Theosophical Society, Cardiff Lodge

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H P Blavatsky



Sanskrit Glossary


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     Abhedananda, Swami: A direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who

spent many years travelling and teaching Vedanta and Yoga in America.

Abhyasa: Sustained spiritual practice.

Adi Purusha: The First or Original Purusha.

Adityas: Solar deities, the greatest of which is Vishnu.

Advaita: Non-duality; literally: “not two.”

Agni: Vedic god of fire.

Ahankara: Egoism or self-conceit; the self-arrogating principle “I,” “I” am-ness; self-consciousness.  Ahimsa: Non-injury in thought, word, and deed; non-violence; harmlessness.

Airavata: The white elephant of Indra that was produced by the churning of the ocean.

Akasha: Ether.

Akshara: Syllable; imperishable Brahman; that which never perishes or decays.

Amrita: That which makes one immortal. The nectar of immortality that emerged from the ocean of milk when the gods churned it.

Anahata: The heart center (chakra); the bell-like sound emanating from the heart center; “the unstruck (Word)”-usually in reference to Om.

Ananda: Bliss; happiness; joy.  Anandamayi Ma: One of the major spiritual figures in twentieth-century India, first made known to the West by Paramhansa Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi.  Ananta: The chief of the Nagas, whose coils encircle the earth and who symbolizes eternity (“ananta” means “without end”), and upon whom Vishnu reclines.  Antahkarana: Internal instrument; fourfold mind; mind, intellect, ego and subconscious mind.  Anuswara: Bindu.

Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness Arani: Sacrificial wood stick for creating fire through friction.

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.” Asamprajńata samadhi: Highest superconscious state where the mind and the ego-sense are completely annihilated.  Asana: Posture; seat.

Ashtanga Yoga: The “eight-limbed” Yoga of Patanjali consisting of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi (see separate entries for each “limb”).  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.

Asmita: I-ness; the sense of “I am;” “I exist.”

Asteya: Non-stealing; honesty; non-misappropriativeness.

Asura: Demon; evil being (a-sura: without the light).

Aswara: Without sound, accent, or tone.  Ashwattha: The pipal (sacred fig) tree, 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.  Atma(n): The individual spirit or self.

Atma vichara: Enquiry into the Self.

Atmic: Having to do with the atma-spirit or self.  Aurobindo Ghosh, Sri: One of India’s greatest yogis and spiritual writers, he was at first involved in the Indian freedom movement, but came to see that yoga was the true path to freedom. His ashram in South India became one of the major spiritual centers in modern India, and his voluminous spiritual writings are read and prized throughout the world.  Avatar: A Divine Incarnation.  Ayurveda: The ancient system of Indian medicine formulated by the sage Dhanvantari and considered part of the Vedic revelation.

Bhagavad Gita: “The Song of God.” The sacred philosophical text often called “the Hindu Bible,” part of the epic

Mahabharata by Vyasa; the most popular sacred text in Hinduism.

Bhagavan: The Lord; the Personal God.

Bhakta: Devotee; votary.

Bhakti: Devotion; love (of God).  Bhakti Yoga: The yoga of attaining union with God through the prescribed spiritual discipline of the path of devotion.  Bhakti Yogi: One who practices Bhakti Yoga.  Bhaktivedanta (Swami): The founder of the Hari Krishna movement in America.

Bhava: Subjective state of being (existence); attitude of mind; mental attitude or feeling; state of realization in the heart or mind.

Bhavanam: Meditation. “Bhavanam is setting the heart on the Lord Who is designated by Om and brought into the mind by It.” (Shankara, Commentary on the Yoga Sutras) Bhrigu: An ancient sage, so illustrious that he mediated quarrels among the gods.

Bija: Seed; source.

Bija Mantra: A “seed” mantra from which realization grows as a tree from a seed; usually a single-syllable mantra that is called “seed” because of its small size as a dot or point of sound.

Bindu: Point; dot; seed; source; the point from which the subtle Omkara arises that is experienced in meditation.  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.  Brahma Sutras: A treatise by Vyasa on Vedanta philosophy in the form of aphorisms. Also called the Vedanta Sutras or Vedanta Darshana.

Brahmacharya: Continence; self-restraint on all levels; discipline.

Brahmajyoti: The Light of God.  Brahmaloka: The world (loka) of God (Brahman); the infinite consciousness of God.

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: See Brahmin.

Brahmarandhra: “The hole of Brahman,” the subtle (astral) aperture in the crown of the head. Said to be the gateway to the Absolute (Brahman) in the thousand-petaled lotus (sahasrara) in the crown of the head. Liberated beings are said to exit the physical body through this aperture at death.  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.

Buddhi: Intellect; understanding; reason; the thinking mind.  Chakra: Wheel. Plexus; center of psychic energy in the human system, particularly in the spine or head.  Chaitanya: The consciousness that knows itself and knows others; absolute consciousness.  Chandra: Presiding deity of the moon or the astral lunar world (loka).

Chidakasha: Brahman in Its aspect as limitless knowledge; unbounded intelligence. This is a familiar concept of the Upanishads. It is not meant that the physical ether is consciousness. The Pure Consciousness (Cit) is like the ether (Akasha), an all-pervading continuum.  Chintana: Thinking; reflecting.

Chitraratha: The chief of the gandharvas.

Chitshakti: Power of consciousness or intelligence.

Chitta: The subtle energy that is the substance of the mind.  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).

Dakshinamurti: A name for Lord Shiva as the silent teacher.  Vedic Religion declares that in every cycle of creation God manifests as Dakshinamurti and becomes the guru of the first human beings-those who were most spiritually evolved in the previous creation-teaching them the path to liberation (moksha).

Damaru: A small, handheld drum with two heads that is sounded by twisting the wrist and causing a ball tied to its middle to rhythmically strike the heads alternately.  Darshan: Literally “sight” or “seeing.” Darshan is the seeing of a holy being as well as the blessing received by seeing such a one.

Dayananda (Maharishi Swami): A leading reformer within Hinduism in the nineteenth century and the founder of the Arya Samaj.

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.

Dharana: Concentration of mind; fixing the mind upon a single thing or point.

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

Dharma shastras: Scriptures which set forth the rules for society and individuals, including spiritual observances. Manu Smriti is the most authoritative-and the foundation-of all the dharmashastras of India.

Dhyana: Meditation; contemplation.  Dwesha: Aversion/avoidance for something, implying a dislike for that. This can be emotional (instinctual) or intellectual.It may range from simple nonpreference to intense repulsion, antipathy and even hatred. See Raga.  Ekakshara: A common term for Om meaning “the Single Syllable” or “the Single Letter.”

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.

Gaudapada: The guru of Shankara’s guru, Govindapada.  Gayatri Mantra: A Rig Vedic mantra in the gayatri meter invoking the solar powers of evolution and enlightenment.  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.

Gerua: The brownish orange mud used to dye the clothng of Hindu monastics; the color produced by dyeing with gerua.  Gita: The Bhagavad Gita.

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.

Hansa: Literally “swan,” for the swan can separate milk from water, and the realized soul can perceive the Real behind the unreal and separate the consciousness of spirit from consciousness of matter. Hansa also means “I am [aham] He [sa]” in the sense of conscious identity with God.  Hari: Vishnu.

Hiranyagarbha: Cosmic intelligence; the Supreme Lord of the universe; also called Brahman.  Indra: King of the lesser “gods” (demigods).

Isha: The Lord; Ishwara.

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.  Ishwarapranidhana: Offering of one’s life to God (Ishwara).

Japa: Repetition of a mantra.

Jiva: Individual spirit.

Jivanmukta: One who is liberated in this present life.

Jivanmukti: Liberation in this life.

Jivatma(n): Individual spirit. In Theosophy the Group Soul or Lifewave of the Human Kingdom

Jnana: Knowledge; wisdom of the Reality or Brahman, the Absolute.

Kabir: An Indian mystic of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Kaivalya: Transcendental state of Absolute Independence;

Moksha; isolation; final beatitude; emancipation.  Kala: Time measure, as in the time required to recite a mantra. It also sometimes means levels of creation or manifested beings.

Kalpa: A Day of Brahma-4,320,000,000 years. It alternates with a Night of Brahma of the same length. In the Day of Brahma creation is manifest and in the Night of Brahma is it resolved into its causal state. In Theosophy this is the length of one round of a chain of seven Earth Globes or Cosmic Eras.

Kamadhenu: Wishfulfilling cow produced at the churning of the milk ocean.

Kapila: The great sage who formulated the Sankhya philosophy which is endorsed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. (See the entry under Sankhya.)

Karma: The law of 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.  Karttikeya: See Subramanya.

Klesha: Literally, taints or afflictions. The kleshas are:

ignorance, egotism, attractions and repulsions towards objects, and desperate clinging to physical life from the fear of death. (See Yoga Sutras 2:2-9.) 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.  Krishna: A Divine Incarnation born in India about three thousand years ago, Whose teachings to His disciple Arjuna on the eve of the Great India (Mahabharata) War comprise the Bhagavad Gita.

Kubera: The god of wealth.

Kumbhaka: Retention of breath; suspension of breath.  Kumkum: Red-colored powder used for making a ritual mark between the eyebrows.

Kundalini: The primordial cosmic energy located in the individual; it is usually thought of as lying coiled up like a serpent at the base of the spine.  Lahiri Mahasaya: One of the greatest yogis of nineteenth-century India, written about extensively in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda.  Laya: Dissolution; merging.

Laya Yoga: Process of absorption of the individual soul into the Supreme Soul; concentration of the mind with a view to dissolve it; that kind of yogic meditation where the mind is carried on progressively from grosser to subtler ideas until it is dissolved in the Unmanifested or Para Brahman; the yoga sometimes known as Omkaralayacintana-the merging of the consciousness into Om.

Linga: Mark; gender; sign; symbol.  Loka: World or realm; sphere, level, or plane of existence, whether physical, astral, or causal.  Mahabharata: The world’s longest epic poem (110,00 verses) about the Mahabharata (Great Indian) War that took place about three thousand years ago. The Mahabharata also includes the Bhagavad Gita, the most popular sacred text of Hinduism.  Mahasamadhi: Literally “the great union [samadhi],” this refers to a realized yogi’s conscious departure from the physical body at death.

Mahashakti: The Great Power; the divine creative energy.  Mahat Tattwa: The Great Principle; the first product from Prakriti in evolution; intellect. The principle of Cosmic Intelligence or Buddhi; universal Christ Consciousness, the “Son of God,” the “Only Begotten of the Father,” “the firstborn of every creature.” Maheshwara: The Great Ishwara; Shiva.

Mahout: Trainer-handler of an elephant.

Manana: Thinking, pondering, reflecting, considering.  Manas: The sensory mind; the perceiving faculty that receives the messages of the senses.

Mantra: 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.  Mantric: Having to do with mantra(s)-their sound or their power.

Manu: The ancient lawgiver, whose code, The Laws of Manu (Manu Smriti) is the foundation of Hindu religious and social conduct.

Marichi: The chief of the Maruts.

Maruts: The presiding deities of winds and storms.

Math: A monastery.

Matra: Letters of the alphabet or their sounds.

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..

Mayic: Having to do with Maya.  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.  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.  Mridanga: A drum used exclusively in devotional music, also known as a khol.

Mukti: Moksha.

Mulaprakriti: The Root [Basic] Energy from which all things are formed. The Divine Prakriti or Energy of God.  Mumukshutwa: Intense desire or yearning for liberation (moksha).

Nada: Sound; mystic inner sound; the primal sound or first vibration from which all creation has emanated; the first manifestation of the unmanifested Absolute; Omkara or Shabda Brahman. The continuous sound of Om experienced in bhavanam.  Nadi: A channel in the subtle (astral) body through which subtle prana (psychic energy) flows; a physical nerve.  Nagas: Astral beings that often interact with human beings, usually taking the form of snakes. (In Sanskrit naga is the word for snake.)

Nanak (Guru): Founder of the Sikh religion in the fifteenth century.

Narada: A primeval sage to whom some of the verses of the Rig Veda are attributed.

Narayana: A proper name of God-specifically of Vishnu. The term by etymology means a Being that supports all things, that is reached by them and that helps them to do so; also one who pervades all things.

Nataraja: “King of the Dance,” a title of Shiva the Cosmic Dancer.The whole creation is is the dance of Shiva.  Neem Karoli Baba: One of India’s most amazing and mysterious spiritual figures. The life of this great miracle-worker and master spanned from two to four centuries (at the least), including most of the twentieth century.  Nidra: Sleep; either dreaming or deep sleep state.

Nirakara: Without form.

Nirguna: Without attributes or qualities (gunas).  Nirguna Brahman: The impersonal, attributeless Absolute beyond all description or designation.  Nirodha: Restraint; suppression; dissolving.  Nirvana: Liberation; final emancipation; the term is particularly applied to the liberation from the bondage of karma and the wheel of birth and death; Absolute Experience.  See Moksha.

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.

Nityananda (Avadhuta Paramhansa): A great Master of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the most renowned Pranava yogi of our times. His Nitya Sutras contain some of the most profound statements on the Pranava and Its application by the yogi.

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 Om: The Pranava or the sacred syllable symbolizing and embodying Brahman.

Omkara: Om.

Panchabhuta: The Five Elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth.

Parabrahman: Supreme Brahman.

Paramatma(n): The Supreme Self, God.

Parameshwara: The Supreme Lord.  Paramhansa: Literally: Supreme Swan, a person of the highest spiritual realization, from the fact that a swan can separate milk from water and is therefore an apt symbol for one who has discarded the unreal for the Real, the darkness for the Light, and mortality for the Immortal, having separated himself fully from all that is not God and joined himself totally to the Divine, becoming a veritable embodiment of Divinity manifested in humanity.

Parampurusha: The Supreme Spirit; Supreme Person.  Paranirvana (Pali: Paranibbana): The Supreme, Final Nirvana, when the perfectly enlightened individual is released from physical embodiment, never to return to birth in any world, high or low.

Patanjali: The author of the Yoga Sutras.

Pitri: A departed ancestor, a forefather.

Pradhana: Prakriti; causal matter.  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.

Prajna: Consciousness; awareness.  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.  Prakritilaya: Absorbed or merged in Prakriti; the state of yogis who have so identified with the cosmic energy that they are trapped in it as though in a net and cannot separate themselves from it and evolve onwards until the cosmic dissolution (pralaya) occurs in which the lower worlds of men, angels, and archangels (bhur, bhuwah and swar lokas) are dissolved.

Pralaya: Complete merging; dissolution when the cosmos merges into (I) its unseen immediate cause, viz., the unmanifested cosmic energy, or (2) the Ultimate Substratum of Absolute Reality.

Prana: Vital energy; life-breath; life-force.  Prana-pratishta: “Installation of life;” a ritual which is done to an image when it is set on the altar of a temple at its consecration. This ritual makes the image alive in a subtle-but no less real-sense.  Pranava: A title of Om. It means “Life-ness” or “Life-Giver.” It is the expression or controller of prana-the life force within the individual being and the cosmos. Since prana also means breath, the Pranava means the controller of breath or the Breath Word.

Pranayama: Control of the subtle life forces, often by means of special modes of breathing. Therefore breath control or breathing exercises are usually mistaken for pranayama.  Prasad(am): Food or any gift that has been first offered in worship or to a saint; that which is given by a saint; literally: “grace.”

Pratyahara: Abstraction or withdrawal of the senses from their objects, the fifth limb of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.  Puraka: Inhalation.

Purana: Literally “The Ancient.” The Puranas are a number of scriptures attributed to the sage Vyasa that teach spiritual principles and practices through stories about sacred historical personages which often include their teachings given in conversations.

Purana Purusha: The Ancient Person; God.  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 (Best of the Purushas).  Raga: Attachment/affinity for something, implying a desire for that. This can be emotional (instinctual) or intellectual. It may range from simple liking or preference to intense desire and attraction. See Dwesha.

Rajas: 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.

Rama Tirtha: One the key spiritual figures in late nineteenth and early twentieth century India. A former university professor of mathematics in the Punjab, Swami Rama Tirtha traveled throughout India and even to Japan and America, preaching the truths of Advaita Vedanta and vigorously teaching the practice of Pranava Yoga.  Ramakrishna: Sri Ramakrishna lived in India in the second half of the nineteenth century, and is regarded by all India as a perfectly enlightened person-and by many as an Incarnation of God.

Ramana Maharshi: A great sage of the twentieth century who lived in Arunachala in South India. He taught the path of Self-Inquiry (Atma Vichara) wherein the person simply turns his awareness within asking “Who am I?” until the self (atma) is revealed.

Ramanuja (Sri): The great Vaishnava teacherof the eleventh century who formulated the philosophy known as Vashistadvaita Vedanta (Qualified Non-Dualism).

Ramdas (Swami): One of the best-known and most influential spiritual figures of twentieth-century India, founder of Anandashram in South India and author of the spiritual classic In the Vision of God as well as many other inspirational books.

Rechaka: Exhalation of breath.

Rishi: Sage; seer of the Truth.

Rudra: Shiva.

Rudras: Vedic deities of destruction for renewal.  Rudraksha: “The Eye of Shiva;” a tree seed considered sacred to Shiva and worn by worshippers of Shiva, Shakti, and Ganeha, and by yogis, usually in a strand of 108 seeds. Also used as a rosary to count the number of mantras repeated in japa.

Sad-darshanas: The six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy:

Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, and Vedanta.

Sadguru: True guru, or the guru who reveals the Real (Sat-God).

Sadhaka: One who practices spiritual discipline-sadhana-particularly meditation.  Sadhana: Spiritual practice.

Sadhu: Seeker for truth (sat); and person who is practicing spiritual disciplines. Usually this term is applied only to monastics.

Sadhyas: A group of celestial beings with exquisitely refined natures thought to inhabit the ether.  Saguna: With attributes or qualities (gunas).  Sahasrara: The “thousand-petalled lotus” in the brain that corresponds to the pineal gland in the center of the head. The highest center of consciousness, the point at which the spirits (atma) and the bodies (koshas) are integrated and from which they are disengaged.

Sakara: With form.

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. See Samprajńata Samadhi, Asamprajńata Samadhi, Savikalpa Samadhi, and Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

Samprajńata samadhi: State of superconsciousness, with the triad of meditator, meditation and the meditated. Savikalpa samadhi.

Samsara: Life through repeated births and deaths; the wheel of birth and death; the process of earthly life.  Samskara: Impression in the mind produced by previous action or experience; prenatal tendency. See Vasana.  Sanatana Dharma: “The Eternal Religion,” also known as “Arya Dharma,” “the religion of those who strive upward [Aryas].” Sandhya: A ritual done at the “junctions” (sandhyas) of the day-dawn, noon, and sunset-during which the Savitri Gayatri is repeated.

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. Also, the second chapter of the Gita is entitled: Sankhya Yoga.) The 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.  Sanskrit: The language of the ancient sages of India and therefore of the Indian scriptures and yoga treatises.  Santosha: Contentment; peacefulness.

Sannyasa: Renunciation; monastic life.

Sannyasi: A renunciate; a monk.  Sarada Devi (“Holy Mother”): The virgin-wife of Sri Ramakrishna, and a great teacher in her own right, considered by many to be an incarnation of the Mother aspect of God.  Satchidananda: Existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute; Brahman.  Satsanga: Literally: “company with Truth.” Associaton with godly-minded persons. The company of saints and devotees.  Satya: Truth; the Real; Brahman, or the Absolute; truthfulness; honesty.

Sattwa: Light; purity; reality.

Sattwa Guna: Quality of light, purity, harmony, and goodness.  Savikalpa Samadhi: Samadhi in which there is objective experience or experience of “qualities” and with the triad of knower, knowledge and known.  Savitri Gayatri: A mantra of the Rig Veda which is recited for unfoldment of the intellectual powers leading to enlightenment.

Shabda: Sound; word; Vedas: Omkara.  Shabda Brahma: Word-God; Brahman in the Form of Sound; Omkara or the Veda.

Shakti: Power; energy; force; the Divine Power of becoming; the apparent dynamic aspect of Eternal Being; the Absolute Power or Cosmic Energy.

Shankara: Shankaracharya; Adi (the first) Shankaracharya: The great reformer and re-establisher of Vedic Religion in India around 300 B.C. He is the unparalleled exponent of Advaita (Non-Dual) Vedanta. He also reformed the mode of monastic life and founded (or regenerated) the ancient Swami Order.  Shalagrama: A stone found only in the Mandakini River in the region of Tibet, considered to be a manifestation of Vishnu and His avataras.

Shaucha: Purity; cleanliness.  

Shiva: A name of God meaning “One Who is all Bliss and the giver of happiness to all.” Although classically applied to the Absolute Brahman, Shiva can also refer to God (Ishwara) in His aspect of Dissolver and Liberator (often mistakenly thought of as “destroyer”).

Shraddha: Faith.

Shyama Charan Lahiri: See Lahiri Mahasaya.  Sivananda (Swami): A great twentieth-century Master, founder of the world-wide Divine Life Society, whose books on spiritual life and religion are widely circulated in the West as well as in India.

Siddha: A perfected being, an adept, a seer, a perfect yogi.

Siddhi: Perfection; psychic power.

Skanda: See Subramunya.

Smarana: Remembrance (of God).

Smriti: Memory.

Sphatika: Clear quartz crystal.  Sphota: The Sanskrit original of our English word “spot;” manifester; the idea which bursts or flashes-including the Pranava which burst or flashes forth from the Absolute and becomes transformed into the Relative.  Sri Vaishnava: A worshipper of Vishnu according to the philosophical school of Sri Ramanuja known as Vashistadvaita Vedanta (Qualified Non-Dualism).  Srimad Bhagavatam: One of the eighteen scriptures known as Puranas which are attributed to Vyasa.  Sruti: Sacred scripture.

Sthiti: Steadiness; condition or state; existence; being; subsistence; preservation.

Subramanya: The god of war and son of Shiva and Parvati.  Sushumna: A subtle passage in the midst of the body extending from the perineum to the crown of the head, the Brahmarandhra, through which subtle, awakened powers arise to produce higher awareness in the yogi.

Sushupti: The dreamless sleep state.  Sutra: An aphorism with minimum words and maximum sense; a terse sentence.

Swara: Sound; accent; tone.

Swadhyaya: Introspective self-study or self-analysis leading to self-understanding.

Swayambhu: Self-existent or self-generated.  Taimni, I. K.: A professor of chemistry in India. He wrote many excellent books on philosophy and spiritual practice, including The Science of Yoga, a commentary on the Yoga Sutras. For many years he was the spiritual head of the Esoteric Section of the Theosphical Society headquartered in Adyar, Madras (Tamilnadu), and traveled the world without publicity or notoriety, quietly instructing many sincere aspirants in the path to supreme consciousness.  Tamas: Dullness, inertia, folly, and ignorance.  Tantra: A manual of or a particular path of sadhana laying great stress upon japa of a mantra and other esoteric practices relating to the powers latent in the human complex of physical, astral, and causal bodies in relation to the cosmic Power usually thought as the Divine Feminine.  Tantric: Pertaining to Tantra.  Tapas (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.

Taraka: Deliverer.

Taraka Mantra: From the root word tara-that which crosses. The Taraka Mantra is that which enables its invokers to cross over the ocean of samsara and attain liberation.  Taraka Nama: The Delivering Name; Om.  Tejas: Radiance; brilliancy (especially spiritual); the element of fire; Agni; heat.  Tilak: A sacred mark made on the forehead or between the eyebrows denoting what form of God the person worships.  Tirtha: A sacred place of pilgrimage; a river or body of water in which it is auspicious and spiritual beneficial to bathe; the water offered in ritual worship and then sprinkled on or drunk by the devotees.

Trataka: Steady gazing; the process of fixing the gaze on a small dot, point, yantra, etc.  Turiya: The state of pure consciousness. A Ramakrishna-Vedanta Wordbook defines it as: “The superconscious; lit., ‘the Fourth,’ in relation to the three ordinary states of consciousness-waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep-which it transcends.”

Turiya-Turiya: The Absolute Consciousness of God, the Consciousness behind our individualized consciousness (turiya).

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.  Udgitha: The Pranava [Om] when it is sung aloud in Vedic recitation.

Upanishads: Books (of varying lengths) of the philosophical teachings of the ancient sages of India on the knowledge of Absolute Reality. The upanishads contain two major themes: (1) the individual self (atman) and the Supreme Self (Paramatman) are one in essence, and (2) the goal of life is the realization/manifestation of this unity, the realization of God (Brahman). There are eleven principal upanishads: Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitaryeya, Chandogya, Brihadaranyaka, and Svetashvatara, all of which were commented on by Shankara, thus setting the seal of authenticity on them.

Ushmapas: A class of ancestors (pitris) which live off subtle emanations or vapors.

Vachaka: That which is denoted by speech.

Vachya: That which is denoted by speech.

Vaikhari: Sound that is spoken and heard.  Vaikuntha: The celestial abode (loka) of Vishnu and His devotees.

Vairagya: Non-attachment, detachment, dispassion, absence of desire, or indifference. Indifference towards and disgust for all worldly things and enjoyments.  Vaishnava: A devotee of Vishnu.

Vak: Speech.

Vakya: Word or statement.

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.  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.

Vashistadvaita Vedanta: The philosophy of Qualified Non-Dualism formulated by Sri Ramanuja.  Vasus: Eight Vedic deities characterized by radiance.

Vayu: The Vedic god of the wind.  Vedanta: Literally, “the end of the Vedas;” the Upanishads; the school of Hindu thought, based primarily on the Upanishads, upholding the doctrine of either pure non-dualism or conditional non-dualism. The original text of this school is Vedanta-darshana or the Brahma Sutras compiled by the sage Vyasa.

Vedanta Sutras: The Brahma Sutras.  Vedas: The oldest scriptures of India, considered the oldest scriptures of the world, that were revealed in meditation to the Vedic Rishis (seers).

Vedic: Having to do with the Vedas.  Vichara: 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.  Videhamukti: Disembodied salvation; salvation attained by the realised soul after shaking off the physical sheath as opposed to jivanmukti which is liberation even while living.  Vidya: Knowledge; both spiritual knowledge and mundane knowledge.

Vidyapith(a): A school.

Virya: Strength; power; energy; courage.

Vishnu: “The all-pervading;” God as the Preserver.

Vishwa-devas: A group of twelve minor Vedic deities.  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.  Vivekananda (Swami): The chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who brought the message of Vedanta to the West at the end of the nineteenth century.

Vritti: Thought-wave; mental modification; mental whirlpool; a ripple in the chitta.

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.

Word-Brahman: Om; Shabda Brahman.  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 (1): 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 Yama (2): The Lord of Death, controller of who dies and what happens to them after death.  Yoga: Literally, “union.” 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.  Yoga Nidra: A state of half-contemplation and half-sleep; light yogic sleep when the individual retains slight awareness; state between sleep and wakefulness.  Yoga Sutras: The oldest known writing on the subject of yoga, written by the sage Patanjali, a yogi of ancient India, and considered the most authoritative text on yoga. Also known as Yoga Darshana, it is the basis of the Yoga Philosophy which is based on the philosophical system known as Sankhya.  Yoga Vashista: A classical treatise on Yoga, containing the instructions of the Rishi Vashista to Lord Rama on meditation and spiritual life.

Yogi: One who practises Yoga; one who strives earnestly for union with God; an aspirant going through any course of spiritual discipline.

Yogic: Having to do with Yoga.  Yogiraj: “King of Yogis,” a title often given to an advanced yogi, especially a teacher of yogi.


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