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A’ba: Aramaic word meaning “father,”
identical to the Hindi word Baba.

Acharya: A spiritual teacher; one who
instructs in religious practices; a title affixed to names of learned men.

Advaita: (a + dvaita) The word dvaita literally
means “two” and signifies two principals. The word therefore
indicates duality, dualism, and a dualistic perspective. In Sanskrit, when an
‘a’ is placed before a word, the letter takes on the meaning of
“not”, meaning that it is not what the word it precedes means, e.g.
A-dvaita literally means “not two.” In the Hindu philosophy, Advaita
Vedanta is therefore a non-dualistic philosophy. It negates any possibility of
a second principal independent of the Absolute Brahman. It therefore teaches
that in reality there is no difference or separation between an individual soul
and Brahman.

Aghori:Non-terrifying; the merciful
Shiva; also, a Shaivite sect.

Aham: Literally, ‘I Am’; the pure inner Self;
the pure T consciousness; the experiencing subject.

Ahimsa:Non-injury; the practice of
non-violence or injury, either physical or mentally towards all living beings.

Ajna Chakra: The spiritual center situated
between the eyebrows, which is often called the third eye; the seat of the
Guru; also called the command center.

Ananda: Spiritual joy, bliss; usually added to
a swami’s name, e.g. Nitya + ananda, and Mukta + ananda.

Apana: Incoming breath; inhalation; the vital
air which goes downward towards the anus; one of the five vital-airs (vayu) which
governs excretion of waste from the body.

Arati (or Aarthi)’. ‘The waving of lights’;
the ritual waving of oil lamps before an altar, image of a deity, or a saint.
It represents God as divine light, brilliance, and luminosity. It is considered
an auspicious act indicating divine protection and the triumphant of light over
darkness. Afterward, the flame is offered to devotees, who pass their hands
over it, and then touch their eyes with the hands. This is repeated three

Asana:A seat or posture; in Hatha Yoga
certain postures are performed in order to strengthen the body and purify the
nervous system (nadis); one of the eight limbs or practices in
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Ashram:Place of striving, from sram,
‘to exert energy’; a place of refuge from worldly concerns; the abode of a
saint or holy man; a community where spiritual disciplines are practiced; also,
a name for the traditional Hindu concept of the four stages of life: student,
married life, retirement from worldly concerns, and sannyasa.

Ashramite:One who lives in, and follows
the rules of the ashram.

Atman (or Anna): The eternal and unchanging Self, the inner Spirit; one’s true nature or Self. According to the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the Self should be realized by reflection and meditation after hearing about it from one’s Guru. Not to be confused with the ego-sense, which is referred to as Ahamkara.

AUM: see OM

Avadhuta: Literally, ‘one who has shaken off, discarded, or expelled’ all attachments to the world; one who has transcended body-consciousness and is beyond the mind. One who always lives in the highest spiritual state. Such a being wanders freely, completely free from all social conventions; an Avadhuta is one who has achieved the highest state of renunciation, which is neither attachment nor detachment, but is beyond both. He seeks nothing, nor avoids anything; also, a name of Guru Dattatreya, believed to be an incarnation of the trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

Avatara: Literally, ‘coming down or descending’; Incarnation; the descent of the Lord into a human form in order to perform some particular action for the benefit of dharma, and the upliftment of humanity.


Baba (or Babaji): Respected father. A term of affection for a saint, especially one’s Guru.

Bandhas: Literally, ‘binding, fastening, or a lock’; a hatha yoga exercise used in conjunction with certain types of breath control {pranayamd). At such times certain organs of the body are contracted or locked in order to control and direct the life force (prana) into the Sushumna nadi. May also occur spontaneously after Kundalini has been awakened. Often referred to as kriyas.

Bhadrakali: Bhadra ‘auspicious’ + kali ‘the dark Goddess’; Shakti; a name of the Divine Mother. Baba Nityananda erected a temple dedicated to her at the entrance to the town of Ganeshpuri.

Bhagavad Gita: Literally, ‘the song of God’; One of India’s greatest scripture. It is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and his disciple Arjuna just before the start of the Mahabharata war. He speaks on dharma, meditation, yoga, knowledge, the spiritual path, and the performance of one’s duty.

Bhagavan: (or Bhagawan) Literally, ‘one who
possesses the six attributes,’ viz., infinite spiritual power, righteousness,
glory, splendor, knowledge, and renunciation; the Lord; God; also, a term used
when addressing a revered person such as Bhagavan Nityananda.

Bhajan: Devotional song or hymn.

Bhakta: A devotee and lover of God; a follower
of Bhakli Yoga, the path of love and devotion.

Bhakti: As in Bhakti Yoga; The yoga of
devotion leading to union with God; a state of intense devotional love for God,
or one’s Guru, and the desire to be united with Him; also, the constant feeling
of being united with God or Guru.

Bhartrihari: (5th or 6th century C.E.?) A
great philosopher and poet king who renounced his kingdom and became a great

Bhastrika:Literally, ‘like a bellows’;
a type of pranayama where the breathing is done with the diaphragm, and
is inhaled and exhaled forcefully, resembling a bellows.

Bhava:Literally, ‘becoming, being’; a
spiritual mood or attitude of identification or absorption. In this state the
devotee identifies totally with the object of their devotion, whether a deity,
or one’s Guru.

Bhimeshwar:Literally, ‘Bhima’s Lord’;
the name of the lingam in the Shiva temple in the town of Ganeshpuri.

Bilva: (also called Bel). The wood-apple
tree (Aegle Marmelos); a species of tree sacred to Lord Shiva. Its unripe fruit
is used for medicinal purposes, and its leaves are used in the worship of Lord

Bindu: Literally, ‘dot, spot, or point.’ The neela
or blue dot; Baba Muktananda called this the blue pearl. It is a
brilliant blue dot which appears to the meditator. It is actually the subtle
abode of the inner Self; also, in yogic terminology, the word is often
used to also indicate semen.

Bramacharya: Continence; A religious student
who practices celibacy. In its wider sense the word stands for abstinence not
only from sexual indulgence, but freedom from all sensual cravings. Also,
according to traditional Hindu society, it is the first of four stages of life,
that of a student.

Brahman: In the Upanishads, God as
Transcendental and Absolute is called Brahman. From the root brih, to
‘grow, expand, increase.’

Brahmin: Literally, ‘one who knows Brahman’;
the first of four main castes according to the ancient Vedic social system. It indicates
the spiritual man of society.


Chakra: Wheel, circle, disk; the seven main
spiritual centers within the subtle body.

Chinmudra: A gesture in which the thumb and
index fingers are joined. This mudra helps in controlling and
maintaining the prana within the body. (see mudra)

Chitshakti: The Supreme Power of

Chitshakti Vitas: “Play of Consciousness”.
The title of Baba Muktananda’s spiritual autobiography.

Chitta: “Mind stuff; it is associated
with the mind, intellect, heart, and sub-conscious mind; As used in yoga
philosophy, it indicates consciousness and ‘mind-substance’; It is comprised of
the three subtle inner instruments of consciousness, viz. the Intellect (buddhi),
Ego {qhamkara)y which gives the sense of ‘I am so and
so,’ and the mind (mana.s), which is associated with the senses, and is
made up by an assortment of thoughts and emotions. Actually chitta comprises
all the levels of mind, and indicates the quality of awareness and consciousness.


Dal: A kind of split pea soup and staple in
the Indian diet which is eaten with rice, or bread, called rati or chapati.

Dandapranam:Literally, ‘prostration
like a stick’; a full body prostration where one lays flat on the ground with
the arms and hands joined and outstretched overhead, thereby resembling a stick

Darshana:Literally, ‘seeing or looking
at,’ from the root Drsh, which means ‘to see’; vision, perception,
observing, meeting, an audience; to be with, or have the sight or vision of a
deity, saint, or sacred place; a philosophical perspective, thereby referring
to the six traditional philosophical systems of India: Yoga, Vedanta, Sankhya,
Mimamsa, Nyaya and Vaisheshika.

Dashanami:Literally, ‘ten names’; the
ten orders or branches of sannyasis started by Adi Shankaracharya. These
are: Giri, Parvata, Sagar, Puri, Bharali, Sarasvati, Vana, Aranya, Tirtha and
Ashram. Muktananda, and all of his swamis, belong to the Sarasvati (also
spelled Saraswati) branch or order of monks.

Deva: Literally, ‘shining one’; a celestial being and cosmic protector; they are similar to angels in the Judaic, Christian and Islamic religions.

Devi: Literally, ‘shining one’; the feminine form of Deva; The Goddess; a name used to indicate the Divine Mother; also. a name for Kundalini.

Dharma: From the Sanskrit root dri, *lo sustain’; divine or cosmic law; the law of righteousness; religion; duty and obligation to one’s family and society; one of the four life goals of traditional Hindu society. Dharma has traditionally been divided into four types:

  1. Rita – This is Universal dharma, it is cosmic law and order.
  2. Varna dharma – This is social dharma. It is the duty and responsibilities one has towards society,
  3. Ashrama dharma – This consists of the traditional four stages of life according to Vedic culture. These four are: student, householder, retirement, and religious orders or pursuits.
  4. Svadharma – This is one’s own personal dharma, and is determined by one’s karmas, or the good and bad actions from past lives, as well as the influence of the above three dharmas.

Dharmashala:A building which houses

Diksha: Any religious initiation; in Mahayoga
it means Shaktipat initiation received from the Guru, in which he
transmits his spiritual power into the disciple by either look, touch, word (mantra)
or thought.

Diwali (or Dipavali): ‘a row of
lights’; festival of lights; depending on the part of India, a two or three day
festival starting on the 13th day of the dark fortnight, in the month of
Karttika (October-November). Diwali proper is the 15th day, or the day of the
new moon, and according to some north Indian calendars, it is the first day of
the Hindu New Year. There are various origins attributed to this festival. Some
say that they are celebrating the marriage between Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu. The
festival also commemorates the day Sri Ram returned to Ayodhya after his
triumphant victory over the demon Ravana; it is the celebration of light over
darkness or good over evil.

Durga: Shakti; the Universal Mother; a form of
the goddess shown riding on a lion, or tiger. An image which indicates an
awakened Kundalini.

Dvaita: Literally, the word means ‘two’,
thereby indicating two principles. Duality; dualism. In Hindu philosophy it
indicates the Dvaita Vedanta or the dualistic philosophy which asserts the
separation or differences between the individual soul and Brahman.


Faqir (orfakir):Literally, ‘poor’; an
Arabic word to designate a mendicant, sufi, ascetic, or yogi.


Ganga (or Ganges): The most sacred
river in India today, flowing from the Himalayas, and across the plains of
Northern India; as a celestial river, the Ganga represents the Milky Way.

Gita: A song or poem, like the Bhagavad Gita, Guru Gita, Anu Gita, etc.

Guna:In the Samkhya philosophy, it
indicates the three qualities or attributes which makes up the primordial
cosmic substance known as Prakriti. These are the qualities of
intelligence or purity (sattva), activity (rajas) and inertia or
ignorance (tamas).

Guru: Literally, ‘one who removes darkness’;
weighty, heavy, large: the spiritual teacher or preceptor; also, in Hindu
astrology, durii is the name for the planet Jupiter.

Guru-bhava: The mood or mystical attitude of
identification with one’s Guru as the inner Self; also, ‘he who feels or thinks
about the Guru.’

Gurudev: Literally, ‘the divine Guru’; God as
Guru; an affectionate, yet respectful term used to address one’s Guru.

Guru Gita: Literally, ‘the song or poem of the Guru’; a hymn extolling the greatness of the Guru, and the Guru-disciple relationship.

Guru Purnima: Literally, ‘the Guru’s full
moon.’ The word purnima means, “full, complete, whole,” and is
used to indicate the full moon. This festival falls in June-July, and is the
day when one’s Guru, or any true Guru, is honored. It is also called
“Vyasa’s full moon” in honor of that ancient sage, since it is said
it was on the full moon day of July when he achieved enlightenment, and also
started writing the Brahma Sutras, a treatise on Vedanta. Traditionally, during
the four months of the rainy season following this date, wandering monks stay
in one place to meditate and study.


Ham’Sa (or So’Ham): Literally,
‘I am That’; the natural mantra which is continuously going on within each
individual, with each incoming and outgoing breath; an individual soul; a swan,
or more accurately, the wild Indian goose which symbolizes an adept class of
renunciates or yogis called Paramahamsas.

Hatha-Yoga: Literally, ‘the forceful yoga’;
various physical and mental exercises practiced specifically for purifying the
countless network of nadis, and to bring about the even flow of the
incoming (prana) and outgoing (apana) breath; also, the syllables
‘ha’ symbolizes the ‘sun,’ and ‘tha’ the ‘moon.’ Therefore, the
word hatha also means ‘the Sun-Moon Yoga,’ which symbolizes the yogis
ability to experience himself to be beyond the rhythm of ordinary time,
indicated by the sun and moon.

Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika:Literally, ‘light
on the forceful yoga.’ A famous treatise on hatha yoga by Svatmarama, who lived
sometime in the mid-fourteenth century C.E. The work seeks to integrate the
physical discipline with the higher spiritual practices of Raja Yoga.


Ida: Subtle channel (nadi) in which prana
flows. It is located on the left side of the body and is said to be
feminine in nature, indicating emotions and feelings. It is associated with the
lunar principle.

Ishta Devata:One’s chosen ideal form
of God.

Ishvara: (also Ishwara) The Lord; God
as Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer.


Japa: Recitation, repetition. The devotional repetition of the mantra, often while counting on a rosary. It may be done aloud or silently. For meditation, japa is usually performed silently.

Jayanti: Appearance day or birthday, usually of a deity or saint. Celebrated with much reverence and devotion.

Ji:A suffix used after a person’s name
or title, not only to show respect, but it also indicates a personal intimacy.
It is pronounced jee, as in Babaji, Swamiji, Nityanandaji, etc.

Jiva: Literally, ‘alive, living, existing.’ From ‘to live.’ The individual soul or embodied spirit, conditioned by the body and the mind, and bound by the three malas or impurities of anava, karma and maya.

Jnana:Enlightened wisdom; the highest yogic knowledge

Jnaneshwari:A famous commentary on the
Bhagavad Gita written originally in Marathi by the 13th century poet/saint

Jnani: ‘One who possesses knowledge (jnanaY;
a man (or woman) of enlightened wisdom and knowledge.


Ka’ba:The house of Allah (God).
Islam’s most sacred spiritual center. This Arabic word actually means
“cube” and indicates the square building housing the sacred stone in
the Arabian city of Mecca. All Muslims face Mecca when praying. The Ka’ba was
an ancient place of pilgrimage even before Islam. Tradition tells us that the
sacred stone was originally brought to Mecca from Sri Lanka by the Biblical
Adam, while others say it was given to Abraham by the archangel Gabriel. It
seems, however, thai there is sufficient evidence to indicate that this shrine
was originally a Shiva temple, with the black stone as the emblem (linga) of
Lord Shiva.

Kailash:A mountain peak in the
Himalayas, located in Western Tibet, known as the abode of Lord Shiva. It is
sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists alike; the name of Baba Nityananda’s ashram
in Ganeshpuri; Also, in yogic terminology, the word indicates the highest
spiritual center, located in the crown of the head, the thousand petal lotus (sahasrara).

Kali: Literally, the ‘dark one’; time; a name
of the Divine Mother; Shakti’, a form of the goddess symbolizing the
destructive quality of time; also, the destroyer of ignorance.

Karma: Action or deed, both mental and
physical; the law of cause and effect; the reservoir of past impressions; the
belief that an individual will reap the fruits of their own past actions,
whether in the present life, or in some future one; results of one’s past
actions; destiny; Karma is generally divided into three categories: Prarabdha-karma,
and Sanchitta-karma.

  1. Prarabdha-karma (pro – ‘before’
    rabh = ‘begin’) is the fruits of one’s past actions which are now
    operative in the form of the present life conditions. It is this category of
    karma which is often referred to as one’s destiny.
  2. The second category is called kriyamana-karma(‘being done’). This karma indicates the new actions which are being
    performed by the person in the present life, often in response to life’s
  3. Some of the kriyamana-karmaswill
    bear fruit in the person’s present life, but most will be stored in the China
    for future births. These stored actions are called sanchitta-karma
    = ‘together’ + chitta = ‘mind substance’).

Karmapa: The spiritual head of the Kagyu sect
of Tibetan Buddhism founded in the 12th century. Gyalwa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje
Karmapa was the 16th Karmapa in this lineage (1923-1981). He visited
Muktananda’s ashram in Ganeshpuri in 1973.

Kashmir ShaivismShaivism as practiced in Kashmir. Vasugupta (circa 800) is considered the founder of this tradition. In this philosophy, the Lord (Shiva) is considered both immanent and transcendent. In this tradition God-realization depends on the grace of the Sadguru. Traditionally, the method of spiritual transmission is through Shaktipat. Also called Trika Yoga.

Ki or Chi: What yogis refer to as Prana or the Life Force. A subtle but measurable energy that flows in the meridians or nadis of the subtle body. The energy measured and manipulated in the oriental healing systems of acupuncture, acupressure, and shiatzu.

Kripa: Divine grace, compassion, mercy.

Krishna: Literally, ‘blue-black’; the central
figure in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, of which the Bhagavad Gita forms
one chapter. Krishna is considered an incarnation (Avatara) of God;
also, Krishna was Swami Muktananda’s childhood name; another meaning of the
word is, ‘one who attracts, or draws one near by his captivating qualities.’

Kriya: Literally, ‘action, movement’; in
Siddha yoga it means a spontaneous physical or mental action or movement which
occurs after receiving Shaktipat initiation and the awakening of Kundalini.

Kula: Undifferentiated Energy; a name for the Kundalini
also, a spiritual tradition or school of Kashmir Shaivism.

Kumbhaka: Literally, ‘like a pot’; retention
of breath; a process of pranayama or breath control practiced in hatha
yoga, whereby the breath is retained in an expanded stomach. This form is
called inner kumbhaka. When the breath is completely exhaled, and then
held, it is called external retention. Although these are the two best known
forms, the author of Hatha Yoga Pradipika gives eight types. An advanced
form of kumbhaka actually is not practiced at all, but occurs
spontaneously when Kundalini-Shakti is awakened. It occurs without
inhalation or exhalation, but happens naturally without any strain. This type
is called kevala-kumbhaka.

Kumbha-Mela: Literally, ‘the pot festival’; an
ancient spiritual gathering which occurs in a cyclical manner on the banks of
sacred rivers at Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayaga), Nashik, and Ujjain according to
the transits of the planet Jupiter.

Kundalini: Literally, ‘the coiled one’; the
serpent power; the feminine form of Kundala, meaning ‘coiled’ or
‘circular’; the Primordial Energy (Shakti) or cosmic power that lies
coiled like a serpent at the base of the spine of every individual. Through the
Guru’s grace, or the intense practice of yoga, it is awakened and is made to
rise through the central nadi (sushumna) to the spiritual center in the
crown of the head (sahasrara).


Lakshmi: The Universal Mother as the goddess
of wealth and prosperity; Shakti.

LamaLiterally, ‘superior one’; a
Tibetan word with the same meaning as Guru; a title for any Tibetan
Buddhist monk, hut specifically lor advanced and experienced adepts.

Langoti (also called Kaupin): Two
pieces of cloth, one wrapped around the waist, and the other covering the
private parts; a loincloth.

Lineage: Lineal succession from one Guru to another; a critical component of a true spiritual path. In Sanskrit the word is sampradaya.

Linga: ‘Mark, sign or emblem.’ (see Shiva-linga)


Maha: A prefix meaning ‘great, supreme,

Mahamandaleshwar. Literally, ‘the great lord of a community, province, or regiment (mandalY; a religious title which is usually bestowed on a spiritual leader by the community of Mahamandaleshwars. When Adi Shankaracharya (788-820 C.E.?) organized the monastic order into ten branches, he is also believed to have organized the Naga sannyasis into seven groups called Akhadas (or Akharas), namely: Mahanirvani, Niranjani, Juna, Atal, Avahan, Agni and Ananda. These naked Naga monks were allowed to bear arms for the protection of not only the ten monastic branches of sannyasis, but also the Hindu religion, which was coming under attack by the invading Muslims. Centuries later, a controversy broke out between the Shankaracharyas of the time and the Akhadas. Instead of guiding them, the often class-conscious successors of Adi Shankaracharya, appeared to ignore the lower caste Nagas. It was at that time that the Akhadas, in a unanimous vote, decided to accept Paramahamsa sannyasis as their spiritual guides (Acharyas). Paramahamsa sannyasis consider themselves free of all dogmas and orthodoxy, and will accept worthy disciples from any caste. At first, seven were chosen, one for each Akhada. They were called Mandaleshwars. As time passed, more were appointed, and when any of their disciples also became Mandaleshwars, the Guru would then become known as Mahamandaleshwars.

Maharaja: Literally, ‘great king’; an Indian
title for a great king or monarch; one who is ranked above a normal king (raja)’,
also, a term of address for great gurus or holy men.

Maharashtra: The Indian state where the town
of Ganeshpuri, and Baba Muktananda’s ashram is located.

Mahasamadhi: Literally, ‘the great samadhi’; the final transcendental experience of a great being; the conscious exit from the physical body by a realized soul; death.

Mahashivaratri: see Shivaratri.

Mahavira: Literally, ‘the great hero, or
adept’; the title and name of the 24th Guru in the Jain religion (6th century

Mahayajna: The ‘great fire sacrifice.’

Mahayoga:Literally, ‘the Great Yoga’
(Maha = ‘Great’); It is called the ‘Great Yoga’ because when it is activated by
a Siddha through Shaktipat initiation, it spontaneously sets in motion
the other yogas such as: hatha-yoga, mantra-yoga, bhakti-yoga, jnana-yoga,
laya-yoga, and raja-yoga. It is also known as Kundalini Maha Yoga, Siddha Yoga,
and Guru Kripa (kripa = grace). In this yoga, the Guru initiates the disciple
through the method known as Shaktipat, in which he or she transmits
their own spiritual energy into the disciple by either touch, word {mantra),
look, or thought in order to awaken the dormant Kundalini.

Mala: A string of beads, similar to a rosary,
used to keep count the number of times a mantra is repeated. The material which
the beads are made from vary according to sectarian traditions, but they may be
seeds, wood, or mineral. The number of beads are usually 108; also, a garland
made of flowers; a term used to indicate the impure layers or coverings of the

Mandap: From mand, ‘to adorn, decorate’; an
open hall or temple compound; an opened building or structure where the fire
ritual (yajna) is performed.

Mandir: A Hindu temple, or place of worship.

Mantra: ‘Instrument of thought’; A mystical or
sacred word, verse, or formula given by the Guru at the time of initiation.
When given by a Sadguru, it is said to be a ‘conscious’ mantra, and
becomes a vehicle for the transmission of the Guru’s spiritual power. Mantras
may be repeated aloud or silently.

Marathi: The language spoken in the modern
state of Maharashtra.

Marga: Literally, ‘path or way’; the spiritual path.

Meridians: The name used in Chinese and
Japanese healing arts for subtle energy channels that are called nadis
in yoga and tantric traditions.

Moksha: Spiritual liberation.

Mosque: A Muslim hall of prayer, a gathering
place for religious worship and instructions; French derivative of the Arabic Masjid.

Mouna:The observance of silence; a
yogic discipline practiced during one’s spiritual practices.

Mudra: Literally, ‘seal’; various advanced hatha yoga techniques; symbolic hand gestures used to control and direct the vital airs (prana) in the physical body. After receiving Shaktipat these gestures may occur spontaneously, expressing ecstatic feelings. Among the best known are: 1. Chin-mudra (also known as jnana-mudra and yoga-mudra) where the thumb and index finger touch, forming a circle, while the other fingers are extended; 2. abhaya-mudra, in which the fingers are extended and the palm faces forward. This is the gesture of fearlessness (abhaya); 3. shambhavi-mudra, ‘the ecstatic mood.’ In this mudra the eyes may become wide open, or, the eyes become focused within, even though they remain half opened; 4. Anjali-mudra, the two hands are joined together in reverence at the level of the heart, eyes, or above the crown of the head.

Muktananda: Mukta = ‘set free,
released’ + ananda = ‘bliss, joy’; the joy of spiritual freedom and
liberation; the name of the author’s Guru.

Muladhara: inula = ‘root’ + adhara =
‘support’; the root center; the spiritual center at the base of the spine where
the Kundalini resides, symbolically represented as a coiled serpent, it
indicates the spiritual potential when awakened.


Nada: Literally, ‘sound’; divine music or
sound; the various spontaneous inner sounds heard during advanced stages of
meditation, i.e. drum, flute, thunder, running water, the sound of bees, etc..

Nadi: Physical and subtle channels through
which prana flows. According to Bhuti Suddhi Tantra there are
72,000 nadis; the Prapancha Sara Tantra gives 300,000, while the Shiva
says there are 350,000 nadis. In any case, this merely
indicates that there are countless nadis in the human body, but the sushumna,
and pingala are considered the three most important nadis.

Nagas: An order of naked monks who have
traditionally wandered throughout India, particularly in the Himalayas.
However, today many live in ashrams.

Namaskara (or Namaste): Literally,
‘homage to the divine within you’; the Indian greeting which honors the divine
in others, and is performed by joining the hands at the level of the heart (anjali-mudra).
It is also used to show reverent devotion to an image of a deity, or one’s

Neem:A bitter tree with medicinal
value, and whose twigs have traditionally been used for brushing one’s teeth.

Nityananda:Literally, ‘Eternal bliss’;
Nitya = ‘eternal, constant’ + ananda ‘supreme bliss’; The great
Siddha and Guru of Baba Muktananda, and the author’s grand-guru.

Nivritti (or Nivrittinatha):‘non-activity,
renunciation’; without mental modifications; the elder brother and Guru of
Saint Jnaneshwar (1273-1297 C.E.).


Ojas : Literally, Vitality; luster. The subtle essence of the seminal fluid in both males and females that rises in the sushumna nadi after the Kundalini is awakened.

Om: (pronounced as: AUM)The sacred syllable; the Word; the Transcendent; in Hinduism the mystical and sacred syllable representing the Absolute (Brahman). It is also the symbol representing the fourth state of consciousness, the transcendental state; In the Chandogya Upanishad it is associated with prana, and is therefore also called pranava; it may also be used in daily language to mean yes, as it also indicates agreement, or concurrence.

Om Namah Shivaya:Salutations (or
homage, adoration) to Shiva (God); I bow to Shiva; The great mantra of Shaivism
known as the Panchakshari, or ‘five syllable’ mantra, which is
found in the Krishna Yajur Veda.

Om Tat-Sat:Literally, ‘That is the
Truth’; Tat = ‘That’ + Sat = ‘truth, being, reality’; the Vedic mantra
‘Om Tat Sat.’


Pali: An ancient language derived from
Sanskrit, used mainly in the Indian state of Bihar. Most early Buddhist
scriptures were written in Pali.

Parsi: Literally, ‘Persians’ in the Gujarati
language. A follower of the ancient Zoroastrian religion. Descendants of a
Zoroastrian community who migrated to India around the 8th or 9th century,
after the Islamic conquest of Iran. No longer allowed to practice their
religion freely, they settled in ihe western state of Gujarat, where they were
welcomed, and have prospered. Today they arc mainly living in Mumhai, as well
as in (iujarat, ami make tip three fourths of the world’s approximately one
hundred thousand Zoroastrians.

Patanjali: An ancient sage (circa 2nd century
B.C.E.?) who compiled a treatise on yoga called, the Yoga Sutras.

Pingala: Subtle channel (nadi) in which
prana flows, located on the right side of the body. It is said to be
masculine in nature, indicating intellectual and mental energy. It is
symbolized with the solar principal.

Pradakshina: Circumambulating an image,
shrine, saint, or one’s Guru in a clockwise direction.

Prajapati: Literally, ‘Lord of Creatures’; God
as Creator; a name of Shiva.

Prakasha: Literally, Might, illumination’;
from pra – ‘forth’ and the root-verb kash – ‘to shine’; shining
forth; luminous; in Kashmir Shaivism, it is the principal of Self-revelation;
consciousness; the principal by which everything else is known; Lord Shiva.

Prana: Literally, ‘breathing forth’; vital
air; life force or vital energy, from the root pran, ‘to breathe.’ This
indicates the life sustaining force of the individual’s body, as well as the
whole universe. Also, the first of five vital airs (vayus). Prana in the
human body manifests as five vital airs or winds (vayux), each
performing a specific function, viz., prana (outgoing breath) apana (incoming
breath), samana (equalizing breath), udana (ascending breath) and
vyana (separating breath).

Pranapratishtha: The ritual of cnlivenment or
installing an image with the life force (jjrana).

Pranayama: Literally, ‘restraining the
breath’; the control of prana or life-force. Certain types of
techniques to bring about the even flow of prana in order
to still the mind. When the Kundalini is awakened, these may occur
spontaneously without any conscious effort on the part of the individual.

Prarabdha karma: ‘Actions set in motion’; it
is this type of karma which has created one’s current birth; that karma
which has become active, and has brought about the present life, and its
conditions; It is what is called destiny, (see karma).

Prasad: Purity, grace, blessings; a word which
means, ‘containing blessings or sacred power’; consecrated food and other offerings
which has been first offered to the deity, saint, or one’s Guru; also, anything
given by a saint or one’s Guru is called prasad, such as a gift, or mantra.

Pratyabhijnahridayam: Literally, ‘the heart of
the doctrine of Self-recognition’; an 11th century treatise by Kshemaraja,
which summarizes the Pratyabhijna philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism.

Puja: Worship; actions performed with the
feelings of devotion towards God, or one’s Guru; also, an altar with images of
the Guru or deity, and other objects used in worship.

Punyatithi: An auspicious lunar day (tithi),
a day for gaining merit; An anniversary of a sacred event.

Puranas: Literally, ‘ancient, old’; sacred
books of the Hindus containing ancient stories, legends and hymns about the
creation of the universe, the incarnations of God, the history of kings, and
the instructions of various deities and sages. There are 18 major Puranas.


Rama: The ‘joyful or delightful’; hero of the
Sanskrit epic poem, the Ramayana, composed by sage Valmiki. According to the
Vaishnavites, Sri Rama is believed to be the 7th incarnation (Avatara) of
Vishnu. He represents the ideal son, king and husband.

Rinpoche: Literally, ‘precious one.’ A title
added to the names of highly advanced Tibetan spiritual teachers, usually of
those who are recognized as incarnate lamas. Both the Karmapa and his
disciple, Shamar Rinpoche, were recognized as incarnate lamas (tulku).

Rishi: ‘Seer, sage’; the Vedic seers; a term
for an enlightened being, emphasizing a visionary wisdom. The Rig Veda mentions
seven rishis who guide mankind throughout its countless life-cycles.

Rishikesh: Literally, ‘the place of rishis’;
a famous town at the foothills of the Himalayas not far from Haridwar.

Rudra: Literally, ‘the howler, or one who
roars’; One who bestows strength or power; a Vedic name of Shiva.

Rudraksha: Literally, ‘the eye of Rudra’;
multi-faced reddish-brown seeds from the species Eleocarpus ganitrus. They
are sacred to Shiva (Rudra) and are used to make rosaries for mantra repetition.


Sadhana: Spiritual practices; a technique used
to achieve a desired goal, such as meditation, yoga, japa and austerities. The
practice or discipline which produces success or perfection (siddhi), from
Sadh, meaning ‘to go straight to the goal.’

Sadhu: The holy or virtuous; an ascetic or
holy man. From sadh, meaning ‘one who goes straight to the goal.’
According to Adi Shankaracharya, a sadhu is one who is endowed with sattva-guna,
the quality of purity, has good conduct, and who is well versed in every
branch of learning. A sadhu may or may not be a yogi or sannyasin.

Sahasrara:The highest spiritual center
located at the crown of the head. The seat of the Supreme Lord, symbolized as a
thousand petal lotus.

Samadhi: Literally, ‘even, sameness’; It is samadhi when ‘dhi’ (liuddhi or intellect) attains ‘sama’ (equanimity); Intense or sustained concentration; the state of profound meditative union with the Absolute; according to yoga philosophy, the last stage in the eight limbs of Patanjali’s yoga. There are two main types of samadhi, savikalpa (with seed or form) and nirvikalpa (without seed, formless); also, the tomb or burial shrine of a saint.

Samadhi Shrine: A saint’s tomb or burial

Sangha: (a Pali word which has been anglicized in the 21st century, samgha in Sanskrit) spiritual community of seekers or practitioners.

Sanatana dharma: The eternal, or perennial religion. It is the oldest name for the Hindu religion.

Sannyasa:Literally, to ‘throw down or
abandon’; the Hindu monastic path of renunciation; also, the fourth and last
stage of life according to ancient Hindu culture.

Sannyasi (or sannyasin):Literally,
one who ‘throws down or abandons’; one who has renounced or abandoned the
worldly life in favor of the monastic life. Sannyasa is a personal
dedication to the path of God-Realization and service to humanity.

Saptah: Literally, ‘seven’; also, the event of
continuous chanting of God’s name for seven days.

SarasvatiFrom saras ‘flowing’
vati ‘having’; the flow of consciousness; flowing with speech and
knowledge; the Universal Mother as the Goddess of learning and the arts; Shakti;
name of an ancient sacred river mentioned in the Vedas which flowed from
the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea, but which is now dried up; one of the ten
orders (dashanami) of sannyasins started by Shankaracharya. The
monastic order to which Swami Muktananda belonged to, as well as all his
renunciate disciples.

Sadguru (or Satguru): The true Guru; one who has realized the ultimate truth and is able to transmit the awakening to worthy disciples and lead them along the spiritual path; a spiritual preceptor of the highest attainment, considered to be an embodiment of God.

Sadgurunath-Maharaj-ki-Jai:Sad = true
+ Guru + Natha = lord + Maharaj = great king + ki Jai = victory to. ‘Victory to
the true Guru, the Lord and great king’; an expression or exclamation of joy,
gratitude, and love towards one’s Guru.

Satsang’Literally, ‘the company of
Truth’; the company or association of saints and devotees; a group of people
coming together to hear scriptures, chant, meditate, or just to sit in the
presence of the Guru.

SevaLiterally, ‘service’; selfless
service; work performed with an attitude of detachment towards the fruits of
one’s actions.

Shaivite:A follower of Shiva; one who
worships Shiva as the Supreme Being.

Shakta:Worshippers of Shakti; one
who worships God as Goddess or Universal Mother.

Shakti:Power; energy; strength; skill
or ability; active power or energy; the Supreme Primordial Energy (Parashakti)
which creates, maintains, and dissolves the universe; a term for the Kundalini
within each individual.

Shaktipat:Literally, ‘descent of Shakti’:
the power of grace; the descent of grace; a specific method of initiation
in the lineage of Siddhas. The transmission of spiritual power (Shakti) from
the Guru to the disciple in order to awaken the dormant Kundalini.

Shankaracharya (also Sri Shankara): (788-820
C.E.?) Although many modern scholars place Shankara in (he 8th century, this
date is disputed by many of his successors. But unfortunately they do not all
agree with each other, given dates that range from around the 5th century
B.C.E., to the 2nd century C.E.. Adi Shankar, philosopher and saint, taught the
non-dual (Advaitic) system of Vedanta. He also founded the ten orders (dashanami)
of sannyasins, and established ashrams (mutts) in the four
corners of India through his four main disciples: Padmapada, Hastamalaka,
Totaka (Anandagiri) and Sureshwara. In his short life of 32 years, he wrote
commentaries on the principle Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita, as
well as several poems and numerous other works, including the Atma-Bodha and
Viveka Chudamani. In the following verse Shankara expresses the core of all his

Brahma Satyam Jagan ‘Mithya, Jivo Brahmai ‘va Naparah

Brahman is true, the universe illusory; The individual soul
is verily not different from Brahman.

ShantiPeace, calm; mental peace or

Shiva:Literally, ‘the auspicious,
kind, gracious or compassionate One.’ The name given to the Absolute when
viewed as the dissolver of the universe. According to Shaivism, the Supreme
Lord who is transcendent, as well as immanent. In His immanent form He is the
Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the universe.

Shiva-Linga:An emblem, mark or sign of
Shiva; a symbol representing the Absolute Being in his unmanifested state. A
rounded, elliptical, aniconic image made of stone, metal, crystal, wood, or any
natural substance, either carved or naturally formed.

Shivaratri:Literally, ‘the night of
Shiva’; the 14th night of each dark lunar month (from full moon to new moon);
this night, when falling in February-March, is called Maha-Shivaratri. It is
celebrated by fasting, meditation and chanting throughout the night.

Shiva Sutras: The main scripture of Kashmir Shaivism, said to have been found by Sage Vasugupta (circa 800) written on a huge rock after its whereabouts were revealed to him in a dream by Lord Shiva Himself.

Siddha: A perfected being; one who has attained the highest spiritual goal, from the verb-root sidh, ‘to attain, to accomplish’; one who has attained or achieved siddhis or mystical powers; a perfected spiritual master of great purity and power. A Siddha is one who lives in a state of total freedom. His mind is completely steady, and he always maintains the awareness, ‘I am pure consciousness.’

Siddhapitha: The place, abode, or seat of a

Siddhi: ‘Perfection, accomplishment,
attainment’; the achievement or completion of the spiritual goal; also,
supernatural powers attained through mantra repetition, meditation,
austerities, and other yogic techniques.

Sita: Wife of Lord Rama. Sita was kidnapped by
the demon Ravana, and Rama had to rescue her. The story is retold in the epic Ramayana.

So’Ham:Literally, ‘That I Am’; the
natural mantra which is going on within each individual, (same as Ham’Sa.)

Stupa: Originally a mound housing the remains
or relics of the Buddha, and his followers.

Sufis:The mystics within the religion
of Islam. From suf, ‘wool’, believed to indicate the simple woolen robe
worn by the Sufis.

Sushumna:The central, and most
important subtle nerve (nadi) located within the spinal column, which
extends from the base of the spine to the top of the head. The awakened Kimdalini
travels upwards within the sushumna towards the highest spiritual
center located in the crown of the head.

Swami or Swamiji:Lord; ‘One who is
lord of his senses’; he who knows himself; a prefix to a sannyasin’s name; a
religious title of a Hindu holy man, usually a sannyasin\ also, a term
of respect for any sadhu.


Tandra: An inner state of consciousness
between waking and dreaming, in which one may have visions of gods and
goddesses, future events, lights, or sees other objects during meditation.

Tantra: Loom or methodology: a scripture in
general; a revealed work; a book of knowledge dealing specifically with
spiritual practices (sadhami).

Tapas (ortapasya): Literally, ‘locreate heal*;
severe austerities or penance; All bearing or enduring the pairs of opposites;
performing difficult tasks; in order to purify the ego, the person practices tapas
willingly, and accepts any pain or suffering which comes naturally in the
course of life.

Turiya: The transcendental state; the state of
witness consciousness; the fourth state beyond waking, dream and deep sleep, in
which the true nature of reality is directly perceived; the state of

Turyatita: turiya atita; Literally,
‘gone beyond the fourth state (turiya) of consciousness.’


Urdhvareta: One whose seminal fluid flows upward, thus sublimating any sexual urges.

Upanishad: Literally, ‘sitting near’; also meaning ‘esoteric knowledge’; the scriptures embodying the teachings of the ancient sages of India, and which are a part of the Vedas. Traditionally, the number of Upanishads is given as 108, but only ten to sixteen are considered to be the ‘major’ or ‘principle’ Upanishads.


Vaikuniha: ‘The Savior’; the 405th name of
Lord Vishnu given in ‘the Thousand Names of God’ (Vishnu Sahasranama); it
also indicates the celestial realm or abode of Vishnu (Heaven); the name of
Bhagavan Nityananda’s first ashram in Ganeshpuri.

Vaishnavite: Followers of Lord Vishnu (God);
one who worships Vishnu as the supreme being.

Vajreshwari: Shakti; A name of the
goddess indicating one who holds the thunder-bolt (vajra); a town near
Ganeshpuri where a temple to the goddess is located.

Veda: ‘Knowledge, wisdom’; the revealed
scriptures of the Hindus; the world’s oldest scriptures; there are four Vedas:
Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva.

Vedanta:Literally, ‘ultimate knowledge, the final conclusion of the Vedas’; Vedic philosophy or knowledge indicating ultimate wisdom; one of the six orthodox schools of Indian philosophy, arising from discussions in the Upanishads about the nature of the Absolute. The three main scriptures of this philosophy are: the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita.

Vipassana: Vipassanā (Pāli) or Vipaśyanā (Sanskrit) literally, “special-seeing”, sometimes translated as “insight”. Often referred to in the context of Insight Meditation, a Buddhist meditation practice developed in Burma.

Vishnu: ‘All-pervasive’; a name given to the Absolute when viewed as the sustainer of the universe; He is conceived of as having his special abode in the realm or region known as Vaikuntha (Heaven).

Vishnu Sahasranama: The ‘Thousand Names of Vishnu (God)”; a hymn chanted in Muktananda’s ashram.

Vyasa:Literally, ‘the compiler’; a
great sage who is credited with compiling the four Vedas, and is the author of
the great epic the Mahabharata, as well as all the Puranas. He was the son of
sage Parashara, and himself had a son named Shukadev Muni. His given name was
Krishna Dwaipayana. There is said to be a Vyasa at the end of every third age {Dvapara


Yajna: From the root yaj, ‘to worship,
to sacrifice’; a sacred ritual; sacrificial fire ritual in which different
materials, such as fragrant wood, ghee, spices, and different grains are
offered to the flames while sacred mantras are chanted; also, any work
done in the spirit of surrender to the Lord.

Yoga:Literally, ‘union’; from yuj, to
‘yoke or join’; one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy. Yoga teaches the
means by which the individual spirit can be joined or united with the universal

Yoga Sutras: ‘Aphorisms on Yoga’; A systematic
treatise on yoga by the sage Patanjali (circa 2nd century B.C.E.?).

Yogi: One who practices yoga, usually a male;
also, one who has achieved yoga or union. The name for a female practitioner of
yoga is Yogini.


Zarathustra: The ancient sage of Persia and
founder of the Zoroastrian religion. Some say he was the last of a long line of
prophets of that religion. Although most modern scholars place him around the
sixth century B.C.E., the early Greeks placed him millenniums earlier than
themselves. One can find many similarities in the rituals and practices of the
Zoroastrians, and those of the Vedic people. The early Zoroastrians also
performed the yajna or fire ritual.