Sanskrit Glossary of Indian Philosophical Terms


Short and objective definitions of common terms you'll find throughout Indian philosophy.

Words found on this page are from book “Idealistic Thought of India” by P. T. Raju, whose subject matter is mostly Vedānta and Buddhism.

Words are in proper IAST spelling.

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  • abādhyatvam: non-contradictoriness.
  • ābhāsa: appearance.
  • abhāva: negation, negative.
  • abhāvapadārtha: negative entity.
  • abheda: non-difference.
  • ācāryaḥ: teacher, example of good conduct.
  • ādhāra: locus, basis, support.
  • ādhārākāraṇa: supporting cause.
  • adhikaraṇa: locus, basis, support.
  • adhiṣṭhānakāraṇa: see ādhārākāraṇa.
  • adhyāsa: illusion, super-imposition, superposition.
  • advaita: non-dualism.
  • āgamas: scriptures; generally sectarian scriptures as distinguished from the śruti or Veda, which is a non-sectarian scripture.
  • akhyāti: non-cognition, absence of cognition.
  • alaukika: non-empirical.
  • alaukikasat: non-empirical being.
  • Alaya: non-perishing.
  • Ālaya: receptacle, storehouse.
  • anātmā: non-self, temporary, not-permanent, changing, time-space and world.
  • anirvacanīya: inexplicable.
  • anirvacanīyakhyāti-vāda: doctrine that the object of illusion is inexplicable as either real or unreal.
  • antaḥkaraṇa: inner instrument, inner sense, mind.
  • anyathākhyāti-vāda: doctrine that the object of illusion is a real object mistaken for another real object.
  • aparokṣānubhūti: direct or immediate experience.
  • apratisaṅkhyā: ignorance, non-cognition.
  • apūrṇakhyāti-vāda: doctrine that illusion is due to (the same as) incomplete cognition.
  • arthāpatti: postulation.
  • asamavāyikāraṇa: relational cause.
  • asat: non-being, unreality, non-existence, falsity.
  • asatkhyāti-vāda: doctrine that the object of illusion is unreal or non-existent.
  • āsrava: impurity.
  • āśraya: locus, support, basis.
  • aśuddha: impure.
  • aśūnyatā: non-emptiness, non-indeterminateness.
  • ātmakhyāti-vāda: doctrine that the object of illusion is the perceiver's own self or mind.
  • avaccheda: limitation, determination, determinant.
  • avasthā: condition, state.
  • avastu: non-entity, unreality, falsity.
  • avidyā: nescience, Ignorance, sometimes equated to māyā (because māyā causes it via it's veiling power; āvaraṇa-śakti).
  • avijñapti: ignorance, the unconscious.
  • avyākṛta: unmanifest.
  • āyatana: base, foundation, dwelling place.


  • bhāva: positive, the positive.
  • bhāvapadārtha: positive entity.
  • bheda: difference, distinction.
  • bhedābheda: difference-cum-identity.
  • bhedābheda-vādin: upholder of difference-cum-identity.
  • bhogyaśakti: energy as the object of enjoyment.
  • bhotṛśakti: energy as the enjoyer.
  • Brahman: Infinite, Great, Absolute. Ultimate Reality.
  • bhrama: illusion, error, hallucination.
  • bhrānti: see bhrama.
  • bodhi: enlightenment, knowledge.
  • Buddha: Enlightened.
  • Buddhakāya: body of Buddha.
  • buddhi: reason, intellect, understanding, intelligence.


  • citta: mind.


  • darsana: sight, perception, vision, view, philosophical system.
  • dhamma: see dharma.
  • dharma: law, nature, rule, ideal, norm, quality, entity, truth, element, category.
  • Dharmadhātu: the original Law or Dharma, the Absolute Dharma.
  • Dharmakaya: the body of Law or Dharma.
  • dharmanairātmya: selflessness or essencelessness of the object of the world.
  • dhātu: ore, element.
  • dhyāna: meditation.
  • doctrine of karma: doctrine that human action bears necessary fruit.
  • dṛṣṭi: view.
  • duḥkha: pain, suffering, misery.
  • Dvaita: Dualism.
  • Dvaitādvaita: dualism-cum-non-dualism.


  • guṇa: quality.


  • icchāśakti: energy as desire or will.


  • Īśvara: God, Cosmic Person, lower Absolute.
  • jāti: universal, genus.
  • jīva: individual, finite self, empirical self.
  • jñānaśakti: energy as knowledge or consciousness.


  • kañcukas: sheaths, fetters.
  • karaṇa: instrumental cause, instrument.
  • kāraṇa: cause, reason.
  • karma: action, latent stage which ethical action enters until fructification.
  • khyāti: cognition, knowledge.
  • kleśas: affections, mental impurities.
  • kriyāśakti: energy as activity.
  • kṣaṇika: momentary.
  • Kūṭastha: He who (that which) lives in the mass or unitary state, see Sākṣī.


  • lakṣaṇa: definition, quality, mark.
  • laukika: empirical.


  • mādhyamika: middle-pather, upholder of the doctrine of the mean or middle path.
  • malas: impurities.
  • manas: mind.
  • mantra: incantation.
  • mārga: path, way.
  • Māyā: the mysterious, mystery, the inexplicable, illusion. See Avidyā.
  • mithyā: illusion, error, hallucination.
  • mokṣa: see mukti.
  • mukti: salvation, liberation, emancipation, spiritual realization.


  • nairātmya: selflessness, essenceless-ness, natureless-ness.
  • nāma-rūpa: name and form, mind and matter.
  • nāstika: nihilist, negativist, atheist.
  • niḥsvabhāva: without own nature or essence.
  • niḥsvabhāvata: natureless-ness, essenceless-ness, emptiness of individuality.
  • nimitta-kāraṇa: efficient cause.
  • niradhiṣṭana: without a locus, support or basis.
  • niradhiṣṭana-bhrama: illusion without a real basis.
  • niranvaya: non-relational.
  • nirguṇa: quality-less, indeterminate.
  • nirodha: cessation.
  • nirvāṇa: peace, non-agitation, salvation.
  • nirvikalpa: indeterminate.


  • pada: word.
  • padārtha: meaning of a word, concept, category, entity.
  • paramāṇu: atom.
  • paramārthasat: ultimate being, absolute reality.
  • paramārthasatya: ultimate truth, absolute truth.
  • pāramārthika-sattā: noumenal existence, essential existence, ultimate being.
  • pāramitā: virtue.
  • paratantra: conditional, conditioned, relative.
  • parikalpita: imaginary, imagined, fabricated.
  • pariṇāma: change, transformation, evolution.
  • pariniṣpanna: absolute, ultimate, final.
  • prajñā: knowledge, wisdom, higher knowledge according to Buddhism… but reason or intellect according to Orthodox schools.
  • prakāra:  form, determinant, determination, universal.
  • Prakṛti: Primeval Matter, Nature.
  • pramāṇas: valid sources or instruments of knowledge.
  • prātibhāsika: seeming, apparent, illusory, hallucinatory.
  • prātibhāsika-sattā: seeming existence, apparent existence, illusory, existence, hallucinatory existence.
  • pratibimba: reflection.
  • pratisaṅkhyā: knowledge, cognition.
  • pratīyasamutpāda: dependent origination, causation as occasioning.
  • pratyabhijñā: recognition.
  • pravṛtti: kinesis, outward-going activity.
  • pudgala: person according to Buddhism, physical body according to Jainism and other schools.
  • pudgalanairātmya:  selflessness of personality, essenceless-ness of soul (mind).
  • Puruṣa: Person, Self, same as Atman, Cosmic or Universal Person or Self.


  • Qismat: Fate.


  • rūpa: form, matter.


  • sad-adhiṣṭhana: having a real entity as the basis or locus.
  • sad-adhiṣṭhana-bhrama: illusion with a real object as it's basis.
  • saguṇa: having qualities, determined, determinate, qualified.
  • Sākṣī: Witness, the unaffected perceiver of the actions and enjoyments of the jīva or empirical individual.
  • Śakti: Energy, Power, often identified with the feminine aspect of the Absolute or God-head.
  • samādhi: trance, concentration, meditation, collected or integrated state of mind or personality.
  • samanantara-pratyaya: dependence on the immediate antecedent, causation as such dependence.
  • sāmānya: universal, common character.
  • sāmānya-lakṣaṇā pratyāsatti: [1] contact characterized by the universal [2] contact through the universal (contact of the mind with the plurality of denotation through the universal contacted in one object… similar to the contact of the whole denotation of a word through its connotation).
  • samatā: sameness, equality, equanimity.
  • samavāyikāraṇa: material cause, the kind of causality that is said by the Naiyāyikas to exist in a substance its relation to quality and activity and also in the individual in its relation to the universal. The same causality is said to exist in the parts in their relation to the whole.
  • sampradāya: tradition.
  • samsāra: world, empirical existence, flow, flux.
  • samskāras: impressions, see  vāsanās.
  • samskṛta: compounded.
  • samudaya: origination, birth, coming into being.
  • samvṛti: empirical world.
  • samvṛtisat: empirical being, relative being.
  • samvṛti-satya: empirical truth, relative truth.
  • saṅghāta: aggregate, aggregation, combination, compound.
  • saṅghāta-vāda: doctrine that causation is only aggregation, involving no transformation.
  • sarvam: everything.
  • sarvānabhūḥ: the all-experiencer, omniscient.
  • sāsrava: having impurities, impure.
  • śāśvata-vādin: eternalist.
  • sat: being, existence, reality.
  • sat-khyāti-vāda: doctrine that the object of illusion is real.
  • sat-kārya-vāda: doctrine that the effect is existent before its birth.
  • sattā: being, existence, reality.
  • sattva (satva): being, existent, the real, purity.
  • satyam: truth, reality, existence, being.
  • savikalpa: determinate, having a conceptual form.
  • skandhas: aggregates.
  • smārtas: traditionalists, the orthodox.
  • smṛtis: remembered texts as distinguished from śruti or heard texts. The smṛtis are the ethical codes and the epics, including the Bhagavadgītā.
  • Śruti: Veda, Scripture, the heard text.
  • śuddha: pure.
  • Śūnya: Void, Vacuity, that which is empty of determinations, Indeterminate, Inexplicable.
  • śūnyajña: knower of the Śūnya.
  • Śūnya-khyāti-vāda: doctrine that the object of illusion is śūnya or void.
  • śūnyatā: emptiness; vacuity, inexplicability.
  • svabhāva: own being, own essence, own nature.
  • svalakṣaṇa: unique, peculiar, that the mark or definition of which refers only to itself.
  • svarūpa: own form, own nature.
  • svarūpa-lakṣaṇa: essential quality or mark, that the definition of which is its own form.
  • svetara-bhinna: different from the others, that which is different from all the others.


  • tanmātras: subtle elements, those which are only themselves, ultimate potential forms of gross elements.
  • tarka: argument, logic, reasoning.
  • taṭastha: accidental, indifferent, unaffecting.
  • taṭastha lakṣaṇa: accidental mark or quality.
  • tathā: thus, such.
  • Tathāgata: one who has reached Thus-ness or the Thus, a title of Buddha.
  • tathatā: thusness, the Thus.
  • tathyam: truth, what is thus.
  • tattvam (tatvam): that-ness, the That, category, reality.


  • ucchceda-vādin: upholder of negativism, negativist, annihilationist, nihilist.
  • upādāna-kāraṇa: material cause.
  • upādhis: conditions, limitations, also used by the Nyāya in the sense of a mere concept or conceptual form.


  • vāda: argument, doctrine, theory.
  • vāsanā: flavour, impression.
  • vastu: object, entity, reality.
  • vidyā: knowledge.
  • vijñāna: mind, consciousness.
  • vijñāna-vāda: doctrine that reality is mental or mind only.
  • vijñapti: see vijñāna.
  • vikalpa: image, concept, false concept without a corresponding object according to Yoga, determination, determinant, form given to cognition.
  • vikāra: change, affection, modification, agitation, disturbance.
  • vipāka: effect, result, change.
  • viparyaya: see bhrama.
  • viśeṣa: particular, peculiarity, determination.
  • viśeṣaṇa: quality, character, determinant.
  • Viśiṣṭādvaita: Non-dualism of the qualified oi determinate Brahman, qualified Non-dualism.
  • vivarta: change or transformation without being affected, appearance.
  • vivarta-kāraṇa: cause unaffected by change.
  • vṛtti: function, act, epistemic act.
  • vṛttijñāna: knowledge obtained through act of mind, cognition in which mental action is involved.
  • vyāvahārika-sattā: the world of action and communication, pragmatic existence, empirical reality.


  • yāna: vehicle, conveyance.