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An asterisk (*) preceding a Sanskṛt word herein means ‘derived from the verbal root …’



Bhagavad-Gītā lit. Kṛṣṇa’s song (or divine song). The philosophical discourse between Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa, the latter being represented as the Avatara of Viṣṇu, but acting as Arjuna’s charioteer. It is cast in the traditional form of question and answer between disciple and teacher in verses of metrical prose termed ślokas. The meter is called Anu-śtubh and consists of four pādas or quarter verses of eight syllables each, or two lines of sixteen syllables each. The dialog is placed in the sixth book of the Mahābhārata entitled the Bhīshma-parva (the book of Bhīṣma) ślokas 830-1532 thereof. “The work is pre-eminently occult or esoteric,” writes H. P. Blavatsky in Theosophical Glossary, p. 56, and also states in The Secret Doctrine that there is a “secret sense contained in the Bhagavad-Gītā.” (II, 139)

“The main object of the Bhagavad Gītā – which is one of the main sources of Hindu philosophy – is to explain the higher principles that operate in the cosmos, which are omnipresent and permanent and which are common to all the solar systems.” (N.Bh.G. 108) (comp. bhagavat, holy, divine; also a name of Kṛṣṇa; Gītā, song.)

Bharata The name of a great number of kings and heroes. The one referred to in the Bhagavad-Gītā is of the Puru branch (or Pauravas) of the Chandravaṅsa (Lunar Race), the son of Duśyānta and Sakuntala. The ninth king in descent from Bharata was Kuru, and the seventeenth from Kuru was Yudhiṣṭhira and his four brothers, i.e., the Pāṇḍavas. (Bh.G. 11)

Bhārata A descendant of Bharata: referable to either the Kauravas or the Pāṇḍavas, but most often applied solely to the latter. Arjuna is often referred to as ‘son of Bharata’ or ‘best of the Bhāratas.’ (Bh.G. 11)

Bhīma The second son of Kuntī by the god of the wind, Vāyu. All through the Mahābhārata the remarkable achievements of Bhīma provide entertaining reading: his feats of valor and strength are unsurpassable, especially those performed with his enormous club. He shared with Arjuna the honors of valorous exploits in the great conflict, in which the Pāṇḍavas were finally victorious. (m. the terrible. Bh.G. 3)

Bhīṣma The son of king Śāntanu and the river-goddess Ganga. Although the rightful heir to the throne of the Kurus, he relinquished the kingdom so that the children of his father’s second wife, Satyavatī might rule instead, but he remained the protector to the throne. Thus he was the ancestor of both the Kauravas and the Pāṇḍavas (referred to in the text as the grandsire of the Kurus). He was persuaded to side with the sons of Dhṛtaraṣṭra and was made the commander-in-chief. He was mortally wounded on the tenth day of the conflict, but as he had been granted the boon to terminate his life whenever he wished, Bhīṣma remained alive for 58 days and instructed Yudhiṣṭhira in the duties of a king. (m. the terrible. Bh.G. 2)

Bhṛgu One of the most celebrated of the Vedic Ṛṣis or Sages, regarded as the ancestor of the Bhārgavas (in which race Paraśu-Rāma was born). He is known as one of the ten Prajāpatis (or mind-born sons of Brahmā – regarded as the fathers of the human race). He is also regarded as one of the nine great Ṛṣis (in the Viṣṇu-Purāṇa). The Laws of Manu were confided to Bhṛgu, and Manu called him his son. Some hymns in the Ṛg-Veda are attributed to the Ṛṣi. (Bh.G. 74)

Bhūtas The decaying remnants of corpses in the astral world – the real part of man having dropped off these grossest portions of its former vehicle; hence phantoms or ‘shells’, the eidola or shades of the ancients. They are popularly believed to haunt burial places, etc., for these remnants, although in the astral world (and invisible), are still attracted to the localities of their former physical associations. *bhū, to become; lit. ’has-beens’, i.e., entities that formerly lived and have passed on. Bh.G. 68)

Brahmā The first aspect of the Hindu Trimūrti (or triad), the emanator or ‘creator’ – the other two being Viṣṇu, the ‘preserver,’ and Śiva, the ‘destroyer,’ or rather the ‘regenerator.’ The idea of the Trimūrti is not found in the Vedas, nor does the name Brahmā occur; the active creator is therein known as Hiraṇyagarbha, or Prajāpati: in later times the term Prajāpati was bestowed on Brahmā (meaning ‘the Progenitor’). In Manu it is said that the supreme soul, the self-existent lord created the waters and deposited in them a seed, which seed became a golden egg (Hiraṅyagarbha) in which he himself was born as Brahmā, the progenitor of all the worlds. The idea of the Trimūrti is of course present in the epic poems: Brahmā is represented as springing from the lotus which arose from the navel of Viṣṇu. From Brahmā then rise the mind-born sons (the Prajāpatis) who people the world. In the Purāṇas (especially in Viṣṇu-Purāṇa), Viṣṇu becomes more prominent than Brahmā: the latter is represented as being in its totality the aspect of Prakṛti (q.v.), both evolved and unevolved (Mūlaprakṛti), and also the aspect of Spirit, and the aspect of Time.

Brahmā is in fact the vehicle or sheath of Brahman: the spiritual evolving or developing energy-consciousness of a solar system, i.e., the Logos, deriving from Brahman. It should be pointed out that the Sanskṛt word Brahman is both masculine and neuter, and therefore has two meanings: in order to distinguish these, in Theosophical literature the masculine is spelled Brahmā (the nominative form), whereas the neuter is spelled Brahman (q.v.).

“Brahmā, as ‘the germ of unknown Darkness,’ is the material from which all evolves and develops ‘as the web from the spider, as foam from the water,’ etc. … Brahmā ‘expands’ and becomes the Universe woven out of his own substance.” (S.D. I, 83). *bṛh, to expand, to grow, also meaning to fructify.) (Bh.G. 56 – where it should be spelled Brahman. See Bh.G. 61.)

Brahmacharya Following a life of philosophic and religious training – usually applicable to the first stage in the life of a Brahmaṇa of ancient times, signifying the state of an unmarried religious student of the Vedas. (comp. Brahman, the Cosmic Spirit – in some cases meaning ‘spiritual wisdom’; charya, conduct). The person following this mode of life is called a Brahmacharin. (Bh.G. 46)

Brahman The impersonal and uncognizable Principle of the Universe, implying both the aspect of essential consciousness and that of substance: thus it represents the spiritual background of the Universe, the Cause of all Causes. “The student must distinguish between Brahmā the neuter, and Brahmā, the male creator of the Indian Pantheon. The former, Brahmā or Brahman, is the impersonal, supreme and uncognizable Principle of the Universe from the essence of which all emanates, and into which all returns, which is incorporeal, immaterial, unborn, eternal, beginningless and endless. It is all-pervading, animating the highest god as well as the smallest mineral atom. Brahmā, on the other hand, the male and the alleged Creator, exists periodically in his manifestation only, and then again goes into pralaya, i.e., disappears and is annihilated.” (Theos. Gloss.62)

Brahman is what is called in Theosophy the Unmanifest Logos: through and from It, therefore, arises Brahmā (q.v.). (*bṛh, to expand, to grow. Bh.G. 58)

Brāhmaṇa (1) (often Anglicized as BRAHMAN or BRAHMIN) The highest of the four castes into which the social classes of Hindusthan were divided in post-Vedic times. Originally a Brahmana was one who had been twice-born (i.e., a dvija, or an initiate), but in decadent times the term came to be used simply as a hereditary prerogative, and hence applied to the members of the priestly caste. (Bh.G. 127)

Brāhmaṇas (2) Commentaries within each of the Vedas.

Bṛhaspati The deity who represents the worshiper of the gods: the suppliant and sacrificer, designated as the Purohita (family priest), because he intercedes with the gods on behalf of mankind, and likewise protects the righteous men from the wicked. He is often called the father of the gods because of his creative powers, and is named the shining one, the golden colored one. Brihaspati is also the regent of the planet Jupiter. The lengthy legend about his wife, Tara, being carried off by Soma, the moon, and the consequent war in heaven (the TarakaMāyā) is related in The Secret Doctrine (II, pp. 498-9) and is there interpreted, H. P. Blavatsky. (comp. bṛh, as noun, ‘prayer,’ from *bṛh, to grow great, to expand; pati lord. Bh.G. 74)

Bṛhat-Sāman The name of the hymns in the Sāma-Veda, written in the Brihati meter, i.e., meters of 36 syllables (originally written 8-8-12-8). (comp. Bṛhat, the Bṛhati meter; Sāman, a sacred verse to be sung. Bh.G. 76)

Buddhi The sixth principle in the Theosophical classification of man’s component parts. As the vehicle for Universal Spirit, Buddhi is inseparably linked with Atman and regarded as its vehicle. It is the channel for the divine inspiration which streams from Atman, as well as the faculty of discrimination, and the knowledge of discrimination between good and evil, hence spiritual consciousness. When awakened in man the Buddhic principle evokes compassionate love for all, instant understanding, and intuition. A man so fully awakened is termed a Buddha.

“… the Spiritual Soul (Buddhi) conceals a mystery which is never given to any one, with the exception of irrevocably pledged chelas,” (The Key to Theosophy, pp. 119-20). *budh, to awaken, to enlighten. Bh.G.28)