aversion, hatred. One of the five afflictions or `kleshas` affecting humans, described by sage Patanjali.
Ekam One, single.
Ekagrata One pointedness of the mind. A more advanced state in the practice of quelling the fluctuations (vrittis) of the mind.
Elements The bhutas or elements are the building blocks of the material world. They are five in number space, air, fire, water and earth.
Four Noble Truths a central teaching in Buddha dharma, that 1) life involves suffering, 2) suffering is caused by desire, 3) suffering can be ended and 4) the method or way to terminate suffering is the noble Eight-Fold Path.
Four Goals (see Purushartha)
Gayatri mantra a famous and sacred vedic mantra. Also known as the Savitri mantra, being addressed to Savitri, the Sun, as Creator, Vivifier and source of illumination.
Guru Teacher. One who sheds light where there is darkness.
Guru Parampara the lineage of Gurus, or succession of teachers and disciples.
Ghee a food product made from clarified butter. Widely used as food and as a medicine in Ayurveda.
Guna literally `quality`. The three fundamental qualities inherent in nature, Sattva (purity and harmony), Rajas (passion, dynamism), and Tamas (inertia, stasis)
Gandharva a class of Celestial Beings with expertise in the Arts, Music and Dance.
Gandharva Veda a field of therapeutic music in Ayurveda (see Ayurveda) the compositions of which are recommended to be played at specific times, during certain illnesses and to create a positive atmosphere.
Hara literally `the One who takes away`. A name of Shiva.
Hari a name of Vishnu.
Hatha Yoga lit. `the forceful yoga` - a generic term for a range of practices including yoga postures, breathing exercises, mudras, cleansing exercises and ethical codes which prepare the aspirant for meditation.
Hamsa (also seen as Hansa)
Indriya the sense organs. Any one of the five organs of cognition ( which relate to the sensory apparatus pertaining to sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste ) or the five organs of action (the tongue, hands, feet, excretory organs and organs of generation through which we interact with the world).
Ishta Devata ones chosen deity.
Ishvara Lord. Patanjalis Yogasutras introduce Ishvara, the Lord, as a special kind of Purusha untouched or unaffected by sufferring, action or karmas. Ishvara is denoted by the symbol Om. Other Darshanas (see Darshana ) or philosophical systems postulate the Lord as the cause of right knowledge, creation and destruction)
Ishvara Pranidhana evotedness and surrender to the supreme Lord. One of the yogic niyamas descried by sage Patanjali in his Yogasutras. Surrender to a higher power necessitates the relinquishing of ego, control and self-centered living, Also a practice in the Prem Marg or Bhakti Yoga.
Indra a great Vedic deity who transmitted the teachings of Ayurveda to the sage Bharadvaja.
Jai `Glory to`, `Victory!`
Jagat the `world` as a series of flowing, endlessly changing happenings.
Japa repetition, recitation. The practice of concentrating on and repeating of a sacred mantra.
Jnana knowledge. The knowledge achieved through yoga.
Jnana yogathe Yogic path of knowledge. Philosophical yoga.
Jyotisha from Jyoti (the light). The science of the Light or Stars. Vedic Astrology.
Jiva the in-dwelling spiritual Self or Atman. From the verb root `jiv` to live.
Jivan Mukta One who has realised the Self, while living in this body. A state of spiritual freedom attained while living in the body.
Ji an honourific term indicating respect and endearment attached like a suffix to a person or teachers name.
Jataka birth tales. Stories of the past lives of the historical Buddha, many hundreds of which are included in the Pali Canon.
Jati birth, genus.
Kosha sheath. Five layers or sheaths through which the spiritual Self or Atman gains experience of the world process. The Koshas range from the gross `layer` of the physical body, to the more subtle Pranic body, to the lower and higher minds, to the `Bliss body` known as the Ananda maya kosha.
Kriya action. May be used in a general sense or specifically applied to certain rites and ceremonies.
Kriya Yoga considered to be Patanjalis contribution to Yoga, although he is more commonly credited with the ashtanga yoga teaching. Patanjali says in his Yogasutras that samskaras are obliterated through Kriya Yoga being, Tapas, Svadhyaya and Ishvara pranidhana (austerities, study of the Self and devotion to the Lord ). The term has also been used to represent the practices within the tradition made popular through the Master Paramahansa Yogananda.
Kaivalya aloneness. The ultimate aim of yoga practice. A state of neither pain nor pleasure, but spiritual freedom.
Kapha One of the three `humours` or Doshas described in Ayurvedic (see Ayurveda ) texts. Kapha dosha governs key functions related to the water and earth elements in the body, such as tissue development or anabolism, immunity, lubrication of tissues, memory, and endurance.
Kirtana Praising. A term for devotional singing.
Klesha `affliction`, distress. From the verb root `klish` - to suffer. Sage Patanjali lists five Kleshas in his Yogasutras, which are descriptive of the human experience : ignorance, egoism, attraction, aversion and tenacity toward worldly experience.
Kundalini literally `spiral`. A mystical power in humans only fully awakened in advanced Yogis. This energy is represented symbolically as a snake laying coiled at the base of the spine. When fully aroused by spiritual practices this energy is said to rise up serpent-like through the Sushumna nadi (see Sushumna) piercing the Chakras. Kundalini yoga is at the same time warned against by many authorities who state that , if mismanaged, prematurely `aroused` or self taught may lead to intractable health problems, mental disorders and even death.
Karma action. A central concept in yoga philosophy is that all actions carry effects which bear fruit or return to the doer, hence `The law of cause and effect`.
Karma Yoga The yogic path of action through selfless service, without attachment to the fruit of actions.
Kama desire, lust. Also the god of desire who fires quivering arrows of desire into the heart.
Karuna compassion. One of the `four remedies` suggested by sage Patanjali to relieve suffering. One of the Buddhist virtues embodied by Avalokiteshvara, an archetypal Bodhisattva.
Lila Play. The Divine cosmic drama of creation, preservation and dissolution.
Loka a vast space, a world.
Linga a sign or marking. The phallic symbol of Shiva.
Mahabhutas the five elements – space, air, fire, water and earth, which are the primary building blocks of Nature.
Manas the mind.
Marga Spiritual path.
Moksha Liberation. The final aim of human life ( see Purusharthas ). Spiritual freedom and release from Samsara.
Maya Illusion. That which limits us, obscuring our perception of Reality or Truth. Also the name given to Prakriti and Shakti, Mother Nature.
Mandala a circle. Commonly referring to sacred symbols similar to Yantras utilised as a basis for meditation, visualisation and ritual practices.
Mantra a sacred word or formula from spiritual scriptures, used in chanting and meditation practices.
Mudra `Seal`. A group of mystical hand gestures expressive of inner energies. Used in visualisation practices, Ritual worship, Yoga and Dance.
Mahabharata One of the two great epics of India ( the other being the Ramayana ). More than eight times the size of Homers` Odyssey and Illiad put together. A great dharma teaching. Contains the Bhagavad Gita.
Maitri loving kindness, friendliness. One of the `four-fold remedies` suggested by sage Patanjali.
Mudita joy in the success of others. One of the four-fold remedies suggested by sage Patanjali.
Nadi a subtle channel through which energy flows. Yogic texts mention 72,000 nadis in the human body located in the pranic body. The three principle nadis are the Sushumna nadi, Ida (or chandra nadi) and pingala (or surya nadi).
Nada Sound vibration. A mystic sound or shabda heard internally by advanced yogis in deep meditation, when the nadis or subtle channels have become purified.
Namaste a traditional spoken greeting with hands together at the heart, often interpreted as ``the divine in me greets the divine in you``.
Niyama Five yogic observances described by sage Patanjali as the second `anga` or limb of ashtanga yoga. These five restraints shaucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (practice of austerities), svadhyaya (self-study), and ishvara pranidhana (devotion to the Lord) serve to direct the mind toward the inner-Self.
Nirvana the perfect calm of enlightenment. A compound word drawn from the preposition `nir` - out, and `vana` - blown. Generally used in Buddhist terminology but also mentioned by yogic adepts. The final perfection wherein the lower tendencies have been blown- out or extinguished and there is freedom from Samsara (see Samsara).
Om the sacred mono-syllable, symbolic of Brahman (see Brahman); said to be the primal sound from which creation emerged. Also spelt Aum and known as the `Pranava`, Om contains hidden esoteric significance. The seed ( or bija ) of all mantras.
OjasVital Essence. The essence of the seven dhatus (see dhatu) or primary tissues of the body, which confers immunity, strength, radiance and vitality to the body/mind complex.
Parivritta Revolved, turned around.
Prana the life-giving force . In the personal sense referring to the `life-breath` of the body, but in the universal sense also refers to the animating force of the entire Cosmos.
Pranayama Breath control or Breath expansion. A range of breathing practices in Hatha Yoga and the fourth limb of ashtanga yoga as described by Patanjali.
Pratyahara `withdrawal`. The withdrawing of sensory activity away from objects as a means of turning the awareness inwards. The fifth of the angas or limbs of ashtanga yoga.
Purushartha Human wealth or purpose. The four aims or goals of human life : dharma (righteous conduct), artha (abundance), kama (satisfaction of legitimate desires) and moksha (liberation from samsara).
Paramatma Supreme Soul, The Absolute Reality.
Purusha The indwelling spiritual Self.
Pitta One of the three `humours` or Doshas described in Ayurvedic (see Ayurveda) texts. Pitta Dosha governs key functions related to the fire element in the body, including digestion, metabolism, and regulation of body temperature.
Patanjali wise yogic Sage , credited with the compilation of the `YogaSutras`. Patanjalis` Yogasutras is the primary text of the Yoga Darshana or yogic branch of Indian Philosophy.
Pranava see Om .
Prakriti Nature. In Yoga and Samkhya philosophy Prakriti is insentient matter. Only purusha is sentient. Prakriti in Ayurveda refers to your `first nature` or constitutional `body type` with which you were born.
Prem Marg the path of love. Synonymous with Bhakti yoga.
Parvati Mother Divine. Consort of Lord Shiva.
Pada Foot, support.
Rajas One of the three gunas or attributes, the impulse to action, passion, dynamism, and heat. (see Gunas).
Roga illness or disease.
Raga attachment. In Patanjalis` Yogasutras one of the five causes of human affliction (see kleshas).
Rishi Seer. A term for the enlightened Sage. The knower.
Ramayana One of the two great epics of India. The Ramayana chronicles events in the life of Rama, the ideal King, warrior, and the embodiment of Dharma (see Dharma ) and his wife Sita, daughter of mother earth, a resplendent woman living the ideals of selfless love, devotion and integrity. Each character, name and event in the story carries metaphysical significance.
Sanskrit the sacred language of India, meaning polished or perfected. A divine language capable of expressing the highest Truth. The language medium used in the Sacred Texts of India.
Shakti Power, energy. The creative energy or active power pervading all existence personified as the female consort of Shiva. Shakti is the divine mother, Shiva being powerless without her. Also felt by devotees as the blissful energy exuding from a holy person.
Samskara impressions left in the subconscious mind from our behaviours and actions (present and past) which act to shape further developments and behaviours.
Sadhu a virtuous holy person, often of no fixed abode, travelling from place to place, dedicated to Self-realisation.
Svadhyaya Self-study, study of sacred scriptures. The fourth of the niyamas (see niyamas) described by Patanjali.
Sushumna the central nadi or energy channel running through the spinal cord, and located in the `pranic body`. It connects the muladhara chakra (see chakra) at the base of the spine to the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head.
Surya the Sun. Also a subtle energy channel terminating at the right nostril and affected by pranayama exercises.
Sukha pleasant, easeful. A quality ascribed by the sage Patanjali to be developed in the practice of asana.
Shaucha Purity of mind and body. The first of the niyamas described by Patanjali.
Samadhi the final limb of ashtanga yoga as described by Patanjali. A state of consciousness in which the outer world is transcended. The true state of yoga. Enlightenment. From Sanskrit roots meaning to direct together, to unite - hence the `unified state`.
Santosha contenment. The second of the yogic niyamas listed by sage Patanjali.
Satya Truth, honesty. One of the yogic yamas described by sage Patanjali.
Sadhana Spiritual practice. The effective means of attainment.
Sampradaya the lineage or living tradition of spiritual knowledge.
Sannyasin one who has renounced all worldly desires, devoting ones life to higher spiritual culture. The final `ashrama` or stage of life in Vedic culture.
Shloka a verse, phrase or proverb.
Sutra literally `thread`. Sutras as threads or aphorisms are concise statements and a technical format in which spiritual teachings have been laid out, for purposes of brevity and to allow teachers of various sampradayas throughout the ages to deliver their own commentaries on. Eg. The Yogasutras of Patanjali, The Bhaktisutras of Narada.
Siddhi Attainment. Also certain psychic abilities of some yogis.(note that these are often considered as barriers on the yogic path, since they have the potential to instigate egocentric behaviour).
Samsara the constant flow or flux of the world process. The realm of karma and re-birth.
Shri blessed, holy, venerable. A term of respect used as a pre-fix before a persons name. Also the name of the consort of Vishnu.
Satsangha The company of the wise.
Siddha a perfected Being.
Svapna the dream state.
Sushupti the state of dreamless sleep.
Sattoguna see Sattva.
Sattva one of the three Gunas ( see Guna ) or qualities inherent in Nature. The quality of purity, harmony, clarity and balance.
Supta Reclined, supine.
Tamas the Guna (see Guna) or attribute corresponding to inertia and darkness.
Tapas heat, energy. Spiritual practices which serve to `heat` in order to purify. One of the yogic niyamas described by Patanjali. Also relates to practices involving austerities.
Tantra a synonym for the `Agamic` teachings, spiritual teachings revealing meditation, ritual procedures, the history of the world, stories of deities and the many ways of worship, in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and his spouse. For the following reasons Tantra has had much popularity: Tantric practices demonstrate the sacredness inherent in all situations and events; Tantric teachings are accessible to all, independent of caste; Shakta tantrism places emphasis on the worship of the feminine force Shakti; Tantra has had much impact on the evolution of hatha yoga practises. At the same time, superficiality, commercialism, and disproportionate interest on Tantras acceptance of sexuality has also led to a certain disrepute in the west.
Tilak a marking on the forehead with ash, sandalwood paste or clay indicating affiliation with a particular sectarian group.
Tamoguna see Tamas.
Upanishads mystical texts and teachings given by ancient rishis, attached to the Vedas (see Vedas).
Upaya literally`skillful means`. Buddhist practitioners aspire to use skillful means in all situations.
Upeksha non-attachment, indifference, equanimity. Part of the `four-fold remedy` given by Patanjali (see Patanjali) to alleviate suffering and engender happiness.
Utthita Extended, raised.
Vairagya detachment, dispassion. To be accompanied by practise, as recommended by the yogic Sage Patanjali.A state of mind not to be confused with asceticism.
Vyadhi a term for `disease` used in Ayurveda and Yoga.
Vata One of the three humours or `Doshas` described in Ayurvedic (see Ayurveda) texts. Vata Dosha governs key functions related to the air and space elements in the body, including transmission of nervous impulses, thoughts, breathing, heartbeat and excretory functions.
Vidya knowledge, science, as opposed to avidya or ignorance.
Vedanta the most influential school of philosophy in India. One of the six Darshanas or orthodox systems of philosophy.
Viveka discernment, discrimination between the Real and the Unreal.
Vibhuti `manifestation`, `supernormal` power exhibited by certain yogis. Also the Holy Ash smeared across the brow of worshippers of Shiva.
Vritti a whirling, fluctuation or revolving. mental fluctuations, thought waves.
Virya energy, strength.
Vaidyas Ayurvedic physicians. lit. those who have knowledge.
Yoga Union. From the Sanskrit root `yuj` - to yoke or unite. The philosophy, path, processes and practices (sadhana) leading to the merging of individual and divine consciousness.
Yogi one who practises yoga.
Yogini a female practitioner of yoga.
Yamas the yogic `restraints` - from the Sanskrit verb root `yam` to hold or check. Sage Patanjali presents five ethical observances for yogis ahimsa (non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (chastity), aparigraha (greedlessness). There are other important Yamas listed in traditional texts, such as patience, compassion, forgiveness, giving, steadfastness and moderation in diet. The late Yogi and scholar Dr. Rammurti Mishra M.D. described Yama is follows : the will to investigate mental nature by following specific resolutions to lead life in the light of Truth.
Yantra mystical geometric diagrams representing divine energies, popular in Tantric visualisation practices.