Quiet Karma Glossary

Note: An effort was made to define terms on this site according to their use. As in all languages, one word or phrase can have many different or similar meanings. It is very important to “come to terms” with an author; please use these definitions for the terms used on Quiet Karma. Books included in the recommended reading may have their own glossaries. Please refer to them when reading those books.

ānanda: pure bliss, absolute joy, happiness, pleasure

āsana: 1) The place on which the spiritual aspirant sits for meditation; this includes both the location and material. 2) The posture assumed for meditation. 3) Various physical postures practiced to achieve strength, wellness, and concentration.

āshram: a spiritual community; a place—hermitage, monastery, or retreat—where aspirants gather to practice spiritual disciplines; the dwelling place of a saint or holy person.

Ātman: Self, Universal Consciousness, Witness. Yoga has many epithets for this term; a description of the Self is found in Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita.

avatār: A divine incarnation; a human being descended from the Supreme Lord for the purpose of destroying evil and restoring balance to the world; well-known avatārs include: Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Christ.

Bhagavad Gita: Literally “Song of the Lord” part of the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata. It is a dialog between Krishna (the Lord) and Arjuna (his disciple). A relatively short book, it is divided into 18 chapters of profound wisdom. It is often considered the Bible of many Eastern religions such as Hinduism, but the teachings are universal.

bhakta: a spiritual devotee who follows bhakti yoga, the path of love and devotion to one’s chosen Ideal. Anyone of any religion may be a bhakta.

bhakti: intense devotional love for God, one’s chosen Ideal; also refers to the path of Bhakti Yoga.

Bhakti Sutras: Attributed to Sage Narada, this Indian scripture describes the state and path of pure devotion which leads to enlightenment.

bhakti yoga: The path of love and devotion which leads to Divine Union; one of the four main yogas described in the Bhagavad Gita; see also Bhakti Sutras.

Brahman: the impersonal, absolute reality, all-pervasive essence of the universe; Godhead; also Parabrahman and satchitānanda

brahmin: the highest of the four main castes of ancient India’s society, still practiced to some degree today. Brahmins are the priests, philosophers, and intellectual religious leaders.

Chiti: Divine, conscious energy; the creative aspect of God; often thought of as Divine Mother; see also Kundalini, Shakti.

darshan: Literally, “seeing or experiencing”; visiting or paying respect to a holy person or place; also refers to the experience or blessing received from this holiness.

dharma: Literally, “that which holds your true nature”; one’s essential religious or worldly duty; merit, morality, righteousness, and truth; one of the four values of human life; also refers to the doctrine of Buddhist teachings.

ego: the awareness of “I” and “mine” which separates one from identification with Divine Consciousness. The ego is the cause of all suffering; a yogi’s destruction of the ego is his highest dharma.

Gita: See Bhagavad Gita.

Guru: a spiritual master who has reached the highest attainment on the spiritual path, initiates others, and guides them to liberation. Rarely, a Guru is also an avatar, such as Christ, Krishna, or Buddha. See also: Sadguru

guru: a teacher, preceptor; particularly, a religious or spiritual teacher; any revered or respected person, such as a family elder. See also: Guru, Sadguru

God-realization: See Self-realization

guṇas: the characteristic traits of Nature. The qualities of the guṇas are always present in one’s mind, body, and actions. One of the guṇas is always dominant at any one time. See also: Sattva, Rajas, Tamas.

hatha yoga: a branch of yoga; a system of physical exercises aimed towards stilling the mind and leading the aspirant to samadhi. It is one of the eight limbs of yoga expounded by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Although hatha yoga is effective for physical health, many Gurus caution that it can lead to distraction on the spiritual path.

japa: repetition of a mantra

jñāna (pronounced gyā’na): knowledge; the highest knowledge of the Supreme.

jñāna yoga: One of the four main spiritual paths mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita; the path of knowledge; the spiritual aspirant, under the close guidance of an illumined Master, analyzes and rejects the transitory world and realizes union with the impersonal aspect of Consciousness.

jñāni: an enlightened person; also, a follower of the path of Jñāna Yoga, the path of knowledge.

karma: physical, verbal, or mental action or the results of these actions; the consequences of actions.

karma yoga: One of the four main spiritual paths mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita; it is the path of selfless service, in which the aspirant releases expectation of any reward for actions.

Kuṇḍalinī: Literally, “coiled up” like a serpent; the spiritual energy which lies dormant at the base of the spine; when this energy is awakened it rises up through the spiritual centers along the spine, purifying the body and initiating the spiritual processes necessary for enlightenment.

Kuṇḍalinī Yoga: A system of yogic practices intended to awaken the Kuṇḍalinī of the spiritual aspirant. Note: Kuṇḍalinī Yoga should never be attempted without the close instruction of a Kuṇḍalinī Yoga master.

līlā: the divine play; according to yoga philosophy, the universe has been created as a sport of divine Consciousness. We are all manifestations of that play—players—as well as the Consciousness that underlies all creation.

Mahābhārata: The longest of India’s two great epic poems, the other being the Rāmāyaṇa. The Mahābhārata contains a wealth of traditional Indian teachings woven within the story of a great family feud. The Bhagavad Gita, the instructions of Lord Krishna to his disciple Arjuna on the battlefield preceding the great war, is the most important and famous part of this great epic.

mālā: A Sanskrit term meaning garland; a mālā is a string of beads used for the practice of mantra repetition. Although it is not a requirement, this tool may help the practitioner’s concentration.

mantra: the sacred word or term given to the practitioner by his Guru; a conscious mantra is charged with the spiritual powers of the lineage of the Guru; since use of the mantra is repetitive, the term has become common in English, meaning a repetition of any phrase or idea.

moksha: liberation, freedom; the highest goal of human life is to be eternally freed from suffering and the bonds of karma.

mudrā: a position of the body, often the hands, used to direct and control energy or focus the mind. Sometimes mudras are the effects of spiritual energy within the body.

niyama: observances of virtues; the second of the eight limbs of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras. The practices of physical and mental purity, contentment, austerity, study of scripture, and devotion prepare spiritual aspirants for higher yogic practices and experiences.

Parabrahman: Literally, “Supreme Brahman”; the Absolute Consciousness; also, Parashiva.

Paramahamsa: a perfected master; literally, “supreme swan,” referring to the mythological swan who separates milk from water. The master who can separate the Real from the unreal is often called Paramahamsa.

Patañjali: the ancient sage credited with founding the Yoga system of philosophy and author of The Yoga Sutras.

prāṇa: the vital energy which sustains the universe and everything in it; often translated as life-force.

Purusha: See Ātman.

rajas: one of the three guṇas, essential qualities or energies of Nature. Raja guṇa is known for its quality of restlessness, activity, and desire.

sadguru: Literally, “True Guru”; See: Guru.

sādhana: the practice of spiritual disciplines such as meditation, mantra repetition, chanting, study of scriptures, etc.

sahasrāra: the seventh, and highest, spiritual energy center, located at the top of the head; also called the crown chakra or thousand-petalled lotus.

samādhi: Patanjali’s eighth limb of yoga—a meditative state in which the practitioner experiences complete identity with and absorption in the Self, the ultimate Reality.

saṁsāra:from the verb root sṛ = “to flow” and sam = “together”; the endless cycles of birth and death experienced before full spiritual enlightenment; worldly illusion.

satchitānanda: Literally, “Existence, Consciousness, Bliss”; a traditional description of the Supreme Reality, God; Sat may also be translated as “Truth.”

sattva: one of the three guṇas, essential qualities or energies of Nature. Sattva guṇa is known for its quality of purity, calmness, goodness, etc.

Self: See Ātman

Self-realization: The highest state of spiritual attainment; the yogi’s goal; also: enlightenment, salvation, God-realization, liberation, nirvana, void, etc.

Swāmī / Svāmī: Literally, Lord, master, spiritual teacher; title of one who has taken monastic vows, preceding the name.

Shakti: The spiritual energy that pervades everything in the universe; responsible for the development of the spiritual aspirant; see also Chiti, Kundalinī

shaktipat: the transmission of spiritual power from Guru to disciple which initiates spiritual awakening.

siddha: a perfected yogi.

siddhis: supernatural powers obtained through various concentration practices; Patañjali devotes a section of the Yoga Sutras to powers and warns seekers of their danger along the path to enlightenment.

Śrī: Pronounced Shree; revered, holy; a term of respect used with the names of deities, great beings, and sacred texts.

sūtra: Literally, “thread”; an aphorism or short sentence common in many yogic scriptures. Sūtras generally contain deep spiritual truths and require years of meditation and study to grasp. Most books containing sūtras also contain commentaries by the author.

Upanishads: A group of 108 sacred scriptures contained in the Vedas. They contain the philosophical teachings of the knowledge of God and the spiritual experiences of the great sages.

Vedānta: Literally, “end of the Vedas”; the teachings that evolved from the Upanishads. Vedānta is the common basis for all of the systems of Indian spiritual philosophies.

Vedas: The most ancient of yogic scriptures which contain rituals, ceremonies, and mantras. The philosophical teachings of the Upanishads are contained in the Vedas.

Witness-consciousness: A state of mind in which spiritual aspirants observe their own minds and the events and conditions of the world without getting involved; the state of Witnessing is not different from the state of divine Consciousness.

yama: Literally, “self-control”; the first of the eight limbs of Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtras. The practices of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-greed purify spiritual aspirants and make them ready for higher practices.

yoga: (See Patanjali v. 2); Yoga is the control of thought waves in the mind. Yoga is both a path and a goal. See also: Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga

Yoga Sūtras: A collection of 196 aphorisms, credited to sage Patañjali and believed to have been compiled about two thousand years ago. The aphorisms contain yogic teachings—spiritual practices and meditation techniques—to lead the spiritual aspirant to Self-Realization.

Yoga Vāsiṣṭa: An Eastern scripture of great length, often shortened in translation. It contains countless stories, like parables or legends, to emphasize its teachings.

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