Aarti – is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in offered to one or more deities. Aartis also refer to the songs sung in praise of the deity, when lamps are being offered.
Acharya – spiritual preceptor, one who teaches by example.
Ahimsa – a completely non-violent existence
Advaita Vedanta – is considered to be the most influential and most dominant sub-school of the Vedanta (literally, end or the goal of the Vedas, Sanskrit) school of Hindu philosophy. Other major sub-schools of Vedanta are Visishṭadvaita and Dvaita; while the minor ones include Suddhadvaita, Dvaitadvaita and Achintya Bhedabheda. Advaita (literally, non-duality) is a system of thought where “Advaita” refers to the identity of the Self (Atman) and the Whole (Brahman).
Amrita – is a Sanskrit word that literally means “immortality”, and is often referred to in texts as nectar. The word’s earliest occurrence is in the Rigveda where it is one of several synonyms of soma, the drink which confers immortality upon the gods. It is related etymologically to the Greek ambrosia, and it carries the same meaning. It has various significances in different Dharmic Traditions. “Amrit” is also a common Hindu first name for men; the feminine is “Amrita”.
Arjuna – is the greatest warrior on earth and is one of the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Arjuna, whose name means ‘bright’, ‘shining’, ‘white’ or ‘silver’ (cf. Latin argentum), was such a peerless archer that he is often referred to as Vishnu – the unbeatable.
Asana – is a body position, typically associated with the practice originally identified as a mastery of sitting still, with the spine as a conduit of biodynamic union. In the context of Yoga practice, asana refers to two things: the place where a practitioner (or yogin, in general usage), sits and the manner (posture) in which he/she sits. In the Yoga sutras, Patanjali suggests that asana is “to be seated in a position that is firm, but relaxed” for extended, or timeless periods.
Ashram – Additionally, today the term ashram often denotes a locus of Indian cultural activity such as yoga, music study or religious instruction, the moral equivalent of a studio or dojo.
Atman – especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism it refers to one’s true self beyond identification with phenomena. In order to attain salvation (liberation) a human being must acquire self-knowledge (atma jnana) which is to say realise experientially that one’s true self is identical with the transcendent self (paramatman) that is called Brahman.
Aum – was first described as the all-encompassing mystical entity in the Upanishads. In Hindusim, Jainism, and Buddhism, it is considered to be a mystical and sacred sound. It is sometimes written as “Om.”
Avatar– is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being (i.e., Vishnu for Vaishnavites) and is mostly translated into English as “incarnation,” but more accurately as “appearance” or “manifestation”.
Ayurveda – translated as “the science of life”, is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period.
Bhagavad Gita – or simply “Gita”, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. It is an allegorical text, which narrates a conversation between Lord Krishna and Pandava Prince Arjuna taking place in the middle of the battlefield before the start of the Kurukshetra War with armies on both sides ready to battle. The Bhagavad Gita’s emphasis on selfless service (seva) was a prime source of inspiration for Mahatma Gandhi.
Bhagavan – from the Sanskrit, literally means “possessing fortune, blessed, prosperous” (from the noun bhaga, meaning “fortune, wealth”, cognate to Slavic bog ”god”, Russian богач (boga’ch) ”wealthy”), and hence “illustrious, divine, venerable, holy”, etc.
Bhajan – is any type of Indian devotional song. It has no fixed form: it may be as simple as a mantra or kirtan, or an extremely sophisticated composition involving classical scales (ragas) or rhythms (talas). It is normally lyrical, expressing love for the Divine. The name, a cognate of bhakti, suggests its importance to the bhakti movement that spread from the south of India throughout the entire subcontinent in the Moghul Era.
Bhakti – is often defined as “intense love”, or “intense attraction” to the Divine. Literally, it can be translated as “participation.” When a devotee actively practices devotion for the Divine, in the form or chanting for example, he/she is practicing bhakti. The Sanskrit noun bhakti is derived from the verb root bhaj, whose meanings include “to share in”, “to belong to”, and “to worship”.
Bhav – denotes denotes a mood of ecstasy and self-surrender. Literally, the word means “feeling”, “emotion”, “mood”, “mental attitude” or “devotional state of mind.”
Brahmacharya – is one of the four stages of life in an age-based social system as laid out Classical Sanskrit texts in Hinduism. It refers to an educational period of 14–20 years which starts before the age of puberty. During this time the traditional vedic sciences are studied, along with the religious texts contained within the Vedas and Upanishads. This stage of life was characterized by the practice of strict celibacy.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu – was a Vaishnava saint and eastern India (specifically present-day Bangladesh and states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Assam, and Orissa of India) in the 16th century, believed by followers of Gaudiya Vaishnavism to be the full incarnation of Lord Krishna. Sri Krishna Chaitanya was a notable proponent for the Vaishnava school of Bhakti yoga based on the philosophy of the Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita. Specifically, he worshipped the forms of Radha and Krishna, popularized the chanting of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra and composed Siksastakam in Sanskrit. His line of followers, known as Gaudiya Vaishnavas, revere him as an Avatar of Krishna in the mood of Radharani who was prophesised to appear in the later verses of the Bhagavata Purana.
Chakra – means “wheel.” Chakras are energy centers, or energy vortices. They exist as dynamic energies in all human beings. Most yoga traditions acknowledge seven main chakras, which correspond to the endocrine system or to nerve plexes in the physical body. Each chakra is identified by its location in the body, the organ or gland it affects, its associated element (i.e. fire for the third chakra), its associated color, and its associated emotional qualities (i.e. insecurity for the first chakra).The chakras work in unison with each other. When they are in balance, they create a single line of energy from the base of the spine (first charka) out the top of the head (seventh chakra), which results in an experience of connection and bliss.
Dakini – is a tantric deity described as a female embodiment of enlightened energy. In the Tibetan language, dakini is rendered khandroma which means ‘she who traverses the sky’ or ‘she who moves in space’. Sometimes the term is translated poetically as ‘sky dancer’ or ‘sky walker’.
Darshan – is a Sanskrit term meaning “sight” (in the sense of an instance of seeing or beholding; from a root drs ”to see”), vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for “visions of the divine” in Hindu worship, e.g. of a deity (especially in image form), or a very holy person or artifact. One could “receive” darshana or blessing of the deity in the temple, or from a great saintly person, such as a great guru.
Deva – is the Sanskrit word for deity, its related feminine term is devi.
Devi – see Deva
Dharma – literally translates as that which upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe. According to the various Indian religions, such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, beings that live in accordance with dharma proceed more quickly toward liberation from the cycle of birth and death .
Drishti – means “vision” or “insight” in Sanskrit. In yoga, it is a point of focus where the gaze rests during asana and meditation practice. Focusing on a drishti aids concentration, since it is easier to become distracted when the eyes are wandering all over the room. Each yoga pose has a specific drishti, which also aids in alignment.
Ganapati – see Ganesha
Ganesha -also known as Ganapati, is a Hindu deity who appears as a human with the head of an elephant. He represents the power of the Supreme Being that removes obstacles and ensures success in human endeavors. For this reason, Hindus worship Ganesha first before beginning any religious, spiritual or worldly activity. In Hindu mythology, Lord Ganesha is the first son of Lord Shiva and the Divine Mother Parvati.
Ganges – is a trans-boundary river of India and Bangladesh. It is a sacred river for Hindus, and also a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. It is worshiped as the goddess “Ganga.”
Gāyatrī Mantra – is a highly revered mantra, based on a Vedic Sanskrit verse from a hymn of the Rigveda (3.62.10), attributed to the rishi Visvamitra. The mantra is named for its vedic gayatri metre. Its recitation is traditionally preceded by Aum (or “Om”) and the formula bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ, known as the mahavyahṛti (“great utterance”).
Gopi – is a word of Sanskrit origin meaning ‘cow-herd girl’. In Hinduism the name gopi (sometimes gopika) is used more commonly to refer to the group of cow herding girls famous within Vaishnava Theology for their unconditional devotion to Krishna as described in the stories of Bhagavata Purana and other Puranic literatures. Of this group, one gopi known as Radha (or Radhika) holds a place of particularly high reverence and importance in a number of religious traditions, especially within Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
Gopala – see Govinda
Govinda – and Gopala are names of Krishna, referring to his youthful occupation as a cowherd. He is regarded as the Supreme Godhead in the Vaishnava tradition and also by much of the pan-Hindu tradition. The ancient text Sri Brahma Samhita (5.1) describes Him as the source of all that is and the original cause of all causes.
Guru – is a composite of two words: “gu”, which means darkness; and “ru” meaning light. As such, it is used to describe one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom, and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others. In many Indian spiritual paths, finding a true guru is often held to be a prerequisite for attaining self-realization. In Sikhism, the term refers to the sacred energy (rather than a person) that connects humans to the Divine, having the ability to transform ignorance (or darkness) into Divine union (or light).
Himalayas – is a mountain range immediately at the north of the Indian subcontinent. Several places in the Himalaya are of religious significance in Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, the Himalaya have also been personified as the god Himavat, the father of Shiva’s consort, Parvati. A number of Tibetan Buddhist sites are situated in the Himalayas, including the residence of the Dalai Lama.
Hinduism – is the predominant religion of the Indian subcontinent, and one of its indigenous religions. Hinduism includes Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Srauta among numerous other traditions. Among other practices and philosophies, Hinduism includes a wide spectrum of laws and prescriptions of “daily morality” based on the notion of karma, dharma, and societal norms. Hinduism is a conglomeration of distinct intellectual or philosophical points of view, rather than a rigid common set of beliefs.
Indra – or Śakra is the King of the gods or Devas and Lord of Heaven or Svargaloka in Hindu mythology. He is one of the chief deities in the Rigveda. He is also the God of War, Storms, and Rainfall and is associated with Vajrapani – the Chief Dharmapala or Defender and Protector of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha who embodies the power of all primordial.
ISKCON – is the acronym for International Society for Krishna Consciousness. ISKCON is known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement, is a Gaudiya Vaishnava religious organization. It was founded in 1966 in New York City by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Its core beliefs are based on traditional Hindu scriptures such as the Srimad Bhagavatam and
the Bhagavad Gita, both of which, according to the traditional Hindu view, date back more than 5,000 years. The distinctive appearance of the movement and its culture come from the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, which has had adherents in India since the late 15th century and Western converts since the early 1930s.
Japa – is a spiritual discipline involving the meditative repetition of a mantra or name of a divine power. The mantra or name may be spoken softly, enough for the practitioner to hear it, or it may be spoken purely within the recitor’s mind. Japa may be performed while sitting in a meditation posture, while performing other activities, or as part of formal worship in group settings. The practice of repetitive prayer is present in varied forms within most religions in the world, although the religions of India generally give more emphasis to it as a specific discipline.
Jiva – is a living being, or more specifically, the immortal essence of a living organism (human, animal, fish or plant etc.) which survives physical death. It has a very similar usage to atma, but whereas atma refers to “the cosmic self”, jiva is used to denote an individual ‘living entity’ or ‘living being’ specifically. The terms Paramatma and jivatma are used to avoid confusion. The word itself originates from the Sanskrit Jivas, with the root jiv (to breathe).
Jnana Yoga – or “path of knowledge” is one of the types of hatha yoga mentioned in Hindu philosophies. The main purpose of jnana meditation is to withdraw the mind and emotions from perceiving life and oneself in a deluded way so that one may behold and live in attunement with Reality, or Spirit.
Kali – is the Hindu goddess associated with empowerment, shakti. The name Kali comes from kala, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Kali means “the black one”. Since Shiva is called Kāla—the eternal time—Kali, his consort, also means “time” or “death” (as in time has come). Hence, Kali is considered the goddess of time and change. Although sometimes presented as dark and violent, her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilation still has some influence. Various Shakta Hindu cosmologies, as well as Shakta Tantric beliefs, worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman. She is also revered as Bhavatarini (literally “redeemer of the universe”). Comparatively recent devotional movements largely conceive Kali as a benevolent mother goddess.
Kali Yuga – “age of the demon Kali”, or “age of vice” is the last of the four stages the world goes through as part of the cycle of yugas described in the Indian scriptures. The other ages are Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga. The duration and chronological starting point in human history of Kali Yuga has given rise to different evaluations and interpretations. According to one of them, the Surya Siddhanta, Kali Yuga began at midnight on February 18 3102 BCE in the proleptic Julian calendar, or January 23 3102 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar. This date is also considered by many Hindus to be the day that Krishna left Earth to return to his abode. Most interpreters of Hindu scriptures believe that Earth is currently in Kali Yuga. Many authorities such as Swami Sri Yukteswar, and Paramhansa Yogananda believe that it is now Dvapara Yuga. Many others like Aurbindo Ghosh have stated that Kali Yuga is now over. The Kali Yuga is sometimes thought to last 432,000 years, although other durations have been proposed.
Karma – in Indian religions is the concept of “action” or “deed”, understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh philosophies. The opposite of karma is dharma.
Kirtan – is call-and-response chanting or “responsory” performed in India’s devotional traditions. A person performing kirtan is known as a kirtankar. Kirtan practice involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments such as the harmonium, tablas, the two-headed mrdanga or pakawaj drum, and karatal hand cymbals. It is a major
practice in Vaisnava devotionalism, Sikhism, the Sant traditions, and some forms of Buddhism, as well as other religious groups.
Krishna – literally “dark, black, dark-blue”) is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is known as the eighth and “complete” avatar of Lord Vishnu,( As per the North Indian belief, Krishna is the eighth avatar, while as per south Indian belief, Balarama is considered as the eight avatar and Krishna as the ninth) come to restore Dharma to the earth in a time of great dharmic imbalance. Krishna is identified as a historical individual who participated in the events of the
Kundalini yoga – is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline for developing strength, awareness, character, and consciousness. Practitioners call Kundalini yoga the yoga of awareness because it focuses primarily on practices that expand sensory awareness and intuition in order to raise individual consciousness and merge it with the Infinite consciousness of God. Considered an advanced form of yoga and meditation, its purpose is to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others.
Lakshmi – a Hindu conceptualism of the universe as a playground of the gods the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity (both material and spiritual), light, wisdom, fortune, fertility, generosity and courage; and the embodiment of beauty, grace andcharm. Representations of Lakshmi are also found in Jain monuments. Also called Mahalakshmi, she is said to bring good luck, and is believed to protect her devotees from all kinds of misery and money-related sorrows.
Lila – conceptualism of the universe as a playground of the gods or viewing life as a “divine play.”
Mahabharata – is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa.
Mandir – also called Devalayam, Devasthanam, or a Hindu temple is a place of worship for followers of Hinduism. A characteristic of most temples is the presence of murtis (statues) of the Hindu deity to whom the temple is dedicated. They are usually dedicated to one primary deity, the presiding deity, and other deities associated with the main deity. However, some temples are dedicated to several deities, and others are dedicated to murtis in an aniconic form. Many temples are in key geographical points, such as a hill top, near waterfalls, caves and rivers, because some believe the Puranas mention that “the gods always play where groves are near rivers, mountains, and springs.”
Mantra – a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of creating spiritual transformation. Its use and type varies according to the school and philosophy associated with the mantra.
Maya – means “illusion”, which refers to the illusion that we are separate from the Cosmos. This illusion keeps us from experiencing the environment itself but rather a projection of it, created by us. Maya is the principal deity that manifests, perpetuates and governs the illusion and dream of duality in the phenomenal Universe. For some mystics, this manifestation is real. Each person, each physical object, from the perspective of eternity, is like a brief, disturbed drop of water from an unbounded ocean. The goal of enlightenment is to understand this more precisely, to experience this: to see intuitively that the distinction between the self and the Universe is a false dichotomy. The distinction between consciousness and physical matter, between mind and body (refer bodymind), is the result of an unenlightened perspective.
Moksha – literally “release” (both from a root muc ”to let loose, let go”), is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.
Mount Kailash – is a peak in the Gangdisê Mountains, which are part of the Transhimalaya in Tibet. It lies near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia: the Indus River, the Sutlej River (a major tributary of the Indus River), the Brahmaputra River, and the Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges River). It is considered a sacred place in four religions: Bön, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. In Hinduism, it is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva and a place of eternal bliss. The mountain lies near Lake Manasarowar and Lake Rakshastal in Tibet.
Mudra – is a symbolic or ritual gesture in Hinduism and Buddhism. While some mudrās involve the entire body, most are performed with the hands and fingers. A mudrā is a spiritual gesture and an energetic seal of authenticity employed in theiconography and spiritual practice of Indian religions and traditions of Dharma and Taoism.
One hundred and eight mudras are used in regular Tantric rituals.
Murti – typically refers to an image which expresses a Divine Spirit (murta). Meaning literally “embodiment”, a murti is a representation of a divinity, made usually of stone, wood, or metal, which serves as a means through which a divinity may be worshiped. Hindus consider a murti worthy of serving as a focus of divine worship only after the divine is invoked in it for the purpose of offering worship. The depiction of the divinity must reflect the gestures and proportions outlined in religious tradition. It is a means of communication with the god or Brahman in Hinduism. Murti is a Sanskrit term which is meant to point to the transcendent “otherness” of the divine and when substituted with statue or idol – its inherent meaning is lost since neither is a correct translation of the word murti.
Namaste – is a common spoken valediction or salutation, originating from the Indian subcontinent. It is a customary greeting when individuals meet, and a valediction upon their parting. A non-contact form of salutation is traditionally preferred in India and Namaste is the most common form of such a salutation. In Nepal, younger persons usually initiate the exchange with their elders. Initiating the exchange is seen as a sign of respect in other hierarchical settings. Often translated as “the light in me honors the light in you.”
Nataraja – is a depiction of God Shiva as the cosmic dancer Koothan who performs his divine dance to destroy a weary universe and make preparations for god Brahma to start the process of creation. A Tamil concept, Shiva was first depicted as Nataraja in the famous Chola bronzes and sculptures of Chidambaram. The dance of Shiva in Tillai, the traditional name forChidambaram, forms the motif for all the depictions of Shiva as Nataraja. He is also known as “Sabesan” which splits as “Sabayil aadum eesan” in Tamil which means “The Lord who dances on the dais”. The form is present in most Shiva temples in South India, and is the main deity in the famous temple at Chidambaram.
Nirvaṇa – is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with theSupreme being through moksha. The word literally means “blowing out”—referring in the Buddhist context, to the blowing out of the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion.
Patanjali – is the compiler of the Yoga Sutras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. According to tradition, the same Patañjali was also the author of the Mahābhāṣya, a commentary on Kātyāyana’s vārttikas (short comments) on Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī as well as an unspecified work of medicine (āyurveda).
Pranayama – is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the prana or breath” or more accurately, “extension of the life force”. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prāna, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and “āyāma”, to extend, draw out, restrain, or control.
Pratyahara – is the ‘withdrawal of the senses,’ or the fifth element among the Eight Limbs of yoga described by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. One of the most common practices for Pratyahara is Pranayama, wherein we automatically withdraw from the external and bring our focus inwards towards our breath, as connection with the external senses and stimuli are all severed gradually.
Puja – is a religious ritual performed by Hindus as an offering to various deities, distinguished persons, or special guests. It is done on a variety of occasions and settings, from daily puja done in the home, to temple ceremonies and large festivals, or to begin a new venture. Puja is modeled on the idea of giving a gift or offering to a deity or important person and receiving their blessing. The two main areas where puja is performed is in the home and at public temples. There are many variations in scale, offering, and ceremony. Puja is also performed on special occasions such as Durga Puja and Lakshmi Puja. The puja ritual is performed by Hindus worldwide. Various pujas are performed at various times of the day and on various occasions.
Radha – is the childhood friend and lover of Krishna in the Bhagavata Purana, and the Gita Govinda of the Vaisnava traditions of Hinduism. Radha is almost always depicted alongside Krishna and features prominently within the theology of today’s Gaudiya Vaishnava sect, which regards Radha as the original Goddess or Shakti. Radha is also the principal object of worship in the Nimbarka Sampradaya, as Nimbarka, the founder of the tradition, declared that Radha and Krishna together constitute the absolute truth. Radha’s relationship with Krishna is given in further detail within texts such as the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, Garga Samhita and Brihad Gautamiya tantra. Radha is often referred to as Radharani or “Radhika” in speech, prefixed with the respectful term ‘Srimati’ by devout followers.
Raga – is one of the melodic modes used in Indian classical music.
Rama – is considered to be the seventh avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism, and a king of Ayodhya in ancient Indian Puranas. Rama was born in Suryavansha (Ikshvaku Vansh) later known as Raghuvnsha after king Raghu. Based on Puranic genealogy, Rama is believed by Hindus to have lived in the second Yuga called Treta Yuga, before Krishna who was born towards the end of Dwapara Yuga. Rama is traditionally considered to have appeared in the last quarter of Treta Yuga.. and acccording to ancient Hindu scriptures, Vedas, Rama lived before 11,00,000 BC.
Ramayana – It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata. It depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal father, ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king.
Reincarnation – best describes the concept where the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant. This doctrine is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism; the Buddhist concept of rebirth is also often referred to as reincarnation. The idea was also fundamental to some Greek philosophers as well as other religions, such as Druidism, and later on, Spiritism, Theosophy, and Eckankar. It is also found in many tribal societies around the world, in places such as Siberia, West Africa, North America, and Australia.
Sadhu – denotes an ascetic, wandering monk. Although the vast majority of sadhus are yogis, not all yogis are sadhus. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving moksa (liberation), the fourth and final stage of life, through meditation and contemplation of brahman. Ssdhu’s often wear ochre-colored clothing, symbolizing their sanyasa (renunciation). This way of life is open to women; the female form of the word is sadhvi.
Samadhi – in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools is a higher level of concentrated meditation, or dhyana. In the yoga tradition, it is the eighth and final limb identified in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Sannyasa – is the order of life of the renouncer within the Hindu scheme of life stages. It is considered the top most and final stage of the ashram systems and is traditionally taken by men or women at or beyond the age of fifty years old or by young monks who wish to renounce worldly and materialistic pursuits and instead dedicate their entire life towards spiritual pursuits. In this phase of life, the person develops vairagya, or a state of dispassion and detachment from material life. He renounces all worldly thoughts and desires, and spends the rest of his life in spiritual contemplation. One within the sannyasa order is known as a sannyasin (male) or sannyasini (female).
Saraswati – is the goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science. She is the consort of Brahma, also revered as His Shakti. Her figure is also popular in the Jain religion of west and central India.
Satguru – does not merely mean true guru. The term is distinguished from other forms of gurus, such as musical instructors, scriptural teachers, parents, and so on. The satguru is a title given specifically only to an enlightened rishi whose life’s purpose is to guide initiated shishya along the spiritual path, the summation of which is the realization of the Self through realization of the God, who is omnipresent. A Satguru has some special characteristics that are not found in any other types of Spiritual Guru.
Satsang – in Indian philosophy means (1) the company of the “highest truth,” (2) the company of a guru, or (3) company with an assembly of persons who listen to, talk about, and assimilate the truth. This typically involves listening to or reading scriptures, reflecting on, discussing and assimilating their meaning, meditating on the source of these words, and bringing their meaning into one’s daily life. Contemporary spiritual teachers in the West frequently come from the East but can come from any part of the world.
Sattva – is the most rarefied of the three gunas (qualities of the world), whose quality is said to be “pure.” Importantly, no value judgement is entailed as all gunas are indivisible and mutually qualifying.
Seva – Volunteer work; selfless service; work offered to God (in Indian religions).
Shakti – “to be able,” meaning sacred force or empowerment, is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe in Hinduism. Shakti is the concept, or personification, of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as ‘The Great Divine Mother’ in Hinduism. On the earthly plane, Shakti most actively manifests through female embodiment and creativity/fertility, though it is also present in males in its potential, unmanifest form.
Shiva – is the destroyer of evil or transformer among the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power, he lives a life of a sage at Mount Kailash. In the Shaiva tradition of Hinduism, Shiva is seen as the Supreme God and has five important works: creator, preserver, destroyer, concealer, and revealer (to bless). In the Smarta tradition, he is regarded as one of the five primary forms of God. Followers of Hinduism who focus their worship upon Shiva are called Shaivites or Shaivas. Shaivism, along with Vaisnava traditions that focus on Vishnu and Sakta traditions that focus on the goddess Shakti, is one of the most influential denominations in Hinduism.
Siddhi – is a Sanskrit noun that can be translated as “perfection”, “accomplishment”, “attainment”, or “success”. The term is first attested in the Mahabharata. In the Pancatantra, a siddhi may be any unusual skill or faculty or capability. As a legal term in the Manusmriti, it refers to the settlement of a debt.
Sita – is the consort of the Hindu god Rama (avatar of Vishnu) and is an avatar of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and wife of Vishnu. She is the female protagonist of the epic Ramayana, the principal narrative of her and Rama’s life. She is esteemed as a standard-setter for wifely and womanly virtues for all Hindu women. Sita is known for her dedication, self-sacrifice, courage and purity.
Stotra – is a hymn of praise. These hymns praise aspects of the divine, such as Devi, Siva, or Vishnu. Relating to word “stuti”, coming from the same verb, ”stu” (to praise), and basically both mean “praise.”
Sutra – is an aphorism (or line, rule, formula) or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual, or, more broadly, a text in Hinduism or Buddhism. Literally it means a thread or line that holds things together and is derived from the verbal root siv-, meaning to sew (these words, including Latin suere and English to sew, all ultimately deriving from Proto-Indo-European language ‘to sew’), as does the medical term “suture.”
Swami – is an ascetic or yogi who has been initiated into the religious monastic order founded by Adi Sankara, or to a religious teacher.
Tantra – is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India in the fifth century CE, expressed in scriptures (called “Tantras”). While the doctrines of Tantra vary too widely to summarize briefly, one of its most salient features when compared with earlier forms of Indian religion is that its non-dual forms reject the renunciant values of classical yoga, offering instead a world-embracing vision of the whole of reality as the self-expression of a single, free and joyous Divine Consciousness. Tantric spiritual practices and rituals thus aim to bring about an inner realization of the truth that “Nothing exists that is not Divine”
Upanishads – are philosophical texts considered to be an early source of Hindu religion. Traditionally, these texts are considered to be authorless, and are categorized as Sruti. The Upanishads are found mostly the concluding part of the Brahmanas and in the Aranyakas. All Upanishads have been passed down in oral tradition.
Vaishnavism – is one of the three main traditions of Hinduism, along with Srauta and Shaivism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God. Vaishnavites, or the followers of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, lead a way of life promoting differentiated monotheism, which gives importance to Lord Vishnu and His ten incarnations.
Vedānta – was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = “Veda-end” = “the appendix to the Vedic hymns.” It is also speculated that “Vedānta” means “the purpose or goal [end] of the Vedas.”
Vedas – Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer ofSanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism. The Vedas are apauruṣeya (“not of human agency”).They are supposed to have been directly revealed, and thus are called śruti (“what is heard”), distinguishing them from other religious texts, which are called smṛti (“what is remembered”).
Yoga – has the literal meaning of “yoke”, from a root yuj meaning to join, to unite, or to attach. As a term for a system of abstract meditation or mental abstraction it was introduced by Patanjali in the 2nd century BC. Someone who practices yoga or follows the yoga philosophy with a high level of commitment is called a yogi (man) or yogini (woman). The goal of yoga is to connect, or join, the finite self with Universal Consciousness (or “Self”).