Glossary: Sanskrit – English


bhidheya – the methodology by which the ultimate goal is achieved; a methodology that enables the shift in awareness from absorption in matter to immersion in the one Absolute Reality. In Bhakti Sandarbha both jnana and bhakti are acknowledged as enabling such a shift, although bhakti is said to be more complete because it engenders an embrace of the whole in its totality, as Bhagavan.

Abhijanah – a person who has taken birth in a pious family.

Acarya – spiritual preceptor; one who teaches by example.

Adambhitvam – absence of deceit.

Adhidaivatam – the presiding Lord of the devas, also known as Virat-purusa, or the Paramatma feature immanent within the cosmos as a whole.

Adhiyajna – the Lord who inspires all activities, referring to the Paramatma feature immanent within the individual bodies of living beings.

Adhvaryu priest – officiating priest. While reciting the Yajurveda, it was his duty to build the altar, prepare sacrificial vessels, bring wood and water, light the fire, bring the animal and immolate it.

Agamah tantra sastra. According to the Varahi Tantra, the Agamas deal primarily with seven topics: creation, dissolution, worship of devatas, practices of sadhana, preparatory rites (purascarana), six practices for subduing adversaries, and four divisions of meditation (dhyana-yoga). The Agamas may be divided into two: Vedic and non-Vedic. The Vedic Agamas are further divided into three: Saiva, Sakta and Vaisnava. The Vaisnava Agamas deal primarily with the rules and procedures for worship and mantras. The Brhad-Gautamiya, Krama-Dipika and Narada Pancaratra are among the chief Vaisnava Agamas.

Agnihotra – Vedic sacrifice to Agni; maintenance of the sacred fire and offering oblation to it.

Ahaituki – without cause or motive. When used as an adjective for bhakti, this refers to the fact that devotion is an eternal aspect of God’s internal potency, and hence, without cause. It further implies that devotion is performed without motive to achieve any result, other than satisfaction of the Lord.

Ahangrahopasana – worship of oneself as embodying the Supreme. This practice is included within worship of the Absolute with attributes. Through this practice the potencies of God become manifest in the practitioner, as was the case with Prahlada, as understood from the Visnu Purana. Because this practice in general is not intended for the exclusive pleasure of God, it is excluded from the definition of bhakti. Moreover, it is rejected by pure devotees because the sense of oneself being God precludes the possibility of seva, which is the very essence of bhakti.

Ajanaja-devas – the celestial beings who preside over the material elements.

Ajitatma – one whose senses, emotions and mind have not been brought under the jurisdiction of the self, or of the supreme whole; alternatively, one whose self is Ajita, the insurmountable Lord Hari. In this latter sense the compound refers to devotees whose very self is Lord Hari. In other words, Lord Hari is their very essence, or that which is more precious to them than life itself.

Ajitendriyah – one whose senses remain unsubdued.

Akaitava – bhakti performed without ulterior motive. Aropa-siddha bhakti and sanga-siddha bhakti are akaitava when the intention is simply to attain pure devotion. Svarupa-siddha bhakti is akaitava when performed exclusively for the pleasure of God.

Akhilatmanah – the Supreme Lord who is the soul of all beings.

Akincana – without anything; having nothing at all; utterly destitute; devoid of all possessiveness. When referring to a Vaisnava, this usually denotes an ascetic who is devoid of the spirit of material enjoyment and accepts only the bare necessities for his maintenance. Vaisnavas like the Pandavas, however, who live in the world in the midst of family and opulence, accept everything only for the service of the Lord, without any independent desire for enjoyment. They too are without any sense of possessiveness because they perceive everything as belonging to God. Such devotees are also known as akincana Vaisnavas.

Akrta-drohah – a person who bears no malice towards any living being.

Akuntha-dhisnyam – the place of freedom from apathy; the realm of Vaikuntha.

Amani – devoid of desire for honor, which is the primary trait of a true Vaisnava.

Amanitvam – pridelessness.

Amrtam – nectar; immortality; the elixir of the gods.

Ananya-bhakti – exclusive or pure devotion; devotion unmixed with any other desires; devotion which has no objective other than Sri Krsna.

Ananya-gatitvam – the state of utter dependence on the complete whole, Sri Krsna, without recourse to any other partial forms of shelter.

Anasuyavah – a person free from envy. For a Vaisnava this implies respect for all beings, born of the vision of unity in love. Such a person never derides other devatas, other scriptures, or the followers of any other path. The inability to assimilate the part within the whole, and to thus disrespect it, causes a contraction of the spirit that impedes the growth into totality of love. Thus respect for all is essential.

Anavadyatma – one who is devoid of all vice and of all that brings shame. In commenting on this word, Sridhara Svami singles out envy as an example of vice, implying that for a Vaisnava, envy of other beings is the chief imperfection and the most shameful gap in awareness.

Anihah – indifferent towards all social interactions undertaken without the sense of connectedness with God.

Antaranga bhakti – devotion that is an aspect of the Lord’s internal potency, known as svarupa-sakti. The word antaranga specifies that bhakti arises directly from God, not from the intermediary potency, nor the external potency. This unique potency of God, endowed with awareness and bliss, is of the nature of love in absolute transcendence. It is for this reason that this potency must be received by a container suitable to hold it. The microcosmic unit of awareness, known as the jiva, by virtue of its being a conscious part of the whole, is ideally suited to be such a receptacle, which alone brings fulfilment of its essential nature.

Antaranga-sakti – the internal potency of God (see svarupa-sakti).

Anubhava – one of five essential ingredients of rasa; the external symptoms of ecstacy, such as dancing, rolling on the ground and singing, that display or reveal the emotions situated within the heart.

Anvaya – positive concomitance; an affirmation used to substantiate the validity of an assertion; used in connection with vyatireka, or negative concomitance, which further corroborates the original assertion by demonstrating the defect that results from non-application of that assertion.

Aparadha – offenses committed against the holy name, the Vaisnavas, the guru, the scriptures, the holy places, the Deity and so on. The verbal root radh means to give pleasure, and the prefix apa means taking away. Thus the word aparadha signifies all activities that are displeasing to the Lord and His devotees.

Apavarga – liberation. Although apavarga is commonly associated with jnana, bhakti is also known as such, because it brings about the cessation of material existence.

Aprarabdha karma – latent reactions taking the form of samskaras, or mental imprints, that reinforce desire and strengthen the proclivity for familiar patterns of behavior; residual seeds of desire existing as a potential yet to come into manifestation (contrast with prarabdha).

Aprarabdha sins – the first of four stages of sin; the unmanifest reactions that perpetuate the inclination towards further sinful acts (contrast with prarabdha sins).

Apurva – the intangible fruit of sacrifice. The mimamsakas, or those who adhere to the path of Vedic karma, have two opinions in regard to this intangible fruit. One camp claims that apurva is a fruit immediately generated from the sacrifice, although in an intangible form. The other camp claims that apurva is the endowment of a certain potency within karma that will generate a result later on. They further state that apurva is sheltered either in the performer of sacrifice or in the devas who administer its result. The Bhagavata affirms, however, that apurva is sheltered in the Lord, the ultimate cause and object of all sacrifice.

Arcanam – one of the nine primary limbs of bhakti; to worship the deity with various types of paraphernalia in accordance with scriptural regulations and procedures. This worship may also be conducted internally, in which case it is known as manasi-puja. It is clear from the discussion of the various seats of worship that one’s worship of the deity cannot bear fruit until one perceives God’s presence not only in the deity, but in all living beings and all seats of his manifestation, and who thus honors all in appropriate manner.

Aropa-siddha bhakti – attributive devotion; one of three types of bhakti; action indirectly attributed with the quality of devotion. This refers specifically to the offering of karma, which includes both temporal action and duties prescribed in scripture. In aropa-siddha bhakti the performer maintains a sense of separation from God, and hence remains self-fixated, which is to say self-interested. The recognition of the supremacy of God, however, leads one in this state to offer the results of all action, more or less as a kind of appeasement of the Almighty. This offering, intended more for the benefit of the performer than for the pleasure of the Lord, is nonetheless a vehicle whereby the inherent quality of devotion can begin to transform the nature of action reaching eventually to the inner core of the performer (see also, sanga-siddha and svarupa-siddha bhakti).

Artha – acquisition of wealth and the objects for life-facilitation. According to Vedic philosophy, this is the second goal of human attainment among dharma, artha, kama and moksa. Artha, however, is not meant to secure personal enjoyment, but to promote dharma for individual and collective growth.

Asana – the third of eight stages in Patanjali’s yoga system; to take a posture by placing hands, feet and body in a particular position. Asanas are innumerable in accordance with the physical and mental needs of the practitioner. They are performed to purify body and mind and to lead one gradually into the stages of meditation and trance.

Asanga – detachment from all that is not connected with God. This is not a form of renunciation undertaken as part of a process to attain God, but rather the natural disinterest in all that does not foster the sense of union with God, one’s dearmost beloved. In this state of awareness there is nothing to give up, only an ever-attentive embrace of the whole in love.

Asat – unrighteousness, the nonreal, the impermanent. This refers to anything that has a beginning and end in time. It also refers to speech related to the impermanent, or in other words, to all topics rooted in a sense of disconnection from the eternal. It thus also refers to all action and behavior bound in the same impermanence, as well as to the performers who are identified with the finite field of action. Since that which lacks permanence is bereft of the intrinsic quality of the existent, asat is also defined as the untrue or the nonreal.

Asraddha – faithlessness; the second of five primary effects of aparadha. Since sraddha is the very source of eligibiltiy for bhakti, the lack of it implies disqualification even from the point of entry on the path. Similarly, offences, which are rooted in a lack of regard for God in all his various manifestations, result in the loss of the very same requirement that allows one to continue on the path.

Arama – four stages of life within the varnasrama system, with a graduated course of duties meant to lead an individual towards realization of ultimate truth. The four stages are brahmacarya (celibacy and study of the Vedas), garhasthya (sacrifice, worship and charity, within the context of family life), vanaprasthya (retirement from social duties and gradual intensification of spiritual practice), and sannyasa (detachment from all worldly objects and absorption in knowledge of the self and God).

Asraya – ultimate shelter; the tenth of ten primary topics of Srimad-Bhagavatam. From the other nine topics of Srimad-Bhagavatam it can be understood that the tenth topic refers to that which is the shelter of all creation, of all that relates to sustenance, of all forms of dissolution, and even of liberation itself, residing on the far shore of the ocean of causality. That which is the shelter of all manifestation and even of liberation is ultimate shelter, the one nondual awareness, the complete whole, experienced in the intimacy of love as Sri Krsna.

Astanga-yoga – the eightfold yoga system of Patanjali, consisting of: yama (restraint of detrimental behavior), niyama (adoption of conscious attitudes of self-purification), asana (practice of postures), pranayama (expansion of vital energy through control of breath), pratyahara (withdrawal of the mind from external sensory perception and directing it inward), dharana (concentration of the mind on one point), dhyana (meditation that proceeds as a continuous flow), and samadhi (complete absorption of awareness in the object of one’s meditation).

Asuras – adversaries of the gods; those who oppose the authority of God and the theistic order of the cosmos.

Atisayokti alankara – hyperbolical expression; exaggerated or hyperbolical language; a figure of speech said to be of four kinds according to Kavya Prakasa and of five types according to Sahitya Darpana. In this work an example of the fourth type of atisayokti is given in which the effect is stated as if it were the cause just to show how quickly the actual cause is in bringing about its result.

Atma – body, mind, intelligence, fortitude or endeavor; the individual unit of consciousness, the living being; the supreme consciousness, God.

Atmadah – one who bestows the self; Lord Hari, who illumines the self by dispelling ignorance and who offers his own self to devotees immersed in loving relation with him.

Atma-nivedanam – one of nine primary limbs of bhakti; to offer one’s body, mind and soul exclusively for the service of the Lord. The body, mind and so on are compared to animals, such as cows and horses, and the act of offering them is compared to the selling of such animals to a new owner. When such animals are sold, one no longer takes responsibility for their maintenance. Similarly when one offers the body, mind and self to the Lord, one no longer thinks of their maintenance and protection.

Atmarama – one who rejoices in the self alone.

Atma-tattvam – the essence of all souls; the Supreme Soul; knowledge or truth of Ultimate Reality.

Atma-vidya – knowledge of the self.

Avamaninah – one who disrespects others.

Avatara – descent; appearance or manifestation of God upon the earth in any of his incarnations, to establish dharma and to enact pastimes of transcendence.

Avyabhicaritvam – unswerving; a characteristic of bhakti. Being a conscious potency of God, bhakti is beyond the vision of duality that is the basis of all movement away from the centre and God. When bhakti pervades the being, all duality vanishes, and hence the tendency to stray from the center disappears. One’s bhakti is thus said to be unswerving.

Avyavahita – unobstructed; a characteristic of bhakti. Desire, being the driving force of material existence, is the chief obstruction to the awakening of consciousness. The removal of desire, however, is not a prerequisite for bhakti, as it is with jnana, because bhakti cleanses desire independently. Bhakti is thus unobstructed because it can be taken up in any condition.


hagavan – the supreme personal manifestation of the Lord; one who is complete to an unlimited degree in six opulences: beauty, wealth, strength, fame, knowledge and renunciation; the complete whole, encompassing even Brahman and Paramatma; nondual awareness endowed with form, personality and limitless transcendental attributes that invite participation in the infinite play of divine love.

Bhagavat-tattva – knowledge of Bhagavan, the complete whole; the fundamental conclusions which regard the Absolute Truth as the Supreme Person, Bhagavan.

Bhagavata-dharmadharma stemming directly from the intrinsic nature of Bhagavan; dharma revealed by Bhagavan or his confidential associates; dharma meant exclusively for the pleasure of Bhagavan; the characteristic function of the soul in transcendence in the consummation of relation with the whole; a synonym for bhakti.

Bhakti – devotion to God; a unique potency of God, stemming from his own intrinsic nature and endowed with consciousness and bliss. When the same eternal potency infuses the individual awareness of the living being, it takes the shape of love and flows back to its original source, Bhagavan, causing the waves of his own ecstasy to swell. The word bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which means to serve. Hence the primary meaning of bhakti is to render service with full participation of the being, without cause or motive, without adulteration of any partial pursuit, for the exclusive pleasure of and communion with the complete whole, Bhagavan.

Bhakti-saithilya – slackening of bhakti; the fourth of five primary effects of aparadha; diminishing of absorption in devotion and increased fixation with the body and the mundane sphere of action.

Bhava – being, existence, presence; contemplation, awareness, meditation; feeling, emotion, love; a stage of bhakti; the first sprout of prema, or pure love of God (see bhava- bhakti).

Bhava-bhakti – the initial stage of perfection in devotion. A stage of bhakti in which suddha-sattva, or the essence of the Lord’s internal potency consisting of spiritual knowledge and bliss, is transmitted into the heart of the practicing devotee from the heart of one of the Lord’s eternal associates and softens the heart by different kinds of taste. Bhava-bhakti is the first sprout of prema, or pure love of God. Bhava-bhakti is the seventh of the eight stages of development of the bhakti-lata, the creeper of devotion. Bhava-bhakti is also said to be the fruit of sadhana-bhakti, not as a causal effect, but rather as the blossoming of the very same potency into an existential state of being and awareness within the receptacle of the heart.

Bhinna-darsinah – a person bound by the vision of duality or separation from the whole; a person unable to perceive the interconnectedness of all beings and all things, as emanations of God; one interested in fulfilling his or her own ambition without concern for the welfare of all or for the pleasure of God. This separatist vision extends even to the desire for liberation arising, not out of eagerness for integration with the whole through love, but from the still selfish desire for one’s own emancipation from samsara.

Bhuta – ghost or spirit.

Bhuta-patin – guardians of lower beings, indicative of the forefathers, the progenitors of all beings, and so on.

Bhuta-suddhih – purification of the elements of the body as a preparation for worship. According to the principle, “To worship God, one must be as God,” (devam bhutva devam yajet), it is understood that to worship the divine in truth, one must be immersed in the same divinity. Even the physical body should be constituted of the same divine nature. This purification of the body is approached in different ways in the various spiritual disciplines. Because bhakti is essentially awareness in love, purification of the body, known as bhuta-suddhi, is approached on this path through a conscious process. By envisioning the body as being that of an eternal associate of the Lord, the body is gradually infused with their sat-cit-ananda bhava, furnishing one with the necessary qualification to worship the divine. Though the body remains material, each cell is permeated with divine potency constituted of awareness in love, converting the body into a suitable vehicle for worship.

Bija – a seed; the third of four stages of sin, referring to the seed of sinful desire arising out of sinful proclivity, and which tends towards manifesting as a sinful act or a mature reaction.

Brahmacari – the first asrama, or stage of life, in the varnasrama system, characterized by celibacy, study of the Vedas from a teacher and practice of austerities.

Brahmacarya – the practice of brahmacari life (see above).

Brahma-jnana – nondual awareness; knowledge of impersonal Brahman; knowledge aiming at impersonal liberation; also known as kaivalya-jnana.

Brahman – nondual being, divested of all form, quality and action; the impersonal aspect of the Supreme Truth; the effulgence emanating from Bhagavan, the complete whole and the core of nondual awareness, just as heat and light radiate from the sun. Brahman is thus said to be a generic feature, devoid of distinguishing characteristics.

Brahmana – one of the four varnas, or social divisions, in the varnasrama system; a priest or teacher. Their specific duties are study and teaching of scriptures, charity, performance of sacrifice for themselves and others and acceptance of gifts.

Brahma-raksasa – the ghost of a brahmana who led an unholy life.

Brahma-siddhi – manifestation of the Absolute.

Buddhih – intelligence, perception, comprehension, understanding, discrimination, judgment, discernment; the second of the twenty-five elements of Sankhya.


aranas – a class of celestial beings specialized in reciting praises.

Cataka – a bird said to subsist by drinking pure water falling from the clouds. In Sanskrit drama, poetry and literature numerous comparisons are made to this bird to describe a person with a specific thirst that cannot be satisfied by anything else. Devotees like the gopis, who thirst only for Krsna, are typically compared to this bird.

Caturmasya – a vow observed for a period of four months, beginning from the twelfth day (dvadasi) of the bright fortnight of the lunar month as Asadha (approximately mid July), and lasting until dvadasi of the bright fortnight of the month of Kartika (mid November). There are various vows observed during this period as a form of worship.

Cittam – mind, heart, thought, intention; in Patanjali’s astanga- yoga system, citta specifically refers to awareness, which has three components: mind (manas), intelligence (buddhi), and ego (ahankara); the individual consciousness in contrast to mahat, or universal consciousness.


aiteyas – the descendants of Diti, implying the various classes of demons, such as the Asuras and Danavas.

Daksina – charity in general.

Dantah –a person who has subdued his external senses.

Dasyam – servitorship; one of nine primary limbs of bhakti; to render service with the pure egoism of being a servant of Krsna. Only when one renders service with this attitude, giving up false conceptions of the self, can one.s bhajana practices attain perfection. According to Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (1.2.183) there are two kinds of dasyam: in its beginning form, dasyam means to offer all one.s activities to the Lord, and in its mature stage, dasyam means to render all kinds of service to the Lord with the feeling, “I am a servant of Sri Krsna, and He is my master.” This attitude is called kainkarya.

Devadutas – the messengers of Yamaraja, also known as Yamadutas. According to Puranic tradition, the messengers of Yamaraja bind the souls of sinful human beings at the time of death and bring them to the abode of Yamaraja where they are tried for their sins. Yamaraja himself is a servant of Lord Visnu and carries out this function on behalf of the Lord.

Devas – celestial beings; the gods situated in the heavenly planets who are endowed with great piety, tremendous lifespans, and superior mental and physical prowess. They are entrusted with specific powers for the purpose of universal administration.

Devatas – the gods (see devas).

Dhama – a holy place of pilgrimage; the abode of the Lord, where he appears and enacts his transcendental pastimes.

Dharma – religion; prescribed duty; nature; justice, virtue, morality, law. In its conventional sense, dharma refers to the socio-religious duties prescribed in scripture for different classes of persons in the varnasrama system. In its transcendent aspect, dharma refers to bhagavat-dharma, or devotion meant exclusively for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord, because this is the function that relates to the constitutional nature of the soul.

Dhruvanusmrti – the fourth stage of smaranam; constant remembrance; when remembrance proceeds without interruption like a continuous flow of nectar.

Dhyana – the third stage of smaranam in bhakti; meditation; to specifically contemplate the Lord’s name, form and other attributes; the seventh of eight stages in Patanjali’s yoga system; meditation that proceeds as a continuous flow.

Diksa – initiation received from a guru. According to Jiva Gosvam., diksa is the process by which the guru transmits divine wisdom to the disciple and eradicates all sins. This divine wisdom is an aspect of the cognitive potency stemming directly from God, and hence reveals the constitutional nature of God himself, as well as one’s specific relationship with him. This divine wisdom is planted in the heart of the disciple as a seed through the agency of mantra. By worship through the mantra, the mystery of love gradually unfolds.

Dvadasi fast – the twelfth day of the waxing moon; on mixed Ekadasi fasting is to be observed on Dvadasi instead, which occurs eight times in the course of the lunar year (see also Ekadasi).

Dvapara – the third in a cycle of our ages; said to last for 864,000 years.

Dvesa – hostility, enmity, aversion.


kadasi – the eleventh day of the waxing or waning moon. Fasting from grains and other vows are observed by Vaisnavas on this day in worship of the Lord. This fast is observed only on suddha, or unmixed, Ekadasi, which means that the entire lunar day of Ekadasi must elapse between one sunrise and the next. Viddha, or mixed, Ekadasi means that the lunar day of Ekadasi starts on one solar day and ends on the next, i.e., after sunrise on the next day. When Ekadasi is mixed, observances are kept on Dvadasi instead, the twelfth day of the moon.

Ekantiki - exclusivity, absoluteness, devotedness to only one object or thing; another name for bhakti. Because pure bhakti is meant for the exclusive pleasure of God, and is unmixed with any other process, it is known as ekantika. Similarly, the devotees exclusively devoted to the Lord are known as ekantas.


andharva – celestial beings situated in the higher planets who are especially noted for their expertise in singing and music.

Gatih – path, way, course, means, destination, arriving at, obtaining; often refers to the result to be attained by following any particular path, and so may indicate heaven, liberation, Vaikuntha, or attainment of the shelter of the Lord’s feet.

Gopis – the young cowherd girls of Vraja who serve Lord Krsna – a in the mood of conjugal love.

Guhyam – hidden, secret, confidential.

Guna – the three constituent aspects of prakrti, or primordial nature: sattva (luminosity), rajas (dynamism), and tamas (inertia). The word guna in Sankhya is distinguished from its conventional meaning of “a quality,” because the Sankhya doctrine admits no distinction between substance and attribute. Rather, quality and substance together form a single whole, and it is the concrete unity of both that any material thing represents. The term guna thus means a component factor or constituent of prakrti.


alahala – deadly poison produced when the devas and asuras churned the ocean of milk, seeking the nectar of immortality.

Hladini – the delight-giving potency, which is an aspect of God’s svarupa-sakti, the potency that constitutes his very nature. It is this hladini potency that gives bliss to the Lord and his devotees, just as the light emanating from a luminous object illuminates both the effulgent source and all objects in its sphere of radiance. This hladini potency, manifesting as bhakti within the heart of a devotee, flows back to the Lord in the form of love, thus expanding his own delight. From this it is understood that bhakti is the supreme aspect of the internal potency known as hladini.


ahal-laksana – a principle of Sanskrit grammar, wherein a word gives up its original sense, but is used in one which is in some way related with the primary meaning.

Jita-sad-gunah – one who has overcome the six waves of material nature, namely, lamentation, delusion, old age, death, hunger and thirst.

Jnana – knowledge, awareness, omniscience; the path of knowledge directed towards awareness of Brahman, and having as its ultimate aim liberation from material existence; awareness of inscrutable being that pervades all form yet is without form, that is the source of all manifestation, yet lies beyond the manifested cosmos; absorption in that one nondual state of being.

Jnana-marga – the path of jnana, as described above.

Jnana-sastra – scriptures describing the path of spiritual realization through cultivation of nondual awareness aiming at the undifferentiated feature of the Supreme known as Brahman.

Jnani – one who pursues or has perfected the path of jnana, directed towards awareness of Brahman.


aimutya – a principle of logic that draws on comparison to establish a conclusion; the principle of ‘how much more true’. By showing the validity of a proposition of lesser significance, the proposition of greater significance is thereby concluded. This principle is used throughout the text, and may be exemplified as follows: “If even unconscious chanting of the name of God leads to emancipation, how much greater must be the effect of conscious chanting.”

Kaivalya-jnana – awareness of Brahman, leading to liberation.

Kaivalya-kama – spiritual practices, such as jnana or bhakti, undertaken with a desire for liberation.

Kaivalyam – knowledge of the non-distinction between unqualified Brahman and the pure living being.

Kali Yuga – the fourth in a cycle of four ages; the iron age of quarrel, hypocrisy and degradation, said to last for 432,000 years.

Kalpa – a day of Brahma, or 1000 cycles of the four yugas, being a period of 4,320 million earth years. At the end of Brahma’s day there is a partial devastation of the cosmos, and at the beginning of the next day, a new creation is enacted resembling the previous day in some but not all details. The Puranas describe events occurring in different kalpas, though related events are sometimes merged into one description and spoken of as if occurring on the same day. This accounts for inconsistencies in certain details of descriptions that actually occurred on different days of Brahma.

Kama – desire, longing; pleasure, enjoyment; love, affection; object of desire, or of pleasure, or of love; sensuality, sexual love; one of the four purusarthas, or goals of human attainment, among dharma, artha, kama and moksa. In this latter sense kama refers to enjoyment that is not opposed to dharma and that follows as its outcome.

Kama-dhenus – wish-fulfilling cows.

Kama-gayatri mantra – a mantra received from a guru at the time of diksa, and used for worship of Krsna in the mood of conjugal love.

Kanistha-bhagavata – a neophyte or beginning devotee; one who worships the deity of Krsna with faith, but who fails to perceive the presence of God within the devotees and other living beings, and thus does not treat them with appropriate respect and awareness. Faith in and worship of the deity are what characterizes such a person as a devotee. But without appropriate respect for every living being as the seat of manifestation of the same Lord whom they worship, their worship is mere pretense and thus not satisfying to the beloved deity they strive to please.

Karakas – grammatical cases of the Sanskrit language.

Karma – temporal action in general; pious action prescribed in scripture: when performed with a desire for the result, it leads to prosperity in this world and enjoyment in the heavenly planets after death, and when performed without desire for the result, it leads to detachment and liberation, or to devotion and love of God; the effects accruing from former action, of which there are two main divisions: matured and latent effects (see prarabdha and aprarabdha respectively).

Karma-kanda – a division of the Vedas that relates to the performance of ceremonial acts and sacrificial rites directed towards attainment of heaven. Through purification of intent, this path can lead either to jnana or bhakti.

Karma-yoga – the performance of one’s prescribed duties in varnasrama in which one offers the fruit to the Supreme Lord only as a secondary process to attain one’s desired goal. This may be done either with a desire for material reward (sakama) or for purification aiming at liberation or devotion (niskama).

Katha – narrations about the Lord.

Kaustubha gem – a famous gem obtained along with thirteen other jewels at the churning of the ocean of milk and worn by Lord Visnu on His chest.

Kavijh – a poet-sage, one who has attained fullness in wisdom.

Kevala-bhakti – pure devotion unmixed with karma or jnana; service of the Lord meant exclusively for his pleasure; also known as akincana-bhakti (unconditional devotion), ananya-bhakti (exclusive devotion) or suddha-bhakti (pure devotion).

Kevala-jnana – knowledge aiming at awareness of Brahman, leading to liberation.

Kirtana – one of nine primary limbs of bhakti; recitation of or singing the glories of the Lord; singing the names, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord.

Krama-mukti – gradual liberation. In this text Jiva Gosvami defines gradual liberation as bhakti mixed with the cultivation of jnana and vairagya. Since bhakti is independent of these two, fixation on knowledge and detachment becomes a form of distraction from the whole point of bhakti, which is love of God, pure and simple. Nonetheless, for those so inclined, the culture of bhakti mixed with knowledge and detachment can gradually lead to pure devotion, which is the actual status of liberation (see also, immediate liberation).

Kriya-yoga – active devotion; religious rites; the dynamic effort to be made by a sadhaka. In the yoga system of Patanjali this refers to practice of the eight limbs of yoga, and in bhakti to worship of the deity conducted according to the pancaratrika process.

Krpaluh – compassionate; one unable to tolerate another’s sorrow; a quality of the Lord and a true devotee.

Krtajna – grateful; one who considers even the slightest favor as significant; a quality of the Lord and a true devotee.

Ksatriya – the second of the four varnas, or social divisions, in the varnasrama system; an administrator or warrior. Their specific duties are protection of subjects, charity, performance of sacrifices, study of scriptures, and absence of attachment for objects of enjoyment.

Ksetrajna –the living being, or jiva, witness of the mind, intellect and field of action.

Kuta – a heap or multitude; the second of four stages of sin; the accumulation of imperceptible reactions into a sinful proclivity; that which is tending towards producing the seed of sinful desire.


aha-bhagavata – a great devotee.

Mahajana – a great soul who teaches and sets an example for others.

Mahantas – great personalities.

Mahat – the second element in the Sankhya system, unindividuated cosmic intellect; the first evolute of prakrti, or primordial nature in the state of equilibrium, and the cause of ahankara, or ego, the next element of manifestation.

Maitri – friendship.

Manana – deliberation on truth; a form of sadhana on the path of jnana, also relevant to the analytical path of bhakti.

Mantra – a mystical verse consisting of the names of the Lord, which addresses any individual deity. Mantras are given to a disciple by a guru at the time of diksa, for worship and realization of the Lord. Mantra is the sound form of the deity.

Mantra guru – the teacher who initiates the disciple by mantra recitation into the worship of the Lord.

Manvantarah – the religious principles established for the manus, or the progenitors and sovereigns of humanity; one of ten primary subjects of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Maya – the Lord’s external potency that influences the living entities to accept the egoism of being independent enjoyers of this material world. The potency that constitutes the material world.

Mudras – particular positions of the fingers and hands commonly used in worship and carrying symbolic meaning.

Mukti – liberation; the fourth goal of human attainment amongst dharma, artha, kama and moksa; the goal aspired for through the path of knowledge; one of nine primary topics of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Muni – a sage intent on the life of contemplation.


aimittika-karma – occasional duties; duties prescribed in scripture that are specific to some particular occasion, such as the sraddha offering to the forefathers, and not to daily rites (contrast with nitya-karma).

Nairantaryam – continuity; a quality of bhakti. Since bhakti is based on submission of the self, all acts that flow from one thus surrendered, including all temporal action, become permeated with the nature of bhakti. For such a person, there is no distinction between material and spiritual action. The disappearance of this division makes possible the continuity of bhakti. Otherwise one’s devotion would be regularly interrupted by the inevitable demands of the body, society and the world.

Naiskarmya – freedom from karmic action; the performance of duties prescribed in scripture without desire for the fruit. Such unmotivated action leads to knowledge and devotion.

Naisthiki-bhakti – unswerving devotion.

Namabhasa – semblance of the holy name; the name of God uttered unintentionally, not as a conscious act of devotion. Even such unintentional chanting purifies one of all sins, as seen in the case of Ajamila, and can promote one to the stage of pure devotion.

Nama-kirtana – practice of chanting or singing the name of the Lord.

Nava-laksana bhakti – devotion of nine types. When bhakti is spoken of as having nine limbs, it means that all other limbs of devotion are included within these nine, and that bhakti alone is thereby ordained. The nine limbs are hearing, chanting, remembrance, serving the Lord’s feet, worship, offering obeisance, servitude, friendship and selfsurrender.

Nihsanga – one who is without attachment.

Nihsreyasam – attainment of the supreme goal of human life.

Ninda – criticism.

Nirapeksah – a Vaisnava who is devoid of material desires and detached from all designations associated with the varnasrama social structure.

Nirdhuta-kasaya – one of three types of realized devotees; one whose material desires are completely washed away, and in whom bhava, the sprout of love, has grown to some extent. Sukadeva is an example of this class of devotee.

Nirguna – free from the three gunas of prakrti, sattva, rajas and tamas. Endowed with the qualities of transcendence.

Nirguna-bhaktibhakti free from the influence of the gunas. Being an aspect of God’s internal potency, bhakti is inherently free from the gunas. It is a potency descending directly from the spiritual plane, infusing individual awareness with its own divine nature. The performer in an undeveloped state, however, is still subject to the influence of the gunas, and thus his or her devotion is said to be mixed with the gunas. When all separate interest is given up and one exists, as bhakti itself, for the pure pleasure of the Lord, one’s bhakti becomes nirguna, beyond the reach of the gunas.

Niskincana-bhakti – bhakti free from karma, jnana and yoga; bhakti free from material influences, also known as nirguna-bhakti.

Nisphalam – activities performed without any desire.

Nistha – firm faith; steadiness in one.s devotional practices. This is the fourth stage in the development of the creeper of bhakti. Nistha occurs after elimination of the major portion of one’s anarthas, or material desires.

Nitya-karma – daily duties; religious duties prescribed in scripture that are meant to be performed on a daily basis, such as the brahmana’s chanting of gayatri mantra (contrast with naimittika-karma).

Nivrtti – the dharma of renunciation; detachment; duties free from desire for fruits, and hence leading to cessation of samsara.


m – the sacred syllable embodying the Absolute (see pranava).


ada-sevanam – service to the Lord’s feet; service in general, such as circumambulation and beholding of the deity, and visiting temples and holy places; one of nine primary limbs of bhakti.

Pancaratrika – scriptures, like Narada Pancaratra, that outline the regulations and procedures of worship; worship according to the Pancaratra.

Parama-dharma – the supreme duty; duty related to the constitution of the soul. As awareness, or cit, is that of which the soul is constituted, the supreme dharma of the living being is bhakti, or love, the ultimate flowering of awareness.

Paramahamsa – a title, which is awarded to an ascetic of the highest order. The word paramahamsa may be divided into two words–parama (supreme), and hamsa (swan). The swan is said to be able to separate milk from water when these two fluids are mixed. Thus a paramahamsa refers to a topmost, swan-like person who can distinguish spirit from matter, reality from illusion, and who can extract the very essence of spiritual truth. This also refers to the fourth and final stage of sannyasa, which has been referred to as niskriya (freedom from all material obligations) in Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.12.43).

Paramartha-jnana – knowledge of ultimate truth; ultimate truth itself, as all-encompassing awarenes; distinguished from vrtti-jnana, or knowledge generated by sensory perception.

Paramartham – of the nature of supreme transcendence; the highest truth.

Para-vidya – transcendental knowledge.

Paricarya – a synonym for seva, or service, particularly that performed in accordance with time and place.

Paroksavada – indirect reference or instruction; when something is described differently to conceal the real meaning. Scripture often makes use of this method to instruct those on varying levels of awareness. Only those on a higher stage of development can grasp the true intent, and it is rendered all the more relishable because of its mysterious nature. It is therefore said that the gods are fond of paroksavada.

Pasanda – a heretic; one adhering to heretical views; one adhering to views not in resonance with the conclusions of the Vedas. On the path of bhakti this may refer to a person who misuses the name for the body, wealth, and similar pursuits, indicative of the ten offences against the name, because these offences are the basis of his herecy.

Phalonmukha – the fourth of four stages of sin; manifest reactions growing out of the seed of sinful desire; also known as prarabdha, or matured reactions for which one is currently suffering or enjoying.

Posanam – nourishing, fostering, supporting; the mercy displayed by the Lord in nurturing His devotees; one of ten primary subjects of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Pradhana – primordial nature, also known as prakrti. The term pradhana (primary, original, predominant) suggests the primary nature of prakrti as the first cause of the aggregate of all effects in the world. This refers to the state of equilibrium of the three gunas, prior to their being set in motion by the purusa, from which the cosmos evolves (see also prakrti).

Prajapatis – the original progenitors of the world’s population according to Puranic lore. These refer to the sons of Brahma other than the Kumaras and Narada, who were celibate sages.

Prakrti – according to Sanhkhya philosophy prakrti is the uncaused cause of the whole world of effects, which are its modifications. It is the ultimate material cause into which the whole world is dissolved. It is infinite and all pervasive, inactive and immobile, subject to transformation, but devoid of motion. It is one, unconditioned, indeterminate, devoid of parts, independent, and unmanifest. It is the state of equilibrium of sattva, rajas, and tamas, which are not attributes but constituents of prakrti. It is active but unconscious, whereas purusa is inactive but conscious. According to the Bhagavata, the Supreme Purusa, Maha Visnu, glances at the unconscious prakrti, thus animating it, and causing the gunas to interact with each other. This sets in motion a chain of cause and effect from which the manifested cosmos unfolds (contrast with purusa).

Pranava – the sacred syllable Om, described as follows in the Uttara-khanda of the Padma Purana: “Pranava is the seat of Brahman and it is said to be the embodiment of the three Vedas [Sama, Rg and Yajuh]. It consists of three letters, A, U and M. A represents Visnu, U represents the Goddess Laksmi and M represents the twentyfifth element who is the servant of these two.” This syllable is often repeated as a form of spiritual practice that reveals one’s nature as a conscious part of the supreme whole, whose perfection lies in the spontaneous dedication of love.

Pranayama – the practice of breath control in the yoga system; the practice of conscious inhalation, retention and exhalation of breath. In the act of inhalation, the cosmic life energy, known as prana, is received in the body, in retention, it is stored in the body, and in exhalation, it is surrendered back to the cosmic life force. In the practice of pranayama the practitioner’s consciousness is focused on the spread of breath, and along with the breath, to the spread of pranic energy. This practice provides the steadiness of mind that supports entry into meditation and trance (see also astanga-yoga).

Prarabdha sins – the fourth of four stages of sin, also known as phalonmukha; sins whose reactions have already become manifest; manifest reactions growing out of the seed of sinful desire (contrast with aprarabdha sins).

Pratistha – the deity itself; the installation ceremony of a deity, by which the deity becomes a manifestation non-different from the Lord’s own limbs and organs.

Pravrtti – the dharma of fruitive action; duties prescribed by the Vedas and prompted by a desire to enjoy the fruits of happiness and prosperity here and in heaven. These duties lead to a status equal to that of the gods.

Prayojana – the goal to be attained in relation to the Supreme; the goal of spiritual practice. In bhakti this refers to prema, or love of God (see below).

Prema – a stage of bhakti characterized by the appearance of love; the perfectional stage of devotion. This is the eighth stage in the development of the creeper of bhakti; the mature state of love that completely melts the heart and gives rise to a deep sense of mamata, or belonging, in relationship to the Lord.

Prtih – supreme love for the Lord, also known as prema.

Punya-tirtha – holy places, such as the Ganga.

Purusa – the primeval being as the soul and original source of the universe; the Supreme Being or Soul of the universe; the animating principle in living beings, the individual soul, spirit as opposed to prakrti, or matter; a male or mankind.


aganuga-bhaktibhakti impelled by taste for the devotional of Krsna’s eternal associates, known as ragatmikas. Raga is a deep attachment, permeated by spontaneous and intense absorption in the Lord. Raganuga-bhakti refers to bhakti which follows in the wake of the ragatmika nature existing in the hearts of the Lord’s eternal associates in Vraja. By following that raga of a particular devotee, according to one’s ruci, one executes devotion known as raganuga.

Ragatmika – eternal associates of Krsna in whose hearts there naturally exists deep and spontaneous love for Krsna and a desire to please him in all respects.

Rahasya – a secret; a mystery; the confidential mystery of pure love for the Lord.

Rahasya-lila – confidential pastimes of Krsna and the gopis in the mood of conjugal love.

Rajas – one of the three gunas, or constituent aspects of material nature, that propels the living beings to action and stimulates desires for material enjoyment.

Rajasuya – a sacrifice performed by a king at the time of his coronation to establish his dominion over neighboring territories; a sacrifice performed by Maharaja Yudhisthira.

Rasa – juice, liquor, potion; taste, flavor, relish; pleasure, delight; essence; the spiritual transformation of the heart which takes place when the perfectional state of love for Krsna, known as rati or bhava, is converted into liquid emotions by combination with various types of transcendental ecstasies. In Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (2.1.5) bhakti-rasa is defined: “When the sthayi-bhava, or foundational love in one of the five primary relationships of equanimity, servitorship, friendship, parental affection, or conjugal love, mixes with vibhava (excitants), anubhava (extrinsic ecstacy), sattvika-bhava (intrinsic ecstacy), and vyabhicari-bhava (intensifying ecstacy), thus producing an extraordinary taste in the heart of the devotee, it is called bhakti-rasa“.

Rati – attachment, affection, love; a stage in the development of bhakti synonymous with bhava. (see also bhava-bhakti).

Ruci – taste; the fifth stage in the development of the creeper of bhakti. Ruci develops after one has become steady in bhajana. At this stage the taste for spiritual practices, like hearing and chanting, increases, and one’s attraction for mundane pursuits diminishes significantly.


abda – a word; sound; the Vedas as sound revelation; a form of pramana, or evidence.

Sad-dharma – authentic or eternal religion; dharma related to the Absolute.

Sadhana – practices undertaken in various traditions as means of attainment of their respective goals.

Sadhana-bhakti – devotion in the stage of practice; devotion that purifies the heart and leads the devotee towards love of God; the practices of devotion, which can be condensed into nine primary aspects.

Sadhya-bhakti – the perfectional stage of bhakti, when consciousness is permeated with bhava, the internal potency predominated by awareness and bliss. At this point one becomes of the nature of bhakti that intensifies into love. The word sadhya implies that this stage develops through sadhana, or gradual culture of devotion.

Sadyo-mukti – immediate liberation. In Sri Bhakti-sandarbha, Jiva Gosvami defines sadyo-mukti as bhakti free from the influences of karma and jnana. Being an aspect of the Lord’s internal potency, bhakti itself is the status of liberation, not a process to attain liberation. Thus awakening to the consciousness of seva, or divine service, in unadulterated bhakti, free of relation from practices tinged with the gunas, is itself immediate liberation (contrast with krama-mukti).

Saguna – related to the material influences of sattva, rajas and tamas. Bhakti is inherently free from the gunas, yet the bhakti of the performer still influenced by the gunas is called saguna.

Sakaitavabhakti performed with ulterior motive. Aropa-siddha bhakti and sanga-siddha bhakti are sakaitava when bhakti is made use of simply as a means to attain the results of karma and jnana. Svarupa-siddha bhakti is sakaitava when associated with karma or jnana and undertaken for any purpose other than the pleasure of God (contrast with akaitava).

Sakama – action performed with a desire for the fruit; duties prescribed in scripture and undertaken with a desire for enjoyment in this world and the next.

Sakhyam – one of nine primary limbs of bhakti; to worship the Lord in the mood of a friend. Being imbued with intimacy, sakhyam is freed of all constraints of formality. As such, it is more relevant to raganuga, the path of spontaneous attraction and love.

Salokya – one of four types of Vaisnava liberation, where the devotee resides in the Lord’s own abode.

Sama – tranquil.

Samah – equipoised in happiness and distress.

Samadhi – trance; complete absorption of all mental faculties into the one object of meditation; manifestation of the object of meditation only, devoid of the cognition of meditation; the eighth stage in Patanjali’s astanga-yoga system. On the path of bhakti, samadhi refers to the manifestation of the Lord along with his associates, abode and pastimes in the state of trance, as experienced by Vyasa.

Sambandha – knowledge of the interrelatedness between the Supreme Being, his potencies and the living beings. This knowledge of relation is an essential support to the practice of devotion because it provides a clear understanding of the nature of the world we live in, the true nature of the self, the nature of God, and the essential function of the soul in relation to God. This essential function can be summed up as dasya, wherein the part finds completion through identification with and service to the whole. Through bhakti in the stage of bhava, or supra-mundane awareness, this generic identity blossoms into one of the relations of personal servant, friend, parent or lover. In a different context, sambandha refers to one of the four indispensible elements that are described in the introduction of every Vedic literature: adhikari (qualification of the reader), visaya (the subject matter of the book), sambandha (the relation of the book with the topic) and prayojana (the purpose to be achieved by reading and following the book).

Samipya – one of four types of Vaisnava liberation, where the devotee remains in the presence of the Lord.

Sammukhya – turning the face away from the ephemeral world to encounter the Absolute. In Sri Bhakti-sandarbha, Jiva Gosvami says that jnana and bhakti are the two direct methods to shift awareness towards the Absolute. Other methods, such as karma, Sankhya and vairagya, may act as assistants to these two primary methods. In conclusion, however, bhakti is the sole method that engenders an embrace of the whole in completion.

Samskaras – the latent desires for sinful activity that are generated along with sinful acts and which remain lodged in the heart of the performer; the imprints recorded and stored in the mind from action, thought and sensory perception. These imprints give rise to desire that perpetuates the cycle of action and reaction, binding one to samsara.

Sanatana – eternal.

Sanga-siddha bhakti – associative devotion, refering to karma and jnana, which although devoid of bhakti by themselves, become component parts of bhakti by being utilized as assistants to devotion. As with aropa-siddha bhakti, the performer maintains a sense of separation from God, as evidenced by the interest in karma and jnana, the aims of which are separate from the pleasure of God. But when these paths are taken up under the support of bhakti, they become components of devotion. When all separate interest is abandoned, the karma and jnana elements fade and one attains pure devotion (see also, aropa-siddha and svarupa-siddha bhakti).

Sankhya – one of the six systems of Indian philosophy. The founder of the Sankhya-yoga system is the sage Kapila, who is different from the avatara of the Lord known as Kapila, the son of Kardama and Devahuti. This philosophy is atheistic in nature, being devoid of the concept of isvara. In this system the cosmos unfolds as the interplay of purusa, the soul, and prakrti, primordial nature. When prakrti, which is the state of equilibrium of the three gunas, is brought into the proximity of the purusas, it sets in motion a chain of cause and effect that evolves the cosmos. In course of time, the cosmos is reabsorbed into its primordial state. All of this takes place to facilitate the purusas in the pursuit of both enjoyment and eventual liberation. In the Bhagavata conception of Sankhya, however, the original purusa is Maha Visnu, who activates prakrti through his glance.

Sannyasi – a member of the renounced order; the fourth asrama, or stage of life, in the varnasrama system, characterized by detachment from all wordly pursuits, indifference to social status, and full absorption in knowledge or devotion.

Santah – peaceful.

Sargah – the original setting in motion of the material energy by the Lord; one of ten principal topics of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Sarsti – one of four types of Vaisnava liberation; to attain opulence like that of the Lord.

Sarupya – one of four types of Vaisnava liberation; to obtain the same form as that of the Lord.

Sat-cit-ananda – the Absolute, inherently constituted of existence (sat), awareness (cit), and bliss (ananda). The name, form, qualities, pastimes, and abode of Krsna are all of the nature of sat-cit-ananda.

Satra yaga – a type of sacrifice, also known as soma.

Sat-sanga – association of ‘the true’; association of the enlightened, situated in direct awareness of the Absolute. Jiva Gosvami describes two categories of enlightened sages: those situated in awareness of Brahman (the jnanis), and those situated in prema (the devotees). He then describes three classes of realized devotees: those having spiritual forms as eternal associates, those bereft of all material desire and identification, and those having only a remaining trace of latent desire. He posits Narada from his former life and Bharata in the third group of realized devotees and says that even in the presence of latent desire, they attained the stage of bhava. Thus when Jiva recommends hearing from and serving the sat, he is referring to those at least on the third level of realization.

Sattva – one of the three constituent aspects of prakrti, or primordial nature, that influences living beings toward the cultivation of wisdom and purity.

Satya-yuga – the first in a cycle of four yugas, or ages of the world; the golden age, the age of truth and purity. Also called krta-yuga; said to last for 1,728,000 years.

Sauhrdam – affection.

Saukra-janma – seminal birth; one of three types of birth of the dvijas.

Savana – a soma sacrifice.

Savitra-janma – initiation into the chanting of the savitri mantra and being invested with the sacred thread; one of three types of birth of the dvijas.

Sayujya mukti – one of five types of liberation, wherein one attains oneness with the Absolute, either by merging into the body of the Lord or into his Brahman effulgence.

Siddha – realized, perfected; liberated souls who accompany the Lord in the material world to assist in His pastimes; those who attain perfection of realization in this life and thus transcend the influence of the gunas.

Siddhas – a class of celestial beings possessed of eight mystic powers.

Smaranam – remembrance of the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord; one of nine primary limbs of bhakti. There are five stages in the evolution of remembrance: 1) to think of the Lord in whatever manner and to whatever extent is known as smaranam, or remembrance; 2) to withdraw the mind from all external objects and fix it in a general way on the Lord is called dharana, or concentration; 3) to specifically contemplate the Lord’s name, form and other attributes is called dhyana, or meditation; 4) when remembrance proceeds without interruption like a continuous flow of nectar, it is called dhruvanusmrti, or constant remembrance; 5) and when the object of one’s meditation alone is manifest, without awareness even of one’s own self, it is called samadhi, or trance.

Smrti-sastra – literally, that which is remembered; tradition as distinguished from sruti, or revelation. The body of sacred literature, which is composed, remembering the srutis (in contradistinction to sruti, or that which is directly heard by or revealed to the rsis). These include the six Vedangas, the dharma-sastras (such as Manu-samhita), the Puranas and the Itihasas (Vedic histories).

Sneha – affection, love, tenderness; an intensified stage of prema in the development from prema up to mahabhava, defined in Ujjvala-nilamani as follows: “When prema ascends to its ultimate limit, intensifies one’s perception of the beloved, and melts the heart, it is known as sneha.”

Sraddha – faith; trust in the meaning of the statements of scripture, such as the conclusion that pure bhakti is the highest attainment for the living entity. This trust is acquired by hearing from and associating with learned saints who have realized the conclusions of scripture.

Sraddha – ceremony prescribed in scripture involving the offering of oblations for the forefathers to preserve their place in heaven.

Sravana guru – a teacher from whom one begins hearing. In course of time, such a person often becomes the diksa guru, or the teacher who guides one along the path of bhajana.

Sreyah – auspicious.

Srivatsa mark – a mark or curl of hair on the chest of Lord Visnu.

Sruti – that which is heard; revelation, as distinguished from smrti, tradition; infallible knowledge which was received by Brahma or by the great sages in the beginning of creation and which descends in disciplic succession from them; the body of literature which was directly manifest from the Supreme Lord. This applies to the original four Vedas (also known as nigamas) and includes the Upanisads.

Sthirah – firmness.

Sucih – pure.

Suddha-sattva – the state of pure existence, beyond the three gunas of prakrti; the self-luminous state of being in which the Lord is revealed along with his associates and abode.

Sudra – one of the four varnas, or social divisions, in the varnasrama system. Their specific duties involve service to the brahmanas, ksatriyas and vaisyas. Thus they are primarily engaged as artisans and laborers.

Svadharma – ‘own duty’. In its conventional sense this refers to the duties prescribed in scripture that relate to one’s own caste and stage of life. In its transcendent sense, it refers to the duties of the soul, distinct from all material identification.

Svarupam – intrinsic nature of the self or God.

Svarupa-sakti – the internal potency of God that constitutes his very nature. It has three aspects: sandhini, the potency that accommodates the spiritual existence of the Lord and his associates, samvit, the potency that bestows transcendental awareness of God, and hladini, the potency by which the Lord enjoys transcendental bliss and bestows such bliss upon his devotees.

Svarupa-siddha bhakti – devotion inherently constituted of divine power; devotion as an aspect of the Lord’s internal potency, free from any influence of the gunas; devotion unmixed with any other methods, such as karma and jnana; devotion predominated by nine primary limbs, such as hearing and chanting, and meant for the exclusive pleasure of God.


amas – one of the three constituent aspects of primordial nature that promotes ignorance and indolence.

Tapas – ascetic and austere practices to purify the body and mind.

Tat-padartha jnana – knowledge of Absolute Brahman.

Tilaka – clay markings worn by Vaisnavas on their foreheads and other parts of the bodies to consecrate the body as a temple of God and to show their devotion to Him.

Treta yuga – the second of the four yugas of the world; the silver age, said to last for 1,296,000 years.

Trivrta-janma – three types of birth: saukra, seminal; savitra, initiation into the chanting of the savitri mantra and being invested with the sacred thread; and daiksam [or yajnika], initiation into the performance of Vedic sacrifice.

Tulasi – a sacred plant whose leaves are used by Vaisnavas in the worship of Lord Krsna. Tulasi is a partial expansion of Vrnda-devi.

Tvam-padartha jnana – knowledge of the pure living entity.


padhi – an artificial designation with which the eternal, transcendent self is identified; designations pertaining to the gross and subtle bodies.

Upalaksana – the implying of that which is not directly stated; a principle often used by commentators in interpreting scriptural texts.


aidhi bhakti – devotion impelled by the injunctions of scripture.

Vaimukhya – the state of having one’s face turned away from the Absolute; the state of absorption in the ephemeral, rooted in causeless ignorance. This is the basis of samsara, and can be remedied simply by turning one’s face to encounter the Absolute directly, known as sammukhya. Jiva Gosvami says that jnana and bhakti are the two direct methods to shift awareness towards the Absolute. Other methods, such as karma, Sankhya and vairagya, may act as assistants to these two primary methods. In conclusion, however, bhakti is the sole method that engenders an embrace of the whole in completion.

Vairagya – detachment or indifference to the world; a spiritual discipline involving the acceptance of voluntary austerities to achieve detachment from sense objects.

Vaisya – one of the four varnas, or occupational divisions, in the varnasrama system; agriculturalists and merchants. Their specific duties are tending cattle, charity, sacrifices, study of scriptures, trade, agriculture and lending money.

Vanaprastha – the third asrama, or stage of life, in the varnasrama system; retired life that entails freedom from family responsibilities and the acceptance of spiritual vows.

Vandanam – offering obeisance to the Lord; one of nine primary limbs of bhakti.

Varna – the four castes (brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya and sudra) in which one carries out corresponding socio-religious duties in the system known as varnasrama.

Varnasrama – the Vedic social system, which organizes society into four occupational divisions (varnas) and four stages of life (asramas).

Vibhutis – power, wealth; partial manifestations of the Supreme Lord; superhuman power consisting of eight faculties, such as animan (to become smaller than the smallest) and laghiman (to become lighter than the lightest).

Vidyadharas – a class of celestial beings possessing magical powers.

Vijnanam – realization of the Absolute.

Vipra – a brahmana.

Virat – the cosmos as a representational form of the Lord.

Virat-purusa – the universal soul of the cosmos, also known as adhidaivatam, or the presiding Lord of the devas. This refers to the Paramatma feature immanent within the cosmos as a whole.

Visargah – the secondary creation by Brahma; one of ten primary topics of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

Visuddha-sattva – pure existence; a feature of the Lord’s internal potency, known as cit-sakti (see suddha-sattva).

Vrata – a religious vow.

Vyatireka – negative concomitance (see anvaya).


adrcchaya – by the will of Providence; a term often used to qualify the causeless nature of bhakti, implying that bhakti is not obtained through effort or through any prior qualification of the performer. Being a conscious potency, it comes through its own will, which is to say, through the will of God, or through the agency of his own independent devotees.

Yajna – Vedic sacrifice.

Yaksas – a class of celestials who are the servants of Kubera, the god of wealth.

Yama – the god of death; the first stage in Patanjali’s astanga-yoga system, involving the adoption of universal moral and ethical principles (non-violence, truth, non-stealing, non-covetousness, and continence).

Yoga – a spiritual discipline aiming at union of the individual self with the universal self. There are many different branches of yoga such as karma-yoga, jnana-yoga and bhakti-yoga. Unless specified, however, yoga generally refers to the astanga-yoga system of Patanjali (see astanga-yoga).

Yogi – a practitioner or adept in yoga.

Yuga – an age of the world. The Vedas describe four yugas that proceed in a cycle: Krta or Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. The duration of each yuga is respectively 1,728,000, 1,296,000, 864,000 and 432,000 years. The descending numbers represent the physical and spiritual deterioration of humanity in each age. The four yugas form an aggregate of 4,320,000 years and constitute a maha-yuga, or great yuga.