is a list of terms along with a summary of their meanings
that I suggest should be learned and remain un-translated
by students of Hinduism. These are terms taken primarily
from the Bhagavad-gita and the Upanisads.
teacher or theologian of Hindu doctrine, head of sampradaya or
school of religious thought.
opposite of dharma. Mostly the term is used
in the sense of unrighteousness, impiety or non-performance
not to be understood solely as material assets, but all
kinds of wealth including non-tangibles such as knowledge,
friendship and love. Artha is one of the four purusarthas or “goals
of life” the others being dharma, kama and moksa.
of sat, non-being, impermanent, false, evil,
unreal, sometimes used to refer to matter or to the body.
many meanings in Sanskrit that include: soul, breath,
the Self, one's self (as a reflexive pronoun), mind,
body, the Supreme Soul, etc.
one possessed of bhaga. Bhaga means
fame, glory, strength, power, etc. The word is used as
an epithet applied to God, gods, or any holy or venerable
devotion. One of the most common forms of yoga.
from the Sanskrit root brmh meaning to
grow, to expand, to bellow, to roar. The word brahman refers
to the Supreme Principle regarded as impersonal and divested
of all qualities. This form of brahman is sometimes designated
as nirguna-brahman, brahman devoid
of qualities. In contrast there is saguna-brahman, brahman invested
with qualities. (See saguna-brahman). Brahman is
the essence from which all created beings are produced
and into which they are absorbed. This word is neuter
and not to be confused with the masculine word Brahma,
the creator god. Brahman is sometimes used to
denote the syllable Om or the Vedas in general.
member of the traditional priestly class. The brahmana was
the first of the four varnas in the social
system called varnasrama-dharma.
Literally the word means “in relation to brahman.” A brahmana is
one who follows the ways of brahman. Traditionally
a brahmana, often written as brahmin,
filled the role of priest, teacher and thinker.
from the Sanskrit root div meaning to shine
or become bright. A deva is therefore a “shining
one.” The word is used to refer to God, a god or
any exalted personality. The female version is devi.
of the writing script in which Sanskrit and Hindi are
from the Sanskrit root dhr meaning to
hold up, to carry, to bear, to sustain. The word dharma refers
to that which upholds or sustains the universe. Human
society, for example, is sustained and upheld by the dharma performed
by its members. For example, parents protecting and maintaining
children, children being obedient to parents, the king
protecting the citizens, are acts of dharma that
uphold and sustain society. In this context dharma has
the meaning of duty. Dharma also employs the
meaning of law, religion, virtue, and ethics. These things
uphold and sustain the proper functioning of human society.
In philosophy dharma refers to the defining
quality of an object. For instance, liquidity is one
of the essential dharmas of water; coldness
is a dharma of ice. In this case we can think
that the existence of an object is sustained or defined
by its essential attributes, dharmas.
positive attributes or virtues. In the context of Bhagavad-gita and Sankhya philosophy
there are three gunas of matter. Sometimes guna is
translated as phase or mode. Therefore the three gunas or
phases of matter are: sattva-guna, rajo-guna and tamo-guna.
The word guna also means a rope or thread
and it is sometimes said that beings are “roped” or “tied” into
matter by the three gunas of material
lord, master, or controller. Isa is
one of the words used for God as the supreme controller.
The word is also used to refer to any being or personality
who is in control.
from the Sanskrit root jna, to know,
to learn, to experience. In the context of Bhagavad-gita and
the Upanisads, jnana is
generally used in the sense of spiritual knowledge or
desire, love. Often used in the sense of sexual desire
or love, but not necessarily. Kama is
one of the four purusarthas or “goals
of life,” the others being dharma, artha and moksa.
from the Sanskrit root kr meaning to
do, to make. The work karma means action, work,
and deed. Only secondarily does karma refer
to the result of past deeds, which are more properly
known as the phalam or fruit of action.
ksatriya–a member of the traditional
military or warrior class. A king, a prince. The ksatriya was
the second varna in the system of varnasrama-dharma.
moksa–liberation or freedom of
rebirth. Moksa is one of the four purusarthas or “goals
of life,” the others being dharma, artha and kama.
out or extinguished as in the case of a lamp. Nirvana is
generally used to refer to a material life that has been
extinguished, i.e. for one who has achieved freedom from
re-birth. The term nirvana is commonly
used in Buddhism as the final stage a practitioner strives
for. The word does not mean heaven.
papa–literally papa is
what brings one down. Sometimes translated as sin or evil.
nature. In sankhya philosophy prakrti is
comprised of eight elements: earth, water, fire, air, space,
mind, intellect and ego. It is characterized by the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas.
Prakrti is female. Purusa is male.
punya–the opposite to papa. Punya is
what elevates; it is virtue or moral merit. Papa and punya generally
go together as negative and positive “credits.” One
reaps the reward of these negative or positive credits in life.
The more punya one cultivates the higher one rises in life, whereas papa will
cause one to find a lower position on life. Punya leads
to happiness, papa leads to suffering.
male. In sankhya philosophy purusa denotes
the Supreme Male Principle in the universe. Its counterpart is prakrti.
of two words: purusa + uttama literally
meaning “highest man.” Purusottama means
second of the three gunas of matter. Sometimes
translated as passion, the phase of rajas is characterized
by action, passion, creation, etc.
with quaulities. An example of this would be an avatara of
Visnu come to this world and appearing to be invested
with such qualities such as name and form. In contrast to saguna-brahman is nirguna-brahman.
enumeration, analysis, categorization. Modern science can be
said to be a form of sankhya because it attempts
to analyze and categorize matter into its constituent elements. Sankhya (long
first a) refers to an ancient system of philosophy attributed
to the sage Kapila. This philosophy is so called because it enumerates
or analyses reality into a set number of basic elements, similar
to modern science.
order, command, rule, scriptural injunction, sacred writings,
science, any department of knowledge.
good, virtuous, chaste, the third word of the famous three words: om
tat sat, refers to what is truely real, eternal and permanent,
used to mean God or the soul.
first of the three gunas of matter. Sometimes
translated as goodness, the phase of sattva is characterized
by lightness, peace, cleanliness, knowledge, etc.
The word satyam is formed from sat with the added abstract
suffix ya. Sat refers to what is true and real. The
abstract suffix ya means “ness.” Thus satyam literally
means trueness or realness.
hymn or verse of praise, a stanza or verse in general, a stanza
in anustubh metre (the most common metre used in Sanskrit
consisting for 4 lines of 8 syllables), fame.
member of the traditional working class. The sudra was
the fourth varna in the system of varnasrama-dharma.
tamas–the third of the three gunas of
matter. Sometimes translated as darkness, the phase of tamas is
characterized by darkness, ignorance, slowness, destruction,
heaviness, disease, etc.
renunciation, the performance of actions without attachment to
the results of action.
member of the traditional mercantile or business community. The vaisya was
the third varna in the system of varnasrama-dharma.
traditional social system of four varnas and
four asramas. The word varna literally
means, “color” and it refers to four basic natures
of mankind: brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra.
The asramas are the four stages of an individual’s
life: brahmacarya (student), grhastha (householder), vanaprastha (retired)
and sannyasa (renounced).
vijnana–derived from the prefix
vi added to the noun jnana. The prefix vi added
to a noun tends to diminish or invert the meaning of a word.
If jnana is spiritual knowledge, vijnana is
practical or profane knowledge. Sometimes vijnana and jnana are
used together in the sense of knowledge and wisdom.
from the Sanskrit root yuj, to join, to unite, to attach.
The English word yoke is cognate with the Sanskrit word yoga.
We can think of yoga as the joining of the atma with
the paramatma, the soul with God. There are numerous
means of joining with God: through action, karma-yoga;
through knowledge, jnana-yoga; through devotion, bhakti-yoga;
through meditation, dhyana-yoga, etc. Yoga has
many other meaning. For example, in astronomy and astrology it
refers to a conjunction (union) of planets.
yogi–literally one possessed of yoga.
A yogi is a practitioner of yoga.