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 times.

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 yogi.

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 Shiva.

Bindu: Literally, ‘dot, spot, or point.’ The neela bindu 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 Consciousness.

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 (danda).

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 pilgrims.

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 Jnaneshwar.

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, Kriyamana-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 circumstances.
  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 (san = ‘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 Shaivism: Shaivism 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.

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 Shakti; 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.

Lama: Literally, ‘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, paramount.’

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 C.E.).

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 spirit.

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 Samhita says there are 350,000 nadis. In any case, this merely indicates that there are countless nadis in the human body, but the sushumna, ida 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 Guru.

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 hatha-yoga 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 shrine.

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.

Sarasvati: From 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.

Seva: Literally, ‘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 Shakti 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 teachings:

Brahma Satyam Jagan ‘Mithya, Jivo Brahmai ‘va Naparah

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

Shanti: Peace, calm; mental peace or tranquility.

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 Siddha.

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 samadhi.

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 yuga).


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 Spirit.

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.