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Twelve Key Concepts in Yoga

Key Concepts in Yoga

A clear understanding of the important concepts regarding yoga meditation is important to all yoga practitioners. The Sanskrit language is rich in concise terminology about the philosophy and psychology of yoga, and the Atma Jyoti Website has compiled a useful collection of these terms in A Brief Sanskrit Glossary. Many of the terms used in the teachings of Swami Sivananda, Paramahansa Nityananda, Adi Shankaracharya, and others on this site can be found in the Glossary. Below are some of the key concepts found in these and other writings on yoga:

  • 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.

  • 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 kinds of karma: 1) sanchita karma, which is all the accumulated actions of all previous births. 2) Prarabdha karma, the particular portion of such karma allowed for being worked out in the present life. 3) Agami karma, the current karma being freshly performed by the individual.

  • Dharma:

The righteous way of living, as enjoined by the sacred scriptures and the spiritually illumined; characteristics; virtue.

  • Swadharma:

One’s own natural (innate) duty (dharma), based on their karma and samskara (see below). One’s own prescribed duty in life according to the eternal law.

  • Manah [Manas(a)]:

The sensory mind; the perceiving faculty that receives the messages of the senses.

  • Buddhi:

Intellect; understanding; reason; intelligence; the thinking mind. Derived from the root verb budh: to enlighten, to know.

  • Samskara:

Impression in the mind produced by previous action or experience; prenatal tendency. See Vasana below.

  • Vasana:

A bundle or aggregate of similar samskaras. Subtle desire; a tendency created in a person by the doing of an action or by enjoyment; it induces the person to repeat the action or to seek a repetition of the enjoyment; 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.

  • Kriya:

Purificatory action, practice, exercise, or rite; 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.

  • Viveka:

Discrimination between the Real and the unreal, between the Self and the non-Self, between the permanent and the impermanent; right intuitive discrimination; ever-present discrimination between the transient and the permanent.

  • Vairagya:

Non-attachment, detachment, dispassion, absence of desire, or indifference. Indifference towards and distaste for all worldly things and enjoyments.

  • Sannyasa:

Renunciation; monastic life.

These are just a few of the terms which will be found on the writings on this site. These are simple definitions, and if you wish to read fuller explanations relating to these concepts, use the search field above to find articles and writings elucidating these ideas.

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