Dancing with Śiva


Śabda Kośaḥ


imageTagore, Rabindranath: One of India’s most highly acclaimed writers and poets (1861‒1941), son of Devendranath Tagore. He wrote in Bengali and in English. His most famous poetic religious work is Gītāñjali, which centers around dialogs between the soul and God Vishṇu. He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. §

tainted: Sullied, spoiled or stained. Morally corrupt or depraved.§

Tai Pongal: தைப்பொங்கல் A four-day home festival held in the Tamil month of Tai (January-February), celebrating the season’s first harvest. Sūrya, the Sun God, is honored at this time as the giver of all good fortune and as the visible Divine One. Newly harvested rice is ceremoniously cooked outdoors over an open fire in a giant pot (hence pongal, from pongu, “to cook”). The direction of the overflow of boiling milk is an augury for the coming year. §

Tai Pusam: தைப்பூசம் A festival held on the Pushya nakshatra near the full-moon day of January-February to worship Lords Śiva or Kārttikeya, depending on the locality. It is an important holiday, especially dear to the Tamil people, celebrated with great pomp, fervor and intensity in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Fiji, South Africa and Réunion, often marked by the carrying of kavadi. In Mauritius and Singapore it is a national holiday. See: Kārttikeya, kavadi.§

Taittirīya Āraṇyaka: तैत्तिरीय आरण्यक A forest treatise of Kṛishṇa Yajur Veda. See: Veda.§

Taittirīya Saṁhitā: तैत्तिरीयसंहिता See: Yajur Veda.§

Taittirīya Upanishad: तैत्तिरीय उपनिषद् Belongs to the Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa of the Yajur Veda and is divided into three sections called valli(s). The first deals with phonetics and pronunciation, the second and third with Brahman and the attainment of bliss.§

tala: तल “Plane or world; level; base, bottom, abyss.” Root of the name of the seven realms of lower consciousness centered in the seven chakras below the mūlādhāra. See: chakra, hell, loka, Naraka, purgatory.§

talātala chakra: तलातल “Lower region.” The fourth chakra below the mūlādhāra, centered in the calves. Region of chronic mental confusion and unreasonable stubbornness. Corresponds to the fourth astral netherworld beneath the Earth’s surface, called Tāmisra (“darkness”) or Talātala. This state of consciousness is born of the sole motivation of self-preservation. See: chakra, loka, Naraka.§

tamas(ic): तमस् “Force of inertia.” See: guṇa.§

Tamil: தமிழ் The ancient Dravidian language of the Tamils, a Caucasoid people of South India and Northern Sri Lanka who have now migrated throughout the world. The official language of the state of Tamil Nadu, India, spoken by 60 million people. See: race.§

Tamil Nadu: தமிழ் நாடு State in South India, 50,000 square miles, population 62 million. Land of countless holy scriptures, saints, sages and over 40,000 magnificent temples, including Chidambaram, Madurai, Palani Hills and Rameshwaram.§

tāṇḍava: ताण्डव “Violent dance.” Any vigorous dance sequence performed by a male dancer. There are many forms of tāṇḍava. Its prototype is Śiva’s dance of bliss, ānanda tāṇḍava. The much softer feminine dance is called lāsya, from lasa, “lively.” Dance in general is nartana. See: Naṭarāja.§

tantra: तन्त्र“Loom, methodology.” 1) Most generally, a synonym for śāstra, “scripture.” 2) A synonym for the Āgamic texts, especially those of the Śākta faith, a class of Hindu scripture providing detailed instruction on all aspects of religion, mystic knowledge and science. The tantras are also associated with the Śaiva tradition. 3) A specific method, technique or spiritual practice within the Śaiva and Śākta traditions. For example, prāṇāyāma is a tantra. Tantra generally involves a reversal of the normal flow of energies. Its perspective is that the inner self is most important, and outer life is secondary. Tantra causes the life force to flow up through the sushumṇā. Many are the methods for overcoming the unsurmountable. Fallen into the hands of the unscrupulous, these techniques become black magic (abhichāra). 4)Disciplines and techniques with a strong emphasis on worship of the feminine force, often involving sexual encounters, with the purported goal of transformation and union with the Divine. §

Tantrāloka: तन्त्रालोक One of the most comprehensive and authoritative expositions of Kashmīr Śaivism, written by Abhinavagupta. See: Abhinavagupta, Kashmīr Śaivism.§

tantric (tāntrika): तान्त्रिक 1) Adjectival to qualify practices prescribed in the Tantra traditions. 2) Referring to the methods of directing the subtle masculine/feminine, aggressive/passive energies that flow between men and women. 3) Also names a practitioner of any of the Tantra traditions. 4) Tantra has today come to commonly refer to sex-based spiritual practices developed in Hinduism (known as “left-handed tantra”) and in other faiths, including Bon, Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Judaism and the New Age. See: kuṇḍalinī, rāja yoga, Śāktism, tantra. §

tantrism: The enlightenment path outlined in the Tantra scriptures. 1) Tantrism is sometimes considered a parallel stream of history and tradition in Hinduism, running alongside and gradually interweaving with the Vedic brāhminical tradition. 2) Tantrism refers to traditions, mainly within Śaivism and Śāktism, that focus on the arousal of the kuṇḍalinī force, and which view the human body as a vehicle of the Divine and an instrument for liberation. Tantrism’s ultimate aim is a channeling of the kuṇḍalinī life force through the sushumṇā, the gracious channel, upwards into the sahasrāra chakra and beyond, through the door of Brahman (Brahmarandhra) into Paraśiva, either before or at the time of death. The stress is on the transformation of all spheres of consciousness, spiritual, psychic, emotional and material. It is a path of sādhana. 3) Śākta Tantrism: Brings a strong emphasis on the worship of the feminine force. Depending on the school, this may be symbolic or literal in rites involving sexual intercourse, etc. Śākta Tantrism’s main principle is the use of the material to gain the spiritual. In certain schools, historically, this implies embracing that which is normally forbidden and manipulating the forces to attain transcendent consciousness rather than lower consciousness. There are three main streams: 1) the right-hand path (dakshiṇa mārga or dakshiṇāchāra) of conservative Hindu practice, 2) the left-hand path (vāma mārga or vāmāchāra) involving the use of things normally forbidden such as taking intoxicants, meat, ritual sex, etc., and 3) the yogic path of the Kaula sect. Gorakshanātha followers are sometimes grouped with the latter. See: kuṇḍalinī, rāja yoga, Śāktism, tantra. §

Tao: “The way.” The central concept of the Chinese religion called Taoism. Though traditionally considered impossible to translate, Tao is often rendered as “cosmic order,” akin to the Sanskrit ṛita. See: dharma.§

tapas: तपस् “Heat, fire; ardor.” 1) Purificatory spiritual disciplines, severe austerity, penance and sacrifice. The endurance of pain, suffering, through the performance of extreme penance, religious austerity and mortification. By comparison, sādhana is austerity of a simple, sustained kind, while tapas is austerity of a severe, psyche-transforming nature. Tapas is extreme bodily mortification, long term sādhanas, such as meditating under a tree in one place for 12 years, taking a lifetime vow of silence and never speaking or writing, or standing on one leg for a prescribed number of years. Scriptures generally warn against extreme asceticism which would bring harm to the body. 2) On a deeper level, tapas is the intense inner state of kuṇḍalinī “fire” which stimulates mental anguish and separates the individual from society. Life does not go on as usual when this condition occurs. The association with a satguru, Sadāśiva, brings the devotee into tapas, and it brings him out of it. The fire of tapas burns on the dross of sañchita karmas. This is the source of heat, dismay, depression and striving until the advent of final and total surrender, prapatti. The individual can mollify this heated condition by continuing his regular sādhana as outlined by the guru. The fires of self-transformation may be stimulated by the practice of tapas, or come unbidden. One can “do” tapas, but the true tapas is a condition of being and consciousness which is a state of grace, bringing positive change, transformation and purification of one’s nature. Guru bhakti is the only force that can cool the fires of tapas. See: kuṇḍalinī, penance, sādhana. §

tapasvin: तपस्विन् One who performs tapas or is in the state of tapas. See: tapas.§

Tapoloka: तपोलोक “Plane of austerity.” The second highest of the seven upper worlds, realm of ājñā chakra. See: loka. §

tarnished: Dulled, sullied, spoiled, lacking luster. §

Tat: तत् “That;” the indescribable Absolute; Supreme.§

Tatparyadīpikā: तत्पर्यदीपिका A commentary by Srikumara (ca 1100) on the Tattvaprakāśa of Sri Bhojadeva Paramara (1018–1060), a philosopher-king in Central India who expounded Śaiva Siddhānta. Srikumara upheld the monistic basis of Bhojadeva’s work, while later commentator Aghorasiva reinterpreted it in dualistic terms. See: Aghorasiva, Śaiva Siddhānta. §

Tat Sat: तत् सत् “That (is) Truth.” A terse phrase pointing to the inexpressible truth of which nothing more can be said. §

tattva: तत्त्व “That-ness” or “essential nature.” Tattvas are the primary principles, elements, states or categories of existence, the building blocks of the universe. Lord Śiva constantly creates, sustains the form of and absorbs back into Himself His creations. Ṛishis describe this emanational process as the unfoldment of tattvas, stages or evolutes of manifestation, descending from subtle to gross. At mahāpralaya, cosmic dissolution, they enfold into their respective sources, with only the first two tattvas surviving the great dissolution. The first and subtlest form—the pure consciousness and source of all other evolutes of manifestation—is called Śiva tattva, or Parāśakti-nāda. But beyond Śiva tattva lies Paraśiva—the utterly transcendent, Absolute Reality, called attava. That is Śiva’s first perfection. The Sāṅkhya system discusses 25 tattvas. Śaivism recognizes these same 25 plus 11 beyond them, making 36 tattvas in all. These are divided into three groups: 1) First are the five śuddha (pure) tattvas. These constitute the realm of śuddha māyā 2) Next are the seven śuddha-aśuddha (pure-impure) tattvas. These constitute the realm of śuddhāśuddha māyā. 3) The third group comprises the 24 aśuddha (impure) tattvas. These constitute the realm of aśuddha māyā. §

THE ŚUDDHA TATTVAS: Actinic or spiritual energy. This is the superconscious realm, also known as śuddha (pure) māyā or mahāmāyā. Bindu, transcendent light, is the “material” cause of this pure sphere. This is the Śivaloka, the region of the 330 million Gods, the myriad ṛishis and other beings who have attained freedom from the triple bondage. §

1) Śiva tattva: “auspiciousness,” of two parts: the higher is Parāśakti, “Supreme Energy,” from which emerges primal sound, nāda (more precisely Paranāda, soundless sound). Though most often referred to as sound, nāda is more mystically known as movement, the first impulse arising from perfect quiescence, the first “thing” out of the motionless Self. This is Śiva’s second perfection, Parāśakti, superconsciousness, the mind of God. The Śiva tattva pervades all other 35 categories and possesses the powers of will, knowledge and action (icçhā, jñāna, kriyā). §

2) Śakti tattva: energy, corresponds to bindu, light, the cause of form (more precisely Parabindu, primal nucleus). This is the tattva of Parameśvara, the Primal Soul, father-mother God, Śiva’s third perfection, who after mahāpralaya remains transfixed in deep samādhi, until He again emanates the universe through His Cosmic Dance. §

3) Sadāśiva tattva: the power of revealing grace. In this realm the energies of knowledge and action are in perfect equilibrium. This is the realm of the ānandamaya kośa. §

4) Īśvara tattva: the energy of concealment, concealing grace. The energy of action prevails over that of knowledge in order to arouse cosmic activity in its subtle form.§

5) śuddhavidyā tattva: pure knowledge, dharma. This is a level of manifestation in which the energy of action is in abeyance and the energy of knowledge prevails. Śuddhavidyā tattva includes Śiva’s other three powers or aspects: Rudra (destruction), Vishṇu (preservation) and Brahmā (creation). §

THE ŚUDDHĀŚUDDHA TATTVAS: Actinodic, or spiritual-magnetic, energy. The seven tattvas from māyā to purusha make up the śuddhāśuddha (pure-impure) realm. §

6) māyā tattva: mirific energy, the “material” cause of the “impure sphere.” The category of māyā brings into being as its immediate aids the following five tattvas, known as the “five sheaths,” pañcha kañchuka, of the individual soul, purusha. Collectively they make up the vijñānamaya kośa, or mental body. §

7) kāla tattva: the phenomenon of time, which divides all experience into past, present and future. §

8) niyati tattva: karmic destiny; necessity; order; law of cause and effect; restraint. §

9) kalā tattva: creativity, aptitude, the power which draws the soul toward spiritual knowledge. Its energy partially removes the veil of āṇava which clouds the inherent powers of the soul. §

10) vidyā tattva: limited knowledge, the power which gives the soul practical knowledge in accord with its present life experiences. §

11) rāga tattva: attachment, the arousal of desire, without which no experience of the objective world is possible. §

12) purusha tattva: soul identity; soul connected with subjectivity. Through identification with the five above “sheaths,” the soul, ātman, becomes a purusha, or bound soul, capable of experiencing the higher Antarloka as a limited individual. This fivefold sheath is called the pañcha kañchuka, or vijñānamaya kośa (mental body). §

THE AŚUDDHA TATTVAS: Odic, or magnetic, energy. These 24 categories make up the “world” of aśuddha (impure) māyā. This is the realm of the astral and physical planes, in which souls function through the manomaya, prāṇamaya and annamaya kośas, depending on their level of embodiment.§

13) prakṛiti tattva: primal nature, the gross energy of which all lower tattvas are formed. Prakṛiti, also called pradhāna, is expressed as three guṇas (qualities)—sattva, rajas and tamas. These manifest as light, activity and inertia, respectively; and on the subtle level as pleasure, sorrow and delusion. These guṇas dominate the soul’s powers of knowledge, action and desire (jñāna, kriyā and icçhā), and form the guṇa body, manomaya kośa. §

—antaḥkaraṇa: the mental faculty. 14) buddhi tattva: judgment, intellect, the faculty of discrimination. 15) ahaṁkāra tattva: egoism, sense of I-ness in the external form. It is the fundamental principle of individuality. 16) manas tattva: the instinctive mind, the receiving and directing link between the outer senses and the inner faculties. §

—jñānendriya: the five cognitive senses, of the nature of sattva guṇa. Each has a subtle and physical aspect. 17) śrotra tattva: hearing (ears). 18) tvak tattva: touching (skin). 19) chakshu tattva: seeing (eyes). 20) rasanā tattva: tasting (tongue). 21) ghrāṇa tattva: smelling (nose). §

—karmendriya: the five organs of action, of the nature of rajaguṇa. Each has a subtle and physical aspect. 22) vāk tattva: speech (voice). 23) pāṇi tattva: grasping (hands). 24) pāda tattva: walking (feet). 25) pāyu tattva: excretion (anus). 26) upastha tattva: procreation (genitals). §

—tanmatra: the five subtle elements, of the nature of tamaguṇa. 27) śabda tattva: sound. 28) sparśa tattva: feel. 29) rūpa tattva: form. 30) rasa tattva: taste. 31) gandha tattva: odor. These are the subtle characteristics of the five gross elements, ākāśa, vāyu, tejas, āpas and pṛithivī, respectively.§

—pañchabhūta: the five gross elements. 32) ākāśa tattva: ether or space. 33) vāyu tattva: air. 34) tejas tattva: fire. 35) āpas tattva (or jāla): water. 36) pṛithivī tattva: earth. See: antaḥkaraṇa, atattva, guṇa, kośa, Śiva (also, charts at end of lexicon).§

Tattvaprakāśa: तत्त्वप्रकाश “Illumination of the categories.” Text of 76 verses by the philosopher-king Bhoja Paramara which systematized and consolidated monistic Śaiva Siddhānta in the 11th century. §

tattvatrayī: तत्त्वत्रयी “Essential triad.” Names the primary categories of Śaiva and Śākta schools, Pati (God), paśu (soul) and pāśa (world, or bonds). See: padārtha, Pati-paśu-pāśa. §

Tayumanavar: தாயுமானவர் A Tamil Śaivayogī, devotional mystic and poet saint (ca 17th century) whose writings are a harmonious blend of philosophy and devotion. In his poem “Chinmayānanda Guru,” Tayumanavar places himself in the lineage of Rishi Tirumular. See: Tirumular.§

temper: To reduce in intensity or moderate by the addition of other qualities. Also, the quality of anger, or the propensity to become angry. See: chakra.§

temple: A place consecrated for, and dedicated to, the worship of God or Gods. Hindus revere their temples as sacred, magical places in which the three worlds most consciously commune—structures especially built and consecrated to channel the subtle spiritual energies of inner-world beings. The temple’s psychic atmosphere is maintained through regular worship ceremonies (pūjā) invoking the Deity, who uses His installed image (mūrti) as a temporary body to bless those living on the Earth plane. In Hinduism, the temple is the hub of virtually all aspects of social and religious life. It may be referred to by the Sanskrit terms mandira, devālaya (or Śivālaya, a Śiva temple), as well as by vernacular terms such as koyil (Tamil). See: darśana, garbhagṛiha, maṇḍapa, pradakshiṇa, sound, teradi, tīrthayātrā.§

temporal: Referring to time; subject to time. Passing, existing only for a time. §

teradi: தேரடி “Chariot shed.” Tamil term for the “garage” shelter that houses the temple cart or chariot (ter) in which the parade Deity, utsava mūrti, is taken in procession on festival days.§

terminable: Which can be ended. Not lasting forever.§

terminal: Concluding, ending, final. §

terminal illness: Incurable disease, ending in death. See: death, suicide. §

That: When capitalized, this simple demonstrative refers uniquely to the Ultimate, Indescribable or Nameless Absolute. The Self God, Paraśiva. It is the English equivalent of Tat, as in, Tat tvam asi, “You are That!”§

theism: Belief that God exists as a real, conscious, personal Supreme Being, creator and ruler of the universe. May also include belief in the Gods. §

theology: The study of religious doctrines, specifically of the nature of God, soul and world. —theologians: Those who study, are expert in or formulate theology. Cf: metaphysics.§

Third World: Śivaloka, “realm of Śiva,” or Kāraṇaloka. The spiritual realm or causal plane of existence wherein Mahādevas and highly evolved souls live in their own self-effulgent forms. See: loka, Śivaloka, three worlds.§

thither: Toward that place; there. Farther.§

thou/thy: Poetic or solemn older English pronouns for you/your. Thy is the possessive form of thou. Often used in religious writing or translation of devotional scripture as an expression of respect and veneration not conveyed in the ordinary pronouns you and your. §

three worlds: The three worlds of existence, triloka, are the primary hierarchical divisions of the cosmos. 1) Bhūloka: “Earth world,” the physical plane. 2) Antarloka: “Inner or in-between world,” the subtle or astral plane. 3) Śivaloka: “World of Śiva,” and of the Gods and highly evolved souls; the causal plane, also called Kāraṇaloka. §

The three-world cosmology is readily found in Hindu scriptures. In the major Upanishads of the Vedas we find numerous instances, with interesting variations. Verse 1.5.17 of the Bṛihadāraṇyaka Upanishad states, “Now, there are, verily, three worlds, the world of men (Manushyaloka), the world of the fathers (Pitṛiloka) and the world of the Gods (Devaloka)…” Later, verse 6.2.15 refers to the two higher worlds as the Devaloka and the Brahmaloka. The Katha Upanishad, verse 2.3.8, omitting the world of men, lists the Pitṛiloka, the Gandharvaloka (world of genies or elementals) and the Brahmaloka (world of God). Another perspective of three worlds is offered in the Praśna Upanishad 3.8, which lists the world of good (Puṇyaloka), the world of evil (Pāpaloka) and the world of men (Manushyaloka). §

Scriptures offer several other cosmological perspectives, most importantly seven upper worlds (sapta urdhvaloka) and seven lower worlds (sapta adholoka), which correspond to the 14 chakras and make up the “world-egg of God,” the universe, called Brahmāṇḍa. The seven upper worlds are Bhūloka, Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka. The second, third and fourth comprise the subtle plane. The highest three comprise the causal plane. The seven lower worlds, collectively known as Naraka or Pātāla, are (from highest to lowest) Put, Avīchi, Saṁhāta, Tāmisra, Ṛijīsha, Kuḍmala and Kākola. §

From the Śaiva Āgamic perspective of the 36 tattvas, the pure sphere, śuddha māyā—the first five tattvas—is subdivided into 33 planes of existence. The “pure-impure” realm, śuddhāśuddha māyā—the seven tattvas from māyā tattva to purusha—contains 27 planes of existence. The aśuddha (“impure”) realm—of 24 tattvas—has 56 planes of existence. See: chakra, loka, Naraka, tattva (also: individual loka entries). §

thwart: To hinder, obstruct or frustrate.§

thy: See: thou/thy.§

tilaka: तिलक Marks made on the forehead or the brow with clay, ashes or sandalwood paste as an indication of sectarian affiliation. Vaishṇavas wear a vertical v-shaped tilaka made from clay. The Śaivite tilaka, called tripuṇḍra, consists of three horizontal strips of holy ash with a dot near the middle, or between the eyebrows. Wearing the tilaka is an expression of religious affiliation and pride in one’s beliefs, not unlike the Christian’s cross or the Jew’s yarmulke. Elaborate tilakas are worn by Hindus today mainly at religious events and when on pilgrimage, though many Hindus wear the simple dot (bindu) on the forehead, indicating that they are Hindu, even when moving in the general public. See: bindu, Hinduism, tripuṇḍra. §

timeless: Outside the condition of time, or not measurable in terms of time. §

tirobhāva: तिरोभाव “Concealment,” same as tirodhāna. See: Naṭarāja, tirodhāna śakti.§

tirodhāna śakti: तिरोधानशक्ति “Concealing power.” Veiling grace, or God’s power to obscure the soul’s divine nature. Tirodhāna śakti is the particular energy of Śiva that binds the three bonds of āṇava, karma, māyā to the soul. It is a purposeful limiting of consciousness to give the opportunity to the soul to grow and mature through experience of the world. See: evolution of the soul, grace.§

tīrthayātrā: तीर्थयात्रा “Journeying to a holy place.” Pilgrimage. One of the five sacred duties (pañcha nitya karmas) of the Hindu is to journey periodically to one of the innumerable holy spots in India or other countries. Preceded by fasting and continence, it is a time of austerity and purification, when all worldly concerns are set aside and God becomes one’s singular focus. Streams of devout pilgrims are received daily at the many ancient holy sites (tīrthas) in India, and tens of thousands at festival times. See: pañcha nitya karma, pañcha śraddhā.§

tiru: திரு “Sacred; holy.” The exact Tamil equivalent of śrī. Feminine is tirumati. See: śrī. §

Tirukural: திருக்குறள் “Holy couplets.” A treasury of Hindu ethical insight and a literary masterpiece of the Tamil language, written by Śaiva Saint Tiruvalluvar (ca 200 BCE) near present-day Chennai. Its nonsectarian wisdom has been adopted by Christians, Muslims, Jains and even atheists. The text focuses primarily on the first three goals of life—artha (wealth), dharma (conduct) and kāma (desire)—but also includes 13 chapters on renunciate dharma, relating to life’s fourth goal, moksha (liberation). In an extraordinarily compact verse form of 14 syllables, the poet presents 133 subjects of ten verses each on relationships, human strengths and foibles, statecraft and more. One of the world’s earliest ethical texts, the Tirukural could well be considered a bible on virtue for the human race. In fact, it is sworn on in South Indian courts of law. See: Tiruvalluvar.§

Tirumantiram: திருமந்திரம் “Holy incantation.” The Nandinātha Sampradāya’s oldest Tamil scripture; written ca 200 BCE by Rishi Tirumular. It is the earliest of the Tirumurai texts , and a vast storehouse of esoteric yogic and tantric knowledge. It contains the mystical essence of rāja yoga and siddha yoga, and the fundamental doctrines of the 28 Śaiva Siddhānta Āgamas, which are the heritage of the ancient pre-historic traditions of Śaivism. As the Āgamas themselves are now partially lost, the Tirumantiram is a rare source of the complete Āgamanta (collection of Āgamic lore). Its 3,047 verses were, as legend has it, composed in a rather extraordinary way. Before writing each verse, Tirumular would meditate for an entire year, then summarize his meditation in a four-line Tamil verse. He did this for 3,000 years! The allegory is said to mean that 3,000 years of knowledge is compacted in this one book. The text is organized in nine parts, called tantras, summarized as follows: 1) basic rules of religious morality; 2) allegorical explanations of Śaiva mythological stories; five powers of Śiva, three classifications of souls; 3) a complete treatise on rāja yoga; 4) mantras and tantras; 5) the essential features of the Śaiva religion; the four forms of Śaivism, four stages, unorthodox paths, conduct to be avoided; 6) the Śivaguru, grace, renunciation, sin, penance, jñāna, worthy and unworthy persons; 7) siddha yoga, more on grace, mudrās, control of iḍā and piṅgalā, worlds reached by different classes of yogīs after death, refinements of yoga, the satguru; 8) essential theology: five sheaths, eleven states, three padārthas (Pati-paśu-pāśa), 36 tattvas, four states of consciousness, three malas, three guṇas, ten kāraṇas, etc.; 0) the fruits of realization, liberation, jñāna, Śiva’s dances, meeting of the guru. See: Tirumular, Tirumurai.§

Tirumular: திருமூலர் An illustrious siddha yogī and ṛishi of the Nandinātha Sampradāya’s Kailāsa Paramparā who came from the Himalayas (ca 200 BCE) to Tamil Nadu to compose the Tirumantiram. In this scripture he recorded the tenets of Śaivism in concise and precise verse form, based upon his own realizations and the supreme authority of the Śaiva Āgamas and the Vedas. Tirumular was a disciple of Maharishi Nandinatha. See: Kailāsa Paramparā, Tirumantiram, Vedānta. §

Tirumurai: திருமுறை “Holy book.” A twelve-book collection of hymns and writings of South Indian Śaivite saints, compiled by Saint Nambiyandar Nambi (ca 1000). Of these, books 1-3 are the hymns of Saint Tirujñāna Sambandar (ca 600). Books 4-6 are the hymns of Saint Tirunavakarasu (Appar), a contemporary of Sambandar. Book 7 contains the hymns of Saint Sundaramurti (Sundaramūrti) (ca 800). Book 8 contains the two works of Saint Manikkavasagar (9th century)—Tiruvasagam and Tirukovaiyar. Book 0 is the Tiruvisaippa and Tiruppallandu, which together comprise the works of nine saints. Book 10 is the Tirumantiram of Saint Tirumular (ca 200 BCE). Book 11 contains the hymns of ten saints, including Nakkirar and Nambiyandar Nambi, the compiler. Book 12 is the Periyapurāṇam by Saint Sekkilar (11th century), narrating the life of the 63 Śaiva Nayanar saints. The first seven books are known as Devarams. §

tiruvadi: திருவடி “Holy sandals.” See: pādukā.§

Tiruvalluvar: திருவள்ளுவர் “Holy weaver.” Tamil weaver and householder saint (ca 200 BCE) who wrote the classic Śaivite ethical scripture Tirukural. He lived with his wife Vasuki, famed for her remarkable loyalty and virtues, near modern-day Chennai. There a memorial park, the Valluvar Kottam, enshrines his extraordinary verses in marble. See: Tirukural. §

Tiruvasagam: திருவாசகம் “Holy Utterances.” The lyrical Tamil scripture by Saint Manikkavasagar (ca 850). Considered one of the most profound and beautiful devotional works in the Tamil language, it discusses every phase of the spiritual path from doubt and anguish to perfect faith in God Śiva, from earthly experience to the guru-disciple relationship and freedom from rebirth. The work is partly autobiographical, describing how Manikkavasagar, the prime minister to the Pandyan King, renounced the world after experiencing an extraordinary vision of Śiva seated beneath a tree. The 658 hymns of Tiruvasagam together with the 400 hymns of Tirukovaiyar by the same author make up the eighth Tirumurai of Śaiva Siddhānta scripture. See: Manikkavasagar, Tirumurai.§

tithe (tithing): The spiritual discipline, often a vrata, of giving one tenth of one’s gainful and gifted income to a religious organization of one’s choice, thus sustaining spiritual education and upliftment on Earth. The Sanskrit equivalent is daśamāṁśa, called makimai in the Tamil tradition. Tithing is given not as an offering, but as “God’s money.” In olden days it was a portion of one’s crops, such as one coconut out of ten. Immediately setting aside the tithe as soon as income is received sanctifies the remaining portion and reaps the greatest puṇya. It is an acknowledgement by faithful Hindus of God’s providential care, bringing a greater awareness of God’s power in the world. Because tithers are thus uplifted to a purer, spiritual consciousness, abundance naturally floods into their lives. Additional offerings should be given after this minimal obligation is paid. See: daśamāṁśa. §

tithi: तिथि A lunar day, approximately one-thirtieth of the time it takes the moon to orbit the Earth. Because of their means of calculation (based on the difference of the longitudinal angle between the position of sun and the moon), tithis may vary in length. There are 15 tithis in each fortnight (half month). The names of the tithis are Prathamā (new moon), Dvitīyā, Tritīyā, Chaturthī, Pañchamī, Shashṭhī, Saptamī, Ashṭamī, Navamī, Daśamī, Ekādaśī, Dvādaśī, Trayodaśī, Chaturdaśī, and lastly either Pūrṇimā (full moon) or Amāvasyā (new moon). These are sometimes prefixed to indicate either the dark (kṛishṇa) fortnight—when the moon is waning—or the light (śukla) fortnight—when the moon is waxing—e.g., Śukla-Navamī. Most Hindu festivals are calculated according to the tithis. §

touchstone: A test or criterion for determining value or authenticity.§

trait: A quality or distinguishing characteristic.§

trance: In general, a condition of altered consciousness, accompanied by a lack of awareness to physical surroundings, neither a state of wakefulness nor sleep. In a religious sense it is a state of intense concentration, introspection or meditation. In such a state, called samādhi, body consciousness is completely lost as the energies are drawn up the spine into the sahasrāra chakra at the crown of the head. Great prophets have gone into trance and spoken out predictions of the future and in their waking state later had no memory of what they had said. In spiritualism, trance describes the phenomenon in which an individual leaves the physical body, and a disincarnate being enters or takes control of the body, often giving forth verbal messages to others in attendance, as in a seance. Trance can be either voluntary or involuntary. See: mediumship, samādhi. §

tranquil: Quiet, peaceful.§

transcend: To go beyond one’s limitations, e.g., “to transcend one’s ego.” Philosophically, to go beyond the limits of this world, or more profoundly, beyond time, form and space into the Absolute, the Self God. §

transcendent: Surpassing the limits of experience or manifest form. In Śaiva Siddhānta, a quality of God Śiva as Absolute Reality, Paraśiva, the Self. Distinguished from immanent. See: atattva, Paraśiva.§

transfix: To render motionless. Literally, “to pierce through,” “to fasten.”§

transgress: To overstep or break a law or principle. §

transient: That which is temporary, fleeting. Passing, not permanent. §

transition: Passing from one condition or place to another. A synonym of death which implies, more correctly, continuity of the individual rather than his annihilation. See: death.§

traverse: To move across or extend over.§

treacherous: Dangerous, unreliable. Giving a false sense of safety. §

tread: To walk on or across.§

treatise: An article or book which systematically discusses a subject. §

trepidation: Anxiety; fearful uncertainty. Trembling. §

tribal: Relating to, or having the character of a tribe, a group, clan or village often related by ancestry, race or allegiance to a common leader or lineage. A term often used in derogation to refer to so-called primitive peoples, but more accurately seen as the natural human social structure into which all villages and communities, ancient or modern, naturally organize. A term often used in reference to indigenous peoples, mostly shamanic in conviction, found worldwide from ancient times. See: pagan.§

trickery: Deception, fraud. Creating illusion, such as by magic.§

trident: Three-pronged spear. See: triśūla.§

Trikaśāsana: त्रिकशासन “Three teachings.” Also, Trikaśāstra. A name for Kashmīr Śaivism based on its various philosophical triads including: Śiva, Śakti and Nara (bound soul); Pati, paśu and pāśa; three energies: highest (parā), lowest (aparā), and in-between (parāparā); and three sets of scriptures. See: Kashmīr Śaivism.§

trikoṇa: त्रिकोण A triangle; symbol of God Śiva as Absolute Reality. Also represents the element fire. §

triloka: त्रिलोक “Three worlds.” The physical, astral and causal planes (Bhūloka, Antarloka and Śivaloka). See: loka, world.§

Trimūrti: त्रिमूर्ति A classic representation of God as the threefold Deity image—Brahmā, Vishṇu and Rudra. See: Brahmā. §

triple bondage: See: mala, pāśa. §

tripuṇḍra: त्रिपुण्ड्र “Three marks.” The Śaivite sectarian mark, consisting of three horizontal lines of vibhūti (holy ash) on the brow, often with a dot (bindu) at the third eye. The three lines represent the soul’s three bonds: āṇava, karma and māyā. Holy ash, made of burnt cow dung, is a reminder of the temporary nature of the physical body and the urgency to strive for spiritual attainment and closeness to God. See: bindu, tilaka, vibhūti.§

triśūla: त्रिशूल A three-pronged spear or trident wielded by Lord Śiva and certain Śaivite ascetics. Symbolizes God’s three fundamental śaktis or powers—icçhā (desire, will, love), kriyā (action) and jñāna (wisdom). §

Truth: When capitalized, ultimate knowing which is unchanging. Lower case (truth): honesty, integrity; virtue.§

Tryambaka: त्र्यम्बक “Three-eyed one.” A name of Rudra-Śiva, one of the Ekādaśa (“eleven”) Rudras. His emblems include a water pot, chakra, drum, bow, goad, snake and trident. The grace of Tryambaka is beseeched in the famous Mṛituñjāya Mantra, or Śiva Gāyatrī. Also the name of a disciple of Durvasas who disseminated advaita. See: Durvasas, Gāyatrī Mantra.§

Tukaram (Tukārām): तुकाराम One of the most beloved and widely-read Maharashtran Sant poets (1598–1649) who wrote passionate songs urging devotees to seek the grace of Lord Vishṇu.§

Tulsidas (Tulasīdāsa): तुलसीदास Vaishṇava sannyāsin poet (ca 1532–1623) whose Śrī Rāmacharitamānasa, a Hindi rendering of Valmiki’s Sanskrit epic, Rāmāyaṇa, is acclaimed one of the world’s greatest literary works. See: Rāmāyaṇa. §

tumult: Noise, uproar, disturbance; agitation.§

turbulent: Violently agitated. Marked by turmoil or wildly irregular motions. §

turmeric: A plant of India, Curcuma longa, of the ginger family whose powdered rhizome is a prized seasoning and yellow dye. It has rich āyurvedic properties, is used in holy ritual and serves also to make kuṅkuma. §

tyāga: त्याग “Letting go, detachment, renunciation.” Described in the Bhagavad Gītā as the basic principle of karma yoga, detachment from the fruits of one’s actions. See: sacrifice, sannyāsa, vairāgya. §

Tyēīf: A special script, like bamboo sticks, used for writing prayers to be conveyed to the inner worlds through the sacred fire. See: lekhaprārtha havana.


imageucchāraṇa vyākhyā: उच्चारणव्याख्या “Pronunciation explanation.” §

ucçhishṭa: उच्छिष्ट “Leavings; remainder.” Religiously, the precious leavings from the guru’s food plate or the waters from the bathing of his feet or sandals which are ingested by devotees as prasāda (blessed offerings). Partaking of the satguru’s ucçhishṭa is an important means of receiving his vibration and thus creating a psychic connection and harmony with him, being in touch with his grace in a physical way. See: pādapūjā, prasāda, satguru. §

Ujjain: उज्जैन A city on the Sipra River, one of the seven sacred Hindu cities; a traditional holy place of Śaivism. See: Rudrasambhu. §

ultimate: Final, last. —Ultimate Reality: Final, highest Truth. God Śiva’s Absolute Reality, Paraśiva.§

Umā: उमा “O do not.” A name for Śakti said to derive from the exclamation addressed to Pārvatī by her mother in the Śiva Purāṇa, beseeching her to desist from practicing austerities. Many connect it with the word ammā, “mother.”§

unconnectedness: The quality of being separate, unrelated to or uninvolved.§

uncreated: Not created, without origin. An attribute of God.§

undecaying: Not decaying or deteriorating.§

undifferentiated: Uniform. Same. Not having distinct or different elements. §

unerring: Not making an error, sure. Exacting.§

unevolutionary perfection: A term describing God Śiva as eternally complete and flawless and therefore not changing or developing. §

unfold: To open gradually, especially in stages. See: spiritual unfoldment.§

unharness: To take a harness off, to loosen restraints and make free. §

unhindered: Free of obstacles. Not restrained. §

universal dharma: Cosmic order, ṛita. See: dharma.§

universal dissolution: The final stage in the recurring cosmic cycles of creation in which all manifestation is reabsorbed into God. See: mahāpralaya.§

universalist: Applicable to all; including everyone or all groups. Any doctrine that emphasizes principles, beliefs or theologies that are or could be acceptable to many or all people, especially as contrasted with sectarian, denominational perspectives. Such schools are often syncretic in nature, but firmly based around a core of the original faith of the founder, and usually viewed by adherents as enlightened substitutes to traditional, established faiths. See: neo-Indian religion, syncretism.§

unleash: To release, as by removing a tether or rope. §

unmanifest: Not evident or perceivable. Philosophically, akin to transcendent. God Śiva is unmanifest in His formless perfection, Paraśiva. See: formless.§

unoriginated: Never begun or created. God Śiva is unoriginated as He has no beginning. See: atattva, Paraśiva, Primal Soul.§

unpretentiousness: Modesty, humility. Not having false pride about oneself. §

unrepressed: Open and honest, not burdened by thoughts or feelings that are hidden or held back. Not repressed, pushed back or controlled to excess. Free of subconscious impulses, compulsions and inhibitions. §

unshrouded: Uncovered. Made visible or knowable. §

unwind: To undo something wound, as to unwind the thread from a spool.§

upa: उप A common prefix conveying the meanings: “towards, near to (as opposed to apa, away), by the side of, with, below.”§

upadeśa: उपदेश “Advice; religious instruction.” Often given in question-and-answer form from guru to disciple. The satguru’s spiritual discourses.§

upadeśī: उपदेशी A liberated soul who chooses to teach and actively help others to reach the goal of liberation. Contrasted with nirvāṇī. See: nirvāṇī and upadeśī, satguru.§

Upāgama: उपागम Secondary Āgama. A large body of texts and similar in character to the principle Āgamas. Each of the 28 Siddhānta Śaiva Āgamas has as many as 16 Upāgamas associated with it, giving more specific or elaborate information on the basic text; their total number is given as 207 or 208. §

upagrantha: उपग्रन्थ “Secondary text.” Appendices or additional resources of a book. See: Grantha.§

upanayana: उपनयन “Bringing near.” A youth’s formal initiation into Vedic study under a guru, traditionally as a resident of his āśrama, and the investiture of the sacred thread (yajñopavīta or upavīta), signifying entrance into one of the three upper castes. The upanayana is among twelve saṁskāras prescribed in the Dharma Śāstras and explained in the Gṛihya Sūtras. It is prescribed between ages 8-16 for brāhmins (who received a white thread), 11-22 for kshatriyas (red thread), and 12-24 for vaiśyas (yellow thread). At present the color white for the sacred thread has been adopted universally. The upanayana is regarded as a second or spiritual birth, and one so initiated is known as dvija, “twice-born.” Until about the beginning of the common era, the upanayana was also afforded to girls. Great value was placed on their learning the Vedas in preparation for the duties of married life. See: saṁskāras of childhood.§

Upanishad: उपनिषद् “Sitting near devotedly.” The fourth and final portion of the Vedas, expounding the secret, philosophical meaning of the Vedic hymns. The Upanishads are a collection of profound texts which are the source of Vedānta and have dominated Indian thought for thousands of years. They are philosophical chronicles of ṛishis expounding the nature of God, soul and cosmos, exquisite renderings of the deepest Hindu thought. Traditionally, the number of Upanishads is given as 108. Ten to 16 are classified as “major” or “principle” Upanishads, being those which philosophers have commented on through the centuries. The Upanishads are generally dated later than the Saṁhitās and Brāhmaṇas, though some are actually portions of the Brāhmaṇas. It is generally thought that the earliest were written down in Sanskrit between 1500 and 600 BCE. In content, these popular and approachable texts revolve around the identity of the soul and God, and the doctrines of reincarnation, of karma and of liberation through renunciation and meditation. They are widely available in many languages. Along with the Bhagavad Gītā (“Song of God”) they were the primary scripture to awaken the Western world to the wealth of Hindu wisdom. See: śruti, Vedānta, Vedas.§

upāsanā: उपासना “Sitting near.” Worship or contemplation of God. One of the pañcha nitya karmas. “five constant duties.” See: sandhyā upāsanā.§

upasarga: उपसर्ग “Trouble, obstacle.” Difficulties, challenges or distractions which retard one’s progress on the spiritual path. Numerous lists are given in scripture under the Sanskrit terms upasarga, dosha (defect; blemish), klesha, vighna and antarāya. The Yogatattva Upanishad lists twenty doshas including hunger, thirst, excitement, grief, anger and greed; as well as five vighnas: sloth, boastfulness, bad company, cultivation of mantras for wrong reasons and longing for women. Patanjali names nine antarāyas to success in yoga, including sickness, doubt, sloth, nonattainment and instability. Spiritually, all these obstacles unless overcome lead to a dead end of unhappiness and despair, often affording steps which can only be retraced through reincarnating again. See: purity-impurity.§

Upaveda: उपवेद “Subsidiary Vedas.” A class of texts on sacred sciences, composed by ṛishis over the course of time to amplify and apply the Vedic knowledge. The four prominent Upavedas (each encompassing numerous texts) are: Arthaveda (statecraft), Āyurveda (health), Dhanurveda (military science) and Gāndharvaveda (music and the arts). Also sometimes classed as Upavedas are the Sthāpatyaveda (on architecture) and the Kāma Śāstras (texts on erotic love). See: Arthaveda, Āyurveda, Dhanurveda, Gāndharvaveda, Kāma Sūtra, purushārtha, Stāpatyaveda. §

upāya: उपाय “Means.” A term used in Kashmīr Śaivism to describe the means to move from individual into universal consciousness. —āṇavopāya: “Individual, or limited means.” Also called kriyopāya, the way of ritual worship, haṭha yoga, concentration and yogic breathing. —śāktopāya: “Way of power.” Active inquiry through mental effort, emphasizing control of awareness, japa and meditation. —śāmbhavopāya: “Way of Śambhu (Śiva).” Also called icçhopāya, “Way of will.” Seeing Śiva everywhere; surrender in God. —anupāya: “No-means.” Not really a means, but the goal of the first three upāyas—the transcendent condition of Śiva Consciousness. The spontaneous realization of the Self without effort. Also called pratyabhijñā upāya, “way of recognition.” See: Kashmīr Śaivism.§

Utpaladeva: उत्पलदेव Disciple (ca 900-950) of Somananda and author of Pratyabhijñā Sūtras (also called Pratyabhijñā Darśana) and other works. See: Kashmīr Śaivism.§

utsava: उत्सव “Festival.” Religious celebrations or holy days and their observance in the home and temple. Utsava is one of the five constant duties, pañcha nitya karmas. See: festival.§

utsavaka: उत्सवक “Festival maker.” A person who coordinates arrangements for religious festivals.


imageVachana: वचन “Utterance.” Short, insightful devotional poems written by the early Vīra Śaiva śaraṇa saints. Full of wit and brilliant philosophy, they are the basis for Liṅgāyat philosophy and practice. §

vāgdāna: वाग्दान “Word-giving.” Marriage engagement ceremony. See: saṁskāras of adulthood.§

vāhana: वाहन “Bearing, carrying or conveying.” Each Hindu God is depicted as riding an animal or bird vāhana, which is symbolic of a function of the God. For example, Śiva rides the bull, a symbol of strength and potency. Kārttikeya rides the peacock, mayūra, emblem of beauty and regality.§

vaidya: वैद्य “Versed in science; learned; a doctor.” See: āyurveda vaidya.§

Vaikāsi Viśākham: வைகாசி விசாகம் A festival held on Viśākha nakshatra, near the full moon day of the Tamil month of Vaikāsi, May-June, to celebrate the creation, or “birth,” of Lord Kārttikeya. It is a time of gift-giving to paṇḍitas and great souls, weddings, feedings for the poor, caring for trees, spiritual initiation and conclaves of holy men. §

Vaikuṇṭha: वैकुण्ठ “Vishṇu’s heaven.” See: Vaishṇavism. §

vairāgī: वैरागी “Dispassionate one.” An ascetic who lives by the principle of vairāgya. Also names a particular class of mendicants, generally Vaishṇavas, of North India who have freed themselves from worldly desires. See: monk, sannyāsa, tyāga.§

vairāgya: वैराग्य “Dispassion; aversion.” Freedom from passion. Distaste or disgust for worldliness because of spiritual awakening. Also, the constant renunciation of obstacles on the path to liberation. Ascetic or monastic life.§

Vaiśeshika: वैशेषिक “Distinctionism;” “differentiation.” A philosophical school (ca 600 BCE) that focuses on the categories of existence. See: shaḍ darśana. §

Vaishṇava: वैष्णव Of or relating to Vishṇu; same as Vaishṇavite. A follower of Lord Vishṇu or His incarnations. See: Vaishṇavism, Vishṇu. §

Vaishṇavism (Vaishṇava): वैष्णव One of the four major religions, or denominations of Hinduism, representing roughly half of the world’s one billion Hindus. It gravitates around the worship of Lord Vishṇu as Personal God, His incarnations and their consorts. The doctrine of avatāra(He who descends), especially important to Vaishṇavism, teaches that whenever adharma gains ascendency in the world, God takes a human birth to reestablish “the way.” There are either 10, 22 or 34 avatāras of Vishṇu, according to various scriptures. The most renowned avatāras were Rāma and Kṛishṇa. The last to come will be Kalki, the harbinger of a golden age on Earth. Vaishṇavism stresses the personal aspect of God over the impersonal, and bhakti (devotion) as the true path to salvation. The goal of Vaishṇavism is the attainment of mukti, defined as blissful union with God’s body, the loving recognition that the soul is a part of Him, and eternal nearness to Him in Vaikuṇṭha, heaven. Foremost among Vaishṇava scriptures are the Vaishṇava Āgamas, Bhagavad Gītā and Bhāgavata Purāṇa. Among the earliest schools were the Pañcharātras and the Bhāgavatas. The five major contemporary schools (founded between 1000 and 1500) are those of Ramanuja (Śrī Vaishṇavism), Madhva, Nimbarka, Vallabha and Chaitanya. Philosophically they range from Madhva’s pure dualism to Vallabha’s lofty monistic vision. §

Vaishṇavite: Of or relating to Vishṇu; same as Vaishṇava. A follower of Vishṇu or His incarnations. See: Vaishṇavism, Vishnu.§

vaiśya: वैश्य “Landowner; merchant.” The social class of bankers, businessmen, industrialists; employers. Merchant class, originally those whose business was trade as well as agriculture. See: varṇa dharma.§

vāk: वाक् “Speech.” Theologically, it is through the supreme Vāk (or Paravāk), the “Primal Word” of the Vedas, and its various aspects, that creation issues forth. §

valipadu: வழிபாடு “Ritual worship; revering, following.” The acts of adoration of the Divine, expressed in many practices and ways.§

Vallabhacharya (Vallabhāchārya): चल्लभाचार्य “Beloved teacher.” Vaishṇava saint (ca 1475-1530) whose panentheistic Śuddha Advaita (pure nondualism) philosophy became the essential teaching of the nonascetic Vaishṇava sect that bears his name. He composed 17 works, most importantly commentaries on the Vedānta and Mīmāṁsā Sūtras and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa. The stories of his 84 disciples are often repeated on festive occasions by followers. The sect is strongest in Gujarat. See: Vedānta.§

vāma: वाम 1) “Pleasant; beautiful; benignant; striving after”—as in Vāmadeva, a name of Śiva. 2) “Left; crooked; acting in the opposite way”—as in vāma mārga, the left-handed tantric path .” See: left-handed, tantrism.§

vānaprastha āśrama: वानप्रस्थ आश्रम “Forest-dweller stage.” See: āśrama dharma, shashṭyābda pūrti. §

vanquish: To defeat or conquer in conflict or competition. See: victors and vanquished.§

Varanasi (Vārāṇasī): वाराणसी Also known as Kasi (Kāśī) or Banaras (Banāras). One of the most holy of Śaivite cities, and among the oldest cities in the world. Located in North India on the Ganges River. Hindus consider it highly sanctifying to die in Kasi, revering it as a gateway to moksha.§

varṇa: वर्ण “External appearance,” covering; type, species, kind, color; caste. See: varṇa dharma.§

varṇa dharma: वर्णधर्म “The way of one’s kind.” The hereditary social class system, generally referred to as caste, established in India in ancient times. Within varṇa dharma are the many religious and moral codes which define human virtue. Varṇa dharma is social duty, in keeping with the principles of good conduct, according to one’s community, which is generally based on the craft or occupation of the family. Strictly speaking it encompasses two interrelated social hierarchies: 1) varṇa, which refers to the four classes: brāhmin, kshatriya, vaiśya and śūdra; and 2) jāti, the myriad occupational subgroups, or guilds, which in India number over 3,000. Hence this dharma is sometimes called jāti dharma. The class-caste system is still very much a part of Indian life today. Many modern Hindus propose that social status is now (and was originally) more properly determined by a person’s skills and accomplishments than by birth. Mobility between jātis, or castes, within Hindu communities worldwide is limited but not impossible, and is accomplished through marrying into a new jāti, or changing professions through persistence, skill and education. Śāstrīs say that once a person breaks out of his varṇa or jāti of birth and changes “caste,” it takes three generations for his family to become fully established in that new stratum of society, provided the continuity is unbroken. §

—varṇa: The four varṇas are as follows. —brāhmin (brāhmaṇa): “Mature, evolved soul.” Scholarly, pious souls of exceptional learning. Hindu scriptures traditionally invest the brāhmin class with the responsibility of religious leadership, including teaching and priestly duties. —kshatriya: “Governing; endowed with sovereignty.” Lawmakers and law enforcers and military, also known as rājanya. —vaiśya: “Landowner, merchant.” Businessmen, financiers, industrialists; employers. Those engaged in business, commerce and agriculture. —śūdra: “Worker, servant.” Skilled artisans and laborers. It is in keeping with varṇa dharma that sons are expected to follow the occupation of their father, as that is the occupation that was chosen prior to birth. §

—jāti: “Birth; position assigned by birth; rank, caste, family, race, lineage.” Jāti, more than varṇa, is the specific determinant of one’s social community. Traditionally, because of rules of purity each jāti is excluded from social interaction with the others, especially from interdining and intermarriage. In modern times there is also a large group (one-seventh of India’s population in 1981) outside the four varṇas. These are called scheduled classes, untouchables, jātihīta (“outcaste”), chandālas (specifically those who handle corpses) and harijan, a name given by Mahatma Gandhi (Mahātma Gāndhi), meaning “children of God.” “Untouchable” jātis included the nishāda (hunter), kaivarta (fisherman) and kārāvara (leather worker). §

The varṇa dharma system—despite its widespread discrimination against harijans, and the abuse of social status by higher castes—ensures a high standard of craftsmanship, a sense of community belonging, family integrity and religio-cultural continuity. Caste is not unique to Hinduism and India. By other names it is found in every society. The four varṇas, or classes, and myriad jātis, occupational castes, or guilds, form the basic elements of human interaction. See: dharma, Dharma Śāstras, jāti.§

varṇāśrama dharma: वर्णाश्रमधर्म “The way of one’s caste and stage of life.” Names the social structure of four classes (varṇa), hundreds of castes (jāti) and four stages of life (āśramas). It is the combined principles of varṇa dharma and āśrama dharma. See: āśrama dharma, dharma, varṇa dharma. §

vāsanā: वासना “Abode.” Subconscious inclinations. From vās, “dwelling, residue, remainder.” The subliminal inclinations and habit patterns which, as driving forces, color and motivate one’s attitudes and future actions. Vāsanās are the conglomerate results of subconscious impressions (saṁskāras) created through experience. Saṁskāras, experiential impressions, combine in the subconscious to form vāsanās, which thereafter contribute to mental fluctuations, called vṛitti. The most complex and emotionally charged vāsanās are found in the dimension of mind called the sub-subconscious, or vāsanā chitta. See: mind (five states) saṁskāra, vāsanā daha tantra, vṛitti.§

vāsanā daha tantra: वासनादहतन्त्र “Subconscious purification by fire.” Daha means to burn, a tantra is a method, and vāsanās are deep-seated subconscious traits or tendencies that shape one’s attitudes and motivations. Vāsanās can be either positive or negative. One of the best methods for resolving difficulties in life, of dissolving troublesome vāsanās, the vāsanā daha tantra is the practice of burning confessions, or even long letters to loved ones or acquaintances, describing pains, expressing confusions and registering complaints and long-held hurts. Writing down problems and burning them in any ordinary fire brings them from the subconscious into the external mind, releasing the supressed emotion as the fire consumes the paper. This is a magical healing process. See: lekhaprārtha havana, vāsanā. §

Vasishtha (Vasishṭha): वसिष्ठ Disciple of Maharishi Nandikesvara (Nandinatha) (ca 250 BCE) along with Patanjali and Vyaghrapada (as recorded in Panini’s book of grammar). Also the name of several other famous sages, including the ṛishi attributed with composing the hymns of the Ṛig Veda’s seventh maṇḍala, another who plays a central role in the epics and certain Purāṇas and Upanishads, and a third who expounds the ancient yogic wisdom to Lord Rāma in the 29,000-verse Yoga Vāsishṭha. §

Vasugupta: वसुगुप्त Celebrated preceptor (ca 800) whose finding of the Śiva Sūtras catalyzed the reemergence of the ancient Kashmīr Śaiva tradition. It is said that he discovered the 77 sūtras carved in a rock on Mahādeva mountain after a visionary dream in which Lord Śiva told him of their location. The sacred rock, named Śaṅkarpal, is revered to this day. See: Kashmīr Śaivism, Śiva Sūtras.§

vaṭa: वट The banyan tree, Ficus indica, sacred to Śiva. Thought to derive from vaṭ, “to surround, encompass”—also called nyagrodha, “growing downwards.” Ancient symbol of the Sanātana Dharma. Its relative, the aśvattha, or pīpal tree, is given in the Upanishads as a metaphor for creation, with the “roots above and the branches below.”§

vāta: वात “Fluctuation.” Vāyu, “wind, air-ether.” One of the three bodily humors, called dosha, vāta is known as the air humor. Principle of circulation in the body. Vāta dosha governs such functions as breathing and movement of the muscles and tissues. See: āyurveda, dosha. §

vault: An arched roof, ceiling or chamber.§

Veda: वेद “Wisdom.” Sagely revelations which comprise Hinduism’s most authoritative scripture. They, along with the Āgamas, are śruti, that which is “heard.” The Vedas are a body of dozens of holy texts known collectively as the Veda, or as the four Vedas: Ṛig, Yajur, Sāma and Atharva. In all they include over 100,000 verses, as well as additional prose. The knowledge imparted by the Vedas ranges from earthy devotion to high philosophy. Each Veda has four sections: Saṁhitās (hymn collections), Brāhmaṇas (priestly manuals), Āraṇyakas (forest treatises) and Upanishads (enlightened discourses). The Saṁhitās and Brāhmaṇas (together known as the karmakāṇḍa, “ritual section”) affirm a transcendent-immanent Supreme-Being cosmology and a system of worship through fire ceremony and chanting devotional hymns to establish communication with the Gods. The Āraṇyakas and Upanishads (the jñānakāṇḍa, “knowledge section”) outline the soul’s evolutionary journey, providing yogic-philosophic training and propounding a lofty, nondual realization as the destiny of all souls. The oldest portions of the Vedas are thought by some to date back as far as 6,000 BCE, written down in Sanskrit in the last few millennia, making them the world’s most ancient scriptures. See: Āraṇyaka, Brāhmaṇa, śruti, Upanishad, Vedāṅga.§

Vedāṅga: वेदाङ्ग “Veda-limb.” Six branches of post-Vedic studies revered as auxiliary to the Vedas. Four Vedāṅgas govern correct chanting of the Vedas: 1) Śikshā (phonetics), 2) Çhandas (meter), 3) Nirukta (etymology), 4) Vyākaraṇa (grammar). The two other Vedāṅgas are 5) Jyotisha Vedāṅga (astronomy-astrology) and 6) Kalpa Vedāṅga (procedural canon) which includes the Śrauta and Śulba Śāstras (ritual codes), Dharma Śāstras (social law) and Gṛihya Śāstras (domestic codes). See: Kalpa Vedāṅga and respective entries.§

Vedānta: वेदान्त “Ultimate wisdom” or “final conclusions of the Vedas.” Vedānta is the system of thought embodied in the Upanishads (ca 1500-600 BCE), which give forth the ultimate conclusions of the Vedas. Through history there developed numerous Vedānta schools, ranging from pure dualism to absolute monism. The Vedānta perspective elucidated in Dancing with Śiva is Advaita Īśvaravāda, “monistic theism” or panentheism, exemplified in the Vedānta-Siddhānta of Rishi Tirumular (ca 250 BCE) of the Nandinātha Sampradāya in his Tirumantiram, which is a perfect summation of both the Vedas and the Āgamas. This is a dipolar reconciliation of monism and dualism which, as philosopher-statesman Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (1888–1975) declared, best describes the philosophy of the Upanishads. After ca 700 CE, many other schools evolved, each establishing itself through written commentaries on the major Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gītā and the Brahma Sūtras. The latter text, by Badarayana (ca 400 BCE), is the earliest known systematization of Vedānta, but its extremely terse aphorisms are philosophically cryptic without commentary. During the “scholastic era” (700–1700), three main variations of the original Vedānta were developed: 1) Advaita Vedānta, or pure nondualism, exemplified by Sankara (788‒820); 2) Viśishṭādvaita Vedānta, or qualified nondualism, most fully expressed by Ramanuja (1017‒1137); and 3) Dvaita Vedānta, expounded by Madhva (1197‒1278). §

Panentheism is embodied in those qualified nondual Vedānta schools that accept the ultimate identity of the soul and God. Examples are the Viśishṭādvaita of Bhaskara (ca 950), the Śuddha Advaita, “pure nondualism,” of Vallabha (ca 1475‒1530) and, to a lesser degree, the Viśishṭādvaita of Ramanuja. §

In summary: Madhva, the dualist, conceives Brahman to be the Personal God. In his philosophy, the universe, souls and God are all separate from one another and real. Ramanuja, the qualified nondualist, also conceives Brahman to be the Personal God. In his philosophy, God must not be considered apart from the world and souls, for the three together form a one whole. The world and souls are real as the body of God, and the individual soul feels himself to be part of God. Sankara, the strict advaitist, conceives Brahman to be the Impersonal God, the Absolute. Sankara does not deny the existence of the Personal God, known as Īśvara, but declares Īśvara to be equally as unreal as the universe and the individuality of the soul. In truth, the only Reality is the Absolute, and man is that Absolute. To Rishi Tirumular, the panentheist, there is an eternal oneness of God and man at the level of their inner Being, but a difference is acknowledged during the evolution of the soul. Ultimately even this difference merges in identity. Thus, there is perfectly beginningless oneness and a temporary difference which resolves itself in perfect identity. §

Vedānta is one of the six classical philosophies (shaḍ darśanas) along with Nyāya, Vaiśeshika, Sāṅkhya, Yoga and Mīmāṁsā. Vedānta is also called Uttara Mīmāṁsā, “upper or later examination,” as distinguished from Pūrva Mīmāṁsā, which concerned itself solely with the earlier portions of the Veda. Other important schools of Vedānta include the Dvaitādvaita, “dual-nondualism,” of Nimbarka (ca 1150), and the Achintya Bhedābheda, “unthinkable difference-nondifference,” of Chaitanya (1485‒1534). See: acosmic pantheism, Advaita Īśvaravāda, dvaita-advaita, Madhva, monistic theism, panentheism, Ramanuja, Tirumantiram, Vallabha.§

Vedic-Āgamic: Simultaneously drawing from and complying with both of Hinduism’s revealed scriptures (śruti), Vedas and Āgamas, which represent two complimentary, intertwining streams of history and tradition. The difference between Siddhānta and Vedānta is traditionally described in the way that while the Vedas depict man looking for God, the Āgamas hold the perspective of God looking to help man. This is reflected in the fact that while the Vedas are voiced by ṛishis, God or the Goddess is the bestower of truth in the Āgama texts. See: grace, śruti.§

vegetarian: Śakāhāra. Of a diet which excludes meat, fish, fowl and eggs. Vegetarianism is a principle of health and environmental ethics that has been a keystone of Indian life for thousands of years. Vegetarian foods include grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and dairy products. Natural, fresh foods, locally grown, without insecticides or chemical fertilizers, are preferred. The following foods are minimized: frozen and canned foods, highly processed foods, such as white rice, white sugar and white flour; and “junk” foods and beverages (those with abundant chemical additives, such as artificial sweeteners, colorings, flavorings and preservatives). One observing a vegetarian diet is called a śakāhārī. See: guṇa, mānsāhārī, yama-niyama.§

veil: A piece of cloth used to conceal. To cover or hide. §

veiling grace: Tirobhāva śakti. The divine power that limits the soul’s perception by binding or attaching the soul to the bonds of āṇava, karma, and māyā— enabling it to grow and evolve as an individual being. See: grace.§

vel: வேல் “Spear, lance.” The symbol of Lord Kārttikeya’s divine authority as Lord of yoga and commander of the devas. (Known as śūla in Sanskrit.) See: Kārttikeya.§

Vellore: வேலூர் See: Chinna Bomman.§

venerate: To love or consider with respect and admiration; to revere. From the Latin veneratus, worshiped, revered.§

vengeful: Desiring or seeking to return injury for injury. Bent on revenge.§

venture: To risk. To express in words at the risk of criticism.§

veracity: Honesty, truthfulness; accuracy. §

vermillion: Bright red. §

vernacular: Language or dialect commonly spoken in a given country or region.§

veshti: வேஷ்டி A long, unstitched cloth like a sarong, wound about the waist and reaching below the ankles. Traditional Hindu apparel for men. It can be wrapped in many different styles. A Tamil word derived from the Sanskrit veshṭana, “encircling.” Also called vetti (Tamil) or dhotī (Hindi). §

vestments: The clothing, especially official robes or other garb, worn by religious persons, often as a sign of their spiritual position or ordination.§

vibhūti: विभूति “Resplendent, powerful.” Holy ash, prepared by burning cow dung along with other precious substances, milk, ghee, honey, etc. It symbolizes purity and is one of the main sacraments given at pūjā in all Śaivite temples and shrines. Śaivites wear three stripes on the brow as a distinct sectarian mark, as do many Smārtas. Vibhūti is also a synonym for siddhi, supernormal powers developed through yoga practice. It is the title of the third chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras, which discusses siddhis. See: tilaka, tripuṇḍra.§

vice: Fault or failing, from the Lain vitium. Corrupt habits; depravity. Related to the Sanskrit vishu, meaning, “adverse; in opposite directions.” §

victors and vanquished: Those who triumph and those who are defeated in war, debate or any competition. A concept or attitude about winning and losing derived from dualistic beliefs, which can lead to adharma, hiṁsā, etc. §

vid: विद् “To know.” Verbal root of Veda and vidyā, “knowledge.”§

videhamukti: विदेहमुक्ति “Disembodied liberation.” Release from reincarnation through nirvikalpa samādhi—the realization of the Self, Paraśiva—at the point of death. Blessed are those who are aware that departure, mahāsamādhi, is drawing near. They settle all affairs, make amends and intensify personal sādhana. They seek the silver channel of sushumṇā which guides kuṇḍalinī through the door of Brahman into the beyond of the beyond. They seek total renunciation as the day of transition looms strongly in their consciousness. Those who know that Lord Yama is ready to receive them seek to merge with Śiva. They seek nirvikalpa samādhi as the body and earthly life fall away. Those who succeed are the videhamuktas, honored as among those who will never be reborn. Hindu tradition allows for vows of renunciation, called ātura sannyāsa dīkshā, to be taken and the orange robe donned by the worthy sādhaka or householder in the days prior to death. See: jīvanmukti, kaivalya, moksha, Paraśiva, Self Realization. §

vidyā: विद्या “Knowledge, learning, science.” The power of understanding gained through study and meditation. Contrasted with avidyā, ignorance. §

vidyārambha: विद्यारंभ “Commencement of learning.” See: saṁskāras of childhood.§

Vighneśvara: विघ्नेश्वर “Lord of Obstacles.” A name for Lord Gaṇeśa describing His power to both remove and create obstacles to guide souls along the right path. See: Gaṇeśa.§

Vijayanagara: विजयनगर “City of Victory.” Opulent city and last Indian empire, centered in present-day Karnataka state, which extended as far as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. It flourished from 1336 to 1565, at which time it began to disintegrate following defeat at the hand of Muslim armies. However, its existence and strength did serve to prevent Muslim expansion into South India. Awed visitors recounted its fabulously rich culture and great wealth. Site of extensive recent archeological restoration. §

vijñānamaya kośa: विज्ञानमयकोश “Sheath of cognition.” The soul’s mental or cognitive-intuitive sheath, also called the actinodic sheath. See: kośa, mental body, soul. §

Vināyaka: विनायक “Remover.” A name of Lord Gaṇeśa, meaning the remover of obstacles (sometimes preceded by vighna, “obstacle”). See: Gaṇeśa. §

Vināyaka Ahaval: விநாயகர் அகவல் “Ode to Vināyaka.” Famous Tamil poem in praise of Gaṇeśa by the 8th-century woman saint, Auvaiyar. §

Vināyaka Vratam: விநாயகவிரதம் tpehaftpujk; A 21-day festival to Lord Gaṇeśa beginning on the full-moon day of November-December. An important festival in Tamil Nadu and in Tamil communities worldwide, when special pūjās are conducted in Gaṇeśa temples, and devotees make a vow (vrata), such as to attend the daily pūjā, or to fast by taking only one meal a day.§

Vīra Śaivism (Śaiva): वीरशैव “Heroic Śaivism.” Made prominent by Basavanna in the 12th century. Also called Liṅgāyat Śaivism. Followers, called Liṅgāyats, Liṅgavantas or Śivaśaraṇas, always wear a Śivaliṅga on their person. Vīra Śaivites are proudly egalitarian and emphasize the personal relationship with Śiva, rather than temple worship. Vīra Śaiva priests, jaṅgamas, conduct marriages and other domestic rites and also act as gurus or teachers. Among the most central texts are Basavanna’s Vachanas, Allama Prabhu’s Mantragopya, Chennabasavanna’s Kāraṇa Hasuge, and the collected work called Śūnya Sampādane. The monistic-theistic doctrine of Vīra Śaivism is called Śakti Viśishṭādvaita—a version of qualified nondualism which accepts both difference and nondifference between soul and God, like rays are to the sun. In brief, Śiva and the cosmic force or existence are one (“Śiva are you; you shall return to Śiva.”). Yet, Śiva is beyond His creation, which is real, not illusory. God is both efficient and material cause. In Vīra Śaivism, Śiva divides from His Absolute state into Liṅga (Supreme Lord) and āṅga, individual soul, the two eventually reuniting in undifferentiated oneness. There are three aspects of Śivaliṅga. 1) Ishṭaliṅga, personal form of Śiva, in which He fulfills desires and removes afflictions—God as bliss or joy; 2) Bhāvaliṅga, Śiva beyond space and time, the highest divine principle, knowable through intuition; 3) Prāṇaliṅga, the reality of God which can be apprehended by the mind. The soul merges with Śiva by a progressive, six-stage path called shaṭsthala, consisting of bhakti (devotion), maheśa (charity and selfless service), prasāda (seeking Śiva’s grace), Prāṇaliṅga (experience of all as Śiva), śaraṇa (egoless refuge in Śiva) and aikya (oneness with Śiva). Today Vīra Śaivism is a vibrant faith, particularly strong in its religious homeland of Karnataka, South Central India. Roughly 40 million people live here, of which perhaps 25% are members of the Vīra Śaiva religion. Early on, they rejected brāhminical authority, and along with it the entire caste system and the Vedas. By rejecting the Vedas, they continue to stand outside mainstream Hinduism, but in their profound love of Śiva and acceptance of certain Śaiva Āgamas, as well as the main truths of the Vedic wisdom, they have identified themselves as a unique Śaiva sect. Though they have established their faith as a distinct and independent religion in Indian courts of law, they are still widely embraced as devout brothers and sisters of the Hindu dharma. See: Liṅgavanta, Śaivism. §

virginal: Characteristic of a virgin. Pure. —virginal God: Reference to Lord Kārttikeya, the perpetual bachelor, descriptive of His inherent purity.§

visarjana: विसर्जन “Departure.” See: Gaṇeśa Chaturthī.§

Vishṇu: विष्णु “All-pervasive.” Supreme Deity of the Vaishṇavite religion. God as personal Lord and Creator, the All-Loving Divine Personality, who periodically incarnates and lives a fully human life to reestablish dharma whenever necessary. In Śaivism, Vishṇu is Śiva’s aspect as Preserver. See: Vaishṇavism.§

visionary: Characteristic of one who has visions; a prophet, evolved seer. §

Viśishṭādvaita: विशिष्टाद्वैत “Qualified nondualism.” Best known as the term used by Ramanuja (ca 1017-1137) to name his Vaishṇava Vedānta philosophy, which is nondualistic in that the ultimate truth or reality is one, not two, and souls are in fact part of God. And it is “qualified” in that souls are fully one with God, but not identical. Thus there is a full union which is somewhat shy of total merger. Śiva Viśishṭādvaita was the term chosen by Bhaskara (ca 950) to name his philosophy. See: Śiva Advaita, Vedānta.§

visualize (visualization): To imagine, create mental images. Exercising the power of thought to plan for and shape the future.§

viśuddha chakra: विशुद्धचक्र “Wheel of purity.” The fifth chakra. Center of divine love. See: chakra.§

viśvagrāsa: विश्वग्रास “Total absorption.” The final merger of the soul in Śiva at the fulfillment of its evolution. It is the ultimate union of the individual soul body with the body of Śiva—Parameśvara—within the Śivaloka, from whence the soul was first emanated. This occurs at the end of the soul’s evolution, after the four outer sheaths—annamaya kośa, prāṇamaya kośa, manomaya kośa and vijñāmaya kośa—have been discarded. Finally, ānandamaya kośa, the soul form itself, merges in the Primal Soul. Individuality is lost as the soul becomes Śiva, the Creator, Preserver, Destroyer, Veiler and Revealer. Individual identity expands into universality. Having previously merged in Paraśiva and Parāśakti in states of samādhi, the soul now fully merges into Parameśvara and is one with all three of Śiva’s perfections. Jīva has totally become Śiva—not a new and independent Śiva, as might be construed, for there is and can only be one Supreme God Śiva. This fulfilled merger can happen at the moment the physical body is dropped off, or after eons of time following further unfoldment of the higher chakras in the inner worlds—all depending on the maturity, ripeness and intentions of the soul, by which is meant the advanced soul’s choice to be either an upadeśī or a nirvāṇī. See: ātman, evolution of the soul, nirvāṇī and upadeśī, samādhi, soul.§

vitala: वितल “Region of negation.” Region of raging anger and viciousness. The second chakra below the mūlādhāra, centered in the thighs. Corresponds to the second astral netherworld beneath the Earth’s surface, called Avīchi (“joyless”) or Vitala. See: chakra, loka, Naraka.§

vivāha: विवाह “Marriage.” See: saṁskāras.§

Viveka Chūḍāmaṇi: विवेकचूडामणि “Crest jewel of discrimination.” A famous work by Sankara (788-820) on discipline and discrimination between the real and the unreal as the way to God. §

Viveka Mārtaṇḍa: विवेकमार्तण्ड A philosophic treatise of the Siddha Siddhānta school of Śaivism ascribed to Gorakshanātha (ca 900).§

Vivekananda, Swami (Vivekānanda): विवेकानन्द [1863-1902] Disciple of Sri Ramakrishna who was overtaken by an ardent love of Hinduism and a missionary zeal that drove him onward. He attained mahāsamādhi at age 39. Most notable among his achievements was a trip around the world on which he gave brilliant lectures, especially in Europe and America, that created much respect for Hinduism. In India he founded the Ramakrishna Mission which thrives today internationally with over 100 centers and nearly 1,000 sannyāsins. He is credited, along with Tagore, Aurobindo, Radhakrishnan and others, with sparking the modern Hindu revival. See: jñāna yoga, Ramakrishna.§

vivify: To give life to, or make more active, influential. §

void: An empty space. Philosophically, emptiness itself. The absence of time, form and space. God Śiva in His perfection as Paraśiva, as a sacred void, but not “like the emptiness inside of an empty box....[It] is the fullness of everything.” See: Paraśiva.§

votary: A person committed by a vow. A devotee; a monk or nun.§

vrata: व्रत “Vow, religious oath.” Often a vow to perform certain disciplines over a period of time, such as penance, fasting, specific mantra repetitions, worship or meditation. Vratas extend from the simplest personal promise to irrevocable vows made before God, Gods, guru and community. See: marriage covenant, sannyāsa dīkshā, Vināyaka Vratam.§

vṛitti: वृत्ति “Whirlpool, vortex.” In yoga psychology, the fluctuations of consciousness, the waves of mental activity (chitta vṛitti) of thought and perception. A statement from Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtras (1.2) reads, “Yoga is the restraint (nirodha) of mental activity (chitta vṛitti).” In general use, vṛitti means: 1) course of action, mode of life; conduct, behavior; way in which something is done; 2) mode of being, nature, kind, character. See: mind (individual), rāja yoga, upasarga, vāsana.§

Vyaghrapada (Vyāghrapāda): व्याघ्रपाद “Tiger feet.” Famous Nandinātha Sampradāya siddha (ca 200 BCE), trained under Maharishi Nandinatha, was a brother disciple of ṛishis Tirumular and Patanjali. He pilgrimaged south from Kashmir, settling at Tamil Nadu’s Chidambaram Śiva Temple to practice yoga. See: Kailāsa Paramparā.§

Vyākaraṇa Vedāṅga: व्याकरणवेदाङ्ग Auxiliary Vedic texts on Sanskrit grammar. Vyākaraṇa is among four linguistic skills taught for mastery of the Vedas and the rites of yajña. The term literally means “separation, analysis or explication.” The most celebrated Vyākaraṇa work is Panini’s 4,000-sūtra Ashṭādhyāyī, which set the linguistic standards for classical Sanskrit (ca 400 BCE). See: Vedāṅga.


imagewane: To decrease. “On the wane:” in the process of decreasing or disappearing.§

warp and woof: In the art of weaving, warp names the lengthwise threads that give structure to the cloth; woof denotes the crossing threads that give design and color. Taken together, the expression “warp and woof” means the very fiber or essence of a thing. §

waver: To vacillate, showing doubt or indecision. Characteristic of not being firm-minded. To be unsure of oneself. See: conversion to Hinduism.§

wealth: Artha. Abundance; financial stability. See: purushārtha.§

wedding pendant: A gold ornament worn by the Hindu wife around the neck representing her vows of matrimony. Known as maṅgala sūtra in Sanskrit, and tali in Tamil. She reveres it as an image of her husband and ritually worships it during her morning devotions.§

whence: From where. Whence does it come? Where does it come from?§

whirling: To move rapidly in a circular motion. §

wield: To hold and use with skill and power.§

wisdom: The timely application of knowledge. The power of judging the best course of action, based on understanding, knowledge and experience.§

withholding: To refrain from giving. Not granting. §

woeful: Sad, pitiful, full of sorrow. —woeful birth: An unfavorable birth; a life of difficulties resulting from negative karmas accrued in previous lives.§

wondrous: Inspiring awe, extraordinary, mirific.§

woodwind: A wind instrument such as the flute or the Indian nāgasvara.§

woof: See: warp and woof.§

Words of Our Master: A collection of sayings and statements of Sage Yogaswami of Sri Lanka—compiled from notes and recollections of devotees. §

world: In Hindu theology, world refers to 1) loka: a particular region of consciousness or plane of existence. 2) māyā: The whole of manifest existence; the phenomenal universe, or cosmos. In this sense it transcends the limitations of physical reality, and can include emotional, mental and spiritual, physical realms of existence, depending on its use. Also denoted by the terms prakṛiti and Brahmāṇḍa. 3) pāśa: In Śaivism, the term world is often used to translate the term pāśa in the Āgamic triad of fundamentals—Pati, paśu, pāśa, “God, soul, world.” It is thus defined as the “fetter” (pāśa) that binds the soul, veiling its true nature and enabling it to grow and evolve through experience as an individual being. In this sense, the world, or pāśa, is threefold, comprising āṇava (the force of individuation), karma (the principle of cause and effect) and māyā (manifestation, the principle of matter, Śiva’s mirific energy, the sixth tattva). See: Brahmāṇḍa, microcosm-macrocosm, sarvabhadra, Śivamaya, tattva.§

worldly: Materialistic, unspiritual. Devoted to or concerned with the affairs or pleasures of the world, especially excessive concern to the exclusion of religious thought and life. Connoting ways born of the lower chakras: jealousy, greed, selfishness, anger, guile, etc. —worldliness: The state or quality of being worldly. —worldly wise: Knowledgeable in the ways of the world. Street wise. Sophisticated. See: materialism, saṁsārī.§

wrath: Intense anger. Rage.§

written prayers: See: lekhaprārtha havana. §

wrought: Formed, fashioned, crafted, built.


imageyajña: यज्ञ “Worship; sacrifice.” One of the most central Hindu concepts—sacrifice and surrender through acts of worship, inner and outer. 1) A form of ritual worship especially prevalent in Vedic times, in which oblations—ghee, grains, spices and exotic woods—are offered into a fire according to scriptural injunctions while special mantras are chanted. The element fire, Agni, is revered as the divine messenger who carries offerings and prayers to the Gods. The ancient Veda Brāhmaṇas and the Śrauta Śāstras describe various types of yajña rites, some so elaborate as to require hundreds of priests, whose powerful chanting resounds for miles. These major yajñas are performed in large, open-air structures called yāgaśālā. Domestic yajñas, prescribed in the Gṛihya Śāstras, are performed in the family compound or courtyard. Yajña requires four components, none of which may be omitted: dravya, sacrificial substances; tyāga, the spirit of sacrificing all to God; devatā, the celestial beings who receive the sacrifice; and mantra, the empowering word or chant. §

While pūjā (worship in temples with water, lights and flowers) has largely replaced the yajña, this ancient rite still continues, and its specialized priestly training is carried on in schools in India. Yajñas on a grand scale are performed for special occasions, beseeching the Gods for rain during drought, or for peace during bloody civil war. Even in temples, yajña has its Āgamic equivalent in the agnikāraka, the homa or havana ceremony, held in a fire pit (homakuṇḍa) in an outer maṇḍapa of a temple as part of elaborate pūjā rites. §

2) Personal acts of worship or sacrifice. Life itself is a jīvayajña. The Upanishads suggest that one can make “inner yajñas” by offering up bits of the little self into the fires of sādhana and tapas until the greater Self shines forth. The five daily yajñas, pañcha mahāyajña, of the householder (outlined in the Dharma Śāstras) ensure offerings to ṛishis, ancestors, Gods, creatures and men. They are as follows. —brahma yajña: (also called Veda yajña or ṛishi yajña) “Homage to the seers.” Accomplished through studying and teaching the Vedas. —deva yajña: “Homage to Gods and elementals.” Recognizing the debt due to those who guide nature, and the feeding of them by pouring into the fire. This is the homa sacrifice. —pitṛi yajña: “Homage to ancestors.” Offering of cakes (piṇḍa) and water to the family line and the progenitors of mankind. —bhūta yajña: “Homage to beings.” Placing food-offerings, bali, on the ground, intended for animals, birds, insects, wandering outcastes and beings of the invisible worlds. (“Let him gently place on the ground [food] for dogs, outcastes, svapachas, those diseased from sins, crows and insects” Manu Dharma Śāstras 3.92). —manushya yajña: “Homage to men.” Feeding guests and the poor, the homeless and the student. Manushya yajña includes all acts of philanthropy, such as tithing and charity. The Vedic study is performed in the morning. The other four yajñas are performed just before taking one’s noon meal. Manu Dharma Śāstras (3.80) states, “Let him worship, according to the rule, the ṛishis with Veda study, the devas with homa, the pitṛis with śrāddha, men with food, and the bhūtas with bali.” Mystics warn that all offerings must be tempered in the fires of kuṇḍalinī through the power of inner yajña to be true and valuable, just as the fire of awareness is needed to indelibly imprint ideas and concepts on one’s own ākāśic window. See: dharma, havana, homa, pūjā, sacrifice. §

Yajnavalkya (Yajñavalkya): याज्ञवल्क्य See: Bṛihadāraṇyaka Upanishad, Paiṅgala Upanishad, Yājñavalkya Smṛiti, Yājñavalkya Upanishad.§

Yājñavalkya Smṛiti: याज्ञवल्क्यस्मृति A Hindu code of law, one of the Dharma Śāstras, regarded second in authority only to the earlier Manu Dharma Śāstras. See: Dharma Śāstra, smṛiti.§

Yājñavalkya Upanishad: याज्ञवल्क्य उपनिषद् A metrical rendering of the Jābāla Upanishad, which expounds on sannyāsa, renunciation of worldly life in the quest for liberation. §

yajñopavīta: यज्ञोपवीत The “sacred thread” received by a youth at the upanayana saṁskāra. See: upanayana. §

Yajur Veda: यजुर्वेद “Wisdom of sacrificial formulas.” One of the four bodies of revelatory texts called Vedas (Ṛig, Sāma, Yajur and Atharva). When used alone, the term Yajur Veda generally refers to this Veda’s central and oldest portion—the Saṁhitā, “hymn collection.” Of this there are two recensions: 1) theKṛishṇa (“black”) Yajur Veda (so-called because the commentary, Brāhmaṇa, material is mixed with the hymns); and 2) the Śukla (“white or clear”) Yajur Veda (with no commentary among the hymns). The contents of these two recensions are also presented in different order. The Yajur Veda Saṁhitā is divided into 40 chapters and contains 1,975 stanzas. About 30 percent of the stanzas are drawn from the Ṛig Veda Saṁhitā (particularly from chapters eight and nine). This Veda is a special collection of hymns to be chanted during yajña. The Kṛishṇa Yajur Veda Saṁhitā exists today in various recensions, most importantly the Taittirīya Saṁhitā and the Maitrāyaṇī Saṁhitā. The Śukla Yajur Veda Saṁhitā is preserved most prominently as the Vājasaneyi Saṁhitā. See: Vedas.§

Yama: यम “The restrainer.” Hindu God of death; oversees the processes of death transition, guiding the soul out of its present physical body. See: death.§

yama-niyama: यम नियम The first two of the eight limbs of rāja yoga, constituting Hinduism’s fundamental ethical codes, the yamas and niyamas are the essential foundation for all spiritual progress. They are codified in numerous scriptures including the Śāṇḍilya and Varuha Upanishads, Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā by Gorakshanātha, the Tirumantiram of Tirumular and the Yoga Sūtras of Patanjali. All the above texts list ten yamas and ten niyamas, with the exception of Patanjali’s classic work, which lists only five of each. The yamas are the ethical restraints; the niyamas are the religious practices. Because it is brief, the entire code can be easily memorized and reviewed daily by the spiritual aspirant. Here are the ten traditional yamas and ten niyamas. —yamas: 1) ahiṁsā: “Noninjury.” Not harming others by thought, word, or deed. 2) satya: “Truthfulness.” Refraining from lying and betraying promises. 3) asteya: “Nonstealing.” Neither stealing, nor coveting nor entering into debt. 4) brahmacharya: “Divine conduct.” Controlling lust by remaining celibate when single, leading to faithfulness in marriage. 5) kshamā: “Patience.” Restraining intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances. 6) dhṛiti: “Steadfastness.” Overcoming nonperseverance, fear, indecision and changeableness. 7) dayā: “Compassion.” Conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings. 8) ārjava: “Honesty, straightforwardness.” Renouncing deception and wrongdoing. 9) mitāhāra: “Moderate appetite.” Neither eating too much nor consuming meat, fish, fowl or eggs. 10) śaucha: “Purity.” Avoiding impurity in body, mind and speech. —niyamas: 1) hrī: “Remorse.” Being modest and showing shame for misdeeds. 2) santosha: “Contentment.”Seeking joy and serenity in life. 3) dāna: “Giving.” Tithing and giving generously without thought of reward. 4) āstikya: “Faith.” Believing firmly in God, Gods, guru and the path to enlightenment. 5) Īśvarapūjana: “Worship of the Lord.” The cultivation of devotion through daily worship and meditation. 6) siddhānta śravaṇa: “Scriptural audition.” Studying the teachings and listening to the wise of one’s lineage. 7) mati: “Cognition.” Developing a spiritual will and intellect with the guru’s guidance. 8) vrata: “Sacred vows.” Fulfilling religious vows, rules and observances faithfully. 9) japa: “Recitation.” Chanting mantras daily. 10) tapas: “Austerity.” Performing sādhana, penance, tapas and sacrifice. Patanjali lists the yamas as: ahiṁsā, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha (noncovetousness); and the niyamas as: śaucha, santosha, tapas, svādhyāya (self-reflection, private scriptural study) and Īśvarapraṇidhāna (worship). See: rāja yoga. §

yantra: यन्त्र “Vessel; container.” A mystic diagram composed of geometric and alphabetic figures—usually etched on small plates of gold, silver or copper. Sometimes rendered in three dimensions in stone or metal. The purpose of a yantra is to focus spiritual and mental energies according to computer-like yantric pattern, be it for health, wealth, childbearing or the invoking of one God or another. It is usually installed near or under the temple Deity. Psychically seen, the temple yantra is a magnificent three-dimensional edifice of light and sound in which the devas work. On the astral plane, it is much larger than the temple itself. —Śrī Chakra: The most well known yantra and a central image in Śākta worship. Consisting of nine interlocking triangles, it is the design of Śiva-Śakti’s multidimensional manifestations. Yantras are also used for meditation and sādhana, especially in the Śākta tradition. Installing them beneath Deities is a fairly modern practice, while the Āgamas prescribe the placement of precious gems. For Śaivites the Tiru-ambala Chakra, representing Lord Naṭarāja, is most sacred. See: mūrti. §

yea: Yes, indeed, truly. §

yield: To produce as a result of cultivation, such as fruit. To profit or give.§

yoga: योग “Union.” From yuj, “to yoke, harness, unite.” The philosophy, process, disciplines and practices whose purpose is the yoking of individual consciousness with transcendent or divine consciousness. One of the six darśanas, or systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy. Yoga wascodified by Patanjali in his Yoga Sūtras (ca 200 BCE) as the eight limbs (ashṭāṅga) of rāja yoga. It is essentially a one system but, historically, parts of rāja yoga have been developed and emphasized as yogas in themselves. Prominent among the many forms of yoga are haṭha yoga (emphasizing bodily perfection in preparation for meditation), kriyā yoga (emphasizing breath control), as well as karma yoga (selfless service) and bhakti yoga (devotional practices) which could be regarded as an expression of rāja yoga’s first two limbs (yama and niyama). See: austerity, bhakti yoga, daṇḍa, haṭha yoga, jīvanmukta, rāja yoga, shaḍ darśana, siddha yoga, siddhi. §

yoga pāda: योगपाद The third of the successive stages in spiritual unfoldment in Śaiva Siddhānta, wherein the goal is Self Realization. See: pāda, yoga. §

Yoga Sampradāya: योगसंप्रदाय A term for Siddha Siddhānta. See: Śaivism.§

Yogaswami (Yogaswāmī): யோகசுவாமி “Master of yoga.” Sri Lanka’s most renowned contemporary spiritual master (1872‒1964), a Sivajñāni and Nātha siddhar revered by both Hindus and Buddhists. He was trained in and practiced kuṇḍalinī yoga under the guidance of Satguru Chellappaswami, from whom he received guru dīkshā. Sage Yogaswami was in turn the satguru of Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Yogaswami conveyed his teachings in hundreds of songs, called Natchintanai, “good thoughts,” urging seekers to follow dharma and realize God within. Four great sayings capsulize his message: Thanai ari, “Know thy Self by thyself;” Sarvam Sivam Ceyal, “Śiva is doing it all;” Sarvam Śivamaya, “All is Śiva;” and Summa Iru, “Be still.” See: Kailāsa Paramparā. §

yoga tapas: योगतपस् “Fiery union.” Relentless, sustained yoga practice that awakens the fiery kuṇḍalinī, bringing the transforming heat of tapas and ultimately the repeated experience of the Self God, leading to jñāna, the wisdom state. See: Advaita Siddhānta, austerity, daṇḍa, jīvanmukta, jñāna, Kadaitswami, karma, penance, puṇya, siddhi, tapas, yama, yoga. §

Yogatattva Upanishad: योगतत्त्व उपनिषद् Scripture of 142 verses based on Advaita Vedānta and yoga practices, ca 1400. §

Yoga Vāsishṭha: योगवासिष्ठ Poetic work of over 29,000 verses attributed to Vālmīki. It is a dialog between Prince Rāma and his teacher, Sage Vasishtha, in the form of 50 intriguing stories which present advaita and the concepts and ideals of yoga in elegant Sanskrit. (Variously dated between 500 and 1000 CE.)§

yogī: योगी One who practices yoga, especially kuṇḍalinī or rāja yoga. §

yoginī: योगिनी Feminine counterpart of yogī.§

yon: That or those (at a distance).§

yoni: योनि “Source, origin; female genitals, womb.” In some tantric sects the Śivaliṅga is depicted as a phallic symbol, and the base as a vulva, or yoni. While the liṅga represents the unmanifest or static Absolute, the yoni represents the dynamic, creative energy of God, the womb of the universe. §

yore: Of yore: a long time ago, in a distant past. §

young soul: A soul who has gone through only a few births, and is thus inexperienced or immature. See: evolution of the soul, soul. §

yuga: युग “Eon,” “age.” One of four ages which chart the duration of the world according to Hindu thought. They are: Satya (or Kṛita), Tretā, Dvāpara and Kali. In the first period, dharma reigns supreme, but as the ages revolve, virtue diminishes and ignorance and injustice increases. At the end of the Kali Yuga, in which we are now, the cycle begins again with a new Satya Yuga. It is said in the Mahābhārata that during the Satya Yuga all are brāhmins, and the color of this yuga is white. In the Tretā Yuga, righteousness decreases by one-fourth and men seek reward for their rites and gifts; the color is red and the consciousness of the kshatriya, sovereignty, prevails. In the Dvāpara Yuga, the four varṇas come fully into existence. The color is yellow. In the Kali Yuga, the color is black. Righteousness is one-tenth that of the Satya Yuga. True worship and sacrifice cease, and base, or śūdra, consciousness is prominent. Calamities, disease, fatigue and faults such as anger and fear prevail. People decline and their motives grow weak. See: cosmic cycle, mahāpralaya, pralaya.


imagezenith: Highest point; apex.§

Zoroastrian: Of or related to Zoroastrianism, a religion founded in Persia by Spenta Zarathustra (ca 600 BCE). It has roughly 150,000 adherents today, mostly near Mumbai, where they are called Parsis. The faith stresses monotheism while recognizing a universal struggle between the force of good (led by Ahura Mazda) and evil (led by Ahriman). The sacred fire, always kept burning in the home, is considered the only worshipful symbol. Scripture is the Zend Avesta.§