Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hinduism Dictionary





Aalvar: Meaning, “one immersed in God consciousness.” It is the affectionate title given to the 12 Tamil Vaishnavite saints who lived between the fifth and ninth centuries. These saints revitalized the devotional worship of God Vishnu throughout India. They travelled extensively, composing devotion-inspiring poems to God Vishnu. Their collective works of about 4000 verses are compiled in the Scripture, Divya Prabhandam.


Aarati: The camphor light presented to the deity at the end of the puja ceremony. The light is then presented to devotees present at the puja as a sacrament.


Abhaya Mudra: Mudras are hand gestures that are given specific meaning. Abhaya mudra signifies that, 'all is well' or 'fear not.' The gesture is made by showing the palms of the hand with the fingers outstretched and can be pointing upward or downward. There are many types of mudras. They are often seen on deities and used by traditional Indian dancers during their performances, priests doing the puja ceremony or yogis while meditating.


Abishegam: The bathing of a deity during the puja ceremony. Many natural substances such as milk, honey, rose water and sacraments are used to bathe the deity. Abishegam is a gesture of appreciation of God.


Adi Shankara: One of Hinduism’s most renown monk and scholar. Sri Adi Shankara (788-820) is the preeminent guru of the Smarta Hindu sect. He pioneered the creation of monastic orders in Hinduism. Monks under Adi Shankara’s lineage are called Shankarachariyars. Adi Shankara is known for his erudite exposition of the Vedas. Among the many Scriptures he wrote are Viveka Choodamani, Atma Bodha, Atma-Anatma and Ananda Lahiri. Adi Shankara’s teachings are based on the monistic philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.


Adivasi: It means “original settlers,” and refers to the aboroginal community in India. They include hill tribes and forest dwellers.


Agama: Pronounced Aa-gema. Agamas are Hindu sectarian Scriptures that are regarded as highly as the Vedas. Like the Vedas the Agamas are sruti (revealed directly by God) Scriptures. Each of the Hindu sects has their own set of Agamas. They are called the Saiva Agamas, Shakta Agamas and Vaishanva Agamas. The Smarta Hindu sect considers the Vedas as their Agamas.


Agni / Lord Agni:Agni is fire in Sanskrit. Fire is an important element for worship of God in Hinduism. Apart from providing the light to enable sight, agni is the chief element among the five elements of fire, water, earth, air and ether (space) as the provider of energy. Agni is also able to transform one element to the other while remaining unchanged itself, such as turning liquid to gas. In worship Lord Agni, the Mahadeva who controls the fire element is the conduit between the devotee and God. During agnihotra (homa) fire ceremony the burnt offerings of the devotee are transported spiritually to reappear in the heavens in their etheric forms. Agni in the form of light is also used as a representation of God as Parashakti, The Second Aspect of God, as the Divine Light of Omniscience.


Ahimsa: Nonviolence. One of the cardinal virtues of Hinduism. Ahimsa is practicing love toward all by refraining from hurtful thoughts, words or actions. The practice also includes being vegetarian. Ahimsa is known as the most important virtue to uphold on the path to moksha. ( Moksha: Liberation. In Hinduism the salvation of the soul is defined as freedom from the cycle of reincarnation on the physical plane, or Earth. After moksha the soul abides eternally in heaven. Before moksha the soul will enter heaven or hell temporarily between births, depending on the merits or demerits it accrues in the form of karmas during it’s life on Earth. Moksha is in a sense a graduation from having to live life on Earth anymore. It is achieved after the soul has fulfilled all of it’s desires for life on Earth and has Realized God. It is synonymous with mukti.)


All-Pervasive: The quality of being present everywhere and through all things and beings. One of the divine qualities of God, Who is simultaneously present in the entire universe.


Amends: To correct mistakes made by asking for fogiveness and, or improving the situation that had gone wrong.


Amman, Godddess: Short for Mariamman, She is a form of Goddess Shakti as the healer. She is especially attributed to healing devotees with the deadly small pox disease. Temples to Mariamman are usually built by farmers next to their farms. The neem tree is closely attributed to Her worship. Bunches of neem branches with leaves are usually part of Her worship and neem trees are sometimes used in place of a Mariamman deity to worship Her in outdoor shrines.


Amorphous: A state of being without a clearly defined shape or form. Used to describe God’s forms as Divine Energy, Pure Love, Light and Truth.


Ananda Tandava: God Shiva’s dance of bliss which He performed thousands of years ago to an audience of preists and sages at the hallowed Shiva temple of Chidambaram. God Shiva danced through 108 poses. Bharata Muni, one of the sages who witnessed the ananda tandava, compiled these poses and used them to create the traditional Indian dance bharata natyam. God Shiva’s form of Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, is God Shiva doing the pose of Grace during the ananda tandava.


Anava: Pronounced with a long 'a' as in 'ark' on the first 'a,' anava is 'the individuating principle.' It is one of the three bonds that bind the soul to the world. The three bonds are anava, karma and maya. Loosely translated as ego, anava is the principle that gives the soul individuality and creates a sense of seperation between the soul and God. Anava is the last bond to dissolve when the soul finally merges in total union with God (vishvagrasa).


Animal-like forms: In the context of these lessons, animal-like forms refer to forms of God as Paramatma that are partly or entirely based on an animal. There are a few forms like this such as in the avatars of Lord Vishnu where he appears at different times as a fish, a turtle and a boar. Lord Shiva too in a story has appeared as a boar to suckle a litter of piglets that lost their mother. The animal forms of Paramatma are seldom used for worship. They are more often depicted in the wall carvings of temples, or as ornaments of elaborate temple towers. The most worshipped animal like form of Paramatma is Lord Vishnu as Narasimha, who is part animal and part human. Narasimha has the head of a lion and body of a human with multi-arms holding weaponry. He is worshipped as the protector of the virtuous.


Anugraha: God's Action of Revealing Grace: This is God’s activity of teaching and discovery of knowledge (spiritual and material). It is through anugraha that God grants boons and propels the the spiritual evolution of the soul. Anugraha is embodied in the forces of karma and dharma. There are no deities that specifically represent anugraha. The symbol that represents revealing grace are God’s Feet.


Archana: Supplications. Archana is part of the puja ceremony. During the archana the devotee presents offering to God. These offerings are taken by the priest and the name, nakshatra (birth star) and gotra (lineage or sect) of the devotee is chanted by the priest as he places the offerings at the deities feet. After the archana the priest returns some of the offerings back to the devotee as blessed by God along with sacrements (vibhuti - holy ash, tilak - red powder, tirtham - holy water). Archana's are usually done to mark special occasion in the devotees life, such as anniversaries, as thanks giving for prayers answered and or as part of a prayer.


Ardhanarishwara, Lord: The Half-Female Lord. The form of Ardhanarishwara, is the conjoined forms of God Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. God Shiva on the right side of the body and Goddess Parvathi on the left side of the body. This is a purely symbolic form of God. It is a mystical representation of God as Parashakti, whose amorphous forms include Pure Love, Divine Consciousness, Truth and Bliss. Ardharishwara is also a meditative representation of the perfectly balanced state of being. When such a state of balance, that is when the dualities of life are in equilibrium, is achieved, the meditator experiences God as Sat-Chit-Ananda (Truth-Pure Consciousness-Bliss). This meditative state is called Savikalpa Samadhi and is one of the states of God Realization or enlightenment.


Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga Yoga, is a structured step by step system of God Realization. Ashtanga yoga defines eight steps that gradually trains a yoga practioner to realize God. These steps are yama–moral restraints, niyama–religious observances, asana–hatha yoga exercises, pranayama–breath control, pratyahara–sense withdrawal, dharana–concentration, dhyana–meditation and samadhi–God Realization. Hindu culture and practices (irrespective of the sects) are contained within the steps of ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga yoga is the same as raja yoga or kundalini yoga.


Aspects / The Three Aspects: The different perspectives of understanding something. In this case it refers to The Three Aspects of God. By understanding God as The Three Aspects, all the different experiences of God a devotee can have is explained. The Three Aspects of God are Paramatma–The Primal Soul, Parashakti–God's Pure Consciousness and Parabrahman–God's Transcendent Ultimate Reality.


Astral / Astral Plane:Anything astral is related to nonphysical realms or states ofexistence. In Hinduism the astral world is divided in to many realmsfrom the very gross (hell) to the very subtle or fine (heaven). Theserealms are divided according to levels of consciousness. In a human,our astral existence is more durable and longer lasting than thephysical. The astral bodies include the most subtle being the soul oratma, which was created out of the likeness of God to the astral bodythat contains our personality and emotions. As for the world, HinduCosmology defines three main divisions to the levels of existence. 1.Bhuloka-the entire physical universe 2. Devaloka-the astral plane orthe realm of the ancestors and devas 3. Brahmaloka-the highestheaven-the realm of God and the Mahadevas.


Asura: Demonic beings that inhabit hellish realms of the lower astral plane. Their actions are not guided by virtue and they are given to mischief making. In Hindu myths asuras are depicted as greedy and tyrannical beings who oppose the positive and good forces of the devas who live in heavenly realms. (Devas: Angles. They are mostly discarnate souls living and resting in the heavens between births on earth. Devasare helpful and loving beings guided by virtue. They are given toperforming service for others without the need of reward.)


Atheists: Person who do not believe or deny the existence of God. Even in ancient times Hinduism has recognized atheism as a philosophy of life. However Hinduism does not encourage its practice. The Sanskrit term for atheism is naastika. Some Buddhists will claim that they are atheists because they do not believe in a Supreme Godhead who created the universe.


Atma: Sanskrit for soul. The atma is our immortal spiritual being that lives and reincarnates on earth. It is our true and undying being that was created by God. The process of creation of the atma is akin to a spark (the atma) emitting from fire (God). The body of the atma is luminous and filled with blissful vibrations. It is not harmed nor affected in anyway by sorrow, injury or disease. The atma grows in strength with each life lived on earth. The goal of the atma is to reunite with God, just as a drop of rain returns to it’s source the ocean.


Aum: Same as Om. It is a mystic syllable or mantra of Hinduism, placed at the beginning of most sacred writings and hymns. Aum represents the divine and is known as the first vibration to be issued forth from God in the creation of the Universe. Aum is also an important mantra that is used for meditation.


Awareness: An individual’s ability to perceive an object, subject, situation or fact. The sanskrit word for awareness is saakshin (the witness). In Hindu mystical texts, saakshin is described as the perceptive ability of the soul. Awareness is the witness because it perceives all physical and mental activities in the body and mind. When teaching Hindu mysticism in english, gurus will often use the word awareness instead of consciousness to define an individuals ablitity to perceive. Awareness has the power to control the mind and emotions, or it may be controlled by the mind and emotions. According to Hindu mysticism, spiritual growth or evolution is the result of the gradual ability of an individual’s awareness to gain mastery over the mind and emotions. (Consciousness: To be conscious. The ability to be aware of oneself and one's surroundings. In mystical Hindu writings, there are two main levels of consciousness. One is the awareness of an individual, through which a person is able to maintain indviduality or personality. This conciousness is usually translated into english as individual consciousness or awareness. The sanskrit word for this consciousness is saakshin, which means witness. The second level of consciousness, is the All-Pervasive consciousness of God. This is God's Omniscient mind that forms the foundation of Creation. In sanskrit, this level of consciousness is called chit, as in Sat-Chit-Ananda. In english it is often translated as universal consciousness, divine consciousness or pure consciousness. Awareness or individual consciousness (saakshin) arises from the universal consciousness (chit) as part of God's creation of an individual.)


Ayurvedic: From Ayurveda. It is the Hindu (or traditional Indian) medical system.


Bad Karma / Karma: The law of cause and effect. The law of karma governs situations in our life. It states that whatever the consequences to an action one performs, he or she will recieve similar consequences in return in the present life or a future life. A simple way to understand karma is, if you do good, you get good. If you do bad, you get bad. Karma is our creation. If our actions are good we create good karma, or punniyam (in Tamil) for oneself. Bad action begets bad karma or pavam for oneself. We may reap our good or bad karmas in the present lifetime, or we may face them in a future lifetime. It is through creating karmas that we shape our future.


Benevolence: To give joyously without thought of reward, said of God’s giving nature.


Bhagavad Gita: A central Scripture for Vaishnavites. It is part ot the epic story Mahabharata. It is a conversation between Lord Krishna and the Pandava Prince Arjuna at the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna about the goals of life and the importance of performing one’s duty, or dharma.


Bhairava, Lord: A form of Lord Shva as the destroyer. Lord Bhairava is seen as a protector and He is often worshiped in temples in the outskirts of villages or in forests.


Bhajan: A style of devotional singing and songs. Usually sung in groups with a leader leading groups usually during festivals or religious events to stir devotion among devotees. A percussion ensemble is often used in bhajans. The music and tunes are lively and the lyrics and their meanings are simple so everyone can easily participate in the singing.


Bhakti: Love of God. It also means expression of pure dedication or devotion toward God or a person, community or a cause. In the context of this site it mainly refers to God. Bhakti is a state of pure devotion. Pure or sincere devotion can be described as one of the highest expressions of love. It is unconditional love that involves care and affection but does not in anyway bind the object of love to any preconditions or contract. It is love for the sake of love. Parent's love for their children, a devotees love for God, God's love for all Creation are examples of bhakti. The expression of bhakti cannot be faked, feigned or forced. A devotee cultivates bhakti for God by living a virtuous life, through worship and realizing that God is the source of his or her life and is the compassionate Master and Creator of the Universe. One is able to express sincere devotion for God when one is free from the fear of God and realizes that God is love. Bhakti also names a stage of evolution of the soul toward God as in Bhakti Marga, the path of Bhakti. This state is a corner stone of the spiritual evolution of the soul. It a point in the evolution of the soul when its relationship with God is no more motivated by fear of God or the fear of unfortuante events in life. At this point the soul has an unshakable footing in dharma, or virtuous living and is seeking closeness to God propelled by the strong spiritual motivations of the soul.


Bhumidevi, Goddess: Mother Earth. A form of Goddess Shakti who represents Earth.


Bhutas: Astral beings that are connected to the natural elements of earth, including plants or animals. They are also known as nature spirits. Generally good beings, they are sometimes summoned to create mischief by unscrupulous black magicians. Animal sacrifices in temples attract bhutas to the worship. Scriptures do not recommend such worship.


Bilva: Cannon-ball fruit (or bael) tree, Aegle marmelos, sacred to Lord Shiva. Its leaves, naturally arranged in threes, are offered in the worship of the Shivalingam. The delicious fruit which tastes like a cross between an orange and a mango is used medicinally.


Brahma, Lord: In the Vedic Trinity, Lord Brahma is God as the Creator. Brahma is the four-faced Lord. Each of His faces gaze at the four directions, that are north, east, south and west. He holds in His hands Scriptures (for learning), a conch (for creation), a water vessel (for asceticism) and gestures the 'fear not' abhaya mudra. His vehicle is a white swan, Hamsa the wise. He wears white and is usually pictured seated or standing on a white lotus. In Hindu myth, Goddess Gayatri, who is also Goddess Saraswati is an emanate of Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma is not to be mistaken for Brahman, Who in the Vedas is descriped as the One Supreme Godhead. Lord Brahma is a reflection of Brahman as the Creator.


Brahman, God: In the Vedas, God in His or Her entirety, which includes The Three Aspects is Brahman. He is often addressed just as Brahman and sometimes as Ishwara. The word Brahman is not to be confused with Brahma, who is an attribute of Brahman as the Lord of Creation (Part of the Vedic Trinity–Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva).


Brahmin: The classification of people who are pious and of exceptional learning in religious scriptures and matters. They are generally the priest caste in a traditional Indian society.


Brihadeeshwarar Temple: The Big Temple of Tanjavur (Tanjavur Periya Koyil), is among the popular pilgrimage desitnation for Hindus. It is a majestic temple built in the 9th century by King Raja Raja Chola. The temple is an imposing edifice in the Tanjavur city landscape. The architectural beauty of this temple is awe inspiring as is the tangible spiritual vibrations that can be felt within this temple. The main deity of Brihadeeshwarar temple is the Shivalingam. It is also the biggest Shivalingam to be ever installed in a temple. This temple is maintained and protected by UNESCO as an ancient architectural wonder. One of the wonderment of this temple, among its other features, is the top stone or capstone (sthupi) that sits on the 200 feet temple tower, the vimanam. The single piece granite structure is estimated to weigh in at about a colossal 80 tons.


Chakra: Literally 'wheel' or 'disc'. In spiritual context chakras usually refer to psychic or spiritual force centers that are situated along the length of the spine and in the brain, though there are also chakras below the base of the spine to the feet and also above the head in the body of the soul. In all there are 21 main chakras, however for spiritual progress on earth gurus mainly teach about the development of the seven chakras along the spine and in the brain. These seven chakras, from the base of the spine are: Muladhara Chakra (base chakra), Svdhishtana Chakra (navel), Manipura Chakra (solar plexus), Anahatha Chakra (the heart), Vishuddha Chakra (throat), Ajna Chakra (third eye) and Sahasrara Chakra (crown of the head). These chakras control functions of the mind, the nervous system and endocrine system.


Chidambaram: One of the holiest shrine to God Shiva. Chidambaram is a large temple complex dedicated to God Shiva, especially to His form as Nataraja, the Lord of Dance. It is situated in the southern state of Tamilnadu in India.


Chin mudra: A hand gesture, where the index finger and thumb are touching, while the other three fingers are outstretched. This pose is commonly used during meditation. It signifies perfect concentration and peace.


Chola: Chola is the name of the largest ancient Tamil empire of South India. At its height the Chola dynasty’s empire covered the whole of South India and Sri Lanka and stretched northward following the Eastern coast of India until present day Myanmar and covered a big area of Southeast Asia. The Pandiyans, Pallavas and Cheras were rival dynasties to the Cholas.


Circumambulation: Meaning to go around. In a Hindu temple it refers to the practice of walking around the temple’s main sanctum a few times on a designated path. It is done before entering the temple’s sanctum for worship. The practice serves as a walking meditation to help concentrate the mind on God. Pradakshina in Sanskrit or Tamil.


Clairvoyantly: The faculty of perceiving things beyond normal sensory perception. Such as seeing visions while meditating.


Consciousness: To be conscious. The ability to be aware of oneself and one's surroundings. In mystical Hindu writings, there are two main levels of consciousness. One is the awareness of an individual, through which a person is able to maintain indviduality or personality. This conciousness is usually translated into english as individual consciousness or awareness. The sanskrit word for this consciousness is saakshin, which means witness. The second level of consciousness, is the All-Pervasive consciousness of God. This is God's Omniscient mind that forms the foundation of Creation. In sanskrit, this level of consciousness is called chit, as in Sat-Chit-Ananda. In english it is often translated as universal consciousness, divine consciousness or pure consciousness. Awareness or individual consciousness (saakshin) arises from the universal consciousness (chit) as part of God's creation of an individual.


Dakshina: Gifts or contributions given to a guru or a priest in appreciation of their services rendered.


Dakshinamurthi, Lord: Pronounced Dakshinaamurthi, is a form of Lord Shiva as the Guru. He is usually depicted sitting on a platform under a banyan tree with the saptarishis (the seven celebrated exponents of the Vedas–Maharishis Vasishta, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Gotama, Bharadvaaja, Gungu, Agastya and Kashyapa). Dakshinamurthi holds Scriptures in one hand, on another He displays the chin mudra hand gesture, the other hands hold implements of creation–the damaru drum and fire–symbol of dissolution. Dakshinamurthi is usually carved as an inset in the outer wall of the main sanctum of Saivite temples facing south, as Dakshinamurthi means the South facing Lord.


Damaru: A traditional hand drum. The drum is usually small enough to be held and played using one hand. The damaru is often assosciated to God Shiva as an implement that he holds to symbolize God's power of creation or srishti.


Darshan: Seeing the Divine. Receiving the Grace of God through the sight of the devotee of a temple deity, a holy person or a meditative vision. Darshan is a highly sought after experience in Hinduism. It is the blessings one gets from seeing God through the temple deity, visions during meditation or dreams or through a holy person. When a devotees is asked, "Have you had darshan?" The devotee is being asked wether he has seen a particular deity in a temple or shrine or met a particular holy person of the place. The Scriptures extol darshan as one of the most potent medium for receiving blessings from God. Thus in Hinduism followers are urged to cultivate the desire to see God's Holy Form. The most sought after darshan is the psychic sight of God through meditation or through visions in dreams.


Deepam: Oil lamp. Deepams are used at homes and in temples for light and also presented to the deity during the puja ceremony.


Deity: A representation of God, such as a statue or carving that is used for worship.
Devaloka: The spiritual realm of the departed souls from earth. It is divided into heaven, or swarga, the abode of the devas, and hell or naraka, the abode of the asuras.


Devas: Angles. They are mostly discarnate souls living and resting in the heavens between births on earth. Devas are helpful and loving beings guided by virtue. They are given to performing service for others without the need of reward.


Dharma: God’s Divine Laws. Dharma includes laws of nature that govern the physical universe, such as gravity or electro-magnetism and laws that govern the spiritual universe such as karma or reincarnation. Living according to dharma is living according to God’s laws. That is living according to righteousness and ethics.


Dhyana / Dhyanam: Same as meditation. It is a goal in the practice of yoga. Dhyana is a state of consciuosness that is achieved through sustained concentration of the mind on a specific subject such as God, upon which new knowledge and insights on the subject are revealed from within oneself. The Patanjali Yoga Sutras (a Scripture written by Sage Patanjali, which is a definitive guide to the mystical processes of the mind) describes dhyana as a point in concentration when the yogi and the his/her subject of dhyana become one. When this happens the yogi's awareness is lifted into the plane of God Consciousness, which is Omniscient. From this plane of superconsciousness intricate knowledge of yogi's subject flows into the meditators mind. It is through this process that much of the Truths in Hinduism were discovered by the gurus, the ardent meditators. When the yogi's subject is God and the state of dhyana is achieved, the meditator is then said to realize God and thus achieve enlightenment. In the Patanjali Yoga Sutras this state is called samadhi. Samadhi is the most sought after goal of the Hindu spiritual seeker.


Dissolution: To dissolve or disintegrate from existence. Dissolution is part of God’s power or function of reabsorbing Creation into Himself. Sometimes the word destroy is used instead of dissolution.


Divine Light: Divine Light is a description of God as Parashakti; God's Second Aspect. The light in this context refers to the 'light of wisdom' as opposed to the 'darkness of ignorance'. However, this light is not merely a symbol of God's Omniscience or wisdom, it is also the inspiring mystical light that is seen by meditators when they attain Parashakti in the state of savikalpa samadhi. When this state is attained, the meditator's mind is literally lit up by the bright white light of Parashakti, even if he or she is meditating with eyes closed in a dark room. Divine Light is synonymous with Pure Light, The Light of Intelligence and God's Omniscience. They all refer to God's All-Knowing Intelligence.


Divine Mother: Goddess. God in any female form, such as Lakshmi, Amman, Sarawati, Durga or Kali.


Doomsday: In Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths this is the last day of the worlds existence. After this day the world is destroyed and the day of the Last Judgment begins. On this day souls are judged according to their merits and faith while they lived on earth and then sent to either heaven or hell eternally. In Hinduism, we do not have the concept of Doomsday, though there is the concept of Mahapralaya–The Great Dissolution. This is the time when the entire creation (the physical universe as well as the spiritual universe) are reabsorbed back into God. After mahapralaya only God exists until He issues forth creation again. According to traditional Hindu calculations of the yugas, there is yet billions of years before the next Mahapralaya. Last Judgement does not occur in Mahapralaya because all the souls reunite with God.


Dualism / Dualistic: The theology of two-ness. Any philosophy that teaches separation between man and God, or soul and God. Dualistic (which is in accordance to dualism) philosophies state that God and man or the soul are distinct and separate beings. There are many levels to dualistic philosophies: Pure dualism are philosophies that expound absolute separation between man or the soul and God. That the only connection between them can be that God created man or the soul; and man’s faith in God. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are theologies of pure dualism. Hinduism and most Eastern religions ascribe to qualified dualism. These theologies teach of the separation of God and the soul, however this separation is not absolute because God is also known to exist within the soul. Therefore in qualified dualism, while a separation between the soul and God is acknowledged, a simultaneous state of unity or ‘oneness’ between God and the soul also exists.


Durga, Goddess: A Goddess form of Paramatma as The Protector. She the Dispeller of ignorance and Protector of the virtuous. She hold many weapons on Her multi-hand form and rides on a tiger.


Elemental-like form: In the Vedas God is sometimes referred to as the Ruler of the elementals. In such forms He is addressed as the element. The most common reference to God in an elemental-forms are Lord Agni (fire) and Lord Varuna (Water).


Enlightened / Enlightenment: The state of being after achieving enlightenment or God Realization. Enlightenment changes the perspective of the enlightened devotee to a wisdomful and spiritual one. After enlightenment the existence of God becomes experiential reality for the devotee. (God Realization: The meditative experience of the meditator’s awareness merging into God’s Being. At the point of God Realization the meditator's awareness and God's Pure Consciousness are One. There are many levels or experiences in God Realization, such as experiencing God as Divine Light, or Pure Love, or Infinite Vastness, or as Absolute Reality–the experience most yearned after by ardent spiritual seekers. The ultimate goal of the practice of Hinduism is to guide its devotees to the experience of God Realization. After the seeker has achieved God Realization he or she is said to be enlightened. According to Hinduism, God Realization is a required experience for each soul in order to achieve moksha. Hinduism also recommends that a seeker be under the guidance of a guru to learn to achieve God Realization. The Sanskrit word equivalent to God Realization is samadhi.)


Emanating: To issue forth, be produced by or to emit out of.

Ganesha, Lord: A Mahadeva created by God. Lord Ganesha has an elephant head and a body of a man with a fat tummy. Lord Ganesha is the most worshipped deity among Hindus. Hindu scriptures instruct that Lord Ganesha be worshipped first before the start of any endeavour including the worship of another deity. He is the Gate Keeper of the Heavens and the Remover of Obstacles. His Elephant Face indicates that His existence is connected closely to Earth. Mythologically Ganesha is the son of Lord Shiva, though His worship is not limited to Saivism. In fact the worship of Lord Ganesha is universal among Hindus. Thus His worship unifies all Hindus. Ganesha's other common names are Ganapati, Vinayagar and Pillayar.


Ganesha Chaturthi: A festival honouring Lord Ganesha, generally regarded as his birthday. It falls at the end of August or early September. Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated by all Hindu communities. It is especially grand in the state of Maharashtra in India where it is a 10 day carnival like celebration.


God Realization: The meditative experience of the meditator’s awareness merging into God’s Being. At the point of God Realization the meditator's awareness and God's Pure Consciousness are One. There are many levels or experiences in God Realization, such as experiencing God as Divine Light, or Pure Love, or Infinite Vastness, or as Absolute Reality–the experience most yearned after by ardent spiritual seekers. The ultimate goal of the practice of Hinduism is to guide its devotees to the experience of God Realization. After the seeker has achieved God Realization he or she is said to be enlightened. According to Hinduism, God Realization is a required experience for each soul in order to achieve moksha. Hinduism also recommends that a seeker be under the guidance of a guru to learn to achieve God Realization. The Sanskrit word equivalent to God Realization is samadhi. (Moksha: Liberation. In Hinduism the salvation of the soul is defined as freedom from the cycle of reincarnation on the physical plane, or Earth. After moksha the soul abides eternally in heaven. Before moksha the soul will enter heaven or hell temporarily between births, depending on the merits or demerits it accrues in the form of karmas during it’s life on Earth. Moksha is in a sense a graduation from having to live life on Earth anymore. It is achieved after the soul has fulfilled all of it’s desires for life on Earth and has Realized God. It is synonymous with mukti. Samadhi: Literally it means, “to hold together completely.” Samadhi is the goal of the practice of yoga, wherein the state of oneness or undifferentiated union is achieved between the meditator and the object of his meditation. There are two levels of samadhi. The first is savikalpa samadhi, in which the meditator’s awareness becomes one with pure consciousness, or God’s mind, also known as Satchitananda. The second is nirvikalpa samadhi, in which oneness with God as Parabrahman, who transcends all modes of consciousness, time, form and space is experienced. The aftermath of both states of samadhi creates a new spiritual perspective in the mind of the meditator–one that is imbued with the experiential reality of God. The meditator becomes more enlightened each time he achieves samadhi. However of the two samadhis, nirvikalpa samadhi is the highest or ultimate state. It brings in its aftermath a complete transformation of consciousness. This transformation is what is required by the soul to achieve liberation or moksha.)


God Realized Gurus: These are gurus who have achieved spiritual enlightenment. They are usually recognized by the title Satguru, Maharishi or Brahmarishi preceeding their name. There are two main states of God Realization–Nirvikalpa Samadhi and Savikalpa Samadhi. A God Realized guru is a master of both of these states and is able to guide his disciples to both of them. The titles Satguru, Maharishi or Brahmarishi cannot be self-proclaimed, they must be conferred to the guru by his guru or by a body of spiritual adepts, usually a formal or informal society of Hindu gurus, priests and pundits as a recognition of his God Realized status. One can recognize a God Realized guru mainly by the spiritual energies that he or she emanates or by the wisdom by which they guide their devotees. God Realized gurus are also usually renunciates–though there can aslo be God Realized gurus who are married though they wont be given the titles Satguru, Maharishi or Brahmarishi–and so can also be recognized by their natural lack of desire for ownership or material gratification.


God's Consciousness: It is Parashakti, God's Second Aspect. God's Conciousness, is the All-Pervasive universal consciousness that is the foundation of Creation. God's consciousness is also the foundation of our individual consciousness. Spiritual evolution is the result of the ability of an individual to merge his or her individual consciousness with God's Consciousness. This merging is called savikalpa samadhi, which is a meditative attainment.


God’s Love: Life. Hinduism teaches that God’s love is life itself. A guru once quipped, “if there is one thing God cannot do, it is to take Himself out of us.” The experience of our life energy, that is, the impulses that makes us breathe, that makes our heart beat or our mind to think and so forth is God’s love. Thus God is a silent but an intricate and intimate part of our lives. When meditating to achieve God Realization, the inital step is to concentrate on one of our life impulses such as the breath or heartbeat.


Godhead: Another word for God, however this word also indicates the deepest adoration and the highest admiration for God.


Good Karma / Karma: The law of cause and effect. The law of karma governs situations in our life. It states that whatever the consequences to an action one performs, he or she will recieve similar consequences in return in the present life or a future life. A simple way to understand karma is, if you do good, you get good. If you do bad, you get bad. Karma is our creation. If our actions are good we create good karma, or punniyam (in Tamil) for oneself. Bad action begets bad karma or pavam for oneself. We may reap our good or bad karmas in the present lifetime, or we may face them in a future lifetime. It is through creating karmas that we shape our future.


Gopuram: The entrance tower of South Indian style temples. Usually the tallest towers of the temple. It is ornately decorated by many images of God.


Grace: When God intervenes in our life, whether to give or restrict, it is called Grace. In Hinduism God animates the worlds through the five actions of Creation, Preservation, Destruction, Revealing Truth and Obscuring Truth. Grace is part of God's power of Revealing Truth or Obscuring Truth. This power is mainly related to the transference of wisdom and knowledge though not limited to them, but also includes spiritual and material boons. While God's revealing and benevolent Grace is easily understood, God's hiding and limiting Grace is often misunderstood. Obscuring Grace has to do with the protection of a devotee from bad, ill-timed or dangerous decisions. In such cases God will put obstructions on a devotees path to change his or her direction.


Guru: A teacher. In Hindu culture, a teacher of any subject is called a guru. However in the context of the lessons in this site, a guru is a spiritual master. An enlightened person who has the spiritual authority and knowledge to accept devotees and guide them toward God Realization. They are also sought for their wisdom and advice in matters of religion and life in general. To be a guru a devotee must seek training under an established guru of a spiritual lineage (sampradaya) and later if qualified receive intiation and authority to take on the leadership of the sampradaya by his or her guru. However the position of a guru is never an ambition of a devotee when seeking a guru, rather it is a responsibiity that is bestowed upon a devotee who is spiritually qualified and able. It is not a position that is sought after through a democratic voting process or by any type of popular consensus. There are gurus who are not connected to any particular traditional lineage, but are recognized by their devotees as gurus because of their spiritual abilities. These gurus may claim initiation through dreams by a guru who has past on or by God Himself. These gurus are considered self-proclaimed gurus. Examples of self-proclaimed gurus are Amritanandamayima and Satya Sai Baba among others. Often when they pass on their devotees and successor who carry on their work will create a new sampradaya that will carry on for generations to come in the traditional way.


Gurudeva: An affectionate title given by disciples to address their spiritual guru. In these lessons it refers to the author’s guru, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami.


Gurukulam: The Hindu school system. Gurukulams that still exist today are priest training centers. Before the modern school system, gurukulams existed on all areas of study, such as religion, government, politics, business, ayurveda (Hindu medical system), warfare, astronomy and astrology and so forth. It is based on artisan and apprenticeship training. It was common for students attending gurukulams to live with their master’s family for a specified number of years or until they master their learning and practice.


Hatha Yoga: Yoga exercises. The Hindu art of physical exercise. Yoga exercises are designed to keep the physical body healthy and prepare the mind for spiritual disciplines such as meditation. The oldest known text on yoga exercises, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, written by Sage Gorakshanatha more than 2,000 years ago, is an instruction manual that has all the yoga poses and their benefits.


Hatha Yoga Pradipika: A Scripture written over 2,000 years ago by Satguru Gorakshanatha. It is the first Scripture to detail all the poses and benefits of different yoga asanas or yoga exercise poses. Apart from yoga asanas the Scripture also describes breath control techniques known as pranayama.


Heaven / Heavens: The upper Devaloka and Brahmaloka. In Hindu Cosmology, the spiritual dimensions are divided into three main level. The first level is the Bhuloka–the material plane; the second level is the Devaloka–the subtle world of the ancestors; the third level is the Brahmaloka–the causal world of the God and the Mahadevas. The upper Devaloka and Brahmaloka are heavenly worlds. The Devaloka is divided into a heavenly upper plane–Svarga, and a hellish nether plane–Naraka.


Hindu / Hinduism: Of or pertaining to the Hindu religion. The Hindu religion is the most ancient religion in the world. It is estimated that Hinduism is over 5,000 years old. The word Hindu was said to have been created by the Persian Muslims who invaded India in the 16th century. They named the ancient religion of the Indian people after the mighty Indus river that they had to cross in order to get to the Indian Subcontinent from present day Pakistan. After the Persians who became the Moghuls, the British formalized the name Hindu for the ancient religion of India. Before the word Hindu followers of the religion's many sects called their common belief structure Sanatana Dharma. Sanatana Dharma is not as much a name of a religion for Hindus as it is a term that encapsulated their common beliefs that tied the various Hindu sects together. Sanatana Dharma means the Eternal Truths of Life. There are about a billion adherents of Hinduism mostly living in the Indian Subcontinent, though the Hindu diaspora from India has made the religion a global religion. Hindu temples and organizations can be found in most countries in the world. Hindu teaching has also been spreading out of India to other communities mainly in the West since the late 19th century. Hindu swamis such as Swami Vivekananda created Hindu missions in the West that still function today. Apart from philosophy the Hindu spiritual exercise system or Hatha Yoga has been adapted as an universal practice and has been accepted by the global community for its health benefits. (Sanatana Dharma: In the simplest explanation, it is the ancient or original name of the Hindu religion. It means the “Eternal Truthsof Life.” When God revealed Sanatana Dharma to the rishis, theyrealized that these truths or spiritual laws were universal andapplicable to all peoples, no matter by what name they call God or bywhat form He is worshipped. Thus the name Sanatana Dharma came to be.Sanatana Dharma is Sanskrit. In Hindi it is pronounced, Sanatan Dharm).


Homa: “Fire offerings.” The worshipful Vedic fire ceremony. Also known as agnihotra. Homa preceed the puja ceremony and is usually performed on important festival days in temples and also as part of certain domestic rites such a home blessings and marriages.


Human-like forms: In the context of these lessons, human-like forms refers to forms that God, as Paramatma, can take on to appear to devotees. Human-like means, looking like a human instead of an animal. In most human-like forms, Paramatma is usually depicted with four arms. The multi-arms in God's forms is the main distinguishing part of God's form from humans and other beings. God can also appear to have many faces, such as Mahavishnu or Brahma. If Paramatma is depicted in the form of an avatar, such as Krishna or Rama, He will look like a human with two hands instead of four. A few forms of Paramatma are half-human and half-animal, such as Lord Vishnu's avatar as Narasimha.


Illupai Tree: Java plum tree, syzygium cumini. A hardy tree that grows wild all over India and the tropics. It produces small juicy red-purple edible fruits and the tree provides wide shade area. Its wood is widely used in homas (fire ceremony) and funeral pyres as it is easily gathered.


Immortality: Deathless or indestructible. A quality of God and the soul.


Inherent: Existing in something as a permanent or essential characteristic attribute. It is said of God existing within the soul.


Innate: The natural quality of a person or an element. It is similar to the word inherent and is often used to describe God’s existence as the substratum of the universe. (Substratum: The underlying layer or substance that is the foundation of something. It is said of God as Parashakti, being the all-pervasive underlying foundation of all creation.)


Inner Experience: Inner in this context refers to within a person or in his or her mind. Any experience one has in their mind, including visualizations, thoughts, emotions and so forth are inner experiences. In most cases inner experience refers to spiritual experience one has during meditation, prayers or religious ceremony.


Intensely Peaceful: This phrase is an oxymoron, as it has two words with seemingly contradictory words together. Intense generally refers to acute or extreme activity, where as peaceful refers to calm and quite conditions. Intensely peaceful is used to describe the experience of Parashakti in savikalpa samadhi. This is because the in this this state a meditator experiences absolute peacefulness yet is filled with intense, vibrant and rejuvenating energy from God.


Internal Worship: Prayer. Worshipping God within oneself. It is also a form of meditation. It is an essential form of prayer in Hinduism, as the physical body is seen as a mystical temple to God.


Ishta Devata: The preferred deity. Ishta Devata is central belief in Smarta theology. In Smartism a devotee may choose his or her central deity of worship from any of the deities withing Hinduism. Their choice is their Ishta Devata. In general practice a devotee usually chooses only one deity as their Ishta Devata, rarely does a devotee have two Ishta Devatas though this is not contrary to the theology, where all forms of God represent a singular Godhead.


Ishwara: In the Vedas, God in his entirety, which includes all The Three Aspects is Ishwara. He is often addressed as Brahman and sometimes as Ishwara in Vedic texts.

Jain: Jainism. A religion that was founded in India about 2,500 years ago by Sage Mahavira. Its beliefs are closely related to Hinduism. Jains also believe in karma, moksha and Self Realization. A foremost ideal in Jainism is ahimsa and Jainism enjoins its devotees to be strict vegetarians. There are about six million Jains in the world. They mainly live in South and Central India, especially in Mumbai.


Japa: The practice of repetitious chanting of a mantra. It is a form of prayer and an aid in the practice of meditation. Japa is also done as a supplication to God for specific purposes. The purpose is outlined in the meaning of the mantra. Though chiefly used to achieve spiritual attainments, the practice of japa is also used to cleanse oneself of sin, to gain material wealth and also to improve health. Performing japa involves concentrated chanting of the mantra along with mental visualizations. Each mantra has a unique purpose and a unique set of visualizations. It is best to learn japa from a guru who can instruct on the proper pronunciation, rhythm of chanting and visualizations.


Jiva: The soul, or atma, embodied in a physical body.


Jnana: Pronounced nyaa-na, it means spiritual wisdom. It also names the state of being and the knowledge gained after samadhi or God-Realization. In the four fold progressive path toward moksha: chariya, kriya, yoga and jnana; jnana is the final step.


Jnani: Pronounced nyaa-ni. A spiritually enlightened person. Jnanis are usually gurus. However any meditator who has realized God through their meditation and is able to maintain this realization can be considered a jnani, though they may not be recognized as Hindu gurus. Being a jnani is the highest achievement of human life according to Hindu belief. A jnani lives with the reality of his or her oneness with God as a constant experience instead of merely intellectual knowledge. Any jnani will be able to guide a meditator in their quest for enlightenment as a jnani can draw from his own experiences and through a strong sense of intuition that comes from his closeness to God's Omniscient Pure Consciousness (the result of his enlightenment).


Kali, Goddess: The form of Goddess as the Destroyer. Kali has a gruesome form, with Her mouth open showing fanged teeth and tongue stuck out, often holding decapitated head of demons and wearing a necklace of skulls. Same as the male representation of God as the Destroyer, Rudra, Goddess Kali is worshipped as a protector and an annihilator of ignorance and hatred.


Kamandalu: A vessel that is usually used to carry water. It can usually hold between two to four cups of water. Sages and itenerant monks usually carry their water supply in kamandalus. It is also used to contain religious sacrements such as vibhuti or holy ash. Some kamandalus are made with a decorative water spout. These kamandalus are specific for performing abhishegams and the sandhya vandanam ritual.


Karma: The law of cause and effect. The law of karma governs situations in our life. It states that whatever the consequences to an action one performs, he or she will recieve similar consequences in return in the present life or a future life. A simple way to understand karma is, if you do good, you get good. If you do bad, you get bad. Karma is our creation. If our actions are good we create good karma, or punniyam (in Tamil) for oneself. Bad action begets bad karma or pavam (in Tamil) for oneself. We may reap our good or bad karmas in the present lifetime, or we may face them in a future lifetime. It is through creating karmas that we shape our future.


Kavadi: A wooden structure used to carry pots of milk for abishegam to Lord Murugan on His festival days such as Thaipusam. It consists of a piece of wood to which pots of milk is tied to at either end and is decorated with a wooden arch, flowers and peacock’s tail feathers. Devotees carry the kavadi on their shoulders over a prescribed distance, usually a few miles from the temple, as an act of penance. ( Penance: The deliberate act of performing spiritual disciplines that cause hardship on oneself. These disciplines include fasting, carrying kavadi, prostrating before God 108 times and so forth. The reason for doing penance is to beseech God’s Grace to help rid bad karmas that we may be facing or that we may face in the future. Gurus explain that God absorbs the effort we put out and devotion we express during the penance, and uses it to dissolve or reduce the impact of bad karmas.)


‘Know God from personal experience’: To have direct experiences of God, such as seeing God's Holy form through worship or experiencing God's presence or form through meditation. Such experience affirms a devotees belief of God's existence, thus creating a profound change in the devotees life. The perspective of the devotee changes from a materialistic base to a spiritual one. The ultimate goal of Hinduism is to guide its devotees to have personal experiences of God. Hindu Scriptures and gurus urge devotees to strive for such experiences. The Scriptures explain that the soul is born on Earth countless times until it experiences God or in other words achieves God realization It is the experience required for the soul to achieve moksha. Knowledge of God from personal experience is differentiated from understanding the nature of God through the process of study or learning, which is academic and not personal. It is however helpful to first have an understanding of God academically before seeking God Realization. ( God Realization: The meditative experience of the meditator’s awareness merging into God’s Being. At the point of God Realization the meditator's awareness and God's Pure Consciousness are One. There are many levels or experiences in God Realization, such as experiencing God as Divine Light, or Pure Love, or Infinite Vastness, or as Absolute Reality–the experience most yearned after by ardent spiritual seekers. The ultimate goal of the practice of Hinduism is to guide its devotees to the experience of God Realization. After the seeker has achieved God Realization he or she is said to be enlightened. According to Hinduism, God Realization is a required experience for each soul in order to achieve moksha. Hinduism also recommends that a seeker be under the guidance of a guru to learn to achieve God Realization. The Sanskrit word equivalent to God Realization is samadhi. Moksha: Liberation. In Hinduism the salvation of the soul is defined as freedom from the cycle of reincarnation on the physical plane, or Earth. After moksha the soul abides eternally in heaven. Before moksha the soul will enter heaven or hell temporarily between births, depending on the merits or demerits it accrues in the form of karmas during it’s life on Earth. Moksha is in a sense a graduation from having to live life on Earth anymore. It is achieved after the soul has fulfilled all of it’s desires for life on Earth and has Realized God. It is synonymous with mukti.)


‘Knowing your Self by yourself’: A popular saying of Sage Yogaswami. He often uses this phrase to urge his devotees to strive for God Realization. Self with the capital S, stands for God within oneself. God realized gurus teach that at the core of our being we are one with God. Therefore God Realization is sometimes substituted with Self Realization.


Kodi Yeatram: “Flag raising,” it refers to the 10 day annual festival of a temple that marks the anniversary of the temple’s consecration or kumbha abishegam. This festival is a South Indian tradition and it is marked by grand and elaborate ceremonies and deity parades around the city or village of the temple.


Kolam: Intricate geometric designs drawn on the floor infront of the entrance of homes or temples. Kolams are signs of auspiciousness. It is part of Hindu culture that the womenfolk of the household draw simple kolams at the entrance to their homes every morning. On festival days, or happy occasions in the household such as marriage or birthdays, more intricate and colourful kolams are drawn. Kolam is a Tamil word. In Hindi it is called ranggoli.


Krishna, Lord: A form of Lord Vishnu, also affectionately called Kannan, the Child Lord, in His form as Krishna the toddler. Lord Krishna is the Lord who expounded the Bhagavad Gita which is part of epic Mahabharata. Lord Krishna was the charioteer for Arjuna, a Pandava prince, one of the heros in the battle of the Mahabharata.


Kumbha: A type of vessel used to hold water. When a kumbha is arranged a certain way with a coconut and mango leaves, it is used to represent God. Kumbhas are usually used in prayer ceremonies conducted by priests outside the temple, or when they perform kumbha abishegams. Kumbhas are also setup at the entrance to religious or cultural events as a sign of auspiciousness and also to represent Lord Ganesha. (Maha Kumbha Abishegam: The conseceration ceremony done to open a new, or newly renovated temple for public worship. The ceremony energizes the temple and the deity within it through forging connections between the temple and the heavens. A temple’s maha kumbha abishegam can last anywhere between two weeks to a month, depending on how many deities are enshrined within the temple. It involves many priest who perform long hours of elaborate homas–fire ceremonies. On the final day, the kumbhas that were setup for the homas to represent the different deities in the temple are dismantled and the sanctified water within them are poured over the deities and the temple towers to empower them with spiritual energy. The final day of the ceremony is considered the most auspicious and devotees throng to the temple on this day to be sprinkled by the water from the kumbhas especially as it flows down from the temple towers.)


Kungkumum: Red powder made from mixing turmeric powder with lime juice and other substances. It is used as a religious sacrement. It is the main substance used for the pottu or tilak.


Kurukshetra: One of the holy cities in India. It is about 160km North of New Delhi. It is the scene of many Hindu epics, most notably, it is the battlefield where the major war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas took place in the epic Mahabharata.


Lakshmi, Goddess: One of the forms of Goddess Shakti. She is the Goddess of wealth and 'mangalam' or auspiciousness. Lakshmi is often pictured sitting or standing on a lotus flower on a lake flanked by two white elephants holding lotus flowers with their trunks. From one of her hands an unlimited shower of gold coins pours. Goddess Lakshmi is paired with God Vishnu as His Consort in the depiction of the Trinity.


Leela: The Divine Dance, or the Dance of God. It is said of the constant and interconnected processes of God’s functions of creation, preservation and dissolution. From a mystical perspective this unceasing flow of activity is seen as a dance. This dance is also called the tandava. In Vaishnavite theology, leela is also used to describe Lord Krishna’s plays, pranks or adventures that allude to spiritual teachings.


Lekhana Sadhana: The practice of writing a mantra over and over again for a period of time or until a certain number of the mantra has been written. It is a form of penance. For instance writing the mantra “Om Namasivaya,” 108 times daily for one week.


Luminous: Full of light, shinning, bright. A quality of the body of God and the soul.


Kumbha Abishegam: The consecration ceremony done to open a new, or newly renovated temple for public worship. The ceremony energizes the temple and the deity within it through forging connections between the temple and the heavens. A temple’s maha kumbha abishegam can last anywhere between two weeks to a month, depending on how many deities are enshrined within the temple. It involves many priest who perform long hours of elaborate homas–fire ceremonies. On the final day, the kumbhas that were setup for the homas to represent the different deities in the temple are dismantled and the sanctified water within them are poured over the deities and the temple towers to empower them with spiritual energy. The final day of the ceremony is considered the most auspicious and devotees throng to the temple on this day to be sprinkled by the water from the kumbhas especially as it flows down from the temple towers.


Mahadevas: Great devas. They live in the highest heaven and are God’s closest helpers in the governance of the universe. They may be equated to Archangles, or angles of the highest rank. They include Lords Ganesha, Murugan, Hanuman, Indra, Varuna.


Mahapralaya: The great dissolution. This is the time when the entire creation (the physical universe as well as the spiritual universe) is reabsorbed back into God. After mahapralaya only God exists until He issues forth creation again. According to traditional Hindu calculations of the yugas, there is yet billions of years before the next mahapralaya.


Mahasamadhi: Samadhi is a meditative state that is achieved when the awareness of the meditator merges with God. It is through this state that the meditator gains God Realization and enlightenment. Mahasamadhi is a term used to address the physical death of a spiritually enlightened person such as a guru. It denotes that the soul of the guru has achieved moksha and has realised its goal of total union with God.


Mantra: Mystic formula. A sound, syllable, word or phrase endowed with special power, usually drawn from Scripture.


Mariamman, Goddess: A form of Goddess Shakti, who is commonly worshipped in small village temples in South India. She is a Healer and used to be the main deity worshipped to cure incidence of small pox (now a successfully eradicated disease.)


Materialistic: Of or to do with materialism. Materialism is a philosophy of life much like the philosophy of a religion or social-structure-philosophies like democracy or communism. The philosophy of materialism stems from the belief that the physical world is probably the only real world, and the materialistic goal of life is to gather as much worldly wealth and enjoy as much worldly pleasure as one can before death. Materialism does not necessarily deny the existence of God or spiritual worlds or experiences, instead it prioritizes material wealth and worldly position over all other goals in life. Therefore a materialist may still belong to a religion and be quiet an ardent devotee, however his motivations for prayer is to seek God's help solely to attain his or her materialistic goals. To a certain extent even the most spiritual devotee does pray to God for help to meet their material needs. This is not considered unspiritual or wrong. The difference between a spiritually minded devotee praying to God for material fulfillment compared to a materialistic devotee's prayer is in the conduct of their life. A spiritually minded devotee always leads a life in line with dharma and his conscience. Whereas a materialistic devotee, while he prays to God will not limit his conduct to a moral code of ethics to achieve his ends. Some examples of materialistic devotees are like corrupt politicians who may even think that they can bribe God to cleanse them off their sins by giving a portion of their corrupt earnings for charity. Unfortunately God's law of karma will not be on their side!



Mauna: Silence. It is the practice of remaining silent or not speaking for a specific period of time as a form of penance.



Maya: “The principle of manifestation.” It is the energy from Parashakti that evolves into all forms spiritual and physical elements and laws within Creation. It is also one of the three bonds that binds the soul to the world. The three bonds are anava, karma and maya. Maya is God’s creative substance that forms the spiritual and physical worlds. It is sometimes erroneously translated as illusion. However according to Hindu teachings the world and experiences within it are not an illusion. It is instead defined as being a relative reality that is subject to change. This is compared to God, who is absolute reality and not subject to change. Maya however has the illusionary effect of making the world seem permanent and not subject to change, therefore causing the soul to form attachments in the world.



Meditation: Dhyana in Sanskrit. It is a goal in the practice of yoga. Meditation is a state of consciuosness that is achieved through sustained concentration of the mind on a specific subject such as God, upon which new knowledge and insights on the subject are revealed from within oneself. The Patanjali Yoga Sutras (a Scripture written by Sage Patanjali, which is a definitive guide to the mystical processes of the mind) describes dhyana as a point in concentration when the meditator and his/her subject of meditation become one. When this happens the meditator's awareness is lifted into the plane of God Consciousness, which is Omniscient. From this plane of superconsciousness intricate knowledge of meditator's subject flows into the meditators mind. It is through this process that much of the Truths in Hinduism were discovered by the gurus, the ardent meditators. When the meditator's subject is God and the state of meditation, dhyana is achieved, the meditator is then said to realize God and thus achieve enlightenment. In the Patanjali Yoga Sutras this state is called samadhi. Samadhi is the most sought after goal of the Hindu spiritual seeker.



Mind’s Eye: The third eye, or the soul’s eye. Situated between the eyes on the forehead is a mystical eye. It allows us to see images we visualize as well as to see when we dream or meditate–that is with our eyes closed.



Moksha: Liberation. In Hinduism the salvation of the soul is defined as freedom from the cycle of reincarnation on the physical plane, or Earth. After moksha the soul abides eternally in heaven until vishvagrasa when the soul achieves undifferentiated union with God. Before moksha the soul will enter heaven or hell temporarily between births, depending on the merits or demerits it accrues in the form of karmas during it’s life on Earth. Moksha is in a sense a graduation from having to live life on Earth anymore. It is achieved after the soul has fulfilled all of it’s desires for life on Earth and has Realized God. It is synonymous with mukti.



Monism / Monistic: The theology of oneness. Any philosophy that teaches inherent unity between man or the soul and God. Monistic philosophies–which is of monism, state that there exists a dimension within man or the soul that is God. There is generally two types of monism. Pure monism, that is known as Vedanta in Hinduism, teaches that God is the only true existence and that other realities such us the world and the existence of the soul and man are ultimately an illusion. Qualified monism, that is known as Siddhanta in Hinduism, accepts both the oneness of God and creation and also the reality of a distinct albeit temporary identiy between the soul and God. It also does not deny the realities of the existence or experience of the world. Hinduism and most Eastern religions are basically qualified monism or have elements of monism in their theology.


Monotheistic: The belief in One Supreme Godhead, who is the Creator of the Universe. Most of the major religions of the world today including Hinduism are monotheistic, though Hinduism is sometimes mistaken to be a polytheistic religion.


Muktas: Plural for mukta. A mukta is a person who has achieved moksha while still living his or her final life on Earth.


Murthi: A respectful way to address the deity or statue of God or the Mahadevas in a temple. Mainly used by Tamil speaking Hindus.


Murugan, Lord: Murugan is a Mahadeva (akin to an arch angle) who is worshipped among devotees of the Saivite sect. He is also known as Kartikkeya, Senadipathi, Palani, Arumugam and Subramaniam. In the Hindu mythical pantheon Lord Murugan is the youngest son of Lord Shiva (the elder being Lord Ganesha). In the Hindu myths, Lord Murugan was born from a seed that issued from God Shiva's third eye. Thus Lord Murugan's duty as the remover of ignorance and the Lord of the Kundalini shakti. He is seen as the warrior of righteousness and special Lord for yogis, mystics and monks. His special weapon is the vel, a lance that has a leaf shaped tip which symbolizes the power to discern between right action and wrong action and the dispeller of darkness or ignorance. In some temples Lord Murugan is worshipped as the vel.


Muyalakan: The demon that is under the foot of Lord Nataraja. Often mistaken for a child, the demon is actually a dwarf with immense power that had set out to destroy Lord Shiva. The demon is actually representative of the lower or animalistic natures of man such as anger, hatred, malice and so forth. The symbol is a teaching that if mankind suppresses the lower natures, then divinity will arise within them.


My guru: Refers to Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami who is the guru of the author. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami was an American born Hindu spiritual leader (1927-2001). Affectionately addressed by his disciples as Gurudeva, he was recognized as a Jagadaacharya, or world teacher by the World Hindu Federation, for his outstanding missionary work in promoting, preserving and protecting Hinduism globally. Gurudeva was an enlightened spiritual master who taught his devotees the path to Self Realization. He was the founder of Kauai Aadheenam, a monastery and temple complex on the Hawaian Island of Kauai. He was also the founder and publisher of the global Hindu magazine, Hinduism Today. For more information on Gurudeva and his publications visit the following website: www.gurudeva.org




Namaalvar: One of the twelve aalvar Vaishnavite saints. (Aalvar: Meaning, “one immersed in God consciousness.” It is the affectionate title given to the 12 Tamil Vaishnavite saints who lived between the fifth and ninth centuries. These saints revitalized the devotional worship of God Vishnu throughout India. They travelled extensively, composing devotion-inspiring poems to God Vishnu. Their collective works of about 4000 verses are compiled in the Scripture, Divya Prabhandam).



Namaskaram: A hand gesture that is a symbol of welcome and supplication. It is the palms of the hands pressed together and held at the level of the chest. This gesture is also used while in prayer. It is also called anjali mudra.



Nakshatras: Asterisms or star constellations along the ecliptic or path of the sun. There are 27 nakshatras in all.



Narasimha, Lord: One of God Vishnu's fearsome avatars as the half beast-half man Lord. He has a lion's head and the body of a man. He took on this form to save a child devotee of His from tyrant King, who happens to be the childs father. Narasimha is worshipped as a protector of the virtuous and the destroyer of evil.



Narayana, Lord: Another name for God Vishnu in His original form, where He is generally portrayed as standing on a lotus, or lying on the coils of Shesha Naga, the nine-headed serpent, who floats on the Ocean of Bliss.



Nataraja, Lord: A form of God Shiva as the King of Dance. God Shiva first appeared as Lord Nataraja to a group of priests and sages in the temple of Chidambaram in Tamilnadu and performed the Ananda Tandava dance–the Dance of Bliss. The common form of Lord Nataraja that is worshipped is when He holds the Pose of Grace. The Dance that God Shiva performed is the percursor to the classical Indian dance, Bharata Natyam.



Natchintanai: Devotional songs and writings of Sage Yogaswami of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. (Yogaswami: A renowned guru of Jaffna, Sri Lanka (1872-1964). He is the guru of Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami and the author of Natchintanai).



Nayanar: “Teacher.” The honourific title given to the 63 Tamil saints of South India. These 63 saints were worshippers of God Shiva. They are recognized as saints for their outstanding and examplary lives of devotion to God. Their devotional literature are part of the Tamil Saivite scriptures called Tirumurai. Their works include the Tirumantiram, Tiruvasakam and Thevaram devotional hymns. Other nayanars who did not contribute any written works left behind their life story of examplary devotion to God Shiva, such as Saint Pusalar.



Nirvana: Same as moksha. It is mainly used by Buddhists as their word for the state of spiritual liberation. Nirvana is also used by Buddists to describe a similar state God Realization that Hindu gurus know as Nirvikalpa Samadhi.



Nothingness: A word often used to define the transcendental experience of God in His third Aspect of Parabhraman. In this Aspect, God is beyond all or any description. Yet a mystic can experience God in this state of mysterious “nothingness.” This experience of God is known as the deepest experience of God that is possible, and it is the ultimate goal of meditators seeking moksha. This experience of God is known as Nirvikalpa Samadhi in Hinduism and Nirvana in Buddhism.



Nirguna Brahman: God who who is formless and transcendent. This term for God was first coined by Sri Adi Shankara. In his analysis of the Vedas, he organized the understanding of God into two distinct natures. They are Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman. Nirguna Brahman is God in His indescribable form that is beyond all or any comprehension in any capacity of the finite mind. In the Vedas this aspect of God is described by the rishis in the sanskrit phrase: neti-neti, which can be translated into english as 'not this, not that'. Nirguna Brahman is akin to Parabrahman in the understanding of God as The Three Aspects.



Nirvikalpa Samadhi / Samadhi: Samadhi, literally means, “to hold together completely.” Samadhi is the goal of the practice of yoga, wherein the state of oneness or undifferentiated union is achieved between the meditator’s awareness and God. There are two levels of samadhi. The first is savikalpa samadhi, in which the meditator’s awareness becomes one with pure consciousness, or God’s mind, also known as Satchitananda. The second is nirvikalpa samadhi, which is oneness with God as Parabrahman, who transcends all modes of consciousness, time, form and space. The aftermath of both states of samadhi creates a new spiritual perspective in the mind of the meditator–one that is imbued with the experiential reality of God. The meditator becomes more enlightened each time he achieves samadhi. Of the two samadhis, nirvikalpa samadhi is the highest or ultimate state. It brings in its aftermath a complete transformation of consciousness. This transformation is what is required for the soul to achieve liberation or moksha.




Om: Sometimes also spelled Aum. It is the mystic syllable or mantra of Hinduism, placed at the beginning of most sacred writings and hymns. Om represents the divine and is known as the first vibration to be issued forth from God in the Creation of the Universe. Om is also an important mantra that is used for meditation.


Padmasana: “The lotus pose.” One of the poses of Hatha Yoga that is highly recommended for the practice of meditation. It is sitting cross-legged with the right foot placed on the left tigh and the left foot on the right tigh. It takes practice to be able to sit in this way. It is best to learn to sit in padmasana under the guidance of a Hatha Yoga teacher.



Pallava Dynasty: One of the ancient Tamil royal lineages. Their Kingdom covered a big part of present day Tamilnadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh of South India. They were avid temple builders. The capital of the Pallavas, Kanchipuram that is near Chennai is well known for it’s magnificent Pallava style temples. The temple complexes at Mahabalipuram, also near Chennai, is a tourist attraction that was built by the Pallavas about 2,000 years ago.



Pandava: In the epic Mahabharata, the Pandavas are the heroes. They are six brothers–Yudishtira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva and Karna. The Pandavas (except for Karna) are allied to Lord Krishna. They fight their cousins the Kauravas in the epic battle of the Mahabharata at the battlefield of Kurukshetra.



Pandiyan: The name of one of the ancient empires of Tamilnadu. Their capital was the city of Madurai. The Pandiyans were known for developing Tamil language and culture.



Parabrahman:The Third and Ultimate Aspect of God. Parabrahman is God as theTranscendent being beyond all limits of Creation. Parabrahman cannot beadequately described in anyway, however Parabrahman can be experiencedexclusively through the meditative state of nirvikalpa samadhi. Thisrequires mastery of meditation to a high degree that can be achievedwith the careful guidance of and enlightened guru. After attaining theexperience of Parabrahman the devotees begins the process of becomingenlightened. By practicing the attainment of Parabrahman over and overagain, the devotee will eventually become fully enlightened. When thisstate is achieved the devotee will have achieved moksha while stillliving on earth and becomes a guru to others. Parabrahman is theultimate spiritual experience to be had in the path of spiritualevolution on earth.



Paramatma: The Uncreated Primal Soul, First Soul or Original Soul. This is God in His or Her first of Three Aspects. As Paramatma God is the Creator, Preserver, Destroyer, Revealer of Grace and Obscurer of Grace. Paramatma can take on any form He or She pleases. Paramatma will appear to a devotee in the form of God the devotee is most accustomed with. Paramatma is also the Personal Lord, as he listens to prayers and fulfills them and guides devotees toward spiritual enlightenment.



Parameshwara, Lord: Para-Ishwara. The Great Lord. Parameshwara is a name of God that is often referred to in the Vedas as just Ishwara. Ishwara is synonymous in the Vedas with Brahman. Both names of God is used to refer to God in his entirety, that includes all The Three Aspects. In Saivite Scriptures such as the Saiva Agamas, Parameshwara refers to Lord Nataraja, the Primal Soul.



Parashakti: The Great Power, or The Ultimate Power. God in the Second Aspect is Parashakti. Parashakti can be described as Pure Consciousness, Pure Love and Pure Intelligence. Parashakti is also Sat-Chit-Ananda, or Truth-Consciousness-Bliss. As Parashakti God takes on amorphous forms such as Divine Light, Blissful expansive inner space, the feelings of spiritual bliss and peace among other universal forms. Parashakti is mainly experienced through the meditative state of savikalpa samadhi. A devotee can also experience Parashakti through spiritual ecstasy one can attain through sincere worship, performing selfless service, while deeply engaged in artistic or scientific endeavours or when enjoying the beauty of nature.



Parvathi, Goddess: The consort of Lord Shiva, She is also worshipped in the form of Mariamman and Shakti. She is the Supreme Godhead of followers of the Shakta sect. According to the Shakta philosophy, Lord Shiva is the silent formless form of God. Whereas Goddess Shakti or Parvathi, Who is equal to and inseparable from Lord Shiva is the manifest energy or the active form of God. Shaktas worship three main forms of Goddess Parvathi. They are Saraswathi, the Goddess of knowledge, arts and culture; Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and abundance; and Durga, the Destroyer of sins and the Protector.



Patanjali Yoga Sutras: One of the most famous Hindu Scripture. It is a treatise on the path of God Realization written by sage Patanjali of ancient lore. His erudite work comprises of terse aphorisms on the path of yoga that he coined as ashtanga yoga. In the Scripture, Patanjali intricately details the processes of meditation until samadhi. He also describes challenges a meditator will face and give methods to overcome them. His work is a popular study of mysticism among Hindus and non-Hindus alike. It has been translated into many languages. ( Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga Yoga, is a structured step by step system of God Realization. Ashtanga yoga defines eight steps that gradually trains a yoga practioner to realize God. These steps are yama–moral restraints, niyama–religious observances, asana–hatha yoga exercises, pranayama–breath control, pratyahara–sense withdrawal, dharana–concentration, dhyana–meditation and samadhi–God Realization. Hindu culture and practices (irrespective of the sects) are contained within the steps of ashtanga yoga. Ashtanga yoga is the same as raja yoga or kundalini yoga).



Penance: The deliberate act of performing spiritual disciplines that cause hardship on oneself. These disciplines include fasting, carrying kavadi, prostrating before God 108 times and so forth. The reason for doing penance is to beseech God’s Grace to help rid bad karmas that we may be facing or that we may face in the future. Gurus explain that God absorbs the effort we put out and devotion we express during the penance, and uses it to dissolve or reduce the impact of bad karmas.



Perfections: A word coined by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami to describe the different Aspects of God. By understanding God as the three Perfections, all the different experiences of God a devotee may have can be explained. (Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami: An American born Hindu spiritual leader (1927-2001). Affectionately know by his disciples as Gurudeva, he was recognized as a Jagadaacharya, or world teacher by the World Hindu Federation, for his outstanding missionary work in promoting, preserving and protecting Hinduism globally. Gurudeva was an enlightened spiritual master who taught his devotees the path to Self Realization. He was the founder of Kauai Aadheenam, a monastery and temple complex on the Hawaian Island of Kauai. He was also the founder and publisher of the global Hindu magazine, Hinduism Today. For more information on Gurudeva and his publications visit the following website: www.gurudeva.org)



Periya Puranam: A Tamil Scripture written by the nayanar, Saint Sekkilar. It is a biography of the nayanars.



Personal Lord / God: God as a person with who a devotee can communicate with through prayer. God is also able to respond to the devotee as the Personal Lord through a variety of ways such as appearing to the devotee in a vision, appearing as an apparition, materializing as a person on earth or by indirect means such as by giving signs or providing brilliant ideas to the devotees in disguised ways. God as the Personal Lord is an attribute of the First Aspect of God, Paramatma and is a dualistic experience of God.



Peruman: In Tamil, this is an honourific title given to God or the Mahadevas. It means “great person.”



Pervading: Exisiting everywhere and in everything. (All-Pervasive: The quality of being present everywhere and through all things and beings. One of the divine qualities of God, Who is simultaneously present in the entire universe).



Polytheistic: The belief in many Supreme Godheads. Many Western scholars mistakenly describe Hinduism as a polytheistic religion when it is actually monotheistic, that is believing in one Supreme Godhead.



Prabhandam: Short for Divya Prabhandam. It is a Scripture that is a compilation of the poetic works of the 12 Tamil Vaishnavite saints, the aalvars. Their writings were compiled into the Divya Prabhandam by the scholar and saint, Sri Nathamuni. See aalvar.



Pradakshina: The practice of circumambulating in the Hindu temple. See circumambulation. (Circumambulation: Meaning to go around. In a Hindu temple it refers to the practice of walking around the temple’s main sanctum a few times on a designated path. It is done before entering the temple’s sanctum for worship. The practice serves as a walking meditation to help concentrate the mind on God. Pradakshina in Sanskrit).



Prasadam: Blessed sacrements given to devotees after a puja ceremony. These sacrements include vibhuti (holy ash), chandanam (sandalwood paste), kungkumum (red powder), teertham (blessed water), food and flowers that were presented to the deity duirng the puja.



Prayaschittam: Tamil word for penance. Prayaschitta in Sanskrit. (Penance: The deliberate act of performing spiritual disciplines that cause hardship on oneself. These disciplines include fasting, carrying kavadi, prostrating before God 108 times and so forth. The reason for doing penance is to beseech God’s Grace to help rid bad karmas that we may be facing or that we may face in the future. Gurus explain that God absorbs the effort we put out and devotion we express during the penance, and uses it to dissolve or reduce the impact of bad karmas).



Puja: Puja means adoration. It is also the name of the ceremonial worship performed for the deity in the temple or home shrine. The procedures of the puja ceremony are drawn from the Agamic Scriptures. They procedures contain instructions for the formats of different types of pujas, chanting rules, mystical visualizations and usage of puja implements. The high points of a puja occur whenever the bell is rung duriing the showing of oil and camphor flames, during the ceremonial bathing–abhishegam–of the deity, the unveiling of the dressing and decorations on the deity–alankaram, and the final showing of the camphor flame–aarati. There are two main types of puja. The first is the atmartha puja, which is the puja that is prescribed as a devotee's personal worship ritual; it is usually performed in the home shrine. The second is the more elaborate Parartha Puja, which is performed in temples or by temple priests in public functions; this puja is done for the benefit of the worshipping devotees.



Pure Consciousness: The Consciousness of God, or God's Mind. It is a description of God that refers to Parashakti, the Second Aspect of God. Pure Consciousness is the substratum or the most essential nature of all the elements in Creation, even space. The experience of Pure Consciousness through savikalpa samadhi in meditation is the experience of the force of God–Parashakti, thus Pure Energy is sometimes used as a synonym of Pure Consciousness.



Pure Light: Pure Light is a description of God as Parashakti; God's Second Aspect. The light in this context refers to the 'light of wisdom' as opposed to the 'darkness of ignorance'. However, this light is not merely a symbol of God's Omniscience or wisdom, it is also the inspiring mystical light that is seen by meditators when they attain Parashakti in the state of savikalpa samadhi. When this state is attained, the meditator's mind is literally lit up by the bright white light of Parashakti, even if he or she is meditating with eyes closed in a lightless room. Pure Light is synonymous with Divine Light, The Light of Intelligence and God's Omniscience. They all refer to God's All-Knowing Intelligence.



Pure Love: The condition of love that is God. It is one of the the descriptions for the Second Aspect of God, Parashakti. As Parashakti, God is the feeling of love itself. The word Pure with love indicates that it is of God and is universal, unbounded, inclusive of all, equal to all and non-judgmental. The experience of Pure Love through the meditative state of savikalpa samadhi include the feeling of expansive spiritual bliss and peace (ananda).



Pure Sound: It refers to one of the forms of Parashakti, the Second Aspect of God. Pure Sound is the impulse of all creation. It is the most primordial form of energy that was issued from God at the beginning of creation. It is the precursor to energy as heat and light and gradually the elements. It is described in mystical texts as sound because it is a causal vibration and is sometimes called the soundless sound as it cannot be heard by the physical ears. This vibration is the mantra Aum.



Purified Intellect: Buddhi in Sanskrit. It is the condition of the intellect that has matured in wisdom. Its thoughts are in line with moral principles and its beliefs are qualified with real experiences instead of blindly following opinions of others.



Purusharthas: The four legitimate goals of life. They are: 1) Dharma–The pursuit of a virtuous and noble life. 2) Artha–The pursuit of wealth by honest means. 3) Kama–The pursuit of happiness and pleasures in life. 4) Moksha–The pursuit of God Realization and spiritual liberation.



Pusalar: One of the 63 nayanars. His story is often used to teach devotees about the greatness of internal worship. (Nayanar: “Teacher.” The honourific title given to the 63 Tamil saints of South India. These 63 saints were worshippers of God Shiva. They are recognized as saints for their outstanding and examplary lives of devotion to God. Their devotional literature are part of the Tamil Saivite scriptures called Tirumurai. Their works include the Tirumantiram, Tiruvasakam and Thevaram devotional hymns. Other nayanars who did not contribute any written works left behind their life story of examplary devotion to God Shiva, such as Saint Pusalar).



Rajarajeswari, Goddess: A benevolent form of Goddess Shakti. She represents motherliness.



Rajas: One of the three conditions of nature, which are sattva, rajas and tamas. Rajas is a state of being that is active, unsettled, intellectual and full of action. It is given to either spirituality or materialism, it can be kind or hateful in life and exhibit virtuousness or violence in action.



Rama, Lord: A form of Lord Vishnu. He was an avatar of Vishnu who and the hero in the epic Ramayana. In the Ramayana, Lord Rama fights King Ravana or ancient Sri Lanka to recover his wife Sita. In this epic Lord Rama's most loyal assistant Hanuman is introduced. Lord Rama and Hanuman are popular deities of the Vaishnavite sect.



Ramalinga Swamigal / Vallalar: The late Ramalingam Swamigal, 1823-1874 was a Tamil poet who is respected for his saintliness. Affectiionately addressed as Vallalar, he is the founder of the Suddha Sanmarga Sangam. Which is a Saivite Hindu following that worships Supreme Godhead as the Divine Light (Arutperum Jyothi). Vallalar stresses a high degree of purity in and charity as vital to the attainment of Jnana (Wisdom) and enlightenment. His teachings also emphasizes the centrality of love in all aspects of human life and in this regard, Vallalar devotees abhor non-vegetarianism and caste practices. Ramalingam Swamigal's samadhi temple/shrine is in the city of Vadalur in Tamilnadu and not far away from Swamigal's favourite temple to Lord Shiva, that is Chidambaram. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Nataraja.



Reality: That which is real or within a real realm that can be experienced. It is opposed to imagination and false truths (that do not exist). The perception of reality is not necessarily the same from one person to another. Its base is the philosophical beliefs of a person; and at times the mental health of a person. For instance a person who beliefs in the existence of God will also believe in the reality of spiritual dimensions, where as an atheist might only believe in the reality that he can experience with his five physical senses. In the context of this website, when Reality is spelled with a capital 'R' it indicates God.



Realize God: To become aware of God's Presence within oneself. Same as God Realization. (God Realization: The meditative experience of the meditator’s awareness merging into God’s Being. At the point of God Realization the meditator's awareness and God's Pure Consciousness are One. There are many levels or experiences in God Realization, such as experiencing God as Divine Light, or Pure Love, or Infinite Vastness, or as Absolute Reality–the experience most yearned after by ardent spiritual seekers. The ultimate goal of the practice of Hinduism is to guide its devotees to the experience of God Realization. After the seeker has achieved God Realization he or she is said to be enlightened. According to Hinduism, God Realization is a required experience for each soul in order to achieve moksha. Hinduism also recommends that a seeker be under the guidance of a guru to learn to achieve God Realization. The Sanskrit word equivalent of God Realization is samadhi).



Reincarnation: To be reborn on earth after death. Hinduism teaches that the true identity of each person is the immortal soul or the atma. The soul was created by God and is born on earth to live it’s life in a physical body so it can evolve spiritually. After the physical body dies the soul returns to heaven from whence it came. In heaven it continues its spiritual learning and prepares for another life on earth. When the right time comes, which is determined by the karmas the soul will face in the next life on earth, the soul is reborn on earth. Thus the cycle of birth, death and rebirth repeats itself. When moksha, which is salvation or spiritual liberation is achieved, the soul is freed from the cycle of reincarnation and lives eternally in heaven until it reunites completely with God.



Rishi: “Seer.” An enlightend person and spiritual visionary. In the ancient Vedic times, rishis lived simple lives while meditating on God, often living alone or with disciples in forest or mountain retreats. They were the inspired conveyers of the Vedas to mankind.



Rudra: A form of God Shiva. Usually described as the form of God as the Destroyer.



Rudraksha: Literally, the tears of God. It is a name given to a tree. The rudraksha tree produces a blue spherical fruit that contains a woody seed pod. This seed pod is patterned with grooves and is strung as beads to to form a rosary. It is especially sacred to devotees of Lord Shiva. In Ayurvedic medicine rudraksha fruit is used to make concoctions that is said to be good for the heart. The english name for the tree is the blue marble tree, which is representative of the abundance of bright blue fruits that the tree produces.























Tamas: One of the three conditions of nature, which are sattva, rajas and tamas. Tamas is a state of being that is dull or slow, unrefined, materialistic and inconsiderate. It is given to materialism, uncaringness or apathy in life and base or unrefined in action.



Tamilnadu: A state in South India, population 55 million. Land of countless Scriptures, saints, sages and over 40,000 magnificient temples.



Tandava: The Divine Dance, or the Dance of God. It refers to the constant and interconnected processes of God’s functions of creation, preservation and dissolution that animate life in the universe. From a mystical perspective this unceasing flow of activity is seen as a dance. This dance is also called the leela. The Tandava which is usually short for 'Ananda Tandava' which means the 'dance of bliss,' is often related to God Shiva. As Lord Nataraja, God Shiva is the King of Dance. The Ananda Tandava comprises of 108 dance poses strung together. According to the legend Sage Bharata recorded these poses of Lord Nataraja as He danced the Tandava in Chidambaram temple many thousands of years ago. From these poses Sage Bharata created the Bharata Natyam, the classical Indian dance that is the precursor to all other traditional Indian classical dances.



Tanjavur: Tanjavur is a city in the South Indian State of Tamilnadu. It is located about 350km south of Chennai. Tanjavur used to be the capitol of ancient Chola Kingdom and later the royal city of the Marathas and the Nayaks (Other South Indian dynasties). It is a city steeped in history and is a center for traditional Tamil arts, music and dance. The Tanjavur painting style which is a style of art using gold leaf and gem embroidery originates from here. Tanjavur is also the home of the famed Brihatheeswarar Temple, that was built in the 9th century by King Raja Raja Chola. The temple, whose main deity is a large Shivalingam, is a pilgrimage destination for Hindus especially of the Saivite sect.



Tattva: The principles of creation. Tattvas explain how every everything in nature evolved from God. All together there are 36 tattvas. The first being God as Pure Energy and Consciousness, known as Satchitananda tattva which is the foundation of all creation. The final or the 36th tattva is the prithivi tattva or the element earth, which is the densest element of God’s creation. The other tattvas include the soul, anava, karma, maya, time, the five senses and so forth. The knowledge of the tattvas helps gurus and ayurvedic doctors to provide remedies for difficult karmas or diseases their devotees or patients may have.



Tayumanavar: A Tamil yogi. He was a devotional mystic and poet who lived around the 17th century. He places himself in the lineage of Saint Tirumular.



Teertham: Holy water or any liquid that has been blessed through abhishegam or the ritual bathing of a deity. Teertam is a sacrement of puja that is offered for devotees to drink after the ceremony.



Three Conditions of Nature: According to the tattva system of Hindu cosmology, the three conditions of nature form the secondary foundation of all creation, the primary one being God as Parashakti. The three conditions of nature are sattva–the spiritual and positive nature; rajas–the intellectual nature and the forces of will; tamas–the instinctive or gross nature and the lethargic forces of nature.



Thevaram: Devotional songs to God Shiva sung by some of the 63 SaivaSaints. Thevarams are part of the Tamil Scriptural collection known asthe Tirumurai. These songs are still very much part of Tamil culture.



Thiagaraja, Lord: A form of Lord Shiva. In this form He appears with His Consort, Goddess Parvathi, both seated on a pedestal side by side. Often used as a parade deity (ustava murthi) in temples.



Tilak: In Tamil it is pottu. It is the either a round dot or vertical line applied at the center of the forehead. The shape of the tilak or pottu identifies the Hindu sect the devotee belongs to. The tilak is a symbol of the third-eye or the spiritual eye which is situated within the forehead of one’s spiritual body. The third-eye is also known as the soul’s eye and is the seat of one’s conscience.



Tirobhava: God's Action of Obscuring Grace. This is God’s activity of covering or limiting knowledge of spiritual truths from the soul. This action of Paramatma is necessary for the soul to enable the soul to go through it’s process of spiritual evolution. For instance, through tirobhava, we forget our past lives so we can live the current one without interfering memories from past lives. Tirobhava is embodied in the forces of anava and maya. There are no deities that specifically represent tirobhava. The symbols that represent obscuring grace are holding a lotus flower upside down or standing on a lotus flower.



Tirumantiram: 'Holy Mantras.' One of the oldest Tamil Scripture, written over 2,000 years ago by Saint Tirumular. It is also know as the Tamil Vedas, as it was written by Tirumular for the benefit of the Tamils who had no access to the Sanskrit Vedas. It is part of the Tirumurai collection. It contains the entire philosophy and mystical processes of the Saiva Siddhanta school of Saivite Hinduism.



Tirumular, Saint: One of the 63 nayanars. He wrote the comprehensive Tamil Scripture on the Saiva religion, the Tirumantiram. Tirumular's legend has it that he was a saint who was sent by his Guru, Maharishi Nandinatha from the Himalayas to South India on a mission to teach Saivite philosophy and mysticism. In a miraculous turn of events that involved the transmigration of Tirumular's soul, he ended up in a body of a Tamil cowherd. Tirumular's original body was destroyed by flames in a divine play orchestrated by God. With his new body came the knowledge of the Tamil language. With this knowledge he composed the Tirumantiram. The Tirumantiram is a 3,333 poems Scripture that detail Saivite beliefs, practices and myticism. It is a deeply profound and esoteric Scripture, with many of its poems coded in metaphors from Hindu myths. It is hailed as a distillate of Vedic and Agamic (core Hindu Scriptures) wisdom.



Tiruvannamalai: Is a city about 180km north of Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It is home to one of the most holy of Saivite shrine. The Tiruvannamalai temple that houses Lord Arunachaleswara in the form of a Shivalingam. Known as the temple that represents God Shiva as the element fire or light, it is a large temple complex that covers an area of 24 acres. The city of Tiruvannamalai is also famous for the ashram of the late Saint Sri Ramana Maharishi, the silent sage of Arunachala.



Tiruvasagam: A Tamil Scripture that is the compilation of all the songs sung by Saint Manickavasagar. The arrangement of the songs in the Tiruvasagam provide a chronological framework for the events in Saint Manickavasagar’s life and his travels.



Trance: A state of being when an individual displays a personality that is radically not himself or herself, so as to suggest a different person altogether. Trance state includes possession by disincarnate beings or spirits and split personality or schizophrenia.



Transcending: To surpass or exist beyond all limits. It is a quality of God, as Absolute Reality, that is beyond all limits of manifestation and experience. It is said of God beyond time, form and space.



Trimurthi / Trinity: God as the Trinity of Brahma–the Creator, Vishnu–the Preserver and Rudra–the Destroyer.



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Upanishads: The Upanishads are the philosophical section of the Vedas. Upanishad means, “sitting near devotedly.” It refers to disciples sitting around their guru while he expounds his realizations and answers their queries.



Undifferentiated Union: A merging of two subjects to become one that is so perfect that the original two are indistinguishable one from another. It is used to describe the type of union that occurs when the awareness of a meditator merges with God within him or herself in the state of samadhi. (Awareness: An individual’s ability to perceive an object, subject, situation or fact. The Sanskrit word for awareness is saakshin. In Hindu mystical texts, saakshin is described the perceptive ability of the soul. The word translates to witness in English. Awareness is known as the witness because it perceives all physical and mental activities in the body and mind. When teaching Hindu mysticism in English, gurus will often use the word awareness to define an individuals ablitity to perceive. Awareness has the power to control the mind and emotions, or it may be controlled by the mind and emotions. According to Hindu mysticism, spiritual growth or evolution is the result of the gradual ability of an individual’s awareness go gain mastery over the mind and emotions. Samadhi: Literally it means, “to hold together completely.” Samadhi is the goal of the practice of yoga, wherein the state of oneness or undifferentiated union is achieved between the meditator and the object of his meditation. There are two levels of samadhi. The first is savikalpa samadhi, in which the meditator’s awareness becomes one with pure consciousness, or God’s mind, also known as Satchitananda. The second is nirvikalpa samadhi, in which oneness with God as Parabrahman, who transcends all modes of consciousness, time, form and space is experienced. The aftermath of both states of samadhi creates a new spiritual perspective in the mind of the meditator–one that is imbued with the experiential reality of God. The meditator becomes more enlightened each time he achieves samadhi. However of the two samadhis, nirvikalpa samadhi is the highest or ultimate state. It brings in its aftermath a complete transformation of consciousness. This transformation is what is required by the soul to achieve spiritual liberation or moksha).



Unmanifest Reality: A plane or dimension of reality that transcends any kind of description. Also known as Absolute Reality, it is said of God as Parabrahman.



Bottom of Form




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Vahana: Vehicle. It refers to the animal mount or vehicle of a Hindu deity. In Hinduism each image of God is designated an animal mount. Often the animal represents one of the characteristics or special ability of the deity. For instance Lord Ganesha’s vahana is the mouse named Mushika. Mushika represents Lord Ganesha’s ability to help devotees overcome challenges, even the ones that are seemingly unsurmountable, just as it seems impossible for a small creature like a mouse to be carrying Lord Ganesha around.



Vaikuntha: The Vaishnavite name of the highest level of heaven.



Vaishnavism: One of the four primary sects of Hinduism that worships any form of God Vishnu as the Supreme Godhead. These forms include the avatars of God Vishnu such as Krishna, Rama, Narasimha and so forth.



Vaishnavite: A follower of the Vaishnava sect of Hinduism. A Vaishnavite worships God Vishnu as Supreme Godhead. Among the forms of God Vishnu commonly worshipped are Maha Vishnu, Krishna, Rama and Venkateswara.



Vedas: The Vedas are Hinduism’s most ancient and central scriptures. They are of divine origin, being revealed to man directly by God. The Vedas are written in Sanskrit and are the worlds oldest scripture, written over 4,000 years ago. The Vedas comprise of four books: The Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.



Veena: A string instrument that is central to the Hindu ensembleof music instruments. The comparatively modern sitar is based on theveena. The veena is often held by forms of God or Goddess to signifylearning, culture and arts; and more indirectly the powers of creationor srishti.



Vel: The lance carried by Lord Murugan. The vel itself is a representative of Lord Murugan. It symbolises His power of wisdom and love over ignorance and arrogance. The very shape of the vel’s spearhead being unusually wide in the middle and then coming to a sharp point at its tip and set on a long shaft has symbolic significance. It smybolises how wisdom is harnessed to make virtuous decisions. That is by being deeply imbedded in the foundation of love and virtue (the long shaft) and by being broad-minded and understanding (the wide spearhead) one will naturally be guided by dharma to make decisive and right decisions (the sharp tip).



Venkateshwara, Lord: A form of God Vishnu, He is also affectionately called Lord Perumal. He is the Lord of the famed Tirupathi temple in Andhra Pradesh, India. He is worshipped as the Lord of Abundance and Wealth. In fact the Tirupati temple which is frequented by Hindus of all sect is the richest Hindu temple in the world.



Vidya Rambha Samskara: A ceremonious rite of passage before a child begins formal study with a teacher. It is usually done during the Navaratri days of Saraswati Puja for children entering school or kindergarten the following year. A respected school teacher will be invited to the ceremony and he or she will feed the child a little sweet after the puja and then ceremoniously help the child write the first letter of the alphabet and numbers in a plate of yellow rice.



Vimanam: The ornate tower that is above the sanctum of the deities enshrined within a temple.



Vishnu, God: The original form of Supreme Godhead of the Vaishnavite sect of Hinduism. He is often pictured lying on the 9 headed coiled serpent Seshanaga, floating on a mythical ocean–Pall-Kadal–The Ocean of Elixir, that is representative of Satchitananda. His Consort is Goddess Lakshmi. The Vaishnavite philosophy teaches that God takes birth on earth as an avatar. Thus Lord Vishnu's avatars are also worshipped as His forms. His most notable avatars that are worshipped are Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Narashimha among others.



Visualizations: Mental images or imaginations. Visualizations are used in some meditation techniques to concentrate the mind. They are usually done with the eyes closed, though some meditators prefer to do them with their eyes opened




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Hinduism/Dictionary online/Hindu/Brahminhttp://www.myhindupage.org/index.php/myhindupage-glossary-a/36-glossary-s

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