Sanskrit

This page is here to help you navigate through the website. It is by no means an extensive Sanskrit Glossary.

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Ajna : translates as “Centre of Command”.  The Ajna chakra is positioned at the eyebrow region. Ajna is considered the chakra of the mind. When something is seen in the mind’s eye, or in a dream, it is being ‘seen’ by Ajna.

Anahata: means unhurt, un-struck and unbeaten. The Anahata chakra is physically positioned at the heart region. Anahata is associated with the ability to make decisions outside of the realm of karma. It is also associated with love and compassion, charity to others, and healing.Anahata is the seat of the Jivatman (the Soul), and Para Shakti (“the great or supreme or light or heat force”).

Astanga Vinyasa Yoga : Ashtanga Yoga is an ancient system of Yoga that was taught by Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta. This text was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya.

This style of yoga is characterized by a focus on viṅyāsa, the linking of the movement to the breath. The whole practice is defined by six specific series of postures, always done in the same order, combined with specific breathing patterns (Free breathing with the ujjāyī sound).

Bhakti Yoga : signifies an active involvement by the devotee in divine worship. The term is often translated as “devotion”, though increasingly “participation” is being used as a more accurate rendering, since it conveys a fully engaged relationship with the Divine.  The Sanskrit noun bhakti is derived from the verb root bhaj, whose meanings include “to share in”, “to belong to”, and “to worship”. “Devotion” as an English translation for bhakti doesn’t fully convey two important aspects of bhakti—the sense of participation that is central to the relationship between the devotee and God, and the intense feeling that is more typically associated with the word “love”.  An advaitic interpretation of bhakti goes beyond “devotion” to the realization of union with the essential nature of reality as ananda, or divine bliss.

Bhakta: One who practices bhakti.

Chakra: translates as “wheel” or “turning”. Chakra is a concept referring to wheel-like vortices, according to traditional Indian medicine. The Chakras are said to be “force centers” or whorls of energy permeating the layers of the subtle bodies in an ever-increasing fan-shaped formation (the fans make the shape of a love heart). Rotating vortices of subtle matter, they are considered the focal points for the reception and transmission of energies. Seven major chakras or energy centers (also understood as wheels of light) are generally believed to exist, located within the subtle body.

Dharana: translates as ‘collection or concentration of the mind ‘. This term is related to the verbal root dhri to hold, carry, maintain, resolve. Dhāraā is the initial step of deep concentrative meditation, where the object being focused upon is held in the mind without consciousness wavering from it.

Darshan: means “sight” (in the sense of an instance of seeing or beholding; from a root dś “to see”), vision, apparition, or glimpse. It is most commonly used for “visions of the divine” .

Dharma: means one’s righteous duty or any virtuous path in the common sense of the term. The word dharma literally translates as that which upholds or supports, and is generally translated into English as law.

Durga : Goddess Durga ( “the inaccessible” or “the invincible”) or Maa Durga (Mother Durga) “one who can redeem in situations of utmost distress”. Durga is a form of Devi, the supremely radiant goddess, depicted as having ten arms, riding a lion or a tiger, carrying weapons (including a lotus flower), maintaining a meditative smile, and practicing mudras, or symbolic hand gestures.

An embodiment of creative feminine force (Shakti), Durga exists in a state of self-sufficiency and fierce compassion. Durga is considered by Hindus to be an aspect of Kali, and the mother of Ganesha, Saraswati, Lakshmi. She is thus considered the fiercer, demon-fighting form of Lord Shiva’s wife, Goddess Parvati. Durga manifests fearlessness and patience, and never loses her sense of humor, even during spiritual battles of epic proportion.

Guru: The word guru, a noun, means “teacher” or Spiritual Master. Guru is composed of the syllables ‘gu’ and ‘ru’, the former signifying ‘darkness’, and the latter signifying ‘the destroyer of that [darkness]’, hence a guru is one characterized as someone who dispels spiritual ignorance (darkness), with spiritual illumination (light) -as per Advaya-Tãraka Upanishad (verse 16).

Hridaya: Described only in the Shakta tradition of Tantra, the Hrit (Heart) Chakra, which is variously described as white, gold, or red in colour, of eight petals, and is located just below the Anahata.  The most distinctive quality of this chakra is the mythical Wish-Fulfilling Tree represented in the center of the pericarp.

Jiyanmukta: Jivanmukta (from the Sanskrit words jiva and mukti) is someone who has attained nirvikalpa samadhi – the realization of the Self – and is liberated from rebirth while living in a human body.

In all schools of Hindu philosophy except advaita, liberation is an event beyond the experience of human being. But the advaita school of Shankara envisages that human is already liberated and the soul is already free – one only has only to realise, and to accept, this freedom. Souls who have had this realisation are called jivanmuktas.

Kali:  Hindu goddess associated with eternal energy. The name Kali means “black”, but has by folk etymology come to mean “force of time (kala)”. Despite her negative connotations, Kali is today considered the goddess of time and change. Although sometimes presented as dark and violent, her earliest incarnation as a figure of annihilation still has some influence. Kali is represented as the consort of god Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing.

 There is a colloquial saying that “Shiva without Shakti is Shava” which means that without the power of action (Shakti) that is Mahakali (represented as the short “i” in Devanagari) Shiva (or consciousness itself) is inactive; Shava means corpse in Sanskrit and the play on words is that all Sanskrit consonants are assumed to be followed by a short letter “a” unless otherwise noted. The short letter “i” represents the female power or Shakti that activates Creation. This is often the explanation for why She is standing on Shiva, who is either Her husband and complement in Shaktism  or the Supreme Godhead in Shaivism.

Karma Yoga: “Union through action.” The path of selfless service.

Krama: stages of evolution.

Kriya Yoga: “Action union.” A term for various schools of meditative yoga practice emphasizing pranayama, breathing techniques, to accelerate spiritual progress, aggressively breaking awareness free of day-to-day consciousness and arousing the kundalini with the goal of expanded consciousness and self transformation. Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), who taught kriya yoga, called it the “airplane route” to God. The modern revival of this ancient meditation system is said to have begun with the deathless avatara Babaji in 1861.

Lakhsmi: As a female counterpart of Lord Vishnu, Mata Lakshmi is also called ‘Shri’, the female energy of the Supreme Being. She is the goddess of prosperity, wealth, purity, generosity, and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. Lakshmi is the household goddess of most Hindu families, and a favorite of women. 

Lakshmi is depicted as a beautiful woman of golden complexion, with four hands, sitting or standing on a full-bloomed lotus and holding a lotus bud, which stands for beauty, purity and fertility. Her four hands represent the four ends of human life: dharma or righteousness, “kama” or desires, “artha” or wealth, and “moksha” or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Cascades of gold coins are seen flowing from her hands, suggesting that those who worship her gain wealth. She always wears gold embroidered red clothes. Red symbolizes activity and the golden lining indicates prosperity. Lakshmi is the active energy of Vishnu.

Mantra: is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered capable of “creating transformation” (cf. spiritual transformation). The Sanskrit word mantra consists of the root man- “to think” (also in manas “mind”) and the suffix -tra meaning, tool, hence a literal translation would be “instrument of thought”.

Another explanation is that the suffix -tra means “protection”.

Another explanation is that the suffix -tra comes from the root trayoti (as with Tantra) which means “liberation”. Thus a mantra would be an instrument that provides liberation of (or from) the mind.

Manipura: called “city of jewels”, is the third primary chakra. It is positioned at the solar plexus. Manipura is associated with dynamism, energy, and will-power (Itcha shakti. It is associated with the power of fire, and digestion). Manipura is said to radiate and distribute prana to the rest of the body.

Mula: “Root,” “foundation.” The root, base or bottom or basis of anything, as in muladhara chakra. Foundational, original or causal, as in mulagrantha, “original text.”

Muladhara: meaning “root place” is the first of the main seven chakras . Muladhara is said to be located at the base of the spine in the vicinity of the coccygeal plexus beneath the sacrum.

According to Hinduism within this chakra resides/sleeps the kundalini shakti, the great spiritual potential, waiting to be aroused and brought back up to the source from which it originated, Brahman.

Parinama: parinamavada (life is continuous change/flow ) so we must assess and tune ourself to this flow. Yoga then is not merely asana and must be tuned to the student, taking account of health, energy, physique, gender, place and age. Yoga Sadhana (practice) then becomes an art.

Prana: Vital energy or life principle. Literally, “vital air,” from the root pran, “to breathe.”Prana in the human body moves in the pranamaya kosha as five primary life currents known as vayus, “vital airs or winds.” These are prana (outgoing breath), apana (incoming breath), vyana (retained breath), udana (ascending breath) and samana (equalizing breath), and five auxiliary vayus: naga, kurma, krkara, devadatta and dhananjaya. Each governs crucial bodily functions, and all bodily energies are modifications of these. While prana usually refers to the life principle, it sometimes denotes energy, the power or the animating force of the cosmos, the sum total of all energy and forces.

pranayama: “Life-force expansion, breath control.” Science of controlling prana (life force or vital energy) through breathing techniques which dictate the lengths of inhalation, retention and exhalation; prepares the mind for deep meditation and develops psychic abilities.

puja: “Worship, adoration.” A rite of worship performed in the home, temple or shrine, to the a consecrated object, or to a person, such as the satguru. Its inner purpose is to purify the atmosphere around the object worshiped, establish a connection with the inner worlds and invoke the presence of the Divine or one’s guru.

Sadhana: is a term for “a means of accomplishing something” or more specifically “spiritual practice”.

Sahasrara: : Sahasrara chakra symbolizes detachment from illusion; an essential element in obtaining supramental higher consciousness of the truth that one is all and all is one.

Often referred as thousand-petaled lotus, it is said to be the most subtle chakra in the system, relating to pure consciousness, and it is from this chakra that all the other chakras emanate. When a yogi is able to raise his or her energy  up to this point, the state of Samādhi, or union with God, is experienced. It is often related to the pineal gland and the violet colour.

Sankalpa: “Will; purpose; determination.” A solemn vow or declaration of purpose to perform any ritual observance. Most commonly, sankalpa names the mental and verbal preparation made by a temple priest as he begins rites of worship. During the sankalpa, he proclaims to the three worlds what he is about to do. He intones the name of the Deity, the type of ritual he is about to perform and the present time and place according to precise astrological notations. Once the sankalpa is made, he is bound to complete the ceremony.

Saraswati: “The flowing one.” Shakti, the Universal Mother; Goddess of the arts and learning, mythological consort of the God Brahma. Sarasvati, the river Goddess, is usually depicted wearing a white sari and holding a vina, sitting upon a swan or lotus flower. Prayers are offered to her for refinements of art, culture and learning. Sarasvati also names one of seven sacred rivers  mentioned in the Rig Veda. Parts of the Indus Valley civilization thrived along the river until it dried up in 1900BCE.

Shakti: “Power, energy.” The active power or manifest energy of Siva that pervades all of existence. Its most refined aspect is Parashakti, or Satchidananda, the pure consciousness and primal substratum of all form. This pristine, divine energy unfolds as icchha shakti (the power of desire, will, love), kriya shakti (the power of action) and jnana shakti (the power of wisdom, knowing), represented as the three prongs of Siva’s trishula, or trident. From these arise the five powers of revealment, concealment, dissolution, preservation and creation. In Saiva Siddhanta, Shiva is All, and His divine energy, Shakti, is inseparable from Him. This unity is symbolized in the image of Ardhanarishvara, “half-female God.” In popular, village Hinduism, the unity of Shiva and Shakti is replaced with the concept of Siva and Shakti as separate entities. Shakti is represented as female, and Siva as male. In Hindu temples, art and mythology, they are everywhere seen as the divine couple. This depiction has its source in the folk-narrative sections of the Puranas, where it is given elaborate expression. Shakti is personified in many forms as the consorts of the Gods. For example, the Goddesses Parvati, Lakshmi and Sarasvati are the respective mythological consorts of Siva, Vishnu and Brahma. Within the Shakta religion, the worship of the Goddess is paramount, in Her many fierce and benign forms. Shakti is the Divine Mother of manifest creation, visualized as a female form, and Siva is specifically the Unmanifest Absolute. The fierce or black (asita) forms of the Goddess include Kali, Durga, Chandi, Chamundi, Bhadrakali and Bhairavi. The benign or white (sita) forms include Uma, Gauri, Ambika, Parvati, Maheshvari, Lalita and Annapurna. As Rajarajeshvari (divine “Queen of kings”) She is the presiding Deity of the Shri Chakra yantra. She is also worshiped as the ten Mahavidyas, manifestations of the highest knowledge — Kali, Tara, Shodashi, Bhuvaneshvari, Chinnamasta, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagata, Matangi and Kamala. In the yoga mysticism of all traditions, divine energy, shakti, is experienced within the human body in three aspects: 1) the feminine force, ida shakti, 2) the masculine force, pingala shakti, and 3) the pure androgynous force, kundalini shakti, that flows through the sushumna nadi. Shakti is most easily experienced by devotees as the sublime, bliss-inspiring energy that emanates from a holy person or sanctified Hindu temple.

Shiva: meaning “Auspicious one”, also known as Rudra (the “Feared One”) or “‘The Destroyer”‘, is a major Hindu god and one aspect of Trimurti. In the Shaiva tradition of Hinduism, Shiva is seen as the Supreme God.

Followers of Hinduism who focus their worship upon Shiva are called Shaivites or Shaivas (Sanskrit Śaiva). Shaivism, along with Vaiṣṇava traditions that focus on Vishnu and Śākta traditions that focus on the goddess Devī are three of the most influential denominations in Hinduism. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva represent the three primary aspects of the divine, and are collectively known as the Trimurti. In this school of religious thought, Brahma is the Creator, Vishnu is the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva is the destroyer or transformer.

Attributes of Shiva are:

  • Third eye: Shiva is often depicted with a third eye, with which he burned Desire (Kāma) to ashes.
  • Crescent moon: Shiva bears on his head the crescent moon. The epithet Chandraśekhara (Having the moon as his crest” – chandra = “moon”, śekhara = “crest, crown”) refers to this feature. The origin of this linkage may be due to the identification of the moon with Soma.
  • Ashes: Shiva smears his body with ashes (bhasma).  Some forms of Shiva, such as Bhairava, are associated with a very old Indian tradition of cremation-ground asceticism that was practiced by some groups who were outside the fold of brahmanic orthodoxy.
  • Matted hair: Shiva’s distinctive hair style ,”the one with matted hair”, and “endowed with matted hair” or “wearing his hair wound in a braid in a shell-like (kaparda) fashion”. A kaparda is a cowrie shell, or a braid of hair in the form of a shell, or, more generally, hair that is shaggy or curly.
  • Blue throat: The epithet Nīlakaṇtha (nīla = “blue”, katha = “throat”)refers to a story in which Shiva drank the poison churned up from the world ocean, the Halāhala.

Swadisthahana: Swadhisthana, the second chakra,  is positioned at the tailbone, two finger-widths above Muladhara. Its corresponding point in the front of the body (i.e. its kshetram) is at the pubic bone.

Swadhisthana is associated with the unconscious, and with emotion. It is closely related to Muladhara in that Swadhisthana is where the different samskaras (potential karmas), lie dormant, and Muladhara is where these samskaras find expression. Swadhisthana contains unconscious desires.

Swadhisthana is said to contain Kriya Shakti. Kriya Shakti is “a power of thought” said to be greatly studied by yogis.

Vinyasa: Vinyasa is a Sanskrit word for artistic variations, literally it means putting things in a special place.  Yoga has long been counted in India as one of the 64 traditional arts.  In Vinyasa the “special place” is the way we practice from our awareness on the breath to the way we link postures. 

Vishuddhi: Vishuddha(or Vishuddhi ), the fifth chakra, is located at the throat centre. It is associated with the faculty of higher discrimination, between choosing what is right and wrong, and it is associated with creativity and self-expression. It is known as the ‘poison and nectar’ centre. When Vishuddha is closed, we undergo decay and death. When it is open, negative experience is transformed into wisdom and learning. Vishuddha is said to contain Jnana Shakti. Jnana Shakti is “the power of intellect, real wisdom, or knowledge”.

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