aadheenam: ஆதீனம் Endowment, foundation, institution, establishment, estate, property. A Śaivite Hindu monastery and temple complex in the South Indian Śaiva Siddhānta tradition. Also known as maṭha or pīṭha, as in Kailāsa Pīṭha. The aadheenam head, or pontiff, is called the guru mahāsannidhānam or aadheenakarthar.
ābhāsa: आभास “Shining forth; effulgence, irradiation; manifestation, emanation.” The means by which Śiva creates out of Himself, a concept central to monistic schools. See: emanation, tattva.
abhaya: अभय Fearlessness, one of the cardinal virtues. “Fearlessness is the fruit of perfect Self Realization—that is, the recovery of nonduality” (Bṛihadāraṇyaka Upanishad 1.4.2). Also names the mudrā (hand pose) common in Hindu icons, betokening “fear not,” in which the fingers of the right hand are raised and the palm faces forward. See: mudrā, mūrti.
Abhinavagupta: अभिनवगुप्त Kashmīr Śaivite guru (ca 950–1015), scholar and adept in the lineage of Vasugupta. Among his philosophical writings, Pratyabhijñā Vimarshiṇī and Tantrāloka are an important basis of Kashmīr Śaivism. Also an influential theoretician of poetics, dance, drama and classical music, he is said to have disappeared into a cave near Mangam along with 1,200 disciples. See: Kashmīr Śaivism.
abhisheka: अभिषेक “Sprinkling; ablution.” Ritual bathing of the Deity’s image with water, curd, milk, honey, ghee, rosewater, etc. A special form of pūjā prescribed by Āgamic injunction. Also performed in the inauguration of religious and political monarchs and other special blessings. See: pūjā.
abhor (abhorrence): To detest, hate or find disgusting or repulsive and hence to pull back or shrink from.
abide: To stand firm, remain as one is. Not abandoning principles or qualities of character even in the face of difficulties.
abjuration: Foreswearing, renouncing on oath, as when a sannyāsin gives up family life. See: sannyāsa dharma.
ablution: Snāna. A washing of the body, especially as a religious ceremony.
abode: Home. Place where one lives or stays.
abortion: The deliberate termination of pregnancy. From the earliest times, Hindu tradition and scriptures condemn the practice, except when the mother’s life is in danger. It is considered an act against ṛita and ahiṁsā. Hindu mysticism teaches that the fetus is a living, conscious person, needing and deserving protection (a Ṛig Vedic hymn [7.36.9, RvP, 2469] calls for protection of fetuses). The Kaushītakī Upanishad (3.1 UpR, 774) describes abortion as equivalent to killing one’s parents. The Atharva Veda (6.113.2 HE, 43) lists the fetus slayer, brūnaghni, among the greatest of sinners (6.113.2). The Gautama Dharma Śāstra (3.3.9 HD, 214) considers such participants to have lost caste. The Suśruta Saṁhitā, a medical treatise (ca 100), stipulates what is to be done in case of serious problems during delivery (Chikitsāsthāna Chapter, Mūḍhagarbha), describing first the various steps to be taken to attempt to save both mother and child. “If the fetus is alive, one should attempt to remove it from the womb of the mother alive...” (sūtra 5). If it is dead, it may be removed. In case the fetus is alive but cannot be safely delivered, surgical removal is forbidden for “one would harm both mother and offspring. In an irredeemable situation, it is best to cause the miscarriage of the fetus, for no means must be neglected which can prevent the loss of the mother” (sūtras 10-11).
Absolute: Lower case (absolute): real, not dependent on anything else, not relative. Upper case (Absolute): Ultimate Reality, the unmanifest, unchanging and transcendent Paraśiva—utterly nonrelational to even the most subtle level of consciousness. It is the Self God, the essence of man’s soul. Same as Absolute Being and Absolute Reality. —absolutely real: A quality of God Śiva in all three perfections: Paraśiva, Parāśakti and Parameśvara. As such, He is uncreated, unchanging, unevolutionary. See: Parameśvara, Parāśakti, Paraśiva.
absolution (to absolve): Forgiveness. A freeing from guilt so as to relieve someone from obligation or penalty. —atone: to compensate or make up for a wrongdoing. Atonement can only be done by the person himself, while absolution is granted by others, such as a family head, judge or jury. Exoneration, the taking away of all blame and all personal karmic burden, can only be given by God Śiva. Society would naturally acknowledge and accept this inner transformation by forgiving and forgetting. See: penance, sin.
absorption: Taking in and making part of an existent whole. Known in Sanskrit as saṁhāra, absorption is one of God’s five powers (pañchakṛitya), synonymous with destruction or dissolution, but with no negative or frightful implications. All form issues from God and eventually returns to Him. See: Maheśvara, Naṭarāja.
abstain: To hold oneself back, to refrain from or do without. To avoid a desire, negative action or habit. See: yama-niyama.
abyss: A bottomless pit. The dark states of consciousness into which one may fall as a result of serious misbehavior; the seven chakras (psychic centers), or talas (realms of consciousness), below the mūlādhāra chakra, which is located at the base of the spine. See: chakra, loka, Naraka.
accelerate: To increase the speed; to intensify the rate of progress.
accordant: In agreement or harmony with.
āchāra: आचार “Conduct, mode of action, behavior; good conduct.” Also, custom, tradition; rule of conduct, precept.
āchārya: आचार्य A highly respected teacher. The wise one who practices what he preaches. A title generally bestowed through dīkshā and ordination, such as in the Śivāchārya priest tradition. See: dīkshā.
acosmic pantheism: “No-cosmos, all-is-God doctrine.” A Western philosophical term for the philosophy of Sankara. It is acosmic in that it views the world, or cosmos, as ultimately unreal, and pantheistic because it teaches that God (Brahman) is all of existence. See: Sankara, shaḍ darśana.
actinic: Spiritual, creating light. From the Greek aktis, meaning “ray.” Of or pertaining to consciousness in its pure, unadulterated state. Describes the extremely rarified superconscious realm of pure bindu, of quantum strings, the substratum of consciousness, śuddha māyā, from which light first originates. Actinic is the adjective form of actinism, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: “1) the radiation of heat or light, or that branch of philosophy that treats of it; 2) that property or force in the sun’s rays by which chemical changes are produced, as in photography.” See: actinodic, kalā, kośa, odic, tattva.
actinodic: Spiritual-magnetic. Describes consciousness within śuddhāśuddha māyā, which is a mixture of odic and actinic force, the spectrum of the anāhata chakra, and to a certain degree the viśuddha chakra. See: tattva.
adept: Highly skilled; expert. In religion, one who has mastered certain spiritual practices or disciplines. An advanced yogī. See: siddha yoga.
adharma: अधर्म The negative or opposite of dharma. Thoughts, words or deeds that transgress divine law. Unrighteousness, irreligiousness; demerit. See: dharma, pāpa, sin, Vaishṇavism, victors and vanquished.
adhere: To remain attached or faithful, as to a leader, society, principle, etc.
adhyātma: अध्यात्म “Spiritual; soul.” The inner, spiritual self or spirit. See: ātman.
adhyātma prasāra: अध्यात्मप्रसार “Spiritual evolution.” The gradual maturation of the soul body, ānandamaya kośa, through many lives. Prasāra means, “coming forth, spreading; advance, progress.” See: evolution of the soul.
adhyātma vikāśa: अध्यात्मविकास “Spiritual unfoldment.” The blossoming of inner or higher (adhi), soul (ātma) qualities as a result of religious striving, sādhana. Vikāśa means, “becoming visible, shining forth, manifestation opening,” as a flower unfolds its petals, or the chakras unfold theirs as a result of kuṇḍalinī awakening. See: spiritual unfoldment.
Ādi Granth: आदिग्रन्थ “Prime Writ,” “First Book.” The central Sikh scripture, compiled 1603‒1604 from the writings of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu holy men, most importantly the beautiful hymns of adoration, called Japjī, by Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. In 1699, Govind Singh, the tenth preceptor, decreed that the living succession would end with him, and this scripture would henceforth serve as Sikhism’s guru. Its eloquent teachings are in harmony with Hinduism, but for the rejection of the Vedas and disavowal of image worship and caste. The Ādi Granth is enshrined in all Sikh temples (gurudwaras). See: Sikhism.
Adinatha (Ādinātha): आदिनाथ “First Lord.” A sage considered the first great preceptor (date unknown) of the Ādinātha Sampradāya, a teaching tradition embodied in the Siddha Siddhānta sect of Śaivism. See: Nātha, Śaivism.
Ādinātha Sampradāya: आदिनाथसंप्रदाय See: Nātha Sampradāya.
Ādiśaiva: आदिशैव A hereditary priest and teacher of the South Indian Śaiva Siddhānta tradition; Śaivite brāhmins descended from the gotras of five ṛishis and who alone are entitled to conduct rites in Āgamic Śiva temples. Ādiśaiva and Śivāchārya are synonyms for this hereditary priest lineage. See: Śivāchārya.
adopt: To take as one’s own, especially an idea, principle, or a religion and henceforth live with it and by it. See: conversion to Hinduism.
adore: To revere and love greatly; to worship as divine. See: pūjā.
adorn: To put on ornaments or decorations to make beautiful, attractive or distinguished. See: kalā-64.
adṛishṭa: अदृष्ट “Unseen potency; destiny.” The unseen power of one’s past karma influencing the present life. This power is known in the West as fate or destiny, generally not cognized as being of one’s own making, but misunderstood as a mysterious, uncontrollable cosmic force. See: fate, karma.
adulate: To praise, revere or admire greatly, even uncritically and to excess.
adultery: Sexual intercourse between a married man and a woman not his wife, or between a married woman and a man not her husband. Adultery is spoken of in Hindu śāstras as a serious breach of dharma. See: sexuality.
advaita: अद्वैत “Non-dual; not twofold.” Nonduality or monism. The philosophical doctrine that Ultimate Reality consists of a one principle substance, or God. Opposite of dvaita, dualism. Advaita is the primary philosophical stance of the Vedic Upanishads, and of Hinduism, interpreted differently by the many ṛishis, gurus, paṇḍitas and philosophers. See: dvaita-advaita, Vedānta.
Advaita Īśvaravāda: अद्वैत ईश्वरवाद “Nondual and Personal-God-as-Ruler doctrine.” The Sanskrit equivalent of monistic theism. A general term that describes the philosophy of the Vedas and Śaiva Āgamas, which believes simultaneously in the ultimate oneness of all things and in the reality of the personal Deity. See: Advaita, Advaita Siddhānta, monistic theism.
Advaita Īśvaravādin: अद्वैत ईश्वरवादिन् A follower of Advaita Īśvaravāda.
Advaita Siddhānta: अद्वैत सिद्धान्त “Nondual perfect conclusions.” Śaivite philosophy codified in the Āgamas which has at its core the nondual (advaitic) identity of God, soul and world. This monistic-theistic philosophy, unlike the Sankara, or Smārta view, holds that māyā (the principle of manifestation) is not an obstacle to God Realization, but God’s own power and presence guiding the soul’s evolution to perfection. While Advaita Vedānta stresses Upanishadic philosophy, Advaita Siddhānta adds to this a strong emphasis on internal and external worship, yoga sādhanas and tapas. Advaita Siddhānta is a term used in South India to distinguish Tirumular’s school from the pluralistic Siddhānta of Meykandar and Aghorasiva. This unified Vedic-Āgamic doctrine is also known as Śuddha Śaiva Siddhānta. It is the philosophy of this contemporary Hindu catechism. See: Advaita Īśvaravāda, dvaita-advaita, monistic theism, Śaiva Siddhānta.
Advaita Vedānta: आद्वैत वेदान्त “Nondual end (or essence) of the Vedas.” Names the monistic schools, most prominently that of Sankara, that arose from the Upanishads and related texts. See: Vedānta.
adversity: A condition of misfortune, poverty or difficulty.
advocate: To speak, act or write in support of a cause, person or idea.
affirmation: Dṛidhavāchana (“firm statement”). A positive declaration or assertion. A statement repeated regularly while concentrating on the meaning and mental images invoked, often used to attain a desired result.
affirmation of faith: A brief statement of one’s faith and essential beliefs. See: Anbe Sivamayam Satyame Parasivam.
aftermath: A result or consequence of a happening. The events or repercussions following an experience.
Āgama: आगम The tradition; that which has “come down.” An enormous collection of Sanskrit scriptures which, along with the Vedas, are revered as śruti (revealed scripture). Dating is uncertain. They were part of an oral tradition of unknown antiquity which some experts consider as ancient as the earliest Vedas, 5000 to 6000 BCE. The Āgamas are the primary source and authority for ritual, yoga and temple construction. Each of the major denominations—Śaivism, Vaishṇavism and Śāktism—has its unique Āgama texts. Smārtas recognize the Āgamas, but don’t necessarily adhere to them and rely mainly on the smṛiti texts. See: Śaiva Āgamas, śruti.
Agastya: अगस्त्य One of 18 celebrated Śaiva siddhas (adepts), and reputed as the first grammarian of Tamil language. He is said to have migrated from North India to the South. His name appears in the Mahābhārata, Rāmāyaṇa and the Purāṇas and was known to ancient Indonesians. See: siddha.
Aghora: अघोर “Nonterrifying.” An aspect of Śiva which, like Rudra, personifies of His power of dissolution or reabsorption. Ghora means “terrific, frightful, terrible, etc.” See: Sadāśiva.
Aghorasiva (Aghoraśiva): अघोरशिव A Śaivite philosopher of South India who in the 12th century founded a Siddhānta school emphasizing dualistic passages of the Āgamas and other early texts. The later Meykandar pluralistic philosophy is based partly on Aghorasiva’s teachings. See: dvaita-advaita, dvaita Siddhānta, Śaiva Siddhānta.
Aghorī: अघोरी “Nonterrifying.” An order of Śaiva ascetics thought to be derived from the Kāpālika order (ca 14th century). Following the vāmāchāra, “left-hand” ritual of the tantras, they are widely censured for radical practices such as living in cemeteries and using human skulls as eating bowls.
agni: अग्नि “Fire.” 1) One of the five elements, pañchabhūta. 2) God of the element fire, invoked through Vedic ritual known as yajña, agnikāraka, homa and havana. The God Agni is the divine messenger who receives prayers and oblations and conveys them to the heavenly spheres. See: yajña.
agnihotra: अग्निहोत्र “Fire sacrifice.” Household rite traditionally performed daily, in which an oblation of milk is sprinkled on the fire. See: yajña.
agnikāraka: अग्निकारक “Fire ritual.” The Āgamic term for yajña. See: yajña.
Ahaṁ Brahmāsmi: अहं ब्रह्मास्मि “I am God.” Famous phrase often repeated in the Upanishads. In this ecstatic statement of enlightenment, “I” does not refer to the individuality or outer nature, but to the essence of the soul which is ever identical to God Śiva (or Brahman, the Supreme Being) as Satchidānanda and Paraśiva. One of four Upanishadic “great sayings,” mahāvākya.
ahaṁkāra: अहंकार “I-maker.” Personal ego. The mental faculty of individuation; sense of duality and separateness from others. Sense of I-ness, “me” and “mine.” Ahaṁkāra is characterized by the sense of I-ness (abhimāna), sense of mine-ness, identifying with the body (madīyam), planning for one’s own happiness (mamasukha), brooding over sorrow (mamaduḥkha), and possessiveness (mama idam). See: āṇava, ego, mind (individual).
ahiṁsā: अहिंसा “Noninjury,” nonviolence or nonhurtfulness. Refraining from causing harm to others, physically, mentally or emotionally. Ahiṁsā is the first and most important of the yamas (restraints). It is the cardinal virtue upon which all others depend. See: yama-niyama.
aikya: ऐक्य “Union, oneness.” See: Vīra Śaivism.
Aitareya Brāhmaṇa: ऐतरेयब्राह्मण Part of the Ṛig Veda dealing principally with worship and ceremonies of royal inauguration. See: Ṛig Veda, Vedas.
Aitareya Upanishad: ऐतरेय उपनिषद् Three chapters of the Aitareya Āraṇyaka of the Ṛig Veda expounding the esoterics of ritual, revealing the means of preparing oneself for the deepest spiritual attainments.
Ajita Āgama: अजित आगम Among the 28 Śaiva Siddhānta Āgamas, this scripture especially elucidates temple construction, worship and rules for installation of various Śiva icons (mūrti). See: mūrti, Śaiva Āgamas.
ājñā chakra: आज्ञाचक्र “Command wheel.” The third-eye center. See: chakra.
ākāśa: आकाश “Space.” The sky. Free, open space. Ether, the fifth and most subtle of the five elements—earth, air, fire, water and ether. Empirically, the rarified space or ethereal fluid plasma that pervades the universes, inner and outer. Esoterically, mind, the superconscious strata holding all that exists and all that potentially exists, wherein all happenings are recorded and can be read by clairvoyants. It is through psychic entry into this transcendental ākāśa that cosmic knowledge is gathered, and the entire circle of time—past, present and future—can be known. Space, ākāśa, in this concept is a positive substance, filled with unseen energies and intelligences, in contrast with the Western conception that space is the absence of everything and is therefore nothing in and of itself. The Advayatāraka Upanishad (2.1.17) describes five levels of ākāśa which can be yogically experienced: guṇa rahita ākāśa (space devoid of qualities); parama ākāśa (supreme space), mahā ākāśa (great space), tattva ākāśa (space of true existence) and sūrya ākāśa (space of the sun). See: mind (universal).
akshata: अक्षत “Unbroken.” Unmilled, uncooked rice, often mixed with turmeric, offered as a sacred substance during pūjā, or in blessings for individuals at weddings and other ceremonies. This, the very best food, is the finest offering a devotee can give to God or a wife can give to her husband. See: pūjā.
Allama Prabhu: अल्लमप्रभु A contemporary of Basavanna and central figure of Vīra Śaivism (ca 1150), the head of an order of 300 enlightened beings which included 60 women. Initially a temple drummer, he became an extraordinary siddha, mystic and poet. The Mantra Gopya are his collected writings. See: Basavanna, Vīra Śaivism.
allegory: A story in which the character, places and events have symbolic meaning, used to teach ideas and moral principles. See: Itihāsa, Purāṇa.
all-pervasive: Diffused throughout or existing in every part of the universe. See: Satchidānanda.
aloof: Distant, reserved, withdrawn, drawn back; cool in attitude, not sympathetic with or interested in an idea, project or group of people.
altruistic: Unselfish. Showing more concern for others than oneself.
Alvar: ஆழ்வார் “One who sways the Lord through bhakti.” A group of renowned saints of the Vaishṇava religion (7th–9th century), devotional mystics whose lives and teachings catalyzed to a resurgence of Vaishṇavism in Tamil Nadu. Their devotional poems are embodied in the Nalayiram Divya Prabandham, containing about 4,000 hymns. Among the 12 most famous Alvars are Poykai, Pudam, Tirumalisai, Nammalvar, Kulasekhara (Kulaśekhara), Andal, Tiruppan and Tirumangai. A term not to be confused with Nalvar, naming the four Samayāchārya Śaivite saints: Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manikkavasagar, who were their contemporaries. See: Nalvar, Nayanar.
Āmardaka Order: आमर्दक An order of Śaiva sannyāsins founded by Amardaka Tirthanatha in Andhra Pradesh (ca 775).
Amardaka Tirthanatha: आमर्दक तीर्थनाथ See: Āmardaka Order, Rudrasambhu.
Ambikā: अम्बिका “Mother.” A benign form of the Goddess, one of the central Deities of the Śākta religion, along with Durgā, Kālī and Pārvatī. See: Śakti.
amends: Recompensation, making up for injury or loss caused to another. This is done through sincere apology, expressing regrets, contrition, public penance, such as kavadi, and abundant offering of gifts. See: pāpa, penance.
Amman: அம்மன்: “Mother.” Usually refers to Mariyamman, the “smallpox Goddess,” protectress from plagues, a popular Grāmadevatā (“village Deity,” or local tutelary Deity). There are many Mariyamman temples and shrines in Malaysia, Mauritius and rural areas of South India. In the Tamil tradition, amman is often the epithet of various Goddesses, as in Kālī Amman or Draupadī Amman (deified heroine of the Mahābhārata). One of the distinguishing features of Grāmadevatā shrines is that they are not served by brāhmin priests. See: Śakti, Śāktism.
amorphous: Of no definite shape or form. See: formless.
amṛita: अमृत “Immortality.” Literally, “without death (mṛita). ” The nectar of divine bliss which flows down from the sahasrāra chakra when one enters very deep states of meditation. This word is apparently related to the Greek ambrotos, “immortal,” hence ambrosia, the food or drink of the Gods, which has its Vedic equivalent in the legendary elixir called soma, a central element in Vedic rites in which it is venerated as a Divinity.
amṛitātman: अमृतात्मन् “Immortal soul.” See: ātman, jīva, purusha, soul.
anāhata chakra: अनाहतचक्र The heart center. “Wheel of unstruck [sound].” See: chakra.
analogy: An explanation or illustration made by comparing one thing with another, similar in some but not all respects. For example, in the analogy of the potter, the potter represents God and the clay represents the primal substance, or “matter.”
analytical: Looking closely at things, intellectually studying them to understand their nature, meaning and component parts.
ānanda: आनन्द “Bliss.” The pure joy—ecstasy or enstasy—of God-consciousness or spiritual experience. In its highest sense, ānanda is expressed in the famous Vedic description of God: sat-chit-ānanda, “existence-consciousness-bliss”—the divine or superconscious mind of all souls. See: God Realization, Satchidānanda.
ānandamaya kośa: आनन्दमयकोश “Bliss body.” The body of the soul, which ultimately merges with Śiva. See: kośa, soul.
ānanda tāṇḍava: आनन्दताण्डव “Violent dance of bliss.” See: Naṭarāja, tāṇḍava.
āṇava mala: आणवमल “Impurity of smallness; finitizing principle.” God’s individualizing veil of duality that enshrouds the soul. It is the source of finitude and ignorance, the most basic of the three bonds (āṇava, karma, māyā) which temporarily limit the soul. Āṇava mala has the same importance in Āgamic philosophy that māyā-avidyā has in Vedāntic philosophy. The presence of āṇava mala is what causes the misapprehension about the nature of God, soul and world, the notion of being separate and distinct from God and the universe. Āṇava obscures the natural wisdom, light, unity and humility of the soul and allows spiritual ignorance, darkness, egoity and pride to manifest. It is inherent in a maturing soul, like the shell of a seed. When āṇava is ripe, anugraha, “grace,” comes, and āṇava falls away. Āṇava is the root mala and the last bond to be dissolved. See: evolution of the soul, grace, mala, soul.
āṇavopāya: आणवोपाय “Minute or individual means.” See: upāya.
Anbe Sivamayam Satyame Parasivaṁ: அன்பே சிவமயம் சத்தியமே பரசிவம் Tamil for “God Śiva is Immanent Love and Transcendent Reality.” The affirmation of faith which capsulizes the entire creed of monistic Śaiva Siddhānta. In Sanskrit it is Premaiva Śivamaya, Satyam eva Paraśivaḥ.
anchorite: “Hermit.” A monk or aspirant who lives alone and apart from society, as contrasted with cenobite, a member of a religious order living in a monastery or convent. See: monk, nun.
ancillary: Auxiliary. Aiding or supporting. Supplementary; secondary.
Andal: ஆண்டாள் Famed Vaishṇava saint of Tamil Nadu. One of the Alvars, she lived in the early 9th century and today is venerated as one of South India’s greatest bhakta poets. See: Alvar, Vaishṇavism.
Andhra Pradesh (Pradeśa): आन्ध्रप्रदेश Modern Indian state located on the southeast coast of India north of Tamil Nadu. The capital is Hyderabad. Language: Telugu. Dominant faith: Vaishṇavism. Area: 106,000 square miles. Population 54 million. Famous for its opulent Tirupati Vaishṇava temple.
anekavāda: अनेकवाद “Pluralism,” or “not-one theology.” See: pluralism.
anekavādin: अनेकवादिन् A follower of anekavāda.
aṅga: अड्ग “Part; limb.” Term for the individual soul in Vīra Śaivism. The aṅga is of finite intelligence, while Śiva is of infinite intelligence. See: Vīra Śaivism.
aniconic: “Without likeness; without image.” When referring to a Deity image, aniconic denotes a symbol which does not attempt an anthropomorphic (humanlike) or representational likeness. An example is the Śivaliṅga, “mark of God.” See: mūrti, Śivaliṅga.
animate-inanimate: From the Latin animatus, “made alive, filled with breath.” These terms indicate the two poles of manifest existence, that which has movement and life (most expressly animals and other “living” beings) and that which is devoid of movement (such as minerals and, to a lesser degree, plants). From a deeper view, however, all existence is alive with movement and possessed of the potent, divine energy of the cosmos. See: tattva.
animism: The belief that everything (including inanimate objects) is alive with soul or spirit, a conviction pervasive among most indigenous (tribal, pagan, shamanistic) faiths, including Hinduism, Shintoism and spiritualism.
añjali mudrā: अञ्जलिमुद्रा “Reverence gesture.” Also called praṇāmāñjali. A gesture of respect and greeting, in which the two palms are held gently together and slightly cupped. Often accompanied by the verbal salutation “namaskāra,” meaning “reverent salutation.” The añjali mudrā has various forms, e.g., near the chest in greeting equals, at eye level in greeting one’s guru, and above the head in salutation to God. One form is with the open hands held side by side, as if by a beggar to receive food, or a worshiper beseeching God’s grace in the temple. See: mudrā, namaskāra.
aṅkuśa: अंकुश Goad, symbol of Lord Gaṇeśa’s power to remove obstacles from the devotee’s path, and to spur the dullards onward.
annamaya kośa: अन्नमयकोश “Food sheath.” The physical body. See: kośa.
annaprāśana: अन्नप्राशन “Feeding.” The childhood sacrament of first solid food. See: saṁskāras of childhood.
annihilate: To destroy completely, to reduce to nothing.
antagonism: Opposition, hostility.
antaḥkaraṇa: अन्तःकरण “Inner faculty.” The mental faculty of the astral body, sūkshma śarīra, comprising intellect, instinct and ego—in Sanskrit, buddhi, manas and ahaṁkāra— which are a threefold expression of chitta, consciousness. In Śaiva Siddhānta, chitta is sometimes listed as a tattva, or part of a tattva, at the prakṛiti level. In Vedānta, chitta, “mind stuff,” is often understood as a part of antaḥkaraṇa; while in the Śaiva Siddhānta, Yoga and Sāṅkhya Darśanas, it is generally viewed as the total mind, of which manas, buddhi and ahaṁkāra are the inner faculties. Thus, while Vedānta describes antaḥkaraṇa as fourfold, Sāṅkhya and Yoga discuss it as threefold. Siddha Siddhānta views antaḥkaraṇa as fivefold, with the inclusion of chaitanya as “higher consciousness.” See: consciousness, mind (individual), tattva.
Antarloka: अन्तर्लोक “Inner or in-between world.” The astral plane. See: loka.
anthology: A choice “flower collection” of prose or poetry excerpts.
anthropomorphic: “In human shape.” From the Greek anthropos, “man,” and morphe, “shape,” “form.”
antyavachanam: अन्त्यवचनम् “Final word.” Epilogue, colophon, postscript.
antyeshṭi: अन्त्येष्टि “Last rites.” Funeral. See: death, saṁskāra.
anu: अनु A common prefix conveying the meanings: “after, near to, under, secondary or subordinate to.”
anubhava: अनुभव “Perception, apprehension; experience.” Personal experience; understanding; impressions on the mind not derived from memory.
anugraha śakti: अनुग्रहशक्ति “Graceful or favoring power.” Revealing grace. God Śiva’s power of illumination, through which the soul is freed from the bonds of āṇava, karma and māyā and ultimately attains liberation, moksha. Specifically, anugraha descends on the soul as śaktipāta, the dīkshā (initiation) from a satguru. Anugraha is a key concept in Śaiva Siddhānta. It comes when āṇava mala, the shell of finitude which surrounds the soul, reaches a state of ripeness, malaparipakam. See: āṇava, grace, Naṭarāja, śaktipāta.
anukramaṇikā: अनुक्रमणिका “Succession, arrangement.” An index.
anupāya: अनुपाय “Without means.” A term used in Kashmīr Śaivism to mean spontaneous Self Realization without effort. See: upāya.
anxiety: State of uneasiness, worry or apprehension. See: manas.
Apasmārapurusha: अपस्मारपुरुष “Forgetful person.” Muyalagan in Tamil. The soul under Śiva’s foot of obscuring grace, depicted in numerous icons. He represents ignorance and heedlessness. (Sometimes simply Apasmāra.) See: Naṭarāja.
apatya: अपत्य “Offspring; child; descendant.”
apex: Highest point, peak, summit.
apex of creation: The highest or initial movement in the mind that will eventually manifest a creation. The quantum level of manifestation. See: microcosm-macrocosm, quantum, tattva.
apologue: A short allegorical story with a lesson or moral. Fable.
Appar: அப்பர் “Father.” Endearing name for Tirunavukarasu (ca 700), one of four Tamil saints, Samayāchāryas, who reconverted errant Śaivites who had embraced Jainism. Calling himself the servant of God’s servants, he composed magnificent hymns in praise of Śiva that are reverently sung to this day. See: Nalvar, Nayanar, Śaiva Siddhānta.
apparent: Appearing, but not necessarily real or true. Seeming to be.
Appaya Dikshita (Dīkshita): अप्पयदीक्षित Philosophical genius of South India (1554-1626) who worked to reconcile Vaishṇavism and Śaivism, advancing the Śiva Advaita school of Śaivism by his writings, and bolstering other schools by his brilliant summations of their philosophies. He is best known for his commentaries on the teachings of Srikantha. Appaya Dikshita also created a manual of Śaiva temple ritual still in use today. See: Śiva Advaita.
apprehend: To mentally grasp and hold, to see or understand; to physically detain.
Āraṇyaka: आरण्यक “Forest treatise.” Third section of each of the four Vedas. Texts containing esoteric, mystical knowledge, largely on the inner meanings and functions of the Vedic yajña, or fire ceremonies. See: Vedas.
āratī: आरती “Light.” The circling or waving of a lamp (usually fed with ghee, camphor or oil) before a holy person or the temple Deity at the high point of pūjā. The flame is then presented to the devotees, each passing his or her hands through it and bringing them to the eyes three times, thereby receiving the blessings. Āratī can also be performed as the briefest form of pūjā. See: archana, pūjā.
Arputat Tiru Vantati: அற்புதத் திரு வந்தாதி Poem of 100 verses in praise of Lord Śiva composed in Tamil by the woman saint Karaikkalammaiyar (ca 5th century). See: Nayanar.
archana: अर्चन A special, personal, abbreviated pūjā done by temple priests in which the name, birthstar and family lineage of a devotee are recited to invoke individual guidance and blessings. Archana also refers to chanting the names of the Deity, which is a central part of every pūjā. See: pūjā.
Ardhanārī Naṭeśvara Stotram: अर्धनारीनटेश्वरस्तोत्रम् A short hymn alternately praising Śiva and Śakti as merged in the androgynous image of Ardhanārīśvara. See: Ardhanārīśvara.
Ardhanārīśvara: अर्धनारीश्वर “Half-female Lord.” Lord Śiva in androgynous form, male on the right side and female on the left, indicating that: 1) Śiva (like all Mahādevas) is genderless; 2) Śiva is All, inseparable from His energy, Śakti; 3) in Śiva the iḍā (feminine) and the piṅgalā (masculine) nāḍīs (psychic nerve currents) are balanced so that sushumṇā is ever active. The meditator who balances these through sādhana and yoga becomes like Śiva. In the unity of Ardhanārīśvara all opposites are reconciled; duality is reduced to the single source. This image especially represents Śiva’s second perfection: Pure Consciousness (Satchidānanda or Parāśakti). See: kuṇḍalinī, nāḍī, Śakti, Śiva.
Ārdrā Darśanam: आर्द्रादर्शनम् A ten-day festival ending on Ārdrā nakshatra, near the full moon of December-January honoring Śiva Naṭarāja. In Tamil Nadu, each morning at 4 am, the mystical songs of Saint Manikkavasagar, Tiruvembavai, are sung or recited. Unmarried girls go to the temple in small groups to pray for rains, for the welfare of the land and for fine, spiritual husbands. At the famed temple of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, Lord Naṭarāja, the presiding Deity, is taken out for a grand procession in a chariot pulled through the streets by thousands of devotees. See: darśana, Naṭarāja.
arduous: Strenuous, laborious. Difficult to climb, do or accomplish.
arena: Any place where an event, usually involving struggle or conflict, takes place. The Earth is the arena of the soul’s evolution. See: evolution of the soul.
Aristotle: Greek philosopher (384–322 BCE) who left a profound legacy of writings on metaphysics, ethics, logic and law. A disciple of Socrates.
ārjava: आर्जव “Straightforwardness.” See: yama-niyama.
Arjuna: अर्जुन A hero of the Mahābhārata and central figure of the Bhagavad Gītā. See: Bhagavad Gītā.
artha: अर्थ “Goal or purpose; wealth, property, money.” Also has the meaning of utility, desire. See: dharma, purushārtha.
Arthaveda: अर्थवेद “Political science.” A class of ancient texts, also called Nītiśāstras, on politics, statecraft and much more, forming the Upaveda of the Ṛig Veda. The most important of this literature is Kautiliya’s Arthaśāstra (ca 300 BCE) which gives detailed instructions on all areas of government. It embodies the kshatriya perspective of rulership and society. See: Upaveda.
arul: அருள் “Grace.” The third of the three stages of the sakala avasthā when the soul yearns for the grace of God, śaktinipāta. At this stage the soul seeks Pati-jñāna, knowledge of God. See: Pati -jñāna, sakala avasthā, śaktinipāta.
Arunagirinathar (Arunagirināthar): அருணகிரிநாதர் South Indian Śaivite poet saint (ca 1500). See: Kandar Anubhuti.
Āruṇeya Upanishad: आरुणेय उपनिषद् A short Upanishad dealing with sannyāsa. See: sannyāsa.
Aryaman: अर्यमन् “Close friend;” matchmaker; Sun God. A Vedic Deity who personifies hospitality, the household and gṛihastha life. He presides over matrimonial alliances, and protects tradition, custom and religion. He is also invoked during śrāddha (funeral-memorial) ceremonies.
āsana: आसन “Seat; posture.” In haṭha yoga, āsana refers to any of numerous poses prescribed to balance and tune up the subtle energies of mind and body for meditation and to promote health and longevity. Examples are the shoulder-stand (sarvāṅgāsana, “whole body pose”) and the lotus pose (padmāsana). Each āsana possesses unique benefits, affecting the varied inner bodies and releasing energies in different parts of the nervous system. While the physical science of haṭha yoga can dramatically influence health and general well-being, it is primarily a preparation for the deeper yogas and meditations. Sivaya Subramuniyaswami has provided a system of 27 āsanas to tune the nervous system for meditation and contemplation and to mitigate the burdensome karmas, known by the modern term “stress,” built up through the interaction with other people. His 27 āsanas are performed in a meditative sequence, not unlike a serene dance, accompanied by certain visualizations and prāṇāyāmas. See: haṭha yoga, rāja yoga, yoga.
ascent: Rising or climbing higher. A path that leads upward.
ascetic: One who leads a life of contemplation and rigorous self-denial, shunning comforts and pleasures for religious purposes. See: monk, nun.
asceticism: The austerities of an ascetic. See: sādhana, tapas.
ash: See: vibhūti.
ashṭāṅga praṇāma: अष्टाङ्गप्रणाम “Eight-part salutation.” See: praṇāma.
ashṭāṅga yoga: अष्टाङ्गयोग “Eight-limbed union.” The classical rāja yoga system of eight progressive stages or steps as described in numerous Hindu scriptures including various Upanishads, the Tirumantiram by Saint Tirumular and the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali. The eight limbs are: restraints (yama), observances (niyama), postures (āsana), breath control (prāṇāyāma), sense withdrawal (pratyāhāra), concentration (dhāraṇā), meditation (dhyāna) and contemplation (samādhi/ Self Realization). See: āsana, dhāraṇā, dhyāna, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, rāja yoga, samādhi, yama-niyama, yoga.
ashṭāvaraṇam: अष्टावरणम् “Eight shields.” Vīra Śaivism’s eight aids to faith: guru, Liṅga, jaṅgama (monk), vibhūti, rudrāksha, pādukā, prasāda (bathing water from Śivaliṅga or guru’s feet), and Pañchākshara Mantra (Namaḥ Śivāya). See: Vīra Śaivism.
Asoka (Aśoka): अशोक The greatest Mauryan Emperor (ca 273-232 bce), grandson of Chandragupta. In his 40-year reign, Buddhism became a world power. The Rock and Pillar Edicts preserve his work and teachings.
āśrama: आश्रम “Place of striving.” From śram, “to exert energy.” Hermitage; order of life. Holy sanctuary; the residence and teaching center of a sādhu, saint, swāmī, ascetic or guru ; often includes lodging for students. Also names life’s four stages. See: āśrama dharma, sādhana.
āśrama dharma: आश्रमधर्म “Laws of life development.” Meritorious way of life appropriate to each of its four successive stages (āśramas), observing which one lives in harmony with nature and life, allowing the body, emotions and mind to develop and undergo their natural cycles in a most positive way. The four stages are: 1) brahmacharya: Studentship, from age 12 to 24. 2) gṛihastha: Householder, from 24 to 48. 3) vānaprastha: Elder advisor, from 48 to 72. 4) sannyāsa: Religious solitary, from 72 onward. The first two āśramas make up the pravṛitti mārga, the way of turning toward the world through the force of desire and ambition. The last two are the nivṛitti mārga, moving away from the world through introspection and renunciation. See: dharma, gṛihastha dharma, sannyāsa dharma.
Assam: अस्सम Indian state in the northeast corner of the country, south of Bhutan, almost separated from the rest of India by Bangladesh. Area 30,000 square miles, population 21 million.
assuage: To lessen pain or distress; to calm passions or desires.
asteya: अस्तेय “Nonstealing.” See: yama-niyama.
āstikya: आस्तिक्य “Faith.” See: faith, śraddhā, yama-niyama.
astral body: The subtle, nonphysical body (sūkshma śarīra) in which the soul functions in the astral plane, the inner world also called Antarloka. The astral body includes the prāṇic sheath (prāṇamaya kośa), the instinctive-intellectual sheath (manomaya kośa) and the cognitive sheath (vijñānamaya kośa) —with the prāṇic sheath discarded at the death of the physical body. See: kośa, soul.
astral plane: The subtle world, or Antarloka, spanning the spectrum of consciousness from the viśuddha chakra in the throat to the pātāla chakra in the soles of the feet. The astral plane includes: 1) the higher astral plane, Maharloka, “plane of balance,” or Devaloka; 2) mid-astral plane, Svarloka, “celestial plane;” 3) lower astral plane, Bhuvarloka, “plane of atmosphere,” a counterpart or subtle duplicate of the physical plane (consisting of the Pitṛiloka and Pretaloka); and 4) the sub-astral plane, Naraka, consisting of seven hellish realms corresponding to the seven chakras below the base of the spine. In the astral plane, the soul is enshrouded in the astral body, called sūkshma śarīra. See: astral body, loka, Naraka, three worlds.
astrology: Science of celestial influences. See: jyotisha, Vedāṅga.
asura: असुर “Evil spirit; demon.” (The opposite of sura: “deva; God.”) A being of the lower astral plane, Naraka. Asuras can and do interact with the physical plane, causing major and minor problems in people’s lives. Asuras do evolve and do not remain permanently in this state. See: Naraka.
Asvaghosha (Aśvaghosha): अश्वघोष Buddhist scholar, pantheist philosopher (ca 80 BCE–150 CE), and one of the great poets of Indian literature. A principal architect of the Mahāyana school. See: pantheism.
Aśvin: अश्विन् Vedic twin heroes—young, handsome, bright and dashing —who personify the dawn, the transition from darkness to light, and from disease to health. They are physicians of the Gods, honey being one of their symbols. They represent also duality, acting in unison. See: Ṛig Veda, Vedas.
atala: अतल “Bottomless region.” The first chakra below the mūlādhāra, at the hip region. Region of fear and lust. Corresponds to the first astral netherworld beneath the Earth’s surface, called Put (“childless”) or Atala, the first of seven hellish regions of consciousness. See: chakra, loka, Naraka.
atattva: अतत्त्व “Noncategory; beyond existence.” Atattva, the negation of tattva, is used to describe the indescribable Reality—the Absolute, Paraśiva, the Self God—which transcends all 36 categories (tattvas) of manifestation. It is beyond time, form and space. And yet, in a mystery known only to the knower—the enlightened mystic—Parāśakti-nāda, the first tattva, ever comes out of Paraśiva. If it were not for Paraśiva, nothing could be. Paraśiva does not exist to the outer dimensions of cosmic consciousness, but without it, the mind itself would not exist. See: tattva.
atha: अथ “Now; then; moreover; certainly; herewith.” An inceptive particle and mark of auspiciousness used to begin sacred works. For example, the first sūtra of the Yoga Sūtras reads, “Now then (atha), an exposition on yoga.”
Atharvaśikhā Upanishad: अथर्वशिखा उपनिषद् A minor Upanishad dealing with the interpretation of Aum. See: Upanishad, Vedas.
Atharva Veda: अथर्ववेद From “Atharva, ” the name of the ṛishi said to have compiled this fourth Veda. The Atharva consists of 20 books and 720 hymns. Considered the last Veda recorded, it consists of mostly original hymns (rather than replications from the Ṛig Veda). In recognition of its abundant magical charms and spells, it is known as the Veda of prayer. It also contains many Āgama -like cosmological passages that bridge the earlier Vedic hymns and formulas with the metaphysics of the Upanishads. See: Vedas.
atheism: The rejection of all religion or religious belief, or simply the belief that God or Gods do not exist. See: Chārvāka, materialism, nāstika.
ātman: आत्मन् “The soul; the breath; the principle of life and sensation.” The soul in its entirety—as the soul body (ānandamaya kośa) and its essence (Parāśakti and Paraśiva). One of Hinduism’s most fundamental tenets is that we are the ātman, not the physical body, emotions, external mind or personality. In Hindu scriptures, ātman sometimes refers to the ego-personality, and its meaning must be determined according to context. The Ātma Upanishad (1–3) describes ātman, or purusha, as threefold: bāhyātman, the outer or physical person; antarātman, the inner person, excluding the physical form, who perceives, thinks and cognizes; and Paramātman, the transcendent Self God within. See: kośa, Paramātman, soul.
ātmārtha pūjā: आत्मार्थपूजा “Personal worship rite.” Home pūjā. See: pūjā.
ātmasvarūpa: आत्मस्वरूप “Nature of the soul.” See: ātman, soul.
atmosphere: The pervading or surrounding element, spirit or influence. General mood or environment. See: sānnidhya.
atone: To make amends or reconcile. See: absolution, pāpa, penance, sin.
attainment: Acquisition, achievement or realization through effort. Spiritual accomplishment. Śaiva Siddhānta notes four primary levels of attainment: sālokya (sharing God’s world, the goal of charyā), sāmīpya (nearness to God, the goal of kriyā), sārūpya (likeness to God, the goal of yoga) and sāyujya (union with God, the state of jñāna). See: God Realization, pāda, Self Realization, siddha yoga, siddhi.
attitude: Disposition. State of mind. Manner of carrying oneself. Manner of acting, thinking or feeling which reveals one’s disposition, opinions and beliefs. See: conscience.
augural: Having to do with divination, prediction or interpreting omens.
Augustine: Catholic bishop saint (354–430) and highly influential theologian.
Aum: ॐ or औम् Often spelled Om. The mystic syllable of Hinduism, placed at the beginning of most sacred writings. As a mantra, it is pronounced aw (as in law), oo (as in zoo), mm. Aum represents the Divine, and is associated with Lord Gaṇeśa, for its initial sound “aa,” vibrates within the mūlādhāra, the chakra at the base of the spine upon which this God sits. The second sound of this mantra, “oo,” vibrates within the throat and chest chakras, the realm of Lord Murugan, or Kumāra, known by the Hawaiian people as the God Ku. The third sound, “mm,” vibrates within the cranial chakras, ājñā and sahasrāra, where the Supreme God reigns. The dot above, called anusvāra, represents the Soundless Sound, Paranāda. Aum is explained in the Upanishads as standing for the whole world and its parts, including past, present and future. It is from this primal vibration that all manifestation issues forth. Aum is the primary, or mūla mantra, and often precedes other mantras. It may be safely used for chanting and japa by anyone of any religion. Its three letters represent the three worlds and the powers of creation, preservation and destruction. In common usage in several Indian languages, aum means “yes, verily” or “hail.” See: nāda, Praṇava, sound.
aura: The luminous colorful field of subtle energy radiating within and around the human body, extending out from three to seven feet. The colors of the aura change constantly according to the ebb and flow of one’s state of consciousness, thoughts, moods and emotions. Higher, benevolent feelings create bright pastels; base, negative feelings are darker in color. Thus, auras can be seen and “read” by clairvoyants. The general nature of auras varies according to individual unfoldment. Great mystics have very bright auras, while instinctive persons are shrouded in dull shades. The aura consists of two aspects, the outer aura and the inner aura. The outer aura extends beyond the physical body and changes continuously, reflecting the individual’s moment-to-moment panorama of thought and emotion. The inner aura is much more constant, as it reflects deep-seated subconscious patterns, desires, repressions and tendencies held in the sub-subconscious mind. Those colors which are regularly and habitually reflected in the outer aura are eventually recorded more permanently in the inner aura. The colors of the inner aura permeate out through the outer aura and either shade with sadness or brighten with happiness the normal experiences of daily life. The inner aura hovers deep within the astral body in the chest and torso and looks much like certain “modern-art” paintings, with heavy strokes of solid colors here and there. In Sanskrit, the aura is called prabhāmaṇḍala, “luminous enclosure,” or dīptachakra, “nimbus (circle) of light.” See: mind (five states), pāpa, puṇya.
Aurobindo Ghosh: A prolific Bengali writer and poet, pantheistic philosopher and yoga mystic, widely known as Sri Aurobindo (1872–1050). He perceived the modern global crisis as marking a period of transition from a dark age to a more enlightened one, when Hinduism will play a preponderant role. He founded the Auroville community in Pondichery, based on purṇa (integral) yoga and contributed much to this century’s Hindu revival.
auspicious: Favorable, of good omen, foreboding well. Maṅgala. One of the central concepts in Hindu life. Astrology defines a method for determining times that are favorable for various human endeavors. Much of daily living and religious practice revolves around an awareness of auspiciousness. Endowed with great power and importance, it is associated with times, places and persons. See: jyotisha, muhūrta, swastika, Tai Pongal.
austerity: Self-denial and discipline, physical or mental, performed for various reasons including acquiring powers, attaining grace, conquering the instinctive nature and burning the seeds of past karmas. Ranging from simple deprivations, such as foregoing a meal, to severe disciplines, called tapas, such as uninterrupted standing, never sitting or lying down, even for sleep. See: penance, tapas.
authenticity: Quality of being true as claimed, or genuine, trustworthy. Reliable.
authority: Influence, power or right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action or make final decisions.
Auvaiyar: ஔவையார் A saint of Tamil Nadu (ca 200 BCE), a contemporary of Saint Tiruvalluvar, devotee of Lord Gaṇeśa and Kārttikeya and one of the greatest literary figures in ancient India. As a young girl, she prayed to have her beauty removed so she would not be forced into marriage and could devote her full life to God. She was a great bhakta who wrote exquisite ethical works, some in aphoristic style and some in four-line verse. Among the most famous are Atti Chudi, Konrai Ventan, Ulaka Niti, Muturai, and Nalvali. Her Tamil primer is studied by children to this day. Another Saint Auvaiyar may have lived in the ninth century [See: Timeline, p. 669].
Avantivarman (Avantīvarman): अवन्तीवर्मन् King of Kashmir (855–883) during whose reign lived Kallata, one of the great exponents of Kashmīr Śaivism.
avasthā: अवस्था (Tamil: avasthai.) “Condition or state” of consciousness or experience. 1) Any of three stages of the soul’s evolution from the point of its creation to ﬁnal merger in the Primal Soul. 2) The states of consciousness as discussed in the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad: jāgrat (or vaiśvānara), “wakefulness;” svapna (or taijasa), “dreaming;” sushupti, “deep sleep;” and turīya, “the fourth” state, of superconsciousness. A ﬁfth state, “beyond turīya, ” is turīyātīta. See: kevala avasthā, sakala avasthā, śuddha avasthā.
avatāra: अवतार “Descent.” A God born in a human (or animal) body. A central concept of Śāktism, Smārtism and Vaishṇavism. See: incarnation, Ishṭa Devatā, Vaishṇavism.
avidyā: अविद्या Spiritual “ignorance.” Wrongful understanding of the nature of reality. Mistaking the impermanent for the everlasting.
awareness: Individual consciousness, perception, knowing; the witness of perception, the “inner eye of the soul.” Sākshin or chit in Sanskrit. The soul’s ability to sense, see or know and to be conscious of this knowing. When awareness is indrawn (pratyak chetana), various states of samādhi may occur. Awareness is known in the Āgamas as chitśakti, the “power of awareness,” the inner self and eternal witness. See: consciousness, sākshin.
axiom: An assumption, rule or maxim that is universally accepted as true.
axis: A real or imaginary straight line around which a planet, or any object, rotates. Metaphorically: a central line of development.
āyurveda: आयुर्वेद “Science of life.” A holistic system of medicine and health native to ancient India. This sacred Vedic science is an Upaveda of the Atharva Veda. Three early giants in this field who left voluminous texts are Charaka, Susruta and Vagbhata. Āyurveda covers many areas, including: 1) chikitsā, general medicine, 2) śalya, surgery, 3) dehavṛitti, physiology, 4) nidāna, diagnosis, 5) dravyavidyā, materia medica and pharmacology, 6) agada tantra, antidotes, 7) strītantra, gynecology, 8) paśu vidyā, veterinary science, 9) kaumāra bhṛitya, pediatrics, 10) ūrdhvāṅga, diseases of the organs of the head, 11) bhūta vidyā, demonology, 12) rasayana, tonics, rejuvenating, 13) vājīkaraṇa, sexual rejuvenation. Among the first known surgeons was Susruta (ca 600 BCE), whose Suśruta Saṁhitā is studied to this day. (Hippocrates, Greek father of medicine, lived two centuries later.) The aims of āyurveda are āyus, “longevity,” and ārogya, “diseaselessness,” which facilitate progress toward ultimate spiritual goals. Health is achieved by balancing energies (especially the doshas, bodily humors) at all levels of being, subtle and gross, through innumerable methods, selected according to the individual’s constitution, lifestyle and nature. Similar holistic medical systems evolved among many peoples, such as the Chinese, North and South Native Americans and Africans. See: doshas.
āyurveda vaidya: आयुर्वेद वैद्य A practitioner, or physician, of āyurveda.
Ayyappan: ஐய்யப்பன் The popular God of a recently formed sect that focuses on pilgrimage to the top of Sabarimalai, a sacred hill in Kerala, where He is said to appear at night as a divine light. Ayyappan is revered as a son of Vishṇu and Śiva (Hari-Hara putra). His vāhana is the tiger.
backbiting: Speaking maliciously or slanderously about a person who is absent.
Badarayana (Bādarāyaṇa): बादरायण Author of the Brahma Sūtras. See: Brahma Sūtra.
balipīṭha: बलिपीठ “Offering place.” An inverted lotus-shaped stone atop a pedestal situated near the temple flagpole, dhvajastambha. Here devotees are to leave all negative thoughts as they enter the temple.
bard: A singer or reciter of epic poems.
Basavanna (Basavaṇṇa): बसवण्ण A 12th-century philosopher, poet and prime minister who reformed and revived Vīra Śaivism in Karnataka. See: Vīra Śaivism.
Batara:A name of Śiva used in Indonesia. See: Śiva.
Baudhāyana Dharma Śāstra: बौधायनधर्मशास्त्र A book of laws associated with the Kṛishṇa Yajur Veda and governing studentship, marriage, household rituals, civil law, etc. It is followed by brāhmins of Southwest India. See: Dharma Śāstra, Kalpa Vedāṅga.
bce: Abbreviation (equivalent to BC, “before Christ) for “before common era,” referring to dating prior to the year one in the Western, or Gregorian calendar, which is now in universal secular use. Thus, 300 BCE was 300 years before the turn of the millennium. Cf: ce.
Being: When capitalized, being refers to God’s essential divine nature—Pure Consciousness, Absolute Reality and Primal Soul (God’s nature as a divine Person). Lower case being refers to the essential nature of a person, that within which never changes; existence. See: Śiva.
benediction: A blessing, especially a spoken one. See: blessing.
benevolence: Disposition to do good; charitable, kindly. See: yama-niyama.
benign: Good, kindly, doing no harm. See: ahiṁsā.
beseech: To ask of someone earnestly. To solicit with fervor.
bestow: To offer graciously as a gift. See: dāna.
betoken: To indicate, show; offer as a sign of the future. Symbolize.
betrothal: Mutual pledge to marry; engagement. In Sanskrit, vāgdāna or niśchitārtha. See: saṁskāras of adulthood.
bewilder: To baffle or confuse through something puzzling or unexplained.
Bhaga: भग “Bestower” of fortune. A God of the Ṛig Veda; Lord of wealth, prowess and happiness. See: purushārtha, Ṛig Veda, wealth.
Bhagavad Gītā: भगवद् गीता “Song of the Lord.” One of the most popular of Hindu writings, a conversation between Lord Kṛishṇa and Arjuna on the brink of the great battle at Kurukshetra. In this central episode of the epic Mahābhārata (part of the sixth book), Kṛishṇa illumines the warrior-prince Arjuna on yoga, asceticism, dharma and the manifold spiritual path. See: Itihāsa, Mahābhārata.
Bhāgavata: भागवत “Possessor of fortune;” gracious Lord. Relating to God or a God; holy, sacred, divine.” Pertaining to Vishṇu or Kṛishṇa. From bhaga, “Bestower, gracious lord; patron.” The name of a sect of Vaishṇavism which arose in the Western part of India after 600 BCE. A highly devotional monotheistic faith worshiping God as Kṛishṇa, Vāsudeva or Vāsudeva-Kṛishṇa. It is believed by scholars to have been one of five religions (along with the Ekāntika, Nārāyaṇīya, Vaikhānasa and Sātvata) that blended to form the Pañcharātra religion prevalent around Mathura ca 300 BCE. Today, the term Bhāgavata is often used to refer to the Vaishṇavite religion as a whole. See: Pañcharātra,Vaishṇavism.
Bhāgavata Purāṇa: भागवतपुराण Also known as Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, a work of 18,000 stanzas. A major Purāṇa and primary Vaishṇava scripture, from oral tradition, written down ca 800. It provides the stories of all incarnations of Vishṇu, filled with the bhakti, inner current of devotion. See: Purāṇa.
Bhairava: भैरव “Terrifying.” Lord Śiva as the fiery protector. He carries and is represented by a triśūla (trident), a symbol often enshrined as guardian at the entrance to Śiva temples. See: Śiva, triśūla.
bhajana: भजन Spiritual song. Individual or group singing of devotional songs, hymns and chants. See: congregational worship, kīrtana.
bhakta: भक्त “Devotee.” A worshiper. One who is surrendered in the Divine.
bhakti: भक्ति “Devotion.” Surrender to God, Gods or guru. Bhakti extends from the simplest expression of devotion to the ego-decimating principle of prapatti, which is total surrender. Bhakti is the foundation of all sects of Hinduism, as well as yoga schools throughout the world. See: bhakti yoga, darśana, prapatti, prasāda, sacrifice, surrender, yajña.
bhakti yoga: भक्तियोग “Union through devotion.” Bhakti yoga is the practice of devotional disciplines, worship, prayer, chanting and singing with the aim of awakening love in the heart and opening oneself to God’s grace. Bhakti may be directed toward God, Gods or one’s spiritual preceptor. Bhakti yoga seeks communion and ever closer rapport with the Divine, developing qualities that make communion possible, such as love, selflessness and purity. Saint Sambandar described bhakti as religion’s essence and the surest means to divine union and liberation. He advised heartfelt worship, unstinting devotion and complete surrender to God in humble, committed service. From the beginning efforts of bhakti to advanced devotion, called prapatti, self-effacement is an integral part of Hindu, even all Indian, culture. Bhakti yoga is embodied in Patanjali’s Yoga Darśana in the second limb, niyamas (observances), as devotion (Īśvarapraṇidhāna). Bhakti yoga is practiced in many Hindu schools, and highly developed in Vaishṇavism as a spiritual path in itself, leading to perfection and liberation. In Śaiva Siddhānta, its cultivation is the primary focus during the kriyā pāda (stage of worship). See: bhakti, prapatti, sacrifice, surrender, yajña.
Bharata (Bhārata): भरत “He who supports, maintains, bears a burden.” The ancient, original name of India and its constitutional name in Hindi: Bharatavarsha “land of Bharat,” a legendary monarch and sage.
Bhārata Natyam: பரதநாட்டியம் A graceful and sophisticated dance style that originated in the Hindu temples of Southern India around the second century BCE.
bhāshya: भाष्य “Talking over, discussion.” Commentary on a text. Hindu philosophies are largely founded upon the interpretations, or bhāshyas, of primary scripture. Other types of commentaries include: vṛitti, a brief note on aphorisms; tippani, like a vṛitti but less formal, explains difficult words or phrases; vārttika, a critical study and elaboration of a bhāshya; and tika or vyakhyana, an explanation of a bhāshya or śāstra in simpler language.
Bhaskara (Bhāskara): भास्कर Philosopher (ca 950). His Bhāskarabhāshya, a commentary on the Brahma Sūtras, was the first elaborate criticism of Sankara’s Advaitic doctrine of avidyā-māyā. See: Sankara, Vedānta, Viśishṭādvaita.
Bhāvaliṅga: भावलिङ्ग “Mark of existence.” Śiva beyond space and time. See: atattva, Paraśiva, Śivaliṅga, Vīra Śaivism.
bhedābheda: भेदाभेद “Difference-nondifference.” A term in Vedānta which means that soul and world are identical with and yet different from God, in the same way that the waves of an ocean can be seen as being nondifferent from the ocean, yet they are not the ocean, only a part of it. See: Vedānta.
Bhogar Rishi: भोगऋषि One of the 18 siddhas of Śaiva tradition, an alchemist and tantrika yogī, associated with the Palani Hills Murugan temple in South India, for which he created the Daṇḍayūthapaniswāmī mūrti from nine poisonous metals. Bhogar is believed by some to still reside there in a cave. Chinese historical records suggest that he came from China.
Bhojadeva Paramara (Paramāra): भोजदेव परमार A Śaivite king, poet, artist and theologian of Gujarat (1018-1060). Author of Tattvaprakāśa. Renowned for establishing a systematic, monistic Śaiva Siddhānta, and creating India’s then largest artificial lake, 250 miles in length, called Bhojpur. See: Tatparyadīpikā.
bhṛityāchāra: भृत्याचार “Servant’s way.” One of the five Vīra Śaiva codes of conduct. See: Pañchāchāra.
Bhūloka: भूलोक “Earth world.” The physical plane. See: loka.
bhūmikā: भूमिका “Earth; ground; soil.” Preface; introduction to a book. From bhū, “to become, exist; arise, come into being.”
Bhuvarloka: भुवर्लोक “Plane of atmosphere.” The second of the seven upper worlds, realm of svādhishṭāna chakra, consisting of the two astral regions closest to the physical plane: Pitṛiloka, “world of ancestors,” and Pretaloka, “world of the departed.” See: loka.
Bijjala: बिज्जल A king in Karnataka associated with the life of Basavanna.
bilva: बिल्व Wood-apple (or bael) tree, Aegle marmelos, sacred to Lord Śiva. Its leaves, picked in threes, are offered in the worship of the Śivaliṅga. The delicious fruit when unripe is used medicinally.
bindu: बिन्दु “A drop, small particle, dot.” 1) The seed or source of creation. In the 36 tattvas, the nucleus or first particle of transcendent light, technically called Parabindu, corresponding to the Śakti tattva. Scientists say the whole universe just before the big bang could fit on the head of a pin—a tremendous point of energy—that is Parabindu. 2) Small dot worn on the forehead between the eyebrows, or in the middle of the forehead, made of red powder (kuṅkuma), sandalpaste, clay, cosmetics or other substance. It is a sign that one is a Hindu. Mystically, it represents the “third eye,” or the “mind’s eye,” which sees things that the physical eyes cannot see. The forehead dot is a reminder to use and cultivate one’s spiritual vision, to perceive and understand life’s inner workings, as well as to look into the past to see the future. The bindu is also a beauty mark worn by Hindu women, the color red generally a sign of marriage, black often worn before marriage to ward off the evil eye, kudṛishṭi or pāpadṛishṭi. The bindu is known as pottu in Tamil. Bindu is also a term for semen. See: tattva, tilaka.
birth chart: Janmapatrikā. An astrological map of the sky drawn for a person’s moment and place of birth. Also known as rāśi chakra or zodiac wheel, it is the basis for interpreting the traits of individuals and the experiences, prārabdha karmas, they will go through in life. See: jyotisha, karma.
birthstar: See: nakshatra.
bi-sexual: Of or characterized by sexual attraction for members of both genders. See: heterosexual, homosexual, sexuality.
blessing: Good wishes; benediction. Seeking and giving blessings is extremely central in Hindu life, nurtured in the precepts of kāruṇya (grace), śakti (energy), darśana (seeing the Divine), prasāda (blessed offerings), pūjā (invocation), tīrthayātrā (pilgrimage), dīkshā (initiation), śaktipāta (descent of grace), saṁskāras (rites of passage), sānnidhya (holy presence) and sādhana (inner-attunement disciplines).
bodhaka: बोधक “Mentor, teacher.” One who awakens or catalyzes knowing; a religious instructor or catalyst.
Bodhinatha (Bodhinātha): बोधिनाथ “Lord of Wisdom.” (1942–) The current preceptor of the Nandinātha Sampradāya’s Kailāsa Paramparā, and Guru Mahāsannidhānam of Kauai Aadheenam, ordained by his satguru, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, in 2001.
bodhi tantra: बोधितन्त्र “Wise methods; ways of wisdom.” See: sādhana, tantra.
bodies: See: kośa, śarīra, soul.
bodily humor: Commonly, the fluids of the body, an English equivalent of the āyurvedic term dosha, which names three fundamental interbalancing principles or constituents of the human constitution. See: āyurveda, dosha.
bond (bondage): See: evolution of the soul, mala, pāśa.
bone-gathering: Asthisañchaya. Part of Hindu funeral rites. About twelve hours after cremation, family men return to the cremation site to collect the remains. Water is first sprinkled on the ashes to separate the black ash of the wood from the fine, white ash of the body. The white ash and bones (up to four inches long, called “flowers”) are collected in a tray or brass pot. Some Hindus send the ashes and bones to India for deposition in the Ganges. Or they may be put into any ocean or river. Arrangements can be made with crematoriums in the East or West for the family to personally gather the ashes and “flowers.” See: cremation, saṁskāras of adulthood.
boon: Varadāna. A welcome blessing, a benefit received. An unexpected benefit or bonus. See: blessing, grace.
Brahmā: ब्रह्मा The name of God in His aspect of Creator. Śaivites consider Brahmā, Vishṇu and Rudra to be three of five aspects of Śiva. Smārtas group Brahmā, Vishṇu and Śiva as a holy trinity in which Śiva is the destroyer. Brahmā the Creator is not to be confused with 1) Brahman, the Transcendent Supreme of the Upanishads; 2) Brāhmaṇa, Vedic texts; 3) brāhmaṇa, the Hindu priest caste (also spelled brāhmin). See: Brahman, Parameśvara.
brahmachārī: ब्रह्मचारी An unmarried male spiritual aspirant who practices continence, observes religious disciplines, including sādhana, devotion and service and who may be under simple vows. Also names one in the student stage, age 12‒24, or until marriage. See: āśrama dharma, monk.
brahmachāriṇī: ब्रह्मचारिणी Feminine counterpart of brahmachārī. See: nun.
brahmacharya: ब्रह्मचर्य See: yama-niyama.
brahmacharya āśrama: ब्रह्मचर्य आश्रम See: āśrama dharma.
brāhma muhūrta: ब्राह्ममुहूर्त “God’s hour.” A very favorable time for sādhana. It is traditional to arise before this period, bathe and begin one’s morning worship. Brāhma muhūrta is defined as roughly 1.5 hours, the last muhūrta of the night in the 8-muhūrta system. It is understood as comprising the final three muhūrtas of the night in 15 or 16-muhūrta systems, equalling 144 minutes or 135 minutes respectively. See: muhūrta.
Brahman: ब्रह्मन् “Supreme Being; Expansive Spirit.” From the root bṛih, “to grow, increase, expand.” Name of God or Supreme Deity in the Vedas, where He is described as 1) the Transcendent Absolute, 2) the all-pervading energy and 3) the Supreme Lord or Primal Soul. These three correspond to Śiva in His three perfections. Thus, Śaivites know Brahman and Śiva to be one and the same God, as: 1) Nirguṇa Brahman:God “without qualities (guṇa),” i.e., formless, Absolute Reality, Parabrahman, or Paraśiva, totally transcending guṇa(quality), manifest existence and even Parāśakti, all of which exhibit perceivable qualities; and 2) Saguṇa Brahman: God “with qualities;” Śiva in His perfections of Parāśakti and Parameśvara, God as superconscious, omnipresent, all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful. The term Brahman should not be confused with 1) Brahmā, the Creator God; 2) Brāhmaṇa, Vedic texts, or 3) brāhmaṇa, Hindu priest caste (popularly, brāhmin). See: Parameśvara, Parāśakti, Paraśiva.
Brāhmaṇa: ब्राह्मण 1) One of four primary sections of each Veda; concerned mainly with details of yajña, or sacrificial fire worship, and specific duties and rules of conduct for priests, but also rich in philosophical lore. 2) The first of the four varṇas, or social classes, comprising pious souls of exceptional learning, including priests, educators and humanity’s visionary guides. Also spelled brāhmin. See: brāhmin, varṇa dharma, Vedas.
Brahmāṇḍa: ब्रह्माण्ड “Divine Egg.” The cosmos; inner and outer universe. See: loka, three worlds, world.
Brahmarandhra: ब्रह्मरन्ध्र “Door of Brahman.” See: door of Brahman.
Brahma Sūtra(s): ब्रह्मसूत्र Also known as the Vedānta Sūtras, composed by Badarayana (perhaps as early as 400 BCE) as the first known systematic exposition of Upanishadic thought. Its 550 aphorisms are so brief as to be virtually unintelligible without commentary. It was through interpretations of this text, as well as the Upanishads themselves and the Bhagavad Gītā, that later schools of Vedānta expressed and formulated their own views of the Upanishadic tenets. A third name for this important work is Śārīraka Sūtras, “aphorisms on the embodied” soul. See: Upanishad, Vedānta.
Brahma Sūtra Bhāshya: ब्रह्मसूत्रभाष्य A lengthy 13th-century commentary on the Brahma Sūtras by Srikantha to establish a Vedic base for the Śaivite qualified nondualism called Śiva Advaita. See: Śiva Advaita, Vedānta.
Brahma Sūtra, Śāṅkara Bhāshya: ब्रह्मसूत्र शांकरभाष्य Sankara’s explanation of one of the three major treatises on Vedānta philosophy. See: Smārta.
brāhmin (brāhmaṇa): ब्राह्मण “Mature” or “evolved” soul. The class of pious souls of exceptional learning. From Brāhman, “growth, expansion, evolution, development, swelling of the spirit or soul.” The mature soul is the exemplar of wisdom, tolerance, forbearance and humility. See: varṇa dharma.
brāhminical tradition: The hereditary religious practices of the Vedic brāhmins, such as reciting mantras, and personal rules for daily living.
Brahmotsava: ब्रह्मोत्सव “God’s principal festival .” Each temple has one most important festival of the year which is its major celebration, called Brahmotsava, often a ten-day event. See: festival, temple.
Bṛihadāraṇyaka Upanishad: बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद् One of the major Upanishads, part of the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa of the Yajur Veda. Ascribed to Sage Yajnavalkya, it teaches modes of worship, meditation and the identity of the individual self with the Supreme Self. See: Upanishad.
Bṛihaspati: बृहस्पति “Lord of Prayer.” Vedic preceptor of the Gods and Lord of the Word, sometimes identified with Lord Gaṇeśa. Also the name of a great exponent of Śaiva Siddhānta (ca 000). See: Gaṇeśa.
bṛihatkuṭumba: बृहत्कुटुम्ब “Extended family.” Also called mahākuṭumba. See: extended family, joint family.
Buddha: बुद्ध “The Enlightened.” Usually the title of Siddhartha Gautama (ca 624–544 BCE), a prince born of the Śākya clan—a Śaivite Hindu tribe that lived in eastern India on the Nepalese border. He renounced the world and became a monk. After enlightenment he preached the doctrines upon which his followers later founded Buddhism. See: Buddhism.
buddhi: बुद्धि “Intellect, reason, logic.” The intellectual or disciplined mind. Buddhi is characterized by discrimination (viveka), voluntary restraint (vairāgya), cultivation of calmness (śānti), contentment (santosha) and forbearance (kshamā). It is a faculty of manomaya kośa, the instinctive-intellectual sheath. See: intellectual mind, kośa, mind (individual).
buddhi chitta: बुद्धिचित्त “Intellectual mind.” See: buddhi, intellectual mind.
Buddhism: The religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha (ca 624–544 BCE). He refuted the idea of man having an immortal soul and did not preach of any Supreme Deity. Instead he taught that man should seek to overcome greed, hatred and delusion and attain enlightenment through realizing the Four Noble Truths and following the Eightfold Path. Buddhism arose out of Hinduism as an inspired reform movement which rejected the caste system and the sanctity of the Vedas. It is thus classed as nāstika, “unbeliever,” and is not part of Hinduism. Buddhism eventually migrated out of India, the country of its origin, and now enjoys a following of over 350 million, mostly in Asia. Prominent among its holy books is the Dhammapada. See: Buddha.
ca: Abbreviation for circa—Latin for “approximately”—used with dates that are not precise, e.g., ca 650, “around the year 650.”
callous: Unfeeling, not sensitive, lacking compassion or pity. See: yama-niyama.
camphor: Karpura. An aromatic white crystalline solid derived from the wood of camphor trees (or prepared synthetically from pinene), prized as fuel in temple āratī lamps. See: āratī, pūjā.
canon: The religious laws governing a sect or a religion. Body of accepted or authorized scriptures.
caste: A hierarchical system, called varṇa dharma (or jāti dharma), established in India in ancient times, which determined the privileges, status, rights and duties of the many occupational groups, wherein status is determined by heredity. There are four main classes (varṇas)—brāhmin, kshatriya, vaiśya and śūdra—and innumerable castes, called jāti. See: varṇa dharma.
catalyst: A person or thing acting as a stimulus upon another, whose presence brings about change. Difficulties can be a catalyst for spiritual unfoldment. Catalyst is sometimes used to name a teacher or facilitator.
causal body: Kāraṇa śarīra, the inmost body; the soul form, also called ānandamaya kośa, “bliss sheath,” and actinic causal body. See: kośa, soul.
causal plane: The highest or most subtle realm of existence, Śivaloka. See: loka.
cause: Kāraṇa. Anything which produces an effect, a result. —efficient cause: (nimitta kāraṇa) That which directly produces the effect; that which conceives, makes, shapes, etc., such as the potter who fashions a clay pot, or God who creates the world. —material cause: (upādāna kāraṇa) The matter from which the effect is formed, as the clay which is shaped into a pot, or God as primal substance becoming the world. —instrumental cause: (sahakāri kāraṇa) That which serves as a means, mechanism or tool in producing the effect, such as the potter’s wheel, used for making a pot, or God’s generative Śakti, or creative energy. See: māyā, tattva.
ce: Abbreviation for “Common Era.” Equivalent to the abbreviation AD (anno Domini, “in the Lord’s year”). Following a date, it indicates that the year in question comes after the year one in the Western, or Gregorian (originally Christian) calender system. E.g., 300 CE is 300 years after the beginning of this era. Cf: bce.
celestial: “Of the sky or heavens.” Of or relating to the heavenly regions or beings. Highly refined, divine.
celibacy: Complete sexual abstinence. Also the state of a person who has vowed to remain unmarried. See: brahmachārī, brahmacharya.
centillion: The number 1 followed by 600 zeros. An unimaginably large figure.
ceremony: A formal rite established by custom or authority as proper to special occasions. From the Latin caerimonia, “awe; reverent rite.”
cf: An abbreviation for Latin confer, meaning “compare.”
chaitanya: चैतन्य “Spirit, consciousness, especially higher consciousness; Supreme Being.”A widely used term, often preceded by modifiers, e.g., sākshī chaitanya, “witness consciousness,” or bhakti chaitanya, “devotional consciousness,” or Śivachaitanya, “God consciousness.” See: chitta, consciousness, mind (five states), Śiva consciousness.
Chaitanya, Sri: चैतन्य सिर् A renowned Vaishṇava saint (1485‒1534), revered today especially in Bengal and Orissa, remembered for his ecstatic states of devotion. He taught a dualistic philosophy in which bhakti (devotion) to the divine couple Rādhā and Kṛishṇa is the only means to liberation. Practice revolves mainly around kīrtana, devotional singing and dancing. He gave prominence to the Gaudiya Vaishṇava sect, of which several branches thrive today, including ISKCON. See: Kṛishṇa, Vaishṇavism, Vedānta.
chakra: चक्र “Wheel.” Any of the nerve plexes or centers of force and consciousness located within the inner bodies of man. In the physical body there are corresponding nerve plexuses, ganglia and glands. The seven principal chakras can be seen psychically as colorful, multi-petaled wheels or lotuses. They are situated along the spinal cord from the base to the cranial chamber. Additionally, seven chakras, barely visible, exist below the spine. They are seats of instinctive consciousness, the origin of jealousy, hatred, envy, guilt, sorrow, etc. They constitute the lower or hellish world, called Naraka or pātāla. Thus, there are 14 major chakras in all.
The seven upper chakras, from lowest to highest, are: 1) mūlādhāra (base of spine): memory, time and space; 2) svādhishṭhāna (below navel): reason; 3) maṇipūra (solar plexus): willpower; 4) anāhata (heart center): direct cognition; 5) viśuddha (throat): divine love; 6) ājñā (third eye): divine sight; 7) sahasrāra (crown of head): illumination, Godliness.
The seven lower chakras, from highest to lowest, are 1) atala (hips): fear and lust; 2) vitala (thighs): raging anger; 3) sutala (knees): retaliatory jealousy; 4) talātala (calves): prolonged mental confusion; 5) rasātala (ankles): selfishness; 6) mahātala (feet): absence of conscience; 7) pātāla (located in the soles of the feet): murder and malice. See: Naraka, pradakshiṇa (also: individual chakra entries).
Chālukya: चालुक्य Indian dynasty (450–1180) in the Punjab area. Buddhism and Śaivism were prominent, the Buddhist Cave frescoes at Ajanta were completed and the art of Hindu temple building was advanced.
chandana: चन्दन “Sandalwood paste.” One of the sacred substances offered during pūjā and afterwards distributed to devotees as a sacrament (prasāda).
Çhandas Vedāṅga: छन्दस् वेदाङ्ग Auxiliary Vedic texts on the metrical rules of poetic composition. Çhanda, meter, is among four linguistic skills taught for mastery of the Vedas and the rites of yajña. Çhandas means “metrical lore,” or “prosedy.” The most important text on Çhandas is the Çhanda Śāstra, ascribed to Pingala (ca 200 BCE). See: Vedāṅga.
Çhāndogya Upanishad: छान्दोग्य उपनिषद् One of the major Upanishads, consisting of eight chapters of the Çhāndogya Brāhmaṇa of the Sāma Veda. It teaches the origin and significance of Aum, the importance of the Sāma Veda, the Self, meditation and life after death. See: Upanishad.
chandra: चन्द्र “The moon.” Of central importance in Hindu astrology and in the calculation of the festival calendar. Considered the ruler of emotion.
Charvaka (Chārvāka): चार्वाक “Good” or “sweet voice” or “word.” Indian philosopher (ca 600 BCE) who gave the name to the school of uncompromising materialism. One of the great skeptics of all time. See: nāstika.
charyā pāda: चर्यापाद “Conduct stage.” Stage of service and character building. See: pāda, Śaiva Siddhānta, Śaivism.
chaturdharma: चतुर्धर्म “Four dharmas:” ṛita, āśrama dharma, varṇa dharma and svadharma. See: dharma.
chela: चेला “Disciple.” (Hindi.) A disciple of a guru; synonym for śishya. The feminine equivalent is chelinā or chelī.
Chellappaswami (Chellappaswāmī): செல்லப்பாசுவாமி “Wealthy father.” Reclusive siddha and 160th satguru (1840-1915) of the Nandinātha Sampradāya’s Kailāsa Paramparā, he lived on Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula near Nallur Kandaswāmī Temple in a small hut where today there is a small samādhi shrine. Among his disciples was Sage Yogaswami, whom he trained intensely for five years and initiated as his successor. See: Kailāsa Paramparā, Nātha Sampradāya.
Chennabasavanna (Chennabasavaṇṇa): चेन्नबसवण्ण “Little Basavanna.” The 12th-century theologian who systematized the religious doctrine of Vīra Śaivism.
Chidambaram: சிதம்பரம் “Hall of Consciousness.” A very famous South Indian Śiva Naṭarāja temple. See: Naṭarāja.
Chinna Bomman: சின்ன பொம்மன் King of Vellore, an area near Chennai (1559‒1579), patron and disciple of Appaya Dikshita.
chit: चित् “Consciousness,” or “awareness.” Philosophically, “pure awareness; transcendent consciousness,” as in Sat-chit-ānanda. In mundane usage, chit means “perception; consciousness.” See: awareness, chitta, consciousness, mind (universal), sākshin.
chitsabhā: चित्सभा “Hall of consciousness.” See: Naṭarāja.
chitta: चित्त “Mind; consciousness.” Mind-stuff. On the personal level, it is that in which mental impressions and experiences are recorded. Seat of the conscious, subconscious and superconscious states, and of the threefold mental faculty, called antaḥkaraṇa, consisting of buddhi, manas and ahaṁkāra. See: awareness, consciousness, mind (individual), mind (universal), sākshin.
chūḍākaraṇa: चूडाकरण Head-shaving sacrament. See: saṁskāra.
circumambulation: Pradakshiṇa. Walking around, usually clockwise. See: pradakshiṇa, pūjā.
citadel: Fortress, usually situated on a height.
clairaudience: “Clear-hearing.” Psychic or divine hearing, divyaśravana. The ability to hear the inner currents of the nervous system, the Aum and other mystic tones. Hearing in one’s mind the words of inner-plane beings or earthly beings not physically present. Also, hearing the nāda-nāḍī śakti through the day or while in meditation. See: clairvoyance, nāda.
clairvoyance: “Clear-seeing.” Psychic or divine sight, divyadṛishṭi. The ability to look into the inner worlds and see auras, chakras, nāḍīs, thought forms, non-physical people and subtle forces. The ability to see from afar or into the past or future—avadhijñāna, “knowing beyond limits.” Also the ability to separate the light that illumines one’s thoughts from the forms the light illumines. Also, dūradarśana, “far-seeing,” the modern Sanskrit term for television in India. Dūradarśin names a seer or prophet. See: ākāśa.
coarse: Of crude quality; gross, rough cut. Not fine or refined.
coexistent: “Existing together.”
cognition: Knowing; perception. Knowledge reached through intuitive, superconscious faculties rather than through intellect alone.
cognitive body: Vijñānamaya kośa. The most refined sheath of the astral, or subtle, body (sūkshma śarīra). It is the sheath of higher thought and cognition. See: astral body, kośa.
cohesive: Clinging together; not disintegrating.
coined: Made up; artificed; invented.
commemorative: Anything that honors the memory of a departed person or past event. See: śrāddha.
commission: To give an order or power for something to be made or done.
commitment: Dedication or engagement to a long-term course of action.
commune: To communicate closely, sharing thoughts, feelings or prayers in an intimate way. To be in close rapport.
compatible: Capable of combining well; getting along, harmonious.
compensate: To make up for; reward for; give an equivalent of; recompense.
component: An element; one of the parts constituting a whole.
comprehend: Understand; grasp.
comprehensive: Including much or all.
comprise: To consist of; be composed of.
concealing grace: See: grace, tirodhāna śakti.
conceive: To form or develop an idea, thought, belief or attitude.
concentration: Uninterrupted and sustained attention. See: rāja yoga.
concept: An idea or thought, especially a generalized or abstract idea.
conception: Power to imagine, conceive or create. Moment when a pregnancy is begun, a new earthly body generated. —the point of conception; the apex of creation: The simple instant that precedes any creative impulse and is therefore the source and summit of the powers of creation or manifestation. To become conscious of the point of conception is a great siddhi.
concomitant: Accompanying a condition or circumstance.
concord: Harmony and agreement; peaceful relations.
condone: To permit, tolerate or overlook.
confer: To give or grant, especially an honor or privilege.
confession: An admission, acknowledgement; as of guilt or wrongdoing.
confidentiality: Keeping confidences, or information told in trust, secret; not divulging private or secret matters.
confine(s): Boundary, limits, border. To restrict or keep within limits.
conflagration: A large, destructive fire.
conform: To be in accord or agreement with.
conformity: Action in accordance with customs, rules, prevailing opinion.
congregational worship: Worship done as a group, such as synchronized singing, community prayers or other participatory worship by individuals sharing a strict membership in a particular organization, with no other religious affiliations. Hindu worship is strongly congregational within āśramas and tightly organized societies, but usually noncongregational in the general laity. See: bhajana, kīrtana, pūjā, yajña.
conquest: Act or process of overcoming, defeating and subjugation.
conscience: The inner sense of right and wrong, sometimes called “the knowing voice of the soul.” However, the conscience is affected by the individual’s training and belief patterns, and is therefore not necessarily a perfect reflection of dharma. In Sanskrit the conscience is known as antaryāmin, “inner guide,” or dharmabuddhi, “moral wisdom.” Other terms are sadasadvichāra śakti “good-bad reflective power” and saṁjñāna, “right conception.” It is the subconscious of the person—the sum total of past impressions and training—that defines the creedal structure and colors the conscience and either clearly reflects or distorts superconscious wisdom. If the subconscious has been impressed with Western beliefs, for example, of Christianity, Judaism, existentialism or materialism, the conscience will be different than when schooled in the Vedic dharma of Śāktism, Smārtism, Śaivism or Vaishṇavism. This psychological law has to do with the superconscious mind working through the subconscious (an interface known as the subsuperconscious) and explains why the dharma of one’s sampradāya must be fully learned as a young child for the conscience to be free of conflict. The Sanātana Dharma, fully and correctly understood provides the purest possible educational creedal structure, building a subconscious that is a clear, unobstructing channel for superconscious wisdom, the soul’s innate intelligence, to be expressed through the conscience. Conscience is thus the sum of two things: the superconscious knowing (which is the same in all people) and the creedal belief structure through which the superconscious flows. This explains why people in different cultures have different consciences. See: creed, dharma, mind (individual).
conscious mind: The external, everyday state of consciousness. See: mind.
consciousness: Chitta or chaitanya. 1) A synonym for mind-stuff, chitta; or 2) the condition or power of perception, awareness, apprehension. There are myriad gradations of consciousness, from the simple sentience of inanimate matter to the consciousness of basic life forms, to the higher consciousness of human embodiment, to omniscient states of superconsciousness, leading to immersion in the One universal consciousness, Parāśakti. Chaitanya and chitta can name both individual consciousness and universal consciousness. Modifiers indicate the level of awareness, e.g., vyashṭi chaitanya, “individual consciousness;” buddhi chitta, “intellectual consciousness;” Śivachaitanya, “God consciousness.” Five classical “states” of awareness are discussed in scripture: 1) wakefulness (jāgrat), 2) “dream” (svapna) or astral consciousness, 3) “deep sleep” (sushupti) or subsuperconsciousness, 4) the superconscious state beyond (turīya, “fourth”) and 5) the utterly transcendent state called turīyātīta (“beyond the fourth”). See: awareness, chitta, chaitanya, mind (all entries).
consecrate: To declare holy, or designate for sacred or religious use.
consecrated temple: A temple duly and fully established in all three worlds through formal religious ceremony known as kumbhābisheka.
consent: Accord; agreement; approval, especially to a proposal.
console: To make someone feel less sad or disappointed. To comfort.
consolidate: To make stronger by bringing several things into a single whole.
consort: Spouse, especially of a king or queen, God or Goddess. Among the Gods there are actually no sexes or sexual distinctions, though in mythological folk narratives Hinduism traditionally represents these great beings in elaborate anthropomorphic depictions, Matrimony and human-like family units among the Gods are derived from educational intentions to illustrate the way people should and should not live. See: Śakti.
contemplation: Religious or mystical absorption beyond meditation. See: enstasy, rāja yoga, samādhi.
contend: To hold as a belief or assert as fact, especially against scepticism or counter arguments.
continence (continent): Restraint, moderation or, most strictly, total abstinence from sexual activity. See: brahmacharya.
conversely: An adverb used to introduce a concept with terms similar to a previous one, but in reversed order or sense.
conversion to Hinduism: Entering Hinduism has traditionally required little more than accepting and living the beliefs and codes of Hindus. This remains the basic factor of adoption, although there are, and always have been, formal ceremonies recognizing an individual’s entrance into the religion, particularly the nāmakaraṇa, or naming rite. The most obvious sign of true sincerity of adoption or conversion is the total abandoning of the former name and the choosing of the Hindu name, usually a theophoric name derived from the name of a God or Goddess, and then making it legal on one’s passport, identity card, social security card and driver’s license. This name is used at all times, under all circumstances, particularly with family and friends. This is severance. This is adoption. This is embracing Hinduism. This is conversion. This is true sincerity and considered by born members as the most honorable and trusted testimony of those who choose to join the global congregation of the world’s oldest religion. Many temples in India and other countries will ask to see the passport or other legally valid identification before admitting devotees of non-Indian origin for more than casual worship. It requires nothing more than a genuine commitment to the faith. Belief is the keynote of religious conviction, and the beliefs vary greatly among the different religions of the world. What we believe forms our attitudes, shapes our lives and molds our destiny. To choose one’s beliefs is to choose one’s religion. Those who find themselves at home with the beliefs of Hinduism are, on a simple level, Hindu. Formally entering a new religion, however, is a serious decision. Particularly for those with prior religious ties it is sometimes painful and always challenging.
The acceptance of outsiders into the Hindu fold has occurred for thousands of years. As Swami Vivekananda once said, “Born aliens have been converted in the past by crowds, and the process is still going on.” Dr. S. Radhakrishnan confirms the swāmī’s views in a brief passage from his well known book The Hindu View of Life: “In a sense, Hinduism may be regarded as the first example in the world of a missionary religion. Only its missionary spirit is different from that associated with the proselytizing creeds. It did not regard it as its mission to convert humanity to any one opinion. For what counts is conduct and not belief. Worshipers of different Gods and followers of different rites were taken into the Hindu fold. The ancient practice of vrātyastoma, described fully in the Taṇḍya Brāhmaṇa, shows that not only individuals but whole tribes were absorbed into Hinduism. Many modern sects accept outsiders. Dvala’s Smṛiti lays down rules for the simple purification of people forcibly converted to other faiths, or of womenfolk defiled and confined for years, and even of people who, for worldly advantage, embrace other faiths (p. 28-29).” See: Hindu, Hinduism.
cope: To contend with on equal terms. To face or deal with difficulties.
cosmic: Universal; vast. Of or relating to the cosmos or entire universe.
cosmic cycle: One of the infinitely recurring periods of the universe, comprising its creation, preservation and dissolution. These cycles are measured in periods of progressive ages, called yugas. Satya (or Kṛita), Tretā, Dvāpara and Kali are the names of these four divisions, and they repeat themselves in that order, with the Satya Yuga being the longest and the Kali Yuga the shortest. The comparison is often made of these ages with the cycles of the day: Satya Yuga being morning until noon, the period of greatest light or enlightenment, Tretā Yuga afternoon, Dvāpara evening, and Kali Yuga the darkest part of the night. Four yugas equal one mahāyuga. Theories vary, but by traditional astronomical calculation, a mahāyuga equals 4,320,000 solar years (or 12,000 “divine years;” one divine year is 360 solar years)—with the Satya Yuga lasting 1,728,000 years, Tretā Yuga 1,296,000 years, Dvāpara Yuga 864,000 years, and Kali Yuga 432,000 years. Mankind is now experiencing the Kali Yuga, which began at midnight, February 18, 3102 BCE (year one on the Hindu calendar [see Hindu Timeline]) and will end in approximately 427,000 years. (By another reckoning, one mahāyuga equals approximately two million solar years.) A dissolution called laya occurs at the end of each mahāyuga, when the physical world is destroyed by flood and fire. Each destructive period is followed by the succession of creation (sṛishṭi), evolution or preservation (sthiti) and dissolution (laya). A summary of the periods in the cosmic cycles:
At the end of every kalpa or day of Brahmā a greater dissolution, called pralaya (or kalpānta, “end of an eon”), occurs when both the physical and subtle worlds are absorbed into the causal world, where souls rest until the next kalpa begins. This state of withdrawal or “night of Brahmā,” continues for the length of an entire kalpa until creation again issues forth. After 36,000 of these dissolutions and creations there is a total, universal annihilation, mahāpralaya, when all three worlds, all time, form and space, are withdrawn into God Śiva. After a period of total withdrawal a new universe or lifespan of Brahmā begins. This entire cycle repeats infinitely. This view of cosmic time is recorded in the Purāṇas and the Dharma Śāstras. See: mahāpralaya.
Cosmic Dance: See: Naṭarāja.
Cosmic Soul: Purusha or Parameśvara. Primal Soul. The Universal Being; Personal God. See: Parameśvara, Primal Soul, purusha, Śiva.
cosmology: “Cosmos-knowledge.” The area of metaphysics pertaining to the origin and structure of the universe. Hindu cosmology includes both inner and outer worlds of existence. See: tattva.
cosmos: The universe, or whole of creation, especially with reference to its order, harmony and completeness. See: Brahmāṇḍa, loka, tattva, three worlds.
covenant: A binding agreement to do or keep from doing certain things.
covet: To want ardently, especially something belonging to another. To envy.
cranial chakras: The ājñā, or third-eye center, and the sahasrāra, at the top of the head near the pineal and pituitary glands. See: chakra.
creation: The act of creating, especially bringing the world into ordered existence. Also, all of created existence, the cosmos. Creation, according to the monistic-theistic view, is an emanation or extension of God, the Creator. It is Himself in another form, and not inherently something other than Him. See: cause, tattva.
creator: He who brings about creation. Śiva as one of His five powers. See: creation, Naṭarāja, Parameśvara.
creed: Śraddhā dhāraṇā. An authoritative formulation of the beliefs of a religion. Historically, creeds have arisen to protect doctrinal purity when religions are transplanted into foreign cultures. See: conscience.
cremation: Dahana. Burning of the dead. Cremation is the traditional system of disposing of bodily remains, having the positive effect of releasing the soul most quickly from any lingering attachment to the Earth plane. In modern times, cremation facilities are widely available in nearly every country, though gas-fueled chambers generally take the place of the customary wood pyre. Embalming, commonly practiced even if the body is to be cremated, is ill-advised, as it injures the astral body and can actually be felt by the departed soul, as would an autopsy. Should it be necessary to preserve the body a few days to allow time for relatives to arrive, it is recommended that dry ice surround the body and that the coffin be kept closed. Arrangements for this service should be made well in advance with the mortuary. Note that the remains of enlightened masters are sometimes buried or sealed in a special tomb called a samādhi. This is done in acknowledgement of the extraordinary attainment of such a soul, whose very body, having become holy, is revered as a sacred presence, sānnidhya, and which not infrequently becomes the spiritual seed of a temple or place of pilgrimage. See: bone-gathering, death, reincarnation, sānnidhya.
cringe: To retreat, bend or crouch in an attitude of fear, especially from something dangerous or painful.
crown chakra: Sahasrāra chakra. The thousand-petaled cranial center of divine consciousness. See: chakra, kuṇḍalinī, yoga.
crucial: From crux. Essential; decisive; critical.
crude: Raw. Not prepared or refined. Lacking grace, tact or taste. Uncultured.
crux: The essential, deciding or difficult point.
culminate: To reach the highest point or climax. Result.
culture: Development or refinement of intellect, emotions, interests, manners, and tastes. The ideals, customs, skills and arts of a people or group that are transmitted from one generation to another. Culture is refined living that arises in a peaceful, stable society. Hindu culture arises directly out of worship in the temples. The music, the dance, the art, the subtleties of mannerism and interraction between people all have their source in the humble devotion to the Lord, living in the higher, spiritual nature, grounded in the security of the immortal Self within.
Dakshiṇāmūrti: दक्षिणामूर्ति “South-facing form.” Lord Śiva depicted sitting under a banyan tree, silently teaching four ṛishis at His feet.
dampatī: दम्पती “House master(s).” An honorific title for husband and wife as the dual masters and sovereign guides of the Hindu home (dama). See: gṛihastha dharma.
dāna: दान Generosity, giving. See: yama-niyama.
dance: See: Naṭarāja, tāṇḍava.
daṇḍa: दण्ड “Staff of support.” The staff carried by a sādhu or sannyāsin, representing the tapas which he has taken as his only support, and the vivifying of sushumṇā and consequent Realization he seeks. Daṇḍa also connotes “penalty” or “sanction.” See: sādhu, sannyāsin.
darśana: दर्शन “Vision, sight.” Seeing the Divine. Beholding, with inner or outer vision, a temple image, Deity, holy person or place, with the desire to inwardly contact and receive the grace and blessings of the venerated being or beings. Even beholding a photograph in the proper spirit is a form of darśana. Not only does the devotee seek to see the Divine, but to be seen as well, to stand humbly in the awakened gaze of the holy one, even if for an instant, such as in a crowded temple when thousands of worshipers file quickly past the enshrined Lord. Gods and gurus are thus said to “give” darśana, and devotees “take” darśana, with the eyes being the mystic locus through which energy is exchanged. This direct and personal two-sided apprehension is a central and highly sought-after experience of Hindu faith. Also: “point of view,” doctrine or philosophy. See: shaḍ darśana, sound.
Darwin’s theory: Theory of evolution developed by Charles Darwin (1809–1882) stating that plant and animal species develop or evolve from earlier forms due to hereditary transmission of variations that enhance the organism’s adaptability and chances of survival. See: evolution of the soul, nonhuman birth.
daśama bhāga vrata: दशमभागव्रत “One-tenth-part vow.” A promise that tithers make before God, Gods and their family or peers to tithe regularly each month—for a specified time, or for life, as they wish. See: daśamāṁśa.
daśamāṁśa: दशमांश “One-tenth sharing.” The traditional Hindu practice of tithing, giving one-tenth of one’s income to a religious institution. It was formerly widespread in India. In ancient times the term makimai was used in Tamil Nadu. See: daśama bhāga vrata, purushārtha.
dāsa mārga: दासमार्ग “Servant’s path.” See: pāda.
Daśanāmī: दशनामी “Ten names.” Ten monastic orders organized by Adi Sankara (ca 800): Āraṇya, Vāna, Giri, Pārvata, Sāgara, Tīrtha, Āśrama, Bhārati, Pūrī and Sarasvatī. Also refers to sannyāsins of these orders, each of whom bears his order’s name, with ānanda often attached to the religious name. For example, Ramananda Tirtha (Rāmānanda Tīrtha). Traditionally, each order is associated with one of the main Śaṅkarāchārya pīṭhas, or centers. See: Sankara, Śaṅkarāchārya pīṭha, Smārta Sampradāya.
daurmanasya: दौर्मनस्य “Mental pain, dejection, anxiety, sorrow, depression, melancholy and despair.” See: chakra.
dayā: दया “Compassion.” See: yama-niyama.
death: Death is a rich concept for which there are many words in Sanskrit, such as: mahāprasthāna, “great departure;” samādhimaraṇa, dying consciously while in the state of meditation; mahāsamādhi, “great merger, or absorption,” naming the departure of an enlightened soul. Hindus know death to be the soul’s detaching itself from the physical body and continuing on in the subtle body (sūkshma śarīra) with the same desires, aspirations and activities as when it lived in a physical body. Now the person exists in the in-between world, the subtle plane, or Antarloka, with loved ones who have previously died, and is visited by earthly associates during their sleep. Hindus do not fear death, for they know it to be one of the most glorious and exalted experiences, rich in spiritual potential. Other terms for death include pañchatvam (death as dissolution of the five elements), mṛityu (natural death), prāyopaveśa (self-willed death by fasting), māraṇa (unnatural death, e.g., by murder). See: reincarnation, suicide, videhamukti.
deceit (deception): The act of representing as true what is known to be false. A dishonest action.
decentralized: Whose administrative agencies, power, authority, etc., are distributed widely, rather than concentrated in a single place or person. In Hinduism, authority is decentralized.
decked: Covered with fine clothing or ornaments.
defiled: Polluted, made dirty, impure.
deformity: Condition of being disfigured or made ugly in body, mind or emotions.
deha: देह “Body.” From the verb dih, “to plaster, mold; anoint, fashion.” A term used in the Upanishads, yoga texts, Śaiva Āgamas, Tirumantiram and elsewhere to name the three bodies of the soul: gross or physical (sthula), astral or subtle (sūkshma) and causal (kāraṇa). A synonym for śarīra. See: śarīra.
Deism: A doctrine which believes in the existence of God based on purely rational grounds; a particular faith prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries adhered to by several founding fathers of the United States, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. It holds that God created the world and its natural laws but is not involved in its functioning.
Deity: “God.” Can refer to the image or mūrti installed in a temple or to the Mahādeva the mūrti represents. See: mūrti, pūjā.
delineate: To mark or trace out the boundaries of a thing, concept, etc.
delude: To deceive, as by false promises or misleading concepts or thinking.
delusion: Moha. False belief, misconception.
denial: Saying “no.” Opposing or not believing in the truth of something.
denomination: A name for a class of things, especially for various religious groupings, sects and subsects. See: paramparā, sampradāya.
denote: To indicate, signify or refer to.
deplore: To be regretful or sorry about; to lament, disapprove.
deploy: To spread out; arrange into an effective pattern.
deportment: The manner of bearing or conducting oneself; behavior.
depraved: Immoral; corrupt; bad; perverted.
desirous: Having a longing or desire.
despair: The state of having lost or given up hope.
despise: To strongly dislike; look down upon with contempt or scorn.
destiny: Final outcome. The seemingly inevitable or predetermined course of events. See: adṛishṭa, fate, karma.
Destroyer: Epithet of God Śiva in His aspect of Rudra. See: Naṭarāja.
deva: देव “Shining one.” A being inhabiting the higher astral plane, in a subtle, nonphysical body. Deva is also used in scripture to mean “God or Deity.” See: Mahādeva.
Devaloka: देवलोक “Plane of radiant beings.” A synonym of Maharloka, the higher astral plane, realm of anāhata chakra. See: loka.
devamandira: देवमन्दिर “Abode of celestial beings.” From mand, “to stand or tarry.” A Hindu temple; also simply mandira. See: temple.
Devanāgarī: देवनागरी “Divine writing of townspeople.” The alphabetic script in which Sanskrit, Prākṛit, Hindi and Marāṭhi are written. A descendant of the Northern type of the Brāhmī script. It is characterized by the connecting, horizontal line at the top of the letters. See: Sanskrit.
Devī: देवी “Goddess.” A name of Śakti, used especially in Śāktism. See: Śakti, Śāktism.
Devī Bhāgavata Purāṇa: देवीभागवतपुराण A subsidiary text of the Śiva Purāṇas.
Devī Gītā: देवीगीता Twelve chapters (29 to 40) from the 7th book of Śrīmad Devī Bhāgavatam, a Śākta scripture. It teaches external worship of the Deity with form and meditation on the Deity beyond form.
Devīkālottara Āgama: देवीकालोत्तर आगम One recension (edition) of the Sārdha Triśati Kālottara Āgama, a subsidiary text of Vātula Āgama. Also known as Skanda Kālottara, its 350 verses are in the form of a dialog between Kārttikeya and Śiva and deal with esoterics of mantras, initiations, right knowledge, faith and worship of Śiva. See: Śaiva Āgamas.
Devī Upanishad: देवी उपनिषद् A Śākta Upanishad dealing with the nature and worship of the Goddess. See: Śāktism.
devoid: Completely without; empty.
devonic: Of or relating to the devas or their world. See: deva.
devotee: A person strongly dedicated to something or someone, such as to a God or a guru. The term disciple implies an even deeper commitment. See: guru bhakti.
Dhammapada: धम्मपद The holy book of Buddhism. See: Buddhism.
Dhanurveda: धनुर्वेद “Science of archery.” A class of ancient texts on the military arts, comprising the Upaveda of the Yajur Veda. Dhanurveda teaches concentration, meditation, haṭha yoga, etc., as integral to the science of warfare. See: Upaveda.
dhāraṇā: धारणा “Concentration.” From dhṛi, “to hold.” See: meditation, rāja yoga, śraddādhāraṇā, yoga.
dharma: धर्म From dhṛi, “to sustain; carry, hold.” Hence dharma is “that which contains or upholds the cosmos.” Dharma is a complex and comprehensive term with many meanings, including: divine law, ethics, law of being, way of righteousness, religion, duty, responsibility, virtue, justice, goodness and truth. Essentially, dharma is the orderly fulfillment of an inherent nature or destiny. Relating to the soul, it is the mode of conduct most conducive to spiritual advancement, the right and righteous path. There are four principal kinds of dharma, known collectively as chaturdharma: “four religious laws.” 1) ṛita: “Universal law.” The inherent order of the cosmos. The laws of being and nature that contain and govern all forms, functions and processes, from galaxy clusters to the power of mental thought and perception. 2) varṇa dharma: “Law of one’s kind.” Social duty. Varṇa can mean “race, tribe, appearance, character, color, social standing, etc.” Varṇa dharma defines the individual’s obligations and responsibilities within the nation, society, community, class, occupational subgroup and family. An important part of this dharma is religious and moral law. See: jāti, varṇa dharma. 3) āśrama dharma: “Duties of life’s stages.” Human or developmental dharma. The natural process of maturing from childhood to old age through fulfillment of the duties of each of the four stages of life—brahmachārī (student), gṛihastha (householder), vānaprastha (elder advisor) and sannyāsa (religious solitaire)—in pursuit of the four human goals: dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kāma (pleasure) and moksha (liberation). See: āśrama dharma. 4) svadharma: “Personal obligations or duty.” One’s perfect individual pattern through life, according to one’s own particular physical, mental and emotional nature. Svadharma is determined by the sum of past karmas and the cumulative effect of the other three dharmas. It is the individualized application of dharma, dependent on personal karma, reflected on one’s race, community, physical characteristics, health, intelligence, skills and aptitudes, desires and tendencies, religion, sampradāya, family and guru.
Within āśrama dharma, the unique duties of man and woman are respectively called purusha dharma and strī dharma. Purusha dharma is man’s proper pattern of conduct: traditional observances, vocation, behavior and attitudes dictated by spiritual wisdom, characterized by leadership, integrity, accomplishment, sustenance of the family. Notably, the married man works in the world and sustains his family as abundantly as he can. Strī dharma is the traditional conduct, observances, vocational and spiritual patterns which bring spiritual fulfillment and societal stability. It is characterized by modesty, quiet strength, religiousness, dignity and nurturing of family. Notably, she is most needed and irreplaceable as the homemaker and the educator of their children to be worthy citizens of tomorrow. See: gṛihastha dharma.
A part of the varṇa dharma of each person is sādhārana dharma: “duties applicable to all.” These are the principles of good conduct applicable to all people regardless of age, gender or class. They are listed in the Manu Śāstras as: dhairya (steadfastness), kshamā (forbearance), dama (self-restraint), chauryābhāva (nonstealing), śaucha (purity), indriyanigraha (sense control), dhī (high-mindedness), vidyā (learning), satya (veracity), akrodha (absence of anger). Another term for such virtues is sāmānya dharma: “common duty,” under which scriptures offer similar lists of ethical guidelines. These are echoed and expanded in the yamas and niyamas, “restraints and observances.” See: yama-niyama.
Another important division of dharma indicates the two paths within Hinduism, that of the family person, and that of the monastic. The former is gṛihastha dharma: “householder duty,” the duties, ideals and responsibilities of all nonmonastics, whether married or unmarried. This dharma, which includes the vast majority of Hindus, begins with the completion of the studentship period and extends until the end of life. See: gṛihastha dharma. Above and beyond all the other dharmas (“ati-varṇāśrama dharma”) is sannyāsa dharma, “monastic virtue,” the ideals, principles and rules of renunciate monks. This is the highest dharma. See: sannyāsa dharma.
Āpad dharma, “exigency conduct,” embodies the principle that the only rigid rule is wisdom, and thus exceptional situations may require deviating from normal rules of conduct, provided that such exceptions are to be made only for the sake of others, not for personal advantage. These are notable exceptions, made in cases of extreme distress or calamity.
Adharma: “Unrighteousness.” Thoughts, words or deeds that transgress divine law in any of the human expressions of dharma. It brings the accumulation of demerit, called pāpa, while dharma brings merit, called puṇya. Varṇa adharma is violating the ideals of social duty, from disobeying the laws of one’s nation to squandering family wealth. Āśrama adharma is failure to fulfill the duties of the stages of life. Sva-adharma is understood as not fulfilling the patterns of dharma according to one’s own nature. The Bhagavad Gītā states (18.47), “Better one’s svadharma even imperfectly performed than the dharma of another well performed. By performing the duty prescribed by one’s own nature (svabhāva) one incurs no sin (kilbisha).” See: pāpa, puṇya, purity-impurity, varṇa dharma.
dharmasabhā: धर्मसभा “Religious assembly, congregation.” A church.
Dharma Śāstra: धर्मशास्त्र “Religious jurisprudence.” All or any of the numerous codes of Hindu civil and social law composed by various authorities. The best known and most respected are those by Manu and Yajnavalkya, thought to have been composed as early as 600 BCE. The Dharma Śāstras, along with the Artha Śāstras, are the codes of Hindu law, parallel to the Jewish Talmud and the Muslim Sharia, each of which provides guidelines for kings, ministers, judicial systems and law enforcement agencies. These spiritual and ethical codes differ from European and American law, which separate religion from politics. (Contemporary British law is influenced by Anglican Christian thought, just as American democracy was, and is, profoundly affected by the philosophy of the non-Christian, Deistic philosophy of its founders.) The Dharma Śāstras also speak of much more, including creation, initiation, the stages of life, daily rites, duties of husband and wife, caste, Vedic study, penances and transmigration. The Dharma Śāstras are part of the Smṛiti literature, included in the Kalpa Vedāṅga, and are widely available today in many languages. See: Deism, Manu Dharma Śāstras.
dhotī: धोती (Hindi) A long, unstitched cloth wound about the lower part of the body, and sometimes passed between the legs and tucked into the waist. A traditional Hindu apparel for men. See: veshti.
dhṛiti: धृति “Steadfastness.” See: yama-niyama.
dhvaja: ध्वज “Flag.” Part of the pageantry of Hinduism, orange or red flags and banners, flown at festivals and other special occasions symbolize the victory of Sanātana Dharma. See: festival.
dhvajastambha: ध्वजस्तम्भ “Flag tree, flagpole.” (Kodimaram in Tamil.) A tall cylindrical post usually behind the vāhana in Āgamic temples. Metaphysically, it acts as the complementary pole to the enshrined mūrti. These two together create an energy field to contain the temple’s power. See: temple.
dhyāna: ध्यान “Meditation.” See: internalized worship, meditation, rāja yoga.
diaspora: From the Greek diasperein, “scattering.” A dispersion of religious or ethnic group(s) in foreign countries.
dichotomy: A division into two parts, usually sharply distinguished or contradictory. See: paradox.
Dieu Siva est amour omniprésent et Réalité transcendante: French for “God Śiva is Immanent Love and Transcendent Reality.” It is an affirmation of faith which capsulizes the entire creed of monistic Śaiva Siddhānta.
differentiation: State or condition of making or perceiving a difference.
dīkshā: दीक्षा “Initiation.” Solemn induction by which one is entered into a new realm of spiritual awareness and practice by a teacher or preceptor through bestowing of blessings. Denotes initial or deepened connection with the teacher and his lineage and is usually accompanied by ceremony. Initiation, revered as a moment of awakening, may be conferred by a touch, a word, a look or a thought. As the aspirant matures, he may receive deeper initiations, each one drawing him further into his spiritual being. Most Hindu schools, and especially Śaivism, teach that only with initiation from a satguru is enlightenment attainable. Sought after by all Hindus is the dīkshā called śaktipāta, “descent of grace,” which, often coming unbidden, stirs and arouses the mystic kuṇḍalinī force. Central Śaivite dīkshās include samaya, vishesha, nirvāṇa and abhiśeka. See: grace, śaktipāta, sound.
Dīpāvalī: दीपावली Often spelled Dīvalī. “Row of Lights.” A very popular home and community festival in October/November when Hindus of all denominations light oil or electric lights and set off fireworks in a joyful celebration of the victory of good over evil and light over darkness. It is a Hindu solidarity day and is considered the greatest national festival of India. In several countries, such as Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, it is an inter-religious event and a national holiday.
dipolar: Relating to two poles instead of only one. A philosophy is said to be dipolar when it embraces both of two contradictory (or apparently contradictory) propositions, concepts, tendencies, etc. For example, panentheism is dipolar in that it accepts the truth of God’s being (and being in) the world, and also the truth that He transcends the world. Instead of saying “it is either this or that,” a dipolar position says “it is both this and that.” See: dvaita-advaita.
discordant: Not in accord. Disagreeing; clashing; out of harmony.
discrimination: Viveka. Act or ability to distinguish or perceive differences. In spirituality, the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, real and apparent, eternal and transient, as in the Upanishadic maxim, Neti, neti, “It is not this, it is not that.” See: conscience.
disheveled: Untidy hair, clothing or general appearance. Rumpled.
dismay: Loss of courage or confidence before danger. Fearful worry.
dispassionate: Free from emotion or passion. Calm; impartial; detached.
dispatch: To send off promptly, especially on an errand. To finish quickly.
dispel: To cause to go in various directions. To scatter and drive away; disperse.
dissolution: Dissolving or breaking up into parts. An alternative term for destruction. See: absorption, mahāpralaya, Naṭarāja.
distort: To twist out of shape. To misrepresent.
Dīvalī: See: Dīpāvalī.
divergent: Going off in different directions; deviating or varying.
Divine Mother: Śakti, especially as Personal Goddess, as conceived of and worshiped by Śāktas. See: Śakti, Śāktism.
dominion: Rulership; domain; sway. —hold dominion over: To be king, ruler, lord, or master of (a world, realm, etc).
don: To put on (a piece of clothing).
door of Brahman: Brahmarandhra , also called nirvāna chakra. A subtle or esoteric aperture in the crown of the head, the opening of sushumṇā nāḍī through which kuṇḍalinī enters in ultimate Self Realization, and the spirit escapes at death. Only the spirits of the truly pure leave the body in this way. Saṁsārīs take a downward course. See: jñāna, kuṇḍalinī, videhamukti.
dormant: Sleeping; inactive; not functioning.
dosha: दोष “Bodily humor; individual constitution.” The three bodily humors, which according to āyurveda regulate the body, govern its proper functioning and determine its unique constitution. These are vāta, the air humor; pitta, the fire humor; and kapha, the water humor. Vāta has its seat in the intestinal area, pitta in the stomach, and kapha in the lung area. They govern the creation, preservation and dissolution of bodily tissue. Vāta humor is metabolic, nerve energy. Pitta is the catabolic, fire energy. Kapha is the anabolic, nutritive energy. The three doshas (tridosha) also give rise to the various emotions and correspond to the three guṇas, “qualities:” sattva (quiescence—vāta), rajas (activity—pitta) and tamas (inertia—kapha). See: āyurveda, kapha, pitta, vāta.
dross: Waste matter; useless byproduct.
dual: Having or composed of two parts or kinds. —duality: A state or condition of being dual. —realm of duality: The phenomenal world, where each thing exists along with its opposite: joy and sorrow, etc.
dualism: See: dvaita-advaita.
duly: At the proper time, in the proper manner; as required.
Durgā: दुर्गा “She who is incomprehensible or difficult to reach.” A form of Śakti worshiped in Her gracious as well as terrifying aspect. Destroyer of demons, She is worshiped during an annual festival called Durgā pūjā, especially popular among Bengalis. See: Śakti, Śāktism.
Durvasas (Durvāsas): दुर्वासस् A great sage (date unknown) who, according to Kashmīr Śaivism, was commissioned by Lord Śiva to revive the knowledge of the Śaiva Āgamas, whereupon he created three “mind-born” sons—Tryambaka to disseminate advaita, Srinatha to teach monistic theism, and Amardaka to postulate dualism.
dvaita-advaita: द्वैत अद्वैत “Dual-nondual; twoness-not twoness.” Among the most important terms in the classification of Hindu philosophies. Dvaita and advaita define two ends of a vast spectrum. —dvaita: The doctrine of dualism, according to which reality is ultimately composed of two irreducible principles, entities, truths, etc. God and soul, for example, are seen as eternally separate. —dualistic: Of or relating to dualism, concepts, writings, theories which treat dualities (good-and-evil, high-and-low, them-and-us) as fixed, rather than transcendable. —pluralism: A form of non-monism which emphasizes three or more eternally separate realities, e.g., God, soul and world. —advaita: The doctrine of nondualism or monism, that reality is ultimately composed of one whole principle, substance or God, with no independent parts. In essence, all is God. —monistic theism: A dipolar view which encompasses both monism and dualism. See: anekavāda, dipolar, monistic theism, pluralistic realism.
Dvaita Siddhānta: द्वैतसिद्धान्त “Dualistic final conclusions.” Schools of Śaiva Siddhānta that postulate God, soul and world as three eternally distinct and separate realities. See: Pati-paśu-pāśa, Śaiva Siddhānta.
earrings: Decorative jewelry worn in the ears by Hindu women and many men. Yogīs, especially those of the Nātha tradition, wear large earrings to stimulate the psychic nāḍīs connected to the ears. Traditionally, the ascetic Kānphaṭis (“split-eared ones”) split the cartilage of their ears to accommodate massive earrings. Ear-piercing for earrings is said to bring health (right ear) and wealth (left ear). See: Kānphaṭi, saṁskāras of childhood.
ecclesiastical: “Of the church or clergy.” By extension, relating to the authoritative body of any religion, sect or lineage. Having to do with an assembly of spiritual leaders and their jurisdiction.
ecology: The science of relations between organisms and their environment.
ecstasy (ecstatic): State of being overtaken by emotion such as joy or wonder. Literally, “out-standing;” “standing outside (oneself).” See: enstasy, samādhi.
ecumenical: Worldwide. —ecumenism: the principles or practices of promoting cooperation and better understanding among differing faiths.
efficacious: Producing or capable of producing the desired effect.
efficient cause: Nimitta kāraṇa. That which directly produces the effect; that which conceives, makes, shapes, etc. See: cause.
effulgent: Bright, radiant; emitting its own light.
egalitarian: Equalitarian. Characterized by the belief in the equal sharing of powers, rights or responsibility among all people.
ego: The external personality or sense of “I” and “mine.” Broadly, individual identity. In Śaiva Siddhānta and other schools, the ego is equated with the tattva of ahaṁkāra, “I-maker,” which bestows the sense of I-ness, individuality and separateness from God. See: ahaṁkāra, āṇava.
eligible: Qualified; suitable; desirable to choose.
eliminate: To sort out; remove; get rid of; reject.
elixir: Hypothetical substance that would change any metal into gold or prolong life indefinitely. An English term for soma, a magical beverage celebrated in ancient Vedic hymns and which played an important role in worship rites. See: amṛita.
elliptical: Having the shape of an ellipse (of egg profile, but more regular).
elusive: Tending to escape one’s grasp or understanding. Hard to capture.
emanation: “Flowing out from.” Ābhāsa. Shining forth from a source, emitting or issuing from. A monistic doctrine of creation whereby God issues forth manifestation like rays from the sun or sparks from a fire. See: ābhāsa.
emancipator: That which, or one who, liberates.
eminent: High; above others in stature, rank or achievement. Renowned or distinguished; prominent, conspicuous. Not to be confused with: 1) imminent, about to happen; 2) emanate, to issue from; 3) immanent, inherent or indwelling.
emulate: To imitate. To attempt to equal or surpass someone, generally by copying his ways, talents or successes.
encompass: To surround or encircle; to include.
endow: To equip; to give or support. To provide with a quality or characteristic.
enlightened: Having attained enlightenment, Self Realization. A jñānī or jīvanmukta. See: jīvanmukta, jñāna, Self Realization.
enlightenment: For Śaiva monists, Self Realization, samādhi without seed (nirvikalpa samādhi); the ultimate attainment, sometimes referred to as Paramātma darśana, or as ātma darśana, “Self vision” (a term which appears in Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras). Enlightenment is the experience-nonexperience resulting in the realization of one’s transcendent Self—Paraśiva—which exists beyond time, form and space. Each tradition has its own understanding of enlightenment, often indicated by unique terms. See: God Realization, kuṇḍalinī, nirvikalpa samādhi, Self Realization.
enshrine: To enclose in a shrine. To hold as sacred and worthy of worship.
enstasy: A term coined in 1969 by Mircea Eliade to contrast the Eastern view of bliss as “standing inside oneself” (enstasy) with the Western view as ecstasy, “standing outside oneself.” A word chosen as the English equivalent of samādhi. See: ecstasy, samādhi, rāja yoga.
enthrall: To hold in a spell; captivate; fascinate.
entourage: A group of accompanying attendants, associates or assistants.
entreat: To ask earnestly; to beseech, plead or beg.
epic history: Long narrative poem in a high style about grand exploits of Gods and heroes. The Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata are India’s two great epic histories, called Itihāsa. See: Itihāsa, Mahābhārata, Rāmāyaṇa.
equanimity: The quality of remaining calm and undisturbed. Evenness of mind; composure.
equilibrium: Evenly balanced attitude. A quality of good spiritual leadership. “Having attained an equilibrium of iḍā and piṅgalā, he becomes a knower of the known.” See: jñāna.
equivalent: Equal, or nearly so, in quantity, volume, force, meaning, etc.
erotic: “Of physical love” (from the Greek eros). Of or arousing sexual passion.
erroneous: Containing or based on error; wrong.
eschew: To shun, avoid, stay away from.
esoteric: Hard to understand or secret. Teaching intended for a chosen few, as an inner group of initiates. Abstruse or private.
essence (essential): The ultimate, real and unchanging nature of a thing or being. —essence of the soul: See: ātman, soul.
esteem: To respect highly; to value.
estranged: “Made a stranger.” Set apart or divorced from.
eternity: Time without beginning or end.
ether: Ākāśa. Space, the most subtle of the five elements. See: ākāśa, tattva.
ethics: The code or system of morals of a nation, people, religion, etc. See: dharma, pañcha nitya karmas, puṇya, purity-impurity.
etymology: The science of the origin of words and their signification. The history of words. See: Nirukta Vedāṅga, Sanskrit.
evil: That which is bad, morally wrong, causing harm, pain, misery. In Western religions, evil is often thought of as a moral antagonism to God. This force is the source of sin and is attached to the soul from its inception. Whereas, for Hindus, evil is not a conscious, dark force, such as Satan. It is situational rather than ontological, meaning it has its basis in relative conditions, not in ultimate reality. Evil (wrong, corruption) springs from ignorance (avidyā) and immaturity. Nor is one necessarily in conflict with God when one is evil; and God is not standing in final judgment. Within each soul, and not external to it, resides the principle of judgment of instinctive-intellectual actions. God, who is ever compassionate, blesses even the worst sinner, the most depraved asura, knowing that that individual will one day emerge from lower consciousness into the light of love and understanding. Hindus hold that evil, known in Sanskrit as pāpa, pāpman or dushṭā, is the result of unvirtuous acts (pāpa or adharma) caused by the instinctive-intellectual mind dominating and obscuring deeper, spiritual intelligence. (Note: both pāpa and pāpman are used as nouns and as adjectives.) The evil-doer is viewed as a young soul, ignorant of the value of right thought, speech and action, unable to live in the world without becoming entangled in māyā. —intrinsic evil: Inherent, inborn badness. Some philosophies hold that man and the world are by nature imperfect, corrupt or evil. Hinduism holds, on the contrary, that there is no intrinsic evil, and the real nature of man is his divine, soul nature, which is goodness. See: hell, karma, pāpa, Satan, sin.
evoke: To call forth; to conjure up; to summon, as to summon a Mahādeva, a God. See: pūjā, yajña.
evolution of the soul: Adhyātma prasāra. In Śaiva Siddhānta, the soul’s evolution is a progressive unfoldment, growth and maturing toward its inherent, divine destiny, which is complete merger with Śiva. In its essence, each soul is ever perfect. But as an individual soul body emanated by God Śiva, it is like a small seed yet to develop. As an acorn needs to be planted in the dark underground to grow into a mighty oak tree, so must the soul unfold out of the darkness of the malas to full maturity and realization of its innate oneness with God. The soul is not created at the moment of conception of a physical body. Rather, it is created in the Śivaloka. It evolves by taking on denser and denser sheaths—cognitive, instinctive-intellectual and prāṇic—until finally it takes birth in physical form in the Bhūloka. Then it experiences many lives, maturing through the reincarnation process. Thus, from birth to birth, souls learn and mature.
Evolution is the result of experience and the lessons derived from it. There are young souls just beginning to evolve, and old souls nearing the end of their earthly sojourn. In Śaiva Siddhānta, evolution is understood as the removal of fetters which comes as a natural unfoldment, realization and expression of one’s true, self-effulgent nature. This ripening or dropping away of the soul’s bonds (mala) is called malaparipakam. The realization of the soul nature is termed svānubhuti (experience of the Self).
Self Realization leads to moksha, liberation from the three malas and the reincarnation cycles. Then evolution continues in the celestial worlds until the soul finally merges fully and indistinguishably into Supreme God Śiva, the Primal Soul, Parameśvara. In his Tirumantiram, Rishi Tirumular calls this merger viśvagrāsa, “total absorption.” The evolution of the soul is not a linear progression, but an intricate, circular, many-faceted mystery. Nor is it at all encompassed in the Darwinian theory of evolution, which explains the origins of the human form as descended from earlier primates. See: Darwin’s theory, mala, moksha, reincarnation, saṁsāra, viśvagrāsa.
exalt: To make high. To raise in status, glorify or praise.
excel: To stand out as better, greater, finer than others. To do well at something.
exclusive: Excluding all others. Śaivites believe that there is no exclusive path to God, that no spiritual path can rightly claim that it alone leads to the goal.
exemplar: One regarded as worthy of imitation; a model. An ideal pattern to be followed by others.
exhaustive: “Drawn out.” Very thorough; covering all details; leaving nothing out.
existence: “Coming or standing forth.” Being; reality; that which is.
experience: From the Latin experior, “to prove; put to the test.” Living through an event; personal involvement. In Sanskrit, anubhava.
expound: To explain or clarify, point by point.
extant: Still existing; not lost or destroyed.
extended family: Bṛihatkuṭumba or mahākuṭumba. One or more joint families plus their broader associations and affiliations. Unlike the joint family, whose members live in close proximity, the extended family is geographically widespread. The extended family is headed by the patriarch, called bṛihatkuṭumba pramukha (or mukhya), recognized as the leader by each joint family. He, in turn is under the guidance of the kulaguru, or family preceptor. It includes the following, in order of their precedence: priests of one’s faith; elder men and women of the community; in-laws of married daughters; married daughters, granddaughters, great-granddaughters, and the spouses and children of these married girls; members of the staff and their families and those closely associated with the joint family business or home; maternal great-grandparents and grandparents, parents, uncles and their spouses, aunts and their spouses, children and grandchildren of these families; very close friends and their children; members of the community at large. See: gṛihastha, gṛihastha dharma, joint family.
extol: “Raise up; lift up.” Praising highly.
exultant: “Leaping (for joy).” Rejoicing greatly. Immensely happy or triumphant.
fable: Myth or legend. A story, usually with animal characters, meant to illustrate moral principles. See: mythology, Pañchatantra.
faith: Trust or belief. Conviction. From the Latin fides, “trust.” Faith in its broadest sense means “religion,” “dharma.” More specifically, it is the essential element of religion—the belief in phenomena beyond the pale of the five senses, distinguishing it sharply from rationalism. Faith is established through intuitive or transcendent experience of an individual, study of scripture and hearing the testimony of the many wise ṛishis speaking out the same truths over thousands of years. This inner conviction is based in the divine sight of the third eye center, ājñā chakra. Rightly founded, faith transcends reason, but does not conflict with reason. Faith also means confidence, as in the testimony and reputation of other people. The Sanskrit equivalent is śraddhā. Synonyms include āstikya, viśvāsa, dharma and mati.
family life: See: extended family, gṛihastha āśrama, joint family.
far-seeing: Dūrdarśana. Having the power of clairvoyance, also known as divyadṛishṭi, “divine sight.” See: clairvoyance, siddhi.
fast: Abstaining from all or certain foods, as in observance of a vow or holy day. Hindus fast in various ways. A simple fast may consist of merely avoiding certain foods for a day or more, such as when vegetarians avoid tamasic or rajasic foods or when nonvegetarians abstain from fish, fowl and meats. A moderate fast would involve avoiding heavier foods, or taking only juices, teas and other liquids. Such fasts are sometimes observed only during the day, and a normal meal is permitted after sunset. Serious fasting, which is done under supervision, involves taking only water for a number of days and requires a cessation of most external activities.
fate: From the Latin fatum, prophetic “declaration,” “oracle.” A destiny once decreed (“said”), hence inevitable. In Western thought, fate is the force or agency, God or other power, outside man’s control, believed to determine the course of events before they occur. In Hindu thought, man is not ruled by fate but shapes his own destiny by his actions, which have their concomitant reactions. The Hindu view acknowledges fate only in the limited sense that man is subject to his own past karmas, which are a driving force in each incarnation, seemingly out of his own control. But they can be mitigated by how he lives life, meaning how he faces and manages his prārabdha (“begun, undertaken”) karmas and his kriyamāna (“being made”) karmas. See: adṛishṭa, destiny, karma.
fellowship: Companionship. Mutual sharing of interests, beliefs or practice. A group of people with common interests and aspirations.
festival: A time of religious celebration and special observances. Festivals generally recur yearly, their dates varying slightly according to astrological calculations. They are characterized by acts of piety (elaborate pūjās, penance, fasting, pilgrimage) and rejoicing (songs, dance, music, parades, storytelling and scriptural reading). See: sound, teradi.
fetch: Retrieve. To go get a thing and bring it back.
First World: The physical universe. See: loka, three worlds.
firewalking: The trance-inducing ceremonial practice of walking over a bed of smoldering, red-hot coals as an expression of faith and sometimes as a form of penance. Participants describe it as a euphoric experience in which no pain is felt and no burns received. Many lose body consciousness during the walk. Firewalking is associated with folk-shamanic Śāktism and is popular among Hindu communities in and outside of India. The practice is known also from other religions, times and places of the world. See: folk-shamanic, penance, Śāktism.
five acts of Śiva: Pañchakṛitya. Creation, preservation, destruction, veiling and revealing. See: Naṭarāja, Parameśvara.
flux: Continuous flowing movement or change.
folk narratives: Popular or village stories passed orally from generation to generation through verbal telling—often a mixture of fact and fancy, allegory and myth, legend and symbolism, conveying lessons about life, character and conduct. India’s most extensive and influential of this kind of literature are the Purāṇas. While they are broadly deemed to be scriptural fact, this contemporary Hindu catechism accepts them as edifying mythology meant to capture the imagination of the common folk and to teach them moral living. See: fable, Ithihāsa, kathā, mythology, Purāṇa.
folk-shamanic: Of or related to a tribal or village tradition in which the mystic priest, shaman, plays a central role, wielding powers of magic and spirituality. Revered for his ability to influence and control nature and people, to cause good and bad things to happen, he is the intermediary between man and divine forces. The term shaman is from the Sanskrit śramaṇa, “ascetic,” akin to śram, “to exert.” See: Śāktism, shamanism.
forbearance: Self-control; responding with patience and compassion, especially under provocation. Endurance; tolerance. See: yama-niyama.
formless: Philosophically, atattva, beyond the realm of form or substance. Used in attempting to describe the wondersome, indescribable Absolute, which is “timeless, formless and spaceless.” God Śiva has form and is formless. He is the immanent Pure Consciousness or pure form. He is the Personal Lord manifesting as innumerable forms; and He is the impersonal, transcendent Absolute beyond all form. Thus we know Śiva in three perfections, two of form and one formless. This use of the term formless does not mean amorphous, which implies a form that is vague or changing. Rather, it is the absence of substance, sometimes thought of as a void, an emptiness beyond existence from which comes the fullness of everything. In describing the Self as formless, the words timeless and spaceless are given also to fully indicate this totally transcendent noncondition. See: atattva, Paraśiva, Satchidānanda, void.
fountainhead: A spring that is the source of a stream. The source of anything.
fruition: The bearing of fruit. The coming to fulfillment of something that has been awaited or worked for.
funeral rites: See: bone-gathering, cremation, saṁskāras of later life.
gaja: गज The elephant, king of beasts, representative of Lord Gaṇeśa and sign of royalty and power. Many major Hindu temples keep one or more elephants.
galactic: Of or pertaining to our galaxy, the Milky Way (from the Greek gala, “milk”) and/or other galaxies.
gaṇa(s): गण “Throng; troop; retinue; a body of followers or attendants.” A troop of demigods—God Śiva’s attendants, devonic helpers under the supervision of Lord Gaṇeśa. See: Gaṇapati, Gaṇeśa.
gaṇāchāra: गणाचार Loyalty to the community. One of five Vīra Śaiva codes of conduct. See: pañchāchāra, Vīra Śaivism.
Ganachara (Gaṇāchāra): गणाचार Name of a Vīra Śaiva saint.
Gaṇapati: गणपति “Leader of the gaṇas.” A name of Gaṇeśa.
Gaṇapati Upanishad: गणपति उपनिषद् A later Upanishad on Lord Gaṇeśa, not connected with any Veda; date of composition is unknown. It is a major scripture for the Gaṇapatians, a minor Hindu sect which reveres Gaṇeśa as Supreme God and is most prevalent in India’s Maharashtra state. See: Gaṇeśa.
Gāndharvaveda: गान्धर्ववेद “Science of music.” A class of ancient tracts on music, song and dance. It is the Upaveda of the Sāma Veda. See: Upaveda.
Gaṇeśa: गणेश “Lord of Categories.” (From gaṇ, “to count or reckon,” and Īśa, “lord.”) Or: “Lord of attendants (gaṇa),” synonymous with Gaṇapati. Gaṇeśa is a Mahādeva, the beloved elephant-faced Deity honored by Hindus of every sect. He is the Lord of Obstacles (Vighneśvara), revered for His great wisdom and invoked first before any undertaking, for He knows all intricacies of each soul’s karma and the perfect path of dharma that makes action successful. He sits on the mūlādhāra chakra and is easy of access. Lord Gaṇeśa is sometimes identified with the Ṛig Vedic God Bṛihaspati (“Lord of Prayer,” the “Holy Word”), Ṛig Veda 2.23.1. See: gaṇa, Gaṇapati, Mahādeva.
Gaṇeśa Chaturthī: गणेश चतुर्थी The birthday of Lord Gaṇeśa, a ten-day festival of August-September that culminates in a spectacular parade called Gaṇeśa Visarjana. It is a time of rejoicing, when all Hindus worship together.
Gaṇeśa Visarjana: गणेश विसर्जन “Gaṇeśa departure.” A parade usually occurring on the 11th day after Gaṇeśa Chaturthī, in which the Gaṇeśa mūrtis made for the occasion are taken in procession to a body of water and ceremoniously immersed and left to dissolve. This represents Gaṇeśa’s merging with the ocean of consciousness. See: Gaṇeśa.
Ganges (Gaṅgā): गंगा India’s most sacred river, 1,557 miles long, arising in the Himalayas above Hardwar under the name Bhagīratha, and being named Gaṅgā after joining the Alakanada (where the Sarasvatī is said to join them underground). It flows southeast across the densely populated Gangetic plain, joining its sister Yamunā (or Jumnā) at Prayaga (Allahabad) and ending at the Bay of Bengal. See: Gangetic Plain.
Gangetic Plain: The densely populated plain surrounding India’s most sacred river, the Ganges (Gaṅgā), an immense, fertile area of 300,000 square miles, 90 to 300 miles wide. See: Ganges.
garbha: गर्भ “Womb; interior chamber.” The inside or middle of anything.
garbhādhāna: गर्भाधान “Womb-impregnation.” The rite anticipating conception. See: reincarnation, saṁskāras of birth.
garbhagṛiha: गर्भगृह The “innermost chamber,” sanctum sanctorum, of a Hindu temple, where the primary mūrti is installed. It is a small, cave-like room, usually made of granite stone, to which only priests are permitted access. Esoterically it represents the cranial chamber. See: temple.
Gargya (Gārgya): गार्ग्य One of the known disciples of Lakulisa. See: Lakulisa.
Gautama: गौतम The name of the founder of the Nyāya school of Śaivism, author of the Nyāya Sūtras. See: shaḍ darśana
Gautama, Siddhartha (Siddhārtha): गौतम सिद्धार्थ The Buddha. See: Buddha, Buddhism.
gay: “Joyous, merry, happy.” Homosexual (preferred self-appellation), especially male, though may also refer to females. See: bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, sexuality.
gāyatrī: गायत्री According with the gāyatrī verse form, an ancient meter of 24 syllables, generally as a triplet with eight syllables each. From gāya, “song.” —Gāyatrī:The Vedic Gāyatrī Mantra personified as aGoddess, mother of the four Vedas.
Gāyatrī Mantra: गायत्रीमन्त्र 1) Famous Vedic mantra used in pūjā and personal chanting. Om [bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ] tatsavitur vareṇyam, bhargo devasya dhīmahi, dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt. “[O Divine Beings of all three worlds,] we meditate upon the glorious splendor of the Vivifier divine. May He illumine our minds.” (Ṛig Veda 3.62.10. VE). This sacred verse is also called the Sāvitrī Mantra, being addressed to Savitṛi, the Sun as Creator, and is considered a universal mystic formula so significant that it is called Vedamātṛi, “mother of the Vedas.” 2) Any of a class of specialtantric mantras called Gāyatrī. Each addresses a particular Deity. The Śiva Gāyatrī Mantra is: Tryambakam yajāmahe sugandhim pushṭivardhanam, urvārukamiva bandhanān mṛtyormukshīya māmṛtāt. “We adore the fragrant three-eyed one who promotes prosperity. May we be freed from the bondage of death as a cucumber from its stalk, but not from immortality.” This is a famous verse of the Yajur Veda (from Rudranāmaka, or Śrī Rudram), considered an essential mantra of Śiva worship, used in all Śiva rites.
germinate: To sprout. To begin to develop.
ghaṇṭā: घण्टा “Bell.” Akin to ghaṇṭ, “to speak.” An important implement in Hindu worship (pūjā), used to chase away asuras and summon devas and Gods. See: pūjā.
ghee: घी Hindi for clarified butter; ghṛita in Sanskrit. Butter that has been boiled and strained. An important sacred substance used in temple lamps and offered in fire ceremony, yajña. It is also used as a food with many āyurvedic virtues. See: yajña.
Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā: घेरण्डसंहिता A Vaishṇava manual on haṭha yoga (ca 1675), still influential today, presented as a dialog between Sage Gheranda and a disciple. See: haṭha yoga.
gloom: Darkness. Deep sadness or despair.
go: गो The cow, considered especially sacred for its unbounded generosity and usefulness to humans. It is a symbol of the Earth as the abundant provider. For the Hindu, the cow is a representative of all living species, each of which is to be revered and cared for.
God: Supernal being. Either the Supreme God, Śiva, or one of the Mahādevas, great souls, who are among His creation. See: Gods, Mahādeva, Śiva.
Goddess: Female representation or manifestation of Divinity; Śakti or Devī. Goddess can refer to a female perception or depiction of a causal-plane being (Mahādeva) in its natural state, which is genderless, or it can refer to an astral-plane being residing in a female astral body. To show the Divine’s transcendence of sexuality, sometimes God is shown as having qualities of both sexes, e.g., Ardhanārīśvara, “Half-woman God;” or Lord Naṭarāja, who wears a feminine earring in one ear and a masculine one in the other.
Godhead: God; Divinity. A term describing the essence or highest aspect of the Supreme Being.
God Realization: Direct and personal experience of the Divine within oneself. It can refer to either 1) savikalpa samādhi (“enstasy with form”) in its various levels, from the experience of inner light to the realization of Satchidānanda, the pure consciousness or primal substance flowing through all form, or 2) nirvikalpa samādhi (“enstasy without form”), union with the transcendent Absolute, Paraśiva, the Self God, beyond time, form and space. In Dancing with Śiva, the expression God Realization is used to name both of the above samādhis, whereas Self Realization refers only to nirvikalpa samādhi. See: rāja yoga, samādhi, Self Realization.
Gods: Mahādevas, “great beings of light.” In Dancing with Śiva, the plural form of God refers to extremely advanced beings existing in their self-effulgent soul bodies in the causal plane. The meaning of Gods is best seen in the phrase, “God and the Gods,” referring to the Supreme God—Śiva—and the Mahādevas who are His creation. See: Mahādeva.
God’s power: See: Śakti.
gopura: गोपुर South Indian temple entrance tower, often quite tall with ornate carvings. See: balipīṭha, temple.
Gorakshanatha (Gorakshanātha): गोरक्षनाथ Profound siddha yoga master of the Ādinātha Sampradāya (ca 950). Expounder and foremost guru of Siddha Siddhānta Śaivism. He traveled and extolled the greatness of Śiva throughout North India and Nepal where he and his guru, Matsyendranatha, are still highly revered. See: haṭha yoga, Siddha Siddhānta, Siddha Siddhānta Paddhati.
Gorakshanātha Śaivism: गोरक्षनाथशैव One of the six schools of Śaivism, also called Siddha Siddhānta. See: Siddha Siddhānta, siddha yoga.
Gorakshapantha: गोरक्षपन्थ “Path of Gorakshanatha.” A synonym for Siddha Siddhānta. See: Śaivism (six schools), Siddha Siddhānta.
Gorakshaśataka: गोरक्षशतक “A Hundred Verses by Goraksha.” Along with Siddha Siddhānta Pradīpikā, this work extols the path of “Śiva yoga,” which is haṭha-kuṇḍalinī yoga emphasizing control over body and mind, awakening of higher chakras and nāḍī nerve system with the intent of realizing the Absolute, Parāsamvid, and residing in the sahasrāra chakra in perfect identity with Śiva. See: Gorakshanatha, Siddha Siddhānta.
gotra: गोत्र “Cowshed.” Family lineage or subcaste stemming from a ṛishi or satguru and bearing his name. Originally described as several joint families sharing a common cowshed. See: caste, jāti, varṇa dharma.
grace: “Benevolence, love, giving,” from the Latin gratia, “favor,” “goodwill.” God’s power of revealment, anugraha śakti (“kindness, showing favor”), by which souls are awakened to their true, Divine nature. Grace in the unripe stages of the spiritual journey is experienced by the devotee as receiving gifts or boons, often unbidden, from God. The mature soul finds himself surrounded by grace. He sees all of God’s actions as grace, whether they be seemingly pleasant and helpful or not. For him, his very love of God, the power to meditate or worship, and the spiritual urge which drives his life are entirely and obviously God’s grace, a divine endowment, an intercession, unrelated to any deed or action he did or could perform.
In Śaiva Siddhānta, it is grace that awakens the love of God within the devotee, softens the intellect and inaugurates the quest for Self Realization. It descends when the soul has reached a certain level of maturity, and often comes in the form of a spiritual initiation, called śaktipāta, from a satguru.
Grace is not only the force of illumination or revealment. It also includes Śiva’s other four powers—creation, preservation, destruction and concealment—through which He provides the world of experience and limits the soul’s consciousness so that it may evolve. More broadly, grace is God’s ever-flowing love and compassion, kāruṇya, also known as kṛipā (“tenderness, compassion”) and prasāda (literally, “clearness, purity”).
To whom is God’s grace given? Can it be earned? Two famous analogies, that of the monkey (markaṭa) and that of the cat (mārjāra) express two classical viewpoints on salvation and grace. The markaṭa school, perhaps represented more fully by the Vedas, asserts that the soul must cling to God like a monkey clings to its mother and thus participate in its “salvation.” The mārjāra school, which better reflects the position of the Āgamas, says that the soul must be like a young kitten, totally dependent on its mother’s will, picked up in her mouth by the scruff of the neck and carried here and there. This crucial state of loving surrender is called prapatti. See: anugraha śakti, prapatti, śaktipāta, tirodhāna śakti.
grandeur: Greatness, magnificence; of lofty character; sublime nobility.
grantha: ग्रन्थ Literally, “knot,” a common name for book—a term thought to refer to the knot on the cord that bound ancient palm-leaf or birch-bark manuscripts. Books are accorded deep respect in Hinduism, always carefully treated, never placed directly on the floor. Special books are not uncommonly objects of worship. Grantha also names an ancient literary script developed in South India. See: olai.
granthavidyā: ग्रन्थविद्या “Book knowledge.” Bibliography; booklist, recommended reading.
gṛihastha: गृहस्थ “Householder.” Family man or woman. Family of a married couple and other relatives. Pertaining to family life. The purely masculine form of the word is gṛihasthin, and the feminine gṛihasthī. Gṛiha names the home itself. See: āśrama dharma, extended family, gṛihastha dharma, joint family.
gṛihastha āśrama: गृहस्थ आश्रम “Householder stage.” See: āśrama dharma.
gṛihastha dharma: गृहस्थधर्म “Householder law.” The virtues and ideals of family life. This dharma includes all nonmonastics, whether married or single. In general, gṛihastha dharma begins with the completion of the period of studentship and extends throughout the period of raising a family (called the gṛihastha āśrama). Specific scriptures, called Dharma Śāstras and Gṛihya Śāstras, outline the duties and obligations of family life. In Hinduism, family life is one of serving, learning and striving within a close-knit community of many relatives forming a joint family and its broader connections as an extended family under the aegis of a spiritual guru. Each is expected to work harmoniously to further the wealth and happiness of the family and the society, to practice religious disciplines and raise children of strong moral fiber to carry on the tradition. Life is called a jīvayajña, “self-sacrifice,” for each incarnation is understood as an opportunity for spiritual advancement through fulfilling one’s dharma of birth, which is the pattern one chose before entering this world, a pattern considered by many as bestowed by God. In the majority of cases, sons follow in the footsteps of their father, and daughters in those of their mother. All interrelate with love and kindness. Respect for all older than oneself is a keynote. Marriages are arranged and the culture is maintained.
The householder strives to fulfill the four purushārthas, “human goals” of righteousness, wealth, pleasure and liberation. While taking care of one’s own family is most central, it is only part of this dharma’s expectations. Gṛihasthas must support the religion by building and maintaining temples, monasteries and other religious institutions, supporting the monastics and disseminating the teachings. They must care for the elderly and feed the poor and homeless. Of course, the duties of husband and wife are different. The Tirukural describes the householder’s central duties as serving these five: ancestors, God, guests, kindred and himself. The Dharma Śāstras, similarly, enjoin daily offerings to ṛishis, ancestors, Gods, creatures and men. See: āśrama dharma, extended family, joint family, yajña.
gṛiheśvara and gṛihiṇī: गृहेश्वर गृहिणी From gṛiha, “home,” hence “lord and lady of the home.” The family man, gṛiheśvara (or gṛihapati), and family woman, gṛihiṇī, considered as master and mistress of their respective realms, so they may fulfill their purusha and strī dharmas. Implies that both of their realms are equally important and inviolable. See: dharma.
Gṛihya Sūtras: गिह्यसूत्र “Household maxims or codes.” An important division of classical smṛiti literature, designating rules and customs for domestic life, including rites of passage and other home ceremonies, which are widely followed to this day. The Gṛihya Sūtras (or Śāstras) are part of the Kalpa Sūtras, “procedural maxims” (or Kalpa Vedāṅga), which also include the Śrauta and Śulba Śāstras, on public Vedic rites, and the Dharma Śāstras (or Sūtras), on domestic-social law. Among the best known Gṛihya Sūtras are Āśvalāyana’s Gṛihya Sūtras attached to the Ṛig Veda, Gobhila’s Sūtras of the Sāma Veda, and the Sūtras of Pāraskara and Baudhāyana of the Yajur Veda. See: Kalpa Vedāṅga, Vedāṅga.
gross plane: The physical world. See: loka, tattva, world.
Guha: गुह An epithet of Kārttikeya. “The interior one.” —guhā: “Cave.” See: Kārttikeya.
Guhāvāsī: “Cave-dweller; he who is hidden”—a name of Lord Śiva.
Guhavasi Siddha (Guhāvāsī): गुहावासी सिद्ध A guru of central India (ca 675) credited with the modern founding of Śaiva Siddhānta in that area, based fully in Sanskrit.
Guheśvara: गुहेश्वर “Lord of the cave.” A name of Lord Śiva implying His presence in the heart or the interior of all beings.
Gujarat (Gujarāt): गुजरात State of West India. Capital is Ahmedabad, population 40,000,000, area 75,670 square miles.
guṇa: गुण “Strand; quality.” The three constituent principles of prakṛiti, primal nature. The three guṇas are —sattva: Quiescent, rarified, translucent, pervasive, reflecting the light of Pure Consciousness. —rajas: “Passion,” inherent in energy, movement, action, emotion, life. —tamas: “Darkness,” inertia, density, the force of contraction, resistance and dissolution. The guṇas are integral to Hindu thought, as all things are composed of the combination of these qualities of nature, including āyurveda, arts, environments and personalities. See: āyurveda, prakṛiti, tattva.
Gurkhā: गुर्खा A Rajput people of the mountains of Nepal; famed warriors.
guru: गुरु “Weighty one,” indicating an authority of great knowledge or skill. A term used to describe a teacher or guide in any subject, such as music, dance, sculpture, but especially religion. For clarity, the term is often preceded by a qualifying prefix. Hence, terms such as kulaguru (family teacher), vīnaguru (vīṇa teacher) and satguru (spiritual preceptor). In Hindu astrology, guru names the planet Jupiter, also known as Bṛihaspati. According to the Advayatāraka Upanishad (14–18), guru means “dispeller (gu) of darkness (ru).” See: guru-śishya system, satguru.
guru bhakti: गुरुभक्ति Devotion to the teacher. The attitude of humility, love and ideation held by a student in any field of study. In the spiritual realm, the devotee strives to see the guru as his higher Self. By attuning himself to the satguru’s inner nature and wisdom, the disciple slowly transforms his own nature to ultimately attain the same peace and enlightenment his guru has achieved. Guru bhakti is expressed through serving the guru, meditating on his form, working closely with his mind and obeying his instructions. See: guru, guru-śishya system, Kulārṇava Tantra, satguru.
Gurudeva: गुरुदेव “Divine or radiant preceptor.” An affectionate, respectful name for the guru. See: guru.
Guru Gītā: गुरु गीता “Song of the guru.” A popular 352-verse excerpt from the Skanda Purāṇa, wherein Lord Śiva tells Pārvatī of the guru-disciple relationship. See: guru.
Guru Jayantī: गुरु जयन्ती Preceptor’s birthday, celebrated as an annual festival by devotees. A pādapūjā, ritual bathing of his feet, is usually performed. If he is not physically present, the pūjā is done to the śrī pādukā, “revered sandals,” which represent the guru and hold his vibration. See: pādapūjā.
gurukula: गुरुकुल A training center where young boys live and learn in residence with their teacher. Kula means “family.” See: āśrama, brahmacharya.
Guru Nanak (Nānak): See: Ādi Granth, Sikhism.
guru paramparā: गुरुपरंपरा “Preceptorial succession” (literally, “from one to another”). A line of spiritual gurus in authentic succession of initiation; the chain of mystical power and authorized continuity, passed from guru to guru. Cf: sampradāya.
Guru Pūrṇimā: गुरु पूर्णिमा Occurring on the full moon of July, Guru Pūrṇimā is for devotees a day of rededication to all that the guru represents. It is occasioned by pādapūjā—ritual worship of the guru’s sandals, which represent his holy feet. See: guru-śishya system.
guru-śishya system: गुरुशिष्य “Master-disciple system.”An important education system of Hinduism whereby the teacher conveys his knowledge and tradition to a student. Such knowledge, whether it be Vedic-Āgamic art, architecture or spirituality, is imparted through the developing relationship between guru and disciple. The principle of this system is that knowledge, especially subtle or advanced knowledge, is best conveyed through a strong human relationship based on ideals of the student’s respect, commitment, devotion and obedience, and on personal instruction by which the student eventually masters the knowledge the guru embodies. See: guru, guru bhakti, Hindu, satguru.
gush: To flow out suddenly and plentifully.