International Forum for NeoVedantins

List of words commonly related with Hindu religious thought including Vedanta. (In alphabetical Order)

Table of Contents


Abhaya: Fearlessness, an epithet of Supreme Being.

Abhyasa: Practice.

Advaita or Monism: The nondualistic school of Vedanta philosophy that affirms the oneness of the individual soul, God, and the universe, (Chief exponent was Shankaracharya, A.D. 788-820).

Ahimsa: The doctrine of nonviolence.

Akasha: The first of the five material elements that constitute the universe; often translated as 'Space' or 'Ether'. The four other elements are: Vayu - air; Agni - fire; Aap - water; and Prithvi - earth.

Amrita: Immortality.

Ananda: Bliss

Anantam or Ananta: Infinite

Antar-Atman: Supreme Spirit or Soul residing as the interior of human being

Apsara: Beautiful damsel of the Kingdom of Heaven ruled by Indra. She tries to test the steadfastness of a sadhaka by way of temptations. Example, Apsara Menaka and Rishi Vishwamitra

Aranyakas: That section of the Vedas, which gives a spiritual interpretation to the ritualistic portion of the Vedas. It is also called the 'forest treatises' because it was originally intended for ascetics who lived in the forest

Arjuna: A hero of the Epic Mahabharata and a friend and disciple of Sri Krishna, Krishna told the Gita to him.

Arya or Aryan: Lit. 'Noble'. The inhabitant of Aryavarta or Vedic India. A member of any of the first three castes of Hinduism; some people try to attribute their origin outside India, and distort the history; that Aryans invaded India and drove local Dravidians southwards.

Ashtavakra: The sage who authored the Ashtavakra Samhita, a classic text on Advaita Vedanta.

Atman: The divine Spirit in man, the Self, which is one with Brahman, the all-pervading divine existence, the Ground of the universe. (Same as Brahman, Soul, Absolute Consciousness, Reality, Existence).

Avadhuta Gita: Another classic text on Advaita Vedanta.

Avatar or avatara: An Incarnation of God.

Avidya: Ignorance, individual or cosmic, which hides the nature of the supreme Reality from our view. More or less same as Maya (Cosmic Ignorance)

Aum also Om: The sacred first name of God. The seed symbol out of which creation is said to have arisen. The first Word, and the first Mantra.

Badarayana: Author of the Brahma Sutras. Little is known of him, though tradition identifies him with Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata, who lived in India somewhere between 500 and 200 B.C.

Bhagavad Gita (or simply the Gita): An important Hindu Scripture, comprising 18 chapters and 700 verses. Sri Krishna told Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra War. For the first time the Gita introduces all the four Yogas viz. Jnana, Raja, Karma, and Bhakti.

Bhagavan: The Lord; God. Also used as a title of celebrated saints.

Bhagavatam: A well-known scripture dealing mainly with the life of Sri Krishna. Many Vaishnava devotees value it as the fifth Veda.

Bhakta: Devotee of God.

Bhakti: Love and devotion for God

Bhakti Yoga: Union with God through the path of loving devotion. Followed by dualistic worshippers.

Bharata: India, so named in honor of Bharata - the celebrated hero and monarch of ancient India. Also one name of Arjuna

Bhashya: A Commentary on the scripture

Bhava: Spiritual mood.

Bhava samadhi: Ecstasy in which the devotee retains his ego and enjoys communion with the Personal God.

Bhishma: A hero of the Mahabharata celebrated for his devotion to truth.

Brahmacharya: The first of the four stages of life; the life of an unmarried celibate studentship or scholarship. (Also continence.) The other three stages are Grihasth-ashrama, Vanaprasth-ashrama, and sannyas-ashrama.

Brahman: The Absolute; the Unity of all that exists, the formless, attributeless Godhead. Same as Atman. The Supreme Reality of the Vedanta Philosophy.

Brahmin: The most superior caste in Hindus. The members are supposed to dedicate their lives to the cultivation of spirituality and spiritual study, and God Realization.

Brahma Sutras: Also known as Vedanta Sutras. A treatise by Badarayana on Vedanta Philosophy, which interprets the Upanishads, and discusses the knowledge of Brahman.

Buddha, The Lord: The Enlightened One. Title of Gautama Siddharta (563-483 B.C), the founder of Buddhism.

Buddhi: Intelligence or the discriminating faculty, which classifies sense impressions.

Buddhism: Religion and Philosophy of Gautam Buddha, teaching that nirvana is the ultimate goal of life.

Chakra: one of the six centers of consciousness located along the spinal cord. Related to Tantra and Kundalini Shakti. The centers are muldhara, swadhisthana, manipur, anahat, vishuddha, ajna, and sahasrara. Also, the wheel.

Chit: Pure Consciousness.

Daya: Compassion

Devi: Lit. 'goddess'. The word can refer to any female deity in Hinduism.

Dharma: Righteousness, truth, or religious duty. Also the inner constitution of a thing, which governs its growth.

Dhyana: Meditation or prolonged concentration.

Diksha: Spiritual initiation imparted by the Guru (Teacher).

Durga: An aspect of the Divine Mother of the universe, the consort of Shiva. Durga is generally represented with ten arms, seated on a lion. She is the protector of the universe, destroying the demons of ignorance and giving the blessings of divine love and knowledge.


Guna: Lit. 'quality'. In Hindu philosophy there are three Gunas, the constituent parts of the Prakriti or Nature. They are Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. Tamas is characterized by dullness, stupidity, inertia; Rajas by activity, restlessness, and passion; sattva by calmness, purity, and wisdom and desire to be free. These three qualities are found in varying proportions in the external world and in all created beings.

Guru: Spiritual Master (Teacher)

Hanuman/a: The monkey devotee of Sri Rama who regarded himself as the servant of the Lord - Dasya bhava.

Ishta Deva: The form of God or spiritual ideal, which the devotee chooses to follow.

Jai: A chant meaning victory.

Japa yoga or Japa or japam: The path of union with the divine attained through the repetition of God's Name, or a sacred Mantra.

Jiva: An embodied being; ordinary fellow who has not yet realized his true divine nature.

Jnana : Knowledge; wisdom.

Jnana Yoga : The path for attaining the highest nondual unity by way of discrimination between real and unreal and renouncing the unreal.

Kali : One of the aspects of the Divine Mother of the universe. Kali was Ramakrishna's Chosen Ideal, and he worshipped her image at the Dakshineswar temple for many years - 1852 to 1886. Kali is shown standing on the chest of her consort, Shiva. Around her waist she wears garland of human arms, and around her neck a garland of human heads (skulls). She has four arms: the lower left hand holds a severed human head, her upper left hand grips a saber. With one right hand she offers boons to her children, and with the other she makes the sign that dispels fear. She deals out death as creates and preserves. Kali destroys ignorance, preserves world order, and gives blessings and liberation to those who earnestly seek it. While Shiva represents the Absolute nondual Reality, Kali represents the dynamic or relative aspect of the Supreme Reality. Like diamond and its luster, like milk and its whiteness they co-exist.

Karma : Action, both physical and mental, and the effects of the actions. Accordingly it can refer to the good or bad destiny, which one has earned through past actions.

Karma Yoga : Path of union with God through selfless Karma.

Kirtana : Devotional singing, often in group and accompanied by dance.

Krishna, Sri : The eighth Hindu avatara, sage of the Bhagavad Gita, and divine lover of Gopis and Radha of Vrindavan.

Kshatriya : The second in Hindu caste hierarchy. The warrior caste.

Kundalini: The serpent power which is said to rest at the base of the spine and to rise upward through the various chakras - lotus symbols - during the awakening of spiritual consciousness.


Madhva : Madhvacharya, the twelfth century Acharya (great Teacher) propounded the dualistic Vedanta. Like Shankara (absolute monism) and Ramanuja (qualified monism) he wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, the Gita, and the Upanishads.

Mahamaya: The Mother of the Universe, the divine will. Mahamaya veils our vision of Brahman, the absolute Reality. Yet through her grace, she rends this veil, and allows the true sadhaka to realize the identity of the Atman with the Brahman.

Mahavakya : Lit., 'great saying'. A vedantic formula that declares the oneness of the individual soul and the Paramatman - Brahman. (1) "Aham Brahmasmi" - I am Brahman; (2) "Tat Tvam Asi" - Thou art that; (3) "Prajnanam Brahman" - Absolute Knowledge and Brahman are one; and (4) "Ayam Atman Brahman" - This Atman and the Brahman are one. These are the four great sayings found in Upanishads.

Marga : path

Maya : Maya is the power of Brahman, the creative aspect of God. It is also the cosmic illusion that creates ignorance and veils the vision of Brahman. Due to the power of Maya, Brahman, the One Reality, is perceived as the manifold universe.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi : Seedless highest transcendental state of consciousness. The highest sate of realization in which the spiritual aspirant attains oneness with the absolute. The Goal of human birth!

Om also AUM : The sacred first name of God. The seed symbol out of which creation is said to have arisen. The first Word, and the first Mantra.

Pooja or Puja : Ritualistic worship

Prakriti : Primordial nature; the material principle of the world, which in association with Purusha, creates the universe. Prakriti is one of the two ultimate realities of Samkhya philosophy. Advaita differs with this point of view.

Prana : In the physical body, prana is the vital breath that sustains life and manifests as thought, bodily functions, and physical actions. Breathing is the most dramatic expression of prana. In the cosmos, prana is the sum total of all primal energy that manifests as motion, gravitation, magnetism, etc.

Prarthana : Prayer.

Pranam : Salutation.

Pratyahara : Withdrawal of the mind from the objects of senses.

Pravrajika : Title of women who have taken final vows of renunciation or sannyas. The corresponding word for men is Swami.

Puja or Pooja : Ritualistic worship.

Purusha : One of the two ultimate Realities of Samkhya philosophy. The divine Self, the absolute Reality, pure Consciousness. The only sentient existence.


Rama Sri, also Ramachandra: One Avatar of Vishnu; hero of Ramayana

Ramakrishna Sri : (1836 - 1886) A God-man of India who is considered by many to be an incarnation of God. His message stressed the essential unity of all religions, the innate divinity of each soul and humanity as a whole. He maintained that the only goal of human birth is to attempt to realize this innate divinity.

Raja Yoga : Lit., "Royal Yoga". It is the path of meditation there by one attains union with the absolute through control of internal and external forces (the mind).

Rajas : The guna which expresses itself as activity, restlessness, and passion, ambition, etc.

Ramanuja : Ramanujacharya was the eleventh-century saint philosopher who propagated the school of "qualified nondualism - Vishithadvaita". He wrote commentaries on Brahma Sutras and the Gita along with other original treatises, which advocated his philosophy of devotion to God and his creatures as the highest ideal of human life.

Rishi : Seer of spiritual Truths. Usually the term refers to the ancient Hindu Seers to whom the Vedas were revealed. A Sage.

Sadhana : Spiritual discipline or practice.

Sahasrara : The 'Thousand-petalled' Lotus, the highest chakra in Yoga.

Samadhi : The superconscious state in which one experiences one's identity with the ultimate Reality.

Samsara : Life in the world of illusion.

Samskara : Tendencies or impressions inherited from previous births which form a person's propensities in this life.

Sanatana Dharma : The Eternal Religion as preached by Vedas and Upanishads.

Sannyas : Final monastic vows in which the spiritual aspirant completely renounces everything for the sake of realization of ultimate Reality.

Sarada Devi, Ma : Sri Ramakrishna's spiritual consort, also known as the Holy Mother. Even though married, both Sri Ramakrishna and Saradadevi lived completely celibate lives; both were ideal monastic and ideal householders! Saradadevi was the embodiment of spiritual Motherhood. Her life represents true meaning of purity, austerity, and loving service and self-sacrifice. She is seen as an incarnation of Divine Mother.

Satchidananda: Absolute Existence - sat, Knowledge - chit, and Bliss - Ananda. Also name of Brahman, the Abssolute Reality.

Sattva : The guna that expresses itself as calmness, purity and wisdom. Helps to remove the veil of Maya.

Sita : The wife of Rama, she accompanies Rama to the forest exile for fourteen years. The ideal of Hindu women.

Shakti : God as the Mother of the universe. Shakti is the power of Brahman, the personification of primal energy. Consort of Shiva in Tantra.

Shankara or Shankaracharya : The great Vedanta philosopher who lived in the eighth century A. D., and revived Advaita Vedanta in India after a thousand years of Buddhist influence. Though he lived only for 32 years, he organized a monastic system that is still in existence today. His enormous literary contribution includes commentaries on Brahma sutras, the principal Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, etc. He also wrote his own philosophical works such as the Vivekachudamani (Crest Jewel of Discrimination) and the Upadeshasahsri. In addition, he composed beautiful hymns, prayers, and various minor works on Vedanta philosophy.

Shiva : God in the aspect of destroyer of the universe. He is the third person in the Hindu trinity, the other two being Brahma, the creator, and Vishnu. the preserver. In his personal aspect, Shiva is the ideal Yogi, the embodiment of renunciation, absorbed in eternal meditation in the Himalayas. He is known for his compassion: those who find refuge nowhere else, even snakes and demons, find shelter in Shiva. To save the world Shiva drank poison, which surfaced during the creation of the world. Since it stayed in his throat, he is called the 'blue-throated one'. Shiva is also the Absolute, the Supreme Reality of Tantra. He is the transcendental aspect of God, while Kali or Shakti represents the relative, dynamic aspect.

Shraddha : Firm faith guided by reason.

Shruti : The scriptures.

Smriti : The code of conduct from one era to another.

Swamiji : In the tradition of Ramakrishna order, Swamiji means Swami Vivekananda.

Tamas : The guna which expresses itself as dullness, stupidity, and inertia.

Tantra : The religious philosophy in which the Divine Mother of the universe or Shakti is worshiped as the ultimate Reality.

Turiya : lit., 'the fourth'. The superconscious state, which is beyond the three ordinary states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.

Upasana : Meditation; Formal worship.

Vaishnava: Lit. follower of Vishnu. An adherent of Vaishnavism - a dualistic branch of Hinduism. They follow the path of devotion to Vishnu or his avatars - Rama, Krishna, and Chaitannya.

Vallabha : A philosopher-saint of sixteenth century India who wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavatam. He established Pushthi Marg based on Shuddhadvaitavada. His followers worship baby Krishna from Vatsalya Bhava - motherly attitude.

Vedas : lit., "Veda" means knowledge or wisdom. The Vedas are the most sacred and most ancient scriptures of the Hindus. Orthodox Hindus believe that the Vedas are the result of direct divine revelation: they are considered the final authority in all spiritual matters. There are four Vedas : the Rik, Yajur, Sama, and Atharvaveda. Each Veda consists of a ritual or 'work' portion, and the philosophical or 'knowledge' portion known as Upanishads. The ritual portion consists of the Brahmanas - texts which discuss the significance of different sacrificial rites, and the Samhitas - a collection of mantras or hymns addressed to specific deities such as Indra, Agni, Varuna. Also included in ritual portion are Aranyakas, which give a spiritual interpretation to the rituals.

Vidya : Knowledge leading to the ultimate Reality.

Vishithadvaita or Qualified Monism : The philosophy of qualified nondualism founded by Ramanuja. It states that the individual soul and insentient matter are distinct from Brahman, but Brahman is the basis of their existence and reality.

Vishnu : The second aspect of the Hindu trinity. God in his aspect of preserver. Vishnu is frequently shown with four arms, and holds the discuss -sudarshan-chakra, the mace, conch shell, and lotus. According to the doctrine of the avatara, Vishnu incarnates as a human being in every age for the good of the world.


Yajna : Sacrifice. Sacrificial ceremony. In Vedic times it meant: 'Sacrificing things for the sake of the Deity'.

Yajnavalka : A saint or sage mentioned in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

Yoga : lit. "yoke", to join. Yoga is union of the individual soul with the ultimate Reality. It is also the method by which this union is achieved. There are four Yogas: Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti.

Compiled from various sources.
Many words and terms still remain to be added.
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