What is “Bhagaván”?

Author: Gopal Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

“Bhaga” plus the “matup” suffix in the nominative case becomes “bhagaván”. The word is “”bhágavata”, but in the nominative case “bhagaván”. And what is the meaning of :bhaga”? In Sanskrit “bhaga” has many meanings. But two of the meanings are important: one meaning is “fortune” and the other meaning is “the collection of six attributes”.

From “bhaga” we say “bhagya” or “fortune”. In Vedic Sanskrit “fortunate” was expressed as “bhagadhara”; “dhara” means “holder” and “bhaga” means “fortune”. The “bhagadhara” of old Sanskrit became “bahadhara” in old Persian.

From “bahadhara” it became “bahadar” in Punjabi, “bahadar” in Urdu and “báhádur” in Hindi. But the actual word is “bhagadhara”, it means “fortunate”.

Now, the other meaning of the word “bhaga” is:

Aeshvaryaiṋca samagraḿ viiryaḿca yashasah shriyah;

Jiṋána vaerágyaiṋca śańáḿ bhaga iti smrtah.

Bhaga is a collection of six attributes: aeshvarya, viirya, yasha, shrii, jiṋána, and vaerágya.

Bhaga is a collection of six attributes. The first of these attributes is Aeshvarya. Aeshvarya means a collection of all eight occult powers. The collective name of these eight occult powers, ańimá, laghimá, mahimá (garimá), iishitva, vashitva, prápti, prakámya and antaryámitva, is Vibhúti or Aeshvarya.

The first human being in history to become established in the eight occult powers was Sadáshiva, so out of respect, people used to call him Vibhútinátha or Vibhútibhúśańa. Lest others, seeing Shiva’s supernatural endowments, rush after the attainment of these occult powers, they covered Him with ash to restrain or check such kind of thinking. This was done so that the people would understand that this master of the eight occult powers, Shiva, wished to say that the occult powers were no better than ash. Although the etymological meaning of vibhúti is “supernatural power” or “supernatural siddhi”, its colloquial meaning is “ash” as well as “occult power”. Thus in the sense of ash also, Shiva was Vibhútinátha (Lord of Vibhúti) or Vibhútibhúśańa (Adorned with Vibhúti). Vibhuti also means “the final state of something”. As you know, the final state of anything is ashes – everything in this universe becomes ashes in the end. Vibhuti also means “ashes”.

Occult power (called vibhúti or aeshvarya in Sanskrit) is the supernatural power gained from the practice of the psychic mystic cult. Attainment of the eight vibhútis stage marks a great step forward. However, this is a dangerous stage also. The danger comes more from inside than from outside. The sádhaka may get intoxicated with the feeling of the occult power and be tempted to abuse it. Moreover, there is the external threat that somebody may provoke him into such abuse. Any misuse of these powers causes a setback or even a downfall in the spiritual journey. Abuse of power is bad in any sphere. Even in the temporal sphere misuse of power leads to downfall. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely – unless there is the strength to control the power.

In the ordinary living being, in the unit mind in its natural state, these qualities are not manifest. The living being cannot enter another’s mind (ańimá). It cannot penetrate into another’s physical structure or wander at its will in the stratosphere (laghimá). It cannot make itself all-pervading (mahimá). The unit cannot pervade all the strata of existence and control them (iishitva). It cannot bring either itself or others completely under its control (vashitva). An impassable distance lies between what it wants and what it gets (prápti). The living being cannot give shape to all sorts of desires in all different spheres (prakámya). It cannot know or understand the thoughts of another’s mind or of the Cosmic Mind (antaryámitva), nor can it maintain control over another person’s physical structure.

Those who continue their spiritual practices, crossing the various stages due to cosmic grace, develop occult powers in the process of their forward movement. Some of these occult powers are not attainable by ordinary penance, but they may be attained due to unconditional cosmic grace. Some of these occult powers – which are nothing but the unconditional grace of Parama Puruśa – are parakáya- pravesha or entering into the body of others; sarvajiṋatvá or omniscience; vák siddhi or the power to make whatever one says come true; etc. By dint of sádhaná, when sádhakas are established in the supreme truth, theoretically one can attain these states, but practically omniscient intellect is attained only by unconditional cosmic grace. Some other occult powers – for instance to perform the work of one sense organ through another sense organ, or to express one indriya through another indriya – are not attainable through individual effort. Due to unconditional grace, Parama Puruśa does not distribute all these occult powers, and the reason why He does not is known only to Him. These powers are the exclusive powers of Parama Puruśa.

Hence, if spiritual aspirants start practising meditation and in the process acquire a few occult powers, and thereafter these occult powers become the focal point of their efforts and Parama Puruśa becomes the secondary objective, such aspirants attain the state of siddha after their physical demise. A siddha is the highest state of devayoni. They help spiritual aspirants in various ways; their roles are primarily those of aids or guardians. There are some people in the world who are regarded as great personalities, and in the past there were also some great personalities, but no one knows about their Gurus. It is said that these great personalities were initiated by the siddhas. That is, these personalities used to follow spiritual practices according to the knowledge they had acquired. Suddenly the Iśt́a Mantra of their previous life was conveyed to them by the siddhas, hence these types of people were called “siddha diikśita” or “siddha initiated”. These siddhas are highly evolved sádhakas, but they deviated from the path of spirituality in previous births to attain occult powers.

Rákśasii vidyá is not the black magic of so-called demons, but a kind of occult science. Perhaps you know that Tantra is divided into two branches, and similarly, occult powers are expressed in two ways. Sádhakas who have reached Iishvarakot́i (but not Brahmakot́i, the highest stage of human realization) through intense spiritual practice attain both vidyá and avidyá shakti, both positive and negative occult power. People usually call this aeshvarya [divine power], but this is not completely accurate. The other day while discussing that phenomenon with a few people, I said that some of these occult powers are dependent on space, while others are beyond it. Iishvarakot́i sádhakas, through special efforts, can master some negative and positive powers, and may apply them to certain human beings, places, or ideas. But a Brahmakot́i sádhaka can apply those powers throughout the entire universe at one time, through his prota yoga. Moreover, with the help of ota yoga, he can apply his power to an individual place or person if he so wishes. The same thing, when applied on a crude level, may take the form of magic.

This explains the external side; but if people remain satisfied with the attainment of these occult powers and stop advancing along the supreme path, the fullest expression of their human potentialities will be checked. To bring about the greatest fulfilment in life, sádhakas will have to reach the pinnacle of the state of ekendriya. That is, instead of directing their mind-stuff towards crude objects, they must channelize their minds towards the Macrocosm, and embrace the Macrocosm fully as their goal.

The collective name of these eight occult powers, ańimá, laghimá, mahimá (garimá), iishitva, vashitva, prápti, prakámya and antaryámitva, is vibhúti or aeshvarya. Vi – bhú + ktin gives us the word vibhúti, which means “to be established in a special condition or state or quality”. In spiritual life as well as in ordinary life, if one retains simplicity it is helpful for the attainment of God; through this one’s life and mind become filled with the effulgence of Parama Puruśa. This is the supreme attainment. Spying out every nook and cranny of the eight occult powers is another name for stupidity.

There is a funny, popular story about the practical value of the eight occult powers. Once upon a time a man renounced his worldly life and accepted the life of a wandering mendicant. When he returned home after twelve long years his younger brother asked him: “Dádá, after doing sádhaná for so long what powers have you attained?”

The elder brother said: “Come to the river with me. I’ll show you there.” When they reached the bank of the river the older brother walked on the water to cross to the other side, and from there he shouted to his younger brother: “You see! This is my laghimá-siddhi. I made my body so light that I can walk on water.”

Then the younger brother called a boatman and hired his boat to cross to the other side. “Look Dádá,” he said when he arrived. “This is my laghimá-siddhi and I only had to give the boatman one paisa. So this laghimá-siddhi of yours that you spent twelve years to get is worth just one paisa.”

Prańavo dhanuh sharohyátmá Brahma tallakśyamucyate;

Apramattena veddhavyaḿ sharavattanmayo bhavet.

“A sádhaka who utilizes his or her spiritual practice as the bow, her or his self as the arrow, and Parama Puruśa as the target, and then tries to pierce the target with undivided attention, attains the supreme goal.”

Sádhakas who accept this shloka as the supreme and final guidance, and move accordingly along the path of ekendriya sádhaná, are capable of devoting their minds to the highest stage of spiritual realization. Their lives become meaningful. It is not enough just to ideate on Brahma, one must also practice ekendriya sádhaná. Here ekendriya means that all the expressions of the sensory and motor nerves, and all the energy and subtle power of the nerves, indriyas, and mind-stuff, should be directed towards the Supreme Goal. This uni-directional movement towards the goal is the stage of ekendriya. In this stage the sádhaka does not attach any importance to any particular indriya, idea or thought, but attaches paramount importance to the Supreme Goal. Such a sádhaka ultimately rises above both Vidyá and Avidyá Tantra.

Vidyá Tantra is an approach of positive ideas towards the world, whereas Avidyá Tantra is an approach of negative ideas. People who tread the negative path tend to become crude. And if they follow the path of positive ideas, they may attain name, fame, social status, etc., but fail to attain Parama Puruśa. They will even fail to attain higher lokas. The person who follows neither of these two paths, but thinks only of Parama Puruśa, will attain Him one day and will be elevated from the ekendriya stage to the vashiikára stage. This path of transcending positive and negative ideas is called in Tantra madhyama márga “middle path”. (Buddha called it majhjhimá mágga). This is the only path that leads to the highest fulfilment in human life. Nányah panthá vidyate ayanáya “There is no other path”. At that stage the sensory world has no attraction for a sádhaka whatsoever. But those sádhakas who dabble in the positive and negative aspects of Tantra readily become engrossed in mundane affairs. The time and energy employed to master the positive and negative aspects is a waste, for it diverts the mind and delays its movement towards the higher planes of existence. In my opinion it is better not to waste one’s time on such inconsequential pursuits. Instead it would be wiser for people to utilize their time and energy in the attainment of Parama Puruśa.

If I were to analyze the positive and negative paths you would be fascinated, but it would be of no use whatsoever in attaining Parama Puruśa.

This word Iishvara? In Sanskrit “iish” means “to control”, “to regulate”. He who controls everything, everything on earth, is Iishvara. That is, “the Supreme Controller”. Another meaning of Iishvara is “he who has aeshvarya” – ańimá (to become small ((small enough to enter any physical particle or any crevice of another’s mind)), laghimá (to become light ((a light body can fly through air, a light mind can study the minds of others)), mahimá (to become large ((an expanded mind is omniscient, and feels love for the universe)), iishitva (to control ((this supreme control may be used to guide others minds)), vashitva (to psychically dominate others), kámavasáyitá (or prakámya, to materialize the desired outcome of events), vyapti (or antaryámitva, to know the inner thought-wave and the inner need of any entity), prápti (to obtain any desired object) – these are all aeshvaryas. He who has developed all(12) the aeshvaryas – aeshvarya means “occult power” – is Iishvara. That is, the Lord having so many aeshvaryas is Iishvara. Maharshi Patanjali says: Kleshakarmavipákáshayaeraparámrśt́ah Puruśavisheśa Iishvarah – “The Puruśa, who remains unassailed by the waves of actions and reactions, physical and mental, and who does never require any physical or mental or spiritual pabulum for His maintenance, is Iishvara.”