YOGA, YOGAS – System of Thought and Practice

The word yoga is frequently used in Indian philosophy. It means “union” and connotes uniting the individual self with the higher Self. The Bhagavad Gîtâ defined yoga as “skillfulness in action” and “steadiness of mind.” Yoga as a system of Indian thought was founded by Patanjali, probably of the second century B.C.E. Around the time … Read more

YAMA – The God of DEATH

Yama came to be the god of death in later mythology, but he had wide range of roles in the earlier mythology. In the Rigveda Yama was one of the first pair. As such he was referred to as the first mortal (later being called the first human). His twin sister Yamî wanted him as … Read more

VYÂSA – The most famous sage in Hindu mythology

Vyâsa is more properly referred to as Veda Vyâsa since the name was a common one, meaning “arranger,” or editor. Veda Vyâsa was said to have edited the four Vedas and authored the Purânas and the Mahâbhârata. Accomplishing all that would require a human who lived several thousand years, so scholars do place the story … Read more

VRITRA – The Mighty Asura (Demon)

In the Rigveda Vritra was a monster whose name meant the one who “held back,” “restrained,” or “enveloped.” Killing Vritra was Indra’s crowning moment. Vritra enveloped a celestial mountain and held back its waters, but Indra’s action released the waters, bring the fertilizing rains and prosperity to the Aryans, even providing soma for gods and … Read more

VRINDÂVANA – Home of Krishna

Vrindâvana was both the mythical land of Krishna’s youth and an actual geographic area between modern Delhi and Agra. Vrindâvana’s meaning of “sacred basil grove” referred to the ancient forest that once graced that region. The modern town lies on the western bank of the Yamunâ River. (See main entry under Kâlindî.) It was to … Read more

VISVÂMITRA – The Famous Sage of Rigveda

Vis´vâmitra was already important in the Rigveda as a sage and composer of many hymns in book (mandala) three. However, his lineage shifted with the sources so much that one later authority stated that he was the son of both King Kushika and King Gâdhi. Vis´vâmitra (universal friend) was able to raise himself from ks´atriya … Read more

VISVAKARMAN, VISVAKARMA – The celestial architect

Vis´vakarman (omnificent) may originally have been an epithet for any powerful god, but it was used in the Rigveda most often for Indra and Sûrya. There are two Rigvedic hymns to Vis´vakarman praising him as the all-seeing god, the one who names the gods, and that one beyond the comprehension of mortals. He was said … Read more

VISHNU – One of Three Major Gods of Modern Hinduism

Vishnu rose from a minor role as a solar deity in the Rigveda to one of the Hindu Triad with Brahmâ and S´iva to the Absolute of the universe in Vaishnavism. Vishnu’s willingness to incarnate in time of need to restore righteousness (dharma) was the inspiring theme that made him both absolute and a compassionate … Read more

VEDAS – The Holy Scripture of Hinduism

Veda means “knowledge,” but specifically refers to the eternal wisdom of the four collections of hymns, sacrificial rituals, and other sacred texts that are called the Vedas. Along with the four collections (the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Âranyakas, and the Upanishads), two more bodies of literature, the Sutras and the Vedângas, are sometimes included in … Read more

VÂYU – The Vedic Wind (Storm) God

Vâyu was the Vedic wind god. He fought alongside Indra and the Maruts (gods of storm) in defeating Vritra, the storm demon who held back the celestial waters. He was a charioteer of enormous power. Vâyu would be connected in the Upanishads with breath of life (prâna). By the time of the Purânas, however, Vâyu … Read more