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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, will focus upon the most important of these words (and, occasionally, upon relevant English terms) and explain what they mean. (For a guide to proper pronunciation, please see page 1.)

Bharata. The Vedic histories tell of three prominent kings who bore the name Bharata. One was the younger brother of Lord Ramacandra, the incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as a perfect king. During the fourteen years that Lord Ramacandra was in exile in the forest of Danda-karanya, this Bharata, acting as a fully devoted brother, ruled the kingdom on Ramacandra’s behalf. He refused, however, to sit on the throne, which he reserved for the shoes of Lord Ramacandra. The sage Valmiki has described these pastimes in the epic Ramayana.

Another Bharata was the son of King Dusyanta (or Dusmanta) and the famous beauty Sakuntala. He is fully described in the Mahabharata (Adi-parva). This Bharata became the king of the entire world, performed great sacrifices for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, and abundantly provided everything necessary for the welfare of his subjects. Although opulent beyond imagination, Bharata eventually retired from the throne to pursue a life of self-realization. It is from this Bharata that the Kuru dynasty descended, and therefore the members of this dynasty (including the Pandavas) are sometimes addressed as Bharata (“descendant of Bharata”).

The third Bharata was the son of Maharaja Rsabhadeva. This Bharata also became king of the world, and it is because of him that the world became known as Bharata-varsa. This Bharata was a highly exalted soul who attained the stage of ecstatic devotion to the Supreme Lord. Nonetheless, while living a renounced life of meditation in the forest (for he too gave up his opulent kingdom to pursue self-realization) he developed a fondness for a deer cub whose mother had died. Because of this affection, he thought of the deer at the time of his own death. As Bhagavad-gita explains, one’s thoughts at death carry one to the next body. Thus Maharaja Bharata, absorbed in thinking of the deer, had to take h»s next life as a deer.

Although born as a deer, the former King Bharata was able to remember his past life, by the grace of the Lord. Conscious of his mistake, he was careful to associate only with great sages. Thus when his life as a deer ended he was born as a spiritually advanced human being. In this human life he was known as Jada Bharata (“dull Bharata”) because although extremely elevated in spiritual realization he outwardly behaved as though a great fool. Jada Bharata revealed his exalted spiritual understanding, however, when he instructed King Rahugana in Krsna consciousness. The history of this Bharata—from his life as the son of Rsabhadeva, to his life as a deer, and finally to his life of perfection as Jada Bharata—is described in the Fifth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Bharata-varsa. The present nation of India is known to its own people as Bharata, or Bharata-varsa. From the Vedic histories, however, we understand that the kingdom of Bharata-varsa formerly extended throughout the entire world. Its capital, Hastinapura, was located at the site of the present city of Delhi.

Bhima—One of the five heroic Pandava brothers, whose deeds are celebrated in the Mahabharata, the ancient epic history of India. Bhima is known for his herculean strength, voracious appetite, courage in battle, and pure devotion to Lord Krsna.

Bhisma—Another hero of the Mahabharata. Bhisma is one of twelve great authorities on the science of devotional service. Born the son of King Santanu and the goddess of the River Ganges, he was to have inherited the throne of the world, but in his youth, for the sake of his father, he renounced the right to the throne and accepted a vow of lifelong celibacy. Despite his deep affection for the Pandava brothers, for whom he acted like a grandfather, his duty obliged him to serve as a general for the opposing army in the Battle of Kuruksetra. When Grandfather Bhisma fell in battle and lay wounded on a bed formed by the arrows piercing his body, exalted persons from throughout the universe, including the Pandavas, great demigods and sages, and even Lord Krsna Himself, gathered at his side. After speaking at length for the enlightenment of all present, Bhisma, a perfect yogi, fixed his mind upon Lord Krsna and then passed away at a time of his own choosing. Bhisma’s prayers to Lord Krsna appear in the First Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

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