Glossary of Yoga Terms
Words and phrases you may hear at Ananda
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Affirmation: A statement of truth which one aspires to absorb into his life. [AF p.13] references at bottom
Ahankara: Ego, or ego-consciousness; causative self-awareness; centered in the medulla oblongata at the base of the brain. Ahankara divides the world into “mine” and “not mine.” This is the beginning of the process of distortion of reality. [EBG p.302; IS, p.82-3; NP, p.417-8] See also Buddhi, Chitta, Mon.
Ahimsa: Non-violence or non-injury; an attitude of harmlessness (and its corollary, a feeling of universal benevolence). Ahimsa, rightly understood, is the Ultimate Weapon of a strong man; it turns one’s enemy into a friend, thereby banishing the possibility of further conflict. [RY, p.100-101] See also Yama.
Ananda: Sanskrit for “divine bliss”; a worldwide movement based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and founded by Swami Kriyananda, a disciple of Yogananda. [Ananda.org] A center for meditation, yoga, and spiritual community. [AnandaPaloAlto.org] Ananda (divine bliss) usually forms part of the sannyasi’s monastic name. Thus the name, Yogananda means “Divine bliss through union (yoga) with God,” or, also, “Divine bliss through the practice of yoga techniques for achieving union. [TP, p.135]
Arati: A ceremony of waving light before an altar, a symbolic offering of ones own light and energy up to God. [EBG p.194]
Asana: Firmness of posture, and keeping the spine straight to enable the energy to flow freely through it. [EBG p.126] Commonly used nowadays to refer to a hatha yoga posture. See also Ashtanga, Hatha Yoga.
Ashram: A place of retirement from worldly life for the purpose of pursuing spiritual practices. [TP p.134]
Ashtanga: The eightfold (more literally, the “eight-limbed”, or ashtanga) path of yoga outlined by the ancient sage Patanjali was not describing one particular path to God. All who would unite their souls with God must follow that same path: yama and niyama (right action); asana (firmness of posture, and keeping the spine straight to enable the energy to flow freely through it); pranayama(control over the energy of the body); pratyahara (interiorization of the mind); dharana (one-pointed concentration); dhyana (absorption in deep meditation); and samadhi (oneness). [EBG, pp. 126] See also Niyama, Yama, Yoga.
Astral world: The universe in which souls find themselves after physical death. The astral is the second stage of manifestation, outward from Spirit. In the order of cosmic creation, first comes the causal, or ideational universe, which represents sattwa guna. At this stage of manifestation all things exist only as ideas. The next phase is the astral, representing rajo guna. At this stage, primordial ideas become clothed in energy. In the third phase, the physical, energy takes on the appearance of solid substance. That all this is an appearance, merely, has been suggested already by modern physics in its discovery that matter is energy. Shapes and colors exist in the astral world, as they do in the physical. There are planets, fields, lakes, mountains, and people on the astral plane. But all things there are seen as varied manifestations of light [NP, p.371] See also Gunas.
Atman: Spirit, soul. [JL]
AUM (or Om): the Creative Word, the cosmic vibratory power behind all atomic energies. [AY p.13] The vibration of the Cosmic Motor. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God.”–John 1:1 [AY p.144] Holy Ghost, the divine, creative, invisible power which structures all creation through vibration. Aum the blissful Comforter is heard in meditation and reveals to the devotee the ultimate Truth. [AY p.145] “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”—Matthew 4:4. Man’s body battery is not sustained by gross food (bread) alone, but by the vibratory cosmic energy (word, or AUM). The invisible power flows into the human body through the gate of the medulla oblongata. This sixth bodily center is located at the back of the neck at the top of the five spinal chakras (Sanskrit for “wheels” or centers of radiating force). The medulla is the principal entrance for the body’s supply of universal life force (AUM), and is directly connected with man’s power of will, concentrated in the seventh or Christ Consciousness center (Kutastha) in the third eye between the eyebrows. Cosmic energy is then stored up in the brain as a reservoir of infinite potentialities, poetically mentioned in the Vedas as the “thousand-petaled lotus of light.” The Bible invariably refers to AUM as the “Holy Ghost” or invisible life force which divinely upholds all creation. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”—I Corinthians 6:19. [AY p.354] The all-pervading sound which emanates from the Cosmic Vibration. The voice of all creation, and, therefore, of God. Aum can be heard by a Self-realization technique of meditation. The basis of all sounds; universal symbol-word for God. “Amin” is used by the Moslems, “Amen” by the Christians, “Hum” by the Tibetans, and “Aum” by the Hindus. [WE] The vibrational sound of the cosmos. [EBG] The three letters indicate the three distinct vibrations of cosmic manifestation: creation, preservation, and destruction. In Hindu mythology the three vibrations of cosmic manifestation are represented by Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Aum is the vibration by which the Supreme Spirit brings all things into manifestation. It is the Holy Ghost of the Christian Trinity. [TP p.179] See also Om Tat Sat.
Avatar: Perfected being whose sole purpose in returning to this level of existence is to uplift others. [RY p.28] This Sanskrit word [avatara] means “descent”; its roots are ava, “down,” and tri, “to pass.” In the Hindu scriptures, avatara signifies the descent of Divinity into flesh. [AY p.290] A “divine incarnation,” one who, in a former incarnation, achieved freedom from all bonds of delusion, and whose life mission is purely to uplift others. [JL] A liberated soul sent back into manifested existence by the will of the Creator to save souls still wandering in delusion. [EBG]
Babaji: Guru of Lahiri Mahasaya [AY p.292] The Guru of my [i.e. Yogananda’s] Guru’s Guru; is amar, a deathless avatar still living secretly in the Himalayas. His powers are Christlike. [WE] Babaji is known as Mahavatar, or Great Incarnation. [TP p.184]
Bandha: “Lock”; in hatha and raja yoga, holding a body part in a particular position to help awaken the spinal centers by intensifying the flow of spinal energy through them. See also Chakra, Mudra, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga.
Bhagavad Gita: Hindu Bible; the sacred sayings of Sri Krishna (compiled millennia ago by the sage Byasa). [WE] India’s favorite and most representative Scripture. [JL]
Bhakti Yoga: The yoga path of intense devotion, whereon all one’s feelings are channeled upward in the spine toward God. [EBG] Seealso Gyana and Yoga.
Bhav: One’s particular spiritual approach, manner, mood, style, atmosphere, or feeling.
Brahma: The all-pervading Spirit as the Originator of all Creation. [WE] The Supreme Spirit, God. [JL] The creative vibration; along with Vishnu and Shiva, part of AUM, the Cosmic Vibration. [EBG]
Brahmacharya: “Flowing with Brahma”; self-control, especially sexual. [EBG] [A stage of] preliminary renunciation. This period should ordinarily last six years, so that one becomes quite sure inwardly that he is ready for full sannyas. At this point he should have demonstrated to others also that he truly places God first in his life, and accepts God as his only reality. [RO ch. 12]
Brahmachari: Single men [who practice brahmacharya] may be called brahmacharis; women, similarly, may be called brahmacharinis. [RO ch. 12] One who has taken the Vow of Brahmacharya in the Nayaswami Order.
Brahman: The Divine Absolute. See Brahma.[EBG]
Brahmin: See Caste System.
Buddhi: Intellect, or discernment; centered at the point between the eyebrows. Buddhi divides and defines what it received through the senses. [EBG p.302; IS, p.82-3; NP, p.417-8] See also Ahankara, Chitta, Mon.
Caste system: The origin of the caste system, formulated by the great legislator Manu, was admirable. He saw clearly that men are distinguished by natural evolution into four great classes: those capable of offering service to society through their bodily labor (Sudras); those who serve through mentality, skill, agriculture, trade, commerce, business life in general (Vaisyas); those whose talents are administrative, executive, and protective—rulers and warriors (Kshatriyas); those of contemplative nature, spiritually inspired and inspiring (Brahmins). Serious evils arose when the caste system became hardened through the centuries into a hereditary halter. Social reformers like Gandhi and the members of very numerous societies in India today are making slow but sure progress in restoring the ancient values of caste, based solely on natural qualification and not on birth. Every nation on earth has its own distinctive misery-producing karma to deal with and remove; India, too, with her versatile and invulnerable spirit, shall prove herself equal to the task of caste-reformation.
“Inclusion in one of these four castes originally depended not on a man’s birth but on his natural capacities as demonstrated by the goal in life he elected to achieve,” an article in East-West for January, 1935, tells us. “This goal could be (1) kama, desire, activity of the life of the senses (Sudra stage), (2) artha, gain, fulfilling but controlling the desires (Vaisya stage), (3) dharma, self-discipline, the life of responsibility and right action (Kshatriya stage), (4) moksha, liberation, the life of spirituality and religious teaching (Brahmin stage). These four castes render service to humanity by (1) body, (2) mind, (3) will power, (4) Spirit.
“These four stages have their correspondence in the eternal gunas or qualities of nature, tamas, rajas, and sattva: obstruction, activity, and expansion; or, mass, energy, and intelligence. The four natural castes are marked by the gunasas (1) tamas (ignorance), (2) tamas-rajas (mixture of ignorance and activity), (3) rajas-sattva (mixture of right activity and enlightenment), (4) sattva(enlightenment). Thus has nature marked every man with his caste, by the predominance in himself of one, or the mixture of two, of the gunas. Of course every human being has all three gunas in varying proportions. The guru will be able rightly to determine a man’s caste or evolutionary status.” [AY pp.378-9]
Causal body: The innermost body made of ideas. [EBG]
Causal world: The first stage of manifestation, in which all things exist only as ideas. See also Astral world.
Chakra(s): Sanskrit for “wheels” or [spinal] centers of radiating force. [AY p.354] Plexuses or centers in the spine, from which energy flows out into the nervous system, and through that system into the body, sustaining and activating the different body parts. [EBG] See also “AUM.”
Chant(ing): Devotional singing that invokes our increased awareness of God’s presence.
Chelas: Disciples; from Sanskrit verb root, “to serve.” [AY p.119]
Chitta: Feeling, centered in the heart. Chitta is our emotional reaction, including likes and dislikes, desires and aversions. It is the true source of ego-bondage, and the essence of all delusion. [EBG p.302; NP, p.417-8] The reactive processes of the heart, our likes and dislikes, amplify the thought of “I” and “mine,” and make us happy or miserable depending on our responses. This is how our real delusions begin, and how we can be misled from receiving true guidance. [IS, p.82-3] See also Ahankara, Buddhi, Mon.
Christ consciousness: The consciousness of Spirit reflected in every unit of vibratory creation. [WE]
Concentration: The calm focus of one’s full attention on the purpose at hand. [AF p.80]
Darshan: The blessing which flows from the mere sight of a saint. [AY p.165]
Day of Brahma: The eons-long period of cosmic manifestation. At the dawn of Brahma’s Day, all creation, remanifested, emerges from its (night) state of unmanifestation. [EBG]
Devas: Astral or angelic beings. [EBG]
Devotee: One who is ardently devoted to a path of spiritual growth
Dharana: One-pointed concentration (in deep meditation). [EBG p.126] See also Ashtanga.
Dharma: A comprehensive Sanskrit word for law; conformity to law or natural righteousness; duty as inherent in the circumstances in which a man finds himself at any given time. The scriptures define dharma as “the natural universal laws whose observance enables man to save himself from degradation and suffering.” [AY p.429] Virtue, righteousness, right action. [EBG]
Dhyana: Absorption in deep meditation. [EBG p.126] See also See also Ashtanga.
Divine Mother: By loving God as our Divine Mother, we attract that motherly aspect of the Divine Consciousness, and develop in ourselves the complete trust that brings to us, in return, the most instant response. [HW p.329] God experienced as personal, unconditionally loving and compassionate.
Dwapara Yuga: A 2400-year period of electrical and atomic-energy developments, the age of telegraph, radio, airplanes, and other space-annihilators. [AY p.167] It began in 1700 A.D. See also Kali Yuga, Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Yugas.
Ego: The soul attached to the body. [EBG]
God: Swami Shankara’s definition of God was Satchidanandam – “existence, consciousness, bliss.” Paramhansa Yogananda translated this definition as, “Ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss.” [Swami Shankara] explained that, while Truth is indeed beyond human conception (as implied by Lord Buddha, who consistently refused to speak of God), it nevertheless exists and can be experienced. The highest state of divine ecstasy is revealed as ineffable bliss – “beyond imagination of expectancy,” as Yogananda described it. [TP p.135] Only in such a charged atmosphere [of divine joy and enthusiasm] was he [Yogananda] willing to talk about God, Whom he described as the most dynamic, joy-inspiring reality in the universe. Dry, theoretical lectures were not for him. He had not come to America to philosophize, but to awaken in people an ardent love for God, an urgent longing to know Him. [TP p.136-7]
Gunas: Qualities that infuse the entire universe. The three gunas represent the progressive stages of manifestation outward from the oneness of Spirit. [NP p.370] The universal qualities of Nature: Sattwa guna, the elevating, or clarifying, quality; Raja guna, the ego-active principle; Tamo guna, (where) the creative impulse…lies dormant. [RSL Vol. 2 pp. 181-2]. The three basic qualities that comprise the universe: sattwa guna, the elevating quality, that which most clearly suggests divinity; rajas, the activating element in nature; tamas, the darkening quality, that which obscures the underlying unity of Life. [EBG] See also Astral world, Caste System, Rajasic, Rajoguna, Sattwa guna, Sattwic, Tamas, Tamasic, Tamoguna.
Guru: Spiritual teacher; from Sanskrit root gur, to raise, to uplift. [AY p.3] The true, supreme preceptor who leads receptive disciples to God, especially by infusing his own, expanded consciousness into their limited ego-identification. The term Guru differs from teacher. A person can have only one true Guru, though he may have many teachers. [WE] Spiritual teacher. The word guru is often applied, broadly, to any venerated teacher. On the spiritual path, however, it refers to the sadguru or true teacher – that enlightened sage who has been commissioned by God to lead the spiritually fit seeker out of darkness, and into the experience of Supreme Truth. While the seeker may have many lesser teachers, it is written that he have only one such divinely appointed guru. [TP p.134] Teacher; spiritual savior. [EBG]
Gurubhai: A brother disciple. [JL]
Gurudeva: “Divine teacher,” the customary Sanskrit term for one’s spiritual preceptor. I have rendered it in English as simply “Master.” [AY p.90]
Gyana (Jnana) Yoga: Wisdom, one of the main paths to God. [AY p.125] The path of discrimination. [EBG] Seealso Yoga.
Hatha Yoga: A specialized branch of bodily postures and techniques for health and longevity. Hatha is useful, and produces spectacular physical results, but this branch of yoga is little used by yogis bent on spiritual liberation. [AY, p.223]
Hindu: An adherent of Hinduism, which is a partial expression of the universal truths expounded in the Vedas, also called Sanaatan Dharma, the Eternal Religion. [WE]
Hong-sau: Two sacred Sanskrit chant words possessing a vibratory connection with the incoming and outgoing breath…. literally “I am He.” [AY, pp. 383-4] A Self-realization technique of meditation. See also Paramhansa.Ida: One of the two superficial nerve channels in the astral spine, ida begins and ends on the left side of the spine. The energy passes upward through it, and causes inhalation. [EBG] See also Pingala.
Intuition:The “sixth sense”; true inner apprehension or knowledge derived immediately and spontaneously, rather than through the fallible medium of the senses and the intellect. [WE]
Japa: The constant repetition of God’s name. [EBG]
Jesus Christ: His picture is shown on our altar not as a mere courtesy to Westerners, but because, as Yogananda explains in Autobiography of a Yogi, Jesus and Babaji together set in motion the divine force of this line of gurus to bring Self-realization and Kriya Yoga to the West. [Asha Praver] “In the divine plan,” Paramhansa Yogananda stated, “Jesus Christ was responsible for the evolution of the West, and Krishna (later Babaji), for that of the East. It was intended that the West specialize in developing objectively, through logic and reason, and that the East specialize in inner, intuitive development. But in the cosmic plan the time has come to combine these two lines into one. East and West must unite.” [TP p.184]
Ji: A suffix commonly added to names in India as a mark of respect. [TP p.143]
Jiva: The soul, individualized consciousness: the Infinite limited to, and identified with, a body. [EBG]
Jivan mukta: “Freed while living”—a state of freedom from ego-consciousness while still having karma to work out from past lives. [EBG] See also Siddha.
Kali: a symbol of God in the aspect of eternal Mother Nature. [AY p.13] A mythological Hindu goddess represented as a woman with four arms. One hand holds a symbol of Nature’s creative powers; the second expresses the function of cosmic preservation; the third hand holds an emblem of the purifying forces of cosmic dissolution; the fourth is outstretched to devotees in a gesture of blessing and salvation. By these several means, Kali calls all Creation back to oneness with God. [WE]
Kali Yuga: A 1200-year age of materialism that started about A.D. 500 and ended about A.D. 1700. [AY p.167] A time when the majority of mankind lost most of its former power, mental clarity, and understanding…when the understanding of most men was centered in the thought of matter as real and substantial. [EBG p.175-6] See also Dwapara Yuga, Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Yugas.
Karma: Effects of past actions, in this or a former life; from Sanskrit kri, “to do”. [AY p.35] The natural principle of cause and effect. [AY p.231] The karmic law requires that every human wish find ultimate fulfillment. Desire is thus the chain which binds man to the reincarnational wheel. [AY p.302] Action. [EBG] Seealso Yoga.
Karma Yoga: The path of right spiritual action. [EBG] Seealso Yoga.
Kirtan: A musical gathering in which devotional chants alternate with periods of meditation. See Sankirtan.
Kosha: “Sheath”, that encloses pure consciousness of Spirit in its material manifestations. In human beings, only a few sheaths remain. [To reach pure consciousness] they must be stripped away – not by the automatic process of evolution, but by deliberate refinement of the heart’s feelings through devotion and by the power of will. [AS, p.113]
Krishna: The greatest prophet of India. [AY. p.35] The Divine “Cowherd.” Krishna was a king as well as a prophet, and is considered in India to have been an incarnation of God. He lived in the world, performing the duties of a king, but was never of this world. He is often depicted as a child, symbolically playing the flute; he is also depicted as a cowherd. Allegorically, Krishna represents the soul playing the flute—a sound heard in meditation—to lead all misguided thoughts back to the fold of omniscience. [WE]
Kriyaban: A Kriya Yogi [one who practices Kriya Yoga]. [AY. p.231]
Kriya Yoga: A yogic technique whereby the sensory tumult is stilled, permitting man to achieve an ever-increasing identity with cosmic consciousness. [AY p.9] Union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite. A yogi who faithfully follows its technique is gradually freed from karma or the universal chain of causation. [AY p.231] An ancient science developed in India for the use of all spiritual seekers. Its technique is referred to and recommended by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, and by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. [WE] The ancient yogic science reintroduced to the world by Lahiri Mahasaya in the nineteenth century. It consists of the careful, conscious circulation of energy around the spine in order to magnetize it and to redirect the mental tendencies toward the brain. [EBG] The highest of ancient yoga techniques…its special purpose is to awaken energy in the spine and brain, by means of which the Kriya Yogi can attain enlightenment by the shortest possible route. [RY p.28]
Kriyananda: See Swami Kriyananda.
Kshatriya: See Caste System.
Kundalini: Located below the base of the spine, where the outward-flowing energy from the spine to the nervous system becomes “locked” in its downward pull. Kundalini awakening signifies the moment when the downward flow of energy relaxes its grip on outwardness and begins to return upward in the direction of its source in divine consciousness. [EBG]
Kutastha: The seat of the spiritual eye, which lies at the point midway between the two eyebrows. [EBG]
Kutastha Chaitanya: The Christ consciousness underlying creation, reflecting the motionless Spirit beyond creation. [EBG]
Lahiri Mahasaya: Disciple of Babaji and Guru of Sri Yukteswar [AY p.317] My [i.e. Yogananda’s] Guru’s Guru; the one who revived for the world the highest technique of Yoga, which he called Kriya Yoga. Christlike, Lahiri Mahasaya had miraculous powers; he was also a family man with worldly responsibilities. His life-teaching—to be “calmly active and actively calm”—coincided with the needs of the spiritually aspiring businessman of the West. I have given him the title of “Yogavatar,” or “Incarnation of Yoga.” [WE] Born Sept. 30, 1828, Ghurni, Bengal, India. Mahasamadhi: Sept. 26,1895, Benares, India. Initiated by Babaji into Kriya Yoga in 1861. Subsequently re-introduced the lost, or long-hidden art of Kriya Yoga to thousands of truthseekers.
Lightbearer: An Ananda Sangha clergyperson, who, in addition to the usual ministerial duties, may also perform the full A Festival of Light ceremony and the Purification Ceremony. [Asha Praver]
Lila: The Lord’s play or creative sport [AY p.399] The divine play. [EBG]
Magnetism: Spiritually, the attractive power of the quality of energy resulting from the state of our consciousness.
Mahasamadhi: (For) masters who know beforehand when the final hour is about to strike for the physical body, the last meditation, during which the master merges himself in the Cosmic AUM, is called the maha, or great, samadhi. [AY p.331] A great yogi’s final, conscious exit from the physical body. [JL]
Mandir: Sacred temple. [Devi Mukherjee, Shaped by Saints]
Mantra: Potent vibratory chant. The literal translation of Sanskrit mantra is “instrument of thought,” signifying the ideal, inaudible sounds which represent one aspect of creation; when vocalized as syllables, a mantra constitutes a universal terminology. The infinite powers of sound derive from AUM, the “Word” or creative hum of the Cosmic Motor. [AY p.453]
Master: We call him [Yogananda] ‘Master’ in the sense of teacher. He is a true master of the practices in which we ourselves are struggling to excel. [TP p.245-6]
Maya: Cosmic illusion; literally, ‘the measurer.” Maya is the magical power in creation by which limitations and divisions are apparently present in the Immeasurable and Inseparable. [AY p.43] The contrasts and relativities of the phenomenal universe. [AY p.168] The cosmic dualistic compulsion. [AY p.171] The dualistic Cosmic Delusion. [AY p.201] The ancient Vedic scriptures declare that the physical world operates under one fundamental law of maya, the principle of relativity and duality. God, the Sole Life, is an Absolute Unity; He cannot appear as the separate and diverse manifestations of a creation except under a false or unreal veil. That cosmic illusion is maya. [AY, p.261] The law of relativity which intervenes to apparently separate the Noumenon from His phenomena. [AY p.411] Cosmic delusion. The Indian Scriptures teach that the entire universe is God’s dream. [JL] Delusion, the outwardly manifesting creative force. [EBG]
Meditation: That kind of concentration which is focused directly on the attainment of superconciousness. [AS p.56] Paramhansa Yogananda defined meditation as deep concentration on God or one of His aspects. [HTM p.11] Meditation is listening. It is listening not only with the ear, but with the soul – not only to sound, but to the silent language of inspiration. [AS p.85] Meditation is the process of finding your own center. Techniques exist for doing so, but success depends also to a great extent on holding the right attitudes. [AS p.99]
Moksha: Final, perfect liberation in absolute union with Divine Consciousness. [EBG]
Mon: The perceiving mind, which shows us an image as it appears to us through the senses; the mind alone, however, cannot qualify or define that image. Centered at the top of the head. [EBG p.302; NP, p.417-8] See also Ahankara, Buddhi, Chitta.
Mudra: A yoga position that is designed especially to awaken spiritual energies in the body. [RY p.405]
Nadi: Subtle channel of life force. [EBG]
Nayaswami: Because this is a new renunciate order, I recommend that all swamis in it receive, in addition to the title, the designation naya—that is to say, “new.” Thus, my own name would be Nayaswami Kriyananda. [RO Chapter 12] We came here for one purpose: to be initiated by Swamiji into the new renunciate order he is starting. It is a reformation of the ancient swami order, described in Autobiography of a Yogi. This new order is of "Nayaswamis." "Naya" means "new," to indicate the new spirit for Dwapara Yuga. The old order, founded in Kali Yuga, the Age of Matter, had to be concerned about the form of things, with many rules about what a swami could and could not do. Since many of those rules relate to conditions long gone--for example, swamis are supposed to travel only on foot, never to handle money, not to own property, to move every three days to avoid forming attachments, to beg for their food--most are honored now in the breach. The Nayaswami Order is defined more by consciousness. In Dwapara Yuga, this Age of Energy, as Swamiji explains in his book [A Renunciate Order for the New Age], the real purpose of renunciation, which is to renounce the ego, not merely the things that the ego desires, can be approached directly. His book is full of specific suggestions for how one goes about doing just that. [Asha Praver, letter from Assisi, Italy 11/21/09] The old method of renunciation was world-negating; the new one is samadhi-affirming. One's concentration, in other words, is on the joy of soul-freedom in God. [RO Chapter 5]
Night of Brahma: The aeons-long period during which all creation remains in its unmanifestated state. [EBG]
Nirvana: The extinction of individuality. [EBG]
Nishkam Karma: Action without desire for the fruits of action. [EBG]
Niyama: “Non-control”; niyamas are the observances, or “do’s,” on the path of yoga: 1) Cleanliness 2) Contentment 3) Tapasya, or Austerity 4) Swadhyaya, or Self-Study 5) Devotion to the Supreme Lord. [RY p.129] See also Ashtanga, Yama, Yoga.
Om Tat Sat: Holy Ghost, Son, and Father: or Cosmic Vibration; Christ Consciousness in Creation; and Ever-Blissful Spirit—nirguna, because beyond all qualities—beyond Creation. [WE]
Om: See AUM.
Paramhansa: Literally, param, highest; hansa, swan. The hansa is represented in scriptural lore as the vehicle of Brahma, Supreme Spirit; as the symbol of discrimination, the white hansa swan is thought of as able to separate the true soma nectar from a mixture of milk and water. Ham-sa (pronounced hong-sau) are two sacred Sanskrit chant words possessing a vibratory connection with the incoming and outgoing breath. Aham-Sa is literally “I am He.” [AY, pp. 383-4] A religious title, signifying one who is master of himself. It can only be bestowed on a disciple by his guru. Paramhansa literally means “supreme swan.” The swan is symbolic in the Hindu scriptures of divine discrimination. (Whether mythologically or factually, the swan is said to be able to separate milk into curds and whey. Thus, the “Supreme Swan” is so called because his perfect discrimination enables him always to distinguish between truth and error.) [WE]
Paramhansa Yogananda: (1893-1952) One of the first great masters from India to make his home in the West. He distilled the essence of the Self-realization teachings of the East into what he called the science of Kriya Yoga. His Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946, is still a bestseller in 28 languages. It helped launch, and continues to inspire, a worldwide spiritual revolution. [Asha Praver]
Param mukta: A supremely free soul. [EBG]
Patanjali: The foremost ancient exponent of yoga. [AY p.59] See also Ashtanga.
Pilgrim: One who travels to a shrine or holy place as a devotee. [Merriam-Webster Dictionary] One who has taken the Pilgrim’s Vow of Intention in the Nayaswami Order. This vow may be taken by anyone desiring to strengthen their commitment to God, regardless of their circumstances.
Pingala: One of the two superficial nerve channels in the astral spine, pingalabegins and ends on the right side of the spine. Energy passing downward through it causes exhalation. [EBG] See also Ida.
Prakriti: Intelligent Mother Nature, the outer “show” that we see through the senses. [EBG]
Prana: Subtle life currents. [AY p.222] Creative lifetronic force. Atoms and electrons are blind forces; prana is inherently intelligent. The pranic lifetrons in the spermatozoa and ova, for instance, guide the embryonic development according to a karmic design. [AY p.401] Specific life force in the human body and in all living creatures. [WE] Energy; also, the ascending energy of the breath in the astral spine. [EBG]
Pranayama: Method of controlling life-force through regulation of breath. [AY p.59] Control of the senses through withdrawal of the energy. [EBG] See also Ashtanga.
Prasad: Food that is first offered to a saint, Master or Avatar and then distributed and enjoyed in His name, and with His blessing. [Wikipedia]
Pratyahara: Deep interiorization of the mind in meditation. See also See also Ashtanga.
Puja: A ceremony performed by offering all the five senses, signifying ego-consciousness, up to God’s representation on the altar. [EBG p.194]
Rajasic: Expressing the qualities of Rajoguna.
Raja Yoga: The royal yoga, which takes the meditator to the central river to enlightenment, the pathway of the spine. [EBG] See Yoga.
Rajoguna: The activating element in nature. [EBG] See also Gunas and Caste system.
Rama: The central sacred figure of the Sanskrit epic, Ramayana. [AY p.41] An ancient prophet, generally considered, like Krishna, to have been an avatar. [JL]
Rishis: Literally “seers,” the authors of the Vedas in an indeterminable antiquity. [AY p.44] Seer or sage. [EBG]
Sadhak (or Sadhaka): Spiritual aspirant [RY p.373]
Sadhaka Order: A lay order for Ananda Sangha members seeking to embrace a greater level of commitment. Many Sadhakas do not reside in an Ananda Community. [Asha Praver] See also Sevaka Order.
Sadhana: Path of spiritual discipline; path or preliminary road to God. [AY pp.20 & 85] Spiritual practice. [EBG]
Sadhu: An anchorite; one who pursues a sadhana or path of spiritual discipline. [AY p.20] A wandering mendicant; holy man. [JL]
Samadhi: Literally, “to direct together.” Samadhi is a superconscious state of ecstasy in which the yogi perceives the identity of soul and Spirit. [AY p.107] Perfect union of the individualized soul with the Infinite Spirit. [AY p.121] Superconscious perception. [AY, p.222] The oneness of human consciousness with cosmic consciousness. Man’s consciousness is subject to relativity and dual experience. In meditation, there are three aspects: The meditator, the act of meditation, and God (the object of meditation). Samadhi is final union, which comes from deep, continuous, correct meditation. In this state, the three factors of meditation become one. Just as the wave melts in the sea, so the human soul becomes the Supreme Spirit. [WE p.116] Divine ecstasy. Sabikalpa samadhi is conditioned ecstasy. Nirbikalpa samadhi is unconditioned: one’s consciousness has become so established in oneness with God that there is no possibility of a return to the limitations of the ego. [EBG] Samadhi (cosmic consciousness) is the state of infinite awareness that comes to the yogi once the hypnosis of ego has been broken. Christian saints have sometimes described this state as “mystical marriage,” for in it the soul merges into God and becomes one with Him. [TP p.196] Also, the poem by Paramhansa Yogananda describing this state, featured in Autobiography of a Yogi and Whispers from Eternity. See also Ashtanga.
Samskars (or Samskaras): Subtle tendencies; “seeds” of karma; the result of repeated actions (karmas) of the past—not only of this life, but of many past incarnations. Each samskar constitutes a subtle vortex of energy. [RY p.400]
Samsara: The world of delusion in which we all live: the cosmic dream. It also signifies emotional involvement with the dream. [RO Chapter 5]
Sangha: Association (of truth-seekers). See “Satsang”
Sanatan Dharma: Literally, “eternal religion,” the name given to the body of Vedic teachings. Sanatan Dharma has come to be called Hinduism since the time of the Greeks who designated the people on the banks of the river Indus as Indoos, or Hindus. The word Hindu, properly speaking, refers only to followers of Sanatan Dharma or Hinduism. The term Indian applies equally to Hindus and Mohammedans and other inhabitants of the soil of India (and also through the confusing geographical error of Columbus, to the American Mongoloid aboriginals). [AY p.328-9] Also spelled Sanaatan.
Sankirtan: Sankirtans or musical gatherings [of those who sing the praises of God] are an effective form of yoga or spiritual discipline, necessitating deep concentration, intense absorption in the seed thought and sound. Because man himself is an expression of the Creative Word, sound has the most potent and immediate effect on him, offering a way to remembrance of his divine origin. [AY p.159] Also Kirtan.
Sanskrit: Sanskrita, polished; complete. Sanskrit is the eldest sister of all Indo-European tongues. Its alphabetical script is Devanagari, literally “divine abode.” “Who knows my grammar knows God!” Panini, great philologist of Ancient India, paid this tribute to the mathematical and psychological perfection in Sanskrit. [AY p.84]
Sanyasi: A renunciate [EBG]
Satchidananda: Ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss. [EBG]
Satsang: Wholesome and uplifting spiritual company. [ROC p.292] Sat is literally “being,” hence “essence; reality.” Sanga is “association.” Sri Yukteswar called his hermitage organization Sat-Sangha, “fellowship with truth.” [AY p.155] Fellowship with others of shared spiritual aspiration; fellowship with God in meditation. [WE] Good (and especially spiritual) company. [EBG]
Sattwa guna: The elevating quality, that which lifts one toward divinity. [EBG] See also Gunas and Caste system.
Sattwic: Expressing the qualities of Sattwa guna.
Satya Yuga: A 4800-year period [7,700-12,500 A.D.] when the intelligence of a man will be completely developed; he will work in harmony with the divine plan. [AY p.167] The golden age of wisdom…a time of divine brilliance in human understanding. [EBG p.175] See also Dwapara Yuga, Kali Yuga, Treta Yuga, Yugas.
Self-Realization: The knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing. [ESR p.197]
Seva: Divine service.
Sevaka Order: A monastic order, not in the traditional sense of renouncing marriage (many Sevakas are householders), but in the sense of a community that renounces worldly interests that are centered in ego-gratification and the quest for personal gain; and that is wholly dedicated to living for God alone, serving Him, and becoming united with Him eventually in Spirit. Most Sevakas reside in an Ananda Community. [Asha Praver] See also Sadhaka Order.
Shakti: The energy of outward creativity, both macro-cosmic and micro-cosmic, in relation to the Absolute Spirit beyond Creation. [HW, p.174-5]
Shanti: The Sanskrit word for peace.
Shiva: A representation of the Infinite, Transcendental Spirit existing in relation to his consort, Kali, the finite creator of nature. Often spelled Siva, he is also that aspect of God which dissolves all Creation back, with cosmic pralaya, into the unmanifested Spirit again after a “Day of Brahma,” or period of cosmic manifestation. [WE] The destroying or all-dissolving vibration; along with Brahma and Vishnu, part of AUM, the Cosmic Vibration. [EBG]
Siddha: A perfected being. [EBG] A jivan mukta is one who has become freed of delusion, but who still has past karma to overcome. A siddha has become freed of all traces of past karma as well. [TP p.183]
Smriti: Divine memory. [EBG]
Soul: Individualized Spirit, which is unmanifested, ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss. The soul, as Spirit’s reflection, has the same qualities as Spirit, but the soul, when identified with the three ideational, astral, and physical bodies and their normal and abnormal conditions, takes on their natures. The soul’s subjective consciousness in connection with the body and its relations is termed the “ego,” or the “pseudo-soul.” [Paramhansa Yogananda, Inner Culturemagazine, Sept. 1939] The long bridge over the chasm between ego-consciousness and God-consciousness. [RY p.393]
Spiritual Eye: The single eye, the telescopic gaze of intuition. “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”–Matthew 6:22. During deep meditation, the single or spiritual eye becomes visible within the central part of the forehead. This omniscient eye is variously referred to in scriptures as the third eye, the star of the East, the inner eye, the dove descending from heaven, the eye of Shiva, the eye of intuition, etc. [AY p.156] The point between the two eyebrows, the seat of spiritual vision. [AY p.169] The omnipotent single eye in the forehead. [AY p.171] The seventh or Christ Consciousness center (Kutastha) in the third eye between the eyebrows. [AY p.354] The Kutastha, a reflection of the medulla oblongata: a field of dark blue light surrounded by a golden halo, in the center of which is a five-pointed star. The golden aureole represents the astral world; the blue field inside it, the causal world and also the omnipresent Christ consciousness; the star in the center, the Spirit beyond creation. [EBG] See also AUM.
Sri: Literally, “Lord”; a common title of respect. [JL]
Sudra: See Caste System.
Superconscious mind: (Quote by the poet Tennyson:) “(Where) individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being, and this not a confused state but the clearest, the surest of the surest, utterly beyond words—where death was an almost laughable impossibility—the loss of personality (if so it were) seeming no extinction. but the only true life…It is no nebulous ecstasy, but a state of transcendent wonder, associated with absolute clearness of mind.” [AY p.13] (Quote by Professor Jules-Bois:) “(Is) the exact opposite of Freud’s subconscious mind and is the faculty which makes man really man and not just a super-animal.” [AY p.59] (Quote by Rabbi Israel H. Levinthal:) “In contrast to the subconscious which represents the submerged currents of our nature, it [superconsciousness] reveals the heights to which our nature can reach. Man represents a triple, not a double, personality; our conscious and subconscious being is crowned by a superconsciousness.” (Quote by psychologist F. W. H. Myers:) “(It is) the treasure-house, the region that alone can explain the great, unselfish, heroic deeds of men.” [AY p.124] Superconscious perceptions of truth are permanently real and changeless, while fleeting sense experiences and impressions are never more than temporarily or relatively true, and soon lose in memory all their vividness. [AY p.406]
Sushumna: The deep spine, through which Kundalini, being magnetized to flow upward, begins its slow ascent toward enlightenment. [EBG]
(Swami) Sri Yukteswar (Giri): Yukteswar means “united to God.” Giri is a classificatory distinction of one of the ten ancient Swami branches. Sri means “holy”; it is not a name but a title of respect. [AY p.105] My [i.e. Yogananda’s] great Guru (1855–1936). To him I owe all my spiritual perception. He had miraculous powers. I have given him the title of “Gyanavatar,” or “Incarnation of Wisdom.” [WE] Born 5/10/1855, passed 3/9/36.
Swami: Sanskrit root meaning of swami is “he who is one with his Self (Swa).” Applied to a member of the Indian order of monks, the title has the formal respect of “the reverend.” [AY p.17] A member of the monastic Swami Order, reorganized by Swami Shankara in the 8th century. A Swami can receive his title only through ordination by another swami. He renounces all egoic identification with the world, and considers himself belonging to the entire human family. There are ten subdivisions of the Swami Order, including my own branch, the Giri order. Others include Puri, Tirtha, and seven more. [WE] Swami: literally, lord – that is to say, one who has achieved mastery of himself. Swami is the title commonly given to sannyasis (renunciates), in affirmation of the truth that he alone is a true ruler in this world who is the ruler of himself. Renunciates, for the same reason, are often called Maharaj (Great King). [TP p.135] See also Nayaswami.
Swamiji: Ji is a customary respectful suffix, particularly used in direct address; thus, “swamiji,” “guruji,” “Sri Yukteswarji,” “paramhansaji.” [AY p.86]
Swami Kriyananda: (1926—) A direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda since 1948, he is the founder, spiritual guide, and creative force behind Ananda. The liturgy, scripture commentary, and most of the music you hear at Ananda were written by him. He divides his time between Ananda in India, Europe, and America. [Asha Praver] See also Nayaswami.
Swami Shankara: Reorganizer of the Swami Order; his date is usually, though not necessarily correctly, given as the 8th century. He is the greatest known commentator on Vedanta philosophy, and was a practicing yogi. He expounded God not as a negative abstraction, but as positive, eternal, ever-conscious, omnipresent, ever-new bliss. He, too, performed many Christlike miracles. [WE]
Tamas: The lowest of the three gunas, or qualities, that infuse the entire universe. The other two are rajas or rajo guna, the activating quality, and sattwa, the elevating or spiritual quality. The three gunas represent the progressive stages of manifestation outward from the oneness of Spirit. [NP p.370] See Tamasic, Tamoguna, Gunas and Caste system.
Tamasic: Matter represents inertia, the tamasic quality in nature. [NP p.370] Expressing the qualities of Tamoguna. See also Tamas, Tamoguna, Gunas and Caste system.
Tamoguna: The darkening quality, that which obscures the underlying unity of Life. [EBG] See also Tamas, Tamasic, Gunas and Caste system.
Tapasya: austerity; devotion, in the sense of renunciation as a joyful self-offering to God. "When Sant Keshavadas, a well-known spiritual teacher from India, came to visit Ananda Village in the late 1970s, he was given a grand tour of the community. Impressed by what had been accomplished in such a relatively short period of time, he exclaimed, "Creating this community required a great deal of tapasya." "Yes," Swamiji said quietly. [SK p.333]
Treta Yuga: A 3600-year period that will start in A.D. 4100; its age will be marked by common knowledge of telepathic communications and other time-annihilators. [AY p.168] See also Dwapara Yuga, Kali Yuga, Satya Yuga, Yugas.
Turiya: The state beyond deep, dreamless sleep, in which the superconscious becomes overtly active. [WE]
Tyaga: Self-surrender, non-attachment to the fruits of action. [EBG] [A stage of] preliminary renunciation. This period should ordinarily last six years, so that one becomes quite sure inwardly that he is ready for full sannyas. At this point he should have demonstrated to others also that he truly places God first in his life, and accepts God as his only reality. [RO ch. 12]
Tyagi: One who is self-offered to the Divine. [EBG] Men who practice tyaga are known as tyagis; women, as tyaginis. [RO ch. 12] One who has taken the Vow of Tyaga in the Nayaswami Order.
Upanishads: Indian scriptures that present the essence of the Vedas. [EBG]
Vaisya: See Caste System.
Vedanta: One of the three main systems of Indian thought, or revelation, along with Shankhya and Yoga, Vedanta describes the nature of Brahman, the divine consciousness. [EBG]
Vedas: The ancient four Vedas comprise over 100 extant canonical books. [AY p.39] The four ancient scriptural texts of the Hindus. [WE] India’s oldest scripture. [EBG]
Vishnu: An aspect of the Divine Consciousness in the form of preservation (vs. creation or dissolution-restoration). See also Brahma, Shiva.
Yagya: A religious rite, the symbolic offering of the ego-self into the sacrificial fire for purification. The true yagya is Kriya Yoga. [EBG]
Yama: “Control”; yamas are rules or principles intended as guidelines for everyone, but meant especially for those who are seeking to advance spiritually: 1) Ahimsa, Non-Violence or Non-Injury 2) Non-Lying, or Truthfulness 3) Non-Stealing 4) Non-Sensuality 5) Non-Greed [RY p.100] See also Ashtanga, Niyama.
Yoga: A method for restraining the natural turbulence of thoughts, which otherwise impartially prevent all men, of all lands, from glimpsing their true nature of Spirit. [AY p.219] So long as man possesses a mind with its restless thoughts, so long will there be a universal need for yoga or control. [AY p.221] We came from God and are made in His image, and our hearts are restless until we again achieve unity (yoga in Sanskrit) with Him. [HTM p.13] Union, harmony, equilibrium. [AY p.245] The science of personal contact with the Divine. [AY p.286] With wise discernment the guru [Lahiri Mahasaya] guided his followers into the paths of Bhakti (devotion), Karma (action), Jnana (wisdom), or Raja(royal or complete) Yogas, according to each man’s natural tendencies. [AY p.315] Communion with God through the practice of scientific meditation. [WE] One of the three main systems of Indian thought, or revelation, along with Shankhya and Vedanta, Yoga tells the sincere seeker how to escape from maya, or delusion. [EBG] A Sanskrit word meaning, “union.” Yoga is also a system of psycho-physical techniques for helping man to achieve conscious union with the Infinite Spirit, God. The yogi, a practitioner of the yoga science, acquires outwardly also a vision of the underlying unity of all life. [TP p.4] The purpose of yoga…is to open the windows of the mind, and to awaken every cell of the body and brain to reflect and magnify the energy that comes to it from the surrounding universe. [TP p.29] Yoga, literally, means “union.” This union can be understood on different levels: philosophically, as that of the relative, limited self with the absolute Self; religiously, as that of the individual soul with the Infinite Spirit; psychologically, as the integration of the personality – a state wherein a person no longer lives at cross-purposes with himself; emotionally, as the stilling of the waves of likes and dislikes, permitting one to remain in all circumstances complete in himself. [TP p.45] See also Ashtanga, Bhakti Yoga, Gyana Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga, Shankya, Vedanta.
Yogananda: See Paramhansa Yogananda.
Yogi: Anyone who practices a scientific technique of God-contact…a yogi engages himself in a definite, step-by-step procedure by which the body and mind are disciplined, and the soul liberated. [AY p.219] One who unites himself scientifically with God. A yogi may be, outwardly, a man of the world, or he may be a renunciate spurning all worldly identifications. Practice, not theory, is the essence of the yogi’s life. [WE]
Yugas: Ages or cycles of time; the four ages are Kali (dark), Dwapara (“second,” an age of energy), Treta (“third,” an age of awareness of the power of mind), and Satya (“Truth,” also called Krita, an age of high spiritual awareness) yugas. [EBG]
AF: Affirmation for Self-Healing by Swami Kriyananda
AY: Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda (reprint of the 1946 First Edition, published by Crystal Clarity, Publishers)
AS: Awaken to Superconsciousness by Swami Kriyananda
EBG: Glossary from The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita, Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda; As Remembered by His Disciple, Swami Kriyananda
ESR: The Essence of Self-Realization: The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda, Recorded and compiled by his disciple, Swami Kriyananda
HTM: How to Meditate by Jyotish Novak
HW: The Hindu Way of Awakening: Its Revelation, Its Symbols—An Essential View of Religion by Swami Kriyananda
IS: Intuition for Starters by Swami Kriyananda
JL: Glossary from The Jewel in the Lotus by Swami Kriyananda
MS: Meditation for Starters by Swami Kriyananda
NP: The New Path – My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda by Swami Kriyananda
RO: A Renunciate Order for the New Age by Swami Kriyananda
ROC: Revelations of Christ, Proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda; Presented by his disciple, Swami Kriyananda
RSL: Rays of the Same Light (3 volumes) – Parallel passages, with commentary, from the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita
RY: The Art and Science of Raja Yoga by Swami Kriyananda
SK: Swami Kriyananda As We Have Known Him, by Asha Praver
TP: The Path by Swami Kriyananda
WE: Glossary from Whispers from Eternity by Paramhansa Yogananda, edited by Swami Kriyananda
Where no reference is cited, definition is Dambara’s or Tandava’s.