Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hinduism Vocabulary

Hinduism Vocab

Sanatana Dharma: A Sanskrit phrase that means “the eternal law” which is usually used to refer to Hinduism by its followers. The Sanatana Dharma are a group of spiritual laws that have always existed in the way that natural laws have always existed even before they were discovered.

The Vedas: The Vedas are the primary sacred texts of Hinduism. There are four specific Vedas: the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda. They contain hymns, incantations, and rituals and are some of the oldest religious texts in existence.

Upanishads: The Upanishads are a series of over 200 philosophical texts in Hinduism. The major concepts that the Upanishads cover are man’s dilemmas, the soul and God, man’s role in the world, the purpose of existence, and how to achieve true salvation.

Bhagavad-Gita: A sacred Hindu scripture comprised of 700 verses that is part of the Mahabharata. It describes the discussion between Lord Krishna and Arjuna before an important battle. It is considered to be like a concise guide to Hindu theology because it discusses different Yogic and Vedantic beliefs.

Ramayana: One of the two Hindu epics (other than the Mahabharata). It depicts the duties of relationships by portraying figures like the ideal king, brother, or mother. It contains the teachings of ancient Hindu sages and presents them in an allegorical narrative that mainly explores the concepts of dharma and human existence.

Atman: Used to describe the soul in a global sense or individual sense. It is one’s true self that does not exist within the physical world.

Avatar: Refers to the deliberate descent of a deity to an earthly manifestation or incarnation. It is usually associated with Vishnu, but can sometimes be associated with other deities like Shiva and Ganesh.

Bhajans: A Hindu devotional song that can have multiple subjects like stories from scripture or descriptions of gods.

Brahman: Refers to the eternal and unchanging divine reality in the universe. -The source and sustainer of the universe.

Trimurti: The idea that the cosmic functions of creation, destruction and maintenance are personified by the three manifestations of Brahman; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer, and Shiva the destroyer.

Brahma: The Hindu god of creation. He is the father of Manu, who all Hindus descended from and is the creator of the universe.

Vishnu: The Hindu god who controls, maintains, sustains and governs the universe. Vishnu is described as having the “universal form” in the Bhagavad-Gita, which cannot be understood by the human mind.

Shiva: The Hindu god of destruction. Followers of Hinduism who focus on worshipping Shiva are called Shaivites and/or Shaivas. Shiva can be presented in two ways: fearsome and terrifying or a figure of honor that is auspicious.

Darshan: Means sight or vision of a deity. In Hinduism, it is believed that standing in the sight of a deity will bring you a blessing.

Gunas: A state of mind or attitude.

-Tamas: A state of mind in which the spirit is overshadowed by laziness and ignorance. Usually people who die in a state of Tamas are reborn into lower castes.

-Rajas: Selfishness in which people are drawn to materialistic things. It causes people to be greedy, restless and follow selfish desires resulting in pain.

-Sattva: Calmness and clarity, a state in which the spirit is bonded to the body creating a state of happiness and knowledge.

Guru: A teacher of the Upanishads whose teachings have been illuminated by the Gods.

Ishta-Devata: A worshipper’s favorite deity that they chose to worship individually. All deities are a form of Brahman, but this is the specific form that a person chooses to worship because it has a particular meaning or characteristics of themselves.

Krishna: An avatar of Vishnu, making him easier to relate to because he is in human. Appears in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita in which he mainly emphasizes one’s duty to their caste, which will eventually lead to enlightenment. The Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana are texts that focus on Krishna’s life and teachings

Rita: The determined natural law; the idea that pure awareness is the only constant in existence and between different cycles of the universe, it exists without the existence of anything else.

Akriti: The idea that truth comes from beyond the human constraints of space and time and that what is true has always and will always be true.

Law of Karma: The idea that all deeds have consequences that will follow a person into their next life. It provides an explanation for the caste system because your place in this life is a direct cause of actions in a previous life. It also reinforces the idea that everything in the universe is related through cause and effect.

Maya: Refers to allusion of the physical world, which one needs to see through in order to be reunited with Brahaman. It also means that one soul cannot be separated from the rest and is a warning not to succumb to one’s ego.

Moksha: The release from Samsara and from the physical world through which one’s Atman is united with Brahman. This occurs through self-realization and achieving pure consciousness and bliss.

Murti: A physical representation of a deity or an image that expresses the divine spirit.

Puja: A ritual that acts as an offering to various deities. They are performed mainly at home or at temples. There are three important parts to a Puja: observing the deity, worshipping the deity, and eating the food that is offered.

Samsara: The idea that life is a continuous flow and does not end with death, it is the idea that death and re-birth repeat in cycles throughout the continuous existence of one’s Atman.

Shruti: Literature that is considered to was passed down through oral tradition and then written down by sages. It is revered and considered to have come from divine revelation. This includes the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and the Upanishads.

Smriti: A part of sacred literature that is based on memory. They elaborate on Shruti, but are considered to have less of an authority although most people are more familiar with the Smriti than the Shruti. Smriti includes texts like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

Varna: The division of Hindus into four classes, but it is different than the caste system. The four classifications are:

1. Brahmins: scholars/clergy members

2. Kshatriyas: warriors/rulers

3. Shudras: laborers

4. Vaishyas: merchants, artisans, and agricultural workers.

Jati: A caste, meaning a one’s existence determined at birth by the actions of one’s previous life.

Yoga(s): Means union. It is a process to bring union between the individual self and the higher self through uniting different parts of the body and mind. There are four types:

1. Bhakti Yoga: the path to loving a single god by devoting one’s self to that God as if they were a parent/child/spouse etc…

2. Janana Yoga: The path to understanding “ultimate reality” through knowledge, but you have to be able to understand it on a deeper level that just comprehending it.

3. Karma Yoga: Aims to reverse the effect of Karma on one’s life, and it is consider that if you can work to take Karma out of your life, there is no need to be reborn and one can achieve Moksha, This is done by trying to detach one’s Atman from one’s actions.

4. Raja Yoga: Aims to remove one’s consciousness from this world, escaping Maya, to focus on the ultimate reality and to focus on the unity of Atman and Brahman.


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  2. Thank you so much for divulging Sanathana Dharma with objective, clear and simple explanations and, what is even more important, in English, so many can have access to the material! Dhanyawaad.