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The Yoga Dictionary

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The Sanskrit language is rich in words to communicate ideas about spiritual life, yoga, and God realization. This dictionary, appearing by installments in BACK TO GODHEAD, focuses upon the most important of these words (and, occasionally, upon relevant English terms) and explains what they mean.

Dhama—A holy place of pilgrimage, usually a site of the Lord’s pastimes.

The Vedic scriptures tell us that one can reduce the reactions to his past sinful activities by visiting a dhama and bathing in the holy waters there. That’s why millions of pilgrims visit the dhamas in India each year.

But the importance of a dhama goes beyond the ritual bathing in the holy waters. If one wants to get the full benefit of the dhama, he should hear spiritual topics from the self-realized souls who reside there. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that if one travels to a dhama just to bathe but neglects to hear from realized persons, he is no better than a cow or an ass.

India is full of dhamas. In northern India there are Vrndavana, where Lord Krsna enacted His childhood pastimes five thousand years ago; Hardwar, situated on the Ganges where it flows out of the foothills of the Himalayas; Ayodhya, the site of Lord Ramacandra’s pastimes and the capital of His kingdom; and also Benares and Prayaga. Near Calcutta in Bengal is Mayapur, where Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared five hundred years ago. On the eastern coast of India is Puri, where the Ratha-yatra chariot festival of Lord Jagannatha annually draws more than a million pilgrims, and on the western coast is Dvaraka, where Lord Krsna enacted His later pastimes. And there are many more.

In the broader sense, any place connected with Lord Krsna or His devotees is a dhama. Thus the many temples of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness are also dhamas, and anyone who wants spiritual purification but can’t travel to India can take advantage of them.

Dhrtarastra—the head of the Kuru dynasty, which instigated the fratricidal War of Kuruksetra five thousand years ago.

Blind from birth, Dhrtarastra, goaded on by his eldest son, Duryodhana, disenfranchised his nephews, the five Pandavas, and tried to have them murdered.

The plot failed, however, and all of Dhrtarastra’s sons perished in the Kuruksetra War. Afterward Dhrtarastra was taken in by King Yudhisthira, the eldest Pandava, and given a place of honor in his palace. Dhrtarastra had truly become a pitiful figure, for he was living in the palace of those whom he had tried to murder and who had brought about the death of his sons.

At this time, Dhrtarastra’s wise and saintly brother, Vidura, returned from pilgrimage and rebuked Dhrtarastra for his humiliating dependence on the Pandavas. Vidura told Dhrtarastra that he should leave the palace immediately, go to the forest, and prepare for impending death.

Vidura’s instructions were just what Dhrtarastra needed, and he retired to the forest to practice yogic meditation. Soon Dhrtarastra achieved liberation from the bondage of matter and merged with the impersonal feature of the Lord.

Dhruva—the son of the great king Uttanapada, who ruled the world millions of years ago.

Because Dhruva’s stepmother had insulted him, Dhruva left home at the age of five and went to the forest to seek God. On the way, he met his spiritual master, Narada Muni, who taught him how to realize God by practicing austerity and meditation. Dhruva was determined to achieve a kingdom better than that of his father or even his great-grandfather. Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. So Dhruva diligently followed Narada’s instructions.

Dhruva intensified his austerities month by month until he was standing on one leg and taking only one breath of air every twelve days. By his deep meditation on the Supreme Lord, Dhruva pleased Him, and He appeared before Dhruva in His four-armed form.

When Dhruva saw his beloved Lord, he was so elated that he no longer wanted the kingdom he had strived for. In ecstasy, Dhruva said, “Now that I am seeing You, who are like the most beautiful gem, the valuable kingdom I wanted seems just like a piece of broken glass.”

Yet the Lord fulfilled all of Dhruva’s desires. He awarded him dominion over the polestar, which is a spiritual planet within the material universe. Like all spiritual planets, the polestar is eternal. So Dhruva won a kingdom greater than that of his great-grandfather—and still went back to Godhead.

The full history of Dhruva appears in the Fourth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam.

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