Glossary for Initiates

ABHISHEK: A ritual bathing offered as worship (puja) to a statue or other representation of a deity.

ABSOLUTE: The highest Reality; supreme Consciousness; the pure, untainted, changeless Truth, Shiva.

AMRIT: The nectar of immortality; the divine nectar that flows down from the sahasrara when the Kundalini is awakened.

ANNAPURNA: (filled with nourishment) The great Shakti depicted as the goddess of nourishment and abundance.

ANUGRAHA: Grace; one of the five functions of the Lord that ultimately culminates in liberation.

ARATI: 1) A ritual act of worship during which a flame, symbolic of the individual soul, is waved before the form of a deity, sacred being, or image that embodies the light of Consciousness. 2) The name of the morning and evening prayer that is sung with the waving of lights, in honor of Bhagavan Nityananda, twice each day in ashrams.

ARJUNA: One of the heroes of the Indian epic Mahabharata, considered to be the greatest warrior of all. He was the friend and devotee of Lord Krishna, who revealed the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita to him on the battlefield.

ASANA: 1) A hatha yoga posture practiced to strengthen and purify the body and develop one-pointedness of mind. 2) A seat or mat on which one sits for meditation.

ASHRAM: The dwelling place of a Guru or saint; a monastic retreat site where seekers engage in spiritual practices and study the sacred teachings of yoga.

ASHRAM DHARMA: Right action in relation to ashram life; the inner posture and outer behavior that allow a person to devote them to the high attitude and disciplines of ashram life. There is also a book on this topic by Swami Muktananda. See also DHARMA and GURUKULA.

ATMAN: Divine Consciousness residing in the individual; the supreme Self; the soul, Jiva.

AUSTERITIES: 1) Rigorous spiritual practices. 2) Abandonment of the pursuit of worldly pleasure for the purpose of spiritual attainment.

AVADHUT: An enlightened being who lives in a state beyond body-consciousness and whose behavior is not bound by ordinary social conventions.

BABA: A term of affection and respect for a saint or holy man.

BADE BABA: (elder father) An affectionate name for Bhagavan Nityananda, Swami Muktananda's Guru.

BHAGAVAD GITA: (song of God) One of the world's spiritual treasures and an essential scripture of India; a portion of the Mahabharata in which Lord Krishna instructs his disciple Arjuna on the nature the universe, God, and the supreme Self.

BHAGAVAN: (the Lord) One endowed with the six attributes or powers of infinity: spiritual power, righteousness, glory, splendor, knowledge, and renunciation. A term of great honor. Swami Muktananda's Guru is known as Bhagavan Nityananda.

BHAJAN: A Hindi devotional song in praise of God.

BHAKTA: A devotee, a lover of God; a follower of bhakti yoga, the path of love and devotion.

BHAKTI: The path of devotion; a path to union with the Divine based on the continual offering of love and the constant remembrance of the Lord.

BHASMA: Ash from a sacred fire ritual (yajna), charged with the power of mantra. Bhasma is used to draw three horizontal stripes on the forehead and other parts of the body, representing the three qualities of nature reduced to ash by spiritual practices and the power of grace

BINDI: A red dot worn between the eyebrows marking the location of the third eye, the eye of inner vision or spiritual wisdom.

BLUE PEARL: A brilliant blue light, the size of a tiny seed, that appears in meditation; it is the subtle abode of the inner Self.

BRAHMA: The absolute Reality manifested as the active creator of the universe, personified as one of the three gods of the Hindu trinity. The other two are Vishnu, who represents the principle of sustenance, and Shiva, who represents the principle of destruction.

BRAHMAN: In Vedic philosophy, the absolute Reality or all-pervasive supreme Principle of the universe.

BRAHMIN: A caste of Hindu society whose members are by tradition priests and scholars.

CHAITANYA: The fundamental, all pervasive, divine Consciousness. 2) When used in reference to a mantra, chaitanya means that the mantra is enlivened with grace and thus has the capacity to draw one's mind spontaneously into meditative stillness.

CHAKRA: Centers of energy located in the subtle body where the subtle nerve channels converge like the spokes of a wheel. Six major chakras lie within the central channel. When awakened, kundalini Shakti flows upward from the base of the spine through these six centers to the seventh chakra, the sahasrara, at the crown of the head.

CHITI: The power of universal Consciousness; the creative aspect of God.

CONSCIOUSNESS: The intelligent, supremely independent, divine Energy, which creates, pervades, and supports the entire universe.

DAKSHINA: An offering or gift to God or the Guru. Traditionally, when one seeks the teachings or blessings of a saint, one brings an offering; this act of giving invites grace. The practice of giving dakshina is an expression of gratitude and love for what has been received on the spiritual path.

DARSHAN: Seeing or being in the presence of a saint, a deity, or a sacred place.

DEVA: A deity or god.

DEVI: The great mother Goddess; the beloved of Shiva who represents Shakti, or cosmic energy.

DHARANA: A centering technique; a spiritual exercise that leads one to the experience of God within.

DHARMA: Essential duty; the law of righteousness; living in accordance with the divine will. The highest dharma is to recognize the Truth in one's own heart.

DIKSHA: Yogic initiation; spiritual awakening of a disciple by the grace of the Master.

DISCIPLE: One who has received initiation from a spiritual master and then follows the path shown by the Master.

DIWALI: A four-day festival, falling in October-November, celebrated by displaying lights and worshiping Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

DRISHTI: Vision, usually in the context of seeing with the outlook of God.

DURGA: The fierce aspect of the universal Shakti or divine Mother, who destroys limitations and evil tendencies. She is often depicted as the eight-armed warrior goddess who rides a tiger and carries weapons.

EGO: In yoga, the limited sense of "I" that is identified with the body, mind, and senses; sometimes described as "the veil of suffering."

ENLIGHTENMENT: The final attainment on the spiritual path, when the limited sense of "I" merges into supreme Consciousness.

GANESH: The elephant-headed god, also known as Ganapati. Son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, he is worshiped at the beginning of any undertaking and in many festivals as the god of wisdom, the destroyer of sorrows, and the remover of obstacles.

GRACE: The infinite power of divine love that creates, maintains, and pervades the universe. When awakened within a seeker by the Guru, this power leads the seeker to Self-realization.

GUNAS: The three basic qualities of nature that determine the inherent characteristics of all created things. They are sattva (purity, light, harmony, intelligence); rajas (activity, passion); and tamas (dullness, inertia, ignorance).

GURU: A spiritual master who has attained oneness with God and who is able both to initiate seekers and to guide them on the spiritual path to liberation. A true Guru is required to be learned in the scriptures and must belong to a lineage of masters..

GURU GITA: (song of the Guru) sacred text consisting of mantras that describe the nature of the Guru, the Guru-disciple relationship, and techniques of meditation on the Guru. In ashrams, the Guru Gita is chanted every morning.

GURU PRINCIPLE: The universal power of grace present as the inner Self of all beings.

GURU PURNIMA: In India, the full moon of the month of Ashada (July-August) is honored as the most auspicious and important of the entire year. This moon's luminous brilliance and perfect form are seen as expressions of the Guru's gift of grace and the attainment of Self-realization.

GURU'S FEET: The Indian scriptures revere the Guru's feet, which are said to embody Shiva and Shakti, knowledge and action, the emission and reabsorption of creation. Powerful vibrations of Shakti flow from the Guru's feet. They are a mystical source of grace and illumination, and a figurative term for the Guru's teachings.

GURU'S SANDALS: The Indian scriptures revere the Guru's feet, which are said to embody Shiva and Shakti, knowledge and action, the emission and reabsorption of creation. Powerful vibrations of Shakti flow from the Guru's feet. They are a mystical source of grace and illumination, and a figurative term for the Guru's teachings.

GURUKULA: In Vedic times, spiritual aspirants would serve the Guru at his house or ashram for a period of time, studying the scriptures, and practicing self-inquiry and other spiritual disciplines under the guidance of the Master. Ashrams are modeled on these Gurukulas of old.

HATHA YOGA: Yogic practices, both physical and mental, performed for the purpose of purifying and strengthening the physical and subtle bodies.

INNER ENEMIES: The inner enemies spoken about in Vedanta: desire, anger, delusion, pride, greed, and envy.

INTENSIVE: The primary meditation program, which was designed by Swami Muktananda to give spiritual initiation by awakening the kundalini energy.

JAGADGURU: A world teacher; a great Guru.

JAPA: Repetition of a mantra, silently in our practices.

JNANA: True knowledge.

JNANESHWAR MAHARAJ: (1275-1296) Foremost among the saints of Maharashtra and a child yogi of extraordinary powers. His verse commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, the Jnaneshvari, written in the Marathi language, is acknowledged as one of the world's most important spiritual works. He also composed a short work, the Amritanubhava, and over one hundred abhangas, or devotional songs in Marathi, in which he describes various spiritual experiences following the awakening of kundalini.

JYOTA SE JYOTA: A chant; an invocation to the Guru asking for the flame of divine love in the disciple's heart to be kindled with the Guru's own heart flame.

KARMA: (action) 1) Any action--physical, verbal, or mental. 2) Destiny, which is caused by past actions, mainly those of previous lives.

KASHMIR SHAIVISM: A branch of the Shaivite philosophical tradition, propounded by Kashmiri sages, that explains how the formless supreme Principle, known as Shiva, manifests as the universe. Together with Vedanta, Kashmir Shaivism provides the basic scriptural context for meditation practices.

KRISHNA: (the dark one) The eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The spiritual teachings of Lord Krishna, called "the dark one" because his skin was deep blue, are contained in the Bhagavad Gita, a portion of the epic Mahabharata.

KRIYA: A physical, mental, or emotional movement initiated by the awakened kundalini. Kriyas purify the body and nervous system, thus allowing a seeker to experience higher states of consciousness.

KUNDALINI: (coiled one) The primordial Shakti, or cosmic energy, that lies dormant in a coiled form in the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine. Through the descent of grace (shaktipat), this extremely subtle force, also described as the supreme goddess, is awakened and begins to purify the entire being. As Kundalini travels upward through the central channel, She pierces the various chakras, finally reaching the sahasrara at the crown of the head. There, the individual soul merges into the supreme Self and attains the state of Self-realization. See also CHAKRA, SHAKTIPAT.

LIBERATION: Freedom from the cycle of birth and death; the state of realization of oneness with the Absolute.

MAHABHARATA: An epic poem that recounts the struggle between the Kauravas and Pandavas over the disputed kingdom of Bharata, the ancient name for India. Within this vast narrative is contained a wealth of Indian secular and religious lore. The Bhagavad Gita occurs in the latter portion of the Mahabharata.

MAHASAMADHI: 1) A realized yogi's conscious departure from the physical body at death. 2) A celebration on the anniversary of a great being's departure from the physical body. 3) A shrine erected at the place where a yogi has taken mahasamadhi.

MALA: A string of beads used to facilitate a state of concentration while repeating a mantra.

MANTRA: The names of God; sacred words or divine sounds invested with the power to protect, purify, and transform the individual who repeats them. A mantra received from an enlightened Master is filled with the power of the Master's attainment.

MAYA: The power that veils and obscures the true nature of the Self and creates a sense of differentiation. It makes the universal Consciousness, which is One, appear as duality and multiplicity.

MUKTANANDA: Swami Muktananda (1908 - 1982) who brought the teachings and practices to the west in the 1970s on his Guru's behalf. He brought the venerable tradition of his master's lineage to the West, giving the previously little-known shaktipat initiation to untold thousands of spiritual seekers. His name literally means the bliss of liberation.

MUKTI: Liberation from the cycle of birth and death; freedom from the sense of duality and limitation.

MURTI: (embodiment; figure; image) A representation of God or of a chosen deity that has been sanctified and enlivened by worship. A murti can be a symbolic embodiment of the presence of God or a recognizable human figure, as in the image of a saint or Guru.


NADA: Spontaneous inner sounds that may be heard during advanced stages of meditation; nada may take the form of sounds such as bells, the blowing of a conch shell, and thunder.

NADI: A channel in the subtle body through which the vital force flows, equivalent to the physical body nervous system.

NATARAJ: (king of the dance) A name of Shiva, referring to the dancing Shiva. The object of his dance is to free all souls from the fetters of illusion.

NAVARATRI: (nine nights) A festival celebrating the worship of the divine Mother, Shakti, in the three forms of Durga/Kali, Lakshmi, and Saraswati. It begins with the new moon of September-October and continues for nine nights.

OM: The primal sound form, which the universe emanates; the inner essence of all mantras. Also written Aum.

OM NAMAH SHIVAYA: (Om, salutations to Shiva) The Sanskrit mantra; known as the great redeeming mantra because of its power to grant both worldly fulfillment and spiritual realization. Om is the primordial sound; Namah is to honor or bow to; Shivaya denotes divine Consciousness, the Lord who dwells in every heart.

PADUKAS: The Guru's sandals, objects of the highest veneration. Vibrations of the inner Shakti flow out from the Guru's feet, which are a mystical source of grace and illumination and a figurative term for the Guru's teachings. The Guru's sandals are also said to hold this divine energy of enlightenment.

PRANA: The vital life-sustaining force of both the body and the universe.

PRANAM: To bow; to greet with respect the Guru a Swami or a saint.

PRASAD: A blessed or divine gift from God or the Guru.

PUJA: Worship; actions performed in worship; also, an altar with images of the Guru or deity and objects used in worship.

RAGA: In Indian music, a series of five or more notes upon which a melody is based; a particular melody. Ragas evoke particular moods in the listener and are often performed to resonate with a season or time of day.

RAMA: (one who is pleasing, delightful) The seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Rama is seen as the embodiment of dharma and is the object of great devotion. He is the central character in the Indian epic Ramayana.

RAMAYANA: One of the great epic poems of India; attributed to the sage Valmiki, the Ramayana recounts the life and exploits of Lord Rama. This story, so rich with spiritual meaning, has been told and retold down through the ages by saints, poets, scholars, and common folk.

RIG VEDA: The oldest of the four Vedas; it is composed of more than one thousand hymns, including those that invoke the gods of the fire ritual. See also VEDAS .

RUDRA: The Lord as destroyer, a form of Lord Shiva. As the fierce aspect of God, Rudra inspires both great love and great fear among his worshipers.

RUDRAKSHA: Seeds from a tree sacred to Shiva, often strung as beads for malas. Legend has it that the rudraksha seed was created from the tears of Lord Rudra, thus endowing it with great spiritual power.

RUDRAM: A text chant from the Krishna Yajur Veda in which Lord Shiva is offered repeated salutations in his many manifestations; the first of these to be honored is Rudra.

SADGURU: A true Guru; divine Master.

SADGURUNATH MAHARAJ KI JAY: A Hindi phrase that means, "I hail the Master who has revealed the Truth to me!" An exalted, joyful expression of gratitude to the Guru for all that has been received, often repeated at the beginning or end of an action.

SADHANA: 1) A spiritual discipline or path. 2) Practices, both physical and mental, on the spiritual path.

SAHASRARA: The thousand-petaled spiritual energy center at the crown of the head, where one experiences the highest states of consciousness.

SAMADHI: The state of meditative union with the Absolute; the state of final absorption in God.

SAMADHI SHRINE: The final resting place of a great yogi's body. Such shrines are places of worship: permeated with the saint's spiritual power, and alive with blessings.

SANKALPA: Thought, intention, or will directed toward a specific outcome.

SANNYASA: 1) Swamihood. 2) The ceremony and vows of Swamihood.

SAPTAH: (seven) A term introduced by Swami Muktananda to refer to the continuous chanting of the name of God, which also may be accompanied by dancing in a circle in a series of measured steps as an act of devotion and a joyful experience of meditation in motion. Saptahs were often held in the ashram for seven days at a time.

SATSANG: (the company of the Truth) The company of saints and devotees; a gathering of seekers for the purpose of chanting, meditation, and listening to scriptural teachings or readings.

SELF: Divine Consciousness residing in the individual, described as the witness of the mind or the pure I-awareness.

SELF-REALIZATION: The state of enlightenment in which the individual merges with pure Consciousness.

SEVA: (service) Selfless service; work offered to God, performed without attachment and with the attitude that one is not the doer. In ashrams, Guruseva is a spiritual practice, and students seek to perform all of their tasks in this spirit of selfless offering.

SEVITE: One who performs seva.

SHAKTI: Spiritual power; the divine cosmic power that creates and maintains the universe; may be defined as the goddess Shakti. See also CHITI.

SHAKTIPAT: (descent of grace) Yogic initiation in which the Guru transmits spiritual energy to the aspirant, thereby awakening the aspirant's dormant kundalini shakti.

SHAMBHAVI MUDRA: (state of supreme Shiva) A state of spontaneous or effortless meditation, in which the eyes become focused within and the mind delights in the inner Self without any attempt at concentration.

SHIVA: The all-pervasive supreme Reality; also, one of the Hindu trinity of gods, who carries out the act of destruction or dissolution of limitations.

SHIVARATRI: (night of Shiva) The night of the new moon in late February that is especially sacred to Lord Shiva. Devotees repeat the mantra Om Namah Shivaya throughout the night; on this night each repetition is said to equal the merit of a thousand repetitions.

SRI: 1) A term of respect that means sacredness, abundance, beauty, grace, and auspiciousness, and signifies mastery of all these. 2) Lakshmi, the goddess of beauty and prosperity.

SIDDHA: A perfected yogi; one whose experience of unity-consciousness is uninterrupted.

SHAKTIPAT MASTER: One who has attained the state of enlightenment and who has the capacity to awaken the dormant spiritual energy of a disciple and guide him or her to the state of the Truth.

SPIRITUAL PRACTICES: Activities that purify and strengthen the mind and body for the spiritual path. Practices include chanting, meditation, mantra repetition, hatha yoga, seva (selfless service), and contemplation. See also SADHANA.

SUBTLE BODY: The second of four bodies within a human being (the physical, subtle, causal, and supracausal bodies), which is experienced in the dream state.

SUSHUMNA: The most important of all the nadis; the central channel, which extends from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. It is the pathway of the awakened kundalini.

SUTRA: Aphorism; a condensed and cryptic statement that usually can be understood only through commentary. In India, the major points of an entire philosophical system may be expressed in a series of sutras.

SWAMI: A term of respectful address for a sannyasi.

SWAMIJI: A term of respectful address for a sannyasi.

TANDRA: The state of higher consciousness between sleeping and waking that is experienced in meditation.

TAPASYA: 1) Austerities. 2) The experience of heat that occurs during the process of practicing yoga. The heat is generated by friction between the senses and renunciation. It is said that this heat, called "the fire of yoga," burns up all the impurities that lie between the seeker and the experience of the Truth.

TATTVAS: In Kashmir Shaivism, the basic categories or principles of the process of universal manifestation from pure Consciousness to matter; that which is the essence of each stage of manifestation.

TURIYA: The fourth, or transcendental state, beyond the waking, dream, and deep-sleep states, in which the true nature of reality is directly perceived.

UPANISHADS: The inspired teachings, visions, and mystical experiences of the ancient sages of India; the concluding portion of the Vedas and the basis for Vedantic philosophy. With immense variety of form and style, all of these scriptures (exceeding one hundred texts) give the same essential teaching: that the individual soul and God are one.

VAIRAGYA: Dispassion; the power of renunciation by which a yogi is able to pursue the true rather than the false, the eternal rather than the ephemeral.

VEDAS: The most ancient, revered, and sacred of the world's scriptures, the four Vedas are regarded as divinely revealed, eternal wisdom.

VISHNU: 1) A name for the all-pervasive, supreme Reality. 2) One of the Hindu trinity of gods, representing God as the sustainer of the universe. Rama and Krishna are the best known of His incarnations.

VIVEKA: (discrimination; distinction) The faculty of discretion that enables a human being to distinguish between true and false, reality and illusion.

VRITTI: Fluctuation or movement of the mind; thought.

WITNESS: The transcendental Consciousness that lies at the root of the mind and from which the mind can be observed.

YAJNA: 1) A sacrificial fire ritual in which Vedic mantras are recited while wood, fruit, grain, oil, yogurt, and ghee are poured into the fire as an offering to the Lord. 2) Any work or spiritual practice that is offered as worship to God.

YOGA: (union) The spiritual practices and disciplines that lead a seeker to evenness of mind, to the severing of the union with pain, and through detachment, to skill in action. Ultimately, the path of yoga leads to the constant experience of the Self.

YOGI: 1) One who practices yoga. 2) One who has attained perfection through yogic practices.

YOGINI: 1) Female who practices yoga. 2) Female who has attained perfection through yogic practices.