Abhyasa: Sustained (constant) spiritual practice.
Abhyasa Yoga: Yoga, or union with God, through sustained spiritual practice.
Adharma: Unrighteousness; demerit, failure to perform one’s proper duty; unrighteous action; lawlessness; absence of virtue; all that is contrary to righteousness (dharma).
Adhibhuta: Primal Being; pertaining to the elements; the primordial form of matter.
Adhidaiva: Primal God.
Adhiyajna: Primal Sacrifice; Supreme Sacrifice.
Adhyatma: The individual Self; the supreme Self; spirit.
Adityas: Solar deities, the greatest of which is Vishnu.
Agni: Fire; Vedic god of fire.
Ahankara: Ego; egoism or self-conceit; the self-arrogating principle “I,” “I” am-ness; self-consciousness.
Ahimsa: Non-injury in thought, word, and deed; non-violence; non-killing; harmlessness.
Airavata: The white elephant of Indra that was produced by the churning of the ocean.
Amrita: That which makes one immortal. The nectar of immortality that emerged from the ocean of milk when the gods churned it.
Ananta: Infinite; without end; endless; a name of Shesha, the chief of the Nagas, whose coils encircle the earth and who symbolizes eternity, and upon whom Vishnu reclines.
Anarya(n): Not aryan; ignoble; unworthy. See Aryan.
Apana: The prana that moves downward, producing the excretory functions in general; exhalation.
Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness; freedom from covetousness; non-receiving of gifts conducive to luxury.
Arjava(m): Straightforwardness; simplicity; honesty; rectitude of conduct (from the verb root rinj: “to make straight”); uprightness.
Arjuna: The great disciple of Krishna, who imparted to him the teachings found in the Bhagavad Gita. The third of the Pandava brothers who were major figures in the Mahabharata War. His name literally means “bright,” “white,” or “clear.”
Arya(n): One who is an Arya–literally, “one who strives upward.” Both Arya and Aryan are exclusively psychological terms having nothing whatsoever to do with birth, race, or nationality. In his teachings Buddha habitually referred to spiritually qualified people as “the Aryas.” Although in English translations we find the expressions: “The Four Noble Truths,” and “The Noble Eightfold Path,” Buddha actually said: “The Four Aryan Truths,” and “The Eightfold Aryan Path.”
Aryaman: Chief of the Pitris.
Ashwattha: The pippal (sacred fig) tree, in the Bhagavad Gita, the eternal tree of life whose roots are in heaven. The “world tree” in the sense of the axis of the earth and even of the cosmos.
Ashwins: Two Vedic deities, celestial horsemen of the sun, always together, who herald the dawn and are skilled in healing. They avert misfortune and sickness and bring treasures.
Astikyam: Piety; belief in God.
Asura: Demon; evil being (a-sura: without the light).
Asuric: Of demonic character.
Bhagavan: The Lord; the One endowed with the six attributes, viz. infinite treasures, strength, glory, splendor knowledge, and renunciation; the Personal God.
Bhrigu: An ancient sage, so illustrious that he mediated quarrels among the gods.
Bhuta: A spirit. Some bhutas are subhuman nature spirits or “elementals”, but some are earthbound human spirits–ghosts. Bhutas may be either positive or negative.
Brahma: The Creator (Prajapati) of the three worlds of men, angels, and archangels (Bhur, Bhuwah, and Swah); the first of the created beings; Hiranyagarbha or cosmic intelligence.
Brahmachari(n): One who observes continence; a celibate student in the first stage of life (ashrama); a junior monk.
Brahmacharya: Continence; self-restraint on all levels; discipline; dwelling in Brahman.
Brahman: The Absolute Reality; the Truth proclaimed in the Upanishads; the Supreme Reality that is one and indivisible, infinite, and eternal; all-pervading, changeless Existence; Existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute (Satchidananda); Absolute Consciousness; it is not only all-powerful but all-power itself; not only all-knowing and blissful but all-knowledge and all-bliss itself.
Brahmana: A Vedic liturgical text explaining the rituals found in the Vedic samhitas (collection of hymns). A guidebook for performing those rites.
Brahmanirvana: The state of liberation (nirvana) that results from total union with Brahman.
Brahmavada: The Path to Brahman; the way to supreme enlightenment.
Brahmavadin: Literally “one who walks the path of Brahman.” One who advocates that there is one existence alone–Parabrahman.
Brahmin (Brahmana): A knower of Brahman; a member of the highest Hindu caste consisting of priests, pandits, philosophers, and religious leaders.
Brihaspati: The guru–priest and teacher–of the gods.
Brihatsaman: A hymn to Indra found in the Sama Veda.
Buddhi: Intellect; intelligence; understanding; reason; the thinking mind; the higher mind, which is the seat of wisdom; the discriminating faculty.
Buddhi Yoga: The Yoga of Intelligence spoken of in the Bhagavad Gita which later came to be called Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of Knowledge.
Car-warrior: See Maharatha.
Caste: See Varna.
Chandra: Presiding deity of the moon or the astral lunar world (loka).
Chitraratha: The chief of the gandharvas.
Daityas: Demons who constantly war with the gods. Sometimes “races” or nationalities who acted contrary to dharma and fought against the “aryas” were also called demons (daityas or asuras); giant; titan..
Deva: “A shining one,” a god–greater or lesser in the evolutionary hierarchy; a semi-divine or celestial being with great powers, and therefore a “god.” Sometimes called a demi-god. Devas are the demigods presiding over various powers of material and psychic nature. In many instances “devas” refer to the powers of the senses or the sense organs themselves.
Dharma: The righteous way of living, as enjoined by the sacred scriptures and the spiritually illumined; characteristics; law; lawfulness; virtue; righteousness; norm.
Dharmic: Having to do with dharma; of the character of dharma.
Dhrita: Steadfastness; constancy; sustained effort; firmness; patience; endurance.
Dukha(m): Pain; suffering; misery; sorrow; grief; unhappiness; stress; that which is unsatisfactory.
Dwesha: Aversion/avoidance for something, implying a dislike for it. This can be emotional (instinctual) or intellectual. It may range from simple non-preference to intense repulsion, antipathy and even hatred. See Raga.
Dwija: “Twice born;” any member of the three upper castes that has received the sacred thread (yajnopavita).
Gandharva: A demigod–a celestial musician and singer.
Ganga: See Ganges.
Ganges (Ganga): The sacred river–believed to be of divine origin–that flows from high up in the Himalayas, through the plains of Northern India, and empties into the Bay of Bengal. Hindus consider that bathing in the Ganges profoundly purifies both body and mind.
Garuda: A great being who can assume bird form, and therefore considered the king of birds. Often depicted as an eagle, he is the vehicle of Vishnu.
Gayatri Meter: A meter found only in the Rig Veda, consisting of three lines of eight syllables each. It is considered especially appropriate for mantric invocation of deities before worship.
Ghee: Clarified butter.
Guna: Quality, attribute, or characteristic arising from nature (Prakriti) itself; a mode of energy behavior. As a rule, when “guna” is used it is in reference to the three qualities of Prakriti, the three modes of energy behavior that are the basic qualities of nature, and which determine the inherent characteristics of all created things. They are: 1) sattwa–purity, light, harmony; 2) rajas–activity, passion; and 3) tamas–dullness, inertia, and ignorance.
Guru: Teacher; preceptor; spiritual teacher or acharya.
Indra: King of the lesser “gods” (demigods); the ruler of heaven (Surendra Loka); the rain-god.
Ishwara: “God” or “Lord” in the sense of the Supreme Power, Ruler, Master, or Controller of the cosmos. “Ishwara” implies the powers of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.
Janaka: The royal sage (raja rishi) who was the king of Mithila and a liberated yogi, a highly sought-after teacher of philosophy in ancient India. Sita, the wife of Rama, was his adopted daughter.
Jiva: Individual spirit.
Kalpa: A Day of Brahma–4,320,000,000 years. It alternates with a Night of Brahma of the same length. He lives hundred such years. Brahma’s life is known as Para, being of a longer duration than the life of any other being, and a half of it is called Parardha. He has now completed the first Parardha and is in the first day of the second Parardha. This day or Kalpa is known as Svetavarahakalpa. In the Day of Brahma creation is manifest and in the Night of Brahma is it resolved into its causal state.
Kamadeva: God of beauty and love; the Vedic Cupid who shoots a bow with flowers instead of arrows.
Kamadhenu: Wish-fulfilling cow produced at the churning of the milk ocean.
Kamadhuk: See Kamadhenu.
Kandarpa: See Kamadeva.
Kapila: The great sage who formulated the Sankhya philosophy which is endorsed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. (See the entry under Sankhya.)
Karma: Karma, derived from the Sanskrit root kri, which means to act, do, or make, means any kind of action, including thought and feeling. It also means the effects of action. Karma is both action and reaction, the metaphysical equivalent of the principle: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). It is karma operating through the law of cause and effect that binds the jiva or the individual soul to the wheel of birth and death. There are three forms of karma: sanchita, agami, and prarabdha. Sanchita karma is the vast store of accumulated actions done in the past, the fruits of which have not yet been reaped. Agami karma is the action that will be done by the individual in the future. Prarabdha karma is the action that has begun to fructify, the fruit of which is being reaped in this life.
Karma Yoga: The Yoga of selfless (unattached ) action; performance of one’s own duty; service of humanity.
Karma Yogi: One who practices karma yoga.
Karmakanda: The ritual portion of the Veda. The philosophy that Vedic ritual is the only path to perfection.
Kshatriya: A member of the ruler/warrior caste.
Kubera: The god of wealth.
Kusha: One of the varieties of sacred grass (darbha) used in many religious rites. Because of its insulating qualities, both physical and metaphysical, it is recommended as a seat (asana) for meditation, and as mats for sleeping (it keeps the sleeper warm).
Kutastha: Immutable; absolutely changeless; not subject to change; literally: “summit abiding” or “on the summit.” He who is found without exception in all creatures from Brahma or the creator down to ants and Who is shining as the Self and dwells as witness to the intellect of all creatures; rock-seated; unchanging; another name for Brahman.
Mahapralaya: The final cosmic dissolution; the dissolution of all the worlds of relativity (Bhuloka, Bhuvaloka, Swaloka, Mahaloka, Janaloka, Tapaloka, and Satyaloka), until nothing but the Absolute remains. There are lesser dissolutions, known simply as pralayas, when only the first five worlds (lokas) are dissolved.
Maharatha: “A great-car-warrior,” a commander of eleven thousand bowmen as he rode in his chariot.
Manava: Man; a human being; a descendant of Manu.
Manava dharma: The essential nature of man; religion of man; the duties of man.
Manu: The ancient lawgiver, whose code, The Laws of Manu (Manu Smriti) is the foundation of Hindu religious and social conduct.
Manus: Progenitors of the human race who were also its lawgivers and teachers.
Margashirsha: A lunar month, roughly the latter half of November and the first half of December. This is the time of ideal weather in India.
Marichi: The chief of the Maruts.
Maruts: The presiding deities of winds and storms.
Maya: The illusive power of Brahman; the veiling and the projecting power of the universe, the power of Cosmic Illusion. “The Measurer”–a reference to the two delusive “measures,” Time and Space.
Meru: The mountain, of supreme height, on which the gods dwell, or the mountain on which Shiva is ever seated in meditation, said to be the center of the world, supporting heaven itself–obviously a yogic symbol of the spinal column or merudanda. The name of the central bead on a japa mala (rosary).
Moha: Delusion–in relation to something, usually producing delusive attachment or infatuation based on a completely false perception and evaluation of the object.
Naga: Snake; naked; a kind of powerful spirit-being worshipped in some areas of India, possessing great psychic powers and the ability to appear and communicate with human beings; one order of Sadhus, who are nude.
Narada: A primeval sage to whom some of the verses of the Rig Veda are attributed.
Om: The Pranava or the sacred syllable symbolizing and embodying Brahman. See the book Om Yoga Meditation.
Pandavas: The five sons of King Pandu: Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. Their lives are described in the Mahabharata.
Pandus: See Pandavas.
Papa(m): Sin; demerit; evil; sinful deeds; evil deeds.
Parigraha: Possessiveness, greed, selfishness, acquisitiveness; covetousness; receiving of gifts conducive to luxury.
Pitamaha: Grandfather; Great Father; titles of Brahma, the Creator.
Pitri: A departed ancestor, a forefather.
Prahlada: A daitya prince who rejected his daitya heritage and became a devotee of Vishnu. His father, the evil Hiranyakashipu, tortured him and attempted his life because of his devotion and his speaking to others of divine matters, yet he remained steadfast.
Prajapati: Progenitor; the Creator; a title of Brahma the Creator.
Prakriti: Causal matter; the fundamental power (shakti) of God from which the entire cosmos is formed; the root base of all elements; undifferentiated matter; the material cause of the world. Also known as Pradhana. Prakriti can also mean the entire range of vibratory existence (energy).
Pralaya: Dissolution. See Mahapralaya.
Prana: Life; vital energy; life-breath; life-force; inhalation. In the human body the prana is divided into five forms: 1) Prana, the prana that moves upward; 2) Apana: The prana that moves downward, producing the excretory functions in general. 3) Vyana: The prana that holds prana and apana together and produces circulation in the body. 4) Samana: The prana that carries the grosser material of food to the apana and brings the subtler material to each limb; the general force of digestion. 5) Udana: The prana which brings up or carries down what has been drunk or eaten; the general force of assimilation.
Preta: Ghost; spirit of the dead.
Purusha: “Person” in the sense of a conscious spirit. Both God and the individual spirits are purushas, but God is the Adi (Original, Archetypal) Purusha, Parama (Highest) Purusha, and the Purushottama (Highest or Best of the Purushas).
Purushottama: The Supreme Person; Supreme Purusha; the Lord of the universe. (See Purusha.)
Raga: Blind love; attraction; attachment that binds the soul to the universe. Attachment/affinity for something, implying a desire for it. This can be emotional (instinctual) or intellectual. It may range from simple liking or preference to intense desire and attraction. Greed; passion. See Dwesha.
Rajas: Activity, passion, desire for an object or goal.
Rajasic: Possessed of the qualities of the raja guna (rajas). Passionate; active; restless.
Rajoguna: Activity, passion, desire for an object or goal.
Rakshasa: There are two kinds of rakshasas: 1) semidivine, benevolent beings, or 2) cannibal demons or goblins, enemies of the gods. Meat-eating human beings are sometimes classed as rakshasas.
Rama: An incarnation of God–the king of ancient Ayodhya in north-central India. His life is recorded in the ancient epic Ramayana.
Rishi: Sage; seer of the Truth.
Rita(m): Truth; Law; Right; Order. The natural order of things, or Cosmic Order/Law. Its root is ri, which means “to rise, to tend upward.” It is said to be the basis for the Law of Karma.
Rudras: “Roarers;” Vedic deities of destruction for renewal, the chief of which is Shiva; storm gods.
Sadhyas: A group of celestial beings with exquisitely refined natures thought to inhabit the ether.
Sama Veda: A collection of Rig Veda hymns that are marked (pointed) for singing. It is sometimes spoken of as the “essence” of the Rig Veda.
Samsara: Life through repeated births and deaths; the wheel of birth and death; the process of earthly life.
Sankalpa: A life-changing wish, desire, volition, resolution, will, determination, or intention–not a mere momentary aspiration, but an empowering act of will that persists until the intention is fully realized. It is an act of spiritual, divine creative will inherent in each person as a power of the Atma.
Sankhya: One of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy whose originator was the sage Kapila, Sankhya is the original Vedic philosophy, endorsed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (Gita 2:39; 3:3,5; 18:13,19), the second chapter of which is entitled “Sankhya Yoga.” A Ramakrishna-Vedanta Wordbook says: “Sankhya postulates two ultimate realities, Purusha and Prakriti. Declaring that the cause of suffering is man’s identification of Purusha with Prakriti and its products, Sankhya teaches that liberation and true knowledge are attained in the supreme consciousness, where such identification ceases and Purusha is realized as existing independently in its transcendental nature.” Not surprisingly, then, Yoga is based on the Sankhya philosophy.
Sannyas(a): Renunciation; monastic life. Sannyasa literally means “total [san] throwing away [as],” absolute rejection.
Sannyasi(n): A renunciate; a monk.
Sapta Rishis: “Seven Sages.” Great Beings who exist at the top of creation and supervise it.
Sarva(m): All; everything; complete.
Sattwa: Light; purity; harmony, goodness, reality.
Sattwa Guna: Quality of light, purity, harmony, and goodness.
Sattwic: Partaking of the quality of Sattwa.
Shankara: “The Auspicious One.” A title of Shiva.
Shudra: A member of the laborer, servant caste.
Siddha: A perfected–liberated–being, an adept, a seer, a perfect yogi.
Skanda: Subramanya; the god of war and son of Shiva and Parvati; Skanda.
Soma: A milkweed, Ascelpias acida, whose juice in Vedic times was made into a beverage and offered in sacrifices; the nectar of immorality; a name of Chandra, the presiding deity of the moon.
Sudarshana Chakra: The invincible weapon of Lord Vishnu which is able to cut through anything, and is a symbol of the Lord’s power of cutting through all things which bind the jiva to samsara. Thus it is the divine power of liberation (moksha).
Swabhava: One’s own inherent disposition, nature, or potentiality; inherent state of mind; state of inner being.
Swadharma: One’s own natural (innate) duty (dharma, based on their karma and samskara. One’s own prescribed duty in life according to the eternal law (ritam).
Swakarma: Action, duty, business or occupation determined by (according to) one’s own innate nature.
Tamas: Dullness, darkness, inertia, folly, and ignorance.
Tamasic: Possessed of the qualities of the tamo guna (tamas). Ignorant; dull; inert; and dark.
Tapasya: Austerity; practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline; spiritual force. Literally it means the generation of heat or energy, but is always used in a symbolic manner, referring to spiritual practice and its effect, especially the roasting of karmic seeds, the burning up of karma.
Tyaga: Literally: “abandonment.” Renunciation–in the Gita, the relinquishment of the fruit of action.
Tyagi: A renouncer, an ascetic.
Uchchaishravas: The name of Indra’s horse (or the horse of the Sun god, Surya), that was born of the amrita that was churned from the ocean by the gods. The name means “high-sounding” and refers to the power of mantra.
Uchchishta[m]: The remnants of food eaten by others, the actual leavings from someone’s plate, considered extremely unclean physically and psychically. (This does not apply to food left in a serving dish or cooking vessel unless someone ate from it rather than serving it on their own dish.)
Ushanas: An ancient seer and poet.
Ushmapas: A class of ancestors (pitris) which live off subtle emanations or vapors.
Vairagya: Non-attachment; detachment; dispassion; absence of desire; disinterest; or indifference. Indifference towards and disgust for all worldly things and enjoyments.
Vaishya: A member of the merchant, farmer, artisan, businessman caste.
Varna: Caste. (Literally: color.) In traditional Hindu society there were four divisions or castes according to the individual’s nature and aptitude: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra.
Varuna: A Vedic deity considered the sustainer of the universe and also the presiding deity of the oceans and water. Often identified with the conscience.
Vasava: A name of Indra.
Vasudeva: “He who dwells in all things”–the Universal God.
Vasuki: The king of the serpents. He assisted at the churning of the milk ocean.
Vasus: Eight Vedic deities characterized by radiance.
Vayu: The Vedic god of the wind; air; vital breath; Prana.
Vedas: The oldest scriptures of India, considered the oldest scriptures of the world, that were revealed in meditation to the Vedic Rishis (seers). Although in modern times there are said to be four Vedas (Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva), in the upanishads only three are listed (Rig, Sama, and Yajur). In actuality, there is only one Veda: the Rig Veda. The Sama Veda is only a collection of Rig Veda hymns that are marked (pointed) for singing. The Yajur Veda is a small book giving directions on just one form of Vedic sacrifice. The Atharva Veda is only a collection of theurgical mantras to be recited for the cure of various afflictions or to be recited over the herbs to be taken as medicine for those afflictions.
Vedic: Having to do with the Vedas.
Vijnana: The highest knowledge, beyond mere theoretical knowledge (jnana); transcendental knowledge or knowing; experiential knowledge; a high state of spiritual realization–intimate knowledge of God in which all is seen as manifestations of Brahman; knowledge of the Self.
Vishnu: “The all-pervading;” God as the Preserver.
Vishuddha: Supremely pure; totally pure.
Vishwa devas: A group of twelve minor Vedic deities.
Vrishnis: The clan to which Krishna belonged.
Vyasa: One of the greatest sages of India, commentator on the Yoga Sutras, author of the Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita), the Brahma Sutras, and the codifier of the Vedas.
Yadava: “Descendant of Yadu” an ancient Indian king; the Yadavas, a clan of India, were descended from King Yadu; a title of Krishna, since he was part of the Yadava clan. Swami Bhaktivedanta, founder of the Hare Krishna movement in the West, as well as some anthropologists, believed that the Yadava clan, who disappeared from India shortly after Krishna’s lifetime, emigrated to the middle east and became the people we know today as the Jews, Abraham having been a Yadava.
Yajna: Sacrifice; offering; sacrificial ceremony; a ritual sacrifice; usually the fire sacrifice known as agnihotra or havan.
Yaksha: There are two kinds of yakshas: 1) semidivine beings whose king is Kubera, the lord of wealth, or 2) a kind of ghost, goblin, or demon.
Yama: Yamaraja; the Lord of Death, controller of who dies and what happens to them after death.
Yoga: Literally, “joining” or “union” from the Sanskrit root yuj. Union with the Supreme Being, or any practice that makes for such union. Meditation that unites the individual spirit with God, the Supreme Spirit. The name of the philosophy expounded by the sage Patanjali, teaching the process of union of the individual with the Universal Soul.
Yogamaya: The power of Maya, of divine illusion. It is Maya in operation, the operation/movement rising from the presence (union–yoga) of God (Ishwara) within it, and therefore possessing delusive power.
Yogeshwara: Lord of Yoga; a name of Lord Krishna.
Yogi(n): One who practices Yoga; one who strives earnestly for union with God; an aspirant going through any course of spiritual discipline.
Yuga: Age or cycle; aeon; world era. Hindus believe that there are four yugas: the Golden Age (Satya or Krita Yuga), the Silver age (Treta Yuga), The Bronze Age (Dwapara Yuga), and the Iron Age (Kali Yuga). Satya Yuga is four times as long as the Kali Yuga; Treta Yuga is three times as long; and Dwapara Yuga is twice as long. In the Satya Yuga the majority of humans use the total potential–four-fourths–of their minds; in the Treta Yuga, three-fourths; in the Dwapara Yuga, one half; and in the Kali Yuga, one fourth. (In each Yuga there are those who are using either more or less of their minds than the general populace.) The Yugas move in a perpetual circle: Ascending Kali Yuga, ascending Dwapara Yuga, ascending Treta Yuga, ascending Satya Yuga, descending Satya Yuga, descending, Treta Yuga, descending Dwapara Yuga, and descending Kali Yuga–over and over. Furthermore, there are yuga cycles within yuga cycles. For example, there are yuga cycles that affect the entire cosmos, and smaller yuga cycles within those greater cycles that affect a solar system. The cosmic yuga cycle takes 8,640,000,000 years, whereas the solar yuga cycle only takes 24,000 years. At the present time our solar system is in the ascending Dwapara Yuga, but the cosmos is in the descending Kali Yuga. Consequently, the more the general mind of humanity develops, the more folly and evil it becomes able to accomplish.