Kalpa Tree Press
Contemporary Classics in Vedanta




Vedanta Online

This issue features "Universal Values for the World Conscience" by Shelley Brown

Vedanta Glossary
of Sanskrit and Bengali words, with guide to English pronunciation


The pronunciation of Sanskrit and Bengali words can only be approximated in English since the Roman alphabet contains many fewer letters and fewer sounds. Diacritical marks have been omitted from Sanskrit words as they are of little help to readers unfamiliar with their use as a guide to Sanskrit pronunciation.
A guide to English pronunciation has been placed in parentheses after each entry using the following vowel sounds; bolded letters in the pronunciation guide are long vowels that would ordinarily have a macron (horizontal bar placed on top):

a sounds like o in come
a sounds like a in car
e sounds like e in prey
i sounds like i in fin
i sounds like ee in feel
o sounds like o in note
u sounds like u in pull
u sounds like oo in pool
ai sounds like ai in aisle
au sounds like ow in now

Advaita (ad vai' ta). The nondualistic philosophy of Vedanta. See Vedanta.

Advaita Ashrama. The ashrama and publications department of the Ramakrishna Order at Mayavati, with a branch in Calcutta. See Mayavati.

Akhandananda, Swami (1866-1937) (a khan' da' nan da). A direct monastic disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the third President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, known for his Selfless service to orphans and others afflicted.

Allah ho Akbar (al lah' ho ak' bar). "God is great"-a Muslim chant.

ananda (a' nan da). Bliss; the last part of the monastic name.

arati (a' ra ti). Worship of the Deity with waving of lights; evening vespers.

ashrama (ash' ra ma), also ashram. A religious community, usually monastic.

Ashtavakra Samhita
(ash ta' vak ra sam' hit ta). The classic treatise on Advaita Vedanta.

atmajnani (at' ma gya' ni). A knower of the Atman or the Self.

Atman (at' man). The Self, or individual soul; also denotes the Supreme Soul, which, according to the nondualistic Vedanta, is one with the individual soul.

Aurobindo, Sri (Ghosh) (1872-1950). The Founder of the Ashrama at Pondicherry, India; a religious leader and the writer of a large number of religious-philosophical books, including the Vedanta, reinterpretation of the Vedas, and commentaries on the Upanishads.

Avatar (a va tar'), also Avatara. Divine Incarnation of God, or God embodied as a human being at various times in history for the good of mankind (for example, Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Chaitanya, Mohammed, and Ramakrishna).

Babu (ba' bu). A well-to-do gentleman; a title equivalent to "Mister" placed after a name.

Baburam Maharaj (ba' bu ram' ma' ha raj). Swami Premananda.

Bande Mataram (ban' de ma ta' ram). Lit., "Hail Motherland." The opening words of a patriotic song by Bankim Chandra Chatterji.

Belur Math (be' lur mat'). The monastic headquarters of the Ramakrishna Order (Ramakrishna Math and Mission) situated on the Ganges river four miles north of Calcutta at Belur, Howrah, India.

Benares, also Banaras. See Varanasi.

Bhagavad Gita (bha' ga vad gi' ta), or Gita. Lit., "Song of God." The well-known Hindu scripture describing the paths (yogas) to the realization of God.

bhakti (bhak' ti). Divine love; devotion to a Personal God.

bhakti yoga. The path of devotion to Divine union.

brahmachari (brah' ma cha' ri). A celibate religious male who has taken the first monastic vows; the first stage of monastic life (fem. brahmacharini).

brahmacharya (brah' ma char' ya). First monastic vows; the the first stage of Hindu life (continence in thought, word, and deed).

Brahman (brah' man). The Absolute; the Supreme Reality of Vedanta philosophy.

Brahmananda, Swami (1863-1922) (brah' ma' nan da), also known as "Maharaj." A direct monastic
disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, regarded as his spiritual son, and the first President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, which grew into a widespread organization under his guidance.

brahmin (bra' min). A Hindu of the highest caste, traditionally assigned to the priesthood.

Brahmo Samaj (brah' mo sa maj'). The theistic religious reform movement of nineteenth-century India founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy.

Brindaban (brin' da' ban), also Vrindaban. An ancient site of pilgrimage on the banks of the Jamuna
river in Uttar Pradesh, associated with the Avatar, Lord Krishna.

chadar (cha' dar). Upper body cloth; shawl.

Chaitanya (1485-1533) (chai tan' ya). A Hindu saint of Bengal who preached a form of Vaishnavism
based on the worship of Sri Krishna.

Chosen Ideal, or Ishta. The form of the Godhead chosen for worship and meditation in the path to realizing the highest truths.

communalism. Political strife based on religious sectarianism.

Dakshineswar (dak' shi nesh' war). The village on the Ganges about five miles north of Calcutta with a temple complex where Sri Ramakrishna spent most of his life.

darshan (dar' shan). Lit., "seeing." The sense of purification experienced in holy company.

devotee. A spiritual seeker who is devoted to the Personal God (may also be a disciple).

dharma (dhar' ma). Lit., "that which holds your true nature." The inmost constitution of a thing, the law of its inner being, acquired as a result of past actions, which determines a person's conduct and sense of right and wrong; moral or righteous living of an individual or group.

dhoti (dho' ti). Lower body cloth for a Hindu male.

dhyana (dhya' na). Deep meditation in which there is an unbroken flow of concentration.

diksha (dik' sha). Initiation of a seeker by a guru into spiritual life.

disciple. An initiated spiritual seeker in relation to a guru.

discrimination. In Vedanta, knowledge of what is real (eternal) and unreal (transient).

Divine Mother. The dynamic female aspect of the Godhead, often represented as the divine consort of Brahma, Vishnu, or Shiva.

Durga Puja (dur' ga pu' ja). The autumnal ritualistic worship of the Divine Mother as Goddess Durga, consort of Lord Shiva.

Dvaita (dvai' ta). The dualistic philosophy of Vedanta. See Vedanta.

Ganga (gang' ga). The Ganges river, considered sacred by the Hindus.

gerua (ge' ru a). The ochre cloth of the Hindu monk or nun.

ghat (ghat). A bathing place on a river or lake.

gherao (ghe' rao'). The surrounding and detaining of a person to extract a concession.

Great Master, or Master. Sri Ramakrishna.

guna (gu' na). The three qualities of Nature: sattva (wisdom), rajas (action), and tamas (inertia), discussed in the Samkhya philosophy (one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy). See also specific guna.

guru (gu' ru). Spiritual teacher.

Holy Mother. The name by which Sri Ramakrishna's wife was known among his devotees; the spiritual consort of Sri Ramakrishna. See Sarada Devi.

Ishta (ish' ta). The Chosen Ideal.

Ishvara (ish' va ra). The Personal God.

Jai (jai), also Jaya. "Victory" or "Glory to."

japa (ja' pa), also japam. Repetition of the name of God in a sacred formula. See mantra.

Jayrambati (jai' ram ba' ti). The village in West Bengal where Sri Sarada Devi was born.

jnana yoga (gya' na yo' ga). The path of knowledge to Divine union.

jnani (gya' ni). One who follows the path of knowledge and discrimination to realize God;
a nondualist.

Kali (ka li). A name of the Divine Mother; the presiding deity of the Dakshineswar temple.

Kamarpukur (ka' mar pu' kur). The village in West Bengal where Sri Ramakrishna was born.

karma (kar' ma). Action; the fruits of action.

karma yoga. The path of selfless action to Divine union.

kirtan (kir' tan). Devotional singing or chanting.

Krishna (krish' na). Divine Incarnation, widely worshipped in Hinduism and prominent in the
Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita.

kumbhamela (kum' bha me' la). A mass assembly of monks held every three years in one of several holy places in India.

kundalini (kun' da li ni). Lit., "coiled up" like a serpent. The spiritual energy lying dormant in all individuals that awakens in the spiritual aspirant and passes upward in the spinal canal, associated with progressively sublime mystic experiences and final illumination.

lakh, also lak, lac (lak). A hundred thousand, written as 1,00,000 (usually rupees).

lila (li' la). The divine play in the phenomenal world, a special manifestation of which is the advent of an Avatar.

Mahabharata (ma ha' bha' ra ta). The famous Hindu epic poem of the fourth to fifth centuries B.C. that includes the Bhagavad Gita and is comprised of one hundred thousand couplets.

Maharaj (ma' ha raj). Lit., "great king." Refers specifically to Swami Brahmananda in the historical sense but is commonly used to address any monk of the Ramakrishna Order (it can be used alone but is often preceded by the monk's familiar name prior to sannyas; for example, Chintaharan Maharaj). Maidan (mai dan'). A huge field in central Calcutta.

mantra (man' tra), also mantram. A sacred formula repeated in japa as a spiritual practice to concentrate the mind on the Chosen Ideal.

Master Mahashaya, "M" (Mahendranath Gupta). A saintly householder disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the author of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna.

math (mat). Monastery.

maya (ma' ya). A term of Vedanta philosophy denoting both the power of Brahman to create, preserve, and destroy the universe, and the cosmic ignorance veiling Brahman that leads man to identify with the phenomenal world.

Mayavati (ma' ya va ti). The location in the Himalayas of the Ramakrishna Order's Advaita Ashrama that Swami Vivekananda dedicated to nondualism, which includes the publishing house of the same name. See Advaita Ashrama.

moksha (mok' sha), also mukti (muk' ti). Liberation from the phenomenal world.

Narendranath (na ren' dra nat'). The pre-monastic name of Swami Vivekananda.

nishtha (nish' ta). Thoroughness; a dedicated attitude to any work.

Nitya (nit' ya). The Ultimate Reality; the eternal Absolute.

Nivedita, Sister (1867-1911), Margaret Noble. A monastic disciple of Swami Vivekananda who dedicated her life to the good of India and to the realization of its highest ideals; the Founder of the Nivedita School in Calcutta, now under Sri Sarada Math.

Om (aum). The most sacred word of the Vedas; a word symbol representing both the personal aspect of God and the impersonal Absolute (Brahman).

Panchavati (pan' cha va' ti). The grove of five sacred trees planted by Sri Ramakrishna at the Dakshineswar temple garden for his spiritual practices.

Pandit (pan' dit). A scholar learned in the scriptures.

Paramahamsa (pa' ra ma ham' sa). A monk of the highest order who is a knower of Absolute Truth (Brahman); applied specifically to Sri Ramakrishna.

pranam (pra nam'). Respectful salutation(s), usually by touching the feet or by prostrating.

prasad (pra sad'). Food that has been offered to the Lord (consecrated food).

Pravrajika (pra vra' ji ka). The title of nuns associated with Sri Sarada Math in India or with nuns of the Ramakrishna Order.

Premananda, Swami (1861-1918) (pre' ma' nan da). A direct monastic disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and a leading figure at Belur Math in its early days, who managed the monastery while leading an unostentatious life of contemplation and service and was beloved of all for his selfless affection.

puja (pu' ja). Ritualistic worship.

Radhakrishnan, Sir Sarvepalli (1888-1975). The President of India and President of the Mission Institute of Culture, respected as one of the most remarkable philosophers and religious thinkers of modern India.

raja yoga (ra' ja yo' ga). The path of mind control to Divine union, as described by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.

rajas (ra' jas). Quality of activity or restlessness. See guna.

Ramakrishna, Sri (1836-86) (ra' ma krish' na). Hindu mystic considered to be a Divine Incarnation (Avatar). By his direct spiritual realization of the Ultimate Reality following various paths, he established the harmony of all religions and the veracity of both dualistic and nondualistic forms of religious discipline.

Ramakrishna Math and Mission. The monastic order organized by Swami Vivekananda in 1897. "The Ramakrishna Math and Mission represents a synthetic ideal of renunciation and service, which not only emphasizes a course of strict discipline, contemplation and study, but also a life of self-dedication at the altar of humanity for the attainment of the highest goal of human existence" (Sri Ramakrishna Centenary Souvenir 1836-1936 [Calcutta: Belur Math, 1937]).

rasagolla (ra' sa gol' la). A sweet popular in Bengal.

rishi (ri' shi). Ancient Hindu seer of Truth to whom the words of the Vedas were revealed; general term for a saint or illumined sage.

sadhana (sa' dha na). Spiritual practice.

sadhu (sa' dhu). Holy man; a monk.

samadhi (sa ma' dhi). Ecstatic trance; ultimate communion with God.

sangha (san' gha). Assembly or association; monastic order.

sannyas (san' yas). Final monastic vows; fourth stage of Hindu life (renunciation).

sannyasin (san' ya' sin), also sannyasi. Hindu monk (fem. sannyasini).

Sarada Devi, Sri (1853-1920) (sa' ra da de vi). The wife of Sri Ramakrishna, also known as the Holy Mother, felt to be an incarnation of the Divine Mother of the Universe.

Sarada Math, Sri (sa' ra da mat'). An order of nuns established in India in 1954 in the name of Sri Sarada Devi with monastic headquarters at Dakshineswar, Calcutta.

Saradananda, Swami (1865-1927) (sa' ra da' nan da). A direct monastic disciple of Sri
Ramakrishna and the first Secretary of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission. He wrote the definitive biography of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga (Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master), while sitting as the Holy Mother's "gatekeeper" at the Udbodhan Office.

sattva (sat' va). Quality of wisdom or spiritual poise. See guna.

Satya yuga (sat' ya yu' ga). The age of righteousness according to Hindu mythology.

seva (se' va). Service.

sevak (se' vak). One who serves.

Shakti (shak' ti). God as Mother of the Universe; the dynamic aspect of life; the Primal Energy of Brahman manifesting in the phenomenal world.

Shivananda, Swami (ca. 1850s-1934) (shi' va' nan da), also known as "Mahapurush Maharaj." A direct monastic disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and the second President of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission.

Shivaratri (shi' va ra' tri). An all-night vigil in early spring dedicated to Lord Shiva, observed with fasting, worship, and meditation.

Sri (shri). A title of respect meaning "revered" or "holy" (doubly honorific as Sri Sri), used as a prefix to address a male or female deity or holy personality; also used commonly as the Hindu equivalent of "Mr."

Surya (sur' ya). The Sun Deity (Vedic).

sutras (su' tras). Scriptural aphorisms; compressed teachings of Hinduism.

Swami (swa' mi). Lord, master, spiritual teacher. Title of a Hindu monk.

Swamiji (swa' mi ji). Refers specifically to Swami Vivekananda in the historical sense; a respectful way of addressing any swami ("ji" indicates respect).

Tagore, Rabindranath (1861-1941). The greatest nineteenth-century poet and writer of Bengal, and an eminent spokesman of modern Indian spiritual humanism.

tamas (ta' mas). Lit., "darkness." Quality of inertia, dullness, and impurity. See guna.

tapas (ta' pas). Austerity; spiritual discipline.

Thakur (ta' kur). Lit., "Master, Lord." The familiar name for Sri Ramakrishna among his devotees.

Udbodhan (ud' bo dhan). The Bengali journal of the Ramakrishna Order.

Udbodhan Office. Also known as Mother's House; the house in the Baghbazar section of north Calcutta that served as a residence for Sri Sarada Devi upstairs and the publishing office for Udbodhan magazine downstairs.

Upanishad (u' pa ni' shad), plural Upanishads. Philosophical portion of the Vedas (Vedanta). These
sacred Vedantic texts of the fifth or fourth century B.C. explain the identity of the individual soul (atman) with the Universal Soul (Brahman).

Vairagya (vai' rag ya). Renunciation; freedom from all selfish desires.

Varanasi. Formerly called Benares and now Kashi; a sacred city on the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, believed to give liberation to all who die there.

Varishtha (va rish' ta). The greatest of the Divine Incarnations (Avatars).

Veda (ve' da), plural Vedas. The most ancient scriptures of the Hindus, regarded as direct divine revelation and the ultimate authority of the Hindu religion.

Vedanta (ve' dan' ta). Lit., "end of the Veda." The best known of the six systems of Hindu philosophy, discussed mainly in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahmasutras. Vedantic schools of thought include nondualism (Advaita), qualified nondualism (Vishishtadvaita), and dualism (Dvaita), which encompass all paths to the Ultimate Truth and all levels of spiritual aspiration.

Vedanta Centres and Societies. Regional centres of the Ramakrishna Order outside India.

Vedantist, also Vedantin. A follower of Vedanta.

Vijaya greetings (vi' ja ya'). Festive greetings to celebrate the fourth and final day of the Durga Puja.

viveka (vi ve' ka). Discrimination.

Vivekananda, Swami (1863-1902) (vi ve' ka' nan da), also known as "Swamiji." A direct monastic disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and his chief apostle, the leader of his brother monks and Founder of the Ramakrishna Order. He revitalized Hinduism in India and was the first to bring the message of Vedanta to the West.

Vrindaban. See Brindaban.

yoga. Lit., "union." Union of the individual soul and the Universal Soul; also the spiritual paths and practices by which such union is effected. The four yogic paths, bhakti, karma, raja, and jnana, suit spiritual aspirants with different needs.

yogi (yo' gi). Ascetic following a yogic path (fem. yogini).

Yogin Ma (yo gin' ma) (1851-1924). A woman disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and close companion of Sri Sarada Devi.

Zemindar (za min' dar'). Landlord.


[ Home ] [ About Us ] [ Bookstore ] [ Book Reviews ] [ News & Events] [ Links ] [ What is Vedanta? ]
Vedanta Online ]

Copyright © 2005 Kalpa Tree Press