaivasvata to build a ship and place himself and the 7 Rishis on it, and fasten the prow to his horn, for a deluge would soon overwhelm the earth. Having done as he was bid, upon entering the vessel, Vaivasvata and the Rishis were towed off by the fish and were thus saved from the flood. Finally they were brought to Himavat (the Himalayas), where Vaivasvata landed and thereafter repeopled the earth.

"In the Satapatha Brahmana, Manu finds that ‘the Flood had swept away all living creatures, and he alone was left’ – i.e., the seed of life alone remained from the previous dissolution of the Universe, or Maha-pralaya, after a ‘Day of Brahma’; and the Mahabharata refers simply to the geological cataclysm which swept away nearly all the Fourth Race to make room for the Fifth. Therefore is Vaivasvata Manu shown under three distinct attributes in our esoteric Cosmogony: (a) as the ‘Root-Manu’ on Globe A in the First Round; (b) as the ‘seed of life’ on Globe D in the Fourth Round; and (c) as the ‘Seed of Man’ at the beginning of every Root-Race – in our Fifth Race especially." (S.D. II, 146-7) (from vivasvat, the sun. B.G. 30)

Varna-sankara (or -samkara) Confusion or mixture of castes through intermarriage. (comp. varna, a caste – referring especially to the four castes as enumerated in the Bhagavad-Gita; samkara, mixing or blending together. B.G. 7)

Varsha A district. The geography of the Mahabharata depicts seven dvipas (q.v.), the central one, Jambu-dvipa, corresponding to our earth (Globe D). This dvipa is divided into nine parts termed varshas as follows: (1) Bharata, or India, situated south of the Himalayas, the southernmost division; (2) Kimpurusha; (3) Harivarsha; (4) Ila-vrita, the central varsha containing Mount Meru; (5) Ramyaka; (6) Hi-ran-maya; (7) Uttara-Kuru; (8) Bhadrasva, east of Ila-vrita; (9) Ketu-mala, west of the central varsha. Uttara-Kuru was the varsha of the northern Kurus, described as a country of eternal beatitude. (B.G. p. ii)

Varaha-Upanishad The name of a text of the Varaha School of the Krishna-Yajur-Veda (q.v.): not one of the Vedic Upanishads. (B.G. 31)

Varuna One of the most ancient deities of the Vedas, regarded therein as the personification of the all-embracing sky, maker and upholder of heaven and earth: the king of the universe, king of gods and earth and possessor of illimitable knowledge, ruling principally, however, over the night while Mitra reigned over the day. In later times Varuna was regarded as chief of the Adityas (q.v.); later still he was allocated to the waters as god of the sea and rivers, riding upon the Makara (q.v.). In the Vedas Varuna is connected with the ‘element of water’ and the ‘waters of space,’ but with descending cycles the original spiritual idea associated with the deities of the ancients being lost sight of in the effort to attach material significance to the gods, Varuna – in common with other deities – became associated with the visible fluids. Varuna is made the regent of the Western quarter. A moral character is also associated with the deity: he is represented as binding all guilty mortals with a noose (i.e., the mortal was bound in the net of his own actions). "Varuna, ‘without whom no creature can even wink,’ was degraded like Uranos [Ouranos], and, like him, he fell into generation, his functions, ... having been lowered down from heaven to earth by exoteric anthropomorphism." (S.D. II, 268) (B.G. 75)

Vasava A name applied to Indra (q.v.), especially in his character of leader of the Vasus (q.v.). (B.G. 73)

Vasudeva lit. ‘Son of Vasudeva’ – a name applied to Krishna, because of his birth in the family of Vasudeva and Devaki. The Mahabharata also explains that Krishna is thus called from his dwelling (vasanat) in all beings, from his issuing as a Vasu from a divine womb. (B.G. 55)

Vasuki The king of the Nagas (q.v.) in Patala. He is sometimes made the same as the serpent of Vishnu, Sesha or Ananta. (q.v.); again he is distinct (as in the text of B.G. 74).

Vasus A particular class of deities, eight in number, associated with Indra: they form one of the nine Ganas (classes of deities) mentioned in the Vedas. The Vasus are named: Apa (water), Dhruva (the pole-star), Soma (the Moon), Dhara or Dhava (the Earth), Anila (wind), Pavaka or Anala (fire), Prabhasa (dawn), Pratyusha (light). The Ramayana regards them as children of Aditi. A verse in Manu says: "The wise call our fathers Vasus" (iii, 284). (B.G. 74)

Vayu The god of the wind, also called Pavana. In the Vedas he is associated with Indra, and rides in the golden chariot of the god of the sky. One hymn calls him the son-in-law of Tvashtri (the artificer of the gods), while another gives his origin as arising from the breath of Purusha (q.v.). His particular regency is the northwest quarter of the heavens. In the Mahabharata the god of the wind is represented as the father of Bhima, and also the father of Hanurnan. The Vishnu-Purana makes Vayu the king of the Gandharvas (q.v.). The ancient meaning attaching to ‘air’ was "one of the five states of matter, namely the gaseous; one of the five elements, called, as wind, Vata. ... The trinity of the mystic gods in Kosmos closely related to each other, are ‘Agni (fire) whose place is on earth; Vayu (air, or one of the forms of Indra), whose place is in the air; and Surya (the sun) whose place is in the air.’ (Nirukta.) In esoteric interpretation, these three cosmic principles, correspond with the three human principles, Kama, Kama-Manas and Manas, the sun of the intellect." (Theos. Gloss. 361) (B.G. 85)

Vedanta lit. ‘End of the Veda,’ i.e., complete knowledge of the Veda. The name is particularly associated with the Uttara-mimansa school (the third of the six Hindu systems of philosophy), as this school especially studied the latter portion of the Veda. The reputed founder of the Vedanta is Vyasa (q.v.), but its chief exponent was Sankaracharya, who especially taught the Advaita (‘non-dual’) aspect, hence his followers are called Advaita-Vedantins. In brief: the Advaita system teaches that nothing real exists but the One Self, or Soul of the Universe, called Brahman or Paramatman, and that the Jivatman (individual human soul or monad), and in fact all phenomenal manifestations of nature, are really identical with Pararnatman; their apparent separate existence is due to Ajnana (nescience, ‘non-wisdom’). A proper understanding of the Vedanta removes this Ajnana. "The Vedas are, and will remain for ever, in the esotericism of the Vedanta and the Upanishads, ‘the mirror of the eternal Wisdom.’ " (S.D. II, 484) The nearest exponent of the Esoteric philosophy "is the Vedanta as expounded by the Advaita Vedantists," (S.D. I, 55). (B.G. 108)

Vedas The ancient sacred literature of the Hindus. There are four Vedas known as the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, and the Atharva-Veda. Their origin is ascribed to divine revelation (sruti), and Hindus as well as Theosophical students place their period at many thousands of years before the Christian era. They state that the Vedas were taught orally for thousands of years and then finally were compiled on the shores of the sacred lake Manasa-Sarovara by Veda-Vyasa (about 3100 B.C.). It is quite apparent that the original authorship is not by one person, inasmuch as various hymns are attributed to various Vedic Sages. They are written in a style of Sanskrit different from any other literary works.

The Vedas are divided into two main portions: the mantra part (hymns in verse), and the Brahmana part consisting of liturgical, ritualistic and mystic treatises in prose. With the latter are closely connected the Aranyakas and Upanishads. "Between the Vedas and the Puranas there is an abyss of which, both are the poles, like the seventh (atmic) and the first or lowest principle (the physical body) in the Septenary constitution of man. The primitive, purely spiritual language of the Vedas, conceived many decades of millenniums earlier, had found its purely human expression for the purpose of describing events taking place 5,000 years ago, the date of Krishna’s death (from which day the Kali Yuga, or Black-Age, began for mankind)." (S.D. II, 527) *vid, to know. B.G. 15)

Vichitravirya The younger son of Santanu (q.v.) and Satyavati who became king of the Kurus when his elder brother Chitrangada (an arrogant and proud man) was killed as a young man in a battle with a Gandharva of the same name. Vichitravirya married Ambika and Ambalika, the two daughters of the king of Kasi but died childless. (B.G. p. iii)

Vikarna One of the hundred sons of Dhritarashtra, following the lead of his elder brother, Duryodhana. (B.G. 3)

Virata The raja of Virata (a country in the midland or northwest districts of India – in about the position of the modern province of Berar). It was at the court of this king that the Pandavas spent the last year of their exile in disguise – as imposed upon them by Duryodhana. Because of the many services rendered to him by the Pandavas, Virata lent his aid to the sons of Pandu. (B.G. 2)

Vishnu The second aspect of the Hindu Trimurti (Brahma being the first and Siva the third): the most prominent of deities, especially in his character of Sustainer and Preserver of all manifestation – equivalent to the Logos. In the Vedas, however, the conception of the Trimurti is not present: Vishnu is mentioned with the other gods as the personification of the sun and light, he is described as striding across the heavens in three paces, explained as the three manifestations of light – fire, lightning, and the sun. It is in the epic poems and Puranas that Vishnu becomes the most worshiped deity, riding on Garuda (q.v.), or again resting on Ananta (q.v.). Brahma (‘the creator’) is represented as springing from a lotus arising from Vishnu’s navel, while the latter slept on the waters of space; while Siva (‘the destroyer’) sprang from his forehead. In his character of the preserver, Vishnu manifests in the world in the form of Avataras, ten principal ones being enumerated, the seventh and eighth being Rama and Krishna. (See B.G. pp. 30-31) "Vishnu is, as well as Adam Kadmon, the expression of the universe itself; and ... his incarnations are but concrete and various embodiments of the manifestations of this ‘Stupendous Whole."‘ (I.U. II, 277) *vis, to enter, to pervade. B.G. 73)

Visvas (also Visve-devas) A class of deities: according to the Puranas represented as the sons of Visva (the daughter of Daksha), and named: Vasu, Satya, Kratu, Daksha, Kala, Kama, Dhriti Kuru, Pururavas, Madravas, Rochaka (or Lochana), Dhvani. They are particularly worshiped at Sraddhas – a ceremony of reverential homage unto deceased relatives performed by the offering of water daily (as recommended by Manu); and supplicated at Pinda services – balls of rice and meal offered at regular intervals (see B.G. 7). (m. all-pervading. B.G. 81)

Vittesa lit. ‘Lord of wealth,’ the name of Kuvera (or Kubera), the god of wealth. In the Vedas, Kuvera is represented as the chief of the evil beings or spirits of darkness (having the name Vaisravana, i.e., the son of Visravas by Idavida). In later times Kuvera is represented as the lord of riches and wealth, the chief of the Yakshas, and the regent of the northern quarter, thus answering to one of the four great Guardians (Maharajas). In the Ramayana, Kuvera was the possessor of Lanka, but he was expelled therefrom by his half-brother, Ravana; whereupon he performed such austerities that he was granted the regency of the domain of wealth, and named guardian of the northern quarter. He is described as a white man greatly deformed in body, having three legs and only eight teeth. (B.G. 73)

Vivasvat lit. ‘The brilliant one’ – a name of the Sun. In epic poetry (and also in the Rig-Veda) regarded as the father of Vaivasvata-Manu (q.v.), the seventh or present Manu. *vi-vas, to shine forth. B.G. 30)

Vrishni A descendant of Yadu, the first of the Yadava line, which became extinct with Krishna. Krishna was therefore called Varshneya, ‘descendant of Vrishni.’ Yadu was also the half-brother of Puru (the ancestor of the Kurus and founder of the Paurava line). (B.G. 27)

Vyasa The celebrated sage and author, regarded as the original compiler and arranger of the Vedas and Vedanta-sutras (hence called Veda-vyasa – vyasa meaning an arranger, a compiler). In the Mahabharata it is related that Vyasa was the half brother of Vichitravirya and Bhishma, his parents being the Rishi Parasara and Satyavati. Because of his dark complexion he was called Krishna, and on account of being born on a dvipa (island) in the Junma, he received the name Dvaipayana. Although he had retired into the wilderness in order to become a hermit, his mother implored him to wed the childless widowed wives (Ambika and Ambalika) of Vichitravirya, and he thus became the father of Dhritarashtra and Pandu – parents of the Kurus and Pandavas respectively, by whom the great conflict was waged. Vyasa is also regarded as the compiler of the Mahabharata, the narrator of the Bhagavata-Purana, and author of other Puranas. The Puranas mention 28 Vyasas – represented as incarnations of Brahma or Vishnu, descending upon earth for the purpose of arranging and promulgating the Vedas and other sastras.

‘Vyasa’ is indeed a term applied to the highest gurus in India, "for that which he explains, interprets and amplifies is a mystery to the profane. ... There were many Vyasas in Aryavarta; one was the compiler and arranger of the Vedas; another, the author of the Mahabharata – the twenty-eighth Vyasa or revealer in the order of succession – and the last one of note was the author of Uttara Mimansa, the sixth school or system of Indian philosophy. He was also the founder of the Vedanta system." (Theos. Gloss. 367) (B.G. p iii and 72)

Yadu The ruler of the country west of the Jumna river, whose father was Yayati and mother, Devayani. His half brother, Puru, was the founder of the Paurava line of the Chandravansa (Lunar Dynasty), to which the Kurus and Pandus belonged. Yadu inaugurated the Yadava branch of this dynasty to which Vasudeva and Krishna belonged, hence Krishna is referred to as ‘son of Yadu.’ But the Yadava line became extinct with Krishna. (B.G. 85)

Yajur (or Yajus) A sacrificial prayer or formula: also a technical term for mantras to be muttered in a particular manner at a sacrifice, generally written in prose and hence distinguished from the Rik (q.v.) and Saman (q.v.). Also the name of the second of the four Vedas. (B.G. 66)

Yakshas A class of celestial beings generally associated with Kuvera, the god of wealth, and stationed in the seventh of the eight lokas of material existence (Yaksha-loka). They are considered to be beneficent to humanity and are therefore called Punya-janas (‘good people’) in the scriptures. In the popular folk-lore of India, however, they are regarded as evil demons, obsessing men at times, etc. H. P. Blavatsky gives the following explanation: "In esoteric science they are simply evil (elemental) influences, who in the sight of seers and clairvoyants descend on men, when open to the reception of such influences, like a fiery comet or a shooting star." (Theos. Gloss. 375) (B.G. 73)

Yama The god of the Underworld. In the Vedas Yama is represented as the son of the Sun, Vivasvat: he it is who first died and first departed to the celestial world. The interpretation of this is, that "Yama is the embodiment of the race which was the first to be endowed with consciousness (Manas), without which there is neither Heaven nor Hades." (Theos. Gloss. 375) In the epic poems Yama is the son of Sanjna (Conscience) by Vivasvat and brother of Manu. His office is to judge the dead: seated on his throne of judgment (Vicharabhu) in his palace (Kalichi). The soul of a departed mortal enters the regions of the dead (Yamapura) and appears before Yama, while the recorder, Chitragupta, reads out his record from the great register (Agra-samdhani). In the sentence which follows, the deceased is assigned to the abode of the Pitris (Devachan) if guilty he must go to one of the 21 hells according to the degree of his guilt; or he is sent to be born again on earth in another form. Because of his judging, Yama is also called the god of justice, Dharma. He is represented as riding upon a buffalo armed with mace and noose, with which he secures those about to go to his realms. Yama had a twin sister, Yami who, according to an ancient hymn, is ever urging him to take her as his wife. The Esoteric teaching is "that Yama-Yami is the symbol of the dual Manas, in one of its mystical meanings. For instance, Yama-Yami is always represented of a green colour and clothed with red, and as dwelling in a palace of copper and iron." (Theos. Gloss. 376)

"The Hindu Chitra-Gupta who reads out the account of every Soul’s life from his register, called Agra-Sandhani; the ‘Assessors’ who read theirs from the heart of the defunct, which becomes an open book before (whether) Yama, Minos, Osiris, or Karma – are all so many copies of, and variants from the Lipika, and their Astral Records." (S.D. I, 105) (B.G. 75)

Yoga The word lit. means a union, a joining together. It is the name of one of the six Schools of Philosophy or systems of Hindu thought (Darsanas), being so called because it sought the attainment of union or at-one-ness with the divine-spiritual essence within a man, this being virtually identical with the spiritual essence or Logos of the universe. This school was founded by Patanjali and his teachings are extant in a work written by him known as Yoga Aphorisms. However, even before his time a far grander and more inclusive system had been inculcated for ages, an ancient sage, Yajnavalkya, having outlined the same tenets. There are many systems based on Yoga, all derivative from the original system and hence all using the name yoga, thus: Jnana-Yoga, Raja-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, etc. Each of these stresses one particular aspect of the teaching. The Bhagavad-Gita itself is a text-book of the highest system of Yoga. (*yuj, to join, to yoke. B.G. 15)

Yogi (nom.: dict. Yogin) A devotee: one who practises the Yoga-system. In ancient times such devotees practised the highest ethics without recourse to the prescribed religious observances and sacrifices: in modern times, however, the word is often applied to any devotee in India, whether practising Yoga or not. (B.G. 44)

Yudhamanyu A warrior on the side of the Pandavas. (m. having a warlike spirit. B.G. 2)

Yudhishthira The eldest son of Kunti and the god of justice, Dharma. In the Mahabharata Yudhishthira is not represented as a valorous warrior but is portrayed as excelling in the kingly virtues of justice and wise sovereignty over his kingdom of Indraprastha, which was given to him by Dhritarashtra and was adjacent to Hastinapura. Through the scheming of the Kauravas under Duryodhana, Yudhishthira lost his kingdom (as it was made the stake at a game of dice), and as the result of a second game he and his four brothers were compelled to exile themselves for 13 years. At the end of the period of exile Yudhishthira commenced negotiations for a peaceful restoration of his kingdom, in which Krishna assisted. He was unsuccessful and a conflict was imminent. Yudhishthira was dissuaded from withdrawing from the battle by Krishna, who assured him of victory. At the end of the war he was enthroned at Indraprastha, as well as at Hastinapura by Dhritarashtra, and his eminence was later assured through the performance of the Asvamedha sacrifice. After the death of Krishna, the Pandavas decided to abandon the world, and the closing book of the epic describes their journey and their death, one by one, except that of Yudhishthira. He descends into hell and then ascends to heaven (Svarga) but renounces it because his faithful dog was refused entrance with him; because of his compassion, he is readmitted, however, by his parent, the god Dharma.

"Yudhishthira – the first King of the Sacea, who opens the Kali Yuga era, which has to last 432,000 years – ‘an actual King and man who lived 3102 years B.C.,’ applies also, name and all, to the great Deluge at the time of the first sinking of Atlantis. He is the ‘Yudhishthira born on the mountain of the hundred peaks at the extremity of the world beyond which nobody can go’ and ‘immediately after the flood.’ " (S.D. I, pp. 369-70)

Symbolically Yudhishthira represents the Higher Ego in man. (m. firm or steady in battle. B.G. 4)

Yuga An age or period, referring especially to an age of the world, of which there are four enumerated in Hindu chronology as follows: (1) Krita-yuga or Satya-yuga, fit. ‘golden age’ – the age of purity and innocence when virtue reigns and there is no injustice in the world, lasting for a period of 4,000 years of the gods; (2) Treta-yuga, ‘age of triads,’ or the ‘age of the three sacred fires,’ i.e., three of the four sacred fires being worshiped – the Silver Age, lasting for 3,000 years of the gods; (3) Dvaparayuga, ‘age of the number two,’ – all sacred things are halved, the Bronze Age, of 2,000 years of the gods; (4) Kali-yuga, age of darkness, or the Black Age, when strife prevails, the Iron Age, whose duration is 1,000 years of the gods. Each yuga is preceded by a period called a Sandhya (twilight – or a transition period, or dawn), which is followed by a period named Sandhyansa (‘a portion of a twilight’): each of these two periods is equivalent in length to a tenth of its accompanying year of the gods. As a year of the gods is figured as 360 days of the mortals, and adding the Sandhyas and Sandhyansas, the yugas are:

Krita-yuga 1,728,000 years
Treta-yuga 1,296,000 years