Sanskrit Glossary of Vedantic Terms – 3

Below definitions are found in paperback book “Self-Unfoldment” by Swami Chinmayananda. It converts Vedantic concepts into action-plans; a highly practical manual for modern age.

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  • Advaita: Non-dualistic (monistic) Vedanta. Advaita Vedanta contends that the seeker and the Sought, the devotee and the Lord, are one.
  • ahaṅkāra:  Ego. Sense of individuality.
  • ahiṃsā: Non-injury at the mental level.
  • ānanda: Bliss. See also sat-cit-ānanda.
  • ānandamaya kośa: Bliss sheath, one of the five sheaths that encase the Self.
  • annamaya kośa: Food sheath, one of the five sheaths that encase the Self.
  • antaḥkaraṇa: Inner equipment; the mind-intellect.
  • apāna: In the vital-air sheath, the faculty of excretion, which controls the throwing out of excreta such as feces, urine, sperm, sputum, and perspiration.
  • āraṇyakas: Prescriptions for various methods of worship; one of the four main sections in each of the Vedas.
  • asatyam: Lack of truthfulness. See also satyam.
  • Atharva Veda: One of the four Vedas. See also Vedas.
  • Ātman: The Self. Pure Consciousness. The immanent aspect of the supreme Reality. This same Consciousness, when regarded as transcendent (from level of TOTAL), is called Brahman.
  • āvaraṇa: The veiling of Truth produced through the quality of tamas. See also vikṣepa.
  • avatāra (avatar): Divine incarnation.
  • avidyā: Ignorance. Non-apprehension of the supreme Reality. Macrocosmic avidyā is called māyā [in sense that māyā individuates the One into the many].


  • Bhagavad Gītā: ”Song of God.” A major scriptural poem in eighteen chapters, contained in the Mahabharata. It is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, his friend and disciple, on the battlefield of the dynastic war between the Pandavas and Kauravas
  • bhakta: One who is a devotee of Truth.
  • bhakti: Devotion. 
    • Acharya Andre clears up misconception around word “devotion” and “Path of Devotion”: Devotion encompasses any practice, any discipline, any yajña – for sake of (advaita) knowing the Truth as not different from oneself right now, or (dvaita) admiring the Lord. Thus devotion is NOT a separate or exclusive path. For example, one can't say “She follows path-of-devotion, he follows path-of-karma-yoga and you follow path-of-knowledge”. Because any path is merely an expression of devotion-for-the-Truth. Moreover, “Path of devotion“, as heard in mainstream spirituality, is strictly incorrect, as nowhere in Vedas is such a path mentioned. One might argue, Bhagavad Gītā, CH12 is proof of “Path of Devotion”. Although logic doesn't hold up, because CH12's devotion is merely a consequence of Arjuna's profound learnings and realizations that took place between CH2-11. In other words, the more you know, the more you are naturally devoted to THAT which you know about. Thus CH12 chronologically is called “The Topic of Devotion”. In short: one can't look at CH12 as in independent chapter to justify “Path of Devotion [for Lord Krishna]” is a separate path. CH12 must be looked at within the context of the WHOLE book, specifically what has already taken place between CH2-11.
  • bhāvanā: An attitude or mood that one assumes toward the Divine.
  • Brahma: God in the aspect of Creator; one of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Shiva and Vishnu.
  • brahmacārī: A seeker of the knowledge of Brahman; one who has taken the first monastic vows. The first of the four stages of life, the other being the life of the householder, the life of retirement, and renunciation. The feminine form of brahmacārī is brahmacārini.
  • brahmacarya: Continence (abstinence) in thought, word, and deed. Also the stage of the student, the first of the four stages in to which an individual's life is divided. The status of a religious aspirant who has taken the first monastic vows.
  • Brahman: Pure Consciousness, the transcendent, all-pervading supreme Reality.
  • brāhmaṇas: Elaborate descriptions of rituals; one of the four main sections in each of the Vedas.
  • Brahma Sūtras: Vedantic aphorisms by Vyasa. Also known as Vedānta Sūtras.
  • brahmavidyā: Knowledge of Brahman; the science of infinite Reality.
  • brāhmin: Member of one of the four main castes, which includes priests, ministers, and subtle thinkers.
  • buddhi: The intellect; thoughts functioning as ideas, judgements, or decisions. See also manas.
  • cit: See sat-cit-ānanda.
  • citta: That aspect of the subtle-body which makes our thoughts apparent to us.
  • dama: Self-control relative to the five sense organs.
  • deha vāsanās: The tendency to follow the urges of the body. See also vāsanās.
  • dharma: The inherent quality of anything, as the heat in fire and the sweetness in sugar. Righteousness; duty.
  • dhyāna: Meditation. See also rāja-yoga.
  • duḥkha nivṛtti: Revulsion to sorrow, one of the two main motivators of human activity. See also sukha prāpti.
  • Dvaita: Dualism, propounded by Sri Madhvacharya, which contends that the devotee and the Lord are separate entities. See also Advaita and Viśiṣṭādvaita.


  • guṇa: Thought quality or texture. The three types of guṇas are: sattva (pure and serene), rajas (passionate and agitated), and tamas (dull and inactive).
  • guru-śiṣya-paramparā: The preceptor-disciple or teacher-taught lineage.


  • Hiraṇyagarbha: The supreme Reality manifesting as the Creator. Consciousness functioning through all minds and intellects.


  • indriyas: Sense organs. See also jñāna indriyas and karma indriyas.
  • Īśvara: The Lord, God. Consciousness functioning through māyā.
  • Īśvara darśana: ”The vision of God.” Recognition of the Self as one's true nature.
  • itihāsas:  ”It so happened.” Histories, including epics such as the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇa.


  • jagat: The universe.
  • japa, japa yoga: The training imparted to the mind by concentrating on a single line of thought to the exclusion of all other thoughts. It generally consists of repeating one of God's names, a mantra [EG: om tat sat], with the help of a mālā, a rosary. 
    • Acharya Andre: When chanting, think about what each word means. Without knowing the definitions, your previous time and energy is mostly wasted. 
  • jīva: The individual soul; the individuality or ego in a human being; Ātman identified with the body, mind, and senses.
  • jīvanmukta / jñānī: One who has attained liberation while in the body.
  • jñāna: Divine Knowledge, wisdom. See also yoga.
  • jñāna indriyas: The five organs of perception: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin.
  • jñāna yoga: See yoga.
  • jñānī: One who follows the path of knowledge. Also, a liberated person, a knower of Brahman.


  • kāma: Desire.
  • karma: The sum of the effects of past actions; a sequence of cause and effect on the moral plane. Action, work.
  • karma indriyas: The five organs of action: hands, legs, organ of speech, genital organ, and organs of evacuation.
  • karma yoga: See yoga.
  • karma yogi: One who follows the path of action. See also yoga.
  • kośas: Sheaths, the external coatings of the Self: the food, vital-air, mental, intellectual, and bliss sheaths.
  • krodha: Anger.
  • kṣatriya: Member of one of the four main castes, which includes warriors, statesmen, and members of the ruling class.


  • Lakshmi (Lakṣmī): The Goddess of Wealth; the consort of Vishnu.
  • loka: World, field of experience, plane of existence.
  • loka vāsanās: The tendency that urges us (collective humanity) to follow the patterns of the time. See also vāsanās.


  • Madhvacharya: A thirteenth-century exponent of Dualism (Dvaita). See also Dvaita.
  • Mahābhārata: A long epic poem, attributed to Vyasa, relating to the events of a dynastic war between the Pandavas and Kauravas. It illustrates the truths of the Vedas and includes the great philosophic poem, the Bhagavad Gītā.
  • mahatma (mahātmā): ”Great Soul.” A monk or highly advanced master.
  • mahāvākya: ”Great statement.” Aphoristic declarations of the supreme Truth; direct revelations of Brahman.
  • mālā: Prayer beads used by the Hindus, generally consisting of 108 beads strung together on a single cord with a small space between the individual beads. One of the beads, called the meru, is left protruding.
  • manana: Reflection on and careful analysis of the knowledge gained from the teacher and the scriptures to render that knowledge free from doubt.
  • manas: Mind; thoughts in the form of emotions or in a state of restlessness. See also buddhi.
  • manomaya kośa: Mental sheath, one of the five sheaths that encase the Self.
  • mantra: A chosen name of God that a seeker repeats to himself to purify his mind.
  • mantras: Lyrical chants adoring the beauty of Nature, one of the four main sections in each of the Vedas.
  • māyā: Illusion; ignorance or non-apprehension of Reality. It is described as an inexplicable power inherent in the supreme Reality [Brahman], as heat is inherent in fire.
  • meru: One of the 108 beads of the Hindu mālā, which is left protruding to mark the end of one cycle of mantra-chanting. The meru is never crossed; when the meru is reached in the telling-of-the-beads, the mālā is turned around and the rotation, along with the chanting, is resumed.
  • moha: Delusion.
  • mokṣa: Freedom from limitation (bondage); liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
  • mumukṣu: A seeker consumed by mumukṣutva, a burning desire for liberation.
  • mumukṣutva: An intense desire for liberation.


  • nāmarūpa (nāma-rūpa): ”Name and form.” The apparent overlay of plurality over the nondual Brahman.
  • Narayana (Nārāyaṇa): A name of Vishnu.
  • neti neti: ”Not this, not this.” The approach of the discriminating mind toward the apparent reality of the phenomenal world; rejection of that reality as the not-Self.
  • nididhyāsana: Meditation. The flow of like thoughts related to Brahman, to the exclusion of all other thoughts.
  • nirvikalpa samādhi: The transcendental state of consciousness in which the mind becomes totally absorbed in the supreme Reality, with all sense of individuality and duality lost. See also savikalpa samadhi.
  • niṣkāma karma: Desireless work without expectation of reward.


  • Om: Sometimes spelled Aum. Sacred syllable that represents the supreme Reality. Repetition of the syllable combined with meditation on its meaning is considered an effective spiritual practice.


  • pañca-kośa: The five sheaths that encase the Self: the food, vital-air, mental, intellectual, and bliss sheaths.
  • pañca-kośa-viveka: ”Discrimination of the five sheaths.” The capacity to recognize the superimposed nature of the five sheaths and realize one's true nature as the Self. See also pañca-kośas.
  • pañca-prāṇas: The fivefold faculties of the vital-air sheath: perception (prāṇa), excretion (apāna), digestion (samāna), circulation (vyāna), and thinking (udāna).
  • pāpa: Sin; an action that causes us remorse and regret after we have acted with the wrong intention. See also puṇya.
  • Parvati (Pārvatī): One of the forms of the Divine Mother. In other forms, also known as Uma and Shakti.
  • prakṛti: Matter, the material of the universe through which the Spirit (Puruṣa) manifests Itself. See also Puruṣa .
  • prāṇa: Primal energy from which mental and physical energies are evolved. In the vital-air sheath, the faculty of perception.
  • prāṇamaya kośa: Vital-air sheath, one of the five sheaths that encase the Self.
  • prārabdha: The principle of destiny. That portion of our past karmas which is being lived out in the present life.
  • prasthāna traya: Three texts describing the system of Vedanta, namely the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gītā, and the Brahma Sūtras.
  • preyas: The path of the pleasant.
  • puṇya: Merit; meritorious action. An action that causes no regret but, instead, helps integrate our personality. See also pāpa.
  • Purāṇa: “Ancient.” Any one of the 18 books of stories, attributed to Vyasa, in which Vedantic ideas are objectified and dramatized in the lives of saints, kings, devotees, and divine incarnations.
  • Puruṣa: Spirit, the pure Consciousness, which manifests Itself through prakṛti, matter. See also prakṛti.
  • puruṣārtha: Self-effort, a faculty unique to human beings, which helps them to choose their actions regardless of their inborn tendencies (vāsanās).


  • rāga-dveṣa: Likes and dislikes.
  • rajas: One of the three thought textures (guṇas) that characterize the human personality. The rajasic quality is characterized by activity, passion, and agitation.
  • rāja yoga: A type of yoga expounded by Patanjali that focuses on concentration and meditation as a path. Raja-yoga (also called aṣṭāṅga-yoga) has eight limbs.
    1. yama (self-control)
    2. niyama ( observance of virtues)
    3. āsana (postures)
    4. prāṇāyāma (control of breath)
    5. pratyāhāra (withdrawal of the mind)
    6. dhāraṇā (concentration)
    7. dhyāna (meditation)
    8. samādhi (absorption)
  • Ramanuja: A twelfth-century philosopher-saint from South India, the founder of Viśiṣṭādvaita. See also Viśiṣṭādvaita.
  • Rāmāyaṇa: An ancient epic poem in Sanskrit written by the sage Valmiki, highlighting moral values through the life story of Sri Rama.
  • Ṛg Veda: One of the four Vedas. See also Vedas.
  • rishi (ṛṣi): Sage, seer.


  • Ṣad Darśanas: The six schools of philosophy in India.
  • sādhanā: Any spiritual practice, such as reading the scriptures, meditating, distributing one's wealth to the needy, or withdrawing one's mind from worldly pursuits.
  • śama: Calmness of the mind; a condition experienced by the mind when it does not function in worldly activities.
  • samādhāna: Tranquility of the mind; the poise the mind gains when it is trained to dwell continuously on a perfect ideal.
  • samādhi: ”Tranquil mind.” A state of absorption or thoughtlessness in which a person experiences his identity with the supreme Reality.
  • Sāma Veda: One of the four Vedas. See also Vedas.
  • saṃsāra: The endless cycle of births and deaths, of confusions and chaos, which human beings experience before they realize their identity with the supreme Reality.
  • Sanātana Dharma: ”Eternal Way.” The Hindu spiritual tradition. That truth which remains homogeneous and unchanging irrespective of time and place.
  • saṅga: Attachment.
  • sannyāsa: Renunciation; the monastic life. The last of the four stages of life, the other being student life (brahmacarya); married householder life (gṛhastha); and the life of retirement and contemplation (vānaprastha).
  • sannyāsī: A renunciate; one who has taken the vow of sannyāsa.
  • Sarasvati: Goddess of Knowledge; the consort of Brahma.
  • śāstra: Scriptures, including both those considered to be revealed by God (śruti) and those written by sages (smṛti).
  • śāstra vāsanās: The tendency to undertake mere scholarly study of various kinds of knowledge, either secular or religious. See also vāsanās.
  • sat: Existence. See also sat-cit-ānanda.
  • sat-cit-ānanda: Absolute existence-knowledge-bliss, an epithet for Brahman.
  • satsang (satsaṅga): ”Good company. ” Maintenance of contact with the higher values of life, either by association with noble persons or with inspiring writings and ideas.
  • sattva: One of the three thought textures (guṇas) that characterize the human personality. The sāttvic quality is characterized by purity and serenity.
  • satyam: Truthfulness; living in the spirit of our convictions.
  • savikalpa samādhi: The state of consciousness in which the mind experiences its essential divinity; at this stage, a trace of individuality still lingers to experience that divine vision. See also nirvikalpa samādhi.
  • Shakti: As a personification of primal energy, Shakti is the dynamic mother aspect of the supreme Reality. Also known in other forms, including Uma and Parvati.
  • Shankara: Also known as Shankaracharya and Adi Shankara. The greatest exponent of Advaita Vedanta ( about the seventh century A.D.). He wrote extensive commentaries on the ten principal Upanishads, the Brahma Sūtras, and the Bhagavad Gītā and was the author of numerous texts on the fundamentals of Vedanta, including Ātma Bodha, Bhaja Govindam, and Vivekacūḍāmaṇi.
  • Shiva: God in the aspect of Destroyer; one of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Vishnu and Brahma.
  • Smṛti: The body of traditional law, both religious and secular, that elaborates on the philosophic truths in the Upanishads.
  • śraddhā: Trust in the words of the teacher and the scriptures; faith in one's ideal.
  • śravaṇa: Listening to the teaching and engaging in the associated study of the scriptures in order to ascertain the reality of Brahman.
  • śreyas: The path of the good.
  • Śruti: ”That which is heard.” Scriptural teachings regarded as direct revelations from God to humanity; specifically, the Upanishads.
  • sthitaprajña: A person of steady wisdom, one established in the knowledge of the Self.
  • śudra: Member of the last of the four main castes, which includes laborers and servants.
  • sukha prāpti: Yearning for joy, one of the two main motivators of human activity. See also duḥkha nivṛtii.


  • tamas: One of the three thought textures (guṇas) that characterize the human personality. The tāmasic quality is characterized by dullness and inactivity.
  • titikṣa: Forbearance or silent endurance in the face of all obstacles.
  • Turīya: ”The fourth.” The fourth state of consciousness, which transcends the three ordinary states of consciousness; the waking, dreaming, and deep-sleep states.


  • udāna: In the vital-air sheath, the faculty of thinking. The capacity to entertain and absorb new thoughts.
  • Uma: Goddess of Matter; the consort of Shiva. Known in many farms, including Shakti and Parvati.
  • upādhi: Conditioning that is apparently imposed on Ātman, the pure Self, seemingly limiting it.
  • Upanishads (Upaniṣads): The final, philosophic portion of each of the four Vedas; they constitute the quintessence of scriptural truths. In all, 108 Upanishads have been preserved.
  • uparati: Self-withdrawal, the quality of being unaffected by external disturbances.
  • upāsana: Worship.


  • vairāgya (virāga): Dispassion; indifference to worldly things.
  • vaiṣya: Member of one of the four main castes, which includes merchants and business people.
  • vāsanās: Inborn dispositions and motivating urges deep in the unconscious; the impressions formed in the personality when one acts in the world with egocentric desires.
  • Vedānta: ”End of the Vedas.” One of the six systems of Hindu philosophy, evolved from the Upanishads, the end portion of the Vedas. As the word veda means ”knowledge”, Vedanta can also denote ”the end of knowledge” or ”the most profound know ledge.” Vedanta teaches that the purpose of our life is to realize the supreme Reality.
  • Vedas: Four ancient scriptural textbooks, compiled by the poet-sage Vyasa from prophetic declarations handed down from teacher to taught over many generations. The four books are the Ṛg Veda, the Yajur Veda, the Sāma Veda, and the Atharva Veda, each of which is divided into four sections: mantras (lyrical chants adoring the beauty of Nature); brāhmaṇas (elaborate descriptions of rituals); āraṇyakas (prescriptions for methods of subjective worship); Upaniṣad (philosophic declarations of the highest spiritual truths).
  • vidyā: Knowledge.
  • vijñānamaya kośa: Intellectual sheath, one of the five sheaths that encase the Self.
  • vikṣepa: Agitations in the mind (manifestations of rajas), resulting from the veiling (āvaraṇa) of the Truth. See also āvaraṇa.
  • Virāt: Consciousness functioning through the aggregate of all gross bodies.
  • Vishnu: God in the aspect of Preserver; one of the Hindu Trinity, the other two being Shiva and Brahma.
  • Viśiṣṭādvaita: Qualified Monism, expounded by Sri Ramanuja, which contends that the devotee is part  of the whole, the Lord.
  • viveka: Discrimination between the ephemeral objects of the world and the eternal Principle of life.
  • vyāna: In the vital-air sheath, the faculty of circulation.
  • Vyasa: Also known as Veda Vyasa. The poet-seer who compiled the Vedas and the Brahma Sutras. The epic Mahabharata (which contains the Bhagavad Gita) and the Purāṇas are also attributed to him.


  • Yajur Veda: One of the four Vedas. See also Vedas.
  • yoga: The word yoga comes from the root yuj, ”to join, to yoke.” The joining of the self to the supreme Self. Also the techniques that promote one's progress toward the realization of the Supreme. Three major yogas (techniques, paths) are:
    1. Karma-yoga: the path of action, is most fitting for those of mixed temperament- whose head and heart are equally developed. The seeker performs selfless activity, dedicating all his actions to a higher ideal and giving up all sense of agency. A karma-yogi is a selfless worker who fallows the path of action.
    2. Upāsana yoga: This includes hatha-yoga, rāja-yoga, asthanga-yoga, kriyā-yoga. They all, more or less, deal with (a) breath control, (b) culture of the body via physical exercises and postures, (c) Open eye contemplation, and/or closed eye meditation. See rāja-yoga.
    3. Jñāna-yoga: the path of knowledge, is the most fitting path for those whose head is more developed than the heart. Through discrimination, the seeker differentiates between the Real and the unreal and finally comes to realize his identity with the supreme Reality. A jñāni is a follower of the path of knowledge.
    4. What about “bhakti-yoga“? There's no such thing. Read why in bhakti  definition on this page.
  • yogī: One who practices yoga. The feminine form of yogī is yoginī.