Achara: Right conduct; good behavior; custom; practice; external observance of established rules and laws; teaching.
Ahimsa: Non-injury in thought, word, and deed; non-violence; non-killing; harmlessness.
Akhanda: Unbroken (literally: “not broken”); indivisible; undivided; whole.
Amrita: That which makes one immortal. The nectar of immortality that emerged from the ocean of milk when the gods churned it.
Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness; freedom from covetousness; non-receiving of gifts conducive to luxury.
Apsara: A celestial damsel, nymph, and dancer.
Asambhava: Total inapplicability; impossibility.
Ashanti: Absence of peace of mind; restlessness; distraction.
Ashram(a): A place for spiritual discipline and study, usually a monastic residence. Also a stage of life. In Hinduism life is divided ideally into four stages (ashramas): 1) the celibate student life (brahmacharya); 2) the married household life (grihasta); 3) the life of retirement (seclusion) and contemplation (vanaprastha); 4) the life of total renunciation (sannyasa).
Asteya: Non-stealing; honesty; non-misappropriativeness.
Asura: Demon; evil being (a-sura: without the light).
Atma(n): The individual spirit or Self that is one with Brahman. The true nature or identity.
Atma-drishti: The seeing or sight of the Self (atma); the vision of the Self; knowledge of the Self through direct vision or knowing; the vision of seeing everything as the Self.
Atmajnana: Direct knowledge of the Self; Brahma-Jnana.
Atmic: Having to do with the atma–spirit or self.
Avidya: Ignorance; nescience; unknowing; literally: “to know not.” A Sakti or illusive power in Brahman which is sometimes regarded as one with Maya and sometimes as different from it. It forms the condition of the individual soul and is otherwise called Ajnana or Asuddha-maya. It forms the Karana Sarira of the Jiva. It is Malina or impure Sattwa. Also called ajnana.
Ayurveda: “Life-knowledge.” The ancient system of Indian medicine formulated by the sage Dhanvantari and considered part of the Vedic revelation.
Bala brahmacharya: Brahmacharya observed from childhood (bala).
Bhava: Subjective state of being (existence); attitude of mind; mental attitude or feeling; state of realization in the heart or mind.
Bhranti: Delusion; wrong notion; false idea or impression.
Bhuma: The unconditioned Infinite; Brahman.
Brahmachari(n): One who observes continence; a celibate student in the first stage of life (ashrama); a junior monk.
Brahmacharini: Female “brahmachari.”
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.
Brahmabhavanam: Meditation on Brahman; feeling of identity with Brahman, as well as of everything as Brahman.
Brahmachintana: Constant meditation on Brahman; constant thought of or awareness of God.
Brahmanishtha: Remaining steadfast in the Absolute (Brahman). One who is firmly established in the Supreme being, in the direct knowledge of Brahman, the Absolute Reality.
Brahmatejas: The effulgent splendor of Brahman.
Brahmavadin: Literally “one who walks the path of Brahman.” One who advocates that there is one existence alone–Parabrahman.
Brahmic: Divine; pertaining to God (Brahman).
Buddhi: Intellect; intelligence; understanding; reason; the thinking mind; the higher mind, which is the seat of wisdom; the discriminating faculty.
Chakshuh: Eye; the visual sense or faculty; the subtle organ of sight; sense of seeing.
Chamatkara: Remarkable traits and abilities; cleverness; shining forth with divine glory.
Charu: A preparation of boiled rice, milk, sugar and ghee, to be offered into the fire for gods; a sattvic dietary regimen usually taken by yoga-practitioners and celibates. Havishya.
Charvaka: The Indian materialistic school, also known as Lokayata (“restricted to the world of common experience”). Its central teaching is that matter is the only reality, and sense perception is the only valid means of knowledge or proof. Therefore sense satisfaction is the only goal.
Chitta: The subtle energy that is the substance of the mind, and therefore the mind itself; mind in all its aspects; the field of the mind; the field of consciousness; consciousness itself; the subconscious mind.
Dama: Self-control; control of the senses; restraint.
Dattatreya: A famous sage, son of the Rishi Atri and Anasuya. His birth was a divine boon, hence his name: Datta–“given”–and atreya–“son of Atri.” Considered a divine incarnation and known as the Lord of Avadhutas, he is often revered as the embodiment of the Supreme Guru. He is credited with the authorship of the Avadhuta Gita, the Jivanmukti Gita, and the Tripura Rahashya.
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.
Devi: Goddess; the Supreme Shakti (Divine Power) or Divine Mother, or a demigoddess.
Dhanvantari: The great rishi who first revealed the principles of Ayurveda to his students.
Dharana: Concentration of mind; fixing the mind upon a single thing or point. “Dharana is the confining [fixing] of the mind within a point or area” (Yoga Sutras 3:1).
Dharma: The righteous way of living, as enjoined by the sacred scriptures and the spiritually illumined; characteristics; law; lawfulness; virtue; righteousness; norm.
Dhatu: Element; original element; core; constituent; the vital force in the human being by conserving which, through celibacy, the yogi develops ojas and tejas.
Dhriti: Steadfast; constant; sustaining effort; firm; patient; endurant.
Dhyana(m): Meditation; contemplation.
Dhyeya: Object of meditation or worship; purpose behind action.
Drishti: Seeing; sight; vision; view; opinion; gaze; perception.
Gandharva: A demigod–a celestial musician and singer.
Ghee: Clarified butter.
Grihastha: A married “householder;” the second stage (ashrama) in life.
Havishya: Sacrificial food. See Charu.
Indriya: Organ. The five organs of perception (jnanendriyas) are the ear, skin, eye, tongue, and nose. The five organs of action (karmendriyas) are the voice, hand, foot, organ of excretion, and the organ of generation.
Jagrat: The waking state.
Japa: Repetition of a mantra.
Jiva: Individual spirit.
Jivanmukta: One who is liberated here and now in this present life.
Jivanmukti: Liberation in this life.
Jivatma(n): Individual spirit; individual consciousness.
Jnana: Knowledge; knowledge of Reality–of Brahman, the Absolute; also denotes the process of reasoning by which the Ultimate Truth is attained. The word is generally used to denote the knowledge by which one is aware of one’s identity with Brahman.
Jnani: A follower of the path of knowledge (jnana); one who has realized–who knows–the Truth (Brahman).
Kala: Time measure, as in the time required to recite a mantra. It also sometimes means levels of creation or manifested beings.
Kalpana: Imagination of the mind; the association of name and permanence to objects; presumptive knowledge; assumption; creation.
Kalpita: Imaginary; created (artificial, unreal); dreamt.
Kalpita bheda: Imaginary difference.
Kama: Desire; passion; lust.
Kauravas: The opponents of the Pandavas in the Mahabharata War, led by Duryodhana.
Kaya: Physical body.
Kosha: Sheath; bag; scabbard; a sheath enclosing the soul; body. There are five such concentric sheaths or bodies: the sheaths of bliss, intellect, mind, life-force and the physical body–the anandamaya, jnanamaya, manomaya, pranamaya and annamaya bodies respectively.
Kriya: Purificatory action, practice, exercise, or rite; action; activity; movement; function; skill. Kriyas purify the body and nervous system as well as the subtle bodies to enable the yogi to reach and hold on to higher levels of consciousness and being.
Kutir(a): Hut; cottage; house; building; hermitage.
Lakshya: Perceivable object; object or point of concentration-attention; target; vision.
Lila: Play; sport; divine play; the cosmic play. The concept that creation is a play of the divine, existing for no other reason than for the mere joy of it. The life of an avatar is often spoken of as lila.
Lokasangraha: Solidarity of the world; uplift of the world.
Mahatma: Literally: “a great soul [atma].” Usually a designation for a sannyasi, sage or saint.
Mahavakya: Literally: “Great Saying.” The highest Vedantic truth, found in the Upanishads expressing the highest Vedantic truths or the identity between the indidual soul and the Supreme Soul. There are four Mahavakyas: 1) Prajñanam Brahma–“Consciousness is Brahman” (Aitareya Upanishad 3.3); 2) Ayam Atma Brahma–“This Self is Brahman” (Mandukya Upanishad 1.2); 3) Tat Twam Asi–“Thou art That” (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7); 4) Aham Brahmasmi–“I am Brahman” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10).
Maithuna(m): Sexual intercourse.
Malina: Impure; defective.
Mantra(m): Sacred syllable or word or set of words through the repetition and reflection of which one attains perfection or realization of the Self. Literally, “a transforming thought” (manat trayate). A mantra, then is a sound formula that transforms the consciousness.
Mara: The embodiment of the power of cosmic evil, illusion, and delusion; Satan.
Mauna(m): Silence–not speaking.
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).
Mitahara: Moderate diet.
Moha: Delusion–in relation to something, usually producing delusive attachment or infatuation based on a completely false perception and evaluation of the object.
Moksha: Release; liberation; the term is particularly applied to the liberation from the bondage of karma and the wheel of birth and death; Absolute Experience.
Mumukshu: Seeker after liberation (moksha).
Mumukshutwa: Intense desire or yearning for liberation (moksha).
Naishthika brahmachari: One who has taken the vow of life-long celibacy; a permanent brahmachari.
Nijananda: The bliss beyond sense perception.
Nirmala: Without impurity; pure; without defect or blemish.
Nirvikalpa samadhi: Samadhi in which there is no objective experience or experience of “qualities” whatsoever, and in which the triad of knower, knowledge and known does not exist; purely subjective experience of the formless and qualitiless and unconditioned Absolute. The highest state of samadhi, beyond all thought, attribute, and description.
Nirvikara: Without transformation, modifications, or change; changeless.
Nitya: Eternal; permanent; unchanging; the ultimate Reality; the eternal Absolute. Secondarily: daily or obligatory (nitya karma–that which must be done every day).
Nityashuddha: Eternally pure.
Nivritti: Negation; the path of turning away from worldly activity; withdrawal. Literally, “to turn back.” The path of renunciation.
Nivritti Marga: The path of renunciation or sannyasa, of withdrawal from the world.
Niyama: Observance; the five Do’s of Yoga: 1) shaucha–purity, cleanliness; 2) santosha–contentment, peacefulness; 3) tapas–austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline; 4) swadhyaya–self-study, spiritual study; 5) Ishwarapranidhana–offering of one’s life to God.
Ojas: Vitality; vigor; luster; splendor; energy; spiritual energy. The highest form of energy in the human body. In the spiritual aspirant who constantly practices continence and purity, other forms of energy are transmuted into ojas and stored in the brain, manifesting as spiritual and intellectual power.
Pandavas: The five sons of King Pandu: Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. Their lives are described in the Mahabharata.
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.
Pranamaya kosha: “The sheath of vital air (prana).” The sheath consisting of vital forces and the (psychic) nervous system, including the karmendriyas.
Pratipaksha bhavana(m): The method of substituting the opposite through imagination; thus, fear is overcome by dwelling strongly upon its opposite, viz., courage. Reflecting on and cultivating those traits which are opposed to spiritual obstructions.
Prayaschitta: Atonement (through various prescribed acts); expiation; mortification.
Raga-dwesha: The continual cycle of attraction and repulsion; like and dislike; love and hatred.
Prayascitta karma: Expiatory action; bodily mortification; penance.
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) semi-divine, benevolent beings, or 2) cannibal demons or goblins, enemies of the gods. Meat-eating human beings are sometimes classed as rakshasas.
Rasa: Taste; essence; savor; juice; nectar of delight.
Riddhi: Highest experiential delight; nine varieties of extraordinary exaltation and grandeur that come to a yogi as he advances and progresses in Yoga, like the supernatural powers or siddhis. Increase; growth; prosperity; success; wealth.
Rishi: Sage; seer of the Truth.
Sadachara: Morality; right behavior.
Sadhaka: One who practices spiritual discipline–sadhana–particularly meditation.
Sadhana: Spiritual practice.
Saguna: Possessing attributes or qualities (gunas).
Saguna Brahman: Brahman with attributes, such as mercy, omnipotence, omniscience, etc.; the Absolute conceived as the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of the universe; also the Personal God according to the Vedanta.
Sama: Calmness; tranquillity; control of the internal sense organs; control of mind; calmness of mind; the state in which the mind is kept in the heart and not allowed to externalize; it is the constant eradication of the mental tendencies, according to the Aparoksha Anubhuti of Shankara; same; equal.
Samadhi: The state of superconsciousness where Absoluteness is experienced attended with all-knowledge and joy; Oneness; here the mind becomes identified with the object of meditation; the meditator and the meditated, thinker and thought become one in perfect absorption of the mind.
Sambandha: Relationship; connection.
Samsara: Life through repeated births and deaths; the wheel of birth and death; the process of earthly life.
Samsaric: Having to do with samsara; involved with samsara; partaking of the traits or qualities of samsara.
Samskara: Impression in the mind, either conscious or subconscious, produced by action or experience in this or previous lives; propensities of the mental residue of impressions; subliminal activators; prenatal tendency. See Vasana.
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.
Sannyas(a): Renunciation; monastic life. Sannyasa literally means “total [san] throwing away [as],” absolute rejection.
Sannyasi(n): A renunciate; a monk.
Satchidananda: Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute; Brahman.
Satsang(a): Literally: “company with Truth.” Association with godly-minded persons. The company of saints and devotees.
Sattwa: Light; purity; harmony, goodness, reality.
Sattwa Guna: Quality of light, purity, harmony, and goodness.
Sattwic: Partaking of the quality of Sattwa.
Satya(m): Truth; the Real; Brahman, or the Absolute; truthfulness; honesty.
Shakti: Power; energy; force; the Divine Power of becoming; the apparent dynamic aspect of Eternal Being; the Absolute Power or Cosmic Energy; the Divine Feminine.
Shanti: Peace; calm; tranquility; contentment.
Shastra: Scripture; spiritual treatise.
Shreyas: Good; blessedness; Moksha.
Shruti: That which is heard; revealed scripture in the sense of divine communication. Usually applied to the Vedas, Shankara also spoke of the Upanishads as Shruti.
Siddhi: Spiritual perfection; psychic power; power; modes of success; attainment; accomplishment; achievement; mastery; supernatural power attained through mantra, meditation, or other yogic practices. From the verb root sidh–to attain.
Srishti: Creation; projection or gradual unfoldment of what exists potentially in the cause; evolution of the universe from its seed state.
Shuddha: Pure; clear; clean; untainted.
Smriti: Memory; recollection; “that which is remembered;” code of law. In this latter sense, Smriti is used to designate all scriptures except the Vedas and Upanishads (which are considered of greater authority: shruti).
Sruti: See Shruti.
Sukha(m): Happiness; ease; joy; happy; pleasure; pleasant; agreeable.
Sukhadeva: The son of Vyasa who was liberated before coming into incarnation. He is considered a supreme renunciate, a perfect avadhuta.
Swarupa: “Form of the Self.” Natural–true–form; actual or essential nature; essence. A revelatory appearance that makes clear the true nature of some thing.
Tanmatras: The pure elements; the subtle essence of the five elements, elemental essence.
Tapas: See tapasya.
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.
Tattwa: “Thatness.” Principle; element; the essence of things; truth; reality.
Tejas: Radiance; brilliancy (especially spiritual); the element of fire; Agni; heat.
Titiksha: Endurance of opposites; forbearance; tolerance; the ability to withstand opposites like pleasure and pain, heat and cold, etc., with equal fortitude; the bearing of all afflictions without caring to change them and without anxiety or lament.
Tyaga: Literally: “abandonment.” Renunciation–in the Gita, the relinquishment of the fruit of action.
Tyagi: A renouncer, an ascetic.
Upasana: “Sitting near” or “drawing near;” worship; adoration; contemplation of God or deity; devout meditation; both teaching and learning.
Urdhvareta yogi: A yogi in whom the seminal energy flows upwards.
Urdhvaretas: The state of being an urdhvareta yogi; one who is an urdhvareta yogi.
Vairagi: A renunciate.
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.
Varnashrama: Related to the four castes and the four stages (ashramas) of Hindu life; the laws of caste and ashrama.
Varnashram dharma: The observance of caste and ashram.
Vasana: Subtle desire; a tendency created in a person by the doing of an action or by experience; it induces the person to repeat the action or to seek a repetition of the experience; the subtle impression in the mind capable of developing itself into action; it is the cause of birth and experience in general; the impression of actions that remains unconsciously in the mind.
Vasana(s): A bundle or aggregate of such samskaras.
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.
Vega: Motion; velocity; force; inertia.
Vibhuti: Manifestations of divine power or glory; the special forms in which the Lord reveals himself; might; prosperity; welfare; splendor; exalted rank; greatness; miraculous powers; superhuman power resembling that of God (Ishwara). The quality of all-pervasiveness (omnipresence). Also sacred ash from a fire sacrifice.
Vichara: Subtle thought; reflection; enquiry; introspection; investigation; enquiry/investigation into the nature of the Self, Brahman or Truth; ever-present reflection on the why and wherefore of things; enquiry into the real meaning of the Mahavakya Tat-twam-asi: Thou art That; discrimination between the Real and the unreal; enquiry of Self.
Vicharashakti: Power of enquiry.
Vikara: Change, change of form, or modification–generally with reference to the modification of the mind, individually or cosmically.; gluiness; manifestation.
Vimala: Purity; unblemished; without stain or defect.
Virochana: King of the demons (asuras). According to the Chandogya Upanishad, along with Indra he went to the Creator to learn the nature of the Self. Misunderstanding the teaching: “Virochana, satisfied for his part that he had found out the Self, returned to the demons and began to teach them that the body alone is to be worshiped, that the body alone is to be served, and that he who worships the body and serves the body gains both worlds, this and the next.”
Virya: Strength; power; energy; courage; seminal energy.
Vishaya: Object; object of perception (sensory experience) or enjoyment; subject matter; content; areas; range; field-object domain; sphere; realm, scope; matters of enjoyment or experience.
Vishuddha: Supremely pure; totally pure.
Viveka: Discrimination between the Real and the unreal, between the Self and the non-Self, between the permanent and the impermanent; right intuitive discrimination.
Viveki(n): One who possesses discrimination (viveka).
Vrata: Vow; a resolution; rule of conduct.
Vritti: Thought-wave; mental modification; mental whirlpool; a ripple in the chitta (mind substance).
Yama: Restraint; the five Don’ts of Yoga: 1) ahimsa–non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness; 2) satya–truthfulness, honesty; 3) asteya–non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness; 4) brahmacharya–continence; 5) aparigraha–non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness. These five are called the Great Vow (Observance, Mahavrata) in the Yoga Sutras.
Yogabhrashta: One who has fallen from the high state of Yoga.
Yogi(n): One who practices Yoga; one who strives earnestly for union with God; an aspirant going through any course of spiritual discipline.
Chapters for Practice of Brahmacharya
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