A The first of the Sanskrit letters; all sounds are based on this sound.
Achyuta (Lit., changeless one, someone who never falls) the Infallible One, an epithet of Krishna.
adharma (Lit., the opposite of dharma) Impiety or unrighteousness. See dharma.
Adityas Twelve deities constituting a group.
Ahamkara Ego; the lower self, responsible for the illusion of separate existence.
Airavata The name of the celestial elephant born out of the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons and given to Indra for his use.
akasa The first of the five material elements that constitute the universe; often translated as “space” or “ether.”
akshara Indestructible, imperishable; unchanging.
amrita (Lit., immortal) The elixir of immortality.
asura Demon.
ashvattha The holy fig-tree.
Aswins According to Hindu mythology they are the twin sons of the Sun-god, and the physicians of the gods in heaven.
Atman The true Self, the Ultimate Reality of man.
bhakti Devotion to God.
Bhagavan (bhaga – fullness; van – possessing): the worshipable one, the fulfilled, the one happy; the Supreme Lord; honorary title for the Self-Realized Person.
Bharata A descendant of King Bharata, the son of Sakuntala and Dushyanta. In honor of Bharata, India is called Bharata or Bharatavarsha. In the Gita the word refers occasionally to Dliritarashtra and frequently to Arjuna, both of whom were descended from the ancient King Bharata.
Brahma God the Creator; the First Person of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Vishnu and Siva.
brahmachari (Lit., abiding in Brahman ) Usually is used to denote a celibate religious student who lives with his teacher and devotes himself to the practice of spiritual discipline.
Brahman > Brahman The Impersonal Absolute; the Ultimate Reality in Vedanta philosophy; synonymous with Paramatman, Parabrahman, etc.
brahmin The priestly caste.
Brihaspati The preceptor and priest of the gods.
buddhi Intelligence, higher mind; the capacity for correct spiritual and philosophical discrimination.
buddhi yoga Development of the faculty of spiritual discrimination, which enables man to separate that which is real from that which is unreal; this power of spiritual discernment becomes available only to people who have developed sacred devotion and are filled with love for God.
chaytanya Consciousness.
Daityas (Lit; the sons of Diti) The demons, who challenged the power of the gods.
devarshi One who is at the same time a god and a rishi, or seer of Truth.
Dhananjaya A name of Arjuna, given in honor of his having subdued the kings of India and acquired their wealth.
dharma (Lit., that which holds together) The inmost constitution of a thing, the law of its inner being, which hastens its growth and without which it ceases to exist. The dharma of a man is not imposed from outside, but is acquired by him as a result of his actions in his past lives. Thus every man, in a special sense, has his own dharma, which determines his conduct, his righteousness, and his sense of right and wrong.
Dhritarashtra The elder brother of King Pandu, and the father of one hundred sons, of whom Duryodhana was the eldest.
Draupadi The wife of the five sons of Pandu.
Duryodhana The eldest son of King Dhritarashtra, and the leader of the Kauravas.
Dvanda A compound in Sanskrit grammar in which the meanings of the component parts are fully retained, which is not the case with other compounds.
Gandharvas A class of demigods regarded as the singers and musicians of the gods.
Gandiva The celebrated bow of Arjuna.
Garuda A mythical bird, the carrier of the Lord Vishnu.
Gayatri A Vedic metre of twenty four syllables; also the name of a sacred Vedic verse repeated by every brahmin at the time of his daily devotions.
god The word in Sanskrit is “deva,” literally, “shining one.” When a human being performs meritorious action on earth, he becomes a god after death and occupies a temporary position in heaven, where he is given charge of a cosmic process. Thus the Hindu scriptures describe the god of fire, the god of wind, the god of the ocean, and so on.
Govinda (Lit., protector of cows) An epithet of Krishna.
Gudakesa (Lit., one who has controlled sleep) An epithet of Arjuna.
guna According to Sankhya philosophy, Prakriti (Nature or matter), in contrast with Purusha (Soul), consists of three gunas—usually translated as “qualities”—known as sattva, rajas, and tamas. Tamas stands for inertia or dullness, rajas for activity or restlessness, and sattva for balance or wisdom.
hathayoga A school of yoga that aims chiefly at physical health and well-being.
Hrishikesa (Lit., the Lord, or Director, of the senses) A name of Krishna.
Ikshvaku The son of Manu and ancestor of the Solar dynasty of kshatriyas.
Indra The king of the gods.
indriyas Organs; there are five jnanendriyas – sense organs, organs of perseption: sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell (often translated as senses); and five karmendriyas – organs of action: hands, feet, vocal organ, organs of generation and evacuation.
Isvara-form The Divine Form of the Lord, possessed of omnipotence, omnipresence, infinite wisdom, infinite strength, infinite virtue, and infinite splendor.
Janaka A king of ancient India, who was endowed with the highest knowledge.
Janardana (Lit., the Destroyer of the demon Jana) According to Sankara, an epithet of Krishna because He is prayed to for prosperity and liberation.
japa Repetition of a name of God.
Kalpa A thousand cycles of four Yugas.
Kamadhenu The famous cow of the sage Vasishtha, which fulfilled all de¬sires and yielded milk in abundance.
Kandarpa The Hindu god of love.
Kapila Reputed to be the author of Sankhya philosophy.
karma Action in general; the term is also used to denote the consequence of action; also: ritualis¬tic worship.
karma phala tyaga Renunciation of the fruit of action.
karma yoga Path of selfless action; dedicating all fruits of one’s actions to the Lord; karma yoga culminates in attainment of nishkama karma, i.e. performance of all actions without an eye on the result thereof and without the feeling “I am the doer”.
Kasi Benares.
Kesava A name of Krishna.
Kesi The name of a demon. The warrior caste.
kshara Transitory, perishable.
kshatriya The warrior caste.
Kunti A wife of King Pandu; same as Pritha.
Kuru A section of northern India, comprising the country around modern Delhi; a prince of that country. The epithet “chief of the Kurus” is applied in the Gita to Arjuna. In the Mahabhaarata this title is used also to denote Dhritarashtra and Duryodhana. Kuru was a common ancestor of them all.
Kurukshetra A place near modern Delhi.
kusa-grass A kind of grass from which mats for meditation are made.
Kuvera The god of riches and treasure; also the king of the Yakshas.
life-breath Same as prana. See prana.
Madhava A name of Krishna.
Madhusudana (Lit., the Slayer of the demon Madhu) An epithet of Krishna.
maharatha One able to fight single-handed ten thousand archers.
Manu The celebrated law-giver of ancient India; the name of a mythical personage regarded as the representative man and the father of the human race. The Manusamhita, or Institutes of Manu, mentions fourteen Manus, who were the fourteen successive progenitors or sovereigns of the earth. The seventh Manu, called Vaivasvat, is supposed to have been born of the sun and is re¬garded as the progenitor of the present race of human beings.
Maruts The winds.
maya A term of Vedanta philosophy denoting ignorance obscuring the vision of God; the cosmic illusion on account of which the One appears as many, the Absolute as the relative.
Meru A mythical mountain abounding in gold and other treasures.
muni A sage given to meditation and contemplation.
Nagas These form a class of snakes.
Nirvana (Lit., blowing out—as of a flame) Annihilation of desire, passion, and ego liberation characterized by freedom and bliss.
Om Pranava, primeval sound, the most sacred word of the Vedas; also written AUM. It is the symbol of both the Personal God and the Absolute.
pairs of opposites All correlated ideas and sensations, for instance, good and evil, pleasure and pain, heat and cold, light and darkness.
Pandava (Lit., son of Pandu) Often used to denote Arjuna, the third son of Pandu.
Pandu The younger brother of King Dhritarashtra and father of Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva.
Partha (Lit., son of Pritha) An epithet of Arjuna.
Pitris Forefathers.
Prahlada The son of Hiranyakasipu, who was an unrighteous demon. Prah¬lada was tortured by his father for his great love of God. The Lord, in His Incarnation as Narasimha, Man-lion, appeared and killed the cruel father.
Prajapati An epithet of the ten lords of created beings, the first to be created by Brahma. Prakriti Primordial Nature; the material substratum of the creation, con¬sisting of sattva, rajas, and tamas
Prana The vital breath, which sustains life in a physical body; the breath. In the books of yoga, prana is described as having five modifica¬tions, according to its five different functions. They are: prana (the vital energy that controls breath), apana (the vital energy that carries downward unassimilated food and drink), samana (the vital energy that carries nutrition all over the body), vyana (the vital energy that per¬vades the entire body), and udana (the vital energy by which the contents of the stomach are ejected through the mouth). Ac¬cording to some writers on yoga, prana and apana mean, respec¬tively, the in-going and the outgoing breath.
Pritha A wife of King Pandu; same as Kunti.
Purusha (Lit., person) A term of Sankhya philosophy denoting the Conscious Principle. The universe evolves from the union of Prakriti (Nature) and Purusha. In Vedanta the word also denotes the Soul and the Absolute.
Purushottama The Supreme Person.
rajas See guna.
rajayoga (Lit., royal yoga) A system of yoga ascribed to Patanjali, dealing with concentra¬tion, control of the mind, samadhi, and similar matters.
Rakshasas Members of a class of demigods; monsters.
Rik A part of the Vedas.
Rudras Members of a group of gods, eleven in number, supposed to be collateral manifestations of Siva, who is their leader.
sadhana Spiritual discipline.
Sadhyas Members of a particular class of celestial beings.
samadhi Ecstasy, trance, complete concentration, communion with God.
Saman A part of the Vedas.
samsara The relative world.
Sanjaya The reporter who recounted the progress of the battle of Kurukshetra to the blind King Dhritarashtra.
sannyasa (Lit., complete renunciation) Renunciation practiced by sannyasis, or monks, in the form of giving up all desire for progeny, wealth, and happiness in heaven after death.
sannyasi A Hindu monk, who renounces the world in order to realize God.
Sat Existence, being; that which is unchanging over three periods of time: past, present and future.
Sat-Chit-Ananda Existence-Consciousness-Bliss; the inherent qualities of Atman.
sattva See guna.
Siddhas Semi-divine beings of great purity and holiness, endowed with super¬natural powers.
Siva The Destroyer God; the Third Person of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Brahma and Vishnu.
Skanda The commander-in-chief of the armies in heaven.
sraddha The untranslatable Sanskrit word “sraddha” denotes an intuitive conviction in the existence of Truth and also a mental attitude, on the part of the aspirant, consisting primarily of sincerity of purpose, humility, and reverence.
sthitaprajna A person with perfect equanimity.
Subhadra A wife of Arjuna.
sudra The laboring caste.
tamas See guna.
tyaga Renunciation; inner freedom from desires and attachments.
vaisya The commercial and agricultural caste.
Varshneya (Lit., one belonging to the clan of the Vrishnis) An epithet of Krishna.
Varuna The lord of the ocean; usually associated with Mitra.
Vasudeva (Lit., son of Vasudeva) A name of Krishna.
Vasus Members of a class of deities, usually eight in number.
Vedanta A system of philosophy discussed mainly in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma-sutras.
Vedas The great scriptures of the Hindus and the ultimate authority of the Hindu religion.
Vijnana Knowledge of Creation, i.e. of the phenomenal world; thus, the term is often used to refer to science.
Vishnu (Lit., the All-pervading Spirit) A name of the Supreme Lord; the Second Person of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Brahma and Siva.
Vivasvan The Sun-god.
Vrikodara (Lit., one having the belly of a wolf) A name of Bhima, given because of his enormous appetite.
Vyasa A celebrated sage, who is reputed to have arranged the Vedas in their present form; he is also believed to be the author of the Mahabharata. The eighteen Puranas and the Brahma-sutras are also ascribed to him.
Yadava (Lit., belonging to the race of Yadu) A name of Krishna.
yajna The Sanskrit word “yajna” means a religious rite or wor¬ship. It also denotes the offering of oblations to God, or any action performed with a spiritual motive. An additional meaning is the Supreme Lord.
Yajur A part of the Vedas.
Yakshas Certain demigods.
Yama The lord of death.
yoga The union of the individual soul and the Supreme Soul; also the discipline by which such union is effected.
Yogesvara The Lord of Yoga; an epithet of Krishna.
yogi One who practices yoga. See yoga.
Yuga A particular age. There are four Yugas, and they repeat a thousand times in one aeon.
Yudhishthira The eldest son of King Pandu.