Arjuna has more than twenty names in the Bhagavad Gita. Like the numerous names used for Krishna, each of Arjuna’s monikers also has a powerful significance that varies by the context in which the name is used.
The Helpful Translation of the Devotee’s Gita commentaries and Sri Nerode’s translation rarely address the unique name. There may be a mention of the original Sanskrit name in the Easter Egg section for those who are using additional references to increase their own understanding.
Like Krishna, Arjuna is also a historical character. In the Bhagavad Gita he represents the sincere individual who strives to solve the riddle of life. As an ideal devotee he is represented as Anagha (or one who has no attachments) and at the opposite end of the spectrum he is the beginner who begins his journey from a different aspect of creation. For example, Partha or “son of Pritha” represents a devotee whose state of human consciousness is innocent or naïve while Kaunteya or “Son of Kunti” indicates the state of human consciousness that is worldly.
Following is a list of epithets for Arjuna with general definitions for each.
Anagha – One Purified by the Positive Quality (Sattwa Guna).
The positive quality binds one through attachment to worldly happiness and to intellectual knowledge. When the binding qualities give way to non-attachment, the higher qualities of Bliss and Intuitive Wisdom manifest.
Bharata – The Average Human Devotee.
Arjuna is a descendant of King Bharata and this is a general epithet also applied to King Dhrtarastra who in the Bhagavad Gita represents the intellect blinded by the senses. In other words, Bharata is a devotee, but an ignorant one who is new to the path of enlightenment. Contrast the root “Bharata” with the root “Kuru” in other epithets for Arjuna. The “Kuru” dynasty represents the ida nadi and the pursuit of worldliness, while the Bharata dynasty represents the pingala nadi and the pursuit of enlightenment.
Bharatashreshtha – An Ignorant Devotee who is making sincere effort to follow a simple religion.
The Bharatashreshtha follows the first two steps of Patanjali’s eight, the steps of morals (Yama) and prescripts (Niyama).
Bharatarishabha – An Ignorant Devotee who adopts a more scientific religious way of life.
The Bharatarishabha is ready to control the senses. Practices the first five steps of Patanjali’s eight: morals (Yama), prescripts (Niyama), postures and movement (Asana), Pranayama (energy mastery) and continence or self-control of the senses (Pratyahara).
Bharatasattama – An Ignorant Devotee who is Ready for Renunciation.
The Bharatasattama is ready to adopt renunciation, or non-attachment, in his/her quest for enlightenment. Practices the first six steps of Patanjali’s eight: morals (Yama), prescripts (Niyama), postures and movement (Asana), Pranayama (energy mastery), continence or self-control of the senses (Pratyahara) and techniques of concentration (Dharana).
Dehabhritan Vara – Best among the embodied souls.
Arjuna in the role of “best embodied soul” because he seeks wisdom.
Dhananjaya – Conqueror of wealth.
In the Bhagavad Gita, this likely means one who has conquered the temptation of material wealth, but it may also refer to “winner of the rewards of war” or enlightenment.
Gudakesha – Simply translating this as “Conqueror of sleep” fails to indicate the depth of the meaning which might be more accurately described as “One who is energized.”
Conscious energy directed by will power is ever-ready, sleepless, delusion-defeating as it enlivens the human form to fulfill its purpose. Related to Bharata (above) and to Krishna’s Hrishikesha or “bristling hair,” the Gudakesha may also be considered the average devotee with “thick hair” who has for the first time experienced a vision of the Unlimited. The thick-haired one indicates certain ganglia nerve masses and/or nadi/chakra centers of consciousness that have recently become energized.
Kapidhvaja – Hanuman Influenced One
The monkey army (a reference to the uncontrolled senses) is led by Hanuman. Hanuman is celibate and helps Rama who is a god of Vishnu. Subtly, this refers to lowest control of the senses, most likely by morals (Yama) and prescripts (Niyama). Hanuman has a red face which indicates that his kundalini has risen.
Kaunteya – Son of Kunti
Kunti is Arjuna’s mother. (His “father” is Indra, the lord of heaven, Svargaloka, who has a thunderbolt, Vajra, in his hand.) Kaunteya indicates the state of consciousness that is worldly, or no longer naïve. Contrast with Partha. The feminine origin of this moniker indicates it is related to the ida nadi.
Kiritin – Diademed One
The “jewel” bestowed by Indra that denotes Arjuna as the “diademed one” is the opened spiritual eye. One who sees the inner star or jewel.
Regarding the next four names usage in the Bhagavad Gita, here is a quick summary of their differences:
- Kurunandana – The Father of all of humanity
- Kurupravira – The unique perspective and expression of each soul as ego
- Kurusattama – A human who “blossoms” through self-effort
- Kurushreshtha – A human who is receptive to learning about the Truth from a master.
Contrast the root “Kuru” with the root “Bharata” in other epithets for Arjuna. The “Kuru” dynasty represents the ida nadi and the pursuit of worldliness while the Bharata dynasty represents the pingala nadi and the pursuit of enlightenment.
Kurunandana – The Common Ancestor of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas
Kurunandana represents all, both good and bad. As the progenitor of both dynasties, Kurunandana is the father of all human action that has come to pass on this battlefield. Historically, the Kurus center of power was located in Kurukshetra, which in the Bhagavad Gita represents the ego-enslaved soul limited to the blind intellect.
Kurupravira – Hero of the Kurus
Every devotee is truly unique. Each soul and by extension each ego (here directed at each relative in the Kuru dynasty) offers a singular piece of the puzzle of creation. Kurupravira is the unique expression of the soul in relationship to the whole of creation. It is related to Krishna’s epithet: 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. The Kurupravira is the point of view from which the devotee is able to view creation in a manner not common with anyone else.
Kurusattama – Flower of the Kurus, One who Blossoms
Historically, the Kurus center of power was located in Kurukshetra, which in the Bhagavad Gita represents the ego-enslaved soul limited to the blind intellect. Kurusattama is a worldly devotee who is actively disciplining him/herself for self-improvement. The Coccygeal Chakra opens or turns up.
Kurushreshtha – Best of the Kurus
The ego-enslaved soul limited to the blind intellect, but who is receptive to adopting the wisdom of a spiritually enlightened guru (or teacher).
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.
Pandava – Descendant or Son of Pandu
Pandava indicates the ideal devotee and is associated with the pingala nadi.
Parantapa – Scorcher of the Foe
Parantapa calls to the true Self, which is forever unchanged, to take action. Arjuna is addressed as Parantapa when he needs encouragement. The favorite team, the Pandus, is on the field of battle, Dharmakshetra-Kurukshetra, and the top player, Arjuna, has doubts about his abilities. Parantapa resurrects the rising pingala nadi energy from doubt and lethargy.
Partha – Son of Pritha
Pritha is the birth name of Arjuna’s mother Kunti. (His “father” is Indra, the lord of heaven, Svargaloka, who has a thunderbolt, Vajra, in his hand.) Partha indicates the state of human consciousness that is innocent or naïve. Contrast with Kaunteya. The feminine origin of this moniker indicates it is related to the ida nadi.
Purusharishabha – Chief among men or dominant bull
Male, pingala nadi energy representing “blind faith”.
Purushavyaghra – Tiger among men
Male, pingala nadi energy representing reckless spiritual effort.
Savyasachin – The Ambidextrous Archer
One who wields the bow with either hand refers to the bow of the subtle spine and either hand refers to either the ida (left) or the pingala (right) nadi.
These are generalized meanings. This is a work in progress and will be refined when the Bhagavad Gita as a Sanskrit primer is written.
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