Sign In

 
Forgot password?
Enter your username or email to reset and email yourself your password
Sign In
Welcome . For your security, please choose your password.
Sign In
For privacy concerns, please view our Privacy Policy
Sign up
for saving your wish list, viewing past orders
receiving discounts and lots more...

Subscribe for Newsletters and Discounts

Be the first to receive our thoughtfully written
religious articles and product discounts.
By registering, you may receive account related information, our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
.

Share

Share our website with your friends.
Email this page to a friend
By subscribing, you will receive our email newsletters and product updates, no more than twice a month. All emails will be sent by Exotic India using the email address info@exoticindia.com.

Please read our Privacy Policy for details.
|6
Your Cart (0)

The Poetics of Pretext - Krishna's Names in the Bhagavad Gita

Article of the Month - December 2007
Viewed 47878 times since 2nd Oct, 2008

Once Shri Krishna knocked at Shrimati Maharani's door and the following conversation took place:

Radharani: Who is it?

Krishna: I am Hari.

Since the word Hari in Sanskrit also means a lion, she replied:

Radharani: There are no suitable animals of prey here, so why have you come?

Krishna: I am Madhava don't you know me?

The word Madhava, other than being a name of Krishna also means the season of spring, so came the reply:

Radharani: This is not the time for spring to come.

Krishna: I am Janardana, surely you know me?

The word Janardana holds within itself many meanings, two of which are contrary to each other. It means both - one who causes distress to society and also one who destroys the wicked. Obviously, Shrimati Radha chose the former meaning:

Radharani: Persons like you should stay in the forest where there are no other people you can cause distress to.

Krishna: Open the door young lady, I am Madhusudana.

The word Madhusudana means both the 'killer of the demon named Madhu,' and also means the honeybee, which drinks honey (madhu) from various flowers. Thus she said:

Radharani: Now I understand, you a dvirepha.

Dvirepha means both a honeybee and also an outcaste. Thus does Radharani suggest that since Krishna has the habit of fluttering towards various gopis like the honeybee, he has been banned from her house.

Madhava Delivering the Discourse of Gita to Arjuna
Madhava Delivering the Discourse of Gita to Arjuna

 

 

In this light banter Krishna introduced himself with various names, the meanings of which were taken differently by Radharani than that intended by him. Many of these names also occur in the sacred conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, the Bhagavad Gita, in which context still other meanings are intended.

 

 

In the Bhagavad Gita there are forty different names used by Arjuna to call upon Shri Krishna. Each of these names describes an attribute or quality of god, reverberating with the potentiality of an inner, philosophical echo, leading to a realization of the deeper meaning of the dialogue between the two.

Srimad Bhagavad Gita (The Scripture of Mankind): Sanskrit Text, Transliteration,Word-to-Word Meaning, Translation and Detailed Notes
Srimad Bhagavad Gita (The Scripture of Mankind): Sanskrit Text, Transliteration,Word-to-Word Meaning, Translation and Detailed Notes

The different epithets used by Arjuna to address Krishna are not just there for the sake of variety but meaningful to the context. This is one of the enriching features which make the study of Gita a relishable exercise rather than it being a mere pursuit of a dry philosophical treatise.

As the major part of the Bhagavad Gita is but a dialogue between Arjuna and Krishna, with the former calling upon the latter to relieve his distress, we see a gradual shift in Arjuna's position as Krishna provides him relief, reflected in the tone and demeanor of his address. For example, his first call to Krishna in the text is but a command given by a warrior to his charioteer. Arjuna says:

"O Achyuta, place my chariot in between the two armies." (Bhagavad Gita 1.21)

Here Arjuna addresses Krishna as "Achyuta," which means "one who never falls from his position." This implies that Krishna, even though he is the supreme lord, has out of affection for his devotee Arjuna reduced himself to the status of a charioteer. However this in no way compromises his supreme position. This is akin perhaps to the situation of a Supreme Court judge, who diligently orders out punishments and rewards in his courtroom; but the same person, when he comes back home, is content to play around with his grandson and take orders from the child.

Indeed it is the nature of the supremely compassionate Krishna to take on the slightest job for his devotees. When Arjuna's elder brother Yudhishtra performed the great sacrifice (yajna) known as Rajasuya, each member of the family was assigned a different responsibility; and what did Shri Krishna volunteer to do? The great lord took it upon himself to wash the feet of each and every guest who came to the yajna. Thus Yudhishtra says in the Bhagavata Purana:

"Just as the brilliance of the sun is neither enhanced nor diminished with the ascent or decline of the sun, even so your actions in no way exalt or detract your glory." (10.74.4)

Obeying Arjuna's command, Krishna drove the chariot in between the two armies. We all know what happened next. Seeing his near and dear ones arrayed opposite him, ready to lay down their lives, Arjuna was awash with a flood of sentimentality, leading to emotional exhaustion, and he found his heart sinking to never before depths of turmoil.

With his limbs shaking, Arjuna said:

"O Madhusudana, I do not wish to kill these my relatives, even though they may kill me."(Bhagavad Gita 1.35)

The Slaying of Madhu and Kaitabh
The Slaying of Madhu and Kaitabh

 

The epithet Madhusudana means the slayer of the demon named "Madhu." It refers to the annihilation of this villain by the lord just before the creation of this world. The word "madhu" in its turn means 'honey,' and thus the demon Madhu represents attachment (raag) to this world, which seems sweet to us. Hereby, Arjuna reminds Krishna that just as he had killed the demon of attachment before, similarly should he do so in the present circumstances.

 

 

Vishnu Lakshmi - The Divine Couple
Vishnu Lakshmi - The Divine Couple

Next Arjuna queries:

"O Madhava, how can we be happy by killing our own relatives?" (1.36)

"Ma" means Goddess Lakshmi and "dhav" means husband. Thus the perplexed Arjuna wants to point out that since Krishna is the lord of the goddess of fortune, he should point out the way which would save their (Arjuna's) clan from the impending misfortune.

As the narrative proceeds, Krishna discourses Arjuna that the only way to gain peace is through equanimity of the mind, prompting the latter to say:

"The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate and very strong. To subdue it is, O Krishna, more difficult than controlling the wind." (6.34)

 

 

 

The Slaying of Madhu and Kaitabh

Actually Indian Philosophy is pretty clear on the issue that it is extremely difficult to control the mind. However, one does not need to do so, there being a much easier way to salvation. Since the mind is not independent, but like a prostitute goes to any object which gains its fancy, the solution lies in wedding it to one divine husband. Truly, Krishna is the ultimate attraction, and like a magnet drawing iron files towards it, he too naturally attracts his devotees. Indeed, the first letter in his name is symbolic of his 'grip' over his devotees, because of the hook-like shape in its lower half.

Thus Arjuna in this verse, revealing the position of each of us, acknowledges that he is unable to divert his restless mind towards the feet of Krishna and instead implores Krishna to do so.

Krishna gradually builds up his discourse, starting off with bold exhortations and then gradually going on to more abstract formulations. However, the accent always is on a partnership between man and deity. Thus Krishna says:

"Those who attempt to liberate themselves from old age and death by taking refuge in me, they realize the Supreme Reality (Brahman)." (7.29)

Arjuna then questions:

"Purshottama, what is the Supreme Reality?" (8.1)

Purshottama means the "Supreme Person," obviously he is the only one who can grant the knowledge of the Supreme Reality.

The lord then instructs Arjuna that the Supreme Reality is none other than himself, who pervades each and every aspect of the manifested existence. This prompts Arjuna to say:

"O Keshava, I totally believe whatever you have told me as true. Neither the gods, nor the demons, O Bhagvan, can understand you." (10.14)

Here there are two modes of addressing Krishna: Keshava and Bhagvan, both of which are loaded with spiritual and contextual relevance. According to Shri Shankaracharya's commentary on the Vishnu Sahasranama, the word Keshava is made up of the following:

1). "K" meaning Lord Brahma.

2). "A" meaning Lord Vishnu.

3). "Ish" meaning Lord Shiva

4). "Va" meaning form (vapu in Sanskrit).

The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesha
The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesha

Therefore, by calling upon god as Keshava, Arjuna communicates his realization of the fact that it is the 'One Supreme Reality' which takes form as these three principal gods, and thus by implication of the entire world.

The epithet Bhagvan too signifies Krishna's supremely abundant status, since "Bhagvan" is a technical term indicating 'One who possesses the six kinds of splendors (shad-aishvarya)', namely:

a). Complete Prosperity

b). Dharma

c). Yasha (fame)

d). Shri (fortune)

e). Jnana (Knowledge)

f). Vairagya (Detachment)

In the next verse, Arjuna refers to Krishna with no less than five names, expressing his wonder and reverence:

"O Supreme Person (Purushottama), Origin of all beings (Bhuta-bhavan), Lord of all beings (Bhutesh), God of all gods (Deva-deva) and Ruler of the world (Jagatpati)." (10.15)

However, Arjuna is not satisfied with the lord's abstract formulation, and asks Krishna to expand his discourse with easily understandable examples:

"O Janardana, my thirst for your nectar-like speech is not quenched. Therefore, kindly describe again your attributes in detail." (10.18)

The name Janardana is composed of two parts - 'jana' meaning the veil of ignorance (avidya) and 'ardana' meaning the one who annihilates it.

Krishna then proceeds to explain in detail, with examples taken from the physical world, that the whole manifested existence is but his manifestation. This forms the majority of the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.

The Cosmic Form of Krishna (Vishvarupa from the Bhagavad Gita)
The Cosmic Form of Krishna (Vishvarupa from the Bhagavad Gita)

In the next chapter, Arjuna requests Krishna to show him this Universal Form encompassing the entire world (Vishva Rupa), after seeing which Arjuna says:

"O Lord of the universe (Vishveshvara), O Universal Form (Vishva Rupa), I see in you no beginning, middle or end." (11.16)

Then very aptly does he call Krishna by the name Vishnu, meaning all-pervading:

"O all-reaching Vishnu, with your gaping mouths and glowing eyes you touch the skies." (11.24)

The sky represents the highest point the human eyes can reach, and with his senses thus stretched to the limit, Arjuna becomes terrified and asks Krishna to come back to his usual soothing form. Now at last, having understood the true nature of Krishna does Arjuna acknowledge him as 'Hrishikesha', meaning 'master of the senses.'

"O Master of the senses, the world delights upon hearing your glory." (11.36)

Krishna as Hrishikesha is the "director" of the senses, who now controls the reins of Arjuna's senses, unlike the first instance above when Arjuna "orders" Krishna to take his chariot between the two armies.

Shri Krishna's Gita Upadesha
Shri Krishna's Gita Upadesha

Arjuna now apologizes for having addressed Krishna as a friend rather than venerating him like the god that he truly was:

"For addressing you familiarly as 'O Krishna", O Yadava, O Comrade (sakha), and regarding you merely as a friend, unknowing of this greatness of yours, O Achyuta, O Immeasurable One, I ask for your forgiveness." (11.41-42)

Arjuna was very fond of the name 'Krishna.' He has used this epithet no less than nine times in the Gita, more than any other. The name 'Yadava' indicates that Krishna belonged to the Yadava clan, and Krishna and Arjuna were related to each other as first cousins. Thus Arjuna is reminding Krishna that it was only because they were brothers that he had taken the liberties to address him as above. However, the immeasurable (aprameya) greatness of Krishna makes sure that Arjuna's liberties did not at all affect his exalted status, thus is Krishna (Achyuta), "one who never falls from his position." This name also suggests that since god is unchanging in nature, his affection towards Arjuna is not diminished a bit inspite of any offense committed by the latter (or any of us).

Conclusion

The Divine Name And Its Practice by Hanumanprasad Poddar
The Divine Name And Its Practice by Hanumanprasad Poddar

 

 

The 'nameless' has a thousand names and it is through these names that the 'nameless' is to be realized. Just as the forms of the divine are unlimited, so are its attributes, excellencies, glories and the names that express them. All things, all persons, all phenomena, identifiable by their names, are in fact manifestations of the Supreme. Each name signifies an excellence. The purpose of meditating on the god's forms, names and lilas is to get rid of our obsession with the name-and-form world. The world is too much with us. It prevents us from realizing the truth of the non-dual reality which is its basis. As one thinks of the divine forms, and utters the sacred names, one's sense faculties get sublimated.

Between name and form, the former is even superior to and subtler than the latter. While 'form' stands for the physical features of the world of phenomena, 'name' signifies the psychical characteristics, a much more potent tool for creative meditation.

 

 

 


References and Further Reading:

  • Bhola (tr.) Shri Vishnu Sahasranama with the Commentary of Shri Shankaracharya: Gorakhpur, 2004.
  • Chaitanya, Krishna. The Gita for Modern Man (3rd ed.): Delhi, 1992.
  • Chinmayananda, Swami. The Holy Geeta: Mumbai, 2002.
  • Dasa, Purusottama. Sri Krsna's (Krishna's) Names In Bhagavad-Gita With Commentary by the Acaryas Vrindavana, 1996.
  • Goswami, C.L. and Shastri, M.A. Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana (English Translation in Two Volumes) Gorakhpur, 2005.
  • Mahadevan, T.M.P. Visnu Sahasra-Nama: A Study Mumbai, 1998.
  • Pati, Madhusudan. Bhagavad Gita: A Literary Elucidation Mumbai, 1997.
  • Ramsukhdas, Swami. Gita Gyan Praveshika: Gorakhpur, 2004.
  • Ramsukhdas, Swami. Sadhaka Sanjivani Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (2 vols.) Gorakhpur, 2000.
  • Sankaranarayanan, P. (tr.) Sri Visnusahasranama Stotram (With English Translation of the Commentary by Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada) Mumbai, 1996.
  • Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda (tr). Shrimad Bhagavata Purana (2 Volumes): Gorakhpur, 2004.
  • Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Bhagawatamrit (The Elixir of the Bhagwat) Mumbai, 2005.
  • Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Shri Vishnu Sahasranama (Partial Commentary). Vrindavan, 2007.
  • Saraswati, Swami Akhandananda. Vibhuti Yoga (Discourses on the 10th chapter) (2nd ed.): Varanasi, 2004.
Post a Comment
 
Post Review
  • Seeta Raam I feel great vibes throughout my body chanting the glorious name of Lord Krishna and L Shiva!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    by Ashmini on 19th Dec 2013
  • Good Job.
    by Lalit on 11th Jan 2008
  • Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

    Yet another layer of the Gita’s onion has been peeled back for me, and it is just as sweet as the one before.


    Namaste.
    by Chris Meeker on 21st Dec 2007
  • This is one of the articles with well-illustrated explanations that calls me back to the site and of course all the beautiful saris and fabrics which appeal to my artistic side. The colors are so beautifully rich. Thank you, for cheering me up on a particularly stressful day!!

    Big Hugs all around,
    by Linda Brann on 20th Dec 2007

Testimonials

I received the 2 sarees and the DVDs. You truly are a treasure house for the music and other related things. You have gotten me an array of CDs,books,DVDs and not least of all beautiful sarees. All always packed with care, delivered in a timely, no hassle fashion. Your business is very trustworthy and I am so glad to have when I need to look for something.
Prashanti, USA
Hello, Just a short feedback on your new website layout: the old one was better than most of what you come across on the www, but you've managed to make it even better. I very much like the new look of the book pages and 'my gallery' pages. Thanks again for offering me a look inside the books. It's a big help for finding out if it's really what I want. Everything is perfect: the presentation of the items, your way of handling the orders, and the fast and always diligently packed parcels. Thanks to all at Exotic India, Walter
Walter
thank you sooo much for the speedy delivery!! within two days I am already wearing my beautiful Exotic Indian shawl!! thanks so much
Pat Demaret
This is the second time I am ordering kurta. The first time it was in July of 2015. The whole transaction was very smooth, and I received my order in USA within a week's tme from India. it was faster than some of the local orders that I have placed. Thank you for your efficiency.
Prabha, USA
I like Exotic India and have had a great experience so far with your books / shipping etc. Please keep it up!
Sriram, USA
Thanks to all the staff at Exotic Art for helping me acquire these wonderful books from the holy land of Bharata Varsha. Happy new year to you all and all glories to Sri Krsna, peace...
J. Idehen, UK
Exotic India is a fine organization to do business with. I have had the best trading experience and the very best customer service. The communication I have had with Vipin K. is of the highest quality; my questions and requests were quickly and professionally answered and fulfilled. A special thanks to the artist Kailash Raj for the beautiful art he produces; I have certainly been enriched by the way his art exemplifies the stories they tell. Many Thanks to all concerned.
W. J. Barnett, USA
My beautiful shawl arrived today. Thank you so much for this lovely shawl. Really, it is nicer than the photograph. I hope you and yours have a very Happy New Year and much prosperity in the New Year. With gratitude
Tom Anderson, Canada
An excellent website, as always. I do not even mention its content, which is beautiful beyond words, but I am merely referring to the great functionality and optimal design of your website. Links always work, the information is accurate and complete, images are very clear, including scanned content of your books. A pleasure to purchase from you.
Oreste, USA
I just wanted to extend my profound thanks to you for expediting my order. It was so well packaged and all import processes taken care of so the beautiful statue arrived in fabulous condition. It looks truly wonderful and I am so happy to have Lord Ganesh take pride of place in my home. Thank you again for your superb service. Best regards
Nikki Grainger
Subscribe to our newsletter and discounts
Share with friends
Related Links
"Actually, the one who worships Bhagwan Vishnu should get rich and the one who worships Shiva should become an avadhuta like Him…. Then he works hard again to acquire wealth. I render all his efforts futile…. However, Bhagawan Vishnu is not like that, it takes longer to please Him…. As a consequence, they later harassed the great God Himself…. On the seventh day, he bathed in the holy waters of Kedarnath and began to cut his head with an axe to offer into the fire…. The boy bowed respectfully before the demon and asked…. No one who commits sin against a great person can be safe and happy in this world."
Shiva and Vishnu: A Unique Aspect of Their Worship
"The Bhagavad Gita, while describing the qualities of a wise person says…. This verse is vividly illustrated in the story of king Rantideva occurring in the Srimad Bhagavatam…. He did not believe in hoarding, was above all attachments and was highly patient…. They were all trembling due to starvation and thirst….bowed to the dogs and their owner…. What I want is only this: That I be able to go and live in the hearts of all beings and undergo sufferings on their behalf, so that they may become free from all miseries."
An Example of Living Vedanta: The Story of King Rantideva
"We assume that our happiness is the result of an interaction with external objects…. Suppose that an individual is deprived of sleep and food and pleasurable objects for a long time and then all of them are simultaneously offered to him…. Actually, seeking the answer to this question is the most significant pursuit in life…. The veil comes up again and the duality returns…. In this background, we can now analyse the nature of dukha (grief)."
Ananda: Understanding the True Nature of Happiness
"Whenever he gets the time, he should go and live amongst people who have given up worldly life…. A wise person should serve his body and family only to the extent that is functionally necessary…. The person who lays claim on the surplus wealth is nothing but a thief…. He should share all objects of enjoyment with everyone, right down to dogs, sinners…. Such is the attachment to one’s wife….How despicable is this body, which if buried is going to become the food of worms, or excreta if eaten by animals….Since a son is to thus revere his elders even after their death, what to say that he is expected to serve them when they are alive…. The person wishing to follow the path of dharma should steer clear of the five forms of Adharma."
Narada Teaches Yuddhishtra a Householder’s Dharma
"But to pull this statement out of context and give it as an advice for anyone is far from correct…. But how is one to recognise the guru? Obviously, he will be able to understand the difficulties of the disciples and clarify to them the meaning of the scriptures on the basis of logic and experience…. They will have to search in their own neighbourhood only….The guru chosen by him should be at least better than himself!…. Of course, if the ideal guru whose features have been enumerated in the beginning is available, then the sadhaka should immediately go and surrender to him…. It is just like going to another teacher for higher education, after completing the education in a school."
The Qualities of a Guru and How to Find One
Show More
Others Viewing
Black Stole from Kashmir with Hand-Embroidered Maple Leaves
Black Stole from Kashmir with Hand-Embroidered Maple Leaves
Pure Wool
6.2 ft x 2.3 ft
$285.00$228.00
Black Stole from Kashmir with Hand-Embroidered Maple Leaves
Encyclopaedia of Palm and Palm Reading (A Treatise On Palmistry)
Encyclopaedia of Palm and Palm Reading (A Treatise On Palmistry)
M. Katakkar
Paperback
$35.00
Encyclopaedia of Palm and Palm Reading (A Treatise On Palmistry)
সিদ্ধান্তালেশ সংগ্রহ: Siddhantalesha Samgraha in Bengali
সিদ্ধান্তালেশ সংগ্রহ: Siddhantalesha Samgraha in Bengali
স্বামী গম্ভীরানন্দ (Swami Gambhirananda)
Hardcover
$30.00
সিদ্ধান্তালেশ সংগ্রহ: Siddhantalesha Samgraha in Bengali
Radha Krishna
Radha Krishna
White Cedar Wood from Trivandrum (Kerala)
25 inch x 12 inch x 4.5 inch
$595.00$505.75
Radha Krishna
Durga Saptashati
Durga Saptashati
$6.50
Durga Saptashati
Kashmiri Stole with Ari Embroidered Paisleys by Hand
Kashmiri Stole with Ari Embroidered Paisleys by Hand
Pure Wool
6.1 ft x 2.4 ft
$135.00$108.00
Kashmiri Stole with Ari Embroidered Paisleys by Hand
Show More

ssl certificates
TRUSTe Privacy Certification
Language:
Currency:
All rights reserved. Copyright 2016 © Exotic India