?3102 BCE


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Entries from Theosophical Glossaries

Krishna (Sanskrit) Kṛṣṇa Black, dark, dark blue; the most celebrated and eighth avatara of Vishnu. Hindus consider him their savior, and he is worshiped as the most popular of their gods. Krishna was born some 5000 years ago, the incarnated human spiritual power that closed the dvapara yuga — his death in 3102 BC marked the beginning of kali yuga. He was the son of Devaki and the nephew of Kansa, who parallels King Herod.

The life of Krishna bears interesting and occasionally striking similarities to the legends of other spiritual teachers. The lives of all those great spiritual messengers were recorded by initiates in the language of symbol and allegory. Krishna’s conception, birth, and childhood are in essentials a prototype of the New Testament story.

One portion of the Mahabharata, the Bhagavad-Gita, contains the teachings given by Krishna to Arjuna as his guide and spiritual instructor, teachings which are the quintessence of the highest yoga. The details of Krishna’s life are symbolically given in the Puranas.

Anugita (Sanskrit) Anugītā [from anu after, alongside + gītā sung, chanted, song from the verbal root gai to sing, intone] After-song; chapters 16-92 of the Asvamedhika-parvan, 14th book of the Mahabharata that deals with the asvamedha (horse sacrifice) conducted by Yudhishthira, a rite that stems from the Vedic period.

Like the Bhagavad-Gita, the Anugita is a discourse between Krishna and Arjuna, an “after-song” in which Krishna gives a fuller unfolding of teaching with many mystical allusions.

Arjuna (Sanskrit) Arjuna White, clear; third of the Pandu princes, son of the god Indra by Kunti, also known as Pritha. During the fratricidal war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas which forms the bulk of the Mahabharata, Arjuna and his opponent, Duryodhana, seek Krishna’s aid. Krishna offers them a choice: his well-equipped army or himself, weaponless. According to protocol, Arjuna, being the younger of the two, was given first choice. To the immense delight of Duryodhana, Arjuna chose his brother-in-law, Krishna, who agreed to serve as his charioteer, i.e., his counselor and friend.

Mystically, Arjuna represents Everyman, the human ego, in contradistinction to Krishna, who stands for the spiritual monad as well as the avatara who comes forth from age to age in order to overthrow adharma (lawlessness) and restore dharma (respect for law, justice, and truth) in the land (BG 4:7-8).

Balarama (Sanskrit) Balarāma Elder brother of Krishna, regarded by some as an avatara of Vishnu, by others as the incarnation of the great serpent Sesha. He spent his childhood with Krishna and during his life performed many daring exploits. Krishna, the indigo-complexioned, was considered to be a relatively full avataric manifestation of Vishnu, while Balarama, said to have been of fairer complexion, is known as a partial avataric incarnation of Vishnu.

Bhagavad-Gita (Sanskrit) Bhagavad-Gītā [from bhagavat illustrious, sacred, holy, lord (one of Krishna’s titles) + gītā song] The noble song, the Lord’s song; a portion of the Bhagavad-Gita Parvan, one subsection of the Bhishma Parvan, itself one of the principle sections of the Mahabharata. The Bhagavad-Gita consists of a dialogue in which Krishna and Arjuna have a discussion upon the highest spiritual philosophy. Krishna in this instance is the inner instructor or monitor, the higher self, advising the human self or Arjuna.

Bhagavata Purana (Sanskrit) Bhāgavata Purāṇa One of the most celebrated and popular of the 18 principal Puranas, especially dedicated to the glorification of Vishnu-Krishna, whose history is given in the tenth book. It consists of 12 books or skandhas, of 18,000 slokas, and is narrated by Suka, the son of Vyasa, to King Parikshit, the grandson of Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers and hero of the Bhagavad-Gita.

Brahma-Vaivarta Purana (Sanskrit) Brahma-Vaivarta Purāṇa The metamorphosis of Brahma; one of the 18 principal Hindu Puranas, dealing with Brahma in the form of the avatara Krishna and containing prayers and invocations addressed to Krishna, with narratives about his love for Radha, the gopis, etc.

Chandravansa (Sanskrit) Candravaṃśa [from candra moon + vaṃśa lineage, race] Also Chandravamsa. The lunar race; one of the two great royal dynasties of ancient India. As related in the Vishnu-Purana, Soma (the moon), the child of the rishi Atri, gave birth to Budha (Mercury) who married Ila, daughter of the other great royal dynasty, the Suryavansa (solar race). Her descendants, Yadu and Puru, founded the two great branches of the Chandravansa (named respectively Yadava and Paurava). The last important scion of the race of Yadu was the avatara Krishna. In the race of Puru were born Pandu and Dhritarashtra — parents respectively of the Pandavas and Kurus, the heroes of the Mahabharata enumerated in the Bhagavad-Gita (ch 1).

Damaghosha (Sanskrit) Damaghoṣa King of Chedi and father of Sisupala, the demon-reincarnation of Ravana who was killed by the avatara Krishna.

Devaki (Sanskrit) Devakī The mother of Krishna. She was shut up in a dungeon by her brother, King Kansa, for fear of the fulfillment of a prophecy that a son of hers would dethrone and kill him. Notwithstanding the strict watch kept, Devaki was overshadowed by Vishnu, the holy spirit, and thus gave birth to that god’s avatara, Krishna as the incarnated ray of the Logos.

In later mythology Devaki became the anthropomorphized form of Aditi or cosmic space, just as the Hebrew Mary became a celestial entity. The seven sons of Devaki killed by Karsa before the birth of Krishna symbolize the seven human principles. We must rise above them before reaching the ideal, Krishna, the Christ or the Buddha state, thus centering ourselves in the highest, the seventh or first.

Gopa (Sanskrit) Gopa [from go cow + the verbal root to protect, cherish] Protector, guardian, cowherd, herdsman, milkman; in the mythology concerning Krishna, Gopa is applied to him as chief herdsman — or shepherd, to use the Christian form of the idea.

Gopi (Sanskrit) Gopī [fem of gopa cowherd] In Hindu mythology the female cowherds of Vrindavana — playmates and companions of Krishna during his boyhood, considered mystically as celestial personages or powers. Gopi is sometimes spoken of as one of the wives of Sakyamuni, but the meaning here is a mystical power.

Hari (Sanskrit) Hari [from the verbal root hṛ to take, remove; to be yellow] Especially the name of Krishna as an avatara of Vishnu; likewise applied to other deities, generally Siva. Also an alternative name for the sign of the zodiac Simha or Leo — the word itself meaning a lion, as well as being a name for the sun, the moon, the horses of Indra, and for one of the nine varshas or divisions of the world.

Harivamsa, Harivansa (Sanskrit) Harivaṃśa The lineage of Hari, or Krishna. A celebrated poem of 16,374 verses, generally regarded as a part of the Mahabharata, but believed by some to be of much later date than the greater epic. It treats of the adventures of the family of Krishna, being divided into three parts: an introduction that traces the dynasty; the life and adventures of Krishna; and the conditions occurring during the kali yuga and the future condition of the world.

Hrishikesa (Sanskrit) Hṛṣīkeśa [from hṛṣīka sense + īś to rule] Lord of the senses; applied to manas or the mentality. A distinction should be drawn between senses and sense organs. Also one of the names of Krishna and of Vishnu, with pointed reference to their manasic attributes.

Jagaddhatri (Sanskrit) Jagaddhātrī [from jagat the world + dhātrī mother, nurse] World-mother, world foster-mother; applied to Sarasvati and Durga, among other Hindu goddesses. Used particularly in connection with Krishna in his aspect of the Logos, the avatara, and likewise with his brother Balarama, who both are brought to their mother, Devaki, by means of Jagaddhatri. Cosmologically, the name refers to a spiritual substance which is one of the first few removes from Brahman. In the building of worlds it is the cosmic matrix out of which worlds are born, and which therefore acts not only in the sense of mother, but likewise as foster-mother, nurse, and producer.

Jaras (Sanskrit) Jaras [from the verbal root jṛ to become old] The becoming old, decay, old age; a hunter in the Mahabharata who accidentally wounded Krishna and caused his death. Mystically, it may be described as that vital cyclic power of constant movement in manifested beings by which youth becomes maturity and then old age, then producing infancy, youth, maturity, and old age again.

Jnanesvari (Sanskrit) Jñāneśvarī [from jñāna knowledge + īśvarī queen] Queen of knowledge; a mystic treatise in which Krishna describes to Arjuna the condition of a fully illuminated yogi.

Kaliya, Kaliya-naga (Sanskrit) Kāliya, Kāliya-nāga A serpent-king with five heads whose mouths vomited fire and smoke which devastated the country around, said to have lived in a deep pool of the Yamuna River. The Puranas relate that Krishna, one of the avataras of Vishnu, in his childhood overcame this serpent, then let him retreat into the ocean with his wives and offspring. This mythical monster symbolizes human passions, the river or water being a symbol of matter.

Kali Yuga (Sanskrit) Kali Yuga Iron age or black age; the fourth and last of the four great yugas constituting a mahayuga (great age), the other three being the krita or satya yuga, treta yuga, and dvapara yuga. The kali yuga is the most material phase of a being’s or group’s evolutionary cycle. The fifth root-race is at present in its kali yuga, which is stated to have commenced at the moment of Krishna’s death, usually given as 3102 BC. The Hindus also assert that at the first moment of kali yuga there was a conjunction of all the planets. …

Kamsa, Kansa (Sanskrit) Kaṃsa, Kaṃśa A tyrannical king of Mathura in ancient India, evil uncle of Krishna. When it was foretold that the eighth child of Devaki would kill him, he endeavored to destroy all of her children; so the parents fled with Krishna, their eighth child. Then Kansa ordered all male children of the land to be killed, but Krishna escaped — a legend paralleling the massacre of the infants by King Herod of Palestine in the New Testament. In the legends surrounding great religious figures, “everyone of them, whether at their birth or afterwards, is searched for, and threatened with death (yet never killed) by an opposing power (the world of Matter and Illusion), whether it be called a king Kamsa, king Herod, or king Mara (the Evil Power)” (BCW 14:141). Thus Kamsa in one aspect stands for the opposing power in initiation rites. Krishna, as it was predicted, finally killed his persecutor.(SD 2:48, 504n, 604n; BCW 8:378)

Madhava (Sanskrit) Mādhava A name of Vishnu because of his slaying of the asura Madhu; applied to Krishna as an avataric manifestation of Vishnu; also the month corresponding to April-May.

Madhusudana (Sanskrit) Madhusūdana The slayer of Madhu; a title of Vishnu, who slew the asura Madhu; and of Krishna as an avatara of Vishnu because he slew the demon Madhu.

Markandeya Purana (Sanskrit) Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa One of the 18 principal Puranas of ancient India, named from its supposed author Markandeya. It expounds the nature of Krishna and explains some of the incidents of the Mahabharata. It differs from many of the other Puranas in that its 9000 verses are largely narrative, rather than containing arguments of a sectarian character.

Mathura (Sanskrit) Mathurā The birthplace of Krishna, situated in the province of Agra on the right bank of the Yamuna River.

Murari (Sanskrit) Murāri [from Mura an asura + ari enemy] The enemy of Mura; Krishna slew Mura, a great asura, and hence received this title.

Nanda (Sanskrit) Nanda [from the verbal root nand to rejoice] Joy, happiness; the name of the cowherd who brought up Krishna

Radha (Sanskrit) Rādhā Prosperity, success; as a proper noun, a celebrated cowherdess or gopi beloved by Krishna. Regarded by some as an avatara of Lakshmi, as Krishna was of Vishnu, she has been mystically interpreted as the human ego seeking Krishna, the spiritual ego in man.

Rasa (Sanskrit) Rāsa The mystery-dance performed by Krishna and the gopis, in which Krishna remains in the center while the shepherdesses revolve about him. This dance is still celebrated in a yearly festival, especially in Rajastan. It represents, astronomically, the circling of the planets around the sun, as did other circle dances, e.g., the dance of the Amazons around the priapic image, the dance of the daughters of Shiloah (Judges 21), and the dance of David around the ark (IU 2:45).

In rasa we see the same general connection which the Pythagoreans referred to when they spoke of the music of the spheres, or again that a celestial body in following its path does so to the accompaniment of natural sound or music which the motion evokes. The rasa dance signifies stately, quiet, but continuous movement of the bodies of those participating around another in the center who represents the sun, while those dancing around him in various orbits or circles represent the planets. Such dances were representative of the life in nature moving in circular or spiral ways to the accompaniment of sound or music, the roots of such movements being found in the akasa, sound itself being the distinguishing characteristic of akasa according to ancient correspondences.

Samba or Samba (Sanskrit) Sāmba, Śāmba The reputed son of Krishna by Jambavati. According to esoteric tradition Krishna had no son; therefore Samba is symbolic of some power attained by Krishna. Through a curse of some holy sages, Samba was condemned to produce offspring in the shape of a terrific iron club for the destruction of the race of Yadu. Samba accordingly brought forth as iron club which was pounded and cast into the sea. But one piece which could not be crushed was subsequently found in the belly of a fish, and was used to tip an arrow used by the hunter Jaras (old age) to unintentionally kill Krishna. Thus old age finally overtakes and gathers in all things; and our future karma flows forth from our emotional and mental offspring, and sooner or later overtakes us all through time or old age. The iron club may represent the blows of destiny, based upon the kama of which iron is often a symbol; we may attempt to destroy the effects of our feelings and thoughts, but always there will be one little portion which cannot be crushed, and which is the seed of the future destiny, at least of our lower self.

Sudarsana (Sanskrit) Sudarśana Good-looking, beautiful; the chakra or circular weapon of Vishnu-Krishna, a flaming weapon called the disc of the sun. Occultly, it is that power possessed by the highest initiates and semi-divine men, avataras, buddhas, etc., which is an emanation or out-pouring from their spiritually intellectual or buddhi-manasic principle. Intellect in its smooth and magical operations is sudarsana (beautiful to consider), and of immense power even among men on our low plane. When used as a power or “weapon” by god-men or similar beings it is virtually irresistible.

Tishya (Sanskrit) Tiṣya The sixth or eighth nakshatra (asterism); also a name in the Mahabharata and Harivansa for kali yuga (the fourth age, our present age) which commenced at the death of Krishna in 3102 BC.

Vasudeva (Sanskrit) Vasudeva Father of Krishna and husband of Devaki, likewise brother of Kunti (the mother of the five Pandava princes). He belonged to the Yadava branch of the Somavansa or lunar race.

Vishnu Purana (Sanskrit) Viṣṇu Purāṇa One of the most celebrated of the 18 principal Puranas, conforming more than any other to the definition of pancha-lakshana (five distinguishing marks) assigned as being the character of a complete Purana by Amara-Simha, an ancient Sanskrit lexicographer. It consists of six books: the first treats of the creation of the universe from cosmic prakriti, and the peopling of the world by the prajapatis or spiritual ancestors; the second book gives a list of kings with many geographical and astronomical details; the third treats of the Vedas and caste; the fourth continues the chronicle of dynasties; the fifth gives the life of Krishna; and the sixth book describes the dissolution of the world, and the future re-issuing of the world after pralaya.

Visva (Sanskrit) Viśva [from the verbal root viś to pervade] All, every, all-pervading; a title applied, for example, to Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita. As a neuter or feminine noun, the universe; as a masculine noun, the intellectual faculty in Vedantic philosophy.

Visvarupa (Sanskrit) Viśvarūpa [from viśva all + rūpa form] Having all forms, manifold, omnipresent; often applied to Vishnu and at times to Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita; likewise to Siva.

Yadava (Sanskrit) Yādava A descendant of Yadu; also a great race of Hindustan in which Krishna was born. The founder of this race, Yadu, was the son of Yayati and Devayani, and ruled over the country west of the Jumna River, adjoining the Kurus. He was the half-brother of Puru, who became the founder of the Paurava line of the Chandravansa (lunar dynasty) — to which also belonged the Kurus and Pandus. The greatest of the Yadavas in Hindu story was Krishna (hence he is called Yadava, “son of Yadu”). He established the Yadavas in Gujarat, his capital city being Dvaraka, to which Krishna brought all the inhabitants of the city of Mathura after he had slain his wicked cousin Kansa who had usurped the throne. Sometime after Krishna’s death (3102 BC), a catastrophe occurred at Dvaraka in which the city and all its inhabitants were engulfed by the ocean. Only a few members of the race who were absent from the city were saved. The present rajas of Vijaya-nagara maintain that they are living descendants of the Yadavas.

Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary

Arjuna (Sk.). Lit., the “white”. The third of the five Brothers Pandu or the reputed Sons of Indra (esoterically the same as Orpheus). A disciple of Krishna, who visited him and married Su-bhadrâ, his sister, besides many other wives, according to the allegory. During the fratricidal war between the Kauravas and the Pândavas, Krishna instructed him in the highest philosophy, while serving as his charioteer. (See Bhagavad Gîtâ.)

Bhagavad-gîta (Sk.). Lit., “the Lord’s Song”. A portion of the Mahabharata, the great epic poem of India. It contains a dialogue wherein Krishna—the “Charioteer”—and Arjuna, his Chela, have a discussion upon the highest spiritual philosophy. The work is pre-eminently occult or esoteric.

Bhagavat (Sk.). A title of the Buddha and of Krishna. “The Lord” literally.

Chandra-vansa (Sk.). The “Lunar Race”, in contradistinction to Suryavansa, the “Solar Race”. Some Orientalists think it an inconsistency that Krishna, a Chandravansa (of the Yadu branch) should have been declared an Avatar of Vishnu, who is a manifestation of the solar energy in Rig-Veda, a work of unsurpassed authority with the Brahmans. This shows, however, the deep occult meaning of the Avatar; a meaning which only esoteric philosophy can explain. A glossary is no fit place for such explanations; but it may be useful to remind those who know, and teach those who do not, that in Occultism, man is called a solar-lunar being, solar in his higher triad, and lunar in his quaternary. Moreover, it is the Sun who imparts his light to the Moon, in the same way as the human triad sheds its divine light on the mortal shell of sinful man. Life celestial quickens life terrestrial. Krishna stands metaphysically for the Ego made one with Atma-Buddhi, and performs mystically the same function as the Christos of the Gnostics, both being “the inner god in the temple”—man. Lucifer is “the bright morning star”, a well known symbol in Revelations, and, as a planet, corresponds to the Ego. Now Lucifer (or the planet Venus) is the Sukra-Usanas of the Hindus; and Usanas is the Daitya-guru, i.e., the spiritual guide and instructor of the Danavas and the Daityas. The latter are the giant-demons in the Purânas, and in the esoteric interpretations, the antetypal symbol of the man of flesh, physical mankind. The Daityas can raise themselves, it is said, through knowledge “austerities and devotion” to “the rank of the gods and of the Absolute”. All this is very suggestive in the legend of Krishna; and what is more suggestive still is that just as Krishna, the Avatar of a great God in India, is of time race of Yadu, so is another incarnation, “God incarnate himself”—or the “God-man Christ”, also of the race Iadoo—the name for the Jews all over Asia. Moreover, as his mother, who is represented as Queen of Heaven standing on the crescent, is identified in Gnostic philosophy, and also in the esoteric system, with the Moon herself, like all the other lunar goddesses such as Isis, Diana, Astarte and others—mothers of the Logoi, so Christ is called repeatedly in the Roman Catholic Church, the Sun-Christ, the Christ-Soleil and so on. If the later is a metaphor so also is the earlier.

Devaki (Sk.). The mother of Krishna. She was shut up in a dungeon by her brother, King Kansa, for fear of the fulfilment of a prophecy which stated that a son of his sister should dethrone and kill him. Notwithstanding the strict watch kept, Devaki was overshadowed by Vishnu, the holy Spirit, and thus gave birth to that god’s avatara, Krishna. (See “Kansa”.)

Gopîs (Sk.). Shepherdesses—the playmates and companions of Krishna, among whom was his wife Raddha.

Jagaddhatri (Sk.). Substance; the name of “the nurse of the world”, the designation of the power which carried Krishna and his brother Balarama into Devaki, their mother’s bosom. A title of Sarasvati and Durga.

Janârddana (Sk.). Lit., “the adored of mankind”, a title of Krishna.

Jaras (Sk.). “Old Age”. The allegorical name of the hunter who killed Krishna by mistake, a name showing the great ingenuity of the Brahmans and the symbolical character of the World-Scriptures in general. As Dr. Crucefix, a high mason well says, “to preserve the occult mysticism of their order from all except their own class, the priests invented symbols and hieroglyphics to embody sublime truths”.

Kaliya (Sk.). The five-headed serpent killed by Krishna in his childhood. A mystical monster symbolizing the passions of man—the river or water being a symbol of matter.

Kaliyuga (Sk.). The fourth, the black or iron age, our present period, the duration of which us 432,000 years. The last of the ages into which the evolutionary period of man is divided by a series of such ages. It began 3,102 years b.c. at the moment of Krishna’s death, and the first cycle of 5,000 years will end between the years 1897 and 1898.

Krishna (Sk.).. The most celebrated avatar of Vishnu, the “Saviour” of the Hindus and their most popular god. He is the-eighth Avatar, the son of Devaki, and the nephew of Kansa, the Indian King Herod, who while seeking for him among the shepherds and cow-herds who concealed him, slew thousands of their newly-born babes. The story of Krishna’s conception, birth, and childhood are the exact prototype of the New Testament story. The missionaries, of course, try to show that the Hindus stole the story of the Nativity from the early Christians who came to India.

Madhasadana or Madhu-Sûdana (Sk.). “Slayer of Madhu” (a demon), a title of Krishna from his killing the latter.

Mâdhava (Sk). (1) A name of Vishnu or Krishna; (2) The month of April; (3) A title of Lakshmi when written Madhavi.

Murâri (Sk.). An epithet of Krishna or Vishnu; lit., the enemy of Mura—an Asura.

Râdhâ (Sk.). The shepherdess among the Gopis (shepherdesses) of Krishna, who was the wife of the god.

Râsa (Sk.). The mystery-dance performed by Krishna and his Gopis, the shepherdesses, represented in a yearly festival to this day, especially in Rajastan. Astronomically it is Krishna—the Sun—around whom circle the planets and the signs of the Zodiac symbolised by the Gopis. The same as the “circle-dance” of the Amazons around the priapic image, and the dance of the daughters of Shiloh (Judges xxi.), and that of King David around the ark. (See Isis Unveiled, II., pp. 45, 331 and 332.)

Sanat Sujâtîya (Sk.). A work treating of Krishna’s teachings, such as in Bhagavad Gîtâ and Anugîtâ.

Srivatsa (Sk.). A mystical mark worn by Krishna, and also adopted by the Jains.

Su-darshana (Sk.). The Discus of Krishna; a flaming weapon that plays a great part in Krishna’s biographies.

Sûryavansa (Sk). The solar race. A Sûrayavansee is one who claims descent from the lineage headed by Ikshvâku. Thus, while Râma belonged to the Ayodhyâ Dynasty of the Sûryavansa, Krishna belonged to the line of Yadu of the lunar race, or the Chandravansa, as did Gautama Buddha.

Vasudeva (Sk.). The father of Krishna. He belonged to the Yâdava branch of the Somavansa, or lunar race.

Yâdava (Sk.). A descendant of Yadu; of the great race in which Krishna was born. The founder of this line was Yadu, the son of King Yayâti of the Somavansa or Lunar Race. It was under Krishna—certainly no mythical personage—that the kingdom of Dwârakâ in Guzerat was established; and also after the death of Krishna (3102 b.c.) that all the Yâdavas present in the city perished, when it was submerged by the ocean. Only a few of the Yâdavas, who were absent from the town at the time of the catastrophe, escaped to perpetuate this great race. The Râjâs of Vijaya-Nâgara are now among the small number of its representatives.

Yudishthira (Sk.). One of the heroes of the Mahâbhârata. The eldest brother of the Pândavas, or the five Pându princes who fought against their next of kin, the Kauravas, the sons of their maternal uncle. Arjuna, the disciple of Krishna, was his younger brother. The Bhagavad Gîtâ gives mystical particulars of this war. Kuntî was the mother of the Pândavas, and Draupadi the wife in common of the five brothers—an allegory. But Yudishthira is also, as well as Krishna, Arjuna, and so many other heroes, an historical character, who lived some 5,000 years ago, at the period when the Kali Yuga set in.

Theosophical Glossary, H. P. Blavatsky

Entry from Gods and Heroes of the Bhagavad-Gita

Krishna The son of Devaki and Vasudeva (of the Yadava line of the Chandravansa – the Lunar Dynasty). (For particulars as to his birth see Kansa.) Krishna is represented as the eighth Avatara of Vishnu: in this aspect he is the spiritual teacher, the embodiment of wisdom; but as with other Saviors, stories and allegories have been woven around him in great abundance. In the Mahabharata his story is briefly sketched, yet all his exploits are enumerated: he appears throughout the work mostly as the advisor of the Pandavas. The life of Krishna is told in full in the Harivansa (a work regarded as an addition to the epic), also in great detail in the Vishnu- and Bhagavata-Puranas, and popularized for the multitude in the Prem Sagar (written in Hindi. The various stories and allegories woven around Krishna are still the most loved topic among the populace of India today, who revere him as a god. Nevertheless his teachings as outlined in the Bhagavad-Gita are as applicable today in the Occident as in the Orient – although couched in the metaphor and background of a people living thousands of years ago. The date of Krishna’s death is given as 3102 B.C., and this event marked the commencement of the Kali-yuga, the present ‘Iron Age.’ The Bhagavad-Gita itself best describes the avataric character of Krishna: it represents the teacher as the Logos, while Arjuna typifies man.

H. P. Blavatsky makes the following interesting comment regarding the successive incarnations of avataras of Vishnu (i.e., the Narasinha Avatara, Rama, and Krishna) and the successive reincarnations of Daityas. Hiranyakasipu, the unrighteous but valiant monarch of the Daityas, because of his wickedness was slain by the Avatara Nara-sinha (Man-lion). “Then he was born as Ravana, the giant king of Lanka, and killed by Rama; after which he is reborn as Sisupala, the son of Raja-rishi (King Rishi) Damaghosha, when he is again killed by Krishna, the last incarnation of Vishnu. This parallel evolution of Vishnu (spirit) with a Daitya, as men, may seem meaningless, yet it gives us the key not only to the respective dates of Rama and Krishna but even to a certain psychological mystery.” (S.D. II, 225)

(m. dark-colored, black, or blue-black. Krishna is represented as being very dark-skinned. B.G. 3)

Gods and Heroes of the Bhagavad-Gita, by Geoffrey Barborka

The Legend of Krishna as Compared to that of Buddha and Christ

The Legends of Three Saviours

H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, II:537-39

CHRISTNA. [Krishna]



Epoch: Uncertain. European science fears to commit itself. But the Brahmanical calculations fix it at about 6,877 years ago.Epoch: According to European science and the Ceylonese calculations, 2,540 years ago.Epoch: Supposed to be 1877 years ago. His birth and royal descent are concealed from Herod the tyrant.
Christna descends of a royal family, but is brought up by shepherds; is called the Shepherd God. His birth and divine descent are kept secret from Kansa.Gautama is the son of a king. His first disciples are shepherds and mendicants.Descends of the Royal family of David. Is worshipped by shepherds at his birth, and is called the “Good Shepherd” (See Gospel according to John).
An incarnation of Vishnu, the second person of the Trimurti (Trinity). Christna was worshipped at Mathura, on the river Jumna (See Strabo and Arrian and Bampton Lectures, pp. 98-100).According to some, an incarnation of Vishnu; according to others, an incarnation of one of the Buddhas, and even of Ad’Buddha, the Highest Wisdom.An incarnation of the Holy Ghost, then the second person of the Trinity, now the third. But the Trinity was not invented until 325 years after his birth. Went to Mathura or Matarea, Egypt, and produced his first miracles there (See Gospel of Infancy).
Christna is persecuted by Kansa, Tyrant of Madura, but miraculously escapes. In the hope of destroying the child, the king has thousands of male innocents slaughtered.Buddhist legends are free from this plagiarism, but the Catholic legend that makes of him St. Josaphat, shows his father, king of Kapilavastu, slaying innocent young Christians (!!). (See Golden Legend.)Jesus is persecuted by Herod, King of Judaea, but escapes into Egypt under conduct of an angel. To assure his slaughter, Herod orders a massacre of innocents, and 40,000 were slain.
Christna’s mother was Devaki, or Devanagui, an immaculate virgin (but had given birth to eight sons before Christna).Buddha’s mother was Maya, or Mayadeva; married to her husband (yet an immaculate virgin).Jesus’ mother was Mariam, or Miriam; married to her husband, yet an immaculate virgin, but had several children besides Jesus. (See Matthew xiii. 55, 56.)
Chistna is endowed with beauty, omniscience, and omnipotence from birth. Produces miracles, cures the lame and blind, and casts out demons. Washes the feet of the Brahmans, and descending to the lowest regions (hell), liberates the dead, and returns to Vaicontha—the paradise of Vishnu. Christna was the God Vishnu himself in human form.Buddha is endowed with the same powers and qualities, and performs similar wonders. Passes his life with mendicants. It is claimed for Gautama that he was distinct from all other Avatars, having the entire spirit of Buddha in him, while all others had but a part (ansa) of the divinity in them.Jesus is similarly endowed. (See Gospels and the Apocryphal Testament.) Passes his life with sinners and publicans. Casts out demons likewise. The only notable difference between the three is that Jesus is charged with casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub, which the others were not. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, dies, descends to hell, and ascends to heaven, after liberating the dead.
Christna creates boys out of calves, and vice versa (Maurice’s Indian Antiquities, vol. ii., p. 332). He crushes the Serpent’s head. (Ibid.)Gautama crushes the Serpent’s head, i.e., abolishes the Naga worship as fetishism; but, like Jesus, makes the Serpent the emblem of divine wisdom.Jesus is said to have crushed the Serpent’s head, agreeably to original revelation in Genesis. He also transforms boys into kids, and kids into boys. (Gospel of Infancy.)
Christna is Unitarian. He persecutes the clergy, charges them with ambition and hypocrisy to their faces, divulges the great secrets of the Sanctuary—the Unity of God and immortality of our spirit. Tradition says he fell a victim to their vengeance. His favorite disciple, Arjuna, never deserts him to the last. There are credible traditions that he died on the cross (a tree), nailed to it by an arrow. The best scholars agree that the Irish Cross at Tuam, erected long before the Christian era, is Asiatic. (See Round Towers, p. 296, et seq., by O’Brien; also Reli gions de l’Antiquie; Creuzer’s Symbolik, vol. i., p. 208; and engraving in Dr. Lundy’s Monumental Christianity, p. 160.Buddha abolishes idolatry; divulges the Mysteries of the Unity of God and the Nirvana, the true meaning of which was previously known only to the priests. Persecuted and driven out of the country, he escapes death by gathering about him some hundreds of thousands of believers in his Buddhaship. Finally, dies, surrounded by a host of disciples, with Ananda, his beloved disciple and cousin, chief among them all. O’Brien believes that the Irish Cross at Tuam is meant for Buddha’s, but Gautama was never crucified. He is represented in many temples, as sitting under a cruciform tree, which is the “Tree of Life.” In another image he is sitting on Naga the Raja of Serpents with a cross on his breast.Jesus rebels against the old Jewish law; denounces the Scribes, and Pharisees, and the synagogue for hypocrisy and dogmatic intolerance. Breaks the Sabbath, and defies the Law. Is accused by the Jews of divulging the secrets of the Sanctuary. Is put to death on a cross (a tree). Of the little handful of disciples whom he had converted, one betrays him, one denies him, and the others desert him at the last, except John—the disciple he loved. Jesus, Christna, and Buddha, all three Saviours, die either on or under trees, and are connected with crosses which are symbolical of the three-fold powers of creation.

Christna ascends to Swarga and becomes Nirguna.

Buddha ascends to Nirvana.Jesus ascends to Paradise.

Traditional Biographical Sources



Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli

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See also: Mahabharata in Translation



A Prose English Translation by Manmatha Nath Dutt

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English Translation by Desiraju Hanumanta Rao

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Bhagavata Purana

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (Bhāgavata Purāna)

Translated by Anand Aadhar Prabhu

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Vishnu Purana (Book 5)

Vishnu Purana (Book 5)

Translated by Horace Hayman Wilson

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Brahma Vaivarta Purana

Brahma-vaivarta Puranam

Translated into English by Rajendra Nath Sen

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Modern Biographies

Krishna: A Sourcebook

Krishna: A Sourcebook

Edited by Edwin F. Bryant

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On Christna (Krishna) and Christ: books by Louis Jacolliot

Christna et le Christ

by Louis Jacolliot

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La Bible dans l’Inde: vie de Iezeus Christna

by Louis Jacolliot

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The Bible in India

English Translation

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“No traveller has shown himself fairer in the main or more impartial to India than Jacolliot. If he is severe as to her present degradation, he is still severer to those who were the cause of it—the sacerdotal caste of the last few centuries—and his rebuke is proportionate to the intensity of his appreciation of her past grandeur. He shows the sources whence proceeded the revelations of all the ancient creeds, including the inspired Books of Moses, and points at India directly as the cradle of humanity, the parent of all other nations, and the hot-bed of all the lost arts and sciences of antiquity, for which old India, herself, was lost already in the Cimmerian darkness of the archaic ages. ‘To study India,’ he says, ‘is to trace humanity to its sources.'”—H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, I:574

See also:

Krishna, Encyclopædia Britannica entry

Krishna, Wikipedia entry

The Bhagavadgita, trans. Sarvepalli Radharkrishnan, Introductory Essay: 5. Kṛṣṇa, the teacher.


As with many great teachers, Krishna committed nothing of his own to writing. However, his core teachings are said to be embodied in the Bhagavad Gita and other texts such as the Anugita, Sanatsugatiya, etc.

Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita

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The Anugita

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The Sanatsujatiyam

Translated by S. N. Sastri

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The Sanatsugatiya

Translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telang

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Jnaneshwari (Dnyaneshwari)


Translated from Marathi by M.R. Yardi

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Selected Quotes attributed to Krishna

  1. The Self-Governed Sage

    A man is said to be confirmed in spiritual knowledge when he forsaketh every desire which entereth into his heart, and of himself is happy and content in the Self through the Self. His mind is undisturbed in adversity; he is happy and contented in prosperity, and he is a stranger to anxiety, fear, and anger. Such a man is called a Muni. When in every condition he receives each event, whether favorable or unfavorable,with an equal mind which neither likes nor dislikes, his wisdom is established, and, having met good or evil, neither rejoiceth at the one nor is cast down by the other. He is confirmed in spiritual knowledge, when, like the tortoise, he can draw in all his senses and restrain them from their wonted purposes. The hungry man loseth sight of every other object but the gratification of his appetite, and when he is become acquainted with the Supreme, he loseth all taste for objects of whatever kind. The tumultuous senses and organs hurry away by force the heart even of the wise man who striveth after perfection. Let a man, restraining all these, remain in devotion at rest in me, his true self; for he who hath his senses and organs in control possesses spiritual knowledge.

    He who attendeth to the inclinations of the senses, in them hath a concern; from this concern is created passion, from passion anger, from anger is produced delusion, from delusion a loss of the memory, from the loss of memory loss of discrimination, and from loss of discrimination loss of all! But he who, free from attachment or repulsion for objects, experienceth them through the senses and organs, with his heart obedient to his will, attains to tranquillity of thought. And this tranquil state attained, therefrom shall soon result a separation from all troubles; and his mind being thus at ease, fixed upon one object, it embraceth wisdom from all sides. The man whose heart and mind are not at rest is without wisdom or the power of contemplation; who doth not practice reflection, hath no calm; and how can a man without calm obtain happiness? The uncontrolled heart, following the dictates of the moving passions, snatcheth away his spiritual knowledge, as the storm the bark upon the raging ocean. Therefore, O great-armed one, he is possessed of spiritual knowledge whose senses are withheld from objects of sense. What is night to those who are unenlightened is as day to his gaze; what seems as day is known to him as night, the night of ignorance. Such is the self-governed Sage!

    The man whose desires enter his heart, as waters run into the unswelling passive ocean, which, though ever fall, yet does not quit its bed, obtaineth happiness; not he who lusteth in his lusts.

    The man who, having abandoned all desires, acts without covetousness, selfishness, or pride, deeming himself neither actor nor possessor, attains to rest. This, O son of Pritha, is dependence upon the Supreme Spirit, and he who possesseth it goeth no more astray; having obtained it, if therein established at the hour of death, he passeth on to Nirvana in the Supreme.—Bhagavad Gita, II:55-72 (trans. William Quan Judge)

  2. On Immortality and Reincarnation

    The wise grieve neither for the dead nor for the living; For never was I not, nor thou, nor these princes of men; nor shall we all ever cease to be, in the time to come. As the lord of the body in the body here finds boyhood, youth and age, so is there the gaining of another body; the wise err not concerning this. These things of matter, that bring us cold, heat, pleasure, pain, come and go again; they last not; therefore endure them, O son of Bharata! Whom these perturb not, O bull of men, equal in pain and pleasure, wise, he builds for immortality. For the unreal there is no being, nor any end of being for the real; the truth as to these two is seen by those who behold reality. But know That to be imperishable whereby all this is stretched forth; and none can cause the destruction of the everlasting.

    These temporal bodies are declared to belong to the eternal lord of the body, imperishable, immeasurable; therefore fight, O son of Bharata! He who sees him as slayer, or who thinks of him as slain, both understand not; he slays not nor is slain. He is never born nor dies, nor will he, having being, evermore cease to be; unborn, eternal, immemorial, this Ancient is not slain when the body is slain. He who knows this imperishable, eternal, unborn, and passing not away, how can that man, O son of Pritha, slay any, or cause any to be slain?

    As putting off worn garments, a man takes others new, so putting off worn-out bodies, the lord of the body enters others new. Swords cut him not, nor may fire burn him, O son of Bharata, waters wet him not, nor dry winds parch. He may not be cut nor burned nor wet nor withered; he is eternal, all-present, firm, unshaken, everlasting. He is called unmanifest, unimaginable, unchanging; therefore, knowing him thus, deign not to grieve!

    But even if thou thinkest of him as ever born, ever dying, yet deign not, therefore, to grieve for him, O mighty armed one! For certain is the death of what is born, and certain is the birth of what dies; therefore, deign not to grieve in a matter that is inevitable.—Bhagavad Gita, II:11-27 (trans. Charles Johnston)

  3. Krishna the Avatara

    Manifold the renewals of my birth
    Have been, Arjuna! and of thy births, too!
    But mine I know, and thine thou knowest not,
    O Slayer of thy Foes! Albeit I be
    Unborn, undying, indestructible,
    The Lord of all things living; not the less—
    By Maya, by my magic which I stamp
    On floating Nature-forms, the primal vast—
    I come, and go, and come. When Righteousness
    Declines, O Bharata! when Wickedness
    Is strong, I rise, from age to age, and take
    Visible shape, and move a man with men,
    Succouring the good, thrusting the evil back,
    And setting Virtue on her seat again.
    Bhagavad Gita, IV:5-8 (trans. Edwin Arnold)

Selected Quotes on Krishna

  1. Is Krishna Parabrahman, the Supreme Personal God?

    "It is generally believed, at any rate by a certain class of philosophers, that Krishna himself is Parabrahmam—that he is the personal God who is Parabrahmam,—but the words used by Krishna in speaking of Parabrahmam, and the way in which he deals with the subject, clearly show that he draws a distinction between himself and Parabrahmam.

    No doubt he is a manifestation of Parabrahmam, as every Logos is. He calls himself Pratyagatma, and Pratyagatma is Parabrahmam in the sense in which that proposition is laid down by the Adwaitis. This statement is at the bottom of all Adwaiti philosophy, but is very often misunderstood. When Adwaitis say "Aham eva Parabrahmam," they do not mean to say that this ahankaram (egotism) is Parabrahmam, but that the only true self in the cosmos, which is the Logos or Pratyagatma, is a manifestation of Parabrahmam.

    It will be noticed that when Krishna is speaking of himself he never uses the word Parabrahmam, but always Pratyagatma, and it is from this standpoint that we constantly find him speaking. Whenever he speaks of Pratyagatma he speaks of himself, and whenever he speaks of Parabrahmam, he speaks of it as being something different from himself."—T. Subba Row, Notes on the Bhagavad Gita, Section III.

  2. On Krishna's place in the Esoteric Tradition

    "We shall, perhaps, come closest to the truth, if we think of the Bhagavad Gita as veritably recording the teaching and mission of Krishna, though with certain added themes; and of Krishna’s mission as but one in a long series of revelations through Rajput sages, which made and continued the spiritual life of India.

    Thus, in archaic times, we have the greater Upanishads, with their doctrines of the royal sages, teachings hitherto imparted to no Brahman, as two of the great Upanishads declare; and in Vedic times also we have the hymns of the Rajput Vishvamitra, seer of the third Mandala of the Rig Veda, wherein is contained the thrice-holy Gayatri.

    After Vishvamitra and the Upanishads, we have Rama of Ayodya, esteemed a divine avatar; and, after Rama, Prince Krishna of Dvaraka, hero, sage and seer of Rajput race. Krishna himself insists on this, at the beginning of the fourth book of the Bhagavad Gita:

    “This imperishable Yoga I have declared to the Solar lord. The Solar lord imparted it to Manu, and Manu told it to Ikshvaku. Thus the Rajput sages and seers knew it, handed down from Master to disciple.”

    Then, in the fullness of time, if our understanding be right, prince Siddhartha the Compassionate, himself a descendant of Ikshvaku, once more gave forth to the world the Rajput sacred teaching, enriched as of old by the twin doctrines of rebirth and liberation from rebirth—liberation, to which, following the older Indian tradition already recorded in the Bhagavad Gita, the Awakened Siddhartha gave the splendid name of Nirvana.

    This great doctrine, thus handed down from Master to disciple, forms the living heart of the Eastern wisdom."—Charles Johnston, The Bhagavad Gita, General Introduction.

  3. On Christna (Krishna) and Christos

    "Vishnu, the second personage of the Hindu trinity, is also the Logos, for he is made subsequently to incarnate himself in Christna. ... Christna is the mediator promised by Brahma to mankind, and represents the same idea as the Gnostic Christos."—H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, II:173

  4. On the Relation of the Story of Herod & Christ to the Story of Krishna & Kansa

    "The apparent discrepancy of the four gospels as a whole, does not prevent every narrative given in the New Testament—however much disfigured—having a ground-work of truth. To this, are cunningly adapted details made to fit the later exigencies of the Church. So, propped up partially by indirect evidence, still more by blind faith, they have become, with time, articles of faith. Even the fictitious massacre of the "Innocents" by King Herod has a certain foundation to it, in its allegorical sense. Apart from the now-discovered fact that the whole story of such a massacre of the Innocents is bodily taken from the Hindu Bagaved-gitta, and Brahmanical traditions, the legend refers, moreover, allegorically, to an historical fact. King Herod is the type of Kansa, the tyrant of Madura, the maternal uncle of Christna, to whom astrologers predicted that a son of his niece Devaki would deprive him of his throne. Therefore he gives orders to kill the male child that is born to her; but Christna escapes his fury through the protection of Mahadeva (the great God) who causes the child to be carried away to another city, out of Kansa's reach. After that, in order to be sure and kill the right boy, on whom he failed to lay his murderous hands, Kansa has all the male newborn infants within his kingdom killed. Christna is also worshipped by the gopas (the shepherds) of the land."H.P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled, II:199

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