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Wisdom The Self is found within oneself. [Svetashvatara Upanishad, v 15 (Katz and Egenes 215:149)]

"The Wretch Arjuna"

The first section sums up some sides to the Arjuna that is told of in various ancient Sanskrit works, such as the Mahabharata poem.

The next section, about "the wretch Arjuna", is from a story by Ramakrishna.

The rest of the page contains miscellaneous matter.

Was Arjuna enough enlightened?

In the great epic poem Mahabharata, Arjuna or Arjun was one of the Pandava brothers, an archer, borne by the first wife of a king called Pandu. In her maiden days, she had received a boon from a sage that any deity she chose to invoke, would beget a child with her. Pandu and the first wife decided to make use of the boon, and Arjuna was born to them as the son of the thundergod Indra, we are told.

Arjuna grew up to become one of the heroes of the very extensive epos Mahabharata. There he is portrayed as a dear friend and brother-in-law of Krishna, who spoke the Bhagavad Gita poem to him in verse before the battle of Kurukshetroa, while the two of them were standing between the opposing armies. In that situation Krishna enlightened Arjuna too, we are told in chapter 11:

Arjuna to Krishna: "As you have thus described yourself, Supreme Person, I wish to see your Divine Form!"

Krishna: "Behold, Arjuna, the whole universe centred in the one in this my body - including the moving and the unmoving - and whatever else you desire to see!"

Arjuna next saw the splendour as if a thousand suns blazed out at once in the sky [and so on].

A full enlightenment is not devoid of "in my deep self". Deep Self is realised in the heart, called Hriday in Sanskrit.

Self-Realisation (Atmajnana) and Enlightenment are often used synonymously. However, gurus mention that if sound heart-awakening is lacking, the sight of subtle light is not full self-realization. Ramana Maharsi is one of those who repeatedly points out the value of the Real in the heart, and the value of the inward, sensing heart.

In the full Self-Realization one experiences "Light in my field of vision, bliss in the heartland and core of me, I am". The enlightenment that misses the heart, pertains to "out there" somehow, is not fully accomplished.

Enlightenment is not only seeing subtle light or getting gently blinded by the sight. Being temporarily "blinded" the yogic way and seeing "a thousand suns at once" means the vision of the outer world is subdued by such spendour, perhaps for a little while, perhaps for a longer period. At times one gets fully "blinded", at times one glimpses something of the world around too.

As for essential Enlightenment, here is a passage:

Wisdom He . . . dwells as the Spirit . . . in the region of the human heart. He becomes mind and drives on the body and life, draws power from food and finds peace in the heart. There the wise find him as joy and light and life eternal.

And when he is seen in his immanence and transcendence, then the ties that have bound the heart are unloosened . . . [Mundaka Upanishad - In Mascaró's translaton, 1965:79]

Joy is also stressed as of the nature of the Lord.

Wives and life of Arjuna

In different times and places there are at times different customs and codes for living too. In some places, one woman has several husbands. In other places one man has several wives. The bowman Arjuna shared one wife with his four brothers, and had other wives on his own, and love affairs.

Texts say Arjuna had several wives, not just Draupadi, the one he shared with his four brothers on a regular basis. He also got Ulupi, Chitrangada and Subhadra. Some add other wives too. How many concubines he had or might have had, is far from agreed on either.

In the great Mahabharata war, Arjuna killed his maternal half brother Karna among others, and the war ended the next day. Arjuna's sons were slain, all but one. Arjuna lived to fight a lot even after that war, and fight he did till the Pandava brothers felt empty and decided toward the end of their lives, to renounce the world. They retired to the Himalayas and departed, but not without drama.

[Wikipedia, s.v. "Arjuna"]

Paramahansa Yogananda and some claims he made

Was Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) in a former life the archer Arjuna who shared his wife Draupadi with four brothers just because Yogananda on various occasions told he was enlightened as Arjuna?

One of his direct disciples, Kriyananda:

Master revealed to us that he himself had been Krishna's closest friend and disciple, Arjuna . . .

We found it easy to believe that [1]

Through wrong beliefs we may easily run into big problems. There is something better than wrong belief: non-belief, or sound scepticism. Believe that if you can. Or feel sceptical.

The Fox, the Monkey, and His Ancestors

An ape and a fox passed through a cemetery, and the monkey said to the fox:

"The tombstone you see is in memory of my father and of my grandfather before him."

Said the fox to the ape:

"Lie as you please, since there is no way of checking up on the truth of what you say, and no one may rise up and refute what you say!"

What is said of ancestors may well apply to many claimed past lives too, in that they may be difficult to prove.

Now, in chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita is seems that Arjuna was enlightened - yet I think we should add "more or less" so, for from the descriptions of that "cosmic vision", it was a sort of "Enlightenment Light" - not a full Enlightenment. For the essential element in a full Self-Realization is missing, in that what Arjuna sees, is not said to be parts of himself, "hinged on his Self", but of Krishna. In a full Enlightenment experience visions are centred in one's heart. That is what Vedic sources point out.

If the guru had been fully enlightened as Arjuna on the brink of the Mahabharata war long before the common era - with a number of wives to satisfy and support as best he could - why did he tell he was born as a vicious, murderous desert marauder? Yogananda said he had been such a fellow too in another previous life, according to his biographer Sailendra Dasgupta [2006:112]. "From enlightened to vicious, murderous and bad - not really noble!" one may gather.

"And now, give us some really good clues," you may ask, "for blank claims accompanied by pondering and wonderment and sectarian drivel will not do here. Such faith is what cults live on!"

Wisdom Dharma laws are difficult to grasp. A soul residing in the heart of all beings knows what is right and what is wrong. [Ramayana, Kishkindha Kanda 18:15 (Egenes and Reddy, 2016:201). Extract]

"The Wretch Arjuna" - An Old Story

A different view at times yields valuable lessons.

OLD HITS Pride once entered into the heart of Arjuna, the friend of Sri Krishna. Arjuna thought that none equalled him in love and devotion to his Lord and friend. Sri Krishna, reading the heart of his friend, took him one day for a walk. They had not gone far when Arjuna saw a strange Brahmin eating dry grass as food, but nevertheless had a sword dangling at his side. Arjuna at once knew him to be a holy and pious devotee of Vishnu, one whose highest religious duty was to injure no being. As even grass has life, he would not eat it green but sustained his life by eating it dry and lifeless. Yet he carried a sword.

Arjuna, wondering at the incongruity, turned towards the Lord and said: "How is this? Here is a man vho has renounced all ideas of injuring any living being, down to the meanest blade of grass; yet he carries with him a sword, the symbol of death and hatred."

The Lord said, "You had better ask the man yourself."

Arjuna then went up to the Brahmin and said: "Sir, you injure no living being, and you live on dry grass. Why then do you carry this sharp sword?"

The Brahmin: "It is to punish four persons if I chance to meet them."

Arjuna: "Who are they?"

The Brahmin: The first is the wretch Narada."

Arjuna: "Why, what has he done?"

The Brahmin: "Why, look at the audacity of that fellow; he is perpetually keeping my Lord awake with his songs and music. He has no consideration whatever for the comfort of the Lord. Day and night, in and out of season, he disturbs the peace of the Lord by his prayers and praises."
      Arjuna: "Who is the second person?"

The Brahmin: "The impudent Draupadi."

Arjuna: "What is her fault?"

The Brahmin: "Look at the inconsiderate audacity of the woman. She was so rash as to call my beloved Lord just at the moment He was going to dine. He had to give up His dinner and go to the Kamyaka Vana to save the Pandavas from the curse of Durvasa. And her presumption went so far that she even caused my beloved Lord to eat the impure remnant of her own food."

Arjuna: "Who is the third?"

The Brahmin: "It is the heartless Prahlada. He was so cruel that he did not hesitate for a moment to ask my Lord to enter the boiling cauldron of oil, to be trodden under the heavy feet of the elephants and to break through an adamantine pillar."

Arjuna: "Who is the fourth?"

The Brahmin: "The wretch Arjuna."

Arjuna: "Why, what fault has he committed?"

The Brahmin: "Look at his felony. He made my beloved Lord take the mean office of a charioteer of his car in the great war of Kurukshetra."

Arjuna was amazed at the depth of the Brahmin's devotion and love, and from that moment his pride vanished, and he gave up thinking that he was the best devotee of all. [Ramakrishna 1974, tale 77, somewhat modernised]

Word List

  • Arjuna: One of five brothers that shared a wife among them (polyandry), allegedly a good archer in his time, and the one Krishna instructs in the Mahabharata epic poem's chapter (kanda) Bhagavad Gita. Most of the Mahabharata appears to be later additions. As a friend of Krishna in the story, Arjuna got Krishna's help as a chariot-driver during the great war in that hoary epic poem.
  • Brahmin (brahmana): A member of one of the four Hindu castes - one of the caste traditionally assigned to the priesthood.
  • Narada: Famous minstrel of God and guru model in Hinduism.
  • Draupadi: The wife of the five sons of Pandu (cf. Arjuna above). One one occasion she called on Krishna to save her honour so that she would not be denuded in the court of a rather lustful king. The story refers to that incident.
  • Prahlada: The son of the great monster king Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada was devoted to Vishnu, and that made his father red-hot angry to the degree that he wanted to have his son killed. Then Prahlada called on Vishnu (Krishna is one of his incarnations) to save him.

Daniel Goleman

In Judaism, the hidden teachings are called Kabbalah . . .

. . . The Kabbalist must observe the working of his ordinary mind or ego, so as to bring into awareness the unconscious forces that shape his thoughts and actions. To do this, he seeks to reach a certain level of awareness, that is, a state of clarity that is witness or "watcher" of the ordinary mind . . .

The end of the Kabbalist's path is devekut, in which the seeker's soul cleaves to God. Then "he need no longer study Torah" [Goleman, 1975:49 ff, abstracts.]

Shankara and Monism

There are pre-Shankara monistic interpreters of the scriptures. Shankara referred to one of them, Gaudapada, as the teacher of his own teacher Govinda, and complimented him for having recovered the advaita (nondualism) doctrine from the Vedas. His philosophical views show a considerable influence of Madhyamika Buddhism. [EB s.v. "Vedanta"]

Nondualistic Advaita is but one of many Vedanta schools." [EB sv "Vedanta"]

Shankara regards moral life as a necessary preliminary to self-knowledge. For him, the highest goal of life is to know the essential identity of his own self with Brahman.

The philosophical schools of Vaishnavism differ in their interpretation of the relationship between individual souls and God . . . You find qualified monism (exponent: Ramanuja), dualism (exponent: Madhva), dualistic monism (exponent: Nimbarka), pure monism (exponent: Vallabha), and "inconceivable duality and nonduality" (exponent: Caitanya). There are also popular expressions of devotionalism. [Cf. EB, s.v. "Vaishnavism"]

Clams and claims

When clams are closed, stepping on them may work fine. But when they are open, they may cut the soles of your feet.

When big claims are inspected, beware of their sharp edges and whatever they squirt your way. You may think that the bigger the clams and claims are, the better food is inside them. It depends, but some clams are eatable. But don't hope a lot to your disadvantage. Some knowledge of clams may be fit, even dear and life-saving too.

The American "Twin fools: one doubts nothing, the other everything" implies one needs to investigate matters very well before forming conclusions. For example:

  1. If someone claims he has been some person in a former life, ask for sound evidence of it, also called good proof.
  2. One should bear in mind that the burden of proof rests with the claimer of things, and not his victims of hearsay.
  3. For the lack of watertight evidence, resist - in such a case it is good and sound to keep the issue(s) unsettled.

Handling big claims by other less proficiently than this, is hardly adequate, and may soon stifle and hamper almost anyone, in field after field.


Animals talk in fables from all over the world. Others too. We have to be candid to be true, although you can tell many things by fables and in other ways too, with sound and terse wisdom interspersed.

Telling stories to nourish the soundness of children and their intellectual growth is a way in Waldorf Education.

The Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) believed that pleasure is the highest good. Jesus vouches for it by saying king Solomon of "the best a man can do, is to eat, drink and be merry", was the wisest man on earth. Solomon also caused his father's dynasty break and fall asunder and lost the Lord's favours. Still Jesus calls him the wisest.

Study first and decree competently afterwards.

If we cannot prove or document a suspicion we harbour, better be discreet about it. This is better than love for great-looking words.

The neglected dire id needs from childhood or adolescence may give way to some run-down id-unfoldment's best vicarious outlet.

The sound, elementary wisdom "A stich in time saves nine". Five million kriya initiates 1500 years ago could have hindered many wars, then, according to Yogananda's descriptions of kriya effects. Perhaps nothing manages to bind and control animal instincts as much as nonsense and drivel. [Munch 1981: "Fenris or Fenrir"]


Paramahansa Yogananda, Arjuna  tales, Literature  

Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2006. (and at Google Books, partial view).

EB: Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.

Egenes, Linda, and Kumuda Reddy. The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki's Ancient Epic - Complete and Comprehensive. New York: Tarcher Perigree, 2016.

Gambhirananda, Swami, tr. Eight Upanishads. Vols 1 and 2. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama, 1957 and 1958. ⍽▢⍽ A comprehensive translation, with explanations of Sanskrit words one by one, and the commentaries of Shankara for each verse. This is for the enthusiast.

Goleman, David. The Varieties of the Meditative Experience. London: Rider, 1975.

Katz, Vernon, and Thomas Egenes, trs. The Upanishads: A New Translation. New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2015. ⍽▢⍽ Elegant through simple wording in flowing, modern, poetic language, and learned. An excellent reading. The two doctors who have translated it, provide an introduction and notes. The translations by Nikhilananda and Gambhirananda supply more comprehensive explanations of the original Sanskrit terms involved. At times their wordings is different. It might be helpful for deeper study. Mascaró's work is poetic too.

Mascaró, Juan, tr. The Upanishads: Translations from the Sanskrit. London: Penguin, 1965. ⍽▢⍽ A poetic selection. It reads very well.

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Upanishads. Abr. ed. New York: Harer and Row, 1964. ⍽▢⍽ The eleven upanishads that are translated with commentaries in Nikhilananda's four-volumed translation (next entry) are here. For more understanding of Sanskrit terms and commentaries in the Advaita Vedanta tradition of Shankara, Gambhirananda's two-volumed and Nikhilananda's four-volumed translations..

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Upanishads.Vols 1-4. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1949, 1952, 1956, 1959. ⍽▢⍽ With Shankara's commentary. Recommended. A one-volume translation without the comments also exists.

Munch, Peter Andreas Norrøne gude- og heltesagn. Rev. ed. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1981.

Ramakrishna. Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. 5th ed. Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1974.

WP (Wikipedia), s.v. "Arjuna"

  1. Kriyananda. "Paramhansa Yogananda as William the Conqueror." Clarity Magazine, Summer 2009. Online.

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