Acharya: Prominent religious teacher and spiritual guide, who teaches by his own example and imparts spiritual transcendental knowledge in a language that can be understood by the spiritual seekers. In Vaishnavism, an Acharya instructs people and initiates them into the Supreme Lord’s devotional service.
Adharma: Sanskrit antonym of dharma; all that is not in accord with the human and Divine law; absence of virtue, unrighteousness, injustice, evil, immorality, wickedness, vice.
Adishesh: king of the nagas; the eldest son of Kadru and Rishi Kashyap. He is also referred to as Ananta, Shesha and Sheshnag. Vasuki is his younger brother. It is usually represented as a huge coiled snake with a thousand hoods floating on the Milky Ocean, who serves as the bed on which Mahavishnu rests, while Mahalakshmi massages His Feet. In the Puranas it is said that he holds on his hoods, all the planets of the universe and sings the glories of Mahavishnu from all his mouths. He is considered to be an expansion of the Lord, who manifests as His eternal companion; when the Lord has manifested Himself on Earth as Rama, Krishna and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, He has also come as Lakshman, Balarama and Nityananda, respectively. Sri Ramanuja Acharya, Manavala Mamunigal and Pantajali are also considered to be manifestations of Adhishesh.
Adi Shankaracharya, Sri: great Vedanta philosopher who lived in the 8th century, and revived Advaita Vedanta in India, after a thousand years of Buddhist influence. Though he lived only thirty-two years, he organized a monastic system that is still in existence today. His enormous literary contribution includes commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the principal Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita. He also wrote his own philosophical works such as the Vivekacudamani (the Crest- Jewel of Discrimination) and the Upadeshasahasri. In addition, Adi Shankaracharya composed hymns, prayers, and various minor works on Vedanta philosophy.
Aditi: Daksha Prajapati’s eldest daughter and wife of Rishi Kashyap. The mother of the Adityas, of the demigods, as well as Vamana Avatar, one of the ten incarnations of Mahavishnu (see also Dashavatar).
Adityas: Devas or demigods; the sons of Aditi; opulent expansions of the Lord in the form of Sun-gods. Each one shines in a particular month of the year. They act as protectors of all beings and the world. The Bhagavata Purana and Linga Purana lists twelve Adityas but some names vary. The Rig Veda lists eight Adityas.
Agni: Demigod who controls fire and the fastest of all Vasus in his duty of carrying the oblations. He is even considered to be the mouth of Mahavishnu. He consumed the Khandava forest with the help of Arjuna, whom he rewarded with divine weapons, as the Gandiva bow.
Ajapa mantra: When the heart continuously chants a mantra or Divine Name, without mental effort, not in words but in vibration. There is a constant awareness of the mantra. We become one with the mantra, one with God.
1. Divine Nectar of the Supreme God; the nectar of immortality which emerged from the Milky Ocean churned by the demigods and asuras.
2. The fluid that flow from the pituitary gland down the throat, in deep states of meditation, or when the sadhak masters the Kechari Mudra (one of the Atma Kriya Yoga techniques).
3. It is manifested miraculously, flowing from statues of deities
Apara Prakriti: One aspect of Prakriti; the lower nature of the Lord manifestation, which deals with perishable matter made of the five elements, and includes the gunas, the senses, the mind, intellect and the ego (B.G. Ch. 7, vs. 4-6; see also Para Prakriti).
Arjuna: One of the five Pandava brothers, the third son of Pandu and Kunti, cousin and intimate friend of Lord Krishna. After Pandu was cursed, by a sage, to die in an act of intercourse, Kunti used special mantras, given to her by Sage Durvasa, to beget a child by invoking the demigods. By the union of Indra and Kunti, Arjuna was born. Krishna became Arjuna’s chariot driver and gave him the knowledge of the Self, the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita, on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, before the War.
Artha: Means ʻwealthʼ or ʻpropertyʼ. In Hinduism, the pursuit of wealth or economic development is one of the four traditional aims of human life.
1. Seat or throne.
2. Yoga postures to purify the body and mind.
Ashvatthama: Son of Dronacharya, who fought against the Pandavas at the Kurukshetra war. After the war, he treacherously attacked the Pandavas’ camp during the night, in revenge for his father’s death and the defeat of the Kurus. He killed Dhristadyumna, Shikandhi, and many other warriors, while they were sleeping, as well as the sons of Draupadi. He also attempted to kill the last remaining heir of the Pandavas’ dynasty, the unborn son of Abhimanyu, Parikshit, in Uttara’s womb, but Lord Krishna saved the foetus. He survived the Kurukshetra war, but was cursed by Lord Krishna. He is one of the immortals from that time who are still alive today.
Ashwin Kumars: Demigods, divine twin horsemen; sons of Vivasvan (Sun-god) and Samjna, Vishvakarma’s daughter, who had taken the form of horses at the time. Madri, the wife of Pandu, invoked them and so was granted a son by each Ashwin, the twins Nakul and Sahadev (see also Pandavas).
Atharva Veda: One of the four Vedas, also referred to as the fourth Veda, consisting primarily of prayers and chants designed to counteract the effects of diseases and calamities.
Atma: Also referred to as Self or individual soul. The unchanging, eternal, ever-free, never-bound, innermost radiant essence of a living entity. A spark of God, part of the Paramatma. Just as the seed of a tree contains all the qualities of the tree, the Atma has all the qualities of the Supreme Self, the Supreme Lord.
Atma Kriya Yoga: ʻAtmaʼ means ʻSelfʼ, ʻKriʼ means ʻactionʼ and ʻyaʼ means ʻawarenessʼ. The kriya yoga of the 21st century, given by Mahavatar Babaji to his disciple, Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda, who brought it to the world in 2007. It helps one to realise one’s true Self by awakening the Divine Love inside oneself. It consists of a series of techniques which include: meditation, pranayama, asanas, mudras, japa, and OM Chanting.
Ayodhya: Ancient sacred city of North India founded by Ikshvaku, the founder of the solar race. Capital of the Kosala kingdom, ruled by the kings of the Ikavaku dynasty, like King Dasharath, father of Lord Rama. Lord Rama, after having completed His exile, returned to Ayodhya and was finally crowned king of Kosala. It is considered the chief holy city of Lord Rama’s devotees.
Bala Krishna: Literally means ʻchild Krishnaʼ; the period of Lord Krishna’s life since His appearance in the Mathura’s royal prison in front of His parents, Devaki and Vasudeva, and until He left Vrindavan (B.G., Ch. 1, vs. 28-30).
Balaram: Also referred to as Baladeva, Balabhadra and Sankarshana; incarnation of Adhishesh and the eighth Avatar of Mahavishnu (see Dashavatar). Lord Krishna’s elder brother, son of Vasudeva and Rohini. He was actually the seventh child of Devaki and Vasudeva; to avoid him to be killed by Kamsa and to speed up Lord Krishna’s birth, Mahavishnu instructed Yogmaya to transfer overnight the foetus from Devaki’s womb to Rohini’s womb, another wife of Vasudeva, who was in Gokul under Nanda’s protection. Later, he became Duryodhan’s guru, to whom he taught the art of fighting with a mace; he remained neutral during the Kurukshetra war.
Bhagavan: The Supreme or Ultimate Lord, also referred to as Narayana, Brahman, Ishvara. A term used by Vaishnavas to address Lord Krishna and Saivites to address Lord Shiva. Bhagavan possesses six divine attributes: knowledge (jyaana), strength (bala), lordship (aishwarya), potency or power (shakti), creative power or might (virya), and splendour/radiance (tejas).
Bhajan: Hindu devotional lyrical song expressing love for the Divine. It’s usually performed by a soloist, allowing the freedom of expression. It preserves India’s rich legacy of devotion, wisdom and mysticism from saints like Meerabai, Tulsidas, Kabir, Surdas among many others. A bhajan may assume the character of a kirtan and vice-versa.
Bhakta: One who has intense, exclusive love and devotion to God.
Bhakti: Love, dedication, devotional service to the Supreme Lord.
Bhakti Yoga: A form of yoga which is based on faith, love and pure devotional service, unstained by sense gratification or philosophical speculation. The twelfth chapter of the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita.
Bharadwaja, Sri: Great Rishi, son of Brihaspati and father of Dronacharya. He is the founder of the Bharadwaja Gotra, the lineage of Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda and his followers.
1. Half-brother of Lord Rama, incarnation of Mahavishnu’s Sudarshana Chakra. His mother, Kaikeyi, obliged her husband, King Dasharath, to send Rama into exile and give the throne to Bharata. However, he placed Rama’s shoes on the throne and ruled as His representative until Rama returned to Ayodhya.
2. The emperor Bharata, son of Dushyanta and Sakuntala, who united India under his rule; founder of the Bharata dynasty and thus an ancestor of the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
3. India as Bharata varsha (land of Bharata) after the emperor Bharata.
4. Son of King Rishabha and a great devotee of the Lord, who became attracted to a deer causing him to take birth as a deer. In his third life, he was born as the seemingly dull brahmin, Jadabharata, who achieved ultimate perfection.
Bhav: An intense loving feeling of ecstasy and self-surrender directed towards God that comes from deep devotion. In the bhakti path there are five main bhavas, which are attained through the five relationships one can develop with God: Shanta Bhav (peace), Dasya Bhav (servant), Sakhya Bhav (friend), Vatsalya Bhav (parental) and Madhurya Bhav or Maha Bhav (lover).
Bhima: One of the Pandavas, the second son of Pandu and Kunti, and cousin of Lord Krishna. After Pandu had been cursed by a sage, that he would die in an act of intercourse, Kunti used special mantras, which had been given to her by sage Durvasa, to beget children invoking the demigods. By the union of Vayu and Kunti, Bhima was born. He was the strongest of the five Pandava brothers, a great club fighter, voracious eater, and intolerant punisher of wrongdoers. In the Kurukshetra war he fulfilled his vow to kill Duryodhan and all the Kaurava brothers.
Bhishma Pita: Son of King Shantanu and the sacred Ganga. He was recognized as one of the twelve mahajanas, authorities on devotional service to the Lord. As the respected ʻgrandfatherʼ of the Kuru dynasty and the most powerful and venerable warrior on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, he led Duryodhan’s forces in battle until felled by the arrows of Arjuna. He had been given a boon to leave his body any time he pleased, consequently he decided to leave while laying on a bed of arrows in the presence of Lord Krishna (B.G. Ch. 1, v. 11)
Bhrigu: Powerful Maha Rishi who according to some Hindu texts is considered to be one of the Sapta-Rishis, born from the mind of Brahma, and one of the prajapatis (progenitors) of mankind. Some hymns in the Rig-Veda are attributed to him. He is well known as the sage who went to test the Trinity and kicked the chest of Lord Vishnu (B.G. Ch. 10, v. 25).
Brahma: God of the Hindu Trimurti, the Creator, who was born from a lotus which emerged from Mahavishnu’s navel. He’s traditionally depicted with four heads pointing in the four main directions, and through each head, he continually recites one of the four Vedas. Unlike most other Hindu gods, he holds no weapons but a sceptre (power and authority), a book (knowledge of the Vedas), a mala (to keep track of the universe’s time) and a kamandalu (the waters of creation). His consort is Saraswati and His vahana is the hamsa (a swan-wisdom, discrimination). Twelve of His hours equals 4.32 billion years and His life span is more than 311 trillion years on Earth.
Brahma Loka: Also referred to as Satya Loka; abode of Brahma, situated on Mount Meru.
Brahma Nadi: One of the four primary nadis, the others being Ida, Pingala and Sushumna. It is situated in the middle of the Sushumna nadi, between the Anahata chakra and the Ajna chakra. Within the Brahman Nadi are stored the memories of our past karmic deeds. Through the practice of Atma Kriya Yoga, the Kriya Shakti penetrates this nadi and cleans out the negative karmas.
Brahmachari: One who follows the path of Brahmacharya. A virtuous lifestyle which leads to the Realisation of the Self, or the Supreme Lord (Brahman), under the guidance of a spiritual Master. It includes a simple lifestyle, meditation, self-introspection, and the control of the senses or indriyas. Refers to someone who made vows of celibacy or chastity.
1. A virtuous lifestyle which leads to the Realisation of the Self or Brahman under the guidance of a spiritual Master. It includes simple lifestyle, meditation, self-introspection and the control of the senses or indriyas; more specifically it refers to celibacy or chastity.
2. The first stage of life in the Vedic system of Varnasrama Dharma; the celibate student’s life.
Brahmin: Varna of the Varna Dharma system in Vedic Hinduism. The highest caste in the traditional Indian society, which includes the priests, the teachers and the scholars.
1. Enlightened; one who is spiritually awakened and has become one with the Supreme Self (Paramatma).
2. The founder of Buddhism who lived during the 5th century B.C., and appeared to bewilder atheists and dissuade people from performing unnecessary animal sacrifices.
Chaitanya Charitamrita: Written by Krishna Das Kaviraja Goswami in Bengali and Sanskrit, is one of the primary biographies detailing the life and teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It includes the Siksastakam, the eight verses written by Mahaprabhu Himself, which contain the essence of all teachings on Bhakti Yoga within the Gaudiya tradition.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Sri: Incarnation of Lord Krishna in the aspect of His own devotee. He manifested Himself in Navadwip, West Bengal, in 1486 and taught the pure worship of Sri Radha and Lord Krishna as a means to awaken the Divine Love, by sankirtan, the congregational chanting of their Holy Names.
Chakra: Seven occult centres of life and consciousness in the spine and brain. They have concentrated energy, like a hub from which rays of life-giving light and energy radiate.
Char Dham: Literally means ʻthe four abodes/seatsʼ; the four pilgrimage sites in India, which are widely revered in the Hindu tradition, namely Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram. It is considered highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during their lifetime.
Chaturbhuja: Mahavishnu’s form with four arms holding the Sudarshana Chakra (discus weapon), the Kaumodaki Gadha (mace), the Panchajanya Shankha (conch) and the Padma (lotus flower).
Churning of the Milky Ocean: Following Mahavishnu’s advice, the demigods sought the help of the demons to churn the Milky Ocean in order to extract the Amrit, the nectar of immortality. They used the Mandara mountain as the churning stick and Vasuki as the rope. Mahavishnu manifested Himself as the Kurma Avatar to prevent the Mandara from sinking, and Lord Shiva drank the deadly poison (halahala) which came out first as a result of the churning. Afterwards, many gems came out of the Milky Ocean including Mahalakshmi. Finally, Dhanvantari came out with the vessel of Amrit. Then, Mahavishnu took the form of Mohini to delude the demons, so that only the demigods could get the Amrit in order to become immortal.
Consciousness: Every manifested entity is an expression of God Consciousness, the purest form of cosmic energy, universal life. Very often the term ‘consciousness’ is interchanged with ‘self-consciousness’, which is the awareness of one’s own existence (thoughts, feelings, sensations). When one follows a spiritual path, under the guidance of a Guru, one is lead safely to an ever-increasing awareness of one’s true essence, and of the underlying spiritual nature in all things. The conditioned thought processes of the human mind are transcended, Divine Love is awakened and one can finally attain the higher consciousness, God Consciousness.
Dadhichi: A great sage, son of Bhrigu, who following Mahavishnu’s suggestion to Indra, gave up his life for the devas, so that his bones could be used to create the Thunderbolt, a weapon which then was used to kill the asura named Vrita.
Dakshina: ʽDakshaʼ means ʽcapableʼ. An offering, given out of one’s capability and willingness. In the Hindu tradition, it refers to the tradition of repaying one’s teacher or Guru after a period of study or spiritual guidance. It is a form of reciprocity, an exchange between student and teacher, between the devotee and the Guru. It balances energetically whatever the student has received and serves as an opportunity to show acknowledgement, respect and gratitude.
Darshan: Auspicious sight, vision, apparition, or glimpse. The sight of a holy being, and the blessing received by such a sight. The word commonly used when the Lord is said to grant a sight of Himself to His devotee.
Dashavatar: ʻDashaʼ means ʻtenʼ and this word refers to the ten main Avatars of Mahavishnu, namely Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, Parashuram, Rama, Krishna, Balarama and Kalki.
Devotee: One who is ardently devoted to the Lord, or to the Guru, who is regarded as an embodiment of the Lord.
1. Eternal principles of righteousness that uphold all creation, as found in the sacred scriptures.
2. The human inherent duty to live in harmony with dharmic principles, regarded as inseparable from the soul.
Dharmraj: Literally means ʻking of righteousnessʼ or ʻking of religious principlesʼ; name used to address: Bhishma, the elder of the Kuru dynasty, who had kept the clan strong until the kurukshetra war; Yudhishtir, the eldest son of Pandu; or Yamraj, the lord of death.
Dhritarashtra: Brother of Pandu and father of the Kauravas. His parents were Veda Vyasa and Ambika. He was born blind because Ambika closed her eyes during conception. He was also Pandavas’s uncle, but his attempt to usurp their kingdom for the sake of his own sons resulted in the Kurukshetra war. He didn’t take part in the battle but got a full report from his secretary Sanjaya, who related to him the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita as it was being spoken on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
Diksha: Spiritual initiation given by a spiritual Master.
Divine Mother: Mother of the Universe. The Divine Mother is not God in a female aspect, She is a servant of God, the creative Shakti of God. Through His command She manifests and creates everything. Even if She appears in many forms and many aspects, there is only One Shakti, Parashakti. She is also referred to as Maya Prakriti, which literally means ʻgreat illusionʼ.
Divine Name: Any Name of God. The holy scriptures say that there is no difference between God and His Name and that the Name of God is even more powerful than His form.
Draupadi: Daughter of King Drupada of Panchala, so she’s also known as Panchali. She was born from a sacrificial fire with her twin brother Dhrishtadyumna and a heavenly voice said that she would destroy the Kurus’ dynasty. She was the wife of all five Pandavas and a great devotee of Lord Krishna (B.G. Ch. 9, v. 26). After the game of dice, where Yudhishtir lost everything, at Duryodhan’s command, Dushasana dragged her by the hair to the royal assembly and tried to disrobe her. Lord Krishna timely intervened and saved her from disgrace, but she cursed the entire dynasty of Kurus to annihilation. She had five sons, one from each husband, but they were killed by Ashvatthama in their sleep after the Kurukshetra war.
Dronacharya: Son of the great sage Bharadwaja. He studied military arts, obtained all the weapons of Parashuram and with Parashuram knowledge, became an Acharya. He was the military guru of both the Pandavas and the Kauravas and father of Ashvatthama. Later on, during the Kurukshetra war, he was the chief commander of the Kauravas’ army and was obliged to fight against the Pandavas, but was killed by Dhrishtadyumna.
Durga: The warrior aspect of the Divine Mother, usually depicted with ten arms, seated on a lion. She destroys the demons of ignorance and gives the blessings of Divine Love and knowledge. Her first appearance was due to the tyranny of the demon, Mahishasur, who through terrific austerities had acquired invincible strength. It seemed that only the joint energy of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and the demigods would be able to vanquish Mahishasur. She introduced herself as the form of the Supreme Brahman who had created all the gods, saying that it was by Her Leela that She emerged from their combined energy. She slew Mahishasur and hence, She is also known as Mahishasurmardhini—the slayer of Mahishasur.
Durvasa: Ancient sage, son of Atri (Sapta-Rishi) and Anashuya. A partial incarnation of Lord Shiva, famous for his short temper and fearful curses. According to the Puranas, one of his curses laid upon Indra led to the Churning of the Milky Ocean. He blessed Kunti and taught her Vedic mantras which enabled her to invoke any demigod of her choice to beget children by them (B.G. Ch. 9, vs. 26, 29).
Dwapara Yuga: Third age of the cycle of a mahayuga (four yugas). The first was Satya Yuga, the second Treta Yuga and the fourth Kali Yuga. According to the Puranas, Dwapara Yuga ended and the Kali Yuga started, as soon as Lord Krishna left this world and returned to His eternal abode, Vaikunta (see also Yuga).
Dwarka: Island kingdom of Lord Krishna, where He performed His Leelas as Raja Krishna, five thousand years ago. Lord Krishna had this golden city built by Vishvakarma in the sea to protect the citizens of Mathura from the constant attacks of Jarasandha and his allies. All the citizens were transferred overnight, while they were sleeping, by the power of Yogmaya. When Lord Krishna left this world, the ocean covered the island.
Ekadasi: A day on which Vaishnavas fast usually from grains and beans, and increase their remembrance of the Lord, by chanting His Names or by performing other devotional services. It falls on the eleventh day after both the full and new moon.
Enlightenment: State of consciousness when all veils of delusion are lifted and one is able to penetrate beyond the confines of this world into the true nature of one’s own Self.
Gadha: Mace (club). One of the attributes and symbols of Mahavishnu’s powers, which is named Kaumodaki.
Gandiva: Arjuna’s most potent bow that had been handed down by Prajapati, Indra, Soma, Varuna and Agni before Arjuna. It was given to Arjuna by Agni before the burning of the Khandava forest.
Ganesha: The elephant-headed son of Parvati, who is the remover of obstacles and whose vahana is a rat. He is the demigod of wisdom and the granter of success in spiritual and material life. He was also the scribe of Veda Vyasa who wrote down the Mahabharat.
1. The Ganges, the sacred river of India flowing from the peaks of the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, purifying everyone who comes in contact with.
2. The goddess Ganga flowing from Lord Vishnu’s Feet descend on Earth by the prayers of Bhagiratha to purify the ashes of his ancestors, the 60,000 sons of King Sagara who had been consumed by the angry glance of the sage, Kapila. When she cascaded down from heaven, Lord Shiva detained her waters on his head to protect the earth from the force of her descent. She married King Shantanu and begot Bhishma.
Garuda: A gigantic half-man and half-bird, born from an egg brought forth by Vinata, wife of Rishi Kashyap. He is the eternal companion of the Supreme Lord as His personal vahana.
Garuda Purana: One of the Vishnu Puranas, in the form of a dialogue between Lord Vishnu and Garuda, the king of birds. It emphasises the meaning of human life and deals with issues connected with life after death, funeral rites and the metaphysics of reincarnation; recited during Hindu funeral rites.
1. A 24-syllable mantra which is considered to be one of the most sacred mantras; it contains a combination of all the three hundred million bij mantras of all the Hindu deities.
2. Gayatri Devi, which is considered to be the creative energy (Shakti) of Brahma, the Creator; manifestation of the cosmic sound OM; Veda Mata, the Mother of all Vedas.
Gita Govinda: Literally means ʽSong of Govindaʼ; a lyrical dance-drama composed by the 12th-century poet Jayadev, which describes the eternal love relationship between Lord Krishna and Sri Radha, one of the gopis of Vrindavan. This Love symbolises the longing and striving of the individual soul for communion with God, which culminates in blissful union.
God-realisation: Ultimate Realisation (higher than Self-Realisation). A state where the bhakta is fully absorbed in God’s Love, dwelling constantly in God Consciousness, fully surrendered to the service of the Lord, in their heart, mind and body. God also dwells constantly in them, so they are in constant, eternal union with God, at all times, and perceive only God everywhere. They also realise that it’s only the Lord Himself, in them, doing everything and they don’t exist. Tukaram used to sing, “Who is Tuka? There is no Tuka. It’s only You my Lord.”
Goloka: Literally means ʻthe world of cowsʼ; the eternal supreme abode of the Supreme Lord Krishna. According to Hindu scriptures, the term Goloka is synonymous with Vaikunta, but some sources consider Goloka as part of Vaikunta, while others claim that Goloka is the highest realm situated above all other Vaikunta lokas, where Lord Krishna resides with Sri Radharani, Lord Krishna’s eternal consort, and countless other devotees, wherein He performs His Leela. All the Vaikunta lokas are said to be like petals of a lotus flower, and the centre is called Krishna Loka or Goloka Vrindavan, the topmost of all the lokas, and rare is the soul who is allowed to go there.
Gopis: Milkmaids of Vrindavan, especially Lord Krishna’s young girlfriends, who were His most intimate devotees.
Govardhan: Literally means ʻcows nourishmentʼ or ʻthat which increases the sensesʼ in their attraction to Krishna, blessing the devotee by increasing his devotion. Also known as Giriraj, ʻthe king of mountainsʼ, it is a large hill located near Vrindavan. It is well known since Lord Krishna pastimes, as He took the form of Govardhana to accept the offerings of Vrindavan’s residents. Afterwards He lifted up Govardhana and held it for seven days on His little finger, like a huge umbrella, to protect His devotees in Vrindavan from a devastating storm caused by the jealous Indra (B.G. Ch. 9, v. 11).
Grihastha: Second stage of life in the Vedic system of Varnasrama Dharma; married life of householders raising their families.
Gunas: According to the Sankhya philosophy, Prakriti is considered to possess three basic qualities, also referred as three modes of material nature, controlling principles or ʻtendenciesʼ of the mind, body and consciousness. They are called, sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious), rajas (passion, active, confused), and tamas (darkness, destructive, chaotic). They have always been and continue to be present in everyone and everything in this world, although in varying proportions. The interplay of these gunas defines the character of someone or something and determines the progress of life.
Guru: A spiritual Teacher, Master, in whose heart the Supreme Lord resides. ‘Gu’ means ‘darkness’, ‘ru’ means ‘light’. So, a Guru is a dispeller of darkness (ignorance) in one’s mind (ego/personality), bringing one to the state of God Consciousness.
Guru Mantra: Sacred, potent vibratory chant given by one’s Guru that helps the devotee/disciple to purify his thoughts and actions when done in accordance to the Guru’s guidance.
Guru Parampara: Denotes the lineage of Gurus, traditional succession of spiritual teachers and disciples, established to pass down the spiritual wisdom through the ages. In the Parampara system, the four main venerated Gurus are: Sri Guru (immediate Guru), Paraatpara Guru (senior living Guru), Paramguru (highest teacher of the lineage), Paramesti Guru (founder of the lineage).
Hanuman: Monkey-god considered to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva and son of the wind-god, Vayu, although he had born to the vanaras Anjani and Kesari. He possessed extraordinary strength, prowess and supernatural powers as well as great wisdom. He is the most faithful eternal servant of Lord Rama and assisted Him in defeating the demon Ravana. He is well known as a model of bhakti, surrender and humility. His exploits are celebrated in the epic Ramayana, the life of Lord Rama. During the Kurukshetra war, Hanuman was present on the flagstaff of Arjuna’s chariot to strike terror into the Kaurava troops.
Hiranyakashipu: Powerful demon son of Diti and Rishi Kashyap, enemy of Lord Narayana, who persecuted, tormented and tried to kill his own son Prahlad, for being a great devotee of the Lord. He was killed by Narayana in His Narasimha (man-lion) incarnation (B.G. Ch. 9, v. 22). He was the first of three incarnations of Jaya, one of the Vaikunta doorkeepers, who were cursed to incarnate on Earth, by the four Kumaras.
Hiranyaksha: Demon son of Diti and Rishi Kashyap, brother of Hiranyakashipu, who took the Earth to the bottom of the cosmic ocean, and subsequently was killed by Narayana in His Varaha (the boar) incarnation. He was the first of three incarnations of Vijaya, one of the Vaikunta doorkeepers, who were cursed to incarnate on Earth, by the four Kumaras.
Iccha Shakti: Will-power of God
Ida Nadi: Also referred to as Moon nadi or Ganga. It starts in the right testicle in men (in the same area in women) and ends in the left nostril. It is cool in nature and controls high blood pressure.
1. The demigod of rain and the king of the demigods, ruler of Swarga Loka (heavens). He was leading the other demigods such as Agni (fire), Varuna (water) and Surya (Sun) in the wars against the asuras.
2. One of the Ashta Dikpalakas (guardians of the eight cardinal directions): guardian of the East.
3. One of the twelve Adityas or Sun- gods, the sons of Aditi and Rishi Kashyap
Jagadguru: The spiritual Master of the world.
Janaka: The great Self-realised king of Mithila and father of Sita Devi (consort of Lord Rama).
Japa: Repetition of the Divine Names, usually using a japa mala (string of prayer beads).
Japa Kriya: One of the techniques of Atma Kriya Yoga which consists of the repetition of a mantra in a specific way.
Jaya: One of the Vaikunta doorkeepers, who were cursed to incarnate on Earth, by the four Kumaras (see also Vijaya) as they were denied entry in Vaikunta to visit Mahavishnu. The Lord couldn’t reverse the curse, but gave his gatekeepers two options: to take seven births as His devotees or three births as His enemies and afterwards they could stay permanently with Him. Both Jaya and Vijaya chose to incarnate as His enemies in order to return faster to Him (see also Hiranyaksha, Hiranyakashipu).
Jiva: Although it is commonly interchanged with ʻAtmaʼ, it actually denotes an ʻindividual living beingʼ. So, often, it is used as the word ʻJivatmaʼ instead. It is the state in which Purusha is bound to Prakriti.
Jivan Mukta: A human being who is already liberated, while living in a body. Someone who lives in the world but is not of the world.
Jyanna: Intelligence, understanding, knowledge.
Kailash: Peak of the Himalayas, which is considered to be the abode of Lord Shiva and His consort Parvati.
Kali: Literally means ʻthe black Oneʼ and refers to the black-skinned Goddess who emerged from the body of Durga to defeat the demons that were attacking Her. She is the most fearful and ferocious form of the Divine Mother, usually depicted with four arms, standing on the chest of Her consort, Shiva; She wears a garland of human arms around Her waist, and around Her neck a garland of skulls (or severed heads). She destroys ignorance, so in one hand She holds the sword of spiritual wisdom (prajna) and in the other carries a severed head (ego). Despite Her fearsome appearance, She is the caring Mother, who dispels fear and gives liberation.
Kaliya: A multi-headed serpent who was living with his family in a Yamuna’s lake, and poisoned it. Lord Krishna defeated him and he end up surrendering to the Lord. The Lord danced on his hoods, imprinting His Feet on them, so that Kaliya could return and live safely with his family in Ramanaka Island without being harmed by Garuda (B.G. Ch. 10, v. 30).
Kamadhenu: the wish-fulfilling cow, that came out of the Churning of the Milky Ocean, and is also referred to as Surabhi.
Kamsa: A demoniac king, son of Ugrasena and maternal uncle of Lord Krishna, who imprisoned his father and took charge of the kingdom. He was very fond of his sister Devaki, but during her wedding with Vasudeva, an akashvani said that the eighth child of Devaki would kill him. So, he imprisoned her and Vasudeva, killed their first six newborn children and sent many demons to Vraja to kill Lord Krishna and Balarama. Later, he invited both brothers to Mathura for a wrestling tournament, where Lord Krishna killed him.
Kapila: Also referred to as Kapiladev; according to the Shreemad Bhagavatam He is an incarnation of Mahavishnu, who appeared in the Satya Yuga as the son of Kardama and Devahuti. He taught His mother Sankhya Yoga, as a means of cultivating devotional service to the Lord.
Karma: Any physical or mental action, which has a consequence, binding us to the material world and the vicious cycle of birth and death.
Karma Yoga: One of the three main paths of yoga taught by Lord Krishna in the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita, which easily frees one from the bondage of action and leads one to God-Realisation. The act of performing selfless action, unattached to results and offering the fruits of one’s actions to God (seva).
Karna: The eldest son of Kunti before her marriage to Pandu. Sage Durvasa had taught her mantras to invoke any demigod to conceive children. Innocently she called the Sun-god and conceived Karna. As she was an unmarried princess, she abandoned him in a basket, floating on a river, and he was raised by a chariot driver. He became a great warrior, disciple of Parashuram, and befriended by Duryodhan became a rival of the Pandavas, who were unaware of his origin. Kunti revealed his true identity to him, on the eve of the Kurukshetra war, but he was bound to support Duryodhan. Nevertheless, he promised Kunti that he would kill only one of her sons, Arjuna. Later in the battle, he was killed by Arjuna.
Kartikeya: Also known as Subrahmanya or Skanda, he is the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati, brother of Ganesha. He is the chief commander of the devas’ armies, his main attribute is the Vel (a divine spear) and his vahana is a peacock.
Kauravas: It means ʻdescendant of Kuruʼ. Kuru was a legendary king of the lunar dynasty and the ancestor of many of the warriors who fought against the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war. It is also a name commonly used to address the sons of King Dhritarashtra.
Kaushalya: The mother of Lord Rama and queen of Ayodhya. She was the eldest of King Dasharath’s three wives.
Kirtan: Also referred to as kirtanam or sankirtan, is one of the bhakti path devotional practices. There is a leader who sings a short, simple melody with a short mantra, or a few Divine Names and a group of people repeats them. This call-and-response requires that the lyrics, melody and rhythm are simple. Usually the chanting is done using instruments like harmonium, tablas, mridanga and hand cymbals. It is one of the easiest ways to calm the mind, it creates sangha (fellowship with others) and harnesses the united devotion of a group, acting like a powerful generator that lifts everyone up into a single chorus of love. A kirtan may assume the character of a bhajan and vice-versa.
Kripa: Divine Grace.
Kripacharya: The son of Rishi Saradvan (Marichi’s son) and an apsara Janapadi, but was adopted by King Shantanu (Bhisma’s father). He was the royal teacher of the Kauravas and Pandavas, before Dronacharya. His twin sister Kripa married Drona, so Ashvatthama was his nephew. During the Kurukshetra war he fought against the Pandavas, but after the war, he became the teacher of Parikshit. He is one of the immortals from that time who are still alive today.
Krishna, Lord: Krishna means ʻthe dark blue oneʼ or ʻthe one who attracts everyoneʼ. The eighth avatar of Maha Vishnu, manifested on Earth five thousand years ago. His wonderful Leelas took place in Vrindavan, Mathura and Dwarka and are related in the Shreemad Bhagavatam and the Mahabharat. He is considered to be the highest Purna Avatar, a full manifestation of the Supreme Lord, the Supersoul inside everyone and the embodiment of pure Divine Love. He came to awaken Divine Love by revealing the relationship that everybody has with Him. He revealed the timeless knowledge of the Self, the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita and the Uddhava Gita through dialogues with Arjuna and Uddhava, respectively.
Krishna Arpan: Literally means ʻoffered to Lord Krishnaʼ.
Krishna Arpanam: Literally means ʻto offer everything in complete
surrender to Lord Krishnaʼ.
Krishna Arpanamastu: Literally means ʻlet us offer everything in complete surrender to Lord Krishnaʼ.
Kshatriya: The second of four castes of the Varna Dharma system, which includes the political and military leaders of society like kings, warriors and soldiers. They are expected to be heroic, charitable, selflessly dedicated to the welfare of all citizens; respectful of the spiritual authority of the Brahmin caste, and ready to use force to stop wrongdoing.
Kumaras: The first four mind-born sons of Brahma, who refused to populate the world as Brahma had requested them. They took the vow of celibacy and roamed the world as great devotees of the Lord who remain eternally as children. They are empowered to liberate others from the cycle of birth and death and propagate the path of renunciation.
Kumbha Mela: Traditional mass Hindu pilgrimage in which millions of people bathe in a sacred river to cleanse their sins. It is considered to be one of the largest peaceful human gatherings on the Earth. Nowadays people travel from all around the world to join the Indian Hindus in this event, held for a few weeks, every third year, at one of the four sacred places: Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjain. It is a celebration in memory of the Churning of the Milky Ocean.
Kunti: Also known as Pritha, was the daughter of King Shurasena and sister of Vasudeva, who was adopted by King Kuntibhoja. She became one of Pandu’s wives. After Pandu had been cursed by a sage, that he would die in an act of intercourse, Kunti used special mantras, which had been given to her by sage Durvasa, to beget children invoking the demigods. By invoking the demigods Sun-god, Yama, Vayu and Indra, she became the mother of Karna, Yudhishtir, Bhima and Arjuna, respectively.
1. ʻThe holy field of the Kurusʼ. The site where the war described in the Mahabharat took place. It was there that Lord Krishna spoke the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna.
2. The word ‘kuru’ comes from ‘kriya’, which means ‘to do’, ‘to act’, ‘to work’. ‘Kshetra’ is ‘the working field’. Kurukshetra is also referred to as Punyakshetra, because on this field one works to get good punya.
3. Also referred to as Dharmakshetra, ‘the field of righteousness’. Our body is also considered as dharmakshetra, because each one has incarnated to do one’s dharma in this field. Life in itself is dharmakshetra/Kurukshetra.
Kush grass: Special type of grass which is used in Hindu rituals. It is placed around yagna kunds and it is also worn around the ring finger of the person who is performing the rituals. It is considered to be the hair of Mahavishnu, which fell from the body of Varaha Avatar, during His fight with the demon Hiranyaksha, so it has the Lord’s potency and very strong purifying properties. Because of its insulating qualities, it is also recommended as an ideal asana for meditation.
Lahiri Mahasaya: One of the greatest Indian yogis of the 19th century, disciple of Mahavatar Babaji, who initiated him in Kriya Yoga and instructed him to teach this sacred technique to all sincere seekers. As he was the first to teach Kriya Yoga in contemporary times, he is known as the father of Kriya Yoga. He was also the Guru of Sri Yukteshwarji and became known in the West through the Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda (disciple of Sri Yukteshwarji).
Lakshman: Younger brother of Lord Rama, who faithfully followed Him and Sita into the forest during His exile and supported Him throughout the struggle to defeat Ravana. He is considered an incarnation of Sankarshana (Adhishesh), the eternal companion of the Lord in all His incarnations (Balarama as older brother of Lord Krishna).
Lakshmi Devi: Also known as Mahalakshmi, is the eternal consort of Mahavishnu, who came up as one of the precious gems, during the Churning of the Milky Ocean. She garlanded Mahavishnu and He placed Her in His chest, where She abides. As the Goddess of both material and spiritual wealth and prosperity, She is usually represented either sitting or standing on a lotus, with four arms, two hands carrying lotus and the other two hands in Varada mudra (granting boons) and Abhaya mudra (reassuring protection). She is also often depicted massaging the Lord’s Feet while He is resting on Adhishesh, which represents Her complete surrender and single-pointed devotional service to the Lord. She is the mediator between the Lord and the people; through Her, the Lord fulfils all wishes of His devotees and provides for their needs.
Leelas: The transcendental “pastimes” or eternal activities of the Supreme Lord in loving reciprocation with His devotees. The Leelas of the Lord are not bound by the laws of Prakriti nor by karma.
Liberation: Also referred to as Jivan Mukti or Moksha. Freedom from the conditioned existence in the cycle of birth and death.
Loka: Literally means ʻworldʼ; abode; realm.
Lotus Feet: Metaphor for the Feet of the Lord, Gurus, saints and other exalted spiritual beings. The lotus is a symbol of spiritual development and purity of heart and mind, but the true meaning of Lotus Feet is ʻtranscendentalʼ, not readily grasped by the human mind or intellect. However, an easy analogy is that as the lotus grow in muddy water but is untouched by the impurity around, the one who has Lotus Feet remains as pure as ever; remains untouched by worldly matters and is not bound by the laws of nature nor karma.
Maha Raas: Literally means the ʻGreat dance of the Lordʼ; the highest Leela of Lord Krishna. It took place one night when the gopis of Vrindavan, upon hearing the sound of Lord Krishna’s flute sneak away from their households and families to the forest to dance with Him. The gopis in previous incarnations were sages that had done thousands of years of penance to be united with the Lord during His Dwapara Yuga incarnation. All the deities also joined the Raas, even Parvati and Shiva disguised as a gopi (Gopeshwar), only Balarama was not allowed. It is said that even the time stopped at that moment, because Kala Himself also came there to enjoy the Raas. This Leela represents an exaltation of the Divine Love affair between the Lord, Paramatma, and the Jivatma. This dance takes place in a circle. The gopis represent the Jivatmas. There is one Lord Krishna in the middle surrounded by the gopis, which represents Paramatma, the only male in this entire Universe. But in His Antaryami, Super-soul, He also appears as a partner for each and every gopi (the indwelling soul in everyone’s heart).
Maha Tattva: Also referred to as Divine Consciousness, Great Principle, Cosmic Intelligence. It’s the root of all cosmic manifestations, which contains all the universes and is annihilated at the end of Brahma’s life.
Maha Vishnu: The Supreme Lord Narayana in His Chaturbhuja form. He is also often depicted resting on Adhishesh, floating on the Milky Ocean, while Mahalakshmi is massaging His Feet.
Mahabharat: The world’s longest epic poem, composed by Veda Vyasa, which consists of eighteen books relating the story of the descendants of King Bharata – the Pandavas and Kauravas – cousins whose dispute for the throne of Hastinapur caused the great war of Kurukshetra, five thousand years ago. The Mahabharat also includes the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita, given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna, one of the Pandavas, just before the beginning of the war.
Mahavatar Babaji: ʻMahavatarʼ means ʻgreat avatarʼ and ʻBabajiʼ means ʻrevered fatherʼ. The Name was given to Him by Lahiri Mahasaya and several of His disciples, as described in Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. He is also known as Raj Yogi (ʻKing of all yogisʼ) and Jagadguru (‘Guru of the world’). He is a 5,000-year-old yogi from the Himalayas. He chose to immortalise Himself, here in this world, 1,800 years ago, to help humanity attain the Divine. He is the Paramguru who has given Kriya Yoga, and is Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda’s Guru. In 2007, He instructed Paramahamsa Vishwananda to give [Atma Kriya Yoga] to the world, a form of Kriya Yoga adapted to the needs of mankind living in the 21st century, which deals with the awakening of Divine Love.
1. Also referred as japa mala, it is a string of beads used for keeping count while doing japa (see Japa Kriya). The most common malas are made with 108 beads, but can also be made with another number of beads like 18, 27, and 54 (fractions of 108).
Manasa puja: Literally means ʻto worship in the mindʼ.
Mantra: ‘Man’ means ‘heart’ or ‘mind’, ‘tra’ means ‘repetition’ or ‘protection’, so mantra literally means ‘repeating the Name of God in our heart’ or ‘protection of and for the mind’. A sacred utterance, numinous sound, or a syllable, word, phonemes, or group of words believed to have spiritual power in Sanskrit.
Mathura: Capital of the Shurasena kingdom, ruled by Kamsa, at the time of the Lord’s first appearance as Krishna Avatar (see also Kamsa). Later on, Lord Krishna reclaimed Mathura for the Yadavas by killing Kamsa and installing Ugrasena on the throne. He resided in Mathura for thirty-three years before transferring its citizens to Dwarka.
Matsya: The first of the Dashavatar; Mahavishnu took a form where the upper half of His body resembles His Chaturbhuja form and the lower half a fish; however two of His hands are in Varada mudra (granting boons) and Abhaya mudra (reassuring protection) like Mahalakshmi. In this form, the Lord, during the pralaya, saved the boat of King Satyavrata, which contained all species of life and recovered the Vedas which had been stolen from Brahma by a demon called Hayagriva. After the pralaya, King Satyavrata became the Manu Vaivasvata.
Maya: ‘Maya’ means ʻillusionʼ. The term is interchangeable with Apara Prakriti, the lower nature of the Lord’s manifestation. An aspect of Maha Devi, Mother of the Universe, who veils our vision of Brahman, the supreme reality. However, through Her Grace, She guides us to realise the unity with the Supreme Lord.
Meditation: Practices that help to control the mind.
Meerabai: A 16th century saint, poet, singer and great devotee of Lord Krishna from Rajasthan, India; one of the saints of the Vaishnava Bhakti Movement and a model of pure devotion and surrender. Over 1,200 devotional songs are attributed to her, where she describes her unconditional love for Krishna, and has promoted the bhakti path throughout the world. Due to her ecstatic love for the Lord, sometimes she would sing and dance in public and had to face a lot of opposition from her in-laws, who even tried to kill her; but Lord Krishna would intervene in a miraculous way changing poison into Amrit, transforming iron nails into rose petals or a snake into a garland. At the end of her life, she merged with a murti of Lord Krishna.
Murti: ‘Murti’ means ’embodiment’. A physical representation of a deity (one form of the Divine) usually made out of stone, wood, or metal. A murti serves as a means through which a particular form of the Divine may be worshipped. The ritual of invocation of the divine energy into the murti is called Prana Pratishtha.
Nadi: Channel in the subtle body through which prana flows. Humans have between 72,000 and 350,000 nadis, depending on a person’s spiritual level, but there are only 14 main nadis; out of these 14, there are four primary nadis, namely Ida, Pingala, Sushumna and Brahman nadis.
Nakshatra: In Hindu astrology, it is one of 27 (sometimes also 28) sectors along the ecliptic, through which the Moon moves in its orbit around the Earth; it was often used by ancient cultures as part of their calendar system.
Nakul: Literally means ʻmost handsome in the lineageʼ; the fourth of the five Pandavas, son of Pandu and one of the twin sons of Madri; twin brother of Sahadev, and cousin of Lord Krishna. After Pandu had been cursed by a sage, that he would die in an act of intercourse, Kunti used special mantras, which had been given to her by Sage Durvasa, to beget children invoking the demigods. She shared those mantras with Madri, who invoked the Ashwin Kumars. By her union with them, Nakul and Sahadev were born. They were taken care of by Kunti, after his mother entered the funeral fire of Pandu (see also Madri).
Narada Muni: According to the Puranas, he is regarded as a manasaputra (mind-born son of Brahma). One of the four deva Rishis and composer of several of the hymns of the Rig-Veda (Ch. 10, v. 13). A pure devotee of the Lord, who roams throughout the Three Worlds singing the Lord’s glories and glorifying the path of devotional service. He was the Guru of many of the Prajapati’s sons as well as of Veda Vyasa, Valmiki and Prahlad.
Narasimha: ʻNaraʼ means ʻmanʼ, and ʻsimhaʼ means ʻlionʼ; also referred to as Nrsingadev, is the fourth of the Dashavatar, where Mahavishnu took the form of half-man and half-lion. It is the fiercest incarnation of the Lord, who manifested Himself from a pillar to protect His devotee Prahlad from his evil father Hiranyakashipu. He is feared by the demons, but is worshipped with love and reverence by His devotees.
Narayana: The Ultimate, unlimitable God. The Supreme Lord unmodified by manifestation or non-manifestation. Also referred to as ‘THAT’, Brahman, Bhagavan, Parabrahma.
Narayana Swarupa: Also referred to as Vishwarupa, is the cosmic form of the Supreme Lord as described in Chapter 11 of the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita.
Navagraha: ʻNavaʼ means ʻnineʼ and ʻgrahaʼ means ʻcelestial bodiesʼ; the major celestial bodies in Hindu astronomy, which are believed to influence the living beings of Mother Earth. They are named Surya (Sun), Chandra (Moon), Mangala (Mars), Buddha (Mercury), Brihaspati (Jupiter), Shukra (Venus), Shani (Saturn), Rahu (North Lunar Node) and Ketu (South Lunar Node).
Nidhivan: Mysterious and sacred placed in Vrindavan, where Lord Krishna has been performing the Maha Raas since five thousand years ago. It’s a pilgrimage place during the day, but it is believed that if anyone remains in that area at night, either one becomes dumb, deaf, blind, lame or dead. The priests of the temple situated there have daily proofs that Lord Krishna and Srimati Radharani still appear and dance every night.
Nirgun Brahman: Also referred to as Para Brahman, the highest Brahman, without form or qualities. It is the impersonal conception of the Supreme Truth, the Absolute beyond all description or designation.
OM: Also known as Aum; the sacred word ‘Hum’ of the Tibetans, ‘Amin’ of the Moslems, and ‘Amen’ of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians. It is the ultimate bij mantra, the primordial sound, all other sounds are contained within it. From the cosmic vibratory energy of the cosmic sound of OM all creation has arisen. Tuning into OM brings about inner peace, mental clarity, emotional freedom and physical health. This wave of peace creates a harmonious, peaceful environment and a unity between humans and nature.
Paramatma: Refers to the Absolute Atman, Supersoul, Soul of souls. In this aspect, the Supreme Lord enters the hearts of all living entities, as well as all atoms of the material universes. Thus being a constant companion, witnessing all activities, giving advice and instruction from within and from without, enlightening the conditioned soul about its spiritual nature.
Pandavas: Five sons of King Pandu by his two wives Kunti and Madri, named Yudhishtir, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakul, and Sahadev. They were cousins and friends of Lord Krishna, who led them to the victory over the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war.
Para Prakriti: One aspect of Prakriti, the supreme nature of the Lord’s manifestation, which deals with the imperishable soul (B.G. Ch. 7, vs. 4-6)
Paramahamsa: Literally means ʻsupreme swanʼ; title of honour conferred by a recognised spiritual Hindu authority to topmost fully realised Masters, who have attained the supreme yogic state of union with the ultimate reality. They are always completely immersed in God, beyond any influence of material illusion; like swans can separate milk from water, they can always distinguish the Real/Truth from the unreal/ ignorance.
Parashuram: Literally means ʻRama-with-the-axeʼ; the sixth of the Dashavatar, who appeared to overthrow the Kshatriya caste, which had become degraded, in order to restore dharma. Son of Sage Jamadagni, He was born with the Kshatriya qualities and received an axe after undertaking a terrible penance to please Lord Shiva, from whom He learned the methods of warfare and other skills. When His father was murdered by the wicked King Kartavirya, He vowed to exterminate all the kshatriyas on earth, and He fulfilled that vow twenty-one times. He taught the science of weapons to Drona and Karna and is one of the immortals that is still alive on Earth.
Parvati: Literally means ʻthe one from the mountainsʼ; daughter of King Himavant, the lord of the mountains and the personification of the Himalayas. She is and incarnation of Maha Devi, eternal consort of Lord Shiva and mother of Ganesha and Kartikeya.
Patal Loka: It refers to the seven lower regions of the universe, which are located under the Earth; underworld or netherworld.
Pinda: Ball of cooked rice offered to ancestors during the Hindu Shraddha ceremony.
Pingala Nadi: Also referred to as the Sun nadi or Yamuna. It starts in the left testicle in men (in the same area in women) and ends in the right nostril. It is warm in nature and controls blood pressure and digestion.
Pitris: In the Hindu tradition it refers to the departed ancestors.
Prahlad: Great devotee of Narayana since birth, having been taught by Sage Narada to chant the Lord’s Name, while still in the womb of his mother. Although, he was son of the mighty demon Hiranyakashipu, who was the Lord’s enemy, he openly dared to worship Narayana and face his father’s opposition. This infuriated his father, who tortured and tried many ways to kill him, but failed to harm him as the Lord came to his rescue every time. Finally the Lord manifested Himself as Narasimha Avatar to kill Hiranyakashipu and enthroned Prahlad as king. He was a righteous king, an example of bhakti, humility and generosity (B.G. Ch. 9, v. 22; Ch. 10, v. 30).
Prajapati: Literally means ʻlord of creaturesʼ; the sons of Brahma, original progenitors of the living entities.
Prakriti: Term interchanged with Maya; the material nature of the Lord’s manifestation, which has two aspects, the Apara Prakriti (lower nature) and Para Prakriti (supreme nature).
Pralaya: Great deluge at the end of Brahma’s life.
Prana: Literally means ʻlife forceʼ or ʻvital principleʼ.
Prana Pratishta: Literally means ʻinstallation of lifeʼ; a ritual of consecration by which a deity is infused or brought to inhabit a murti or icon of that deity.
1. Breathing exercises which helps to regulate, restrain and direct the subtle life force.
2. One of the techniques of Atma Kriya Yoga.
Prasad: Prasad’ means ʻgracious giftʼ. Holy food or any gift that has been offered first in worship to the Lord, in the form of a deity, a saintly person or the Guru, before being distributed to devotees. Contains a blessing which helps one become purified and achieve the pure Love of God.
Puranas: Literally means ʻof ancient timesʼ; ancient Hindu texts compiled by Sage Veda Vyasa, considered to be supplements to the Vedas. The most important ones are the eighteen Maha Puranas, which are divided into three groups of six. According to the Matsya Purana, the Puranas address five main topics, called Pancha Lakshana: 1) the creation of the universe; 2) its destruction and renovation; 3) the genealogy of gods and sages; 4) the creation of human race and the reigns of the Manus (manvantara); 5) the history of the kings of the solar and lunar dynasties.
Purnabrahman: ʻPurnaʼ means ʻcompleteʼ; refers to the Absolute, who encompasses everything manifested and unmanifested.
Purushottama: one of the thousand Names of Lord Vishnu as mentioned in the Sri Vishnu Sahasranama. It means ʻSupreme Purushaʼ, ʻSupreme Beingʼ, ʻSupreme Lordʼ, who is beyond the perishable Prakriti and the imperishable Purusha (B.G. Ch. 15, vs. 18-19).
Raas: Lord Krishna’s Leela of His transcendental dance with the gopis.
Radha, Sri: Eternal beloved of Lord Krishna and His own manifestation as pure devotion, to show mankind how to love unconditionally. She symbolises the pure devotion and love for the Lord and the complete surrender to His Will (see also Madhurya Bhav). She also represents the whole humanity, who deeply longs for the Lord; Sri Radha and Lord Krishna together constitute the Absolute Truth. During Lord Krishna’s pastimes in Vrindavan, She was considered to be the queen of the gopis and the others gopis were Her maidservants.
Rajas: Also referred to as rajoguna; one of the three gunas, which is expressed as the force that promotes or upholds the longing, passion, activity, change, creation and so maintains the activity of the other two gunas: sattva (truth, goodness) and tamas (inertia).
Rakshasa: Term interchanged with ʻasuraʼ; refers to personified evil power, a class of cannibal demons with grotesque forms dwelling in forests. A female rakshasa is known as a rakshasi. Bhima had a son named Ghatotkacha by Hidimbi, a rakshasi. Ghatotkacha was summoned by Bhima to fight on the Pandava side in the Kurukshetra war and after performing many heroic deeds on the battlefield, he was slain by Karna.
Rama, Lord: Seventh of the Dashavatar, who appeared as the son of King Dasharath and his wife Kaushalya, in Ayodhya, to kill the ten- headed demon King Ravana, and to show the path of dharma and righteous kingship. He married Sita, incarnation of Lakshmi Devi, His eternal consort, and was exiled to the forest for fourteen years (see Dasharath). After Ravana had kidnapped Sita and taken Her to Lanka, Lord Rama met Hanuman, His great devotee; with his help and by employing a huge army of powerful and intelligent monkeys, offspring of demigods, He killed Ravana, rescued His wife and returned to Ayodhya, where he was finally crowned king.
Ramacharitamanas: Devotional poem written by the saint Goswami Tulsidas, which is a retelling of the Sanskrit Ramayana (written by Valmiki) in the native dialect Awadhi.
Ramakrishna, Sri: A 19th century Indian mystic saint, well-known as priest of the Dakshineshwar Kali Temple, often absorbed in ecstatic love for Mother Kali, who also used to worship his wife Sarada Devi as Divine Mother. He learned Tantra, Vaishnava bhakti, Advaita Vedanta, practised Islam and Christianity and taught that all religions lead to the same God. He also emphasised God-Realisation as the supreme goal of all living beings. People from all classes and castes visited him and were influenced by his style of preaching and instruction, which was later compiled in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. His religious school of thought led to the formation of the Ramakrishna Mission by his chief disciple, Swami Vivekananda.
Ramanuja Acharya, Sri: An 11-12th century Hindu saint considered to be a manifestation of Adhishesh. He’s the main philosopher of Sri Vaishnavism, good controversialist, social reformer, founder of Sri Sampradaya. Out of love and compassion, he gave the sacred mantra ʻOM Namo Narayanayaʼ to the world. Following Sri Yamunacharya, completed the Brahma Sutra commentary, the Sri Bhasya, and established the monotheistic principles of Sri Vaishnavism opposite to the philosophy of Sankara; became the main proponent of Vishishtadvaita philosophy and proclaimed the doctrines of devotion and surrender to God. Before his Maha Samadhi, he infused his life force into one of his murtis in the Sri Rangam Temple.
Ramayana: The epic poem describing the life of Lord Rama, written by Sage Valmiki, a contemporary of Lord Rama.
Ravana: Ten-headed demon king of Lanka, who abducted Lord Rama’s wife, Sita, and took Her to Lanka, leading to the great war described in the Ramayana, where Lord Rama ends up killing him. He was an embodiment of ʻdesireʼ and his ten heads symbolise the 10 indriyas. He was the second of three incarnations of Jaya, the Vaikunta gatekeeper, as an enemy of the Lord.
Realisation: Term interchangeable with Self-Realisation or Enlightenment. Refers to the state of pure awareness of God Consciousness and His Love. Seeing God inside oneself first, then in everybody and everything around.
Rig Veda: Ancient sacred collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns and the oldest of the four Vedas. It contains more than one thousand hymns of praise addressed to the various entities and powers of nature, poetical accounts of the origin of the world as well as prayers for life and prosperity. Some of its verses are still recited today in Hindu temples, making it the world’s oldest religious texts in continued use.
1. Venerable sage; ancient Hindu seers to whom the Vedas were revealed.
2. One of the spiritual initiations of the Bhakti Marga monastic order given by Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda.
Rukmini: First of the sixteen thousand and eight wives of Lord Krishna and the most prominent queen in Dwarka; embodiment of Lakshmi Devi. The mother of Pradyumna.
Sabari: Great devotee of Lord Rama, who was granted the Darshan of Lord Rama, due to her pure devotion and dedication to Him.
1. Atma Kriya Yoga practitioner.
2. A practioner of sadhana.
Sadhana: Spiritual practice.
Sadhu: Holy person or sannyasin (renunciant), who has left behind all material attachments to live an ascetic life dedicated to achieving Moksha through meditation and contemplation.
Sage: Saint or highly respected and revered wise person.
Sahadev: Youngest of the five Pandavas, son of Pandu and one of the twin sons of Madri; twin brother of Nakul, and cousin of Lord Krishna, who was reputed for knowledge of scriptures. After Pandu had been cursed by a sage, that he would die in an act of intercourse, Kunti used special mantras, which had been given to her by sage Durvasa, to beget children invoking the demigods. She shared those mantras with Madri, who invoked the Ashwin Kumars. By her union with them, Nakul and Sahadev were born. They were taken care of by Kunti, after his mother entered the funeral fire of Pandu.
Sahasrakavacha: Literally means ʻone who has a thousand armoursʼ. Previous incarnation of Karna (son of Kunti) as a powerful demon who was granted a boon by Brahma to get a thousand armours on his body; for someone to break one of his armours, one had to meditate for a thousand years and fight with him for another thousand years. In order to vanquish this demon, the Lord manifested Himself in the form of two sages, Nara and Narayana.
Sama Veda: ʻSamanʼ means ʻmelodyʼ and ʻvedaʼ means ʻknowledgeʼ; the third of the four Vedas also referred to as the ʻVeda of holy songsʼ. Many of the hymns of the Rig Veda are found in the Sama Veda, modified so as to be better adapted for chanting. Some of these hymns are traditionally chanted by Udgatar priests, at sacrifices in which the juice of the soma plant is mixed with other ingredients and used as an offering to various deities. It is believed that if these hymns are sung in the appropriate manner, it will enable one to understand the universal truths.
1. A spiritual state of consciousness attained in meditation, in which one experiences one’s identity with the ultimate reality. There are various types of Samadhi: 1) Savikalpa Samadhi- short-time lost of the human consciousness; thoughts and ideas come from various places, but one remains undisturbed. 2) Nirvikalpa Samadhi- there’s no mind but only infinite bliss; one becomes the object of enjoyment, the enjoyer and the enjoyment itself; lasts for a few hours, days or the soul leaves the body for good (Maha Samadhi). 3) Sahaja Samadhi- the highest type of Samadhi, where inwardly one is in Nirvikalpa Samadhi but works in the gross physical world; one becomes the Master of Reality, manifesting God perfectly at every second.
2. Place where the physical presence of a yogi, Avatar or great saint is anchored; typically the tomb where the physical body is buried.
1. Impressions left in the mind, either conscious or subconscious, produced by previous action or experiences in this or previous lives, which determine one’s propensities in life; intimately connected with karma.
2. Vedic reformatory rituals performed from the time of conception until death to prepare, purify and perfect one, helping the passage from a past state to a future state.
Sanctum Sanctorum: ʻSanctumʼ means ʻholy place/thingʼ and ʻsanctorumʼ means of ʻholy places/thingsʼ. In Sanskrit is called Garbhagriha or Garbha gruha, which literally means ʻwomb chamberʼ; the innermost shrine of a Hindu temple where the main deity is installed and only the pujaris (priests) are allowed to enter.
Sandipani: Guru of Lord Krishna and Balarama. After the death of Kamsa, they moved to Mathura and their father, Vasudeva, sent them to Sandipani’s ashram, where they learned all the sixty-four traditional arts in sixty-four days.
Sanjaya: Literally means ʻvictoryʼ; charioteer and minister/advisor of the blind King Dhritarashtra. He was given the gift of divya-drishti (seeing events at distance) by Veda Vyasa, so he could narrate the events of the Kurukshetra war to the king, including the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita.
Sannyas: The fourth and final stage of life in the Vedic system of Varnasrama Dharma; one is free from family relationships and all activities are completely dedicated to the Lord; full renunciation.
Sanskrit: Oldest language in the world (at least 6,000 years old), considered to be the language of the gods, as it is made up of the primordial sounds. It is the language of the ancient sages of India and therefore of the Vedas, Indian scriptures and yoga treatises.
Sapta-Rishis: Seven sages recognised as the ʻmind-born sonsʼ (manasaputra) of Brahma, named Angiras, Atri, Kratu, Marichi, Pulaha, Pulastya,Vashishta. In Chapter 10 of the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna said that they are His Mental expansions. They exist at the top of creation and supervise it, maintaining the balance in this world (B.G. Ch. 10, v. 6).
Saranagati: Path of total surrender to the Lord of the bhakti traditions, within the Sri Sampradaya founded by Sri Ramanuja Acharya (11th century), and the Gaudiya Sampradaya founded by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (16th century). Sri Ramanuja Acharya considered surrender to Mahavishnu and His consort Mahalakshmi to be the highest goal of life, while Sri Chaitanya emphasised surrender to Lord Krishna and His consort Sri Radha as supreme.
1. Goddess of knowledge, speech, wisdom, learning and the arts. Consort of Lord Brahma, who is often depicted seated on a white swan, with four arms. The four hands hold a book (Vedas- divine true knowledge), a musical instrument (veena- creative arts), a mala (power of meditation, inner reflection) and a water pot (purity and the soma drink).
2. One of India’s sacred rivers, mentioned in the Rig Veda; invisible mystical river which joins underground with the rivers Ganga and Yamuna at Triveni Sangam, in Prayag (Allahabad).
Sargun Brahman: Lord manifested as the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the universe, as well as the whole creation, in a multitude of forms and aspects. The Supreme Lord endowed with attributes or qualities such as mercy, omnipotence, omniscience and so on (see also Nirgun Brahman).
Satchidananda: Description of the subjective experience of the Absolute or supreme reality, which can be translated as ʻEternal, Consciousness and Blissʼ, ʻAbsolute, Consciousness and Blissʼ or ʻExistence, Consciousness and Blissʼ.
Satguru: Literally means ʻtrue guruʼ; Self-realised spiritual Master who guides a soul through lifetimes to ultimate liberation.
Satsang: ʻSatʼ means ʻtrueʼ and ʻsangʼ means ʻcompanyʼ, ʻassociationʼ or ʻfellowshipʼ.
1. The company of the highest truth in the form of saints or one›s own Guru.
2. The gathering of spiritual seekers for meditation, prayer and devotional singing in order to uplift each other to the divine goal of Self- Realisation.
Sattva: The highest of the three gunas, which expresses itself as calmness, harmony, goodness, purity, and wisdom.
Seva: Selfless service.
Shakta: Devotee of Devi in one of Her forms.
1. The creative power of Brahman, which brings everything into manifestation.
2. The personification of primal energy referred to as Divine Mother (see Maha Devi) manifested in various forms and aspects.
Shaktipat: Shaktipat means ‘descent of Grace’. An initiation given at the end of the Atma Kriya Yoga course. This initiation includes a transference of Mahavatar Babaji’s energy into the student, to guarantee the success of the techniques and the safety of the kriya sadhak.
Shakti Peetha: Place of worship consecrated to Sati, the consort of Lord Shiva. Once her father Daksha Prajapati did not invite Lord Shiva to a great yagna ceremony; She went there alone, but unable to bear the insults, she ends up jumping into the yagna fire. Shiva went wild, picked up the remains of Sati’s body, and performed the celestial dance of destruction (Tandava) across all creation. In order to pacify Him and stop this destruction, Lord Vishnu cut Sati’s body with His Chakra. The various parts of her body fell at several spots in India, known as the 52 Shakti Peethas.
Shakuni: Evil prince of Gandhara, brother of Gandhari and hence Duryodhan’s maternal uncle. He masterminded most of Duryodhan’s plots to kill and humiliate the Pandavas, leading to the great gambling match that sent the Pandavas into exile for 13 years, which then culminated in the great Kurukshetra war. On the last day of the war, he was killed by Sahadev, who fulfilled the oath he had taken to avenge Draupadi’s insult.
1. Sacred attribute of Mahavishnu.
2. Conch shell used as a trumpet in Hindu rituals and in ancient times as a war trumpet.
Shanti: Inner peace, calmness, tranquility, bliss.
Shastras: Literally means ʻrulesʼ; Hindu scriptures, any spiritual treatise, sacred book or composition that has divine authority.
Shiva, Lord: God of the Hindu Trimurti, the Regenerator or Destroyer. At the highest level, He is regarded as pure consciousness, limitless, transcendent, unchanging and formless (see Self). He is traditionally depicted as: 1) an omniscient yogi, ascetic, meditating in Mount Kailash, rooted in God Consciousness and revealing the bliss of the transcendental reality; 2) as a householder with His consort Parvati and His two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya; 3) in fierce aspects slaying demons; 4) in the dance pose as Nataraja. His main attributes are the third eye, blue throat (see Churning of the Milky Ocean), the snake Vasuki, the crescent moon, Ganga flowing from His matted hair (see Ganga), the trishula and the damaru (cosmic sound OM). His vahana is Nandi (bull) and is usually worshipped in His Lingam form.
Shiva Lingam: literally means ʻShiva symbolʼ.
1. It represents Lord Shiva as nirgun Brahman worshipped as the Trimurti in His sargun aspect, through a symbol which consists of three parts: the lowest one, the ʻBrahma Bhagaʼ (Creator); the middle one, the ʻVishnu Bhagaʼ (Preserver) and the uppermost one, the ʻShiva Bhagaʼ (Destroyer).
2. It represents the ascending energy of consciousness and life in nature, and consists of two main parts: the Yoni (lower part) which represents Shakti and the Linga (upper part) which represents Shiva. It’s the combination of the two aspects Purusha and Prakriti, male and female, day and night.
3. There are also twelve famous Jyotirlingas or light forms of Self-manifested Shiva, worshipped traditionally in twelve temples throughout India.
Shiva Loka: Abode of Shiva, Mount Kailash.
Shreemad Bhagavad Gita: Literally means ʻsong of Godʼ. Also referred to as Bhagavad Gita or Gita, it is a timeless sacred Hindu scripture, which is part of the epic Mahabharat ascribed to Veda Vyasa. It consists of a discourse spoken by Lord Krishna Himself, about the transcendental knowledge of the Self, to Arjuna, before the Kurukshetra war.
Shreemad Bhagavatam: Also known as Bhagavata Purana, relates the divine eternal tales of the Supreme Lord and is ascribed to Veda Vyasa. It is considered to be the very essence of all the Vedanta literature and was glorified by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as ʻthe purest Puranaʼ. It truly reveals a way to liberation, through bhakti towards the Supreme Lord, in His various incarnations, with special focus on Lord Krishna, Purna Avatar of the Lord.
Shruti: Literally means ʻwhat is heardʼ; the original Vedic scriptures (Vedas and Upanishads) given directly by the Supreme Lord.
Siddhi: Literally means ʻperfectionʼ, ʻaccomplishmentʼ, ʻattainmentʼ, or ʻsuccessʼ. It refers to spiritual, supernatural magical powers, abilities, and attainments that are the products of spiritual advancement through sadhana, such as meditation and yoga.
Sita: Consort of Lord Rama; manifestation of Mahalakshmi who appeared in the house of King Janaka of Videha.
Sudama: Childhood friend of Lord Krishna since Sandipani’s ashram, who became a poor brahmin without means to feed his family. His wife advised him to ask Lord Krishna’s help in the name of their friendship, which he refused. However, he decided to visit the Lord in Dwarka. Lord Krishna was so touched with this meeting that He gave Sudama everything without him even asking (B.G. Ch. 9, v. 26).
Sudarshana Chakra: Discus weapon, one of the attributes and symbols of Mahavishnu’s powers.
Sushumna Nadi: Also referred to as the Saraswati, it is the most important of all the nadis. Its physical counterpart is the spinal cord. It flows from below the Muladhara up through the Sahasrara. It is the equilibrium of the Ida and Pingala (state of Supreme Balance). By practising Atma Kriya Yoga, one will learn to breathe through the Sushumna Nadi, which leads to the highest Realisation.
1. Literally means ʻI am mineʼ, in the sense of absolute self- mastership. It is literally translated, ʻHe who is one with his Selfʼ, ʻMasterʼ or ʻLordʼ – as the Lord Himself is the ultimate Swami.
2. Title of monks who have taken final vows of renunciation (Sannyas) and have been initiated into a monastic order.
Swarupa: Literally means ʻown formʼ and it refers to the form of the Self, essence; a revelatory appearance of the true nature.
Tamas: Literally means ʻdarknessʼ; the lowest of the three gunas, which is expressed as the force promoting darkness, inertia, dissolution, death, destruction and resistance. Tamas is also a quality which is much needed to combat negativity, thus Lord Shiva Himself out of the Trimurti represents tamas; He drinks the ʻpoisonʼ to help his devotes to get rid of their sins.
Tapas: Asceticism, austerities, penance, mortification; trouble
undertaken voluntarily for a higher purpose.
Tapasya: Literally means ʻthe generation of heat or energyʼ, but it is used in a symbolic manner, referring to spiritual practices undertaken to grow spiritually, through the burning up of karma.
Three Worlds: It refers to Swarga Loka (Heaven), Bhu Loka (Earth) and Patal Loka (nether-world).
Tilak: A sacred mark made on the forehead and between the eyebrows denoting what form of God one worships. According to Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda, it reminds one of one’s spiritual path and it indicates one’s spiritual family (Bhakti Marga/Sri Sampradaya), but also gives one the Grace. It consists of four parts: 1) the two lines made of chandan, represent Vishnu Pada, and remind one of surrendering to God; 2) the line in the middle made of kumkum, represents Mahalakshmi, one’s caring Mother and protector; 3) the triangle in the middle made of chandan, represents Tulsi leaf/Guru asana (devotion); 4) the dot or point (inside the triangle), made of kumkum, represents the Guru.
Trimurti: Refers to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, representing the three fundamental powers of nature which are manifested in the world, namely creation, preservation and destruction. These powers exist perpetually. Creation is going on all the time. So is destruction and preservation. All three powers are manifested at all times. They are inseparable.
Tukaram: 17th century saint, poet, from India (Maharashtra), also referred as Tuka; one of the saints of the Vaishnava Bhakti Movement. He was such a great devotee of Lord Krishna, in His Panduranga (Vitthala) form, that he wrote many devotional songs praising Him and was always singing His Name and Glory. He was so surrendered to the Lord that he used to say “Who is Tuka? Tuka doesn’t exist. Only You exist, Lord Vitthala, nobody else.” At the end of his life, he ascended into Vaikunta.
Tulsi: Indian holy basil plant, sacred to Mahavishnu, and venerated by the Vaishnavas as an incarnation of pure devotion. In a previous life, She was a great devotee of Mahavishnu named Vrinda. Her leaves are used in worship of Mahavishnu and His Avatars, and Her stems and roots are used to make malas (rosary beads) to do japa of the Lord’s Names. The leaves of Tulsi are also used for purification and healing. During the pastimes of Lord Krishna, Vrinda Devi incarnated as the Vrindavana forest to enjoy the Leelas of the Lord.
Turya: Fourth state of consciousness, described as pure awareness, the supra-consciousness or Nirvikalpa, which transcends the three other states of consciousness, namely Jagrat (waking; conscious mind), Svapna (dreaming; subconscious mind) and Sushupti (deep sleep or dreamless sleep; unconscious mind). It corresponds to the Atma or Brahman level of consciousness.
Uddhava: A devotee, dear friend, cousin, and counsellor of Krishna. Great scholar of the scriptures, educated by Brihaspati, the Guru of the devas. He plays a significant role in the Shreemad Bhagavatam. Krishna chose him to bring His message of eternal Love to the gopis and gopas in Vrindavan. His physical appearance was so like that of Krishna’s that he was temporarily mistaken for Him. He was marvelled and humbled by the expression of Love and surrender of the simple and illiterate gopis, who had achieved mastery over the mind and oneness with Krishna. Later, Krishna asked him to announce His departure from this world. In order to console him, Krishna revealed to him the Uddhava Gita, which comprises teachings about different paths of enlightenment and the supremacy of Bhakti Yoga.
Upadesh: Spiritual instruction.
Upanishads: Collection of texts in the Vedic Sanskrit, which are considered the most significant philosophical sections of the Vedas, dealing with the ultimate Truth and its Realisation. They are mostly found in the concluding part of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas and are also called Vedanta, which means ʻlast chapters, parts of the Vedaʼ or ʻthe object, the highest purpose of the Vedaʼ. There are more than two hundred Upanishads, of which twelve are regarded as the most important.
Vaikunta: Abode of the Supreme Lord, Narayana Krishna (see also Goloka).
Vaishnava: An adherent of Vaishnavism who follows the path of devotion to Mahavishnu.
Vaishnavism: One of the major branches of Hinduism along with Shaivism, Smartism, and Shaktism. It is focused on the veneration of Mahavishnu.
Vaishya: Third of four castes of the Varna Dharma system, which includes cattle herders, farmers, businessmen, artisans and merchants.
Valmiki: Sage revered as the first poet for he invented the sloka. Narada Muni told him to write the Ramayana, the great epic history of Lord Rama’s life. At first a vicious criminal, Valmiki became purified by unintentionally chanting continuously the Name Rama, using the phonetic anagram ʻMaraʼ. He meditated for so many years, that ant- hills grew around his body. Finally, a divine voice declared his penance successful, bestowing him with the name ʻValmikiʼ, which means ʻone born out of ant-hillsʼ.
Vamana: Also referred to as Upendra and Trivikrama; the fifth of the Dashavatar, who appeared as son of Aditi and Rishi Kashyap. In that incarnation, Mahavishnu took a human form of a dwarf brahmin to restrain the asura King Bali, grandson of Prahlad, and to end his reign over the three worlds, as Indra and all the demigods were threatened by his power. After requesting three steps of land from King Bali, Vamana covered with His first two steps the entire universe, and for the third step, King Bali offered his own head. Pleased with Bali’s surrender, Lord Vamana placed His foot on Bali’s head and gave him immortality for his humility.
Vanaprastha: Third stage of life in the Vedic system of Varnasrama Dharma; one quits home and travels to the forest and holy places of pilgrimage, in preparation for the stage of full renunciation, Sannyas.
Varaha: Third of the Dashavatar; Mahavishnu took the form of a huge boar, killed the demon Hiranyaksha and lifted the Earth up with His colossal tusks, saving Her from drowning in the primordial chaos.
Vashishta: One of the Sapta-Rishis (seven rishis) or manasaputras (mind- born sons of Brahma) of the first manvantara, who has been credited as one of the authors of the Vedas (see also Angiras, Atri, Kratu, Marichi, Pulaha, Pulastya). One of the prajapatis or progenitors whose sons and daughters peopled the earth in succeeding manvantaras. He was the family priest of many kings across different yugas, like King Dasharath, Lord Rama, Vaivasvata Manu, Ambarisha and Yudhishtir. According to the Ramayana, the wish-fulfilling cow Kamadhenu (Surabhi) and her cow-daughter Nandini resided on his ashram and King Kaushika tried to take them by force creating a conflict with him, which led King Kaushika to become Sage Vishwamitra.
1. Lord Krishna’s father by his wife Devaki; the son of King Shurasena, of the Yadu and Vrishni dynasties and Kunti’s brother. According to the Harivansa Purana, he was also the half-brother of Nanda Baba, who became the foster father of Lord Krishna. He and his wife Devaki were persecuted by Kamsa for many years before Lord Krishna delivered them by killing Kamsa.
2. One of the four manifestations of Lord Narayana Himself, Vasudeva – the soul.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: ʻVasudhaʼ means ʻearthʼ, ʻivaʼ means ʻisʼ and ʻkutumbakamʼ means ʻfamilyʼ; Sanskrit phrase which means that the whole world is just one single family. The concept is from the Maha Upanishad, Ch. 6, v. 72, which states, “Only small men discriminate saying: one is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously the entire world constitutes but a family”.
Vasuki: The king of sarpas (serpents), son Rishi of Kashyap and of Kadru. He is seen coiled around the neck of Lord Shiva; was used as a rope to pull the boat containing all species of life during the Lord’s incarnation as Matsya Avatar (see also Dashavatar); and was also used as a rope to rap around the Mandara mountain, during the Churning of the Milky Ocean, when the Lord incarnated as Kurma Avatar.
Vasus: group of eight major demigods born from Rishi Kashyap and Aditi, that are the carriers of the oblations offered during fire ceremonies; they carry the prayers to the Lord in His various forms.
Veda Vyasa: One of the four deva Rishis (B.G. Ch. 10, v. 13; see also Asita, Devala, and Narada). He is considered an incarnation of Mahavishnu who compiled the Vedas, composed the Puranas, the Brahma Sutras, the Shreemad Bhagavatam, the Mahabharata (which includes the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita).
Vedas: ʻVedaʼ literally means ʻknowledgeʼ or ʻwisdomʼ; the sacred and most ancient scriptures of the world, considered to be the very words of the Supreme Lord Himself, who originally revealed them to Brahma; by Brahma, they were subsequently made available to the Vedic Rishis (see also Sapta-Rishis and Veda Vyasa). Although in modern times there are said to be four Vedas (Rig, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva), in the Upanishads only three are listed (Rig, Sama, and Yajur). Each Veda has been sub-classified into four sections – the Samhitas (mantras and hymns, addressed to specific deities), the Aranyakas (text on rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices), the Brahmanas (commentaries on rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices), and the Upanishads (text discussing meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge).
Vigraha: Literally means ʻembodimentʼ; also referred to as murti. It is a representation of the Lord in one of His aspects, made usually of stone, clay or pottery, wood, or metal, which can be used for devotional worship.
Vijaya: One of the Vaikunta doorkeepers, who were cursed to incarnate on Earth, by the four Kumaras (see also Jaya).
1. Name very often interchanged with Mahavishnu, referring to the Supreme Lord Narayana in His Chaturbhuja form.
2. God of the Hindu Trimurti, the Protector and Preserver.
3. One of the twelve Adityas or Sun-gods, the sons of Aditi and Rishi Kashyap (see also Amshumana, Aryama, Bhaga, Dhata, Indra, Mitra, Parjanya, Pusha, Tvashta, Varuna, Vivasvan).
Vishnu Purana: One of the eighteen Mahapuranas, considered as one of the most important Puranas, where the glories of Lord Vishnu are described.
Vishwa Swarupa: Cosmic form of the Lord, which was revealed to Arjuna by Lord Krishna and is described in the Chapter 11 of the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita.
Vishwamitra: Sage who initiated Lord Rama into the Gayatri Mantra. Previously, he was King Kaushika, valiant warrior, who had a conflict with Vashishta (see also Vashishta) struggling for supremacy over the great brahmin. Finally, after many strenuous austerities, he succeeded to elevate himself; Brahma gave him the title of Brahmarishi and also named him Vishwamitra, which means ʻfriend of allʼ for his unlimited compassion. Then, he also received the blessing of Sage Vashishta and their enmity ended.
Vitthala: Also referred to as Vithoba or Panduranga; a manifestation of Lord Krishna, often depicted as a dark young boy, standing arms akimbo on a brick. His consort is Rukmini and is worshipped in Pandharpur, Maharashtra.
1. The village situated on the western bank of the river Yamuna, where Lord Krishna performed His childhood pastimes, five thousand years ago.
2. The topmost transcendental abode of the Supreme Lord (see also Goloka).
1. Also referred to as homa, is a Vedic ritual, in which a consecrated fire is used to invoke or propitiate the Lord in His supreme aspect or in the form of different deities. The sacred fire acts as a link between man’s consciousness and the cosmic consciousness. Oblations are offered into the fire like ghee, grains mixed beans, milk products, fruits, flowers, clothes, coconuts and incense, while several mantras are chanted throughout the fire ceremony (see also swaha). According to Sri Swami Vishwananda, the fire represents the mouth of the Supreme Lord, Narayana.
2. Any action offered with an attitude of surrender and devotion to the Lord, as ultimately He is the enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities (B.G. Ch. 5, v. 29).
Yamaraj: Lord of death and the demigod who represents righteousness or dharma, also called ʻking of righteousnessʼ.
Yamuna: Daughter of Vivasvan, one of the Sun-gods, and Samjna (Vishvakarma’s daughter). She is the twin sister of Yama, the lord of death, hence, also known as Kami. She is considered one of the most sacred rivers in India as Lord Krishna sanctified her waters during His transcendental pastimes five thousand years ago.
Yoga: ʻYogaʼ means ʻto joinʼ, ʻto uniteʼ, or ʻto attachʼ from the root ʻyujʼ. It refers to the union of the individual soul with the ultimate reality and it is also the method by which this union is achieved. There are four main yogas: 1) Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion; 2) Jyaana Yoga, the path of knowledge and discrimination; 3) Karma Yoga, the path of detached work; 4) Raja Yoga, the royal road to re-integration by psychological experiment.
Yudhishtir: One of the Pandavas, the eldest son of Pandu and Kunti, cousin of Lord Krishna. After Pandu had been cursed by a sage, that he would die in an act of intercourse, Kunti used a special mantra, which had been given to her by sage Durvasa, to beget children invoking the demigods. By the union of Yama and Kunti, Yudhishtir was born. He became known as Dharmaraj due to his piety. He was one of Draupadi’ husbands and king of Indraprastha, who didn’t resist Shakuni’s challenge in the game of dice, so lost all his kingdom and was forced into exile for 13 years, with his brothers and wife. He became the king of Hastinapur after the Kurukshetra war.
Yuga: Large unit of time, era, or epoch. According to the Hindu scriptures there are four yugas, known as Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. All the four together are known as Chaturyuga and collectively create an endless loop of time.