In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is referred to by more than two-dozen different names. Each name has significance and that meaning varies by the context in which it is used.
In the Devotee’s Gita commentaries, only the surface meaning is usually addressed. In fact, the actual Sanskrit names may not appear in either Sri Nerode’s translation or in the Helpful Translation. In some instances, there will be notes on the original Sanskrit name in the Easter Egg section for contemplation and future reference.
While Krishna is an actual figure from India’s history born into the Yadava lineage, in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna always represents an aspect of God. At his highest, he represents the aspect of God that is not currently engaged in creation. As Purushottama, the untouched Godhead speaking through Krishna is supreme in wisdom, joy and love.
On the other end of the spectrum, Krishna-God is described as Mahatman, the liberated soul who quietly lives out his/her incarnation or as Prabhu, a liberated soul who assumes the role of teaching others how to free their consciousness through whatever methods his/her duty requires.
The hidden meanings of Krishna’s multiple names often apply to the anatomy and physiology of the gross nervous system and the subtle nadi/chakra system. Each specific name indicates characteristics related to consciousness, energy and will power. Each name also implies how to create, preserve or destroy a specific aspect of creation. The final goal of this information is the liberation of consciousness from the illusion of limitation and conducting one’s life from an enlightened state of being.
The implication of Krishna’s names for Sanskrit study is typically twofold. First, it’s an indication that the “sounds” in that mantra/verse require the application of subtle energies from specific related anatomy. Second, the name indicates which sort of application is appropriate for that sound.
In the previous Golden Age the majority of humans communicated telepathically. Sanskrit was a tool and not a language. For example, “sound” infused with consciousness can instantly change “soft” things in creation. It’s difficult for the limited minds of the two lowest castes, the Sudra caste and Vaishya caste, to even imagine the possibilities of the correct application of sound. Academics and scientific researchers are only beginning to study the impact that sound has on plants, people, environments and elements like fire.
The monikers given to Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita have a concealed meaning that becomes more obvious with intuitive study. In the Devotee’s Gita, the goal is not to understand how these names apply to anatomy, physiology and the original Sanskrit. Rather the Devotee’s Gita is concerned with making the principles of the Gita more accessible while noting that there is more to learn behind the curtain of language. Following is a list of Krishna’s names used to indicate facets of the Godhead. These are generalized meanings. This is a work in progress and will be refined when the Bhagavad Gita as a Sanskrit primer is written.
Achyuta – One who has not fallen from the Spirit to Nature (Not from Grace to sin; Not from Existing Independent of thought or as an Observer of creation to egocentric consciousness).
Changeless, Matchless, Imperishable One. The element of fire. Also, a gift to Agni, the god of fire, and has a relationship to the fire of the stomach, digestive functions, and gastric fluid.
Anantarupa – One of Inexhaustible, Endless, Infinite Form.
The Anantarupa name is a reference to the element of Ether. Of the five traditional elements of the yogic schools: earth, water, fire, air and ether, only ether pervades the others and their forms. The closest current Western concept to ether is space plasma.
Aprameya – Boundless, Immeasurable, Unfathomable One.
If omnipresence may be considered to have a perspective that pervades everything, then Aprameya may be considered to have no perspective yet still pervading all. In other words, this is a state of consciousness that views creation as non-existent. How can one man measure the size of another man’s dream?
Apratimaprabhava – Transcendent One.
This is usually translated as incomparable glory or power, yet the intuitive translation is “Transcendent”. Spirit in transcendental form is like a chameleon that is able to change colors to hide in its current environment.
Arisudana – Destroyer of enemies.
In the context of the Bhagavad Gita, this refers to familiar foes, not to strangers.
Bhagavan – Adorable One.
Bhagavan is the the aspect of the Godhead that receives unselfish devotion (or bhakti).
Deva – A god on earth who walks among men.
A deva is capricious. This aspect of the Godhead is subject to the whims of the environment in which it has been placed.
Devesha – Chief Deva. A god on earth who walks in the midst of men and also rules over his lesser peers.
Govinda – Chief Herdsman or a prince among peers.
In the deeper sense, Govinda is the herdsman of the senses. Senses in the ignorant act more like cats than like sheep. Govinda applies to the devotee of self-control, or continence.
Expanded Explanation of Govinda
One who rules over all twenty aspects of the senses, including:
Ideas behind sensual experience
- sound in the cervical center;
- touch in the dorsal center;
- sight in the lumbar center;
- taste in the sacral center; and
- smell in the coccygeal center.
FIVE “WORKING” CONCEPTS
Ideas behind material creation
- to express through speech from the cervical center;
- to execute from the dorsal center;
- to move from the lumbar center;
- to expel waste from the sacral center;
- to procreate from the coccygeal center.
FIVE MANIFESTATIONS OF MATERIAL RESISTANCE
- sound from the cervical center;
- touch from the dorsal center;
- form and color from the lumbar center;
- taste and fluidity from the sacral center; and
- odor from the coccygeal center.
FIVE MANIFESTATIONS OF PHYSICAL ELEMENTS
- ether from the cervical center;
- air from the dorsal center;
- fire from the lumbar center;
- water from the sacral center; and
- earth from the coccygeal center.
Hari – Unconditional Love.
Hari is another name for Vishnu who is traditionally the protector and preserver of creation. In the Bhagavad Gita the name Hari signifies unconditional love, the sort of love that forgives evil and sin. In meditation schools, yogis are taught that one must achieve a state of physical breathlessness to experience the highest ecstasy of samadhi. However, it is the action of the heart that keeps the senses “alive” in the physical form. A devotee in a brief breathless period is still aware of physical senses as long as the heart is beating. Hari, also known as “the stealer of hearts,” arrests the heart beat and releases one’s consciousness from the “sin” of sensual experience.
Hrishikesha – One whose hair stands up “bristling” when confronting the “enemy” senses.
A few situations make one’s hair stand on end. Static electricity raises the hair. A cold draft raises the hair on the arms and legs. Sudden shock can also make one’s hair stand on end. In the Gita, this name is significant because it indicates that a battle of the senses is about to take place. References to “hair” and “arms” on a deeper level indicate the ganglia nerve masses and/or nadi/chakra centers of consciousness. “Standing on end” means that these groups are fully powered, threatening and ready to fight. See “Keshava” for comparison.
Isham Idyam – Lord praised for the hope of gain.
“What have you done for me lately?” is a common Western phrase when someone does not receive what they desire from another. The suppliant who implores spirit to grant his/her request, prays to Isham Idyam. Contrast this with Bhagavan.
Jagannivasa – The Shell that contains the universe.
Like an eggshell contains and protects the chick that is growing within it, so also Jagannivasa protects and contains the universe. When one speaks of cracking the Cosmic Egg, that devotee would be breaking through Jagannivasa.
Janardana – The One who instigates the troubles of mankind.
Janardana is the aspect of Vishnu that grants the prayers of mankind. Most prayers are either for protection, or for preserving the status quo in a world where change is the only constant. In other words, most prayers are selfish and when granted only create additional troubles for humankind.
Expanded Explanation of Janardana
Janardana is the form of Vishnu that manipulates the three qualities (or gunas)
The three qualities are: positive (Sattwa), negative (Tama) and neutralizing (Raja). Additional notes about each quality follows:
Existence, truth, bears witness to the truth; illumines, ascertains, soothes, and uplifts by causing an equilibrium. Makes real happiness devoid of excitement. Has no motion of its own. Gives the power to will and to know. Induces the quality in a flame which makes it burn upwards. “Intelligence” on an abstract plane of consciousness. No pure physical example. Related to white blood cells. Closest mental example is the period of transition from dreaming to waking states. Milk, rice and wheat contain aspects of this quality. It is symbolized by pure white and “Dawn”.
“To please” or “to color.” Activates, produces motion, causes change in anything it influences. Gives matter its force and impetus; causes desire and endeavor in the mind. Imparts motion to air and fire. Pure abstract example is ego and on the physical plane, energy. Found in the red corpuscles of the blood. Related foods are red peppers, onions, liquor. Symbolized by the color red. In the daily cycle it is “Noon”.
“To cover” or “to darken.” This quality covers or hides “neutral” qualities and obstructs “positive” qualities. Surface, skin, outer cover. Makes it possible to feel invisible air. Produces tendency for water to descend. Responsible for gravity. Causes resistance, halts motion. Pure abstract example is lethargy. Physical example is solid earth. It is the carbon in venous blood. Influence is strongly felt in sleep and laziness. Related foods are stale meat, poisons and certain suffocating gases. In the daily cycle it is “Night”.
Kamalapattraksha – Lotus-eyed One, or lotus-petal eyed One.
Literally, this refers to Krishna as a being who has activated every nerve cell including the physical brain, every nadi (subtle channels of energy and consciousness), every chakra (yoga addresses the seven lower chakras, though some Buddhist traditions address nine) and who has untangled the three knots (granthis or twists in the flow of subtle energy located below the coccygeal chakra, below the dorsal chakra and below the Medulla Oblongata related chakra) as well as controlled or stopped the nine gates (two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, the anus and the urethra).
Keshava – One whose hair is “handsome” or well-ordered while contemplating the senses.
Keshava is another nickname for Vishnu, whose primary qualities are to preserve and protect creation. The use of Keshava in the Bhagavad Gita indicates full awareness of the senses at hand with neither a call to engage nor to destroy that sense. Keshava is the perspective of wisdom regarding the senses. While Hrishikesha indicates the need for a defensive battle, Keshava indicates a time for contemplation. This is separate and different from the next entry “Keshinisudana” though some may group the two together.
Keshinisudana – Slayer of Keshini, a female earth demon.
The intuitive translation of Keshinisudana requires a couple of deviations from tradition. This name in the Bhagavad Gita indicates destroying the female demon of the earth element. The Keshinisudana controls the ida nadi. Contrast this with Madhusudana. It may also indicate abundance or wealth, depending upon the context of its use.
Madhava – God of Lineage Fortune.
On the surface this refers to Krishna as a descendant of Madhu. The deeper meaning applies to the aspect of the Godhead that controls the lineage of families (and subtly the development of nerves and nadis).
Madhusudana – Assassin of the male demon Madhu; One who overcame ignorance permanently.
On a deeper level, Madhusudana is the One who eliminated the limitations unique to the male aspects of the subtle energy system. The Madhusudana controls the pingala nadi. Specifically, Madhusudana is one who destroys the illusions of past and future. Time is a creation of the intellect. Attachment is a creation of the selfish ego. Madhusudana destroys the concept of time. Contrast this with Keshinisudana.
Mahabaho – A general epithet of warriors that is applied to both Krishna and Arjuna at various points in the Bhagavad Gita. One with omnipotent arm strength.
The deeper meaning relates to the anatomy and physiology of the nerve/nadi/chakra systems of energy and consciousness and must be examined by specific usage.
Mahatman – Sovereign Soul or a liberated master.
“Liberated” does not mean “unlimited”. A liberated master is still confined by the laws of creation as they relate to his/her unique duty during each incarnation.
Prabhu – Master of the Sound or “Word” that liberates.
Prabhu refers specifically to the sound(s) that release one’s consciousness from attachment to creation. This is the deconstructive sound that is more powerful than the sound of construction.
Prajapati – Divine Father of All Creatures.
Prajapati is the consciousness presiding over procreation, a protector of life and the lord of creatures. When considering the Bhagavad Gita as a Sanskrit primer, Prajapati must be explored in relation to Vayu, Yama, Agni, Varuna and Sasankas.
Purushottama – Circumference everywhere, focal point nowhere.
Purushottama is the Supreme Spirit that exists without perception of space. Purushottama has a deeper relationship to the purpose of the Bhagavad Gita because the Gita was compiled during the descending Bronze Age (Dwapara Yuga) and will now be revealed again in this ascending Bronze Age. Academic Hindus disagree with the correct determination of the Yugas which can be tracked in the stars more accurately than in obtuse mathematical calculations.
Sahasrabaho – The One Form that Each Devotee Sees as a Unique Form. The “Thousand-armed” One. The Form that is the individual blueprint for each Soul-Ego manifestation.
On the surface the “arms” indicate active change. Sahsrabaho suggests that the devotee do something tangible. Subtly, the arms refer to specific physical and subtle anatomy from the perspective of the individual devotee.
Varshneya – Clansman of the pure Vrishni Clan.
Calling Krishna out as the most noble man of the clan (Vasudeva) but subtly indicating the liberating anatomy within a group. When a devotee is confused by darkness and ignorance, Varshneya is the light and point of wisdom that must be followed for success.
Vasudeva – Lord of the World or the enlightened ego.
Contrary to the common idea that the ego is “annihilated” by the successful yogi, a liberated soul active in creation must use the ego guided by intuitive wisdom. Vasudeva is the Lord as Creator, Preserver, Destroyer or in other words a human manifestation of Shiva.
Vishnu – The all-pervading image of the Godhead that preserves creation from change.
Vishnu is the neutral quality or rajas as manifested throughout creation. (See Janardana above.) The historical Krishna is considered an incarnation of Vishnu the Preserver and he was widely recognized as a wise counselor.
Vishvamurte – The entire Universe of each unique Universe Body.
The concept that the universe is a collection of all single organisms colored by a relative perspective is a Vishvamurte. This is related to Sahasrabaho. Sahasrabaho is the unique form of the universe seen by a single devotee. Vishvamurte refers to every unique form seen by each devotee’s perspective, as viewed from beyond creation. In other words, a Sahasrabaho is a single object-form of creation while Vishvamurte is the entire collection of every single object-form of creation.
Yadava – Descendant of Yadu, refers to Krishna’s family lineage.
On a subtle level, Yadava is the nerves or nadis that the devotee may have damaged through direct intention or through neglect.
Yogeshvara – The One who is able to Reveal Truth to others.
Yogeshvara is typically called the “Lord of Yoga”. Specifically, in the Bhagavad Gita, the Lord of Yoga is the One who reveals the Supreme Self in some or all of its above named variations to the devotee.
I have used the spellings for each name as they appear in God Talks with Arjuna by Paramahansa Yogananda. In a future, detailed study of the Bhagavad Gita as a Sanskrit primer, a more appropriate written script will be used.
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