A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

A Brief Sanskrit Glossary

Part 1 – A  through  M

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M |      Part 2 – N through Z


Abhava: Nonexistence; absence; negation; nothing.

Abhaya(m): “Without fear;” fearlessness; a state of steadfastness in which one is not swayed by fear of any kind.

Abheda: Non-difference; non-duality.

Abhedananda, Swami: A direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who spent many years travelling and teaching Vedanta and Yoga in America.

Abhimana: Egoism; conceit; attachment; I-sense; pride; the function of the ego; the delusion of “me” and “mine;” identification with the body.

Abhimata: Desired; favorite; attractive; agreeable, appealing; object of choice.

Abhimukti: Turned toward liberation; the stage in which liberation is assured.

Abhinivesha: Will to live; strong desire; false identification of the Self with the body or mind; an instinctive clinging to life and a dread of death.

Abhisheka(m): Bathing–the ritual pouring of various items over a sacred image or personage in homage and worship.

Abhyantara: Internal; inward.

Abhyasa: Sustained spiritual practice.

Abhyasayoga: Yoga, or union with God, through sustained spiritual practice.

Achala: Immovable; standing still; firm; steady; fixed unwavering; without change.

Achara: 1) Immobile. 2) Conduct; good behavior; custom; practice; teaching.

Acharya: Teacher; preceptor.

Achetana: Unconscious; non-conscious; inanimate; inert; matter.

Achintya: Unthinkable; inconceivable; incomprehensible; inexplicable. A title of Brahman because the mind cannot conceive Its nature.

Achintya-bhedabheda-vedanta: A Vedantic school of philosophy founded by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu called Unthinkable Dualistic Nondualism or Ineffable Difference-In-Identity. It propounds that there is both difference and non-difference between all individual souls (jiva) and the Absolute (Brahman), but that this dualistic relation of both difference and non-difference is logically unthinkable.

Achintya shakti: Inscrutable power ineffable force.

Achit: Insentient; inert; unconscious; non-conscious; matter; inanimate phenomenal object.

Achyuta: Imperishable one–a title of Krishna.

Adhara: “To support or prop;” support; substratum; body apparatus. In yoga, it means various places of the body where the attention is focussed for control, concentration, and meditation; adhara’s are reservoirs of pranic energies, storage units for the energies that flow into the subtle bodies through the chakras.

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; Primal Element; Primordial Matter. Also: Supreme Being and Supreme Element.

Adhidaiva: Primal God; Supreme God.

Adhikara: Authority; qualification; jurisdiction; prerogative; office; claim; privilege.

Adhikarin: An eligible or qualified person; a worthy person. It implies both fitness and capability.

Adhishthana(m): Seat; basis; substratum; ground; support; abode; the body as the abode of the subtle bodies and the Self; underlying truth or essence; background.

Adhiyajna: Primal Sacrifice; Supreme Sacrifice.

Adhyatma: The individual Self; the supreme Self; spirit.

Adhyatma vidya: Study of the Self; metaphysics.

Adhyatmika (Adhyatmic): Pertaining to the Self, individual and Supreme.

Adhyaya: Chapter; section.

Adi: First; origin; beginning; original.

Adi Purusha: The First or Original Purusha. See Purusha.

Adishakti: Primal Power.

Aditi: Boundless; unbounded; “Infinite Mother”–the source of all the cosmic forms of consciousness from physical upwards; in Vedic cosmology: the mother of the gods.

Aditya: The sun; the Sun god.

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

Adivasi: Original inhabitants; name denoting the tribals in India.

Adrishta(m): Unseen; invisible; unperceived. This is sometimes applied to God, fate, destiny, influence, or unseen potency or force.

Adrishya: Invisible; that which cannot be perceived by the physical eye.

Advaita: Non-dualism; nonduality; literally: “not two.”

Advaitic: Non-dual; having to do with the philosophy of Advaita (Non-Dualism).

Advityia: Without a second.

Adyasakti: The Primal Energy.

Agama: Scripture; particularly scriptures dealing with the four topics of temple construction and the making of images, philosophy, meditation practice, and methods of worship.

Agami karma: The action that will be done by the individual in the future.

Agastya: A sage and reputed seer of many hymns in the Rig Veda.

Agni: Vedic god of fire.

Agnihotra: “Fire offering;” a Vedic fire sacrifice.

Aham: “I am;” “I;” “I” awareness; “I” consciousness; self-consciousness.

Aham Brahmasmi: “I am Brahman.” The Mahavakya (Great Saying) of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Ahamkara: See Ahankara.

Ahankara: Egoism or self-conceit; the false “I;” “I” am-ness. It is the self-arrogating principle “I” that is projected by the mind rather than the real Self. “Ego” (ahankara) is in manifestation whenever “I” is said or claimed by anything other than the spirit-self.

Ahimsa: Non-injury in thought, word, and deed; non-violence; non-killing; harmlessness.

Airavata: “Child of the Water,” the white elephant of Indra that was produced by the churning of the milk ocean.

Aishwarya: Dominion; power; lordship; divine glory; majesty; splendor; an attribute of God (Ishwara).

Ajapa Gayatri: So-ham.

Ajapa japa: A yogic term that means the natural, spontaneous sound of the breath that goes on perpetually through the simple act of breathing. This sound is extremely subtle, and though non-verbal is the highest form of mantra.

Ajara: Without old age; ageless.

Ajara Amara Avinashi Atma: The ageless, immortal, imperishable Self.

Ajna chakra: “Command Wheel.” Energy center located at the point between the eyebrows, the “third eye.” The medulla center opposite the point between the eyebrows.

Ajnana: Ignorance; nescience.

Ajnana timira: The “glaucoma” of ignorance.

Akala: Without parts; an attribute of the Divine Being.

Akarma: Inaction; non-doing.

Akasha: “Not visible;” ether; space; sky; the subtlest of the five elements; the substance that fills and pervades the universe; the particular vehicle of life and sound; the element from which the sense of sound (shabda)–both speech and hearing–arises.

Akula: Without form; formless.

Akhanda: Unbroken (literally: “not broken”); indivisible; undivided; whole.

Aklishta: Unafflicted; nonafflicted; unmoved.

Akshara: Imperishable; indestructible, immutable, undying; undecaying; unchanging–all in reference to the individual self and the Supreme Self, Brahman. It also means syllable and is used in reference to the ekakshara–the one syllable, the One Imperishable: Om.

Akshaya: Undecaying; everlasting.

Alabdhabhumikatva: Non-achievement of a stage; inability to find a footing.

Alankara: Ornamentation; the putting of ornaments or decorations on a sacred image.

Alasya: Laziness; idleness; apathy; sloth.

Alata chakra: The illusory circle of fire produced by rapidly waving around a stick that is burning at one end; symbol of the illusory nature of relative existence–of Maya.

Alinga: Without any attribute, characteristic or mark; Parabrahman; noumenal; undifferentiated prakriti.

Amala: Without defect; pure; immaculate.

Amalam: Free from the impurity of Maya.

Amara: Immortal; deathless.

Amavasya: New moon day.

Amba: Mother; a title of Durga.

Ambika: The Mother; a title of Parvati.

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

Anadi: Beginningless; eternal.

Anahata: “Unstruck;” “unbeaten.” Continuous bell-like inner resonance; the heart; the heart chakra; the inner divine melody (mystic sounds heard by the Yogis); Om.

Anahata chakra: “Unstruck.” Energy center located in the spine at the point opposite the center of the chest (sternum bone). Seat of the Air element.

Ananda: Bliss; happiness; joy; delight.

Anandamaya kosha: “The sheath of bliss (ananda).” The causal body. The borderline of the Self (atman).

Anandamayi Ma
Anandamayi Ma

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(m): 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.

Anatma(n): Not-Self; insentient.

Anavashtitatvani: Unsteadiness; instability of mind; inability to find a footing; mental unsteadiness.

Aneka: Not one–i.e., many.

Anga: Limb; individual part; accessory; member; technique.

Anima: Little; minute; atomization; the capacity (siddhi) to become as small as one desires–even as small as an atom.

Anishta: Undesirable; bad.

Anitya: Impermanent; transient.

Anjali: Two hands held with palms together in salutation; an offering of a handful of flowers.

Anna(m): Food; matter.

Annamaya kosha: “The sheath of food (anna).” The physical–or gross–body, made of food.

Annapurna: “Full of Food.” A title of the Goddess (Shakti) depicted as the Goddess of Food and Abundance. The consort of Shiva.

Anta: End; extremity.

Antahkarana: Internal instrument; fourfold mind: mind, intellect, ego and subconscious mind.

Antahprajna: Inner (subjective) consciousness; inwardly cognitive.

Antara: Internal; interior; inside; middle.

Antaratman: The indwelling (inner) Self; inner soul.

Antariksha: Sky; firmament; atmosphere.

Antarmukha: Literally “inner face”–inward vision or perception.

Antaryamana: Dwelling, guiding, or ruling within.

Antaryamin: Indweller; inner guide; inner ruler; the spark of divinity within; the “witness” who dwells within every living being. This applies to both the jivatma and the Paramatma. (Antar–within/inner; and yamin–guide.)

Anu: Atom; atomic; elementary particle; minute; that which cannot further divided; an individual being.

Anubhava: Perception; direct personal experience; spiritual experience; intuitive consciousness and knowledge.

Anukarah: Following; imitating.

Anumana: Inference.

Anumanika: Inferential.

Anuswara: Bindu.

Anusandhana: Enquiry or investigation; in Vedanta, enquiry or investigation into the nature of Brahman.

Anushthana: Observance; religious exercise; repetition of a mantra for a set number of times during a given period; systematic performance of religious practices, usually undertaken for some definite period of time.

Anuttara: “Beyond which there is nothing;” the Highest, the Supreme; the Absolute.

Anvaya-vyatireka: Positive and negative assertions; proof by assertion and negation. Just as several kinds of dal are mixed together, so also, the Atman is mixed with the five koshas. You will have to separate the Self from the five sheaths. You will have to separate name and form from Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. Anvaya and vyatireka processes always go together. The Self exists in the five sheaths, yet it is not the sheaths. This is Vedantic sadhana. The aspirant rejects the names and forms and the five sheaths and realizes the one, all-pervading, indivisible, infinite, eternal, unchanging essence, viz., Brahman.

Ap/Apah: Water; one of the five elements, from which the sense of taste (rasa) arises.

Apaishunam: Absence of calumny; aversion to fault-finding.

Apana: The prana that moves downward, producing the excretory functions in general.

Apara: Lower; lower knowledge; other; relative; inferior.

Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness.

Aparoksha: Immediate; direct.

Aparoksha anubhuti: The direct, immediate, intuitive experience or perception of the invisible–the realization of Brahman. The title of a treatise on Advaita Vedanta by Shankaracharya.

Apavarga: Liberation; release; escape from pain; release from the bondage of embodiment.

Apta: A trustworthy person.

Apunya: Demerit; vice; non-meritorious acts; unvirtuous deeds; sinful. See Punya.

Aradhana: Worship of the Divine; adoration; self-surrender.

Arambha: Origin; cause; original; causal.

Arambha-vada: “The theory of origination;” the Nyaya-Vaisheshika theory of causation which states that the effect is a new production from the cause. The cause is one thing, the effect is another. The effect is held to be nonexistent before its production by the sauce. This theory is also called asatkarya-vada.

Arani: Sacrificial wood stick for creating fire through friction.

Aranyaka: “Forest book;” philosophical, symbolic, and spiritual interpretations of the Vedic hymns and rituals. Mainly meant for forest-dwelling ascetics (vanaprasthas).

Arati: A ceremony of worship in which lights, incense, camphor, and other offerings representing the five elements and the five senses–the totality of the human being–are waved before an image or symbol of the Divine.

Aratrika: See Arati.

Archa: Worship; adoration.

Archa(nam): Worship; adoration.

Ardhangini: Partner in life (wife); especially Parvati, the wife of Lord Siva.

Arghya: Offering made in ritualistic worship. Sometimes an offering of flowers, bel leaves, sandal paste, durva grass, and rice together.

Arjava: Straightforwardness; honesty; rectitude (from the verb root rinj: “to make straight.”)

Artha: Wealth; object; thing. It is the secular value which is both desired and desirable. It satisfies the acquisitive tendency in individuals. It is the economic value.

Artharthi: One who desires material gain (artha).

Arupa: Formless.

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.

Asambhava: Total inapplicability; impossibility.

Asamprajñata samadhi: Highest superconscious state where the mind and the ego-sense are completely annihilated.

Asamprayoga: Withdrawal of the senses from their objects; non-communication; non-interchange; withdrawal; disuniting; disconnecting.

Asana: Posture; seat; Hatha Yoga posture.

Asanga: Non-attachment; without attachment.

Asat: Unreal[ity]; nonbeing; nonexistence; false; falsehood.

Asatya: Unreal; untrue.

Ashanti: Absence of peace of mind; restlessness; distraction.

Ashaucha: Impurity; uncleanness.

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 (grihastha); 3) the life of retirement (seclusion) and contemplation (vanaprastha); 4) the life of total renunciation (sannyasa).

Ashramite: Resident of an ashram.

Ashta: Eight.

Ashtami: “The eighth”–eighth day of the dark or light fortnights of the lunar cycle.

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.”)

Ashuddha: Impure; incorrect.

Ashuddhi: Impurity.

Ashwattha: The pipal (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.

Ashubha: Inauspicious unfortunate.

Ashuddha: Impure; unpurified; incorrect.

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.

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

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

Astikyam: Piety; belief in God.

Astra(m): Weapon.

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

Asurim: The state of an asura, one who dwells in darkness (a-sura–without the light). The condition of those negative souls who are turned away from divinity and moving further into degradation of consciousness and mode of life.

Aswara: Without sound, accent, or tone.

Atma(n): The individual spirit or self.

Atmabhava: The nature of the Self; awareness of the self; feeling: “I am the Self.”

Atmadrishti: The seeing or sight of the Self (atma); the vision of the Self; knowledge of the Self through direct vision or knowing.

Atmajnana: Knowledge of the Self.

Atmanubhava: Self-realization; perception/experience of the Self.

Atmarama: Satisfied–delighted–in the Self.

Atmashakti: Power of the Self; personal power or strength.

Atmavichara: Enquiry into the Self.

Atmavidya: Teaching about the Self and its reality; knowledge of the Self.

Atmic: Having to do with the atma–spirit or self.

Aum: Alternate spelling of Om.

Sri Aurobindo
Sri Aurobindo

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.

Avadhuta: “Cast off” (one who has cast off the world utterly). A supreme ascetic and jnani who has renounced all worldly attachments and connections and lives in a state beyond body consciousness, whose behavior is not bound by ordinary social conventions. Usually they wear no clothing. The highest state of asceticism or tapas.

Avarana: Concealment; veil; screen; obstruction; the veiling power of ignorance.

Avatar(a): A Divine Incarnation.

Avidya: Ignorance; nescience; unknowing; literally: “to know not.”

Avidyamaya: Maya, or illusion causing duality, has two aspects, namely, avidyamaya and vidyamaya. Avidyamaya, or the “maya of ignorance,” consisting of anger, passion, and so on, entangles one in worldliness. Vidyamaya, or the “maya of knowledge,” consisting of kindness, purity, unselfishness, and so on, leads one to liberation. Both belong to the relative world. See Maya.

Avidyasakti: The power of ignorance (avidya).

Avinashi: Indestructible; imperishable.

Avirati: Hankering after objects; non-dispassion; sensual indulgence; lack of control; non-restraint.

Avyakta(m): Unmanifest; invisible; the undifferentiated; the state when the three gunas are in perfect equilibrium; in Sankhya philosophy a term for Prakriti.

Ayam Atma Brahma: “This Self is Brahman.” The Mahavakya (Great Saying) of the Mandukya Upanishad).

Ayurveda: “Life-knowledge.” The ancient system of Indian medicine formulated by the sage Dhanvantari and considered part of the Vedic revelation.

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Badarayana: “Inhabitant of Badarika Ashrama” a title of the sage Vyasa.

Badrinath: One of the major centers of Hindu pilgrimage, sacred to Vishnu, located in the heart of the Himalayas.

Bahya: External; outward.

Bala brahmacharya: Brahmacharya observed from childhood (bala).

Balarama: Sri Krishna’s elder brother, also called “Balai.”

Bandha: “Lock;” bond; bondage; tie or knot.

Bel: A tree whose leaves are sacred to Siva; also the fruit of the same tree.

Bhadra: Blessing; happy; well.

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. From bhag–splendor and power–and van–Master or possessor (of splendor and power). Bhagavan possesses six divine attributes: knowledge (jnana), strength (bala), lordship (aishwarya), potency or power (shakti), creative power or might (virya), and splendor/radiance (tejas). See Ishwara.

Bhagavata: A devotee of God (Bhagavan) or Vishnu.

Bhagavatam: Srimad Bhagavatam. A major purana devoted to the glory and worship of Vishnu and his incarnation as Krishna. The major scripture of the Vaishnavas.

Bhagavati: Goddess; the feminine form of Bhagavan.

Bhairava: Shiva.

Bhairavi: A nun of the Tantric sect.

Bhajan(a): Devotional singing; a devotional song; remembrance (of God).

Bhakta: Devotee; votary; a follower of the path of bhakti, divine love; a worshipper of the Personal God.

Bhakti: Devotion; dedication; love (of God).

Bhakti Marga: The path of devotion leading to union with 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.

Bharat(a): The proper Sanskrit name for India.

Bharat Giri Maharaj: Bharat Giri Maharaj was a Gujarati sadhu who visited America in the summer of 1999. At his passing in 2002 he was between one hundred and thirty or one hundred and forty years of age, a great yogi and visionary. What it was to be in his presence is beyond description, but the exaltedness of his consciousness was very obvious. Therefore I include his words on the Pranava in this section.

Bharati: Indian

Bharat[a]varsha: The land of India.

Bhasha: Language; gentle and holy talk.

Bhashma: Ash, usually from the sacred fire sacrifice.

Bhashya: Commentary.

Bhava (1): Becoming, from the verb “bhu” or “bhavh” which means to become or to exist.

Bhava (2): Subjective state of being (existence); attitude of mind; mental attitude or feeling; state of realization in the heart or mind.

Bhava samadhi: Superconscious state attained by bhaktas or devotees through intense divine emotion in which the devotee retains his ego and enjoys communion with the Personal God.

Bhavamukha: An exalted state of spiritual experience, in which the aspirant keeps his mind on the borderline between the Absolute and the Relative. From this position he can contemplate the ineffable and attributeless Brahman and also participate in the activities of the relative world, seeing in it the manifestation of God alone.

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)

Bhavani: “Giver of Existence;” a title of the Divine Mother.

Bhavatarini: “Saviour of the World (or Universe);” a title of the Divine Mother, especially Kali.

Bhaya: Fear; terror.

Bheda: Difference; distinction; disjunction.

Bhiksha: Almsfood–food obtained by begging or that is offered to a monk.

Bhikshu: One who lives on bhiksha (almsfood); a mendicant; a sannyasi; a Buddhist monk.

Bodha: Consciousness; knowledge; “to be awake;” enlightenment.

Bhoga: Enjoyment, pleasure; experience; perception; also food (usually what has been offered to a deity).

Bhogya: Object of experience or enjoyment.

Bhokta: Enjoyer; experiencer; subject of experience or enjoyment.

Bhranti: Delusion; wrong notion; false idea or impression.

Bhranti-darshana: Delusion; erroneous view.

Bhrigu: An ancient sage, so illustrious that he mediated quarrels among the gods.

Bhuh: The earth; the material world/plane.

Bhukti: Enjoyment; material enjoyment.

Bhuloka: The material world/plane of atomic matter.

Bhuma: The unconditioned Infinite; Brahman.

Bhumi: The earth; realm.

Bhuta (1): What has come into being; an entity as opposed to the unmanifested; any of the five elementary constituents of the universe; element.

Bhuta (2): A spirit. Some bhutas are subhuman nature spirits or “elementals”, but some are earthbound human spirits–ghosts. Bhutas may be either positive or negative.

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

Bhuvaloka: The lesser astral world, similar to the material plane (Bhuloka).

Bhuvana: The universe; the world.

Bodha: Consciousness; knowledge; intelligence; spiritual wisdom; “to be awake;” enlightenment.

Bodhi: Enlightenment; “to be awakened.”

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 satyam; jagan mithya; jivo brahmaiva naparah: “Brahman is real. The world is illusory. The jiva is nondifferent from Brahman.” This is Shankara’s renowned “Vedanta in half a verse.”

Brahma Sutras: A treatise by Vyasa on Vedanta philosophy in the form of aphorisms. Also called the Vedanta Sutras or Vedanta Darshana.

Brahma-anubhava: Direct personal experience of Brahman.

Brahmabhavanam: Meditation on Brahman; feeling of identity with Brahman, as well as of everything as Brahman.

Brahmachari: One who observes continence; a celibate student in the first stage of life (ashrama).

Brahmacharini: Female “brahmachari.”

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

Brahma-chintana: Constant meditation on Brahman; constant thought of or awareness of God.

Brahmajnana: Direct, transcendental knowledge of Brahman; Self-realization.

Brahmajnani: One who possess Brahmajnana.

Brahmajyoti: The Light of God.

Brahmaloka: The world (loka) of Brahma, the Creator; the highest heaven; the world of supreme joy. Those who each this plane of existence after death are beyond rebirth.

Brahmamaya: Formed of Brahman; filled with Brahman.

Brahmamuhurta: “The muhurta of Brahman.” The period of one and a half hours before sunrise (sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.), which is said to be the best time for meditation and worship.

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 knower of Brahman. A Brahmin. A Vedic liturgical text explaining the rituals found in the Vedic samhitas (collection of hymns). A guidebook for performing those rites.

Brahmananda: The bliss of communion with Brahman.

Brahmanda: “The egg of Brahma” or “the Brahmic egg.” The cosmic “egg;” the universe; the cosmos; the macrocosm.

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.

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.

Brahma-sakshatkara: Realization of Brahman; direct experience of the Absolute Being.

Brahmavadin: Literally “one who walks the path of Brahman.” One who advocates that there is one existence alone–Parabrahman.

Brahmavichara: Enquiry into the Absolute (Brahman).

Brahmavidya: Science of Brahman; knowledge of Brahman; learning pertaining to Brahman or the Absolute Reality.

Brahmic: Divine; pertaining to God (Brahman).

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.

Brihat: The great; the large.

Buddha: An awakened one (from the root verb budh: to enlighten, to know).

Buddhi: Intellect; 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.

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Caste: See Varna.

Chaitanya: Consciousness; intelligence; awareness; the consciousness that knows itself and knows others; Pure Consciousness.

Chakra: Wheel. Plexus; center of psychic energy in the human system, particularly in the spine or head.

Chakradhara: “Holder/Wielder of the Chakras,” a yogic practice in which the mantra So’ham is mentally intoned at each of the nine chakras in turn.

Chakshuh: Eye; the subtle organ of sight; visual sense.

Chamatkara: Remarkable traits and abilities; cleverness; shining forth with divine glory.

Chanda: Silver; the moon.

Chandala: An untouchable, or outcaste; literally: “wild” or “bad.”

Chandra: The moon; the presiding deity of the moon or the astral lunar world (loka).

Chandraloka: The subtle world, “the world of the moon.”

Chandrayana Vrata: An observance in which, beginning with fifteen morsels of food on a full-moon day, a person lessens them one by one daily, until he takes no food on the new moon day; and again increases them one by one till he reaches the same fifteen morsels on the next full-moon day.

Charana: Foot.

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.

Charya: Activity; mode of behavior; a way of life–as in brahmacharya.

Chela: Disciple.

Chetana: Consciousness. Whereas chaitanya is the principle of pure consciousness, chetana is consciousness occupied with an object. It is this “consciousness” that Buddha rejected as an obstacle.

Chidakasha: “The Space (Ether) of Consciousness.” The infinite, all-pervading expanse of Consciousness from which all “things” proceed; the subtle space of Consciousnesss in the Sahasrara (Thousand-petalled Lotus). The true “heart” of all things.

Chinmaya: Full of consciousness; formed of consciousness.

Chinta: Enquiry; thought; discussion.

Chintana: Thinking; reflecting.

Chit: Consciousness (that is spirit or purusha); “to perceive, observe, think, be aware, know;” pure unitary Consciousness.

Chitraratha: The chief of the gandharvas.

Chitshakti: Power of consciousness or intelligence.

Chitta: The subtle energy that is the substance of the mind, and therefore the mind itself; mind in all its aspects; field of the mind; field of consciousness; consciousness; mind-stuff.

Chittashuddhi: Purification of the mind; purity of conscience.

Chitta-vritti-nirodha: Cessation of the modifications of the mind; control of thoughts; Patanjali’s definition of Yoga.

Crore: Ten million.

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Dacoit: A violent thief who preys on travellers, sometimes killing them.

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).

Daivim: The state of a deva or “shining one;” the quality of those positive souls who are progressing toward divinity.

Dakshina: Gift; priestly gift; sacrificial fee.

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).

Dakshinayana: “The southern way/path.” The solar year is divided into two halves. The dakshinayana, beginning on the summer solstice (June 21), the first day of summer (also called dakshinayana) is when the sun appears to begin moving southward for the next six months. See Uttarayana.

Dakshineshwar Kali Temple Ghat
Dakshineshwar Kali Temple Ghat

Dakshineshwar: A village on the Ganges about five miles north of Calcutta, where, in the 1850’s, the Rani Rasmani built a compound of temples: the Kali temple, twelve small Shiva temples, and the Radhakanta (Radha-Krishna) temple. Just north of the northernmost Shiva temple is the room which Sri Ramakrishna occupied for a considerable part of his life.

Dama: Self-control; control of the senses; restraint.

Damaru: A small, hand held 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.

Dana: “Giving;” gift; charity; almsgiving; self-sacrifice; donation; generosity.

Danava: A demon; an evil spirit.

Danda: Stick; staff; rod; particularly the staff carried by a sannyasi; punishment; chastisement.

Darshan: Literally “sight” or “seeing;” vision, literal and metaphysical; a system of philosophy (see Sad-darshanas). Darshan is the seeing of a holy being as well as the blessing received by seeing such a one.

Darshana: “Seeing” in the sense of a viewpoint or system of thought. The Sad-darshanas are the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, and Vedanta.

Dasah: Servant; slave.

Dasanami: “Ten named.” A term for members of the monastic order of Shankaracharya headquartered in the four quarters of India (Sringeri, Dwaraka, Badrinath and Jagannath Puri). After their proper monastic names they add one of ten titles (Saraswati, Bharati, Puri, Tirtha, Ashrama, Giri, Parvata, Sagara, Vanam, Aranya) according to their monastic succession.

Dasya: The attitude of being a servant of God.

Dasyu: Slave; a name for non-Aryans in the Rig Veda.

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.

Daya: Mercy; compassion; grace; empathy.

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

Dehadhyasa: False identification with the body.

Desha: Place; locus; spot; space; country.

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.

Devaloka: “The world of shining beings;” the world of the gods; heaven; one of the higher subtler worlds.

Devanagari: “Divine city;” the Sanskrit script.

Devata: Godhead; god; divinity; celestial being. See Deva.

Devatma: The divine, inner Self.

Devayana: The way or path of the gods, “the shining ones;” the path that leads beyond earthly rebirth and ultimately to liberation.

Devi: “Shining One;” Goddess; the Supreme Shakti (Divine Power) or Divine Mother, or a demigoddess.

Dhama: Abode; dwelling; place of residence.

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 (1): The righteous way of living, as enjoined by the sacred scriptures and the spiritually illumined; characteristics; law; lawfulness; virtue; righteousness; norm.

Dharma (2): Attributes; natures; essential/visible characteristics; characteristic form; properties; qualifications.

Dharma-megha samadhi: The final state of one-pointedness, when an individual becomes disinterested even in omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. This state of superconsciousness or samadhi is called dharma-megha–cloud of virtue–inasmuch as it showers nectar drops of immortality through knowledge of Brahman, when all the hosts of vasanas are entirely destroyed.

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.

Dharmashala: A place for pilgrims to stay, either free of charge or at a minimal cost.

Dharmi: One who follows dharma.

Dharmi (2): The substratum in which attributes or characteristics are seen to manifest or inhere.

Dharmic: Having to do with dharma; of the character of dharma.

Dhatri: Giver; a name for God; creator; establisher.

Dhatu: Element; original element; core; constituent; the vital force in the human being.

Dhira: Steadfast; strong; bold; courageous. One who possesses these qualities.

Dhoti: A long piece of material worn around the waist by traditionally-dressed men in India, rather like a long skirt.

Dhrita: Steadfastness; constancy; sustained effort; firmness; patience; endurance.

Dhriti: Steadfast; constant; attraction; sustaining effort; firmness; patience; endurance.

Dhuni: A fire lighted by wandering monks, beside which they meditate and sleep.

Dhvani: Tone: sound; word; the subtle aspect of the vital shakti or the jiva in the vibrations.

Dhyana(m): Meditation; contemplation.

Dhyeya: Object of meditation or worship; purpose behind action.

Diksha: Initiation; dedication; consecration.

Dipa: A wick lamp fed by oil or ghee; a flame in a lamp.

Dirgha: Long; prolonged; protracted.

Divya: Divine; celestial; divine nature; luminous; supernatural.

Divya chakshuh: Divine eye; the heavenly eye; wisdom.

Divya shakti: Divine energy or power.

Dosha: Defect; imperfection; blemish; fault; shortcoming. In Yoga philosophy there are five doshas: lust (kama), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), delusion (moha), and envy (matsarya).

Dosha drishti: Seeing the defects in samsara and samsaric life.

Drashta (1): Seer; perceiver; a title of both the individual and the Supreme Selves or Purushas.

Drashta (2): The visible; the seen; that which is perceived.

Drik: See Drashta.

Drishta: The visible; see; that which is perceived.

Drishti: Seeing; sight; vision; view; inner sight; opinion; gaze; perception.

Drishya: Visible; object seen; perceived; objects of consciousness; the world; that which can be seen by the physical sense.

Drishyam: The seen; the object seen; the seeable; visible; perceptible; object of consciousness; nature.

Dukha(m): Pain; suffering; misery; sorrow; grief; unhappiness; stress or distress; that which is unsatisfactory or produces dukha.

Durga: “Incomprehensible One;” “Difficult to reach;” the Universal Mother; she rides a lion (or tiger) and carries a weapon in each of her eight arms symbolizing the powers of the Self against ignorance and evil. She is invoked against all forms of evil–physical and metaphysical. Considered the consort, the shakti, of Shiva.

Dwaita: Dual; duality; dualism.

Dwandwa(s): The pairs of opposites in nature (prakriti) such as pleasure and pain, hot and cold, light and darkness, gain and loss, victory and defeat, love and hatred.

Dwandwamoha: The delusion of the pairs of opposites.

Dwapara Yuga: The Bronze Age. See Yuga.

Dwesha: Aversion/avoidance for something, implying a dislike for it. This can be emotional (instinctual) or intellectual. It may range from simple nonpreference 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).

Dwipa: Island; continent.

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Eka: One; unique; Reality.

Ekadashi: “The eleventh.” The eleventh day of each half of the lunar month (that is, the eleventh day after the new and full moons) that is devoted to the worship of Vishnu and his avataras.

Ekadashi Vrata: Observing ekadhashi (the eleventh day after the new and full moons, sacred to Vishnu) by fasting–through abstinence from grains and other staples and eating much less than usual, oftentimes fasting from food (and sometimes water) until after sundown.

Ekagrata: One-pointedness of the mind; concentration; close attention.

Ekakshara: A common term for Om meaning “the Single Syllable” or “the Single Letter.”

Ekam-eva-advitiyam: “One, only, without a second.” A description of Brahman.

Eva(m): Only; in fact; thus; so; in this manner; without limitation.

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Gaja: Elephant.

Gambhira: Deep; magnanimous; dignified; grand; imperious; grave.

Gana: One of a group of spirits that wander together–usually of various types. The term is also used as a kind of “miscellaneous” category for entities that have not otherwise been identified. A gana may be benevolent or malevolent, but is usually disorderly, chaotic, and wild in the sense of untamed or unruly, and potentially dangerous (hazardous). A gana’s appearance is usually deformed, repulsive, or frightening. Shiva is said to be always accompanied by a group of devoted ganas.

Ganapati: “Lord of the Ganas” (the spirits that always accompany Shiva). See Ganesha.

Gandha: Smell; fragrance.

Gandharva: A demigod–a celestial musician and singer.


Ganesha: The elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati; the remover of obstacles; lord (pati) of the ganas (spirits that always accompany Shiva); god of wisdom; god of beginnings; the granter of success in spiritual and material life; in ritual worship he is worshipped first, and is therefore known as Adi-deva, the First God.

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.

Ganja: Indian hemp; a form of marijuana found in India.

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.

Gatha: Verse; stanza.

Gaudapada: The guru of Shankara’s guru, Govindapada.

Gauh (Go): Cow.

Gauri: “The Golden One.” A title of the Divine Mother, consort of Shiva.

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 clothing of Hindu monastics; the color produced by dyeing with gerua is also called gerua.

Ghat: A bathing-place: a stairway leading down to a river, pond, or water reservoir.

Ghatashuddi: “Purifying the ‘pot.’” Purification of the physical body. An expression of Hatha Yoga, referring to the “earthen pot” of the body.

Ghee: Clarified butter.

Giri: Mountain; one of the ten branches of the Shankara Order.

Gita: The Bhagavad Gita.

Gopa: Cowherd boy; male counterpart of the gopis.

Gopas: The cowherd boys of Vrindavan, playmates of Krishna.

Gopala: “Cowherd;” a title of Krishna–both as baby and young boy.

Gopi: Milkmaid; childhood companions and devotees of Krishna.

Gopis: The milkmaids of Vrindavan, companions and devotees of Krishna.

Gopinath Kaviraj (Mahamahopadyaya Sri): Gopinath Kaviraj was considered to be the greatest scholar of modern India, so much so that many Indian book catalogs devoted an entire section to his books alone.

Gopuram: A towerlike structure over an entrance (gateway) to a temple or temple compound, shaped like a wedge standing on its wide end, consisting of many tiers that are highly decorated (sculpted), often with images of deities and figures from Hindu cosmology.


Gorakhnath/Gorakshanath: A master yogi of the Nath Yogi (Siddha Yogi) tradition. His dates are not known, really, but he seems to have lived for many centuries and travelled throughout all of India, Bhutan, Tibet, and Ladakh teaching philosophy and yoga.

Goshala: Cow shed.

Gotra: Clan; family; lineage.

Govinda: “Cowherd”–a title of Krishna.

Griha: Home; house; temple.

Grihasta: A married “householder;” the second stage (ashrama) in life.

Grihya sutras: Scriptures (dharmashastras) setting down the way of life to be observed by Grihastas.

Guha: Cave; the heart (hridaya guha).

Guhya: Secret; secret place.

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.

Gunatita: Beyond the gunas; the state of transcendence of the gunas–freedom from their conditionings.

Guru: Teacher; preceptor.

Guru Nanak: Founder of the Sikh religion.

Gurukula: “Teacher’s school” or “teacher’s abode.” A gurukula is the residence of a spiritual teacher where young students (brahmacharis) came to live and learn.

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Hamsah: “I am He;” swan.

Hanuman: A powerful monkey chief of extraordinary strength and prowess, whose exploits are celebrated in the epic Ramayana, the life of Rama. He was an ideal devotee (bhakta) and servant of Lord Rama.

Hara: “One who takes away;” a title of Shiva; the destroyer; the remover.

Hari: Vishnu.

Harikatha: Literally “Hari [Vishnu] Story,” a hari katha is a narration of the life and deeds of a deity or saint, interspersed with songs relevant to the events being spoken about or actual poetic reflections on those events and their significance. Kirtan is often a part, as well. This is the most popular and widespread traditional form of spiritual “entertainment.”

Harsha: Joy; exhilaration; excitement.

Hatha yoga: A system of Yoga consisting of physical exercises, postures, and breathing exercises for gaining control over the physical body and prana.

Havishya: Sacrificial food. See Charu.

Havan: Fire sacrifice.

Havan kunda: Pit or receptacle for the fire sacrifice.

Himsa: Injury, violence; killing.

Hiranyagarbha: “Golden egg;” cosmic womb; cosmic intelligence; the Supreme Lord of the universe; also called Brahman. It can also refer to Brahma the creator of the three lower worlds.

Holy Mother: A reference to Sri Sarada Devi (Saradamani Mukhopadhyaya), the wife of Sri Ramakrishna, believed by many to have been an incarnation of the Divine Mother.

Homa: Vedic fire ritual/sacrifice.

Hridaya: Heart; center or core of something; essence; the space (akasha) where the inbreath and outbreath merge–this is the true heart.

Hridayaguha: “The Cave of the Heart,” the core of our being wherein the Self dwells.

Hrishikesha: The bristling (or bushy) haired one. A title of Krishna.

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Iccha (Ichchha): Desire; will; wish; divine will; free will. From the verb root icch: “to wish,” “to will.”

Iccha shakti: The power of desire; the power of the will; Shakti in the aspect of omnipotent Divine Will.

Ida: The subtle channel that extends from the base of the spine to the medulla on the left side of the spine.

Indra: King of the lesser “gods” (demigods).

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.

Isha: Lord; master; ruler; Ishwara.

Ishana: The all-enjoyer; Lord of everything; Lord of space.

Ishta-devata: Beloved deity. The deity preferred above all others by an individual. “Chosen ideal” is the usual English translation.

Ishta mantra: The mantra of the divine form specially beloved by an individual (ishta devata).

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. See Bhagavan.

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

Ishwari: The Divine Cosmic Mother; the feminine form of Ishwara.

Itihasa: “Thus spoken”–history; technical term for the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

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Jada: Inert; unconscious; matter.

Jagadguru: “World guru;” world teacher.

Jagat: World; cosmos.

Jagrat: The waking state.

Jala: Water.

Janaka: The most renowned philosopher-king of ancient India, ruler of Mithila and father of Sita, the wife of Rama. Mentioned in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, he is considered the prime example of one who has attained total fulfillment in both material and spiritual life simultaneously without slighting either.

Janaloka: The world that embraces both the highest astral levels and the lower causal levels.

Janardana: Agitator of men (properly an epithet of Vishnu)–a title of Krishna.

Janma: Birth.

Janmotsava: Birthday celebration.

Japa: Repetition of a mantra.

Japa Mala: A string of beads, usually one hundred and eight, on which repetitions (japa) of a mantra are kept count of, or used just to help the yogi remember to do japa.

Jata: Long matted hair.

Jati: Birth; class; class notions; family; species.

Jaya: Victory; victorious; mastery; hail; salutations.

Jayanti: Birth day; victorious; conquering.

Jitendriya: One who has controlled the indriyas–the senses.

Jiva: Individual spirit; embodied spirit; living entity; life..

Jivanmukta: One who is liberated in this present life.

Jivanmukti: Liberation in this life.

Jivatma(n): Individual spirit. See Jiva.

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.

Jnana Kanda: The parts of the Veda dealing with the knowledge of the Absolute Brahman; the upanishads.

Jnana Marga: The path of discriminative knowledge leading to union with God.

Jnana Yoga: The path of knowledge; meditation through wisdom; constantly and seriously thinking on the true nature of the Self as taught by the upanishads.

Jnanamaya kosha: “The sheath of intellect (buddhi).” The level of intelligent thought and conceptualization. Sometimes called the Vijnanamaya kosha. The astral-causal body.

Jnanata: Consciousness.

Jnanendriya: The five organs of perception: ear, skin, eye, tongue, and nose.

Jnani: A follower of the path of knowledge (jnana); one who has realized–who knows–the Truth (Brahman).

Jnanopadesha: Instruction in wisdom (jnana).

Jyoti(h): Light; flame; illumination; luminosity; effulgence.

Jyotisha: Astronomy; astrology.

Jyotishmati: Effulgence; full of light.

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

Kailash(a): “Crystalline;” the name of the mountain home of Siva–a mountain peak in the Himalayas (in present-day Tibet) revered as the abode of Shiva, that is a famous place of pilgrimage.

Kaivalya: Transcendental state of Absolute Independence; Moksha; isolation; final beatitude; emancipation.

Kaivalya-mukti: Liberation.

Kala: Time; a unit of time; part; aspect; bit; death (or Yama); fate; black.


Kali: “The Black One;” the black-skinned goddess who emerged from the body of Goddess Durga to defeat the demons that were attacking her. She wears a garland of skulls (or severed heads) around her neck and a skirt of severed arms–both symbolizing the sense of egotism. In one hand she wields the sword of spiritual wisdom (prajna) and in the other carries a severed head (ego). Despite her fearsome appearance, her two other hands are held in the gestures (mudras) that indicate: “Fear not” and “Draw near.”

Kali Yuga: The Iron Age. See Yuga.

Kalki: The future–tenth–incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu.

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.

Kalpana: Imagination of the mind; the association of name and permanence to objects; presumptive knowledge; assumption; creation.

Kalpataru: “The wish-fulfilling tree.” The celestial tree of Hindu mythology, which grants all that a person standing or sitting under it desires.

Kalpita: Imaginary; created (artificial, unreal); dreamt.

Kalpita bheda: Imaginary difference.

Kalyana: Excellence; auspicious; blessed.

Kama: Desire; passion; lust. Its intensity may range from tepid to raging intensity.

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.

Kamala: Lotus; rose colored.

Kamandalu: A water vessel carried by a travelling sannyasi; usually made of a gourd or coconut shell, it may also be earthenware. The kamandalu and staff (danda) are considered the insignia of the sannyasi along with gerua clothing.

Kanda: Section; part; chapter.

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.)

Karana: Instrument; cause; the efficient or instrumental cause of something; means of accomplishing something.

Karana sharira: The causal body (where the individual rests during sound, deep, dreamless sleep, the intellect, mind and senses being reduced to an unmanifested potential condition), also known as the anandamaya kosha, the “sheath of bliss.”

Karatalabhiksha: Using hands (palms) as the begging bowl.

Karika: Commentary; treatise.

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.

Karma-bandhanam: Karmic bondage; karmic tie.

Karma-kanda: The ritual portion of the Veda. The philosophy that Vedic ritual is the only path to perfection.

Karma-kandi: One who follows the Karma-kanda as philosophy and practice.

Karmaphala: The fruit of actions; the consequence of a deed.

Karma Marga: The path of selfless knowledge leading to union with God.

Karmashaya: The receptacle or mass of karmas; aggregate of works done; latent impression of action which will eventually fructify.

Karmendriya: The five organs of action: voice, hand, foot, organ of excretion, and the organ of generation.

Karta: The doer, the agent–specifically, of action.

Karttikeya: See Subramanya.

Karuna: Mercy; compassion; kindness.

Karyam: “To-be-done;” to be performed; a duty.

Kashi: Varanasi (Benares).

Kaupina: A small strip of cloth used to cover one’s private parts. Also called a langoti

Kaviraj: Ayurvedic physician..

Khechari Mudra: “Sky-walking” mudra. The turning up of the eyes in meditation. In Hatha Yoga, the insertion of the tongue upward and behind the palate, blocking the nasal passages.

Kedarnath temple
Kedarnath Temple

Kedarnath (Kedar Nath): One of the chief places of pilgrimage in India: a temple on a mountaintop in the Himalayas, dedicated to the worship of Shiva in the form of a linga installed there by Adi Shankaracharya.

Keshava: Beautiful-haired one–a title of Krishna.

Kevala: Oneness; absolute; alone; single; independent; perfect; uncompounded.

Kevala-advaita: Absolute Non-dualism culminating in liberation.

Kevala Advaitin: A nondualist intent on the attainment of the state of Kaivalya–liberation.

Khol: See Mridangam.

Khyati: Apprehension; discernment; knowledge; vision.

Kirtan: Singing the names and praises of God; devotional chanting.

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.)

Klishta: Afflicted, painful or pain-bearing.

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.

Krama: Order; sequence; sequential order or progression; stage; underlying process; natural law–all these are inherent in their substratum or dharmi.

Krama-mukti: Attainment of liberation in stages; gradual liberation; passing from this world to a higher world beyond rebirth and from there attaining liberation.

Kripa: Grace; mercy; compassion; blessing. There are three kinds of kripa: 1) sadhana kripa, the grace of self-effort; 2) guru kripa, the grace of a teacher, and 3) divya kripa, divine grace.

Krishna (1): Black; dark-colored.


Krishna (2): “The dark blue one.” 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.

Krishna Dwaipayana: “The island-born dark one.” Vyasa.

Krita Yuga: Satya Yuga, the Golden Age. See Yuga.

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.

Kriya Shakti: The power or faculty of action.

Kriya Yoga: The Yoga of Purification: “Austerity (tapasya), self-study (swadhyaya), and offering of the life to God (Ishwara pranidhaha) are Kriya Yoga.” (Yoga Sutras 2:1)

Krodha: Anger, wrath; fury.

Kshama: Forgiveness; patience, forbearance.

Kshatriya: A member of the ruler/warrior caste.

Kshetra: Field; property; place of pilgrimage; sacred place; the physical body.

Kshetrajna: Knower of the field; the individual Self (Atman); the Supreme Self (Paramatman). See the thirteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.

Kshobha: Shaking; agitated; disturbed; emotion.

Kubera: The god of wealth.

Kula: Possessing a form.

Kumaras (Four): Those advanced souls–Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara and Sanatsujata–who at the beginning of this creation cycle refused to engage in worldly life despite the command of Brahma. They were then taught by Lord Shiva, in the form of Dakshinamurti, the mysteries of Brahmajnana and attained liberation.

Kumari: Virgin; a formal title of address for an unmarried woman.

Kumari Puja: The worship of a virgin (usually a prepubescent girl) as an embodiment of the Divine Mother.

Kumbha: Pot; water vessel.

Kumbhaka: Retention of breath; suspension of breath.

Kumkum: “Red-red.” Red-colored powder used for making a ritual mark between the eyebrows.

Kund: A pond; a small natural bathing place.

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.

Kurukshetra: The battlefield in Northern India where the Mahabharata (Great Indian) War took place, and where the Bhagavad Gita was spoken.

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; “summit abiding;” “on the summit.”

Kutashtha: Changeless; immutable; dweller in the height (summit); a name of Brahman.

Kutira: Hut; cottage; house; building; hermitage.

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Lahiri Mahasaya
Lahiri Mahasaya

Lahiri Mahasaya: One of the greatest yogis of nineteenth-century India, written about extensively in Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda.

Lakh: One hundred thousand.

Lakshana: Definition; characteristic; condition; attribute; sign; mark.

Lakshmi: The consort of Vishnu; the goddess of wealth and prosperity; good fortune; auspiciousness; abundance.

Lakshya: Target; point of concentration; perceivable object; vision.

Langoti: See kaupina.

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.

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.

Linga: Mark; characteristic; gender; sign; symbol; distinctive sign through which it is possible to recognize the nature of something. Usually a reference to a column-like or egg-shaped symbol of Shiva.

Linga sharira: Subtle body; astral body (also called sukshma-sharira).

Lobha: Greed; covetousness.

Loka: World or realm; sphere, level, or plane of existence, whether physical, astral, or causal. There are seven lokas: Bhuloka: The material plane of atomic matter. Bhuvaloka: The lesser astral world, similar to the material plane (Bhuloka). Swa(r)loka: The median astral world. Mahaloka: The higher astral world. Those who attain this world need never be reborn in the three lower worlds of Bhur, Bhuvah, and Swah. Janaloka: The world that embraces both the highest astral levels and the lower causal levels. Tapoloka: The median causal world exclusively inhabited by advanced spirits who perpetually engage in meditation–tapasya. Satyaloka: The highest causal world inhabited by those who have attained liberation (moksha).

Lokaishana: Desire for fame.

Lokapala: The ruler, overseer or guardian of a loka.

Lokasangraha: Solidarity of the world; uplift of the world.

Lota: A metal water vessel used for drinking, carrying, or pouring water.

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Mada: Pride; conceit; intoxication; exhilaration; dementia.

Madhava: Descendant of Madhu (a Yadava or Madhava patriarch). A title of Krishna.

Madhura: Sweet; honeylike.

Madhura bhava: The devotional relationship of love toward God; looking upon God as the Beloved.

Madhusudana: Destroyer of the Demon Madhu (properly an epithet of Vishnu)–a title of Krishna.

Madhvacharya: The founder and exponent of Dvaita (Dualistic) Vedanta (1199-1278), who taught devotion to Vishnu.

Madhya: Center; middle; central.

Madhyama: The middle stage of sound as it develops from silent to fully audible or spoken. Sound in its subtle form as it exists in the mind/psyche before its gross manifestation.

Maha: Great; mighty; powerful; lofty; noble. Usually a prefix or suffix.

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.

Mahabhuta: Great elements; primordial elements. The five great elements: ether (akasha), air (vayu), fire (tejas), water (ap), and earth (prithvi).

Mahadeva: “The Great God;” a title of Shiva.

Mahaloka: The higher astral world. Those who attain this world need never be reborn in the three lower worlds of Bhur, Bhuvah, and Swah.

Mahamantra: “The Great Mantra,” popularly known in the United States and Europe as “the Hare Krishna Mantra”–Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare; Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare.

Mahamaya: “Great illusion;” divine Power operating as identified with the Supreme Lord. A title of Shakti, the Goddess.

Mahamrityunjaya: “The Great Conqueror of Death.” A title and four-armed form of Shiva.

Mahamrityunjaya mantra: “The Great Conqueror of Death Mantra.” A Vedic verse addressed to Shiva that is recited for protection, recovery from disease, and extension of life.

Mahan: The Great One; The Supreme One; title of the Supreme Being. That One which is impossible to adequately praise. That alone which is truly Great.

Mahapralaya: The final cosmic dissolution; the dissolution of all the worlds of relativity (Bhuloka, Bhuvaloka, Swaloka, Mahaloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka, 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.

Mahaprana: The undifferentiated, intelligent cosmic life-force that becomes the five pranas; all things contain the mahaprana and are manifestations of the mahaprana; the dynamic aspect of universal Consciousness; the superconscious Divine Life in all things.

Maharatha: “A great-car-warrior,” a commander of eleven thousand bowmen as he rode in his chariot.

Mahar(i)shi: Great sage (rishi).

Mahapurusha: A great person; a great soul; a sage; the Supreme Lord.

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.

Mahashivaratri: “The Great Night of Shiva.” The major, night-long festival of the worship of Shiva that occurs on the fourteenth day of the dark half of the lunar month known as Phalguna (usually in February, but every third year when an extra month is added to the lunar calendar, it may occur in March).

Mahashunya(ta): The Great Void; the Great Emptiness. The state of the Formless Absolute, which is empty in the sense that it is without manifest creation. It is not a state of nonexistence, because it has the nature of Being, Consciousness, and Bliss (Satchidananda).

Mahat: See Mahat Tattwa.

Mahat Tattwa: The Great Principle; the first evolute from Prakriti; 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.”

Mahatma: Literally: “a great soul [atma].” Usually a designation for a sannyasi or a saint.

Mahavakya: Literally: “Great Saying.” The highest Vedantic truth, found in the Upanishads, there are four Mahavakyas: 1) Prajñanam Brahma–“Consciousness is Brahman” (Aitareya Upanishad); 2) Ayam Atma Brahma–“This Self is Brahman” (Mandukya Upanishad); 3) Tat Twam Asi–“Thou art That” (Chandogya Upanishad); 4) Aham Brahmasmi–“I am Brahman” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad).

Mahavrata: The Great Vow/Rule of Conduct. The Yoga Sutras (2:31) of Patanjali state that ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha “not conditioned by class, place, time or occasion, and extending to all stages, constitute the Great Vow.” (See separate entries for each component.)

Mahayoga: Great yoga.

Mahayogi: Great yogi.

Maheshwara: The Great Ishwara; Shiva.

Mahima (1): Greatness; glory; magnification; extensive magnitude; miracle.

Mahima (2): The psychic power (siddhi) to become as large as desired.

Mahout: Trainer-handler of an elephant.

Maithuna(m): Sexual intercourse.

Maitri: Friendliness; friendship; love.

Mala (1): Taint; impurity; defilement; defect; ignorance, limitation of consciousness.

Mala (2): Garland; flower garland; rosary; chain. A string of beads (usually 108) used to count off repetitions of a mantra or a yogic process.

Malina: Impure; defective.

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

Manana: Thinking, pondering, reflecting, considering.

Manas(a): See Manah.

Manasika: Pertaining to the mind; mental; mental action.

Mandala: Circle; magical circle or diagram; the special domain of a deity; a section of the Rig Veda; an association.

Mandapa(m): An open, covered hall or pavilion consisting of a roof and supports (usually pillars, but it can be walls with very large openings); a tent.

Mandir(a): Temple; abode.

Mangala: Auspicious.

Mangalarati: See Arati.

Mani: Jewel.

Manipura chakra: Energy center located in the spine at the point opposite the navel. Seat of the Fire element.

Manohara: “Enchanter/Ravisher/Stealer of the Mind;” one who captivates one’s mind. A title of Vishnu, but usually applied to Krishna as the flute player.

Manolaya: Involution and dissolution of the mind into its cause.

Manomaya kosha: “The sheath of the mind (manas–mental substance).” The level (kosha) of the sensory mind. The astral body.

Manonasa: Destruction of the mind.

Manonirodha: Control or annihilation of the mind.

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.

Mantra Yoga: The Yoga of the Divine Word; the science of sound; the path to divine union through repetition of a mantra.

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.

Manus: Progenitors of the human race who were also its lawgivers and teachers.

Manusha(m): Human being; humanity.

Manushya: Human being.

Manvantara: An age of the rulership of a Manu. Within a cosmic age (kalpa) there are fourteen manvantaras.

Mara: The embodiment of the power of cosmic evil, illusion, and delusion.

Marga: Way; path; street; approach to God-realization (bhakti marga, jnana marga, karma marga, yoga marga, etc.).

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.

Mata: Mother.

Math(a): A monastery.

Mati: Thought; view; opinion; faith; religion; doctrine; tradition; conviction; mind rightly directed towards knowledge revealed and practice enjoined by the shastras.

Matra: Letters of the alphabet or their sounds; mode; measure; prosodial instant–the length of time required for pronouncing a short vowel.

Matrika: Letter or sound syllable which is the basis of all words and hence of all knowledge; “little mothers.”

Matsyendranath: Guru of Gorakhnath and the first publicly known Nath Yogi, having become a disciple of Adinath who is considered an avatar of Shiva. As with Gorakhnath, we have no dates for him.

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.

Mayic: Having to do with Maya.

Medha: Power of retaining the import of studies; intelligence or intellect; power of understanding.

Mela: Fair; large religious gathering.

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).

Merudanda: The spinal column in yogic symbolism; see Meru.

Mimamsa: An enquiry into the nature of a thing; the science of philosophical logic enquiring into Vedic knowledge. Usually a reference to Purva-Mimamsa, one of the six schools of orthodox Indian philosophy. It focuses on the Vedas and the Vedic rites to establish their supreme spiritual value and authority.

Mimamsaka: A follower of the Purva Mimamsa school of philosophy.

Mitahara: Moderate diet.

Mithya: Not real; neither real nor unreal; illusory; false; untrue; incorrect.

Mitra: Friend; companion; associate. The Vedic god of harmony.

Mleccha: Foreigner; an alien; barbarian; someone who does not belong to Hindu culture.

Moha: Delusion–in relation to something, usually producing delusive attachment, infatuation, or obsession 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(m): A drum used exclusively in devotional music, also known as a khol.

Mrita(m): Dead.

Mrityu: Death; of death; a title of Yama, the Lord of Death.

Mrityuh: Death.

Mrityum: Death.

Mudita: Joy; happiness.

Mudra: Gesture; hand position; seal; stamp.

Muhurta: A unit of time–a thirtieth part of a day, forty-five to forty-eight minutes in length.

Mukta: One who is liberated–freed–usually in the sense of one who has attained moksha or spiritual liberation.

Muktajiva: A liberated individual spirit.

Mukti: Moksha; liberation; release.

Mula: Origin(al); primary; root; base.

Mulachaitanya: Root consciousness; seed of the creation.

Muladhara chakra: “Seat of the root.” Energy center located at the base of the spine. Seat of the Earth element.

Mulaprakriti: The Root [Basic] Energy from which all things are formed. The Divine Prakriti or Energy of God.

Mulashakti: Root power or energy; Mulaprakriti.

Mumukshu: A seeker after liberation (moksha).

Mumukshutwa: Intense desire or yearning for liberation (moksha).

Muni: “Silent one” ( one observing the vow of silence (mauna); sage; ascetic.

Murti: Image; statue; idol; figure; embodiment.

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A Brief Sanskrit Glossary – Continued: N through Z next