How to Become a Hindu




image aadheenakarthar: The aadheenam head, or pontiff, also called the Guru Mahāsannidhānam. See: aadheenam. §

aadheenam: ஆதீனம் Endowment, foundation, institution, establishment, estate, property. A Śaivite Hindu monastery and temple complex in the South Indian Śaiva Siddhānta tradition. Also known as maṭha or pīṭha, as in Kailāsa Pīṭha. The aadheenam head, or pontiff, is called the Guru Mahāsannidhānam or Aadheenakarthar. §

actinic: Spiritual, creating light. Adjective derived from the Greek aktis, “ray.” Of or pertaining to consciousness in its pure, unadulterated state. §

advaita: अद्वैत “Non-dual; not two-fold.” Nonduality or monism. The philosophical doctrine that Ultimate Reality consists of a one principal substance, or God. Opposite of dvaita, dualism. Advaita is the primary philosophical stance of the Vedic Upanishads and of Hinduism, interpreted differently by the many ṛishis, gurus, pandits and philosophers. See: dvaita-advaita.§

Advaita Siddhānta: अद्वैत दिद्धान्त “Nondual ultimate conclusions.” Śaivite philosophy codified in the Āgamas which has at its core the nondual (advaitic) identity of God, soul and world. This monistic-theistic philosophy, unlike the Śaṅkara, or Smārta view, holds that māyā (the principle of manifestation) is not an obstacle to God Realization, but God’s own power and presence guiding the soul’s evolution to perfection. See: Śaiva Siddhānta.§

advaitin: अद्वैतिन् An adherent to the philosophy of advaita.§

Āgama: आगम The tradition that has “come down.” An enormous collection of Sanskrit scriptures which, along with the Vedas, are revered as śruti (revealed scripture). The Āgamas are the primary source and authority for ritual, yoga and temple construction. Each of the major denominations—Śaivism, Vaishṇavism and Śāktismhas its unique Āgama texts. §

Agastya: अगस्त्य One of 18 celebrated Śaiva siddhas (adepts), and accepted as the first grammarian of Tamil language. He is said to have migrated from North India to the South. His name appears in the Mahābhārata, Rāmāyaṇa and the Purāṇas and was known to ancient Indonesians.§

ahiṁsā: अहिंसा “Noninjury,” nonviolence or nonhurtfulness. Refraining from causing harm to others, physically, mentally or emotionally. Ahiṁsā is the first and most important of the yamas (restraints). It is the cardinal virtue upon which all others depend. §

Amarnāth: अमर्नाथ् “Immortal Lord.” A sacred cave in Kashmir in which a svayambhū Śivaliṅgam is formed naturally of an ice stalagmite, which waxes and wanes with the moon.§

amma: அம்மா “Mother.” An endearing term in the Tamil language.§

Amman: அம்மன் “Mother.” Usually refers to Mariyamman, the “smallpox Goddess,” protectress from plagues, a popular grāmadevatā (“village Deity” or tutelary Deity of a locale). See: Śakti, Śāktism. §

amṛita: अमृत “Immortality.” Literally, “without death (mṛita).” The nectar of divine bliss which flows down from the sahasrāra chakra when one enters very deep states of meditation. §

ānanda: आनन्द “Bliss.” The pure joy, ecstasy or enstasy, of God-consciousness or spiritual experience. In its highest sense, ānanda is expressed in the famous Vedic description of God: Sat-chit-ānanda, “existence-consciousness-bliss”—the divine or superconscious mind of all souls. §

añjali mudrā: अञ्जलिमुद्रा “Reverence gesture.” Also called praṇāmāñjali. A gesture of respect and greeting, in which the two palms are held gently together and slightly cupped. Often accompanied by the verbal salutation namaskāra, meaning “reverent salutation.” See: mudrā, namaskāra. §

annan: அண்ணன் “Brother.” §

Antarloka: अन्तर्लोक “Inner plane,”-or “in-between world.” The astral plane. See: loka.§

appa: அப்பா “Father.” An endearing term in the Tamil language.§

archana: अर्चन A special, personal, abbreviated pūjā done by temple priests in which the name, birthstar and family lineage of a devotee are recited to invoke individual guidance and blessings. Archana also refers to chanting the names of the Deity, which is a central part of every pūjā. See: pūjā. §

archana basket: A basket brought to the temple containing special items to offer before the Deity. Archana baskets ready prepared are often available for purchase outside larger temples in India. Standard items include incense, fruits, a husked coconut, rock sugar, loose flowers and a flower garland. See: archana, pūjā. §

ardha-Hindu: अर्धहिन्दु “Half-Hindu.” A devotee who has adopted Hindu belief and culture to a great extent but has not formally entered the religion through ceremony and taking a Hindu first and last name. Also refers to Easterners born into the faith who adopt non-Hindu names.§

Ardhanārīśvara: अर्धनारीश्वर “Half-female Lord.” Lord Śiva in androgynous form, male on the right side and female on the left, indicating that: 1) Śiva (like all Mahādevas) is genderless; 2) Śiva is All, inseparable from His energy, Śakti; 3) in Śiva the iḍā (feminine) and the piṅgalā (masculine) nāḍīs (psychic nerve currents) are balanced so that sushumṇā is ever active. See: kuṇḍalinī, nāḍī, Śakti, Śiva.§

Ārya आर्य “Honorable, noble” or “respectable one; a master, lord.”-§

Ārya Samāj: “Noble conclave.” A renaissance movement founded in Mumbai during the pre-independence era of India in 1875 by Swāmī Dayānand Sarasvatī (1824-1883) with the ideal of moving Hindu Dharma away from fictitious beliefs and returning to the pure teachings of the Vedas. §

āsana: आसन “Seat; posture.” In haṭha yoga any of numerous poses prescribed to balance and tune up the subtle energies of mind and body for meditation and to promote health and longevity. See: haṭha yoga, rāja yoga, yoga.§

ashram (āśrama): आश्रम “Place of striving.” From śram, “to exert energy.” Hermitage; order of life. Holy sanctuary; the residence and teaching center of a sādhu, saint, swāmī, ascetic or guru; often includes lodging for students. Also names life’s four stages. §

aśoka tree: अशोक “Not causing sorrow.” The tree Jonesia Aśoka, moderate in size, belonging to the leguminous class with magnificent red flowers.§

āśrama dharma: आश्रमधर्म “Laws of life’s orders,” or “duties of life’s stages.” Human or developmental dharma. The natural process of maturing from childhood to old age through fulfillment of the duties of each of the four stages of life—brahmachārī (student), gṛihastha (householder), vānaprastha (elder advisor) and sannyāsa (religious solitaire).§

asura: असुर “Evil spirit; demon.” (Opposite of sura, meaning “deva; God.”) A being of the lower astral plane, Naraka. Asuras can and do interact with the physical plane, causing major and minor problems in people’s lives. Asuras do evolve and do not remain permanently in this state. §

atavistism (atavistic): The return of a trait or recurrence of previous behavior after a period of absence. §

ātman: आत्मन् “The soul; the breath; the principle of life and sensation.” The soul in its entirety—as the soul body (ānandamaya kośa) and its essence (Parāśakti and Paraśiva). One of Hinduism’s most fundamental tenets is that we are the ātman, not the physical body, emotions, external mind or personality. See: Paramātman.§

Aum: ॐ or औम् Often spelled Om. The mystic syllable of Hinduism, placed at the beginning of most sacred writings. A symbol of loving Gaṇeśa. As a mantra, it is pronounced aw (as in law), oo (as in zoo), mm. The dot above, called anusvāra, represents the Soundless Sound, Paranāda. In common usage in several Indian languages, aum means “yes, verily” or “hail.” See also: nāda.§

avatāra: अवतार “Descent.” A God born in a human (or animal) body. A central concept of Śāktism, Smārtism and Vaishṇavism. See: Ishṭa Devatā, Vaishṇavism.§

avidyā: अविद्या Spiritual “ignorance.” Wrongful understanding of the nature of reality. Mistaking the impermanent for the everlasting. §

imageBaptist: A member of an evangelical Protestant church of congregational polity, following the reformed tradition in worship, and believing in individual freedom, in the separation of church and state, and in baptism of voluntary, conscious believers.§

bhajana: भजन Spiritual song. Individual or group singing of devotional songs, hymns and chants. See also: kīrtana.§

bhakta: भक्त “Devotee.” A worshiper. One who is surrendered to the Divine. §

bhakti: भक्ति “Devotion.” Surrender to God, Gods or guru. Bhakti extends from the simplest expression of devotion to the ego-decimating principle of prapatti, which is total surrender. Bhakti is the foundation of all denominations of Hinduism, as well as yoga schools throughout the world. See: bhakti yoga, darśana, prapatti, prasāda.§

bhakti yoga: भक्तियोग “Union through devotion.” Bhakti yoga is the practice of devotional disciplines, worship, prayer, chanting and singing with the aim of awakening love in the heart and opening oneself to God’s grace. Bhakti may be directed toward God, Gods or one’s spiritual preceptor. See: prapatti.§

Bhārata: भारत The ancient and original name of Indian lands and the constitutional name of independent India (Bhārat in Hindi). Also, Bhāratavarsha “land of Bhārata,” a legendary monarch and sage. §

Bhārata Nātyam: भारतनात्यम् பரதநாட்டியம் One of the ancient dance forms of India dating back to the second century BCE. This dance type originated in the Hindu temples of Southern India and is one of the most graceful and sophisticated dance styles.§

Bhāratkhand: भारत्खन्द् “Land of Bhārat,” India. §

bhāshya: भाष्य “Speech, discussion.” Commentary on a text. Hindu philosophies are largely founded upon the interpretations, or bhāshyas, of primary scripture. §

bindu: बिन्दु “A drop, small particle, dot.” 1) The seed or source of creation. 2) Small dot worn on the forehead between the eyebrows or in the middle of the forehead, made of red powder (kuṅkuma), sandalpaste, clay, cosmetics or other substance. It is a sign that one is a Hindu. Mystically, it represents the “third eye,” or the “mind’s eye,” which sees things that the physical eyes cannot see. See also: tilaka. §

brahmacharya: ब्रह्मचर्य “Path to God,” or “moving in God.” Sexual purity—restraint of lust and the instinctive nature. See: yama-niyama. §

brahmacharya vrata: ब्रह्मचर्य व्रत Vow of celibacy, often taken by Hindu youth at age 12 upon entering the brahmacharya āśrama. The vrata may also be taken by Hindu men and women later in life, such as upon entrance into the sannyāsa āśrama or after the death of a spouse. See: āśrama dharma, brahmacharya.§

Brahman: ब्रह्मन् “Supreme Being; expansive spirit.” From the root bṛih, “to grow, increase, expand.” Name of God or Supreme Deity in the Vedas, where He is described as 1) the Transcendent Absolute, 2) the all-pervading energy and 3) the Supreme Lord or Primal Soul. These three correspond to Śiva in His three perfections. Thus, Śaivites know Brahman and Śiva to be one and the same God. —Nirguṇa Brahman: God “without qualities (guṇa),” i.e., formless, Absolute Reality, Parabrahman, or Paraśivatotally transcending guṇa (quality), manifest existence and even Parāśakti, all of which exhibit perceivable qualities. Saguṇa Brahman: God “with qualities;” Śiva in His perfections of Parāśakti and Parameśvara—God as superconscious, omnipresent, all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful. See: Parameśvara, Parāśakti, Paraśiva.§

brahmin (brāhmaṇa): ब्राह्मण “Mature or evolved soul.” The class of pious souls of exceptional learning. From Brāhman, “growth, expansion, evolution, development, swelling of the spirit or soul.” The mature soul is the exemplar of wisdom, tolerance, forbearance and humility. §

Buddha: बुद्ध “The Enlightened.” Usually the title of Siddhārtha Gautama (ca 624–544 BCE), a prince born of the Śākya clan—a Śaivite Hindu tribe in eastern India on the Nepalese border. He renounced the world and became a monk. After his enlightenment he preached the doctrines upon which his followers later founded Buddhism. See also: Buddhism.§

Buddhism: The religion based on the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama, known as the Buddha (ca 624–544 BCE). He refuted the idea of man’s having an immortal soul and did not preach of any Supreme Deity. Instead he taught that man should seek to overcome greed, hatred and delusion and attain enlightenment through realizing the Four Noble Truths and following the Eightfold Path. See also: Buddha.§

imageCarnatic (vocal) music: Also spelled karnatic. One of the world’s oldest and richest musical traditions dating back to Sāma Veda, carnatic music is denotes the classical style of South India which evolved from ancient Hindu traditions and was relatively unaffected by the Muslim influences that, since the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, characterized the Hindustani music of northern India. §

caste: A hierarchical system, called varṇa dharma (or jāti dharma), established in India in ancient times, which determined the privileges, status, rights and duties of the many occupational groups, wherein status is determined by heredity. There are four main classes (varṇas)—brāhmin, kshatriya, vaiśya and śūdra—and innumerable castes, called jāti. See: varṇa dharma.§

chakra: चक्र “Wheel.” A) In iconography, a disk-shaped weapon among the insignia of loving Gaṇeśa (and of Lord Vishṇu as well). It is a symbol of the sun and of the mind. Wielded as a weapon, it is the intellect divinely empowered. B) Metaphysically, any of the nerve plexuses or centers of force and consciousness located within the inner bodies of man. In the physical body there are corresponding nerve plexuses, ganglia and glands. The seven principal chakras can be seen psychically as colorful, multi-petaled wheels or lotuses. They are situated along the spinal cord from the base to the cranial chamber. Additionally, seven chakras, barely visible, exist below the spine. They are seats of instinctive consciousness, the origin of jealousy, hatred, envy, guilt, sorrow, etc. They constitute the lower or hellish world, called Naraka or pātāla.§

charyā mārga: चर्यामार्ग See: charyā pāda.§

charyā pāda: चर्यापाद “Conduct stage.” Stage of service and character building. See: pāda, Śaiva Siddhānta, Śaivism.§

Chettiar: செட்டியார் An ethnic group of South India and Sri Lanka of the vaiśya caste.§

creed: Śraddhādhāraṇā. An authoritative formulation of the beliefs of a religion. Historically, creeds have arisen to protect doctrinal purity when religions are transplanted into foreign cultures. §

imagedakshiṇā: दक्षिणा A fee or honorarium given to a priest at the completion of any rite; also a gift given to gurus as a token of appreciation for their infinite spiritual blessings. §

damaru: दमरु The thin-waisted rattle drum of Śiva. It is the symbol of Divine Creation, which begins with the soundless sound, paranāda, whence arises the mantra Aum. See: Naṭarāja, Śiva, Aum.§

darshan (darśana): दर्शन “Vision, sight.” Seeing the Divine. Beholding, with inner or outer vision, a temple image, Deity, holy person or place, with the desire to inwardly contact and receive the grace and blessings of the venerated being or beings. Also: “point of view,” doctrine or philosophy. §

deva: देव “Shining one.” A being inhabiting the higher astral plane, in a subtle, nonphysical body. Deva is also used in scripture to mean “God or Deity.” See: Mahādeva.§

Devī: देवी “Goddess.” A name of Śakti, used especially in Śāktism. See: Śakti, Śāktism.§

dharma: धर्म “Righteousness.” From dhṛi, “to sustain; carry, hold.” Hence dharma is “that which contains or upholds the cosmos.” Dharma, religion, is a complex and comprehensive term with many meanings, including divine law, law of being, way of righteousness, ethics, duty, responsibility, virtue, justice, goodness and truth. Essentially, dharma is the orderly fulfillment of an inherent nature or destiny. Relating to the soul, it is the mode of conduct most conducive to spiritual advancement, the right and righteous path. §

dhyāna: ध्यान “Meditation.” See: meditation, rāja yoga.§

dīkshā: दीक्षा “Initiation.” Solemn induction by which one is entered into a new realm of awareness and practice by a teacher or preceptor through the bestowing of blessings and the transmission of prāṇas. Denotes initial or deepened connection with the teacher and his lineage and is usually accompanied by ceremony.§

dīkshitar: दीक्षितर् Hereditary Śivāchārya temple priests of Chidambaram Temple in Tamil Nadu.§

Durgā: दुर्गा “She who is incomprehensible or difficult to reach.” A form of Śakti worshiped in Her gracious as well as terrifying aspect. See: Śakti, Śāktism.§

dūrvā: दूर्वा A type of grass, also called aruhu and harali, sacred to Gaṇeśa, traditionally offered to Him in pūjā. Cynodon dactylon. §

dvaita-advaita: द्वैत अद्वैत “Dual-nondual; twoness-not twoness.” Among the most important terms in the classification of Hindu philosophies. Dvaita and advaita define two ends of a vast spectrum. —dvaita: The doctrine of dualism, according to which reality is ultimately composed of two irreducible principles, entities, truths, etc. God and soul, for example, are seen as eternally separate. —dualistic: Of or relating to dualism, concepts, writings, theories which treat dualities (good-and-evil, high-and-low, them-and-us) as fixed, rather than transcendable. —pluralism: A form of nonmonism which emphasizes three or more eternally separate realities, e.g., God, soul and world. —advaita: The doctrine of nondualism or monism, that reality is ultimately composed of one whole principle, substance or God, with no independent parts. In essence, all is God. —monistic theism: A dipolar view which encompasses both monism and dualism. See: monistic theism.§

imageenstasy: A term coined in 1969 by Mircea Eliade to contrast the Eastern view of bliss as “standing inside oneself” (enstasy) with the Western view as ecstasy, “standing outside oneself.” A word chosen as the English equivalent of samādhi. See: rāja yoga, samādhi. §

existentialism: A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts.§

existentialist: Pertaining to, or believing in existentialism.§

imagefestival: A time of religious celebration and special observances. Festivals generally recur yearly, their dates varying slightly according to astrological calculations. They are characterized by acts of piety (elaborate pūjās, penance, fasting, pilgrimage) and rejoicing (songs, dance, music, parades, storytelling and scriptural reading). §

fundamentalist: Any religious or philosophical group or individual marked by extreme dogmatism and intolerance. Fundamentalists believe in a literal interpretation of their scripture as the exclusive truth, the one and only way which all souls must follow to attain salvation, and in allegiance to their Messiah or Prophet as the one true representative of God. A religious fanatic.§

imagegaṇa(s): गण “Number,” hence “throng,” “troop,” “retinue;” a body of followers or attendants.” A troop of demigods—God Śiva’s attendants, devonic helpers under the supervision of Lord Gaṇeśa. See: Gaṇeśa.§

Gaṇeśa: गणेश “Lord of Categories.” (From gaṇ, “to count or reckon,” and Īśa, “lord.”) Or: “Lord of attendants (gaṇa),” synonymous with Gaṇapati. Gaṇeśa is a Mahādeva, the beloved elephant-faced Deity honored by Hindus of every sect. He is the Lord of Obstacles (Vighneśvara), revered for His great wisdom and invoked first before any undertaking, for He knows all intricacies of each soul’s karma and the perfect path of dharma that makes action successful. He sits on the mūlādhāra chakra and is easy of access. §

Gaṅgā Sādhana: गङ्गासाधन A practice for unburdening the mind, performed by releasing the energy of unwanted thoughts. An internal cleansing sādhana of sitting quietly by a river or stream and listening to the Aum sound as the water flows over the rocks. When a thought arises, it is mentally placed into a leaf held in the right hand, then gently tossed into the water. Then a flower is offered to thank the water for carrying away the thought. This is a subconscious cleansing process of letting go of hurts, anger, problems or whatever it is that rises in the mind to disturb the meditation.§

Gautama: गौतम The name of the founder of the Nyāya school of Śaivism, author of the Nyāya Sūtras. Also, the Buddha (Siddhārtha Gautama). See: Buddha, Buddhism. §

ghee: घी Hindi for clarified butter; ghṛita in Sanskrit. Butter that has been boiled and strained. An important sacred substance used in temple lamps and offered in fire ceremony, yajña. It is also used as a food with many āyurvedic virtues. §

Goddess: Female representation or manifestation of Divinity; Śakti or Devī. Goddess can refer to a female perception or depiction of a causal-plane being (Mahādeva) in its natural state, which is genderless, or it can refer to an astral-plane being residing in a female astral body. To show the Divine’s transcendence of sexuality, sometimes God is shown as having qualities of both sexes, e.g., ArdhanĀrīśvara, “Half-woman God;” or Lord Naṭarāja, who wears a feminine earring in one ear and a masculine one in the other.§

Gods: Mahādevas, “great beings of light.” In Loving Gaṇeśa, the plural form of God refers to extremely advanced beings existing in their self-effulgent soul bodies in the causal plane. The meaning of Gods is best seen in the phrase, “God and the Gods,” referring to the Supreme God—Śiva—and the Mahādevas who are His creation. See: Mahādeva.§

gotra: गोत्र “Cowshed.” Family lineage or subcaste stemming from a ṛishi or satguru and bearing his name. Originally described as several joint families sharing a common cowshed. See: caste, varṇa dharma.§

grace: “Benevolence, love, giving,” from the Latin gratia, “favor, goodwill.” God’s power of revealment, anugraha śakti (“kindness, showing favor”), by which souls are awakened to their true, Divine nature. Grace in the unripe stages of the spiritual journey is experienced by the devotee as receiving gifts or boons, often unbidden, from God. The mature soul finds himself surrounded by grace. He sees all of God’s actions as grace, whether they be seemingly pleasant and helpful or not. See: prapatti.§

guru bhakti: गुरुभक्ति Devotion to the teacher. The attitude of humility, love and ideation held by a student in any field of study. In the spiritual realm, the devotee strives to see the guru as his higher Self. By attuning himself to the satguru’s inner nature and wisdom, the disciple slowly transforms his own nature to ultimately attain the same peace and enlightenment his guru has achieved. Guru bhakti is expressed through serving the guru, meditating on his form, working closely with his mind and obeying his instructions. See: guru, satguru, guru-śishya system.§

Gurudeva: गुरुदेव “Divine” or “radiant preceptor.” An affectionate, respectful title for the guru. See: guru.§

guru-disciple: See: guru-śishya system.§

Guru Mahāsannidhānam: गुरु महासन्निधानम् Spiritual head of a traditional aadheenam. See: aadheenakartar.§

guru paramparā: गुरुपरंपरा “Preceptorial succession” (literally, “from one teacher to another”). A line of spiritual gurus in authentic succession of initiation; the chain of mystical power and authorized continuity, passed from guru to guru. See: sampradāya.§

Guru Pūrṇimā: गुरु पूर्णिमा Occurring on the full moon of July, Guru Pūrṇimā is for devotees a day of rededication to all that the guru represents. It is occasioned by pādapūjā—ritual worship of the guru’s sandals, which represent his holy feet. See: guru-śishya system.§

guru-śishya system: गुरुशिष्य “Master-disciple” system. An important educational system of Hinduism whereby the teacher conveys his knowledge and tradition to a student. Such knowledge, whether it be Vedic-Āgamic art, architecture or spirituality, is imparted through the developing relationship between guru and disciple. See: guru, guru bhakti, satguru.§

imageharijan: हरिजन् “Child of God.” See: varṇa dharma. §

haṭha yoga: हठयोग “Forceful yoga.” Haṭha yoga is a system of physical and mental exercise developed in ancient times as a means of preparing the body and mind for meditation. See: kuṇḍalinī, nāḍī, yoga.§

Himālayan Academy: The educational institution of Śaiva Siddhānta Church, founded by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami in 1957.§

Hindu: हिन्दु A follower of, or relating to, Hinduism. Generally, one is understood to be a Hindu by being born into a Hindu family and practicing the faith, or by professing oneself a Hindu. Acceptance into the fold is recognized through the name-giving sacrament, a temple ceremony called nāmakaraṇa saṁskāra, given to born Hindus shortly after birth, and to Hindus by choice who have proven their sincerity and been accepted by a Hindu community. See: Hinduism.§

Hindu astrology: See: jyotisha.§

Hinduism (Hindu Dharma): हिन्दुधर्म India’s indigenous religious and cultural system, followed today by nearly one billion adherents, mostly in India, but with large diaspora in many other countries. Also called Sanātana Dharma (Eternal religion) and Vaidika Dharma (Religion of the Vedas.) Hinduism is the world’s most ancient religion and encompasses a broad spectrum of philosophies ranging from pluralistic theism to absolute monism. It is a family of myriad faiths with four primary denominations: Śaivism, Vaishṇavism, Śāktism and Smārtism. These four hold such divergent beliefs that each is a complete and independent religion. Yet, they share a vast heritage of culture and belief—karma, dharma, reincarnation, all-pervasive Divinity, temple worship, sacraments, manifold Deities, the guru-śishya tradition and a reliance on the Vedas as scriptural authority. §

Hinduism Today: The Hindu family magazine founded by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami in 1979, issued bimonthly by Himālayan Academy to affirm Sanātana Dharma and record the modern history of a billion-strong global religion in renaissance, reaching 150,000 readers in over 100 countries. See: Himālayan Academy.§

Hindu solidarity: Hindu unity in diversity. A major contemporary theme according to which Hindu denominations are mutually supportive and work together in harmony, while taking care not to obscure or lessen their distinctions or unique virtues. The underlying belief is that Hinduism will be strong if each of its sects and lineages is vibrant. See: Hinduism.§

homa: होम “Fire-offering.” A sacred ceremony in which the Gods are offered oblations through the medium of fire in a sanctified fire pit, homakuṇḍa, usually made of earthen bricks. Homa rites are enjoined in the Vedas, Āgamas and Dharma and Gṛihya Śāstras. See: yajña.§

imageicçhā śakti: इच्छाशक्ति “Desire; will.” See: Śakti. §

iḍā nāḍī: इडानाडी “Soothing channel.” The feminine psychic current flowing along the spine. See: kuṇḍalinī, nāḍī, piṅgalā.§

initiation (to initiate): Dīkshā. Entering into; admission as a member. In Hinduism, initiation from a qualified preceptor is considered invaluable for spiritual progress. See: dīkshā, śaktipāta.§

Ishṭa Devatā: इष्टदेवता “Cherished or chosen Deity.” The Deity that is the object of one’s special pious attention. §

Iśvara: ईश्वर “Highest Lord.” Supreme or Personal God. See: Parameśvara.§

Itihāsa: इतिहास “So it was.” Epic history, particularly the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata (of which the famed Bhagavad Gītā is a part). This term sometimes refers to the Purāṇas, especially the Skānda Purāṇa and the Bhāgavata Purāṇa (or Śrīmad Bhāgavatam). See: smṛiti. §

Iyengar: A South Indian Vaishṇavite brahmin caste.§

Iyer: Iaq A common name for brahmin priests, often a Smārta brāhmin.§

imageJainism (Jaina): जैन An ancient non-Vedic religion of India made prominent by the teachings of Mahāvīra (“Great Hero”), ca 500 BCE. The Jain Āgamas teach reverence for all life, vegetarianism and strict renunciation for ascetics. Jains focus great emphasis on the fact that all souls may attain liberation, each by his own effort. Their great historic saints, called Tīrthaṅkaras (“Ford-Crossers”), are objects of worship, of whom Mahāvīra was the 24th and last. Jains number about six million today, living mostly in India. §

japa: जप “Recitation.” Practice of concentrated repetition of a mantra, often while counting the repetitions on a mālā or strand of beads. It is recommended as a cure for pride and arrogance, anger and jealousy, fear and confusion. It fills the mind with divine syllables, awakening the divine essence of spiritual energies. §

jina: जिन “Conqueror.” The root of the word Jain, implying conquest over the bondage imposed by the phenomenal world. See: Jain.§

jīva: जीव “Living, existing.” From jīv, “to live.” The individual soul, ātman, bound by the three malas (āṇava, karma and māyā). The individuated self (jīva-ātman) as opposed to the transcendental Self (parama ātman). See: ātman, jīvanmukta, soul.§

jīvanmukta: जीवन्मुक्त “Liberated soul.” One who has attained nirvikalpa samādhi—the realization of the Self, Paraśiva—and is liberated from rebirth while living in a human body. (Contrasted with videhamukta, one liberated at the point of death.)-This attainment is the culmination of lifetimes of intense striving, sādhana and tapas, requiring total renunciation, sannyāsa (death to the external world, denoted in the conducting of one’s own funeral rites), in the current incarnation. While completing life in the physical body, the jīvanmukta enjoys the ability to re-enter nirvikalpa samādhi again and again. See: jīvanmukti, jñāna, moksha, Self Realization, videhamukti.§

jīvanmukti: जीवन्मुक्ति “Liberation while living.” The state of the jīvanmukta. Contrasted with videhamukti, liberation at the point of death. See: jīvanmukta, moksha, reincarnation, videhamukti.§

jñāna: ज्ञान “Knowledge; wisdom.” (Tamil: jñānam) The matured state of the soul. It is the wisdom that comes as an aftermath of the kuṇḍalinī breaking through the door of Brahman into the realization of Paraśiva, Absolute Reality. Jñāna is sometimes misunderstood as book knowledge, as a maturity or awakening that comes from simply understanding a complex philosophical system or systems. See: God Realization, Self Realization, samādhi.§

jñāna mārga: ज्ञानमार्ग See: jñāna pāda.§

jñāna pāda: ज्ञानपाद “Stage of wisdom.” According to the Śaiva Siddhānta ṛishis, jñāna is the last of the four successive pādas (stages) of spiritual unfoldment. It is the culmination of the third stage, the yoga pāda. Also names the knowledge section of each Āgama. See: jñāna, pāda.§

Judaic-Christian: Concerned with two of the three religions descended from Abraham, Judaism and Christianty, especially in the sense of their shared beliefs.§

Judaism: The religion of over 12 million adherents worldwide (over half in the United States), first of the Abrahamic faiths, founded about 3,700 years ago in Canaan (now Israel) by Abraham, who started the lineage, and in Egypt by Moses, who emancipated the enslaved Jewish tribes. Its major scripture is the Torah.§

jyotisha: ज्योतिष From jyoti, “light.” “The science of the lights (or stars).” Hindu astrology, the knowledge and practice of analyzing events and circumstances, delineating character and determining auspicious moments, according to the positions and movements of heavenly bodies. In calculating horoscopes, jyotisha uses the sidereal (fixed-star) system, whereas Western astrology uses the tropical (fixed-date) method.§

jyotisha śāstrī: ज्योतिषशास्त्री One who is versed in the jyotisha śāstras and qualified to cast and analyze horoscopes and give counsel and advice on karmic events and timing of innovations in people’s lives. See: jyotisha.§

jyotishī: ज्योतिषी See: jyotisha śāstrī.§

imageKabir: कबिर्दस् Saint Kabirdas (1440-1518), an Indian mystic and world-renowned poet who attempted to bridge Hindu and Muslim thought and preached the essential equality of all men. He was a forerunner of Sikhism, the faith established by his disciple Nānak. The Sikh holy scripture Ādi Granth contains over 500 verses by Kabir. §

Kailāsa: कैलास “Crystalline” or “Abode of bliss.” The four-faced Himalayan peak in Western Tibet; the earthly abode of Lord Śiva. Associated with Mount Meru, the legendary center of the universe, it is an important pilgrimage destination for all Hindus, as well as for Tibetan Buddhists. §

Kailāsa Paramparā: कैलासपरंपरा “Crystaline lineage.” A spiritual lineage of siddhas, a major stream of the Nandinātha Sampradāya, proponents of the ancient philosophy of monistic Śaiva Siddhānta, of whom Sivaya Subramuniyaswami is the current representative. See also: Yogaswāmī. §

Kālī: काली “Black” Goddess. A form of Śakti in Her fierce aspect worshiped by various sects within Śāktism. She is dark, nude, primordial and fiercely powerful, as of a naked energy untamed. But from the perspective of devotees, She is the incomparable protectress, champion of sādhana and mother of liberation. The Goddess Durgā, seated on a tiger, has similar characteristics and is often identified with Kālī. See: Śakti, Śāktism.§

karma: कर्म “Action, deed.” One of the most important principles in Hindu thought, karma refers to 1) any act or deed; 2) the principle of cause and effect; 3) a consequence or fruit of action” (karmaphala) or “after effect” (uttaraphala), which sooner or later returns upon the doer. What we sow, we shall reap in this or future lives. Selfish, hateful acts (pāpakarma or kukarma) will bring suffering. Benevolent actions (puṇyakarma or sukarma) will bring loving reactions. Karma is a neutral, self-perpetuating law of the inner cosmos, much as gravity is an impersonal law of the outer cosmos. See: moksha, soul. §

karma yoga: कर्मयोग “Union through action.” Selfless service. See: yoga.§

karmic: Relating to or caused by karma.§

Kārttikeya: कार्त्तिकेय Child of the Pleiades, from Kṛittikā, “Pleiades.” Second son of Śiva, the brother of Gaṇeśa. A great Mahādeva worshiped in all parts of India and the world. Also known as Murugan, Kumāra, Skanda, Shaṇmukhanātha, Subrahmaṇya and more, He is the God who guides that part of evolution which is religion, the transformation of the instinctive into a divine wisdom through yoga. He holds the holy vel of jñāna śakti, His Power to vanquish ignorance. §

Kāśī: कासी See: Vārāṇasī.§

kathā: कथा “Story; discussion.” Also, the literary form involving the telling of stories. Kathakas are bards, storytellers. §

kīrtana: कीर्तन “Praising.” Devotional singing and dancing in celebration of God, Gods or guru. An important form of congregational worship in many Hindu denominations. See: bhajana.§

kośa: कोश “Sheath; vessel, container; layer.” Philosophically, five sheaths through which the soul functions simultaneously in the various planes or levels of existence.§

Kṛishṇa: कृष्ण “Black.” Also related to kṛishṭiḥ, meaning “drawing, attracting.” One of the most popular Gods of the Hindu pantheon. He is worshiped by Vaishṇavas as the eighth avatāra, incarnation, of Vishṇu. He is best known as the Supreme Personage depicted in the Mahābhārata, and specifically in the Bhagavad Gītā. In Gauḍīya Vaishṇavism, Kṛishṇa is the Godhead. §

Kṛittikā Dīpa: कृत्तिकादीप A joyous one-day festival on the Kṛittikā nakshatra (Pleiades constellation), in November-December, when God Śiva is worshiped as an infinite pillar of light. Great bonfires are lit at night on hills and in villages in India and elsewhere to represent the divine, all-permeating light of Parāśakti. See: festival.§

kriyā: क्रिया “Action.” In a general sense, kriyā can refer to doing of any kind. Specifically, it names religious action, especially rites or ceremonies. See: pāda. §

kriyā pāda: क्रियापाद “Stage of religious action; worship.” The stage of worship and devotion, second of four progressive stages of maturation on the Śaiva Siddhānta path of attainment. See: pāda. §

kshatriya: क्षत्रिय “Governing; sovereign.” The social class of lawmakers, law-enforcers and the military. See: varṇa dharma.§

kulapati: कुलपति A married man who is the head of his joint family and its extended family. His wife is a kulamātā. A husband and wife who are part of a kulapati’s extended family are known as mukhya and grihiṇī respectively.§

Kumāra: कुमार “Virgin youth; ever-youthful.” A name of Lord Kārttikeya as an eternal bachelor. §

kumbhābhisheka: कुम्भाभिषेक “Water-pot ablution.” The formal consecration of a new temple and its periodic reconsecration, usually at twelve-year intervals, following renovation, extensive cleaning and renewal. The rites culminate with the priests’ pouring sanctified water over the temple spires, which resemble an inverted pot, or kumbha. §

kuṇḍalinī: कुण्डलिनी “She who is coiled; serpent power.” The primordial cosmic energy in every individual which, at first, lies coiled like a serpent at the base of the spine and eventually, through the practice of yoga, rises up the sushumṇā nāḍī. As it rises, the kuṇḍalinī awakens each successive chakra. Nirvikalpa samādhi, enlightenment, comes as it pierces through the door of Brahman at the core of the sahasrāra and enters! See: chakra, samādhi, nāḍī.§

imageLakshmī: लक्श्मी “Mark or sign,” often of success or prosperity. Śakti, the Universal Mother, as Goddess of wealth. The mythological consort of Vishṇu. Usually depicted on a lotus flower. Prayers are offered to Lakshmī for wealth, beauty and peace. See: Goddess, Śakti.§

liberal Hinduism: A synonym for SmĀrtism and the closely related neo-Indian religion. The latter form carries forward basic Hindu cultural values—such as dress, diet and the arts—while allowing religious values to subside. Neo-Indian religion encourages Hindus to follow any combination of theological, scriptural, sādhana and worship patterns, regardless of sectarian or religious origin. See: Smārtism.§

liberation: Moksha, release from the bonds of pāśa, after which the soul is liberated from saṁsāra (the round of births and deaths). In Śaiva Siddhānta, pāśa is the three-fold bondage of āṇava, karma and māyā, which limit and confine the soul to the reincarnational cycle so that it may evolve. Moksha is freedom from the fettering power of these bonds, which do not cease to exist, but no longer have the power to fetter or bind the soul. See: mala, moksha, reincarnation, Self Realization. §

liṅga: लिङ्ग “Mark.” See: Śivaliṅga. §

imageMadurai Aadheenam: மதுரை ஆதீனம் The oldest (1,400 years) of the major aadheenams of South India, founded by Śaivite Saint Tirujñāna Sambandar, located two blocks from the huge Madurai Meenakshi-Sundareśvara temple, one of the most famous Śiva-Śakti shrines in the world. Madurai Aadheenam is currently an active center of Śaiva Siddhānta philosophy under the direction of Śrila-Śrī Arunagirinātha Śrī Gñānasambanda Deśika Paramāchāriya, 292nd abbot of the monastery.§

Mahādeva: महादेव “Great shining one; God.” Referring either to God Śiva or any of the highly evolved beings who live in the Śivaloka in their natural, effulgent soul bodies. See: Gods, Parameśvara, Śiva.§

Mahāśivarātri: महाशिवरात्रि “Śiva’s great night.” Śaivism’s foremost festival, celebrated on the night before the new moon in February-March. Fasting and an all-night vigil are observed as well as other disciplines: chanting, praying, meditating and worshiping Śiva as the Source and Self of all that exists. See: festival.§

mala: मल “Impurity.” An important term in Śaivism referring to three bonds, called pāśa—āṇava, karma, and māyāwhich limit the soul, preventing it from knowing its true, divine nature. See: liberation, pāśa.§

manana: मनन “Thinking; deep reflection.” §

mandira: मन्दिर “Abode.” A temple or shrine; sanctuary. See: temple.§

mantra: मन्त्र “Mystic formula.” A sound, syllable, word or phrase endowed with special power, usually drawn from scripture. Mantras are chanted loudly during pūjā to invoke the Gods and establish a force field. To be truly effective, such mantras must be given by the preceptor through initiation. §

mantra dīkshā: मन्त्रदीक्षा Initiation which gives blessings to chant a sacred mantra given by a satguru or priest at an auspicious time after serious preparations and sādhana well performed by the devotee. Also called samaya dīkshā. See: dīkshā, mantra.§

Manu Dharma Śāstra: मनुधर्मशास्त्र “Sage Manu’s law book.” An encyclopedic treatise of 2,685 verses on Hindu law assembled as early as 600 BCE. These “Laws of Manu” are the oldest and considered the most authoritative of the greater body of Dharma Śāstras. See: caste, dharma, Dharma Śāstras. §

mārga: मार्ग “Path; way.” From mārg, “to seek.” See: pāda.§

māyā: माया From the verb root , “to measure,” “to limit,” “give form.” The principle of appearance or manifestation of God’s power or “mirific energy,” “that which measures.” The substance emanated from Śiva through which the world of form is manifested. Hence all creation is also termed māyā. It is the cosmic creative force, the principle of manifestation, ever in the process of creation, preservation and dissolution. See: loka. §

meditation: Dhyāna. Sustained concentration. Meditation describes a quiet, alert, powerfully concentrated state wherein new knowledge and insights are awakened from within as awareness focuses one-pointedly on an object or specific line of thought. See: rāja yoga, yoga. §

Meru: See: Kailāsa.§

mlecçha म्लेच्छ “One who speaks indistinctly (like a foreigner).” A foreigner or barbarian, one who does not conform to Hindu culture; a non-Hindu. §

moksha: मोक्ष “Liberation.” Release from transmigration, saṁsāra, the round of births and deaths, which occurs after karma has been resolved and nirvikalpa samādhi—realization of the Self, Paraśiva—has been attained. Same as mukti. See: kuṇḍalinī, liberation.§

monism: “Doctrine of oneness.” 1) The philosophical view that there is only one ultimate substance or principle. 2) The view that reality is a unified whole without independent parts. See: advaita. §

monistic: Expressive of the belief that reality is of one kind or substance. §

monistic theism: Advaita Īśvaravāda. Monism is the doctrine that reality is a one whole or existence without independent parts. Theism is the belief that God exists as a real, conscious, personal Supreme Being. Monistic theism is the dipolar doctrine, also called panentheism, that embraces both monism and theism, two perspectives ordinarily considered contradictory or mutually exclusive, since theism implies dualism. Monistic theism simultaneously accepts that 1) God has a personal form, 2) that He creates, pervades and is all that exists, and 3) that He ultimately transcends all existence and that the soul is, in essence, one with God. See: advaita, theism. §

moringa: A medicinal tree, Moringa longituba, which produces a red flower.§

mudrā: मुद्रा “Seal.” Esoteric hand gestures which express specific energies or powers. Usually accompanied by precise visualizations, mudrās are a vital element of ritual worship (pūjā), dance and yoga. See: añjali mudrā, haṭha yoga, namaskāra.§

mukti: मुक्ति “Release.” A synonym for moksha. See: moksha. §

mūlādhāra chakra: मूलाधारचक्र “Root support center,” from mūla, “root,” and ādhāra, “supporting.” The psychic center located at the base of the spine and governing memory, time and space. The first of seven nerve plexuses or centers of force and consciousness in the psychic nerve system of man, located along the spinal column from its base to the cranial chamber. §

muni: मुनि “Sage.” A sage or sādhu, especially one vowed to complete silence or who speaks but rarely and who seeks stillness of mind. A hermit. The term is related to mauna, “silence.” §

mūrti: मूर्ति “Form; manifestation, embodiment, personification.” An image or icon of God or one of the many Gods used during worship. §

Murugan: முருகன் “Beautiful one,” a favorite name of Kārttikeya among the Tamils of South India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. See: Kārttikeya.§

imagenāda: नाद “Sound; tone, vibration.” Metaphysically, the mystic sounds of the Eternal, of which the highest is the transcendent or Soundless Sound, Paranāda, the first vibration from which creation emanates. From Paranāda comes Praṇava, Aum, and further evolutes of nāda. These are experienced by the meditator as the nādanāḍī śakti, “the energy current of sound,” heard pulsing through the nerve system as a constant high-pitched hum, much like a tambūra, an electrical transformer, a swarm of bees or a śruti box. Most commonly, nāda refers to ordinary sound. See: Aum. §

nāḍī: नाडी “Conduit.” A nerve fiber or energy channel of the subtle (inner) bodies of man. It is said there are 72,000. These interconnect the chakras. See: chakra, kuṇḍalinī, rāja yoga.§

nāga: नाग “Serpent,” often the cobra; symbol of the kuṇḍalinī coiled on the four petals of the mūlādhāra chakra. See: kuṇḍalinī, mūlādhāra chakra. §

nakshatra: नक्षत्र “Star cluster.” Central to astrological determinations, the nakshatras are 27 star-clusters, constellations, which lie along the ecliptic, or path of the sun. An individual’s nakshatra, or birth star, is the constellation the moon was aligned with at the time of his birth. See: jyotisha.§

nāmakaraṇa: नामकरण “Name-giving.” See: saṁskāra.§

namaskāra: नमस्कार “Reverent salutations.” Traditional Hindu verbal greeting and mudrā where the palms are joined together and held before the heart or raised to the level of the forehead. The mudrā is also called añjali. §

Nandī: नन्दी “The joyful.” A white bull with a black tail, the vāhana, or mount, of Lord Śiva, symbol of the powerful instinctive force tamed by Him. See: vāhana.§

Naṭarāja: नटराज “King of Dance,” or “King of Dancers.” God as the Cosmic Dancer. Perhaps Hinduism’s richest and most eloquent symbol, Naṭarāja represents Śiva, the Primal Soul, Parameśvara, as the power, energy and life of all that exists. This is Śiva’s intricate state of Being in Manifestation. See: nāda, Parameśvara, Parāśakti, Paraśiva. §

Nātha: नाथ “Master, lord; adept.” Names an ancient Himalayan tradition of Śaiva-yoga mysticism, whose first historically known exponent was Nandikeśvara (ca 250 BCE). Nātha—Self-Realized adept—designates the extraordinary ascetic masters (or devotees) of this school. The Nāthas are considered the source of haṭha as well as rāja yoga. §

Nātha Sampradāya: नाथसंप्रदाय “Transmitted doctrine (or theology) of the masters.” Sampradāya means a living stream of tradition or theology. Nātha Sampradāya is a philosophical and yogic tradition of Śaivism whose origins are unknown. This oldest of Śaivite sampradāyas existing today consists of two major streams: the Nandinātha and the Ādinātha. See: Kailāsa Paramparā, Nātha, Śaivism, sampradāya.§

Nehru, Pandit Motilal: मोतिलल् नेह्रु (1861-1931) Indian nationalist politician who was an associate of Mahatma Gandhi and an influential leader in the years leading to India’s independence. His son Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), also greatly involved in the movement for self-governance, was the political heir to Gandhi and the first Prime Minister of independent India (1947-1964).§

Neo-Vaishṇavas: A term used by the International Society for Kṛishṇa Consciousness (ISKCON) referring to non-Indian devotees of Śrī Kṛishṇa. §

New Year: The majority of Hindus in India celebrate the New Year according to traditional, pre-colonial calendars, several of which are still in use. There are, therefore, various New Year’s days in different states of India, the two major ones being Dīpāvalī in October-November, observed in North India, and the day when the sun enters Mesha (Aries) in April, celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Nepal.§

Nirguṇa Brahman: निर्गुणब्रह्मन् “God without qualities.” See: Brahman.§

nirvāṇa: निर्वाण “Extinction.” In Buddhism it is the indescribable ultimate attainment or disinterested wisdom and compassion. In Hinduism it is the emancipation from ignorance and the end of all attachment. Also an ideal condition of rest, harmony, stability, or joy.§

nirvikalpa samādhi: निर्विकल्पसमाधि “Undifferentiated trance, enstasy (samādhi) without form or seed.” The realization of the Self, Paraśiva, a state of oneness beyond all change or diversity; beyond time, form and space. See: enstasy, rāja yoga, samādhi, Self Realization.§

niyama: नियम “Restraint.” See: yama-niyama.§

imageoffering basket: See: archana basket. §

orthodox: “Of right (correct) opinion.” Conforming to established doctrines or beliefs. Opposite of heterodox, “different opinion.”§

imagepāda: पाद “The foot (of men and animals); quarter-part, section; stage; path.” Names the four major sections of the Āgamic texts and the corresponding stages of practice and unfoldment on the path to moksha. —charyā pāda (“Good conduct stage”): Stage one, learning to live righteously and serve selflessly, performing karma yoga. Traditional acts of charyā include cleaning the temple, lighting lamps and collecting flowers for worship. Worship at this stage is mostly external. kriyā pāda (“Religious action; worship stage”): Stage of bhakti yoga, of cultivating devotion through performing pūjā and regular daily sādhana. A central practice of the kriyā pāda is performing daily pūjā. yoga pāda: (“Stage of uniting”): Having matured in the charyā and kriyā pādas, the soul now turns to internalized worship and rāja yoga under the guidance of a satguru. It is a time of sādhana and serious striving when realization of the Self is the goal. jñāna pāda (“Stage of wisdom”): Once the soul has attained Realization, it is henceforth a wise one, who lives out the life of the body, shedding blessings on mankind. This stage is also called the San Mārga, “true path.” See: jñāna, yoga. §

pāda pūjā: पादपूजा “Foot worship.” Ceremonial worship of the guru’s sandals or holy feet, often through ablution with precious substances and offering of fruit and flowers. After the ceremony, the water of the bath, the fruit and other precious substances are partaken of as prasāda by the devotees. See: guru, guru bhakti, prasāda, ucçhishṭa. §

pañcha mahāyajñas: पञ्जंमहायज्ञ The householder’s five daily sacrifices: to Gods, ancestors, ṛishis, creatures and men.§

pañcha nitya karma(s): पञ्चनित्यकर्म “Five constant duties.” A traditional regimen of religious practice for Hindus: 1) dharma (virtuous living), 2) upāsanā (worship), 3) utsava (holy days), 4) tīrthayātrā (pilgrimage) and 5) saṁskāras (sacraments.) See: dharma, festival, saṁskāra, tīrthayātrā. §

Pañcha Silanyāsa: पञ्जसिलन्यास The five-stone placement ceremony in consecration of a temple’s grounds prior to erecting the temple edifice.§

pandit (paṇḍita): पण्डित “Learned one.”-Hindu religious scholar or theologian, well versed in philosophy, liturgy, religious law and sacred science. §

panentheism: “All-in-God doctrine.” The view that the universe is part of the being of God, as distinguished from pantheism (“all-is-God doctrine”), which identifies God with the total reality. In contrast, panentheism holds that God pervades the world, but is also beyond it. He is immanent and transcendent, relative and Absolute. This embracing of opposites is called dipolar. For the panentheist, God is in all, and all is in God. Panentheism is the technical term for monistic theism. See: dvaita-advaita, monistic theism.§

Paramātman: परमात्मन् “Supreme Self,” or “transcendent soul.” Paraśiva, Absolute Reality, the one transcendent Self of every soul. Contrasted with ātman, which includes all three aspects of the soul: Paraśiva, Parāśakti and ānandamaya kośa. See: ātman, kośa, soul.§

Parameśvara: परमेश्वर “Supreme Lord or Ruler.” God Śiva in the third perfection as Supreme Mahādeva, Śiva-Śakti, mother of the universe. In this perfection as Personal, father-mother God, Śiva is a person—who has a body, with head, arms and legs, etc.—who acts, wills, blesses, gives darśana, guides, creates, preserves, reabsorbs, obscures and enlightens. In Truth, it is Śiva-Śakti who does all. The term Primal Soul, Paramapurusha, designates Parameśvara as the original, uncreated soul, the creator of all other souls. Parameśvara has many other names and epithets, including those denoting the five divine actions—Sadāśiva, the revealer; Maheśvara, the obscurer; Brahmā, the creator; Vishṇu the preserver; and Rudra the destroyer. See: Naṭarāja.§

Parāśakti: पराशक्ति “Supreme power; primal energy.” God Śiva’s second perfection, which is impersonal, immanent, and with form—the all-pervasive, Pure Consciousness and Primal Substance of all that exists. There are many other descriptive names for Parāśakti—Satchidānanda (“existence-consciousness-bliss”), light, silence, divine mind, superconsciousness and more. The attainment of Parāśakti is called savikalpa samādhi. See: Śiva.§

Paraśiva: परशिव “Transcendent Śiva.” The Self God, Śiva in His first perfection, Absolute Reality. God Śiva as That which is beyond the grasp of consciousness, transcends time, form and space and defies description. Attainment of this is called Self Realization or nirvikalpa samādhi. See: samādhi, Śiva.§

Pārvatī: पार्वती “Mountain’s daughter.” One of many names for the Universal Mother. Prayers are offered to Her for strength, health and eradication of impurities. Mythologically, Pārvatī is wedded to Śiva. See: Goddess, Śakti. §

pāśa: पाश “Tether; noose.” The whole of existence, manifest and unmanifest. That which binds or limits the soul and keeps it (for a time) from manifesting its full potential. Pāśa refers to the soul’s three-fold bondage of āṇava, karma and māyā. See: liberation, mala, Pati-paśu-pāśa.§

patha: पथ “Path.”§

Pati-paśu-pāśa: पति पशु पाश Literally: “master, cow and tether.” These are the three primary elements (padārtha, or tattvatrayī) of Śaiva Siddhānta philosophy: God, soul and world—Divinity, man and cosmos—seen as a mystically and intricately interrelated unity. Pati is God, envisioned as a cowherd. Paśu is the soul, envisioned as a cow. Pāśa is the all-important force or fetter by which God brings souls along the path to Truth. See: pāśa, Śaiva Siddhānta, soul. §

penance: Prāyaśchitta. Atonement, expiation. An act of devotion (bhakti), austerity (tapas) or discipline (sukṛitya) undertaken to soften or nullify the anticipated reaction to a past action. Penance is uncomfortable karma inflicted upon oneself to mitigate one’s karmic burden caused by wrongful actions (kukarma). It includes such acts as prostrating 108 times, fasting, self-denial, or carrying kavadi (public penance), as well as more extreme austerities, or tapas. Penance is often suggested by spiritual leaders and elders. See: prāyaśchitta, tapas.§

periannan பெரியண்ணன் “Big brother” or “elder brother.”§

piṅgalā: पिंगला “Tawny channel.” The masculine psychic current flowing along the spine. See: kuṇḍalinī, nāḍī, rāja yoga.§

pitṛi-tarpaṇa: पितृ तर्पण Ceremonial offerings to departed ancestors, constituting one of the pañcha mahāyajñas. See: pañcha mahāyajñas.§

plague: To distress, afflict, trouble or torment.§

pottu: பொட்டு See: bindu, tilaka.§

prakṛiti: प्रकृति “Primary matter; nature.” See: purusha, tattva. §

prāṇa: प्राण Vital energy or life principle. Literally, “vital air,” from the root praṇ, “to breathe.” Usually prāṇa refers to the life principle; but sometimes it denotes energy, power or the animating force of the cosmos. See: kośa, tattva.§

praṇāma: प्रणाम “Obeisance; bowing down.” Reverent salutation in which the head or body is bowed. —ashṭāṅga praṇāma (“Eight-limbed obeisance”): the full prostration for men, in which the hands, chest, forehead, knees and feet touch the ground. (Same as śashṭāṇga praṇāma.) —pañchāṅga praṇāma (“Five-limbed obeisance”): the woman’s form of prostration, in which the hands, head and legs touch the ground (with the ankles crossed, right over the left). A more exacting term for prostration is praṇipāta, “falling down in obeisance.” See: bhakti, namaskāra, prapatti.§

prāṇāyāma: प्राणायाम “Breath control.”-See: rāja yoga.§

prāṇic: Relating to prāṇa. See: prāṇa.§

prapatti: प्रपत्ति “Throwing oneself down.” Bhakti—total, unconditional submission to God, often coupled with the attitude of personal helplessness, self-effacement and resignation. See: bhakti, grace, pāda, surrender.§

prasāda: प्रसाद “Clarity, brightness; grace.” 1) The virtue of serenity and graciousness. 2) Food offered to the Deity or the guru, or the blessed remnants of such food. 3) Any propitiatory offering. See: sacrament.§

prāyaśchitta: प्रायश्चित्त “Predominant thought or aim.” Penance. Acts of atonement. See: penance.§

preceptor: Highly respected teacher and head of a spiritual order and clan; the equivalent of the word satguru. §

priya: प्रिय “Beloved, dear to.”§

proselytize: To induce someone to convert to another religious faith.§

pūjā: पूजा “Worship, adoration.” An Āgamic rite of worship performed in the home, temple or shrine, to the mūrti (Deity image), śrī pādukā (holy sandals), or other consecrated object, or to a person, such as the satguru. Its inner purpose is to purify the atmosphere around the object worshiped, establish a connection with the inner worlds and invoke the presence of God, Gods or one’s guru. During pūjā, the officiant (pujārī) recites various chants praising the Divine and beseeching divine blessings, while making offerings in accordance with established traditions. Pūjā, the worship of a mūrti through water, lights and flowers in temples and shrines, is the Āgamic counterpart of the Vedic yajña rite, in which offerings are conveyed through the sacred homa fire. These are the two great streams of adoration and communion in Hinduism. §

punarjanma: पुनर्जन्म “Reincarnation.”-From punaḥ, “again and again,” and janma, “taking birth.” See: reincarnation.§

Purāṇa: पुराण “Ancient (lore).” Hindu folk narratives containing ethical and cosmological teachings relative to Gods, man and the world. They revolve around five subjects: primary creation, secondary creation, genealogy, cycles of time and history. §

imageRadhākṛishṇan, Dr. S.: (1888-1975) A President of India (1962-1967), an outstanding scholar, philosopher, prolific writer, compelling speaker and effective spokesman of Hinduism. Along with VivekĀnanda, Tagore, Aurobindo and others, he helped bring about the current Hindu revival, making Hinduism better known and appreciated at home and abroad, especially in the intellectual world. He was a proponent of panentheism. See also: Vedānta.§

Rādhā Rāṇi: राधाराणि “Queen of prosperity.” Mythologically, Rādhā Rāṇi is a consort of Lord Kṛishṇa. In Hindu mythology, Rādhā is the creative, life-sustaining, auspicious, benevolent, loving and redemptive Goddess, chief among the Gopis. In the bhakti tradition of Kṛishṇa she symbolizes the soul’s yearning for salvation and union with God.§

rāga: राग “That which enraptures.” In the structure of melody in Indian music, a specific collection of sounds or notes. Rāga is similar to “scale” in Western notation, but rāga includes the unique emotional or mystical mood created when the melody is heard.§

Rājarājeśvarī: राजराजेश्वरि “Royal lady.” The Goddess of world-sustaining transcendental knowledge. She whose glances delight the universe. A form of Pārvatī.§

rājaṛishi: राजऋषि “Kingly seer.”§

rāja yoga: राजयोग “King of yogas.” Also known as ashṭāṅga yoga, “eight-limbed yoga.” The classical yoga system of eight progressive stages to Illumination as described in various yoga Upanishads, the Tirumantiram and, most notably, the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. The eight stages are: yama (restraints), niyama (observances), āsana (posture), prāṇāyāma (breath control), pratyāhara (withdrawal), dhāraṇa (concentration), dhyāna (meditation) and samādhi (enstasy, mystic oneness). See: enstasy, samādhi, yoga. §

Rāmakṛishṇa: रामकिष्ण (1836‒1886) One of the great saints and mystics of modern Hinduism, and an exemplar of monistic theism—fervent devotee of Mother Kālī and staunch monist who taught oneness and the pursuit of nirvikalpa samādhi, realization of the Absolute. He was guru to the great Swāmī VivekĀnanda (1863‒1902), who internationalized Hindu thought and philosophy. §

reincarnate: To take birth in another body, having lived and died before.§

reincarnation: “Re-entering the flesh.” Punarjanma; metempsychosis. The process wherein souls take on a physical body through the birth process. The cycle of reincarnation ends when karma has been resolved and the Self God (Paraśiva) has been realized. This condition of release is called moksha. Then the soul continues to evolve and mature, but without the need to return to physical existence. See: karma, moksha, saṁsāra, soul. §

religion: From Latin religare, “to bind back.” Any system of belief in and worship of suprahuman beings or powers and/or a Supreme Being or Power. Religion is a structured vehicle for soul advancement which often includes theology, scripture, spiritual and moral practices, priesthood and liturgy. See: Hinduism.§

Ṛig Veda: ऋग्वेद “Veda of verse (ṛik).” The first and oldest of the four Veda compendia of revealed scriptures (śruti), including a hymn collection (Saṁhitā), priestly explanatory manuals (Brāhmaṇas), forest treatises (Āraṇyakas) elaborating on the Vedic rites, and philosophical dialogs (Upanishads). The oldest and core portion is the Saṁhitā, believed to date back, in its oral form, as far as 8,000 years. It embodies prayerful hymns of praise and invocation to the Divinities of nature and to the One Divine. See: śruti, Veda.§

ṛishi: ऋषि “Seer.” A term for an enlightened being, emphasizing psychic perception and visionary wisdom. In the Vedic age, ṛishis lived in forest or mountain retreats, either alone or with disciples. These ṛishis were great souls who were the inspired conveyers of the Vedas. §

imageSabbath: The last day of the week designated by the fourth Commandment as a day of worship and rest, observed by Jews and Christians. sacrament: 1) Holy rite, especially one solemnized in a formal, consecrated manner which is a bonding between the recipient and God, Gods or guru. This includes rites of passage (saṁskāra), ceremonies sanctifying crucial events or stages of life. 2) Prasāda. Sacred substances, grace-filled gifts, blessed in sacred ceremony or by a holy person. See: prasāda, saṁskāra. §

sādhaka: साधक From sadh, “going straight to the goal.” A spiritual aspirant; a devotee who performs sādhana. A serious seeker who has undertaken spiritual disciplines, is usually celibate and under the guidance of a guru. He wears white and may be under simple vows, but is not a yogī or sannyāsin. See: sādhana. §

sādhana: साधन “Effective means of attainment.” Self-effort, spiritual discipline; the way. Religious or spiritual disciplines, such as pūjā, yoga, meditation, japa, fasting and austerity. The effect of sādhana is the building of willpower, faith and confidence in oneself and in God, Gods and guru. See: pāda, rāja yoga, spiritual unfoldment. §

sādhana mārga: साधनमार्ग “The way of sādhana.” A phrase used by Sage Yogaswāmī to name his prescription for seekers of Truth—a path of intense effort, spiritual discipline and consistent inner transformation, as opposed to theoretical and intellectual learning. See: pāda, sādhana, spiritual unfoldment.§

Saguṇa Brahman: सगुणब्रह्मन् Brahman “with qualities.” Describes Śiva’s perfections of Satchidānanda and Maheśvara, the Primal Soul and His Divine Mind—that part of God which is divine, all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful and omnipotent. See: Brahman.§

Śaiva: शैव “Auspicious.” Of or relating to Śaivism or its adherents, of whom there are about 400 million in the world today. Same as Śaivite. See: Śaivism.§

Śaiva Siddhānta: शैवसिद्धान्त “Final conclusions of Śaivism.” The most widespread and influential Śaivite school today, predominant especially among the Tamil people in Sri Lanka and South India. It is the formalized theology of the divine revelations contained in the twenty-eight Śaiva Āgamas. For Śaiva Siddhāntins, Śiva is the totality of all, understood in three perfections: Parameśvara (the Personal Creator Lord), Parāśakti (the substratum of form) and Paraśiva (Absolute Reality which transcends all). Souls and world are identical in essence with Śiva, yet also differ in that they are evolving. A pluralistic stream arose in the middle ages from the teachings of Aghoraśiva and Meykandar, which denies that souls ever attain perfect sameness or unity with Śiva. See: Śaivism.§

Śaiva Siddhānta Church (Śaiva Siddhānta Dharmasabhā): शैव सिद्धान्त धर्मसभा “Church of God Siva’s Revealed Truth,” founded in 1949 by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.§

Śaivism (Śaiva): शैव The religion followed by those who worship Śiva as supreme God. Oldest of the four denominations of Hinduism. The earliest historical evidence of Śaivism is from the Indus Valley civilization (purported to be 6,000 to 8,000 years old) in the form of the renowned seal of Śiva as Lord Paśupati, seated in a yogic pose. In the Rāmāyaṇa, Lord Rāma worshiped Śiva, as did his rival Rāvaṇa. In 624 BCE Buddha was born a Śaivite Hindu prince in a royal family, and records of his time speak of the Śaiva ascetics who wandered the hills looking much as they do today. §

Śaivite (Śaiva): शैव Of or relating to Śaivism or its adherents, of whom there are about 400 million in the world today. See: Śaivism.§

Śākta: शाक्त “Powerful,” Of or relating to Śāktism. A follower of the Śākta Hindu religion. See: Śāktism.§

Śakti: शक्ति “Power, energy” (from the root śak, “to be able”). The active power or manifest energy of Śiva that pervades all of existence. Śakti is most easily experienced by devotees as the sublime, bliss-inducing energy that emanates from a holy person or sanctified Hindu temple. See: kuṇḍalinī, Śāktism.§

śaktipāta: शक्तिपात “Descent of grace.” Guru dīkshā, initiation from the preceptor; particularly the first initiation, which awakens the kuṇḍalinī and launches the process of spiritual unfoldment. See: dīkshā, grace, kuṇḍalinī.§

Śāktism (Śākta): शाक्त “Doctrine of power.” The religion followed by those who worship the Supreme as the Divine Mother—Śakti or Devī—in Her many forms, both gentle and fierce. Śāktism is one of the four primary denominations of Hinduism. See: Śakti, tantrism. §

samādhi: समाधि “Enstasy,” which means “standing within one’s Self.” “Sameness; contemplation; union, wholeness; completion, accomplishment.” Samādhi is the state of true yoga, in which the meditator and the object of meditation are one. Samādhi is of two levels. The first is savikalpa samādhi (“enstasy with form or seed”), identification or oneness with the essence of an object. Its highest form is the realization of the primal substratum or pure consciousness, Satchidānanda. The second is nirvikalpa samādhi (“enstasy without form or seed”), identification with the Self, in which all modes of consciousness are transcended and Absolute Reality, Paraśiva, beyond time, form and space, is experienced. This brings in its aftermath a complete transformation of consciousness. See: kuṇḍalinī, Paraśiva, rāja yoga, Self Realization.§

samāpatti: समापत्ति The second in the stages of the Path of Attainment in Buddhism, a continuation of dhyāna (meditation), the first stage, leading through a progressive nullification of psychic, mental and emotional activity to a state which is perfect solitude, neither perception nor nonperception.§

Sāma Veda: सामवेद “Song of wisdom.” Third of the four Vedas. Ninety percent of its 1,875 stanzas are derived from the Ṛig Veda. It is a collection of hymns specially arranged and notated for chanting with a distinctive melody and cadence by the Udgātā priests during yajña, fire ceremony, together with stanzas from the Yajur Veda. This Veda forms the oldest known form of Indian music. See: śruti, Vedas.§

sampradāya: संप्रदाय “Tradition,” “transmission;” a philosophical or religious doctrine-or lineage. A living stream of tradition or theology within Hinduism, passed on by oral training and initiation. The term derives from the verb sampradā, meaning “gift, grant, bestowing or conferring; handing down by tradition; bequeathing.” See: guru paramparā. §

saṁsāra: संसार “Flow.” The phenomenal world. Transmigratory existence, fraught with impermanence and change. The cycle of birth, death and rebirth; the total pattern of successive earthly lives experienced by a soul. §

saṁskāra: संस्कार “Impression, activator; sanctification, preparation.” 1) The imprints left on the subconscious mind by experience (from this or previous lives), which then color all of life, one’s nature, responses, states of mind, etc. 2) A sacrament or rite done to mark a significant transition of life. These make deep and positive impressions on the mind of the recipient, inform the family and community of changes in the lives of its members and secure inner-world blessings. See: sacrament. §

Sanātana Dharma: सनातनधर्म “Eternal religion” or “everlasting path.” It is the original designation for the Hindu religion. See: Hinduism. §

Sanātani: सनातनि “Of the eternal.”-A Hindu, a follower of the eternal path.§

saṅgama: सङ्गम “Association; fellowship.” Also saṅga. Coming together in a group, especially for religious purposes. See: satsaṅga. §

saṅkalpa: संकल्प “Will; purpose; determination.” A solemn vow or declaration of purpose to perform any ritual observance. Most commonly, saṅkalpa names the mental and verbal preparation made by a temple priest as he begins rites of worship. See: pūjā. §

Śaṅkara: शङ्कर One of Hinduism’s most extraordinary monks (788-820) and preeminent guru of the Smārta Sampradāya. He is noted for his monistic philosophy of Advaita Vedānta, his many scriptural commentaries, and formalizing ten orders of sannyāsins with pontifical headquarters at strategic points across India. He only lived 32 years, but traveled throughout India and transformed the Hindu world in that time. See: Smārtism, Vedānta.§

Śaṅkarāchārya pīṭha: शङ्कराचार्यपीथ Advaita monasteries established by Śaṅkara (ca 788-820) as centers of Smārta authority in India, each with a distinct guru paramparā and a reigning pontiff entitled Śaṅkarāchārya, and one of the four Upanishadic mahāvākyas as a mantra. East coast: Govardhana Maṭha, in Puri (center of the Āraṇya and Vāna orders). Himalayas: JyotiḥMaṭha, near Badrināṭh (Giri, Pārvata and Sāgara orders). West coast: Śārada Maṭha, in Dvāraka (Tīrtha and Āśrama orders). South: Śṛingeri Maṭha (Bhārati, Pūrī and Sarasvatī orders). A fifth prominent pīṭha, associated with Sṛingeri Maṭha, is in Kanchipuram, also in the South. See: Smārtism, Śaṅkara. §

Sāṅkhya: सांख्य “Enumeration, reckoning.” See: tattva.§

San Mārga: सन्मार्ग “True path.” The straight spiritual path leading to the ultimate goal, Self Realization, without detouring into unnecessary psychic exploration or pointless development of siddhis. A San Mārgī is a person “on the path,” as opposed to a saṁsārī, one engrossed in worldliness. San Mārga also names the jñāna pāda. See: pāda, sādhana mārga.§

San Mārga Sanctuary: A meditation tīrtha at the foot of the extinct volcano, Mount Waialeale, on Hawaii’s Garden Island, Kauai. Here pilgrims follow the ½-mile path, San Mārga, to a natural Śivaliṅga, walk the path of the Tamil Nayanars around picturesque lotus lakes and ponds and visit the six shrines of the Kailāsa Paramparā on the banks of Śaravaṇabhāva Lake in Ṛishi Valley. Paths lead visitors to the sacred Wailua River, then up stone stairs to the Chola-style white-granite Iraivan Temple, hand-carved in Bangalore, India. In the sanctum sanctorum, the Supreme God, Śiva (Parameśvara-Parāśakti-Paraśiva), will be enshrined as a massive 700-pound, single-pointed earthkeeper quartz crystal. San Mārga Sanctuary, founded in 1970, is among many public services of Śaiva Siddhānta Church, one of America’s senior Hindu religious institutions. See: Subramuniyaswami, tīrtha. §

sannidhāna: सन्निधान “Nearness; proximity; taking charge of.” A title of heads of monasteries: Guru Mahāsannidhāna. See: sānnidhya. §

sānnidhya: सान्निध्य “(Divine) presence; nearness, proximity.” The radiance and blessed presence of śakti within and around a temple or a holy person. §

Sanskrit (Saṁskṛita): संस्कृत “Well-made;” “refined,” “perfected.” The classical sacerdotal language of ancient India, considered a pure vehicle for communication with the celestial worlds. It is the primary language in which Hindu scriptures are written, including the Vedas and Āgamas. Employed today as a liturgical, literary and scholarly language, but no longer used as a spoken vernacular. §

Sarasvatī: सरस्वती “The flowing one.” Śakti, the Universal Mother; Goddess of the arts and learning, mythological consort of the God Brahmā. Sarasvatī, the river Goddess, is usually depicted wearing a white sārī and holding a vīna, sitting upon a swan or lotus flower. Prayers are offered to her for refinements of art, culture and learning. Sarasvatī also names one of seven sacred rivers (Sapta Sindhu) mentioned in the Ṛig Veda. See: Goddess, Śakti. §

sārī: (Hindi, सारी ) The traditional outer garment of a Hindu woman, consisting of a long, unstitched piece of cloth, usually colorful cotton or silk, wrapped around the body, forming an ankle-length skirt, and around the bosom and over the shoulder. §

śāstra: शास्त्र “Sacred text; teaching.” 1) Any religious or philosophical treatise, or body of writings. 2) A department of knowledge, a science; e.g., the Dharma Śāstras on religious law, Artha Śāstras on politics.§

Satan: The devil; evil personified. A being who in Christian and other Semitic religions opposes God’s will and tempts souls into wickedness. In Hinduism, all is seen as the manifestation of God, and there is no Satan. §

Satchidānanda (Sachchidānanda): सच्चिदानन्द “Existence-consciousness-bliss.” A synonym for Parāśakti. Lord Śiva’s Divine Mind and simultaneously the pure superconscious mind of each individual soul. Perfect love and omniscient, omnipotent consciousness, the fountainhead of all existence, yet containing and permeating all existence. Also called pure consciousness, pure form, substratum of existence, and more. One of the goals of the meditator or yogī is to experience the natural state of the mind, Satchidānanda, subduing the vṛittis through yogic practices. See: tattva.§

satguru (sadguru): सद्गुरु “True weighty one.” A spiritual preceptor of the highest attainment—one who has realized the ultimate Truth, Paraśiva, through nirvikalpa samādhi—a jīvanmukta able to lead others securely along the spiritual path. He is always a sannyāsin, an unmarried renunciate. All Hindu denominations teach that the grace and guidance of a living satguru is a necessity for Self Realization. He is recognized and revered as the embodiment of God, Sadāśiva, the source of grace and of liberation. See: guru, guru bhakti, guru-śishya system.§

Satguru Pūrṇimā: सत्गुरु पूर्णिमा See: Guru Pūrṇimā.§

satsaṅga: सत्संग “Holy gathering.” Association of devotees for temple or home worship, celebration, selfless service and religious studies. §

satya: सत्य “Truthfulness.” See: yama-niyama.§

savikalpa samādhi: सविकल्पसमाधि “Enstasy with form” or “seed.” See: rāja yoga, samādhi.§

Self (Self God): God Śiva’s perfection of Absolute Reality, Paraśiva—That which abides at the core of every soul. See: Paramātman, Paraśiva.§

Self Realization: Direct knowing of the Self God, Paraśiva. Self Realization is known in Sanskrit as nirvikalpa samādhi; “enstasy without form or seed;” the ultimate spiritual attainment (also called asamprajñata samādhi). Esoterically, this state is attained when the mystic kuṇḍalinī force pierces through the sahasrāra chakra at the crown of the head. See: liberation, kuṇḍalinī, Paraśiva, rāja yoga, samādhi.§

Semitic: Of or relating to the Semites or their languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, and Aramaic) or their cultures. §

severance: A breaking off or separation. §

Shaṇmukha: शण्मुख “Six-faced.” A name for Lord Murugan or Kārttikeya, denoting the multiplicity of His divine functions. See: Kārttikeya.§

Sharma: शर्म A North Indian Brahmin caste.§

Shum: A Nātha mystical language of meditation revealed in Switzerland in 1968 by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Its primary alphabet looks like this:

Sikhism: “Discipleship.” Religion of nine million members founded in India about 500 years ago by the saint Guru Nānak. A reformist faith which rejects idolatry and the caste system, its holy book is the Ādi Granth, and its main holy center is the Golden Temple of Amritsar. §

śishya: शिष्य “A pupil or disciple,” especially one who has proven himself and has formally been accepted by a guru. §

Śiva: शिव “The auspicious, gracious or kindly one.” Supreme Being of the Śaivite religion. God Śiva is All and in all, simultaneously the creator and the creation, both immanent and transcendent. As personal Deity, He is creator, preserver and destroyer. See: Naṭarāja, Parameśvara, Paraśiva, Śaivism.§

Śivaliṅga: शिवलिङ्ग “Mark (or sign) of Śiva.” The most prevalent icon of Śiva, found in virtually all Śiva temples. A rounded, elliptical, aniconic image, usually set on a circular base, or pīṭha. The Śivaliṅga is the simplest and most ancient symbol of Śiva, especially of Paraśiva, God beyond all forms and qualities. The pīṭha represents Parāśakti, the manifesting power of God. See: mūrti, Śaivism.§

Sivam: சிவம்Same as Śiva.§

Sivathondar: சிவதொண்டர் One who performs Sivathondu, selfless service to God Śiva.§

Sivathondu: சிவதொண்டு “Service to Śiva.” Akin to the concept of karma yoga. See: karma yoga.§

Smārta: स्मार्त “Of or related to smṛiti,” the secondary Hindu scriptures. Of or related to Smārtism; a follower of Smārtism. See: Smārtism.§

Smārtism: स्मार्तिस्म् Sect based on the secondary scriptures (smṛiti). The most liberal of the four major denominations of Hinduism, an ancient Vedic brāhminical tradition (ca 700 BCE) which from the 9th century onward was guided and deeply influenced by the Advaita Vedānta teachings of the reformist Ādi Śaṅkara. Its adherents rely mainly on the classical smṛiti literature, especially the Itihāsas (Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata, the latter of which includes the Bhagavad Gītā), Purāṇas and Dharma Śāstras. These are regarded as complementary to and a means to understanding the Vedas. See: Śaṅkara.§

smṛiti: स्मृति That which is “remembered;” the tradition. Hinduism’s nonrevealed, secondary but deeply revered scriptures, derived from man’s insight and experience. Smṛiti speaks of secular matters—science, law, history, agriculture, etc.—as well as spiritual lore, ranging from day-to-day rules and regulations to superconscious outpourings. 1) The term smṛiti refers to a specific collection of ancient Sanskritic texts. 2) In a general sense, smṛiti may refer to any text other than śruti (revealed scripture) that is revered as scripture within a particular sect. §

snāna: स्नान “Bathing.”-Ceremonial ablution, especially in sacred waters, traditionally prescribed as an obligatory Hindu duty. §

soul: The real being of man, as distinguished from body, mind and emotions. The soul (known as ātman or purusha) is the sum of its two aspects: 1) the form or body of the soul and 2) the essence of the soul—Pure Consciousness (Parāśakti or Satchidānanda) and Absolute Reality (Paraśiva). See: ātman, Paramātman, spiritual unfoldment. §

spiritual unfoldment: The unfoldment of the spirit, the inherent, divine soul of man. The gradual expansion of consciousness as kuṇḍalinī śakti slowly rises through the sushumṇā. The term spiritual unfoldment indicates this slow, imperceptible process, likened to a lotus flower’s emerging from bud to effulgent beauty. See: kuṇḍalinī, liberation, pāda, sādhana.§

śraddhā: श्रद्धा “Faith; belief.” §

śraddhā śuddhi: श्रद्धाशुद्धि See: śuddhi.§

śruti: श्रुति “That which is heard.” Aurally, or clairaudiently, received scripture. Hinduism’s revealed scriptures, of supreme theological authority and spiritual value. They are timeless teachings transmitted to ṛishis, or seers directly by God Śiva and the Gods thousands of years ago. Śruti is thus said to be apaurusheya, “impersonal,” or rather “suprahuman.” Śruti essentially consists of the Vedas and the Āgamas, preserved initially through oral tradition and eventually written down in Sanskrit. Most mantras are drawn from śruti, used for rites of worship, both public and domestic, as well as for personal prayer and japa. See: Āgama, smṛiti, Veda. §

Subramuniyaswami: சுப்பிரமுனியசுவாமி Current and 162nd satguru (1927–) of the Nandinātha Sampradāya’s Kailāsa Paramparā. He was ordained Sivaya Subramuniyaswami by Sage Yogaswāmī on the full-moon day of May 12, 1949, in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, at 6:21-pm. This was just days after he had attained nirvikalpa samādhi in the caves of Jalani. The name Subramuniya is a Tamil spelling of the Sanskrit Śubhramunya (not to be confused with Subramaṇya). It is formed from śubhra meaning “light; intuition,” and muni, “silent sage.” Ya means “restraint; religious meditation.” Thus, Subramuniya means a self-restrained soul who remains silent or, when he speaks, speaks out from intuition.§

śuddhi: शुद्धि “Purification.” Also, śraddhā śuddhi, “purification of faith.”-The rite of accepting back into the Hindu fold individuals who have been converted to other faiths or otherwise require purification to rejoin the Hindu congregation. An alternate term to vrātyastoma, “oath affirmation.” §

śūdra: शूद्र “Worker, servant.” The social class of skilled artisans, workers and laborers. See: varṇa dharma.§

śūnya: शून्य “The void, the distinctionless absolute.”§

Sūrya: सूर्य “Sun.” One of the principal Divinities of the Vedas, also prominent in the epics and Purāṇas. Śaivites revere Sūrya, the Sun God each morning as Śiva Sūrya. Smārtas and Vaishṇavas revere the golden orb as Sūrya Nārāyaṇa. §

sushumṇā nāḍī: सुशुम्णानाडी “Most gracious channel.” Central psychic nerve current within the spinal column. See: kuṇḍalinī, nāḍī, samādhi.§

sūtra: सूत्र “Thread.” An aphoristic verse; the literary style consisting of such maxims. From 500 BCE, this style was widely adopted by Indian philosophical systems and eventually employed in works on law, grammar, medicine, poetry, crafts, etc. §

svayambhū mūrti: स्वयम्भूमूर्ति “Self-existent image.” A Deity image discovered in nature, and not carved or crafted by human hands. See: mūrti. §

swāmī: स्वामी “Lord; owner.”-He who knows or is master of himself. A respectful title for a Hindu monk, usually a sannyāsin. The term swāmī is sometimes applied more broadly to include nonmonastics dedicated to spiritual work. See: sannyāsin. §

imageTagore, Rabīndranāth: रबीन्द्रनाथ् तगोरे One of India’s most highly acclaimed modern-day writers and poets (1861‒1941), son of Devendranāth 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. §

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 more sublime, female 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. See: tantrism.§

tantric (tāntrika): तान्त्रिक Adjectival form for practices prescribed in the tantra traditions. The name of a follower of any of the tantric traditions. See: 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. See: kuṇḍalinī, rāja yoga, Śāktism, tantra. §

tapas: तपस् “Warmth, heat,” hence psychic energy, spiritual fervor or ardor. Austerity, asceticism, penance. State of accelerated unfoldment and working with the forces through spiritual practices. A state of humble submission to the divine forces and surrender to the processes of inner purification which occurs almost automatically at certain stages. Denotes religious austerity, intense meditation, penance, bodily mortification; connotes spiritual purification and transformation as a “fiery process” that “burns up” impurities, ego, vāsanas and past karmas that obstruct God Realization. See: kuṇḍalinī, penance, sādhana.§

Tatha astu: तथास्तु A pronouncement meaning, “Be it so.” §

tattva: तत्त्व “That-ness” or “essential nature.” Tattvas are the primary principles, elements, states or categories of existence, the building blocks of the universe. Ṛishis describe this emanational process as the unfoldment of thirty-six 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. §

tejas: तेजस् “Brilliance, fire, splendor.” Heat or fire, one of the five elements—earth, water, fire, air, ether. Tejas also names the glow of tapas in the shining expression of the tapasvin. Tejas is increased through brahmacharya, control of the sexual energies by lifting the heat into the higher chakras. See: brahmacharya, tapas.§

temple: Mandira. An edifice in a consecrated place dedicated to the worship of God or the Gods. From the Latin templum, “temple, sanctuary; marked space.” Hindu temples, over one million worldwide, are revered 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 from the Third World uses His installed image (mūrti) as a temporary body through which bless those living on the earth plane, the First World. See: darshan, tīrthayātrā.§

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.§

theistic dualism: Any dualistic philosophy that is also theistic. Theism is the belief that God exists as a real, conscious, personal Supreme Being. Dualism describes a philosophy which view reality as ultimately composed of two irreducible principles, entities or truths, such as God and soul, which are seen as eternally separate. §

tilaka: तिलक “Sesamum-like mark,” from tila, “sesame seed.” Distinctive 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 of clay. The Śaivite tilaka, called tripuṇḍra, consists of three horizontal lines of white holy ash with a dot, usually red, below the middle of the forehead. See: bindu, Hinduism. §

tīrtha: तीर्थ “Passageway; ford.” A bathing ghat or place of pilgrimage, especially on the banks of sacred waters. Also refers to water offered in pūjā. §

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. See: pañcha nitya karmas§

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 Madras. See: Tiruvalluvar. §

Tiruvalluvar: திருவள்ளுவர் “Holy weaver.” Tamil weaver and householder saint (ca 200 BCE) who wrote the classic Śaivite ethical scripture Tirukural. See: Tirukural. §

tithing: Daśamāṁśa. “One-tenth sharing.” Religion’s dues. The spiritual discipline, often a vrata, of paying 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 daśamāṁśa is called makimai in the Tamil tradition. See: tithing vow. §

tithing vow: Daśama bhāga vrata. “One-tenth-part vow.” A promise tithers make before God, Gods and their family or peers to tithe regularly each month—for a specified time, or for life. §

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.§

triśūla: त्रिशूल “Trident.”A three-pronged spear or trident wielded by Lord Śiva and certain Śaivite ascetics. Also held by loving Gaṇeśa, it symbolizes God’s three fundamental śaktis or powers—icçhā (desire, will, love), kriyā (action) and jñāna (wisdom). §

imageucçhishṭa: उच्छिश्ट “Leavings; remainder.” Religiously, the precious leavings from the guru’s food plate or the waters from the bathing of his feet or sandals (or of a Deity) which are ingested by devotees as prasāda. See: prasāda, satguru.§

upadeśa: उपदेश “Advice; religious instruction.” Often given in question-and-answer form, the satguru’s spiritual discourses.§

Upanishad: उपनिशद् “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. See: śruti, Veda, Vedānta.§

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

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, pañcha nitya karmas.§

imagevahana: वहन “Vessel, conveyance.” The mount, or vehicle, of a Deity, often an expression of an aspect of the Deity. §

Vaidika Dharma: वैदिकधर्म “The way of the Vedas.” An alternate term for Hinduism. See: Hinduism. §

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

Vaishṇava: वैष्णव “Way of Vishṇu.” Of or relating to Vishṇu. A follower of Lord Vishṇu or His incarnations, such as Kṛishṇa or Rāma. See: Vaishṇavism. §

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. Vaishṇavism stresses the personal aspect of God over the impersonal, and bhakti (devotion) as the true path to salvation. Foremost among Vaishṇava scriptures are the Vaishṇava Āgamas.§

Vaishṇavite: A follower of Vishṇu or His incarnations. See: Vaishṇavism.§

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.§

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. §

Vārāṇasī: वाराणसी Also known as Kāśī or Banāras. (Derived from the name of two rivers, the Varaṇā, “warding off,” and Asī, “sword.”) 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 Kāśī, 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 strata 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 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, 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. §

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. Each Veda has four sections: Saṁhitās (hymn collections), Brāhmaṇas (priestly manuals), Āraṇyakas (forest treatises) and Upanishads (enlightened discourses). See: śruti, Upanishad.§

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. See: monistic theism, panentheism.§

Vedāntin: वेदान्तिन् An adherent of Vedānta.§

Vedic astrology: See: jyotisha.§

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 dhoti (Hindi). §

videhamukti: विदेहमुक्ति “Disembodied liberation.” Release from reincarnation through nirvikalpa samādhi—the realization of the Self, Paraśiva—at the point of death. See: jīvanmukti, moksha, Paraśiva, Self Realization.§

vīṇā: वीणा Large South Indian popular musical instrument usually having seven strings and two calabash gourd resonance boxes. §

Vīra Śaivism (Śaiva): वीरशैविस्म् “Heroic Śaivism.” Made prominent by Basavaṇṇa in the 12th century. Also called Liṅgāyat Śaivism. Followers, called Liṅgāyats, Liṅgavantas or Śivaśaraṇās, always wear a Śivaliṅga on their person. Vīra Śaivites are proudly egalitarian and emphasize the personal relationship with Śiva, rather than temple worship. Today Vīra Śaivism is a vibrant faith, particularly strong in its religious homeland of Karnataka, South Central India. 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: Śaivism.§

visarjana: विसर्जन “Departure.” §

Vishṇu: विष्णु “The 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.§

Viśvaguru: विश्वगुरु “World as teacher.” The playful personification of the world as the guru of those with no guru, headmaster of the school of hard knocks, where students are left to their own devices and learn by their own mistakes rather than by following a traditional teacher.§

viśvagrāsa: विश्वग्रास “Total absorption.” The final merger, or absorption, of the soul in Śiva, by His grace, 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 first emanated. 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. See: ātman, samādhi, soul.§

Vivekānanda, Swāmī: विवेकानन्द “Of blissful discrimination.”-blissful disciple of Śrī RĀmakṛishṇa who was overtaken by an ardent love of Hinduism and a missionary zeal that drove him onward. He attained mahāsamādhi at age 39 (1863–1902). 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 Rāmakṛishṇa Mission which thrives today internationally with over 100 centers and nearly 1,000 sannyāsins. He is credited, along with Tagore, Aurobindo, Rādhākṛishṇan and others, with sparking the modern Hindu revival. §

vow: See: vrata. §

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. §

vrātyastoma: व्रात्यस्तोम “Vow pronouncement.” The purification rite, outlined in the Taṇḍya Brāhmaṇa, to welcome back into a Hindu community those who have become impure. It is performed for Hindus returning to India from abroad and for those who have embraced other faiths. §

imageyama-niyama: यम नियम “Restraints-observances.” The first two of the eight limbs of rāja yoga, constituting Hinduism’s fundamental ethical codes, the ten yamas and ten niyamas are the essential foundation for all spiritual progress. The yamas are the ethical restraints; the niyamas are the religious practices. Here are the ten traditional yamas and ten niyamas. —yamas: 1) ahiṁsā: “Noninjury.” 2)-satya: “Truthfulness.” 3) asteya: “Nonstealing.” 4) brahmacharya: “Sexual purity.” 5) kshamā: “Patience.” 6) dhṛiti: “Steadfastness.” 7) dayā: “Compassion.” 8) ārjava: “Honesty, straightforwardness.” 9) mitāhāra: “Moderate appetite.” 10) śaucha: “Purity.” —niyamas: 1) hrī: “Remorse.” 2) santosha: “Contentment.” 3) dāna: “Giving.” 4) āstikya: “Faith.” 5) Īśvarapūjana: “Worship of the Lord.” 6) siddhānta śravaṇa: “Scriptural listening.” 7) mati: “Cognition.” 8) vrata: “Sacred vows.” 9) japa: “Recitation.” 10) tapas: “Austerity.” See: rāja yoga. §

yantra: यन्त्र “Restrainer,” “limiter,” 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. §

yātrā: यात्रा See: tīrthayātrā.§

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 was codified by Patañjali 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: bhakti yoga, haṭha yoga, rāja yoga. §

Yogaswāmī: யோகசுவாமி “Master of yoga.” Sri Lanka’s renowned spiritual master (1872–1964); a siddhar of the Nandinātha Sampradāya’s Kailasa Paramparā who initiated Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami in 1949. See: Kailāsa Paramparā.§

yogī: योगी One who practices yoga, especially kuṇḍalinī yoga or rāja yoga. (More properly yogin. Feminine, yoginī.) §