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.
Dasa—When a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness receives spiritual initiation, he or she accepts a spiritual name (a name of Krsna or a great devotee of Krsna), with the word dasa or dasi, meaning “servant,” at the end. (The word is dasa for men, dasi for women.) This indicates that he or she is a servant of God. While most people think themselves masters of their lives and surroundings, a devotee thinks himself a servant of Krsna and depends on His mercy in all circumstances.
A good servant always tries to please his master, and a good master always sees to the best interests of his servants. And who could be a more reliable master than God? By taking the humble position of a servant, the devotee gets the benefits of having the best master, Lord Krsna.
Dasaratha—Dasaratha, the ruler of the Indian kingdom of Ayodhya, was the father of Lord Ramacandra, an incarnation of God who appeared on earth hundreds of thousands of years ago.
King Dasaratha loved his valiant son Ramacandra beyond words, and so too did all the citizens of Ayodhya. Dasaratha, therefore, upon reaching old age, decided to abdicate the throne and crown Ramacandra king.
But King Dasaratha had three wives, and one of them, Kaikeyi, Lord Ramacandra’s stepmother, reminded King Dasaratha of an old promise. She had once served him faithfully when he was wounded in a battle, and out of gratitude he had promised her a boon of her choosing. She had asked, however, that she be allowed to choose the boon later.
Now, as the kingdom festively made ready for Lord Ramacandra’s coronation, Kaikeyi demanded of King Dasaratha her boon—that he install her own son as king and banish Lord Ramacandra to the forest.
Kaikeyi was unbending, and King Dasaratha was bound by his promise. Lord Ramacandra, therefore, to fulfill His father’s word, abandoned the kingdom and went to the forest with His wife, Sita, and His brother Laksmana. And King Dasaratha died of a broken heart.
The pastimes of Lord Ramacandra appear in detail in the epic scripture known as the Ramayana, written by the great sage Valmiki.
Death—For the soul there is never birth or death. But the body, like all things material, is sure to fall apart and cease to exist. What happens at death is that the soul—the eternal spark of consciousness—leaves behind the temporary material body. Thus the body becomes forever lifeless, and nature’s subtle laws of karma poise the soul for rebirth in a new body.
One who is born is sure to die, and after death one is sure to be born yet again. But a fully self-realized person escapes this endless cycle of birth and death by fixing his mind on Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and returning home to Krsna’s eternal spiritual world.
Deva—The word deva means “god.” God is one, but because all living beings are parts of God, when they become godly they may also be called “gods.” But among all these tiny gods there is one Supreme God, the Supreme Lord.
The Vedic writings say that living beings, according to their choice, may be of two natures—godly or demonic. Those who are devoted to the Supreme Lord are godly (visnu-bhaktah smrto daivah), and those averse to serving God are called demonic (asuras tad-viparyayah).
Among the devas, or godly living beings, some are entrusted by God with the responsibility for managing various aspects of the cosmos. For example, they control various planets and regulate the workings of natural forces such as the wind, rain, and sunshine.
Because these devas wield tremendous power, people sometimes worship them for material prosperity or even think them the same as the Supreme Lord. One may worship whatever deva one chooses, they think, and the result will be the same.
The Bhagavad-gita, however, disagrees. According to the Gita, those who worship the various devas (such as Brahma, Siva, Ganesa, or Indra) may enjoy temporary pleasures on the planets of the devas after death. But these pleasures, the Gita says, are meant for the less intelligent. Only those who devote themselves to the Supreme Lord (Visnu, or Krsna) may enter the eternal kingdom of God.
Lord Sri Krsna is the fountainhead of all the devas (aham adir hi devanam), and those who are godly surrender to Him. Therefore He is known as Deva-deva, “the God of all gods.”