Hinduism's Online Lexicon - A-z Dictionary
aadheenam: (Tamil) Endowment, foundation, institution, establishment, estate, property. A Saivite Hindu monastery and temple complex in the South Indian Saiva Siddhanta tradition. Also known as matha or pitha, as in Kailasa Pitha. The aadheenam head, or pontiff, is called the Guru Mahasannidhanam or Aadheenakarthar. See: monastery.
abhasa: (Sanskrit) "Shining out; manifestation, emanation." The means by which Siva creates out of Himself, a concept central to monistic schools. See: emanation, tattva.
abhaya: (Sanskrit) Fearlessness, one of the cardinal virtues. "Fearlessness is the fruit of perfect Self Realization--that is, the recovery of nonduality" (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.2). Also names the mudra (hand gesture) common in Hindu icons, betokening "fear not," in which the fingers of the right hand are raised and the palm faces forward. See: mudra, murti.
Abhinavagupta: (Sanskrit) Kashmir Saivite guru (ca 950-1015), scholar and adept in the lineage of Vasugupta. Among his philosophical writings, Pratyabhijna Vimarshini and Tantraloka are an important basis of Kashmir Saivism. Also an influential theoretician of poetics, dance, drama and classical music, he is said to have disappeared into a cave near Mangam along with 1,200 disciples. See: Kashmir Saivism.
abhisheka: (Sanskrit) "Sprinkling; ablution." Ritual bathing of the Deity's image with water, curd, milk, honey, ghee, rosewater, etc. A special form of puja prescribed by Agamic injunction. Also performed in the inauguration of religious and political monarchs and other special blessings. See: puja.
abhor (abhorrence): To detest, hate or find disgusting or repulsive and hence to pull back or shrink from.
abide: To stand firm, remain as one is. Not abandoning principles or qualities of character even in the face of difficulties.
abjuration: Renunciation, giving up by oath, as a sannyasin gives up family life. See: sannyasa dharma.
ablution: Snana. A washing of the body, especially as a religious ceremony.
abode: Home. Place where one lives or stays.
abortion: The deliberate termination of pregnancy. From the earliest times, Hindu tradition and scriptures condemn the practice, except when the mother's life is in danger. It is considered an act against rita and ahimsa. Hindu mysticism teaches that the fetus is a living, conscious person, needing and deserving protection (a Rig Vedic hymn [7.36.9, RvP, 2469] begs for protection of fetuses). The Kaushitaki Upanishad (3.1 UpR, 774) describes abortion as equivalent to killing one's parents. The Atharva Veda (6.113.2 HE, 43) lists the fetus slayer, brunaghni, among the greatest of sinners (6.113.2). The Gautama Dharma Shastra (3.3.9 HD, 214) considers such participants to have lost caste. The Sushruta Samhita, a medical treatise (ca 100), stipulates what is to be done in case of serious problems during delivery (Chikitsasthana Chapter, Mudhagarbha), describing first the various steps to be taken to attempt to save both mother and child. "If the fetus is alive, one should attempt to remove it from the womb of the mother alive..." (sutra 5). If it is dead, it may be removed. In case the fetus is alive but cannot be safely delivered, surgical removal is forbidden for "one would harm both mother and offspring. In an irredeemable situation, it is best to cause the miscarriage of the fetus, for no means must be neglected which can prevent the loss of the mother" (sutras 10-11).
Absolute: Lower case (absolute): real, not dependent on anything else, not relative. Upper case (Absolute): Ultimate Reality, the unmanifest, unchanging and transcendent Parasiva--utterly nonrelational to even the most subtle level of consciousness. It is the Self God, the essence of man's soul. Same as Absolute Being and Absolute Reality.--absolutely real: A quality of God Siva in all three perfections: Parasiva, Parashakti and Parameshvara. As such, He is uncreated, unchanging, unevolutionary. See: Parameshvara, Parashakti, Parasiva.
absolution (to absolve): Forgiveness. A freeing from guilt so as to relieve someone from obligation or penalty.--atone: to compensate or make up for a wrongdoing. Atonement can only be done by the person himself, while absolution is granted by others, such as a family head, judge or jury. Exoneration, the taking away of all blame and all personal karmic burden, can only be given by God Siva. Society would naturally acknowledge and accept this inner transformation by forgiving and forgetting. See: penance, sin.
absorption: Taking in and making part of an existent whole. Known in Sanskrit as samhara, absorption is one of God's five powers (panchakritya), synonymous with destruction or dissolution, but with no negative or frightful implications. All form issues from God and eventually returns to Him. See: Maheshvara, Nataraja.
abstain: To hold oneself back, to refrain from or doing without. To avoid a desire, negative action or habit. See: yama-niyama.
abyss: A bottomless pit. The dark states of consciousness into which one may fall as a result of serious misbehavior; the seven chakras (psychic centers), or talas (realms of consciousness), below the muladhara chakra, which is located at the base of the spine. See: chakra, Naraka, loka.
accelerate: To increase the speed of a thing; to intensify its rate of progress.
accordant: In agreement or harmony with.
achara: (Sanskrit) "Conduct, mode of action, behavior; good conduct." Also, custom, tradition; rule of conduct, precept.
acharya: (Sanskrit) "Going toward;" "approaching." A highly respected teacher. The wise one who practices what he preaches. A title generally bestowed through diksha and ordination, such as in the Sivacharya priest tradition. See: diksha.
acosmic pantheism: "No-cosmos, all-is-God doctrine." A Western philosophical term for the philosophy of Shankara. It is acosmic in that it views the world, or cosmos, as ultimately unreal, and pantheistic because it teaches that God (Brahman) is all of existence. See: Shankara, shad darshana.
actinic: Spiritual, creating light. Adjective derived from the Greek aktis, "ray." Of or pertaining to consciousness in its pure, unadulterated state. Describes the extremely rarified superconscious realm of pure bindu, of quantum strings, the substratum of consciousness, shuddha maya, from which light first originates. Actinic is the adjective form of actinism, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as: "1) the radiation of heat or light, or that branch of philosophy that treats of it; 2) that property or force in the sun's rays by which chemical changes are produced, as in photography." See: actinodic, kala, kosha, odic, tattva.
actinodic: Spiritual-magnetic. Describes consciousness within shuddhashuddha maya, which is a mixture of odic and actinic force, the spectrum of the anahata chakra, and to a certain degree the vishuddha chakra. See: tattva.
adept: Highly skilled; expert. In religion, one who has mastered certain spiritual practices or disciplines. An advanced yogi. See: siddha yoga.
adharma: (Sanskrit) "Unrighteousness." The opposite of dharma. Thoughts, words or deeds that transgress divine law. Irreligiousness; demerit. See: dharma, papa, sin Vaishnavism, victors and vanquished.
adhere: To remain attached or faithful, as to a leader, society, principle, etc.
adhyatma: (Sanskrit) "Spiritual; soul." The inner, spiritual self or spirit. See: atman.
adhyatma prasara: (Sanskrit) "Spiritual evolution." The gradual maturation of the soul body, anandamaya kosha, through many lives. Prasara means, "coming forth, spreading; advance, progress." See: evolution of the soul.
adhyatma vikasa: (Sanskrit) "Spiritual unfoldment." The blossoming of inner or higher (adhi), soul (atma) qualities as a result of religious striving, sadhana. Vikasa means, "becoming visible, shining forth, manifestation opening," as a flower unfolds its petals, or the chakras unfold theirs as a result of kundalini awakening. See: spiritual unfoldment.
Adi Granth: (Sanskrit) "First book." The central Sikh scripture, compiled 1603-1604 from the writings of Sikh, Moslem and Hindu holy men, most importantly the beautiful hymns of adoration, called Japji, by Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. In 1699, Gobind Singh, the tenth preceptor, decreed that the living succession would end with him, and this scripture would henceforth serve as Sikhism's guru. Its eloquent teachings are in harmony with Hinduism, but for the rejection of the Vedas and disavowal of image worship and caste. The Adi Granth is enshrined in all Sikh temples (gurudwaras). See: Sikhism.
Adinatha: (Sanskrit) "First Lord." A sage considered the first great preceptor (date unknown) of the Adinatha Sampradaya, a teaching tradition embodied in the Siddha Siddhanta sect of Saivism. See: Saivism, Natha.
Adinatha Sampradaya: (Sanskrit) See: Natha Sampradaya.
Adisaiva: (Sanskrit) A hereditary priest and teacher of the South Indian Saiva Siddhanta tradition; Saivite brahmins descended from the gotras of five rishis and who alone are entitled to conduct rites in Agamic Siva temples. Adisaiva and Sivacharya are synonyms for this hereditary priest lineage. See: Sivacharya.
adopt: To recognize as one's own, especially an idea, principle, or even a religion and henceforth live with it and by it. See: conversion to Hinduism.
adore: To love greatly; to worship as divine. See: puja.
adorn: To put on ornaments or decorations to make more beautiful, attractive or distinguished. See: kala-64.
adrishta: (Sanskrit) "Unseen potency; destiny." The unseen power of one's past karma influencing the present life. This power is known in the West as fate or destiny, generally not cognized as being of one's own making, but misunderstood as a mysterious, uncontrollable cosmic force. See: karma, fate.
adulate: To praise, revere, admire or flatter highly.
adultery: Sexual intercourse between a married man and a woman not his wife, or between a married woman and a man not her husband. Adultery is spoken of in Hindu shastras as a serious breach of dharma. See: sexuality.
advaita: (Sanskrit) "Non dual; not twofold." Nonduality or monism. The philosophical doctrine that Ultimate Reality consists of a one principal substance, or God. Opposite of dvaita, dualism. Advaita is the primary philosophical stance of the Vedic Upanishads, and of Hinduism, interpreted differently by the many rishis, gurus, panditas and philosophers. See: dvaita-advaita, Vedanta.
Advaita Ishvaravada: (Sanskrit) "Nondual and Personal-God-as-Ruler doctrine." The Sanskrit equivalent of monistic theism. A general term that describes the philosophy of the Vedas and Saiva Agamas, which believes simultaneously in the ultimate oneness of all things and in the reality of the personal Deity. See: Advaita, Advaita Siddhanta, monistic theism.
Advaita Ishvaravadin: (Sanskrit) A follower of Advaita Ishvaravada.
Advaita Siddhanta: (Sanskrit) "Nondual perfect conclusions." Saivite philosophy codified in the Agamas which has at its core the nondual (advaitic) identity of God, soul and world. This monistic-theistic philosophy, unlike the Shankara, or Smarta view, holds that maya (the principle of manifestation) is not an obstacle to God Realization, but God's own power and presence guiding the soul's evolution to perfection. While Advaita Vedanta stresses Upanishadic philosophy, Advaita Siddhanta adds to this a strong emphasis on internal and external worship, yoga sadhanas and tapas. Advaita Siddhanta is a term used in South India to distinguish Tirumular's school from the pluralistic Siddhanta of Meykandar and Aghorasiva. This unified Vedic-Agamic doctrine is also known as Shuddha Saiva Siddhanta. It is the philosophy of this contemporary Hindu catechism. See: Advaita Ishvaravada, dvaita-advaita, monistic theism, Saiva Siddhanta.
Advaita Vedanta: (Sanskrit) "Nondual end (or essence) of the Vedas." Names the monistic schools, most prominently that of Shankara, that arose from the Upanishads and related texts. See: Vedanta.
adversity: A condition of misfortune, poverty or difficulty.
advocate: To write or speak in support of an idea, action or practice.
affirmation: Dridhavachana. "Firm statement." A positive declaration or assertion. A statement repeated regularly while concentrating on the meaning and mental images invoked, often used to attain a desired result.
affirmation of faith: A brief statement of one's faith and essential beliefs. See: anbe Sivamayam Satyame Parasivam.
aftermath: A result or consequence of a happening. The events or repercussions following an experience.
Agama: (Sanskrit) "That which has come down." An enormous collection of Sanskrit scriptures which, along with the Vedas, are revered as shruti (revealed scripture). Dating is uncertain. They were part of an oral tradition of unknown antiquity which some experts consider as ancient as the earliest Vedas, 5000 to 6000 bce. The Agamas are the primary source and authority for ritual, yoga and temple construction. Each of the major denominations--Saivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism--has its unique Agama texts. Smartas recognize the Agamas, but don't necessarily adhere to them and rely mainly on the smriti texts. See: Saiva Agamas, shruti.
Agastya: (Sanskrit) One of 18 celebrated Saiva siddhas (adepts), and accepted as the first grammarian of Tamil language. He is said to have migrated from North India to the South. His name appears in the Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas and was known to ancient Indonesians. See: siddha.
Aghora: (Sanskrit) "Nonterrifying." An aspect of Siva which, like Rudra, is the personification of His power of dissolution or reabsorption. Ghora means "terrific, frightful, terrible, etc." See: Sadasiva.
Aghorasiva: (Sanskrit) A Saivite philosopher of South India who in the 12th century founded a Siddhanta school emphasizing dualistic passages of the Agamas and other early texts. The later Meykandar pluralistic philosophy is based partly on Aghorasiva's teachings. See: dvaita-advaita, dvaita Siddhanta, Saiva Siddhanta.
Aghori: (Sanskrit) "Nonterrifying." An order of Saiva ascetics thought to be derived from the Kapalika order (ca 14th century). Following the vamachara, "left-hand ritual of the tantras," they are widely censured for radical practices such as living in cemeteries and using human skulls as eating bowls.
agni: (Sanskrit) "Fire." 1) One of the five elements, panchabhuta. 2) God of the element fire, invoked through Vedic ritual known as yajna, agnikaraka, homa and havana. The God Agni is the divine messenger who receives prayers and oblations and conveys them to the heavenly spheres. See: yajna.
agnihotra: (Sanskrit) "Fire sacrifice." Household rite traditionally performed daily, in which an oblation of milk is sprinkled on the fire. See: yajna.
agnikaraka: (Sanskrit) "Fire ritual." The Agamic term for yajna. See: yajna.
Aham Brahmasmi: (Sanskrit) "I am God." Famous phrase often repeated in the Upanishads. In this ecstatic statement of enlightenment, "I" does not refer to the individuality or outer nature, but to the essence of the soul which is ever identical to God Siva (or Brahman, the Supreme Being) as Satchidananda and Parasiva. One of four Upanishadic "great sayings," mahavakya.
ahamkara: (Sanskrit) "I-maker." Personal ego. The mental faculty of individuation; sense of duality and separateness from others. Sense of I-ness, "me" and "mine." Ahamkara is characterized by the sense of I-ness (abhimana), sense of mine-ness, identifying with the body (madiyam), planning for one's own happiness (mamasukha), brooding over sorrow (mamaduhkha), and possessiveness (mama idam). See: anava, ego, mind (individual).
ahimsa: (Sanskrit) "Noninjury," nonviolence or nonhurtfulness. Refraining from causing harm to others, physically, mentally or emotionally. Ahimsa is the first and most important of the yamas (restraints). It is the cardinal virtue upon which all others depend. See: yama-niyama.
aikya: (Sanskrit) "Union, oneness." See: Vira Saivism.
Aitareya Brahmana: (Sanskrit) Part of the Rig Veda dealing principally with worship and ceremonies of royal inauguration. See: Rig Veda,Vedas.
Aitareya Upanishad: (Sanskrit) Three chapters of the Aitareya Aranyaka of the Rig Veda expounding the esoterics of ritual, revealing the means of preparing oneself for the deepest spiritual attainments.
Ajita Agama: (Sanskrit) Among the 28 Saiva Siddhanta Agamas, this scripture especially elucidates temple construction, worship and rules for installation of various Siva icons (murti). See: murti, Saiva Agamas.
ajna chakra: (Sanskrit) "Command wheel." The third-eye center. See: chakra.
akasha: (sanskrit) "Space." The sky. Free, open space. Ether, the fifth and most subtle of the five elements--earth, air, fire, water and ether. Empirically, the rarified space or ethereal fluid plasma that pervades the universes, inner and outer. Esoterically, mind, the superconscious strata holding all that exists and all that potentially exists, wherein all happenings are recorded and can be read by clairvoyants. It is through psychic entry into this transcendental akasha that cosmic knowledge is gathered, and the entire circle of time--past, present and future--can be known. Space, akasha, in this concept is a positive substance, filled with unseen energies and intelligences, in contrast with the Western conception that space is the absence of everything and is therefore nothing in and of itself. The Advayataraka Upanishad (2.1.17) describes five levels of akasha which can be yogically experienced: guna rahita akasha (space devoid of qualities); parama akasha (supreme space), maha akasha (great space), tattva akasha (space of true existence) and surya akasha (space of the sun). See: mind (universal).
akshata: (Sanskrit) "Unbroken." Unmilled, uncooked rice, often mixed with turmeric, offered as a sacred substance during puja, or in blessings for individuals at weddings and other ceremonies. This, the very best food, is the finest offering a devotee can give to God or a wife can give to her husband. See: puja.
Allama Prabhu: (Sanskrit) A contemporary of Basavanna and central figure of Vira Saivism (ca 1150), the head of an order of 300 enlightened beings which included 60 women. Initially a temple drummer, he became an extraordinary siddha, mystic and poet. The Mantra Gopya are his collected writings. See: Basavanna, Vira Saivism.
allegory: A story in which the character, places and events have symbolic meaning, used to teach ideas and moral principles. See: Itihasa, Purana.
all-pervasive: Diffused throughout or existing in every part of the universe. See: Satchidananda.
aloof: Distant, reserved, withdrawn, drawn back; cool in attitude, not sympathetic with or interested in an idea, project or group of people.
altruistic: Unselfish. Showing more concern for others than oneself.
Alvar: (Tamil) "One who rules the Lord through bhakti." A group of renowned saints of the Vaishnava religion (7th-9th century), devotional mystics whose lives and teachings catalyzed to a resurgence of Vaishnavism in Tamil Nadu. Their devotional poems are embodied in the Nalayiram Divya Prabandham, containing about 4,000 hymns. Among the 12 most famous Alvars are Poykai, Pudam, Tirumalisai, Nammalvar, Kulashekhara, Andal, Tiruppan and Tirumangai. A term not to be confused with Nalvar, naming the four Samayacharya Saivite saints: Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manikkavasagar, who were their contemporaries. See: Nalvar, Nayanar.
Amardaka Order: (Sanskrit) An order of Saiva sannyasins founded by Amardaka Tirthanatha in Andhra Pradesh (ca 775).
Amardaka Tirthanatha: (Sanskrit) See: Amardaka Order.
Ambika: (Sanskrit) "Mother." A benign form of the Goddess, one of the central Deities of the Shakta religion, along with Durga, Kali and Parvati. See: Shakti.
amends: To make amends, to make up for injury or loss that one has caused to another. This is done through sincere apology, expressing contrition, public penance, such as kavadi, and the abundant giving of gifts. See: papa, penance.
amid (amidst, amongst): In the middle of, among.
Amman: (Tamil) "Mother." Usually refers to Mariyamman, the "smallpox Goddess," protectress from plagues, a popular gramadevata ("village Deity" or tutelary Deity of a locale). There are many Mariyamman temples and shrines in Malaysia, Mauritius and rural areas of South India. In the Tamil tradition, amman is often appended to the names of various Goddesses, as in Kali Amman or Draupadi Amman (deified heroine of the Mahabharata). One of the distinguishing features of gramadevata shrines is that they are not served by brahmin priests. See: Shakti, Shaktism.
amorphous: Of no definite shape or form. See: formless.
amritatman: (Sanskrit) "Immortal soul." See: atman, jiva, purusha, soul.
amrita: (Sanskrit) "Immortality." Literally, "without death (mrita)." The nectar of divine bliss which flows down from the sahasrara chakra when one enters very deep states of meditation. This word is apparently the source of the Greek amrotos, the ambrosia, food or drink, of the Gods, which has its Vedic equivalent in the legendary elixir called soma, a central element in Vedic rites in which it is venerated as a Divinity.
anahata chakra: (Sanskrit) "Wheel of unstruck [sound]." The heart center. See: chakra.
analogy: An explanation of a thing made by comparing it point by point with another thing. For example, in the analogy of the potter, the potter represents God and the clay represents the primal substance, or "matter."
analytical: Prone to looking closely at things, intellectually studying them to understand their nature, meaning and component parts.
ananda: (Sanskrit) "Bliss." The pure joy--ecstasy or enstasy--of God-consciousness or spiritual experience. In its highest sense, ananda is expressed in the famous Vedic description of God: sat-chit-ananda, "existence-consciousness-bliss"--the divine or superconscious mind of all souls. See: God Realization, Satchidananda.
anandamaya kosha: (Sanskrit) "Bliss body." The body of the soul, which ultimately merges with Siva. See: soul, kosha.
ananda tandava: (Sanskrit) "Violent dance of bliss." See: Nataraja, tandava.
anava mala: (Sanskrit) "Impurity of smallness; finitizing principle." The individualizing veil of duality that enshrouds the soul. It is the source of finitude and ignorance, the most basic of the three bonds (anava, karma, maya) which temporarily limit the soul. Anava mala has the same importance in Agamic philosophy that maya-avidya has in Vedantic philosophy. The presence of anava mala is what causes the misapprehension about the nature of God, soul and world, the notion of being separate and distinct from God and the universe. Anava obscures the natural wisdom, light, unity and humility of the soul and allows spiritual ignorance, darkness, egoity and pride to manifest. It is inherent in a maturing soul, like the shell of a seed. When anava is ripe, anugraha, "grace," comes, and anava falls away. Anava is the root mala and the last bond to be dissolved. See: evolution of the soul, grace, mala, soul.
anavopaya: (Sanskrit) "Minute or individual means." See: upaya.
Anbe Sivamayam Satyame Parasivam: Tamil for "God Siva is Immanent Love and transcendent Reality." The affirmation of faith which capsulizes the entire creed of monistic Saiva Siddhanta. In Sanskrit it is Premaiva Sivamaya, Satyam eva Parasivah.
anchorite: "Hermit." A monk or aspirant who lives alone and apart from society, as contrasted with cenobite, a member of a religious order living in a monastery or convent. See: monk, nunk.
ancillary: Auxiliary. Aiding or supporting. Supplementary; secondary.
Andal: (Tamil) Famed Vaishnava saint of Tamil Nadu. One of the Alvars, she lived in the early 9th century and today is venerated as one of South India's greatest bhakta poetesses. See: Alvar, Vaishnavism.
Andhra Pradesh (Pradesha): (Sanskrit) Modern Indian state located on the southeast coast of India north of Tamil Nadu. The capital is Hyderabad. Language: Telegu. Dominant faith: Vaishnavism. Area: 106,000 square miles. Population 54 million. Famous for its opulent Tirupati Vaishnava temple.
anekavada: (Sanskrit) "Pluralism," or "not-one theology." See: pluralism.
anekavadin: (Sanskrit) A follower of anekavada.
anga: (Sanskrit) "Part; limb." Term for the individual soul in Vira Saivism. The anga is of finite intelligence, while Siva is of infinite intelligence. See: Vira Saivism.
aniconic: "Without likeness; without image." When referring to a Deity image, aniconic denotes a symbol which does not attempt an anthropomorphic (humanlike) or representational likeness. An example is the Sivalinga, "mark of God." See: murti, Sivalinga.
animate-inanimate: From the Latin animatus, "to make alive, fill with breath." These terms indicate the two poles of manifest existence, that which has movement and life (most expressly animals and other "living" beings) and that which is devoid of movement (such as minerals and, to a lesser degree, plants). From a deeper view, however, all existence is alive with movement and possessed of the potent, divine energy of the cosmos. See: tattva.
animism: The belief that everything (including inanimate objects) is alive with soul or spirit, a conviction pervasive among most indigenous (tribal/pagan/shamanistic) faiths, including Hinduism, Shintoism and spiritualism.
anjali mudra: (Sanskrit) "Reverence gesture." Also called pranamanjali. A gesture of respect and greeting, in which the two palms are held softly together and slightly cupped. Often accompanied by the verbal salutation "namaskara," meaning "reverent salutation." The anjali mudra has various forms, including held near the chest in greeting equals, at eye level in greeting one's guru, and above the head in salutation to God. One form is with the open hands placed side by side, as if by a beggar to receive food, or a worshiper beseeching God's grace in the temple. See: mudra, namaskara.
ankusha: (Sanskrit) Goad, symbol of Lord Ganesha's power to remove obstacles from the devotee's path, and to spur the dullards onward.
annamaya kosha: (Sanskrit) "Food sheath." The physical body. See: kosha.
annaprashana: (Sanskrit) "Feeding." The childhood sacrament of first solid food. See: samskaras of childhood.
annihilate: To destroy completely, to reduce to nothing.
antagonism: Opposition, hostility.
antahkarana: (Sanskrit) "Inner faculty." The mental faculty of the astral body, sukshma sharira, comprising intellect, instinct and ego--in Sanskrit, buddhi, manas and ahamkara--which are a three-fold expression of chitta, consciousness. Chitta is sometimes listed as a tattva, or part of a tattva, at the Prakriti level, in Saiva Siddhanta. In Vedanta, chitta, "mind stuff," is often understood as a part of antahkarana; while in the Saiva Siddhanta, Yoga and Sankhya Darshanas, it is generally viewed as the total mind, of which manas, buddhi and ahamkara are the inner faculties. Thus, while Vedanta describes antahkarana as four-fold, Sankhya and Yoga discuss it as three-fold. Siddha Siddhanta views antahkarana as five-fold, with the inclusion of chaitanya as "higher consciousness." See: consciousness, mind (individual), tattva.
Antarloka: (Sanskrit) "Inner or in-between world." The astral plane. See: loka.
anthology: A choice collection of prose or poetry excerpts.
antyavachanam: (Sanskrit) "Final word." Colophon. Epilogue.
antyeshti: (Sanskrit) "Last rites." Funeral. See: death, samskara.
anu: (Sanskrit) A common prefix conveying the meanings: "after, near to, under, secondary or subordinate to."
anubhava: (Sanskrit) "Perception, apprehension; experience." Personal experience; understanding; impressions on the mind not derived from memory.
anugraha shakti: (Sanskrit) "Graceful or favoring power." Revealing grace. God Siva's power of illumination, through which the soul is freed from the bonds of anava, karma and maya and ultimately attains liberation, moksha. Specifically, anugraha descends on the soul as shaktipata, the diksha (initiation) from a satguru. Anugraha is a key concept in Saiva Siddhanta. It comes when anava mala, the shell of finitude which surrounds the soul, reaches a state of ripeness, malaparipaka. See: anava, grace, Nataraja, shaktipata.
anukramanika: (Sanskrit) "Succession, arrangement." An index.
anupaya: (Sanskrit) "Without means." A term used in Kashmir Saivism to mean spontaneous Self Realization without effort. See: upaya.
anxiety: State of uneasiness, worry or apprehension. See: manas.
Apasmarapurusha: (Sanskrit) "Forgetful person." The soul under Siva's foot of obscuring grace, depicted in numerous icons. He represents ignorance and heedlessness. (Sometimes simply Apasmara.) See: Nataraja.
apatya: (Sanskrit) "Offspring; child; descendant."
apex: Highest point, peak.
apex of creation: The highest or initial movement in the mind that will eventually manifest a creation. The quantum level of manifestation. See: microcosm-macrocosm, quantum, tattva.
Appar: (Tamil) "Father." Endearing name for Tirunavukarasu (ca 700), one of four Tamil saints, Samayacharyas, who reconverted errant Saivites who had embraced Jainism. Calling himself the servant of God's servants, he composed magnificent hymns in praise of Siva that are reverently sung to this day. See: Nalvar, Nayanar, Saiva Siddhanta.
apparent: Appearing, but not necessarily real or true. Seeming to be.
Appaya Dikshita: (Sanskrit) Philosophical genius of South India (1554-1626) who worked to reconcile Vaishnavism and Saivism, advancing the Siva Advaita school of Saivism by his writings, and bolstering other schools by his brilliant summations of their philosophies. He is best known for his commentaries on the teachings of Srikantha. Appaya Dikshita also created a manual of Saiva temple ritual still in use today. See: Siva Advaita.
apprehend: To mentally seize and hold, to see or understand; to physically detain.
Aranyaka: (Sanskrit) "Forest treatise." Third section of each of the four Vedas. Texts containing esoteric, mystical knowledge, largely on the inner meanings and functions of the Vedic yajna, or fire ceremonies. See: Vedas.
arati: (Sanskrit) "Light." The circling or waving of a lamp--usually fed with ghee, camphor or oil--before a holy person or the temple Deity at the high point of puja. The flame is then presented to the devotees, each passing his or her hands through it and bringing them to the eyes three times, thereby receiving the blessings. Arati can also be performed as the briefest form of puja. See: archana, puja.
Arbhuta Tiru Antadi: (Tamil) poem of 100 verses in praise of Lord Siva composed in Tamil by the woman Saint Karaikkal Ammaiyar (ca 5th century). See: Nayanar.
archana: (Sanskrit) A special, personal, abbreviated puja done by temple priests in which the name, birthstar and family lineage of a devotee are recited to invoke individual guidance and blessings. Archana also refers to chanting the names of the Deity, which is a central part of every puja. See: puja.
Ardhanari Nateshvara Stotram: (Sanskrit) A short hymn alternately praising Siva and Shakti as merged in the androgynous image of Ardhanarishvara. See: Ardhanarishvara.
Ardhanarishvara: (Sanskrit) "Half-female Lord." Lord Siva in androgynous form, male on the right side and female on the left, indicating that: 1) Siva (like all Mahadevas) is genderless; 2) Siva is All, inseparable from His energy, Shakti; 3) in Siva the ida (feminine) and the pingala (masculine) nadis (psychic nerve currents) are balanced so that sushumna is ever active. The meditator who balances these through sadhana and yoga becomes like Siva. In the unity of Ardhanarishvara all opposites are reconciled; duality vanishes back into the one source. This icon especially represents Siva's second perfection: Pure Consciousness (Satchidananda or Parashakti). See: kundalini, nadi, Shakti, Siva.
Ardra Darshana: (Sanskrit) A ten-day festival ending on Ardra nakshatra, near the full moon of December-January honoring Siva Nataraja. In Tamil Nadu, each morning at 4am, the mystical songs of Saint Manikkavasagar, Tiruvembavai, are sung or recited. Unmarried girls go to the temple in small groups to pray for rains, for the welfare of the land and for fine, spiritual husbands. At the famed temple of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, Lord Nataraja, the presiding Deity, is taken out for a grand procession in a chariot pulled through the streets by thousands of devotees. See: darshana, Nataraja.
arduous: Strenuous, laborious. Difficult to climb, do or accomplish.
arena: Any place where an event, usually involving struggle or conflict, takes place. The earth is the arena of the soul's evolution. See: evolution of the soul.
Aristotle: Greek philosopher (384-322 bce) who left a profound legacy of writings on metaphysics, ethics, logic and law. A disciple of Plato.
arjava: (Sanskrit) "Steadfastness." See: yama-niyama.
Arjuna: (Sanskrit) A hero of the Mahabharata and central figure of the Bhagavad Gita. See: Bhagavad Gita.
artha: (Sanskrit) "Goal" or "purpose;" wealth, substance, property, money. Also has the meaning of utility; desire. See: dharma, purushartha.
Arthaveda: (Sanskrit) "Science of statecraft." A class of ancient texts, also called Nitishastras, on politics, statecraft and much more, forming the Upaveda of the Rig Veda. The most important text of this group is Kautiliya's Arthashastra (ca 300 bce) which gives detailed instructions on all areas of government. It embodies the kshatriya perspective of rulership and society. See: Upaveda.
Arunagirinathar: (Tamil) South Indian Saivite poet saint (ca 1500). See: Kandar Anubhuti.
Aruneya Upanishad: (Sanskrit) A short Upanishad dealing with sannyasa. See: sannyasa.
Aryaman: (Sanskrit) "Close friend; matchmaker; Sun God." A Vedic Deity who personifies hospitality, the household and grihastha life. He presides over matrimonial alliances, and protects tradition, custom and religion. He is also invoked during shraddha (funeral-memorial) ceremonies.
asana: (Sanskrit) "Seat; posture." In hatha yoga, asana refers to any of numerous poses prescribed to balance and tune up the subtle energies of mind and body for meditation and to promote health and longevity. Examples are the shoulder-stand (sarvangasana,"whole body pose") and the lotus pose (padmasana). Each asana possesses unique benefits, affecting the varied inner bodies and releasing energies in different parts of the nervous system. While the physical science of hatha yoga can dramatically influence health and general well-being, it is primarily a preparation for the deeper yogas and meditations. Sivaya Subramuniyaswami has provided a system of 27 asanas to tune the nervous system for meditation and contemplation and to mitigate the burdensome karmas, known by the modern term "stress," built up through the interaction with other people. His 27 asanas are performed in a meditative sequence, not unlike a serene dance, accompanied by certain visualizations and pranayamas. See: hatha yoga, raja yoga, yoga.
ascent: Rising or climbing higher. A path that leads upward.
ascetic: A person who leads a life of contemplation and rigorous self-denial, shunning comforts and pleasures for religious purposes. See: monk, nunk.
asceticism: The austerities of an ascetic. See: sadhana, tapas.
ash: See: vibhuti.
ashtanga pranama: (Sanskrit) "Eight-limbed salutation." See: pranama.
ashtavaranam: (Sanskrit) "Eight shields." Vira Saivism's eight aids to faith: guru, Linga, jangama (monk), vibhuti, rudraksha, paduka, prasada (bathing water from Sivalinga or guru's feet), and Panchakshara Mantra (Namah Sivaya). See: Vira Saivism.
ashrama: (Sanskrit) "Place of striving." From shram, "to exert energy." Hermitage; order of the life. Holy sanctuary; the residence and teaching center of a sadhu, saint, swami, ascetic or guru; often includes lodging for students. Also names life's four stages. See: ashrama dharma, sadhana.
ashrama dharma: (Sanskrit) "Laws life's orders." Meritorious way of life particular to each of the four stages (ashramas) of life, following which one lives in harmony with nature and life, allowing the body, emotions and mind to develop and undergo their natural cycles in a most positive way. The four stages are as follows. --brahmacharya: (Sanskrit) Studentship, from age 12 to 24. --grihastha: (Sanskrit) Householder, from 24 to 48. --vanaprastha: (Sanskrit) Elder advisor, from 48 to 72. --sannyasa: (Sanskrit) Religious solitaire, from 72 onward. The first two ashramas make up the pravritti marga, (Sanskrit) the way of going toward the world through the force of desire and ambition. The last two are the nivritti marga, (Sanskrit) moving away from the world through introspection and renunciation. See: dharma, grihastha dharma, sannyasa dharma.
Assam: (Sanskrit) Indian state in the northeast corner of the country, south of Bhutan, almost separated from the rest of India by Bangladesh. Area 30,000 square miles, population 21 million.
assuage: To lessen pain or distress; to calm passions or desires.
asteya: (Sanskrit) "Nonstealing." See: yama-niyama.
astikya: (Sanskrit) "Faith." See: faith, shraddha, yama-niyama.
astral body: The subtle, nonphysical body (sukshma sharira) in which the soul functions in the astral plane, the inner world also called Antarloka. The astral body includes the pranic sheath (pranamaya kosha), the instinctive-intellectual sheath (manomaya kosha) and the cognitive sheath (vijnanamaya kosha)--with the pranic sheath dropping off at the death of the physical body. See: kosha, soul.
astral plane: The subtle world, or Antarloka, spanning the spectrum of consciousness from the vishuddha chakra in the throat to the patala chakra in the soles of the feet. The astral plane includes: 1) the higher astral plane,Maharloka, "plane of balance;" 2) mid-astral plane,Svarloka, "celestial plane;" 3) lower astral plane,Bhuvarloka, "plane of atmosphere," a counterpart or subtle duplicate of the physical plane (consisting of the Pitriloka and Pretaloka); and 4) the sub-astral plane,Naraka, consisting of seven hellish realms corresponding to the seven chakras below the base of the spine. In the astral plane, the soul is enshrouded in the astral body, called sukshma sharira. See also: astral body, loka, Naraka, three worlds.
astrology: Science of celestial influences. See: jyotisha, Vedanga.
asura: (Sanskrit) "Evil spirit; demon." (Opposite of sura: "deva; God.") A being of the lower astral plane, Naraka. Asuras can and do interact with the physical plane, causing major and minor problems in people's lives. Asuras do evolve and do not remain permanently in this state. See: Naraka.
Ashvaghosha: (Sanskrit) Buddhist scholar, pantheist philosopher (ca 80 bce-150 ce), and one of the great poets of Indian history. A principal architect of the Mahayana school. See: pantheism.
Ashvin: (Sanskrit) Vedic heroes--twins, young, handsome, brilliant and agile--who embody the dawn, the transition from darkness to light, and from disease to health. They are physicians of the Gods, and honey is one of their symbols. They also represent duality acting in unison. See: Vedas, Rig Veda.
atala: (Sanskrit) "Bottomless region." The first chakra below the muladhara, centered in the hips. Region of fear and lust. Corresponds to the first astral netherworld beneath the earth's surface, called Put ("childless") or Atala, the first of seven hellish regions of consciousness. See: chakra, loka, Naraka.
atattva: (Sanskrit) "Noncategory; beyond existence." Atattva is the negation of the term tattva, and is used to describe the indescribable Reality--the Absolute, Parasiva, the Self God--which transcends all 36 categories (tattvas) of manifestation. It is beyond time, form and space. And yet, in a mystery known only to the knower--the enlightened mystic--Parashakti-nada, the first tattva, ever comes out of Parasiva. If it were not for Parasiva, nothing could be. Parasiva does not exist to the outer dimensions of cosmic consciousness, but without it, the mind itself would not exist. See: tattva.
atha: (Sanskrit) "Now; then; certainly." An inceptive particle and mark of auspiciousness used to begin sacred works. For example, the first sutra of the Yoga Sutras reads, "Now then (atha), an exposition on yoga."
Atharvashikha Upanishad: (Sanskrit) A minor Upanishad dealing with the interpretation of Aum. See: Upanishad, Vedas.
Atharva Veda: (Sanskrit) From "Atharva," the name of the rishi said to have compiled this fourth Veda. The Atharva consists of 20 books and 720 hymns. Considered the last Veda recorded, it consists of mostly original hymns (rather than replications from the Rig Veda). It is known as the Veda of prayer, in recognition of its abundant magical charms and spells. It also contains many Agama-like cosmological passages that bridge the earlier Vedic hymns and formulas with the metaphysics of the Upanishads. See: Vedas.
atheism: The rejection of all religion or religious belief, or simply the belief that God or Gods do not exist. See: charvaka, materialism, nastika.
atman: (Sanskrit) "The soul; the breath; the principle of life and sensation." The soul in its entirety--as the soul body (anandamaya kosha) and its essence (Parashakti and Parasiva). One of Hinduism's most fundamental tenets is that we are the atman, not the physical body, emotions, external mind or personality. In Hindu scriptures, atman sometimes refers to the ego-personality, and its meaning must be determined according to context. The Atma Upanishad (1-3) describes atman, or purusha, as threefold: bahyatman, the outer or physical person; antaratman, the inner person, excluding the physical form, who perceives, thinks and cognizes; and Paramatman, the transcendent Self God within. See: Paramatman, kosha, soul.
atmartha puja: (Sanskrit) "Personal worship rite." Home puja. See: puja.
atmasvarupa: (Sanskrit) "Nature of the soul." See: atman, soul.
atmosphere: The pervading or surrounding spirit or influence. General mood or environment. See: sannidhya.
atone: To make amends or reconcile. See: absolution, papa, penance, sin.
attainment: Acquisition, achievement or realization through effort. Spiritual accomplishment. Saiva Siddhanta notes four primary levels of attainment: salokya (sharing God's world, the goal of charya), samipya (nearness to God, the goal of kriya), sarupya (likeness to God, the goal of yoga) and sayujya (union with God, the state of jnana). See: God Realization, pada, Self Realization, siddha yoga, siddhi.
attitude: Disposition. State of mind. Manner of carrying oneself. Manner of acting, thinking or feeling which reveals one's disposition, opinions and beliefs. See: conscience.
augural: Having to do with divination, prediction or interpreting omens.
Augustine: Catholic bishop saint (354-430) and highly influential theologian.
Aum: (Sanskrit) or (Sanskrit) Often spelled Om. The mystic syllable of Hinduism, placed at the beginning of most sacred writings. As a mantra, it is pronounced aw (as in law), oo (as in zoo), mm. Aum represents the Divine, and is associated with Lord Ganesha, for its initial sound "aa," vibrates within the muladhara, the chakra at the base of the spine upon which this God sits. The second sound of this mantra, "oo," vibrates within the throat and chest chakras, the realm of Lord Murugan, or Kumara, known by the Hawaiian people as the God Ku. The third sound, "mm," vibrates within the cranial chakras, ajna and sahasrara, where the Supreme God reigns. The dot above, called anusvara, represents the Soundless Sound, Paranada. Aum is explained in the Upanishads as standing for the whole world and its parts, including past, present and future. It is from this primal vibration that all manifestation issues forth. Aum is the primary, or mula mantra, and often precedes other mantras. It may be safely used for chanting and japa by anyone of any religion. Its three letters represent the three worlds and the powers of creation, preservation and destruction. In common usage in several Indian languages, aum means "yes, verily" or "hail." See: nada, Pranava, sound.
aura: The luminous colorful field of subtle energy radiating within and around the human body, extending out from three to seven feet. The colors of the aura change constantly according to the ebb and flow of one's state of consciousness, thoughts, moods and emotions. Higher, benevolent feelings create bright pastels; base, negative feelings are darker in color. Thus, auras can be seen and "read" by clairvoyants. The general nature of auras varies according to individual unfoldment. Great mystics have very bright auras, while instinctive persons are shrouded in dull shades. The aura consists of two aspects, the outer aura and the inner aura. The outer aura extends beyond the physical body and changes continuously, reflecting the individual's moment-to-moment panorama of thought and emotion. The inner aura is much more constant, as it reflects deep-seated subconscious patterns, desires, repressions and tendencies held in the sub-subconscious mind. Those colors which are regularly and habitually reflected in the outer aura are eventually recorded more permanently in the inner aura. The colors of the inner aura permeate out through the outer aura and either shade with sadness or brighten with happiness the normal experiences of daily life. The inner aura hovers deep within the astral body in the chest and torso and looks much like certain "modern-art" paintings, with heavy strokes of solid colors here and there. In Sanskrit, the aura is called prabhamandala, "luminous circle," or diptachakra, "wheel of light." See: mind (five states), papa, punya.
Aurobindo Ghosh: (Sanskrit) A prolific Bengali writer and poet, pantheistic philosopher and yoga mystic, widely known as Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950). He perceived the modern global crisis as marking a period of transition from a dark age to a more enlightened one, when Hinduism will play a preponderant role. He founded the Auroville community in Pondichery, based on purna (integral) yoga and contributed much to this century's Hindu revival.
auspicious: Mangala. Favorable, of good omen, foreboding well. One of the central concepts in Hindu life. Astrology defines a method for determining times that are favorable for various human endeavors. Much of daily living and religious practice revolves around an awareness of auspiciousness. Endowed with great power and importance, it is associated with times, places and persons. See: jyotisha, muhurta, swastika, Tai Pongal.
austerity: Self-denial and discipline, physical or mental, performed for various reasons including acquiring powers, attaining grace, conquering the instinctive nature and burning the seeds of past karmas. Ranging from simple deprivations, such as foregoing a meal, to severe disciplines, called tapas, such as always standing, never sitting or lying down, even for sleep. See: penance, tapas.
authenticity: Quality of being authentic, or genuine, trustworthy. Reliable.
authority: Influence, power or right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action or make final decisions.
Auvaiyar: (Tamil) A woman saint of Tamil Nadu (ca 800 ce), devotee of Lord Ganesha and Karttikeya and one of the greatest literary figures in ancient India. As a young girl, she prayed to have her beauty removed so she would not be forced into marriage and could devote her full life to God. She was a great bhakta who wrote exquisite ethical works, some in aphoristic style and some in four-line verse. Among the most famous are Atti Chudi, Konrai Ventan, Ulaka Niti, Muturai, and Nalvali. Her Tamil primer is studied by children to this day. A second Saint Auvaiyar may have lived in the ninth century [See: Timeline, p. 625.]
Avantivarman: (Sanskrit) King of Kashmir (855-883) during whose reign lived Kallata, one of the great exponents of Kashmir Saivism.
avatara: (Sanskrit) "Descent." A God born in a human (or animal) body. A central concept of Shaktism, Smartism and Vaishnavism. See: incarnation, Ishta Devata, Vaishnavism.
avidya: (Sanskrit) Spiritual "ignorance." Wrongful understanding of the nature of reality. Mistaking the impermanent for the everlasting.
awareness: Sakshin, or chit. Individual consciousness, perception, knowing; the witness of perception, the "inner eye of the soul." The soul's ability to sense, see or know and to be conscious of this knowing. When awareness is indrawn (pratyak chetana), various states of samadhi may occur. Awareness is known in the Agamas as chitshakti, the "power of awareness," the inner self and eternal witness. See: consciousness, sakshin.
ayurveda: (Sanskrit) "Science of life." A holistic system of medicine and health native to ancient India. This sacred Vedic science is an Upaveda of the Atharva Veda. Three early giants in this field who left voluminous texts are Charaka, Sushruta and Vagbhata. Ayurveda covers many areas, including: 1) chikitsa, general medicine, 2) shalya, surgery, 3) dehavritti, physiology, 4) nidana, diagnosis, 5) dravyavidya, medicine and pharmacology, 6) agada tantra, antidote method, 7) stritantra, gynecology, 8) pashu vidya, veterinary science, 9) kaumara bhritya, pediatrics, 10) urdhvanga, diseases of the organs of the head, 11) bhuta vidya, demonology, 12) rasayana, tonics, rejuvenating, 13) vajikarana, sexual rejuvenation. Among the first known surgeons was Sushruta (ca 600 bce), whose Sushruta Samhita is studied to this day. (Hippocrates, Greek father of medicine, lived two centuries later.) The aims of ayurveda are ayus, "long life," and arogya, "diseaselessness," which facilitate progress toward ultimate spiritual goals. Health is achieved by balancing energies (especially the doshas, bodily humors) at all levels of being, subtle and gross, through innumerable methods, selected according to the individual's constitution, lifestyle and nature. Similar holistic medical systems are prevalent among many communities, including the Chinese, American Indians, Africans and South Americans. See: doshas.
ayurveda vaidya: (Sanskrit) A practitioner, or physician, of ayurveda.
Ayyappan: (Tamil) The popular God of a recently formed sect that focuses on pilgrimage to the top of Sabarimalai, a sacred hill in Kerala, where He is said to appear at night as a divine light. Ayyappan is revered as a son of Vishnu and Siva (Hari-Hara putra). His vahana is the tiger.
axiom: A rule or maxim that is universally accepted as true.
axis: A real or imaginary straight line around which a planet rotates. More generally, axis means a central line of development.