LaMeD Academy

Glossary - Hindu

 A body of social, cultural, and religious beliefs and practices native to the Indian subcontinent: devotion to the cult of one of the chief gods and goddesses.

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ahamkara - The ego-sense; identification with one's ego.

Atman - Self; the innermost soul in every creature, which is divine.
(Upanishads p. 305) God-within-the-creature is known in the Sanskrit language as the Atman or Purusha, the eal Self... According to the Upanishads and the Gita, the one Atman is present within all creatures. Patanjali, following Sankhya philosophy, believed that each individual creature and object has a separate, but identical, Purusha... (How to know God: the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali)

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Bhagavan - God manifesting Himself as a person; the object of worship of the bhaktas. By worshipping God as a person, devotees are able to assume human-like relationships with God, for example: God as parent, devotee as child; God as Lord, devotee as servant. It is also much easier for many people to develop love toward God when He is regarded as a person. Such love is capable of triggering a spiritual awakening once it is a pure, selfless love.

Bhairava - The God Shiva in one of his most fearsome, terrifying aspects. When referring to the non-differentiated essential form of Bhairava or the nondifferentiated Self, Tantric writers are emphasizing the uncreated aspect of God. In this aspect God cannot be known intellectually since He is beyond categories; He encompasses all distinguishing characteristics.

bhakta - A follower of the path of bhakti, divine love; a worshipper of the Personal God. (p. 594, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

bhakti - Love of God; single-minded devotion to one's Chosen Ideal.
My comment: In Hindu religion, it is believed that incarnations of God have repeatedly visited the earth, and that God can assume different forms. The Chosen Ideal represents the form of God which is particularly attractive for a given devotee. (p. 594, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

brahmajnana - The Knowledge of Brahman. (p. 595, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

Brahman - The supreme Godhead, beyond all distinctions or forms; ultimate Reality [from brih.: that which expands] (Upanishads p. 306)

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The doer - It is believed that ultimately God is responsible for all human activity, and that humans are but His instruments.

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empowered mantra - A mantra becomes empowered through the process of initiation. It is during initiation that a disciple receives his or her mantra from the guru. The mantra is empowered in the sense that the guru acts as a vehicle of God's grace, and it is God's grace that is embodied in the mantra.

enquiry, self-enquiry, or vicara - To seek an answer to the question "Who am I?", not by intellectual reasoning, but by beholding oneself. To look within.

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Gita - This is shorthand for the Bhagavad Gita, possibly the most revered of all Hindu scriptures.

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householder - A lay person, as opposed to a monk.

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incarnation - Within non-dualistic branches of Hinduism, it is quite common to regard an enlightened individual as an incarnation of God. The name used to refer to God will vary (e.g. Shiva or Vishnu).

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japa - God's name is the mantra; the act of repeating it is japa.

jiva - The embodied soul.  (p. 601, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

jivanmukta - A person who is liberated (enlightened) while living (See videhamukta).

jnanayoga - The path of knowledge, consisting of discrimination, renunciation, and other disciplines.
(p. 601, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

jnani - One who follows the path of knowledge and discrimination to realize God; generally used to denote a Non-dualist; wise person.  (p. 602, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

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Kali - Kali is one of the female manifestations of God. She represents the power of time. Her physical appearance is most fearsome and symbolizes her boundless power of destruction. She takes away from us everything that is transitory. As long as we regard what is transitory as all there is, we are of course terrified at this prospect. Nonetheless She protects those who are devoted to Her, and through Her grace they pass from the realm of time to the realm of timelessness. 
Note that Ramakrishna uses the terms Kali and Shakti more or less interchangeably.

Krishna - An incarnation of God. He was the friend and charioteer of Arjuna, a human in ancient India. While waiting on a battlefield prior to the initial battle of a ghastly civil war, Arjuna was
overcome with despondency. During this time, Krishna offered his advice to Arjuna and it was while listening to Krishna's council that Arjuna became aware for the first time that his long-time friend was in fact God. Krishna's advice to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra was recorded in the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most cherished of Hindu scriptures.

Kundalini - Kundalini is spiritual energy. In the vast majority of individuals, it lies dormant at the base of the spine. When activated through one's spiritual practices, it ascends from one spiritual center
(chakra) in the body to another. As Kundalini rises through the three upper spiritual centers, the practitioner experiences mystic visions and spiritual perceptions (for instance, of supernatural light).

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maya - The cosmic illusion which causes the One to appear as the many.

moksha - Liberation, enlightenment

The Divine Mother - A name used to refer to any of the female manifestations of God. She represents Brahman's power or energy, which expresses Itself via the dynamic tension between the various opposites which make up the phenomenal universe.

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nirvikalpa - During this state the mystic loses consciousness of his or her surroundings, and is absorbed in concentration on the nondifferentiated aspect of of God.

Non-dualist - Someone whose ideal is to entirely merge with Brahman, losing all sense of individuality.

Non-volitional life - As long as you are pursuing your own self-interest, you are leading a volitional life. However enlightened individuals no longer regard themselves as having a self-interest that stands apart
from that of others. Nonetheless they still act. It's just that these actions are unmotivated by selfishness. Such activities are regarded as non-volitional.

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pandita - One who has self-knowledge; a liberated person.

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Rama - An incarnation of God. The story of His earthly life is told in the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. In this story, Rama's dearly beloved wife is kidnapped by a demon. After much difficulty, Rama eventually succeeds in slaying the demon, rescuing his wife, and restoring her to her former position. Allegorically speaking, this represents God's salvation of the individual soul.

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samadhi - Turning one's attention away from creation toward that which is uncreated. The individual is ecstatically transported and becomes unaware of his surroundings. In Christian mystical literature, this spiritual state is known as rapture.

Satchidananda - Another name for Brahman. It is a combination of the words Sat (being), Chit (consciousness), and Ananda (bliss). Emphasizes the unmanifest aspect of the Absolute; It is perceived as being real, while the phenomenal universe is perceived as unreal and illusory.

Shakti - Power, generally the Creative Power of Brahman; a name of the Divine Mother. (p. 610, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

Shiva - In the Hindu trinity, God is seen as manifesting Himself as the Creator (Brahma), the Preserver (Vishnu), and the Destroyer (Shiva).

Shiva-Shakti - For practitioners of Tantra, Brahman (called Shiva here) is the same as Shakti. "When we think of It as inactive, that is to say, not engaged in the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, then we call It Brahman. But when It engages in these activities, then we call It ... Shakti {i.e. the Goddess}. The Reality is one and the same; the difference is in name and form" (p. 193, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna). Shiva represents Consciousness as Being, while Shakti represents Consciousness as the Power to Become.  See Abhinavgupta's treatment of the topic, Uncreated for an alternative exposition on Shiva-Shakti.

siddha - A perfected being.

spanda - This refers to a state of spiritual vibration that is present within the Heart, which is regarded as the seat of consciousness. A very slow vibration results in unconscious, inert objects (like rocks). A faster vibration results in the consciousness of sentient beings. An infinitely fast vibration characterizes the consciousness of God.

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uantra - A system of religious philosophy in which the Divine Mother, or Power, is the Ultimate Reality; also the scriptures dealing with this philosophy.  (p. 613, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

unmilana samadhi - This samadhi permits the individual to see God everywhere.

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vaidhi-bhakti - Devotion to God associated with rites and ceremonies prescribed in the scriptures.  (p. 613, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)

vasana, conditioning, tendencies, or self-limitation - Self-imposed limitations; the general idea is that your true self is unbounded and without attributes, yet most people generate their own bondage and subsequent suffering by faulty identification with that which is less than their true self. These limitations are in essence different forms of attachments, such as attachment to one's:

  • personal history (memory)
  • personal strengths and weaknesses
  • pre-dispositions
  • likes and dislikes
  • habits
  • habitual outlook
  • opinions

In short all the things that go into building your individual sense of self or ego. The word vasana is usually translated as mental conditioning or subtle tendencies.

videhamukta - A soul who is liberated, but who is without a body due to its death (See jivanmukta).

visarga - The visarga is viewed as a rhythmic contraction and expansion. The expansive movement results in the manifestation of the universe; the contractive movement results in a return to the
origin, God. When the yogin connects with this contractive motion, he is effortlessly propelled to the original, unbounded consciousness of God. It is this contraction and expansion that
produces the vibration known as the spanda.

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yoga - Union of the individual soul and the Universal Soul; also refers to the spiritual practices which result in such union. The physical exercises and postures that people in the West tend to
associate with yoga is only one of many yogic practices. For instance, bhaktiyoga is the spiritual practice of devotion to God; jnanayoga is the spiritual practice of discrimination and

yogi - One who practices yoga.

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