By Nataraja Guru



Acharya : Teacher, especially one with religious authority.


Advaita: Non-duality. The final establishment of unitive vision, when the vestiges of every shade of duality, whether psychological or cosmological, have been transcended by the man of philosophical vision.


Agastya: One of the first of the Vedic rishis, supposed to have crossed the Vindhya mountains and come to the south. His relation to Tamil literature and his status in the spiritual life of South India (which was up to then shut off apart from the North) from historic times have brought Agastya and Subrahmanya (q.v.) into the relation of Guru and Sishya. Agastya is the "Chiranjivi" or "ever-living" and Subrahmanya is the lightning-born son of Shiva. In the dialectical process of the revaluation of Indian, and particularly South Indian spirituality, there is a mutual recognition of the importance of these two figures in whom myth and history are blended. Agastya is also famed as the sage who drank up the seven seas.


Agni-hotra : The burnt-offering or fire sacrifice of the Vedas.


Aham Brahma Asmi: (see Maha-Vakya).


Ahimsa: The vow of non-hurting or compassion as understood in the Buddhist or Jaina religious systems. With Gandhi it meant non- violence in political struggles.


Akula: Literally, one without kula or clan. A term applied to Shiva, who was a disturber of sacrifices and an outcaste or non-caste.


Alankara: Rhetoric, especially treating of figures of speech. This with Kavya (q.v.) and Nataka (q.v.) are covered by students of Sanskrit.


Amitabha: Literally "boundless light," which became hypostasized in Northern Buddhism along the lines of the Gods and Goddesses of the Indian pantheon.


Ananda: Bliss. Should be understood in the context of the Good in Western philosophy as a supreme Value. Bounty, goodness and kindness are all conceptions depending upon a notion of value. Sat, existence; Chit, substantial being in a rational sense; and Ananda as a supreme value; are terms conjointly used to describe the Absolute in Vedanta, representing three stages in the appraisal of the true from the point of view of human intelligence. Ananda is thus supreme bliss or goodness and describes the Absolute in terms of human feeling.


Ananta: Literally "endless". Name of the snake upon which Vishnu is supposed to sleep, resting on the primordial milk-ocean of universal goodness. The name stands for eternity. The counterpart name is Adi-Sesha, meaning "what originally remains," i.e. the eternal, present from the most ancient antiquity. This snake is many-headed, signifying the multi-sided nature of creation at any given moment.


Ante-Vasi: One who dwells near. Term applied to a disciple in the ancient Gurukulas of India, where the disciples spent years in the household of the Guru, serving the master and maintaining the fires of the household.


Anubhava: (Anu, according; bhav, to become) When the mind by intellectual sympathy enters into the reality of a subject with full sense of identity with it, as when a man of wisdom enters Brahman-knowledge and thus becomes Brahman in effect, his is a state of anubhava.


Apara: see Para.


Aranyaka: The four Vedas were later supplemented and appended with extra portions dealing with many injunctions and laws connected with various rituals. The simplicity of Vedic worship gave place to elaborate discussions on the merits of certain rituals and their validity, etc. Before attaining to the status of proper critical discussion, this body of literature came to be known as Aranyaka,  both because of the complicated nature of the teaching (a forest - Aranya), as also perhaps because of the stage of forest life (Vana- prastha) to which the injunctions often referred. They mark the pre-Upanishadic stage in the development of Vedic lore as it developed through the centuries.


Artha-Vada: The exegesis of Vedanta. Discussion of meaning, as opposed to Vidhi (q-v.), which implies ritualist injunctions.


Aryan: Name applied vaguely by historians to tribes who crossed over the Himalaya and penetrated into the matrix of the Indian life of prehistoric times, which consisted of various amorphous formations, including the so-called proto-Dravidians.


Ashram: A place of retreat for peaceful cessation of duties or ritualistic activities, where those who have become sannyasis or those who are initiates in such a path or way of life, live in small self-sufficient communities, independent of the surrounding society, and with an universal outlook on life as members of an open world community. It may have been derived from A-, prefix meaning up to the point of, and Shrama, effort, as Ashrams are places where all the preparatory stages to spiritual effort may be carried out in peace and seclusion.


Asuras: The opposite of Suras or Devas (the fair or bright entities inhabiting the Vedic heaven). Demons. These might have come into being with reference to anyone who opposed the Aryan penetration ideologically or in historical actuality Bhu-Sura, the earthly god, is a term which would seem to lend support to this view, as it connotes a Brahmin complete with sacrifices and his twice-born quality, on wearing the sacred thread, which is a kind of baptism in Brahminhood. The conflict between the Devas and Asuras permeates the whole of the spiritual literature of the Vedic Indians and has to be understood historically or in pure dialectics, according to the requirements of the context. Max Mueller thinks there is an affinity between Ahura (Ahura Mazda) of the Zoroastrians and Asura.


Asva-Medha: Form of Horse-Sacrifice of Vedic times, in which a ruler re-established his right to de facto rulership of his kingdom by letting loose a white horse. Any rival could stop the horse, which was equivalent to taking up the gauntlet against him. The king's prowess was proved by vanquishing such rivals and by the emptying of his treasury and bestowal of gifts. The Asva-Medha was said to have taken place every ten years. The later Rama story, Uttara Rama Charita (q.v.) centres round this theme.


Atman: The Real, viewed psychologically as the Supreme or universal Self. The Atman is further distinguishable as the Paramatman, the Supreme Self, and the Jivatman or Individual Self respectively.


Aum: As the Word of Words, this represents the Absolute, combining Logos and Nous as understood in the Greek context. The three letters A, U and M are said to correspond to the open, the half-closed or subtle and the closed or the purely psychic, worlds; thus inclusively covering the cosmological, psychological and spiritual grounds of being or reality as conceived in terms of the Absolute.


Avarana: Anything which veils the vision or reality, as in the case of a thin cloth or smokescreen. A subtle and general state of ignorance is suggested, also a lazy or negative state of mind, as in the case of a cow frightened by a red cloth. Degrees of Svarana can be imagined, and the philosopher has to have a vision cleared of this smoke.


Avatar: Manifestation of divinity in human form, implying descent from above, and associated primarily with Vaishnavite religion. The ten avatars of Vishnu are

(1) Matsya, the Fish;

(2) Varaha, the Boar;

(3) Kurma, the Tortoise;

(4) Narasimha, the Man-Lion;

(5) Vamana, the Dwarf-Brahmin (q.v.);

(6) Parasu-Rama, Rama-of-the-Axe;

(7) Rama (q.v.);

(8) Balarama;

(9) Buddha, and

(10) Kalki, the avatar yet to come.


Avidya: Nescience; equivalent of Maya (q.v.) or darkness, and the opposite of Vidya (q.v.)


Ayurveda: Medical lore descending from Vedic times though having nothing to do directly with religion, is often called Ayurveda, or the wisdom pertaining to ayus or life.




Bahuleya: Another name for the six-headed god, Subrahmanya (q.v.).


Bhadra-Kali: That aspect of Kali, the feminine creative urge of becoming which is personified in the symbology of the Shiva system.


Bhadra suggests safety or protection to the devotee.


Bhagavad Gita ; A part of the Maha-Bharata (q.v.), consisting of eighteen  chapters, in which Krishna as God instructs Arjuna, who is one of the Pandavas fighting the Kauravas, in the secrets of the mystical science of contemplation called Brahma-Vidya or Yoga-Shastra.  It is supposed to contain the quintessence of all the Upanishads, and to continue Vedic tradition without breaking with orthodoxy, but in revalued terms. It is fundamentally a dialogue or samvada between a Teacher and Disciple (Guru and Sishya), which for reasons of an epic setting, in this case are Krishna and Arjuna. They serve the philosophical subject matter as apt literary devised figures in the strikingly realistic situation of a battlefield, where problems face them most squarely.


Bhakti: The devotional type of religious life in which emotions have a large place. In his writings the Guru Narayana, however, makes no distinction between meditation or self-reflection and devotion in the sense of bhakti.


Bhashya: Commentary, particularly on philosophic texts.


Bhikshu: Originally referred to the mendicant religious priests of the Buddhist religion. The Sannyasi of later Indian society conformed to this pattern of bhikshu in the revalued terms of the Bhagavad Gita. Bhiksha means alms, so that the Bhikshu is one who lives on alms and has given up all other social roles applicable to the four castes, or in recognized positions in the normal workaday life of society, (see Madhukara Bhiksha).


Bhima: The second of the five Pandava brothers of the Maha-Bharata war, who faced the Kauravas, the numerous tribe of Kuru. He was a man of gigantic proportions, thus conforming to prehistoric stalwart standards. Quantitative brute force as opposed to the refined spiritual quality of a later epoch were personified in this character


Bija-Akshara: Seed Word, Aum. This Aum contains, synoptically, all Vedantic Word-wisdom, and this is expounded in the Mandukya Upanishad, where cosmology and psychology meet in one central notion of the Logos, (see Aum).


Brahma: One of the members of the Indian pantheon as the first creator and source. He is four-faced, representing the four directions (with an up and down, zenith-nadir fifth sometimes added). As creator he is distinguished from the neutral Brahman, the Absolute, which is no god, but a philosophical Reality.


Brahmacharya: (from Brahman the Absolute, and Char to move). Moving in the path of Brahman. As a corollary, secondarily, this would include such disciplines as continence as helpful to realization; but sex is only one of the implied considerations in the discipline of a Brahmachari, who can continue to walk the path of Brahman as a married man later in his life when he has sufficiently controlled his instincts. In recent years undue stress has been laid on sex in relation to Brahmacharya, so that some even treat it as synonymous with continence in sex. But, as evidenced many times in the Upanishads, Rishis have been married and still been able to walk the path of Brahman.


Brahma-Sutras: Original aphorisms of canonical rank, which, together with the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads are known as the Prasthana Thraya or the three bases of belief. The Sutras, sometimes called Vedanta Sutras, are attributed to Badarayana, sometimes identified with Vyasa (q.v.) or Veda Vyasa. Their importance is enhanced as Sankara commented upon them, as also Madhva and Ramanuja. Their study thus gives a thorough grounding for a Brahmachari in Vedanta in its anterior and posterior forms, as restated by Sankara.


Brahma-Vidya : The Science of the Absolute as understood in the Vedantic context of non-dual wisdom.


Brahmin: One who conforms to the religion of the Vedas and initiated or confirmed by the bestowal of the sacred thread which causes him to be known as a "twice-born" (dvija) and fit thereby to assist at ceremonies of burnt offerings to the Gods of the Vedas. Socially he is the highest of the types of castes, statically viewed, in the Indian world of caste hierarchies, the others being Kshatriya (warrior), Vaishya (merchant) and Shudra (servant). Vedic learning and ritual accompanied the Brahmin as priest in the formation of society as it stratified with the penetration of the Aryans into the Indian matrix, about 1500 BC (see Pariah, Caste, Untouchable, Cheri).



Caste: This word originated with the Portuguese who came to India and founded mutually-exclusive groups here who would not interdine or intermarry. (Port. casta, from caste, pure; from Latin castus, pure, related to castigare, to cleanse or punish, castrare, to cut, and carere, to be without, lack). The idea of preserving a certain  purity of racial, religious or traditional strain based on a certain notion of chastity or purity was what the Portuguese observed. It has been used synonymously with the Sanskrit word jati, meaning species, or kind. In the period of Indian decadence the original concept became stratified in social life, giving rise to the well-known phenomenon of rigid caste distinctions, with untouchability as its extreme manifestation. Sonorous titles such as Varnashrama Dharma have been vaguely used in connection with this phenomenon of caste in India, and philosophical rationalization is sometimes sought by certain authorities for attachment to this purely instinctive and natural tendency to form closed static groups within society—a tendency sufficiently familiar, though in simpler forms, all over the world, to be in no need of further elaboration, (see also Brahmin and Pariah, Untouchable,  Cheri.


Charvaka : Literally "sweet-tongued". Materialists of the Indian philosophical context comparable to the Epicureans. If Epicureans are said to have preferred the red side of an apple, the Charvakas were supposed to have taken butter (ghee) even at the risk of being in debt for it. Though despised as materialists in Greece and India, much rational philosophy gets its initiative from the matter-of-fact attitude of the Charvaka-Epicurean materialists. The sceptic is here seen in his best light as opposed to a mere dogmatist.


Cheri: Tamil name applied to clusters of huts where "low-castes," generally live. Para-cheri is the place where Pariahs (q.v.) live. These places might be compared to Indian reserves in USA, although in India there is no legal reserved area.


Chingam or Simha: The constellation Leo which marks out the first of the zodiacal months in Malabar (quite apart from Mesham or Aries, which is used for calculations, astrology etc.).



Daksha: Evidently a person of some status in Vedic society, and for that reason refused to give his daughter in marriage to Shiva because he was an akula (q.v.), however, the marriage does take place mysteriously in spite of Daksha's objections. Dakshayani, the daughter, later proves her loyalty to Shiva, whom Daksha continues to slight, by her death at Daksha's famous sacrifice which is held without inviting Shiva.


Dakshina-Murti: Literary "the deity of the south." Name applied to a form of Shiva in which this god-hero is the Guru to the Vedic rishis. He is represented as seated on a stone facing the south under a spreading tree with a meditative light on his features and the Jnana-Mudra (q.v.) or wisdom-gesture formed by his right hand. Here in this image, Shiva gains ascendancy over Vedic wisdom and also triumphs in Kailas (the seat of the Vedic gods), In the context of Guru-wisdom Dakshina-Murti affords the archetype for Guru-hood; as this same pattern of a wise man seated under a tree runs right through historic tradition in perennial philosophy down to the most ancient of periods known on the Indian soil.


Dama: Checking and turning away of the mind from its distractions.


Darshana: Vision of a certain aspect, especially as seen from the particular point of view of a given system of philosophy. Facets of truth can be strung together systematically, so as to bring out the particularity of each, while revealing the truth of truth underlying the whole. In Vedanta, darshanas are thus studied in an interrelated fashion, as in the Sarva-Darshana-Sangraha and the Sarva Darshana Siddhanta Sangraha, which method finds its culminating example in modern times in the Darshana Mala (Garland of Visions) of a hundred verses in ten sections or Darshanas of ten verses each, of the Guru Narayana. The German word Anschauung corresponds to what is meant by Darshana.


Devas: Vedic heavenly entities, as opposed to Asuras (q.v.).


Dharma-Kshetra: Dharma stands for generalized religious or spiritual duty, while kshetra is "field "; so that the term would suggest a field, real or imaginary, in which the question of spiritual duty rests as a basis. More simply it is explained as the actual battlefield on which the Maha-Bharata (q.v.) war was waged.


Dravidian: Referred to by historians as being unlike the Aryans (q.v.) in colour and physiognomy and supposed to represent the most important proto-Aryan ethnic group, especially persisting to the present day in the south of India, and also represented by various hill-tribes in pockets and in isolated areas all over India.


Drona or Drona Acharya: As teacher was the family priest on the side of the Kauravas in the Maha-Bharata war. He conformed to the Vedic priestly type. (see Maha-Bharata).


Dvaita: or Suddha-Dvaita is that school of Indian philosophy, such as that of Madhvacharya which stops short at the recognition of the dual nature of God and devotee, as belonging to two final or irreducible categories in life. Monistic belief is implicit in the idea of Godhead, and the duality is only the coloration of the particular method adopted by this school.



Ekalavya: Prince of a hunter-tribe who was refused instruction in archery by Drona, who had caste prejudice. Ekalavya, however, managed to master the art indirectly by devotion to a dummy of Drona on which he concentrated to obtain the required skill. Discovering this violation of his rights, Drona penalised Ekalavya in a damaging way, by demanding his thumb to be cut off by way of Guru's remuneration, thus spitefully disabling Ekalavya as an archer.



Ganesha: The elephant-headed god, the eldest-born to Shiva and Parvati. He is also called Ganapati, which would suggest that he is the first of the Ganas or beings (from Gan to count; and pati, chief). Ganapati has always to be propitiated first in prayers or ceremonies so that no hindrances may befall an undertaking, such as the writing of a book, etc. Ganapati is pot-bellied and has the rat or field-mouse as his Vahana, or vehicle. One of his tusks is also broken, and with the broken piece he is supposed to have written the Maha-Bharata to the dictated recitation on the epic by its author, Vyasa.


Ganga: The river Ganges. Often spoken of as representing the creative urge originating in the head of Shiva. This sky or mind-river (Akasa-Ganga) was brought down to earth by the penance of Bhagirata, and when it did descend for the benefit of humanity it came in such torrents that Shiva had to make it flow through his locks of hair lest it should be catastrophic to mankind. Creation has its benefits for humanity and the good value represented by water is the overflowing bounty of God in the symbolic form of the Ganges, or Ganga.


Gokarna-Nath: Name given by the Guru Narayana to a temple which he established in Mangalore.


Gowri : One of the Shaktis of Shiva. (see Parvati) The white rather than the dark or terrible aspect (see Kali).


Grihastha : The householder, as a stage in life, in the scale of spiritual progress outlined in Indian religious books, (see also Vana-prastha). This stage corresponds to that of a married man who has his social obligations and duties in keeping with the scriptures, in particular as laid down in the Vedas, which must be adhered to by necessity.


Guna: Quality or functional peculiarity in nature. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas (q.v.) are the three specialising gunas found in nature, besides other numerous manifested qualities or functions.


Guru: (from gu darkness, and ru to counteract) The banisher of darkness or ignorance. A spiritual teacher or preceptor.



Haimavati: or Haimatisvari: Haimavati, daughter of the Snows or Himalaya; Isvari, goddess. The same as Uma (see Uma and Parvati). One of the Shaktis of Shiva.


Hara: Original name signifying Shiva, counterpart of Hari who is Vishnu incarnate. In later times Hara and Hari became fused as Hari-hara, thus bringing into coalescence the Vishnu and Shiva currents of religious symbology.


Hina-Yana: The Lesser Path. Used to mark out the southern Buddhist teachings in a somewhat derogatory way.


Hitopadesha: Stories with moral precepts, found in Sanskrit literature.


Hita, beneficent; Upadesha, precept. Widely used by students.



Indra: The first of the gods of the Vedic heaven with Mithra, Varuna and other presiding deities of phenomenal aspects. Indra's heaven is one where all desires are fulfilled, and where plenty prevails. Isvara: Master of the World; One Supreme.



Jagat: The derived meaning suggests something that moves or revolves according to the movement, sometimes cyclic, like Samsara. The phenomenal world of cycles of seasons or of births and deaths is implied.


Jagat-Guru: A Guru or preceptor, as distinguished from the patriarch of a tribe or the leader of a parochial religion. What is stressed is the universal nature of the authority and the teaching here. All mystical teachers or contemplatives who identify themselves with no closed or static group may be said to be world or universal Teachers in this sense.


Jatakas: Birth-stories. Used to describe the various incarnations of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas.


Jivan Mukta: One who attains release in life.


Jivatma: Individual soul viewed as a living being. This individual soul or jiva which has spiritual elements implicit in its nature is the subject of transmigration from body to body as described in Chapter XV of the Bhagavad Gita.


Jnana Mudra: The mudra is a finger-gesture. These are found in icons in India and have their conventional meanings, forming indeed an important part of the dance-dramas of India, where speech can be conveyed by mudras. The mudra referred to here is that which is interposed between a Guru and his disciple, as in the case of Dakshina-murti (q.v.). It is evidence that the teaching concerns wisdom (jnana), and is formed by the junction of the index and thumb tip to tip to form a circle, the other three fingers being together rigid in line with the palm. (see Dakshina-murti).


Jnanin: One who has attained enlightenment. Jnana means wisdom, as contrasted with karma (works). The jnana-marga or the way of wisdom gives primacy to reason and intuition.



Kali: (from Kala, time) Dark and terrible aspects of time personified as the process of creative becoming. In its tragic aspect it is Kali. The smoky flame of a sacrificial fire is also called Kali or dark, in the Mundaka Upanishad (I, ii. 4.).


Kama or Kama-Deva: The Eros of India. Rati is his consort. The central eye of Shiva which erupts fire is said to have burnt Kama to ashes when Kama aimed his flowery-arrow at Shiva in order to make him erotic, as commissioned by the gods who needed a martial deity. The war-god was born, however, without erotic love in circumstances portrayed by Kalidasa in his poem called Kumara Sambhava (The Birth of the War-God), (q.v.)


Kamadhenu: The wish-fulfilling cow of Indian mythology.


Kanda: As in "karma-kanda" refers to section or part. Jnana-kanda designates the philosophical section, while the karma-kanda refers to the ritualistic or religious section.


Kanji: Rice gruel. This has become almost an English word. Kanji is the basic food of the people of South India, including Malabar. It is perhaps the most primary form of cooked food existing in any part of the world.


Kanya-Kumari; (Cape) Comorin, the extreme southern tip of the Indian peninsula. On the grey-black rocks there is an ancient temple dedicated to the memory of the Mother-Principle which has a very ancient history. It is mentioned by the ancient Greek author of the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (1st century A.D.). Rama (in the Ramayana epic, q.v.) worships at Kanya-Kumari, thus sanctifying the place in the later Vishnu context of Indian spirituality. Kanya is a virgin, Kumari, a maid; and so Kanya-Kumari equates with the Christian concept of the Virgin Mary.


Karma: All action is included under this term, more especially ritualistic action. In individual psychology it stands for the accumulation of tendencies referring to past habits recorded in the personality, as it lives and is determined by the conditionings of the past. The accumulated effect of habits from the past culminates as a fatal Nemesis. When the tendency to be active is regulated or sublimated by higher considerations and disciplines, it is referred to as Karma-yoga. Ethically revised action or Karma becomes Dharma or right action in the sense of religious duty.


Karthyayani: One of the Shaktis of Shiva. (see Parvati).


Kartikeya: Another name for Subrahmanya. (q.v.)


Kavya: Minor heroic poetical work in Sanskrit, such as Kalidasa´s Kumara Sambhava. (q.v.).


Khaddar: (or Khadi) A Hindi word meaning homespun and hand-woven stuff, whether of cotton, silk or wool, but more usually cotton.


Krishna: Chief of the Yadava tribes, and an incarnation of Vishnu. (see Yadava, Maha-Bharata, Bhagavad Gita, etc.).


Kshetra-Kshetrajna: Field and Knower of the Field. The Field or ground can be psychological or spiritual as well as actual. These terms correspond to the actual and perceptual aspects of reality. The entire Chapter XIII of the Bhagavad Gita is devoted to this discussion and the distinction between these two aspects of field and knower, in itself constitutes one of the central problems of philosophy.


Kumara Sambhava: A minor Sanskrit epic by Kalidasa, literally, "The Birth of the War-god Kumara". In their struggle against the demons (asuras) the gods (devas) badly needed a warrior-god and approached Brahma to this end, who counselled that they should somehow make Shiva, who was then steeped in meditation, fall in love with a woman. Kama Deva (Eros) (q.v.) was selected to tempt him for this purpose, and Kama Deva came with his wife, Rati, choosing the moment when Uma (q.v.) came with offerings, to let fly at him the flowered dart of erotic temptation. Shiva caught Kama Deva before the arrow left his bow, and in his anger, Shiva opened his third eye whose glance reduced Kama Deva to ashes.


Kural: See Tiru Kural.


Kuru-Kshetra: The same as Dharma-Kshetra (q.v.) whereon the battle between the Pandavas and the Kauravas was waged, as mentioned at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita. Literally it means "the Field of Kuru", and is a geographically identifiable locality as opposed to Dharma-Kshetra which is ideological only.



Lakshanartha : Figurative sense of statement as opposed to its actual or literal meaning. If not understood figuratively, many of the sayings in the Upanishads become puerile or enigmatic. Sankara justifies many passages which at first sight seem to be contradictory by making this distinction between Vachyartha (literal) (q.v.) and Lakshanartha (metaphorical or figurative) meaning.


Lakshmi: The consort of Vishnu; the personification of the principle of plenty and prosperity. She is lotus-born and with four arms; one of the first results of the churning of the ocean of good and evil, symbolising a central human value when looked at from the utilitarian point of view. After the highly negative and lifeless values of decadent Buddhist periods, Lakshmi or Sri as a principle of good or Godhead gained popularity in India which she holds to the present day. Often suggesting even a sloppy love of comfort in certain pleasure-loving minds.


Lanka: Ancient name for Ceylon. In the time of the Ramayana (q.v) the ruler of Lanka was Ravana.


Lingam: Literally anything that constitutes a sign or symbol. The male and female sex organs as symbols are referred to as lingams, Pullingam meaning male sex symbol, and Strilingam marking the feminine. The Shiva-lingam which is the phallic symbol of Shiva is a spherical stone which is an object of worship in India from prehistoric times. It is dressed up, anointed or washed with ablutive waters by way of respect or adoration in memory of the antique god Shiva.



Madhukara Bhiksha: The sannyasin is not supposed to enter a house where the kitchen fire is still smoking. As Manu prescribes he is not to impose himself at meal times without invitation. The best method for receiving alms is collection as the bee gathers nectar from many flowers, becoming rich without depriving anyone of a large portion. Madhukara is the honey-making bee; Bhiksha is receiving alms without making a nuisance of oneself, (see Bhikshu).


Mahabali : One of the last of the Buddhist emperors whose rule extended to South India. Popular folk-song in Malabar preserves his name as Maveli which is interpreted to be the same as Mahabali Chakravarti. Vamana (q.v) is said to have cheated him of his kingdom by a trick. This mythical and historical episode is perhaps meant to convey the dominating ascendancy of Vishnu as Trivikrama or Vamana after the decadent last days of Buddhism in India which became displaced by more living human values as embodied in the Vishnu religion which was restated and revalued at the time of Ramanuja and others.


Maha-Bharata: The greatest of the Indian epics, named after Bharata, an emperor of ancient India. Like Homer's Odyssey it contains the account of the exploits of two rival groups, in this case the Pandavas and the Kauravas, and is recorded in verse, presumably by the sage Vyasa, who also wrote or edited the Vedas. (See also Bhagavad Gita).


Mahatma: (Maha, great; Atma, soul) One of great soul. A spiritual man of God.


Maha-Vakya: Literally, "great word". Applied to the conclusive formulae of Vedantic wisdom, such as Aham Brahma-Asmi (I am Brahman); Tat-tvam-asi (That thou art); Aum Tat Sat (Aum, That is what is Real); Ayamatma-Brahma (This Self is Brahman); Prajnanam Brahma (Brahman is consciousness).


Maha-Yana: The Great Path. Used to mark out the northern Buddhist teachings, in a somewhat superior way.


Mahesvara: The Great God. Applied to Shiva as last of the members of the so-called Hindu trinity with his function of destroyer, as against creator (Brahma) and preserver (Vishnu). These three, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, form the Trimurti symbol which emerged as a result of synthetic assimilation and revaluation of spirituality.


Mala: Garland, rosary (of pearls or beads).


Malaya: Region referred to by Kalidasa and others in Sanskrit; the pepper and coconut coastal region of the West Coast of South India, (see end of Apte's "Sanskrit Dictionary").


Malayalma: A script almost extinct, belonging to the early days of the Malayalam language.


Mantra: An aphoristic formula to be repeated for psychic or cosmic effects to follow as a consequence. Any short, effective, or potent saying.


Marga: Path, applied to various approaches to wisdom or salvation.


Maya: Connotes a factor of epistemological and methodological importance in Sankara's Vedanta especially, and in the Upanishadic  lore generally. Whatever is postulated as the cause of the unreal spoken of in the most generic of categorical terms in philosophy, as against theology, is to be laid at the door of Maya. It is the basis of duality or synergic antinomies. The nearest Western equivalent is the Negativität of Hegel's system.


Mimamsa: Literature of the Vedic or Vedantic tradition treated critically. Critique or Inquiry.


Moksha: "release", signifying final emancipation.


Mukti: Normally refers to release that is gained after death.


Mumukshutva: The state of being an aspirant for wisdom or having a restless desire for liberation.



Nachiketas: Youth mentioned in the Katha Upanishad who has a discussion with Death who instructs him in higher wisdom, as distinct from mere ritual. He represents the youthful, bright spirit of man desirous of emancipation, while his father typifies the failure and bankruptcy of life dominated by ritual and longing for heaven.


Naimittika: When applied to karma or actions, refers to such acts as are not daily or routine (see Nitya) but which arise incidentally from a given situation not anticipated in the usual course of daily routine life. Both Naimittika and Nitya actions belong to the domain of necessary life activity.


Narada: A dubious sort of holy figure or rishi who moves between the Devas (q.v.) and men and used perhaps in Indian literature whenever the Aryan and pre-Aryan sets of spiritual values had to be related through the aid of literary devices. He is a tale-bearer, reporting the vicious and virtuous, and recommending appropriate reward and punishment. Narada is the reputed author of the Bhakti Sutras or Aphorisms of Devotion, and he carries a stringed instrument as he moves from one plane of existence to another. He is more Vedic than pre-Vedic.


Narayana; One who sleeps on the primordial waters (Nara, water; ayana, to lie in repose). Creation, before Brahma gave it the four directions, symbolized by his four heads, has the indefinite nature of all-pervading water ("God moved upon the face of the waters" as Genesis, I, 2 puts it) on which the numinous principle of life or creation was supposed to recline. This image of creation formed the background of the later Vishnu tradition which itself suffered many changes through history and became the Vasudeva (q.v.) tradition of the Bhagavad Gita (q.v.) epoch. In the original Narayana scheme, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma met without distinction as the Adi-Narayana, the first divinity of creation, or the primordial Man or Nara, when called Nara-Narayana.


Nataka: Drama.


Nataraja: The dancing Shiva. The virile cosmic principle which Shiva stands for is seen dancing on a demon in the familiar bronze statues. The Shiva dance is referred to in various mythic contexts, where the glory of Shiva is emphasised as against later intrusions into this prehistoric tradition.


Neti-Neti: This refers to the method of negative reasoning, which is at the basis of the Vedantic approach to wisdom. Literally it means "Not this, not this". By the elimination of the irrelevant and extraneous factors which prevent the coming of wisdom, illumination results automatically, without effort or action. This corresponds to the 'via negativa' of the European mystics, such as Eckhart, Tauler, Boehme, Dionysius the Areopagite, etc. The nivritti marga (q.v.) or path of withdrawal, which is often opposed to the pravritti marga (q.v.) or path of action, means also the same attitude of disciplined negation.


Nila-Kanta: Blue-throated. Reference to Shiva, whose neck was turned blue and remained so for ever as a distinguishing mark, after he drank the Hala-hala poison which was first thrown up when the milk-ocean was churned under his auspices by the gods (devas) and the demons (asuras) of later Vaishnavite mythology. Beneficent values succeed harmful ones, representing extreme positions. If the poison had not been quaffed by the kindness of Shiva who was immune to poisons, humanity would have been destroyed. The worst that it could do was to leave the permanent spectral blue band on his throat.


Nimitta Karana: Indian schools of logic or reasoning admit of different classes of causes. To take a favourite example, the pot has its material cause in the mud. The potter makes the pot by mixing mud and shaping it on his wheel. This is incidental and not essential to the situation. In this sense this instrumental cause is the Nimitta Karana.


Nirvana: Extinction of all desires in a kind of pure void of the Absolute consciousness.


Nirvikalpa: Without vikalpa (mental acts) involved. It is a term applied to the state of enlightenment which in its highest sense is said to be devoid of mental activities in any form. The lower stage is distinguished as savikalpa, with mentation as its condition.


Nir-Visesha: Non-specialized; term used by different schools of Vedantic philosophy. Not giving primacy to effect but to the basic ontological aspect of reality. (See Satkarana-Vada, Satkarya-Vada and Visishta-Advaita).


Nishkama (karma): (Nish-, without; Kama, passion) That kind of necessary activity which the yogi or aspirant adopts, cleared of all desire motivation; as if dedicated to the good of humanity or to a universal principle of Good or God, which thus tends to diminish rather than increase the urge or pressure of the instincts.


Nitya: When applied to karma or actions means all the routine of necessary actions which follow one another in the course of daily life, like eating and bathing, etc. (see Naimittika).


Nivritti Marga: The path of withdrawal. The word Nirvana comes from the same root. This is related to "neti, neti" (q.v.), or the "via negativa". It means sinking into one's own true nature by withdrawing the mind from outward-going attachments, the final culmination of this process being Nirvana.



Panchatantra: A Sanskrit book of stories and fables sometimes thought to be the prototype for such works as Aesop's Fables and other similar collections in the West.


Para: Beyond; pertaining to the Ultimate or Supreme; as opposed to the immanent here-and-now aspect of reality which is apara. It could mean transcendent. (cognate with the English word "far").


Parama-Hamsa: Literally "Supreme Swan." Spoken of as signifying the ultimate stage of detachment, illumination and peace reached by the mystic or yogi. May be cognate with the analogy in Plato where he describes the soul as a bird whose feathers grow as it looks upwards beyond the world of dualities, and ultimately surpasses even the middle-region of the gods in its winged flight to supreme freedom or happiness.


Paramartika: This is contrasted with Vyavaharika (q.v.). The pure, rational or idealist aspect of life which has little or nothing to do with social or other obligations or necessities. (Parama-, ultimate; and artika, as the aim).


Paramatma: The Supreme or the Absolutely conceived Self. Can be equated cosmologically with the concept of Brahman, or ethically with Ananda or Bliss as a supreme value.


Parasara: The father of Vyasa, otherwise called the Veda Vyasa (see Vyasa). Parasara was born of a Pariah woman, which must mean that he was non-Aryan in origin, Vyasa himself was born from a fisher-woman.


Pariah: The proto-Aryan remnants of the civilization, which was overrun by Vedic civilization, were mostly to be recognised as drummers on ceremonial occasions in the vanguard of processions. They were the vanquished and were outside the pale of the new Aryanized formation. Comprising many of the tribes or groups who lived away from the villages, they were considered untouchables, although in the purely spiritual context of India they have always occupied a very important, though little-recognized place. The word "pariah" is derived from "para" the drum, thus revealing affinities with the prehistoric drummer of the Indian scene, (see also Brahmin and Caste, Untouchable, Cheri).


Parvati: The consort or shakti aspect of Shiva. She is the daughter of the Himalaya and is also a huntress, and known under various aspects in mythology and iconography.


Pasu-Pati: Both this term and pasam are basic concepts in the ancient Shiva religion. Pasu is creation, in the sense of beasts or animals of all kinds, while Pati is the master or creator. Pasam is the bondage in which all life is trapped. Pasupati is Shiva visualized as surrounded by animals, thus bringing together dialectical counterparts belonging to a situation which is typical of the spiritual attitude cultivated by the Saivites.


Patashala: (Pata, lesson; shala, house) "The old school-house".


Prachhanna Baudha: Nickname sometimes applied by orthodox ritualists in India, of the type of Kumarila Bhatta and Mandana Misra, to Sankara, who in their eyes seemed to be hiding his heterodox Buddhist views under a false garb. The term means "Buddhist in Disguise".


Prajapati: Name applied to the creator as the progenitor or originator of all people, who are his subjects, and representing an ontological version of Brahma the creator conceived in a human relationship.


Pratyaksha: Given to the senses in a strictly empirical sense: as when we see and touch a pot. This is a form of knowledge of which paroksha or conceptual knowledge is the opposite counterpart in the parlance of Vedanta.


Pravritti Marga: The Path of Action, as opposed to the Path of Negation. (see Nivritti Marga). Here the mind goes forward to the outer world and wins domination over the forces of nature through ritual or science. Here primacy is given to the objective approach.


Preshta: Friend; one who is dear. A term sometimes applied by a Guru to an intelligent disciple who is often a questioner, like Theaetetus to Socrates. The term of endearment between a Guru and a Sishya is a natural attitude in the teacher-disciple relationship of contemplation.


Priya: Anything of value capable of giving pleasure whether applied to things, persons or ideas. Asti, Bhati and Priya are the three philosophical categories pertaining to the Real which can exist, enter consciousness and be desirable, respectively.


Purana: Literally, ancient¸ the accumulation of legends of antiquity.


Purushottama: The Absolute principle of Godhead as distinct from demiurges and divinities of various religious expressions. Purusha in Samkhya philosophy is the spiritual principle, as contrasted with Prakriti, or nature. When Advaita revalues this concept of Purusha in an effort to raise it above all taint of dual implications, the idea of Purushottama arises, as in the XVth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, where there is a transcendence of both the eternal and the transient aspects of reality. Probably akin to "The Most High" of the Bible.


Purva Mimamsa: For purposes of classification, Vedic lore has been divided into Purva, or former, earlier; and Uttara, later, divisions. This division has to be understood both in the historical and literary sense. The Purva Mimamsa (Earlier Critique) is where ritualist injunctions and obligatory rules are discussed critically by Jaimini. (see Uttara Mimamsa).


Purva-Pakshin: (from purva-paksha, prior side). The anterior position of doubt represented by the disciple in his dialogue-relations with the Guru. The Guru's finalized standpoint in the argument is the Siddha-anta, meaning the attained end, or conclusion.


Pushan: One of the Vedic divinities pertaining to the Sun.



Rajas: The stage in nature in which the equilibrium is disturbed so as to produce every action in the form of fighting or sport. In the human type represented by the warrior, (see Sattva, Tamas and Guna).


Rama; Hero of the Ramayana (q.v.). He was the personification of political, royal and Aryan virtues, as understood by Valmiki (q.v), the author of the original Ramayana.


Rama-Rajya: (Rajya, kingdom or regime). Refers to the relationship, much praised as the ideal state by Gandhi, as between the ruler and the ruled, at the time of Rama. See Ramayana, Sita, Uttara Rama Charita).


Ramayana: An epic (like the Maha-Bharata) composed by Valmiki (q.v.) centred round the history of Rama, (q.v.) King of Ayodhya, who travelled to the extreme south of India and to Ceylon. The Ramayana brings into juxtaposition the Aryan and the proto-Aryan civilizations of India, (see Uttara-Rama-Charita, Sita).


Rati: Passions; forms of affectivity or attachment and considered  impediments to spiritual progress. In mythology Rati is personified as the wife of Kama-Deva (q.v).


Rishi: Name applied to wise sages of ancient India who lived generally in the seclusion of forests and wrote holy scriptures of canonical importance and classical value. They were not necessarily monks, and many of them had their wives living with them. Maharshi means a great rishi.


Ritham: In the Vedas and Upanishads a subtle distinction is often implied between what is real in its "here and now" aspect and the real as conceived conceptually. The latter is often referred to as satyam or the true, while the former would; refer to existent aspects of reality.



Sahodaryam: Brotherhood.


Sama: Calm testing of the mind on the goal to be attained.


Samadhana : A settled and peaceful state of mind non-agitated by fancy, curiosity or imagination, but firmly established in the Real or Brahman.


Samadhi: Ultimate peace or illumination, that goal which the yogi is said to attain.


Sambhuti; The process of becoming, as in creation. Contrasted with Vinasha (in the Isa Upanishad) or dissolution. A pair of dialectical counterparts,


Samuch-chaya: Taken together. Used in speaking of mixing of Jnana-Karma, (wisdom and works). This mixing has been questioned by Sankara. According to him such joining of contrary aims leads to absurdities philosophically and practically. Jnana (wisdom) alone, to him, can lead to release or moksha.


Sanat Kumara: A typical sage of the Vedic context. Sanaka, Sananda, and Sanat-Kumara were the Himalayan rishis who were taught by Dakshina-Murti (q.v.) or Shiva, when he attained to Kailas as the Guru of all Gurus. These ancient teachers are sometimes portrayed as youthful Brahmins who learnt wisdom of the negative type from the Southern Guru or god Dakshina-Murti.


Sangraha: Synopsis; summarised account. Description applied to works such as Sarva Darshana Sangraha which reviews the philosophical position of former philosophers so as to bring them into line historically to a developed culmination in thought such as the Vedanta of Sankara. The authorship of the Sarva Darshana Sangraha has been questioned on internal evidence, and it is often attributed to a disciple of, rather than to Sankara himself. The Darshana Mala of the Guru Narayana also reviews philosophy in this style but presents it in a more symmetrically conceived frame- work of epistemology and methodology.


Sanyasa: The act of renunciation, especially of ritualistic Vedic religious life in favour of monastic life of austerity, where philosophy gains the foreground and has primacy in the life of the individual.


Sanyasin: One who has taken to Sanyasa. Generally in India the Sanyasin or renouncer wears a yellow ochre dress, has a shaven head, and carries a danda or staff and a kamandalu or water-pot. He wanders homeless and depends upon Bhiksha or freely given alms. In the post-Buddhist period, under the leadership of Sankara, this order became more and more prevalent and recognized in India.


Sarada: Synonym for the feminine counterpart of the Shiva principle, called Shakti, which is a creative urge as viewed in cosmic manifestation or existence. Shakti is "becoming" as against "being". This same principle has been variously described in mild or terrible forms in relation with black Kali, who is time with its consuming terrors personified. Uma, Haimavati and other goddesses also represent Shakti in varying grades, but Saraswati or Sarada is praised by Kalidasa and Sankara as the most refined and cultured personification as visualized in classical Sanskrit and in Vedanta. At the other end of this scale, as the crudest and harshest aspect would come Bhadra Kali.


Saraswati: Otherwise known as Sarada or Bharati: The goddess of learning. Though born of a low-caste, occupies by the side of Shiva, as one of his consorts, a high place in the Indian pantheon. She is clad in pure white and carries a book and a musical instrument (the vina) as marks of culture and the fine arts; as opposed to her anterior counterpart Kali or Bhadra-Kali, who represents darker and more tragic aspects of cosmic reality personified in female form.


Sarvajna: The all-knower; one who his attained to wisdom regarding everything in a philosophic sense.


Sarvatra: Everywhere.


Sarva-Vit: (see Sarvajna) All-knower,


Sat-Chit-Ananda: (see Ananda).


Satkarana-Vada: That mode of argument or doctrine which gives primacy to cause as against effect. Advaita Vedanta as understood by Sankara is essentially of the Satkarana-Vada tendency in its methodology.


Satkarya-Vada: That mode of argument or that doctrine in which primacy is given to effect as against cause. All Vaiseshika schools in the Indian philosophical scene conform to this mode.


Sattva: To be understood in conjunction with Rajas and Tamas (q.v.). Prakriti or nature in its normal form, when subjected to the process of creative specialisation, manifests in three different levels. Tamas is the lowest of these in which there is inertia and lack of brilliance. In the human type this would be typified by Caliban. Sattva is the opposite of Tamas. Rajas is intermediate and implies some sort of activity, (see Guna).


Satya-agraha: (Satya, truth, agraha, desire) A word coined and used by Mahatma Gandhi to describe his method of non-violent resistance to certain forms of injustice. The term can mean a variety of politico-social duties or dharma as understood in the teachings of Gandhi.


Satya-Dharman: Term found in Isa Upanishad used to describe the worshipper who, himself aspiring to truth (Satya) and righteousness (Dharma), becomes the subjective counterpart of these ideas.


Satyam: (see ritham),


Seva Ashram: Ashram (q.v.), which combines some sort of social service in the sense of "good works" as understood in the West. This type of ashram became known in modern India under the leadership of Swami Vivekananda and others who stood for Shiva and Seva, religion and service, as conceived unitively.


Shakuntala: Daughter of Menaka, a beautiful goddess who gives birth to her on earth after a love affair with a mortal. Unable herself to look after the girl, she leaves her at the Ashram of Kanva in a forest. The episode of Shakuntala's love of King Dushyanta, who comes to the ashram while hunting, is the theme of the immortal Sanskrit drama of Kalidasa called Shakuntala, which has become world-famous today.


Shastra: Scientific treatise with definitions and following a certain method and conforming to recognized theories of knowledge. Thus the Bhagavad Gita is referred to as a Yoga-Shastra at the end of each of its chapters. All knowledge handed down in this way, whether religious or secular could be called a Shastra. (see Smriti).


Shat-sampatti: Literally, the six treasures, - the qualities which a Person who wishes to tread the path of wisdom should possess.  They include: Sama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksha, Shraddha, and Samadhana (q.v).


Shraddha: Intelligent confidence in the words of the Gurus of the past as preserved in their writings, as well as full trust in the teachings of the present Guru. This is often mistaken to be "faith" in the sense of blind belief. It is faith in an intelligent sense.


Shruti; Learning directly heard and learnt from a teacher fit to impart wisdom. All scriptures dealing with pure Vedantic wisdom.


Siddhanta: Finalized position of knowledge, taken as a conclusion of a set of arguments in philosophy, as opposed to the anterior position or Purva-paksha which represents the sceptic's or the disciple's point of view, which is the starting-point in the discussion.


Sikha: The tuft of hair allowed to grow posteriorly on the cranium; associated with ritualistic life. The rest of the hair is often shaved. When the whole head is shaved the significance is that all ritual has been given up for ever as with the sannyasin or bhikshu.


Sishya: One who submits himself for learning from a Guru. Guru and Sishya are inseparable counterparts, the one having no meaning independent of the other.


Sita: Wife and queen of Rama, hero of the Ramayana (q.v.) Ravana the demon-king of Lanka, infuriated by the insult of Rama to his sister Surpanakha, carried Sita from North India to Ceylon (Lanka), and the Ramayana tells the story of her recapture and return to Rama's capital, Ayodhya. For the later story, see Uttara Rama Charita, which deals with Sita's exile and ultimate disappearance into the womb of the Earth-Mother.


Shiva: The ancient hero-God from the times of prehistory, associated with radical virility and renunciation. He is an unconventional god like Dionysius, wearing skins and dancing in ecstasy, drunk with cosmic consciousness. He is the most ancient and the most important figure of the Indian pantheon, and occupies his seat in Benares and Kailasa.


Shiva-Ratri: A festival in honour of Shiva, the ancient god of dance, or the prehistoric hunter-hero (see Shiva). Crowds keep awake on this occasion throughout the whole night, with lights and drums.


Shivo-Ham: Literally, 'I am Shiva.' Corresponds to the Maha-Vakya (q.v.) in the Shiva context of Vedanta. One of Sankara's compositions ends with the refrain Shivoham.


Smartha: Pertaining to the Smritis (q.v.) or to those applied aspects of Upanishadic learning which influence the life of the disciple when he enters the life of a householder. The memory of what he has learnt directly from the Guru, which is the Upanishadic way of life as understood by him, is translated into the terms of everyday activity. This primary meaning has come to mean, in South India at least, a sect of "Brahmins", treated as a hereditary caste who are Shiva-worshippers as opposed to Vishnu-worshippers. But the Smarthas can also worship Vishnu, and Sankara is accepted as their Guru in Madras and South India generally.


Smriti: Learning or scriptural lore remembered by a student when he applies pure wisdom-teachings to his practical life. Obligatory conduct and works of religious duty (Dharma Shastras) belong to this category.


Subrahmanya: Synonymous with Kartikeya and Bahuleya who was supposed to be born in a lake by the light or glance of Shiva which fell there. Subrahmanya rides the peacock and is six-headed, being born to six mothers. This myth is supposed to be astronomical also in its import, as there is a group of six stars with the same name (possibly the Pleiades). Subrahmanya is younger brother to Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva. Subrahmanya is much adored in South India, and is mentioned also in the Vedas. (see Ganesa and Shiva).



Tamas: Inert aspect of nature. The opposite of Sattva. Heavy and dull. (see Sattva, Rajas and Guna).Tapas: (from root, tap to burn) Intense self-discipline in a secluded place or forest, aimed at spiritual illumination. It involves effort in Self-realization in which all instinctive impurities are burnt up.


Then-Galais: (Then-, south; Galai or Kala, aspect) Term applied to a Vishnu-worshipping sect of South India claiming to have  originated from the South, as opposed to the Vada-Galais, or  North-origin sect (q.v.). Wear white Y mark with central red  streak on forehead. Followers of Ramanuja.


Tiru-Kural: A Tamil work by Tiruvalluvar who belongs to the first century AD. Ethics, philosophy and mysticism blend in a wholesome perennial form of wisdom in this work which may be said to be a continuation of wisdom of the "prehistoric" India, more or less independent of the Vedic tradition. Tiruvalluvar was not a Brahmin, but a non-caste Indian, who in spite of this circumstance still holds a high place among the authoritative sages of India.


Titiksha: Endurance of the troubles incidental to the life of discipline without petulance or self-pity.


Triputi: Having three bases. Technical term in Vedanta referring to three aspects of cognition, namely the subjective, the objective and the process itself. The knower of the pot and the object called the pot and the knowledge of the pot would illustrate the three ways by which the same cognition could be viewed. Absolute knowledge is without this triple-based difference.


Tritiyam Sthanam: The third place or factor which is denied in the epistemology and methodology of Vedanta, at least according to Sankara's system. Like purgatory between heaven and hell, it is the ground of absurdities which belong neither to the here and now nor to the ultimate.


Tulsi: (Ocimum sanctum) A kind of basil plant of the labiate family, considered holy and said to have a purifying, antiseptic or anti- toxic effect. It is planted in front of orthodox Indian houses where women and children decorate it and adore it for its holiness. The Bel or Bilva (Aegle marmelos) and Tumbai (Leucas aspera), also a labiate, are sacred to Shiva, or even Vishnu. In most temples it is common to find these leaves dipped in holy water and sprinkled on idols as a preliminary to worship.



Uha-poha: That intuitive faculty which is akin to imagination or insight, or even critical acumen, which like statesmanship, chivalry or even craftsmanship is a gift with which certain persons are more endowed than others. It is more than what mere scholarship can give.


Uma: One of the Shaktis of Shiva, as the beautiful and radiant daughter of the Himalaya, portrayed in Kalidasa's Kumara Sambhava and  the Katha Upanishad (Khanda III, 12.) (see Parvati).


Untouchable; One whose touch is supposed to pollute a high-caste Indian. For economic and cultural reasons certain dominated sections of Indian society were considered so inferior to others that even approaching within a certain range of distance was objectionable, in certain areas where extreme caste-segregation prevailed, (see under Caste, Brahmin, and Pariah).


Upa-Dana-Karana: Material cause.


Upanishad: When the chapter of karma or ritualistic action has been transcended by a religious student or Brahmacharin, he is ready to receive the posterior philosophical teachings which constitute the Veda-anta (i.e." the end of the Vedas"). The Vedanta is non-theological, concerned with the Absolute or Brahman. The word is said to be derived from Upa, beside and Nishad, sitting; so that it is a teaching received by a disciple when he is allowed to sit and listen to philosophical teaching near, or by the side of the Guru. (see also Vedanta).


Uparati: Cessation of desire-motivation, especially when it applies to merit in the ritualistic sense of the Vedas. The seeking of heavenly pleasures would thus come under rati, in the sense implied here, as Prof. Max Mueller has pointed out. (f.n. Ch. I, of The Vedanta Philosophy).


Uttara Kanda: Later chapter or section. Refers to the philosophical developments arising out of the Vedic tradition.


Uttara Mimamsa: One of two divisions of Vedic lore (Uttara, later; as contrasted with Purva Mimamsa, (q.v.) or earlier inquiry or critique). Uttara Mimamsa, later Critique, comprises all thecritical literature where reason and Artha-Vada or discussion of meaning find a large place. All Vedantic works of a critical, rational character fall under this group.


Uttara-Rama-Charita: The posterior happenings in the life of Rama of the Ramayana (q.v.) of Valmiki (q.v.), as represented in the drama written by Bhavabhuti. It relates how Sita (q.v.) was banished to please popular opinion regarding chastity. Rumour held that Sita's chastity was sullied when she dwelt in the custody of Ravana, the demon-ruler of Lanka (q.v.). This act of political integrity has been the subject of much criticism inasmuch as private and public morality clash in this event. Lava and Kusa, twin sons of Rama, are born to Sita while she is in exile in the Ashrama of Valmiki; and as youths they engage in battle against Rama himself under the circumstances of the Asvamedha (q.v.)  Horse Sacrifice. The resolution of the situation occurs when their mother Sita comes to the scene of the battle and helps the children  to recognize their own father whose name has hitherto been kept  secret from them. After reconciliation, Sita is taken by Mother Earth into her domain and engulfed in a mysteriously tragic manner.



Vachyartha: Literal sense of statement as opposed to its figurative meaning, (see Lakshanartha).


Vada-Galais: (Vada, north; Galai or Kala, aspect) Term applied to Vishnu worshipping sect of South India, claiming origin from north, (see Then-Galais) Wear U-mark on forehead; followers of Ramanuja, and therefore Visishta-Advaitins.


Vairagya: The state of being without raga or passion, refers generally to detachment in the system of Vedantic self-discipline.


Vaishnava: Pertaining to the worship of Vishnu; secondarily means certain virtues and holy traits belonging to the Vishnu way of  life. Gandhi's favourite song describes these qualities; it begins "Vaishnava janato ..."


Valli: Name of a Kurava (or hunter) girl whom Subrahmanya, (q.v.),  supposed to have espoused at the instance of his father Shiva. The god Subrahmanya is familiarly called "the husband of Valli", a low-caste girl.


Valmiki: The rishi or sage who composed the Ramayana (q.v.) in Sanskrit. He is said to have been the contemporary of Rama, the hero of the epic, and in later parts of the epic, the Uttara Rama Charita (Later History of Rama) (q.v.) Valmiki himself figures with Rama's queen, Sita, (q.v.) whom he protects to his hermitage. Valmtki may be said to belong to the context of Vedic orthodoxy.


Vamana: One of the Avatars of Vishnu. In the legend he was a dwarf Brahmin who cheated Mahaballi (possibly one of the last of the Buddhist emperors of Kerala, the West Coast kingdom) of his kingdom by a ruse. As elaborated, the legend says Vamana asked the generous Mahaballi for a piece of land of just three  paces in extent But the "three paces" of this Avatar covered earth, heaven and underworld, including Mahaballi who placed his head for the third "step." (see Mahaballi, Avatar).


Vana-prastha: One who has entered the forest-life which is the third, penultimate stage of life. The other stages are the religious student Brahmachari), householder (grihastha), both former, and the renunciatory (sannyasi). (see under each).


Vardhamana-Maha-Vira : Leader of the Jain religion which flourished about the same time as Buddhism, and having the same ethical tendencies, with special stress on Ahimsa or non-hurting, Maha-Vira or the Great Hero, as the founder was called, had colossal nude statues erected in his honour all over India at that period.


Varna-Ashrama: (varna, colour) (see Ashrama): A term loosely applied to caste duties, formed of two component parts which belong to two contradictory contexts. Ashrama, besides signifying a place of retreat for sannyasins, is used to mark stages of life such as that of brahmacharin-student, householder and forest-dweller. In the domain of necessity where colour and class come in, Varanashrama would signify a certain pattern of conduct based on caste- distinctions in its primitive form or as rationalized by Manu and others.


Vasudeva: Became the popular name for Vishnu during the period of the Bhagavad Gita. Ekantika Bhakti or one-pointed and solitary devotion to the God Vasudeva, as understood in the revalued terms of the post-Buddhist orthodoxy, has this form of Vishnu at its top, displacing all other less perfected concepts of the Godhead as understood at that epoch. Krishna, the Yadava tribe hero, was the son of Vasudeva and Yasoda and it is from the former that the name is derived.


Vedanta: When the Vedic teachings had been revalued in philosophical terms by later Rishis and sages, a body of literature called Vedanta arose in the history of Indian thought. These often go contrary to the Vedic tendencies of ritual and obligations,  announcing freedom and stressing Self-realization. Later, we find Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva referred to as three typical Vedantic philosophers, although the Gurus of the Vedantic line (or parampara) are many. (see also Upanishad).


Vedas: The early Sanskrit writings in praise of Indra, Varuna and phenomenal gods of nature; later displaced by the philosophical concept of the Absolute Brahman in the Upanishads. The four chief Vedas are the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharvana.


Vidhi: Obligatory injunction, such as the ritualist rules found in the Vedas, which have to be obeyed without choice by Vedic followers as they are conceived as relating to actual laws of existence. In the later philosophical scriptures of the Upanishads, this strictness is relaxed; and instead of Vidhi we have the method of Artha-Vada or discussion, in which there is freedom of opinion.


Vidvan: One endowed with Vidya or learning.


Vidya: Science in its empirical or rational connotations. It is posited contra Avidya or nescience, but gains a meaning of its own independently when pure notions of reality gain ascendancy.  Then the word transcends duality and is known through its own without the negative contrast of darkness.


Visha Vaidyan: Medical practitioner of the Indian Ayurvedic school who specialises in toxins and poisoning such as from snakebite, and their cure.


Vishnu: The second of the so-called Hindu Trinity, of which Brahma the creator is first and Mahesvara or Shiva is the last. Shiva is also the destroyer. Vishnu is referred to as the preserver, although taken by themselves each of them is in turn preserver and destroyer. These result from the fusing of three cosmological and psychological currents of religious thought in India.


Visishta-Advaita: Visesha is the specialized aspect of nature or creation. The supreme divinity is the culminating stage of such specialisation as the highest of its effects or the flower of perfection. That school of Vedanta as revalued by Ramanuja which holds that this perfected being, while retaining his status as a specialised aspect of reality, could still represent non-duality in its philosophical implications, is called the Visishta Advaita School of Vedanta.


Visva-Mitra: A priest and religious leader of the Vedic religion. He is often represented as a rival or counterpart of Vasishta.


Viveka: Wakeful, discriminating state of mind which is conducive to wisdom. One who is not carried away by momentary prejudices is a viveki or man of discrimination in the usual sense, and, beginning with scientific knowledge which avoids false or vague notions, up to wisdom in its highest sense, all come under this term.


Vyasa: The son of Parasara (q.v.), born of a fisher-maid. Otherwise known as Veda-Vyasa. He was also the author of the Brahma-Sutras. He was also called Badarayana and a dark-coloured Brahma-rishi. He is the most important of the personalities of Brahmin orthodoxy.


Vyavaharika: Pertaining to the workaday world of relations and affairs in the usually understood sense. It covers the world of practical living and social behaviour as opposed to Paramartika, which refers to the real and ideal without compromises to the actual empirical or pragmatic exigencies of life.



Yadava: Cowherd caste. Also the name of a kingdom near modern Gujerat which had for its leader the historic Krishna, later identified as an incarnation of Vishnu. The Yadavas were kinsmen to the Pandavas through marriage with Krishna, their leader or king.  (see Krishna).


Yaksha: A genie or mysterious apparition belonging to the series of angelic or awesome denizens of the spirit world mentioned in Sanskrit literature, including besides Yaksha, the Raksha, Gandharva and Kinnara, as differing grades of beings.


Yata-tatya : State of being as it should be itself. (Yata, how; tata, thus; and -tya, nominal suffix) In the domain of the objective world, right scientific knowledge could be called Yata-tatya.


Yavanas: Presumably derived from Ionians or Greeks, who were the Europeans known in India 2,000 years ago and earlier.


Yoga: (from root yuj, to join) Psychic union of the self with the Self. In the history of Indian spirituality yoga has often been associated with psycho-physical self-discipline, and has many branches such as Hatha-Yoga where the physical postures gain primacy, and Raja-Yoga (meaning royal, public or rational yoga) which is very little if at all distinguishable from philosophical or global attitudes, or contemplative stages of the personality in a philosophic context. Thus there is Jnana (wisdom) Yoga, Karma (action) Yoga, and Bhakti (devotion) Yoga, besides Raja-Yoga. The last is associated with the system of Patanjali, while the Narada Sutras may be said to be the basis of Bhakti-Yoga. Jnana and Karma are the two broad divisions of Yoga. The former is philosophical while the latter is connected with activity and discipline, religious or psycho-physical. In its broadest connotation Yoga can only mean "contemplative vision", as we find the word employed, for instance, at the end of each of the eighteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita, where even the distress of Arjuna is called Arjuna-vishada-yoga. Yoga thus means just a unitive contemplative way.


Yogi: One who accepts the way of yoga in his life and meditation, (see Yoga).