Sanskrit Glossary
Vladimir Iatsenko

last revision: 24 March 2024




adharma, that which is not upholding existence, a-dharma, or not in accordance with dharma (see ‘dharma’).

adhyāropa, superimposition.

ājñā, a command, an order; the fifth cakra in sūkṣma śarīra, subtle body, located in-between the eye brows, the cakra of will power, known as the third eye.

ājñāna, one of the four major faculties of consciousness, the operation by which consciousness dwells on an image of things so as to hold, govern and possess it in power (see ‘prajñāna’).

akṣara, ‘imperishable’, sound or syllable AUM. In the eighth chapter of the Gītā: akṣara and kṣara puruṣa: imperishable and perishable spirit.

anāhata, lit. ‘unbeaten’, the fourth cakra in the heart centre of the sūkṣma śarīra, subtle body.

ānanda, bliss, the transcendental Bliss as a part and result of relation of sat and cit, divine Being and Consciousness.

anātman, not self, another, ‘having no self’, ‘something different from spirit or soul’.

annamaya, material, lit. ‘made of matter’.

annamayapuruṣa, ‘self of material body’, puruṣa made out of matter (TaitUp 2).

antaḥkaraṇa, the internal organ, the seat of thought and feeling, the mind, the thinking faculty, the heart, the conscience, the soul.

antarātman, the inner self, the psychic being (SA), the soul, the internal feelings, the heart or mind (MaitrS etc.).

aryaman, one of the seven Ādityas, always mentioned together with Mitra and Varuṇa; the light of the divine Consciousness working as Force (SA).

ātman, the self; the soul, the principle of life; used often as the word ‘self’ is used in English; distinguished from and one with Brahman, universal Spirit. When Brahman becomes self-aware it is distinguished as ātman. Ātman has three major poises: (1) Paramātman, the supreme universal Self, (2) Ātman, the supreme individualised Self, unborn and everpresent and (3) Antarātman, the individual soul involved in manifestation, the evolving Psychic Being (SA).

avidyā, lit. ‘not knowing’, ‘not finding’, searching but not finding; partial knowledge as compared to vidyā, ‘full ­knowledge’; ignorance; partial knowledge in time and space (ĪśUp 9-11).



bhagavad-gītā, lit. ‘The Song of the Blissful Lord (Kṛṣṇa)’.

brahmā, Nom. from brahman m.; lit. ‘the speaker of brahma, a mantra’; a priest in the sacrificial ceremonies; ‘a creator’ known in the later literature as Prajāpati; in the Purāṇas he is spoken of as part of the divine Trinity of Brahmā-Viṣṇu-Śiva, Creator-Preserver-Destroyer.

brahma, Nom. from brahman n.; Veda, lit. ‘expanding one’, a mantra rising from the heart, the lord of which is Brahmaṇaspati, the Guru of the gods in the Veda. In the later literature Brahma is the all-embracing Spirit.

brāhmaṇa, n. Brahmanic literature (Aitareya Brāhmaṇa, Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa, Kauṣitaki Brāhmaṇa etc.); m. a person in the varṇa of brāhmaṇa, Brahmin.

bṛhadāraṇyaka, N. of Upaniṣad, which is a part of Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa of Śukla Yajurveda.

buddhi, f. reason, intellect (Mn, MBh etc.); comprehension, apprehension, understanding. The second tattva of 25 tattvas of Sāṁkhya philosophy; the higher mind as distinguished from the sense-mind, manas.



caitya, (fr. cit) the individual soul (BhP iii, 26); the Psychic Being (SA), see ‘antarātman’.

cakra, wheel, discus; there are seven cakras in the sūkṣma śarīra, these are sahasrāra, ājñā, viśuddha, anāhata, maṇipūra, svādhiṣṭhāna, mūlādhāra.

chāndogya, doctrine of the chando-gas, ‘the singers in meters’; a Brāhmaṇa of the Sāma Veda (incl. the ChaUp).

cit-śakti, the power of Consciousness or ‘Consciousness-force’.

cit, thought, intellect, spirit, soul; pure Thought; the divine Consciousness.



darśana, lit. ‘view’; 6 major philosophical systems: Pūrva-Mīmānsā by Jaimini, Uttara-Mīmānsā by Bādarāyaṇa, Nyāya by Gotama, Vaiśeṣika by Kaṇāda, Sāṁkhya by Kapila, Yoga by Patañjali.

duḥkha, lit. ‘difficult or spoilt space’; suffering, sorrow, pain.



ekāgratā, lit. ‘onepointedness’, concentration, the state of absorption.



gītā, lit. ‘a song’, ppp of root gai, ‘to sing’; Bhagavad-Gītā, the song of the Blissful Lord (Śri Kṛṣṇa).

guṇa, a single thread or strand of a cord or rope; a garland, a bow-string; the string of a musical instrument, chord; subdivision, species, kind; a quality; an attribute of the 5 elements; (in Sāṁkhya phil.) three major qualities of prakṛti: sattva, rajas and tamas, i.e. tranquillity, activity and inertia; (in Nyāya phil.) a property or characteristic of all created things.




haṭhayoga, lit. ‘yoga of persistence’.



indriya, lit. ‘the power of Indra’, cognitive faculty of consciousness, sense: hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell, known in Sāṁkhya as jñānendriyās, the senses of cognition corresponding with five elements: pañca mahābhūtāni: ākāśa, vāyu, agni, āpaḥ, pṛthivī.

īśvara, master, lord, king; the Lord of Creation manifesting himself through his Śakti with no difference between Him and Her (SA).



jīvātman, the living individual soul, not involved in manifestation but present as witness from above, distinct from the paramātman or universal soul.



kaivalya, lit. ‘alone-ness’, the state of being alone, where there is no other; absolute unity; detachment of the soul from matter.

karman, lit. ‘work’; from root kṛ, ‘to do’; duty, occupation; any religious act or rite; labour, activity; product, result, effect etc. In linguistics it is the second kāraka of Accusative case, indicating an object of action. In the Vedic literature it mainly means a ‘sacrificial action’, for the sacrifice in general was seen as the only right action to be performed here in the lower hemisphere, which is to accommodate the higher powers of consciousness (the gods) into the narrow life of Ignorance and thus to transform it into its higher prototype.

karmayoga, yoga of works; the first six chapters of the BhG describe it in great detail; according to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the long forgotten path of the Ancients, where the dynamic way of self-discovery and self-realization was accepted as the most efficient way to reach the Divine. There are three major liberations in karmayoga: (1) freedom from the fruit of action; (2) freedom from attachment to any particular action; and (3) freedom from the notion of the doer.

kṣara, lit. ‘perishable’, ‘what is melting away’, in opposition to ‘akṣara’, imperishable. In the Gītā kṣara puruṣa and akṣara puruṣa are mentioned. Kṣara represents the world of becoming where nothing is permanent, whereas akṣara the transcendental world of permanent existence.

kuṇḍalinī, lit. ‘a coiling one’; in Tantra the power hidden in the mūlādhāra cakra coiling in three (or sometimes in three and a half) coils, which, when awakened, rises to the sahasrāra cakra, opening on her way all the cakras in the sūkṣma-śarīra, to meet and to unite with her Lord, Śiva, seated above in sahasrāra cakra. Mahākuṇḍalinī is the mahāśakti which is descending from above (sahasrāra cakra) and opens all the cakras one by one from above (SA).



mahas, lit. ‘the great [world]’; the fourth world of the Taittirīya Upaniṣad, the world of Brahman, known as Vijñāna, translated by Sri Aurobindo as ‘Supermind’.


manas, sense-mind or mind (in its widest sense as applied to all the mental powers), intellect, intelligence, understanding, perception, sense, will (RV etc.); in philosophy the internal organ or antaḥ-karaṇa of perception and cognition, the faculty or instrument through which thoughts enter or by which objects of sense affect the soul; in this sense manas is always regarded as distinct from ātman and puruṣa, ‘self or soul’ and belongs only to the body. In RV sometimes joined with hṛd or hṛdaya, the heart; or with cakṣus, the eye; thought, imagination, reflection, opinion, intention, inclination, affection, desire, temper, spirit.

manomaya puruṣa, lit. ‘puruṣa made out of manas’, the self of mind, mental being, mental self in man; in the system of five puruṣas it is the third puruṣa (TaitUp).

māyā, lit. ‘creative power’, ‘measuring power’; in the Vedas it is a ‘power manifesting the Supreme’; later in the post-Vedic literature an ‘illusion’.

māyāvāda, the doctrine of Māyā, based on the belief that the material world is an illusion, asserting the permanence of the Spirit, and the temporality of material creation, brahma satyaṃ jaganmithyā, (Śrī Śaṅkarācārya).

mokṣa, liberation, ultimate emancipation, (see ‘mukti’).

mukti, liberation, from muc ‘to free’; setting or becoming free, release, liberation; final liberation or emancipation, final beatitude (= mokṣa). The concept of mukti is changing over the period of time from the Vedic understanding, where mukti is only a condition for a more effective action in manifestation of a freed spirit, to the concept of mukti where the manifestation itself is seen as an ultimate prison which is to be gotten rid of altogether as soon as possible (Māyāvāda doctrine).

mūlādhāra, lit. ‘the foundation of the root of being’, the lowest cakra in the sūkṣma-śarīra (see ‘cakra’).

mumukṣutvam, lit. ‘a tendency towards freedom’, a desire to be free.

muni, a sage, seer, monk etc.



nara-loka, lit. ‘the world of men’; earth or people of earth.

nara, a man, a hero, an individual soul, (from nṛ); in the Veda nṛ is the power of the soul, which is assigned to different gods and godheads in their sacrificial actions. Many great gods, such as Mitra, Varuṇa, Aryaman, Maruts etc. are called by this name nṛ, expecially when they are participating or expected to participate in the sacrifice.

nāvam ivāmbhasi

nirguṇa, void of qualities, or beyond any qualities; when applied to Brahman, Spirit, it means ‘pure Spirit’, which is beyond manifestation, in opposition to sa-guṇa brahma, ‘spirit with qualities’, or ananta-guṇa brahma, ‘spirit of infinite qualities’ (SA).

nirvāṇa, lit. ‘extinguished state’, ‘without a breath’; from nir-vā, ‘to blow out’, to live without life, as it were; a state of ultimate peace in which the whole world is seen as unreal, as if in a movie (SA); the ultimate goal of Buddhism and Jainism as an absolute extinction or annihilation (= śūnya) of individual existence or of all desires and passions; perfect calm or repose or happiness, highest bliss or beatitude.

nirvikalpa, lit. ‘without any modification’; not admitting an alternative, free from change or differences; there are two major kinds of samādhi, sa-vikalpa, including temporal modulations, and nir-vikalpa, excluding all temporal modulations of consciousness, which is considered to be the highest.



paramātman, lit. ‘transcendental self’, ‘the supreme universal Self’ as in opposition to the individual self which is ātman, or jīvātman, ‘unborn or uninvolved individual self’ or antarātman, ‘an involved individual self’.

paramparā, a tradition; an uninterrupted lineage, succession, continuation.

prajñā, ‘discrimination’, ‘knowledge by apprehending cognition’; wisdom etc.

prajñāna, one of the four major operations of consciousness, saṃjñāna, ājñāna, vijñāna, prajñāna, mentioned in Aitareya Upaniṣad (3.2); according to Sri Aurobindo, ‘the outgoing of apprehensive consciousness to possess its object in conscious energy, to know it’.

prakṛti, lit. ‘making or placing before or at first’, the original or natural form or condition of anything, original or primary substance; cause, original source; nature, character etc.; (in Sāṁkhya phil.) ‘the original producer’ of the material world (consisting of 3 constituent essences or guṇas called sattva, rajas and tamas); Nature as distinguished from puruṣa, Spirit, just as Māyā is distinguished from Brahman in the Vedānta.

prāṇa, lit. ‘breath’; there are five major prāṇas: prāṇa, ‘breathing in’, apāna, ‘breathing out’, vyāna, ‘pervading breath’, samāna, ‘equalizing breath’, udāna, ‘rising up breath’.

prāṇamaya puruṣa, lit. ‘self made out of vital’, the self of the vital sheath of the puruṣa. According to the Taittirīya Upaniṣad there are five selves, ātman in the form of puruṣa, puruṣa-vidhaḥ, which constitute the manifestation of the Divine in the individual frame (TaitUp 2.): annamaya (material), prāṇamaya (vital), manomaya (mental), vijñānamaya (supramental), ānandamaya (transcendental, blissful) puruṣa.

prevalence, recitation, oral instruction, teaching, expounding, exposition, interpretation.

puruṣa, a man, a principle of man, a person; in the Vedas the transcendental or universal Man, embodying all the faculties of Consciousness, who was sacrificed (RV 10.91) or whose faculties were sacrificed (AitUp 1-2) projecting the universal Consciousness in the terms of faculties of consciousness into manifestation and thus evoking the evolution of individual being; in Sāṁkhya the principle of the Soul, a witness whose engagement with prakṛti creates the Universe.

puruṣottama, lit. ‘the highest Puruṣa’, the supreme Person, Soul, transcendental to the transcendental, as it were, who oversees and rules over both vyakta and avyakta, kṣara and akṣara, vidyā and avidyā, who is simultaneously transcendental, universal and individual and greater than all of them.



rajas, ‘coloured or dim space’, the sphere of vapour or mist, region of clouds, space; in the Veda the lower and higher atmospheres; sometimes also three vital spaces; (in phil.) the second of the three guṇas or qualities (see also ‘sattva’, and ‘tamas’); sometimes identified with tejas.

rājasika, of the quality of rajas guṇa, energetic, full of passion etc.

ṛg, from ṛc, the sacred word or hymn of the Ṛg Veda.

ṛṣi, a seer, an inspired poet, a composer of the Vedic hymns. There are two kinds mentioned in the Veda: pūrva ṛṣayaḥ, the first ṛṣis and nūtanāḥ, the modern ones. In the Brāhmaṇas seven ṛṣis are often mentioned; according to ŚBr xiv, 5, 2, 6, these are: Gotama, Bharadvāja, Viśvāmitra, Jamadagni, Vasiṣṭha, Kaśyapa, and Atri. In astronomy the seven ṛṣis constitute the Great Bear constellation. For each manvantara there is a different set of seven ṛṣis who bring the Veda into action within the human consciousness.

ṛta, the dynamic Truth, divine law, divine truth in its dynamism, manifesting the world. The concept of the dynamic truth, ṛtam, was lost in the post-Vedic literature and only the static truth, satyam, remained. All what was related to the action of ṛtam was seen only in the context of illusion, māyā, and thus lost its true value, and manifestation of the Divine was thus regarded impossible and unnecessary. The aim of life changed from manifesting the Divine to escaping from his manifestation and dissolving oneself in his static truth, satyam.



saccidānanda, Existence-Consciousness­-Bliss; the transcendental Divine.

sādhaka, effective, efficient, accomplishing, fulfilling, completing, perfecting, finishing; an efficient or skilful person, an adept, magician; the follower on the path of yoga.

sādhanā, means of realising the goal, a discipline of yoga.

saguṇa, lit. ‘with qualities’, as in opposition to nirguṇa, ‘without qualities’.

sahasradala, lit. ‘thousand-petalled’ lotus; the cakra at the top of the head; the seat of Śiva in Tantra, where Śiva and Śakti meet and become one.

sahasrāra, see ‘sahasradala’.

sākṣī, lit. ‘with an eye’, a witness; in phil. ‘subject’; puruṣa, unborn soul, witnessing silently the actions of prakṛti.

sākṣibhāva, the state of witness.

śakti, lit. ‘force, power, ability’, from root śak, ‘to be able to’; the power of the Divine, known as Mahāśakti, in the post-Vedic tradition known in her four aspects: Maheśvarī, Mahākālī, Mahālakṣmī, Mahāsarasvatī, representing Knowledge, Power, Beatitude and Perfection, respectively (SA).

samādhi, lit. ‘becoming one with’, union with, completion; concentration of the thoughts, intense absorption or a kind of trance; profound meditation, intense contemplation of any particular object (so as to identify the contemplator with the object meditated upon); this is the eighth and last stage of Yoga; (in Buddhism) the fourth and last stage of dhyāna.

saṃjñāna, see ‘samjñā’; ‘the essential sense’; according to Sri Aurobindo, ‘the inbringing movement of apprehensive consciousness which draws the object placed before it back to itself so as to possess it in conscious substance, to feel it’.

saṁskāra, lit. ‘putting together’ or ‘making perfect’, accomplishment etc.; a sacred or sanctifying ceremony; faculty of memory, mental impression or recollection; impression on the mind of acts done in a former state of existence (one of the 24 qualities of the Vaiśeṣikas); (pl., in Buddhism) a mental conformation or creation of the mind (such as that of the external world).

saṁyoga, lit. ‘uniting together’, union, conjunction, connection etc.

sattva, lit. ‘the quality of that which is’; true existence, the highest of the three guṇas, qualities, of prakṛti, that of purity and knowledge (see ‘rajas’ and ‘tamas’).

satya, truth; ‘that which is’; in the Veda distinguished from ṛta, the dynamic truth.

siddhis, accomplishment, fulfilment, complete attainment; there are eight siddhis usually mentioned, given in the following śloka: aṇimā laghimā prāptiḥ prākāmyam mahimā tathā īśitvaṃ ca vaśitvaṃ ca tathā kāmāvasāyitā; sometimes 26 are added, e.g., dūra-śravaṇa, sarvajña-tva, agni-stambha etc., (Sāṁkhyak, Tattvas, Sarvad).

śrama, austerity, labour, toil, exercise, hard work of any kind whether mental or physical.

śūnyatā, lit. ‘emptiness’, void, nothingness etc.

śūnyavāda, the doctrine of nothingness.

svabhāva, lit. ‘one’s own nature’; according to the nature of the individual soul.

svadharma, lit. ‘one’s own law or way of action’; according to the law supported by one’s svabhāva.



tamas, lit. ‘darkness’; mental darkness or ignorance; one of the three modes of prakṛti constituting inertia and dullness in the being.

tāmasika, ‘that of the tamas quality’, dull, ignorant, inert etc.

tantra, lit. ‘the principal or essential part’, characteristic feature, model, type, system, framework; a class of works which presents the Vedic knowledge in the kali yuga. There are three kinds of Tantra: Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva and Śākta.

tāntrika, the tāntric who practices Tantra.

tattva, lit. ‘that-ness’; the essential quality; a true principle; truth etc.; in Sāṁkhya there are 25 tattvas: a-vyakta, buddhi, ahaṃkāra, manas, the 5 tan-mātras, the 5 mahā-bhūtas, the 10 organs of action and perception, and puruṣa.

trikāladṛṣṭi, lit. ‘the vision of the three times’; the direct knowledge of the past, the intuitive knowledge of the present and the prophetic knowledge of the future.



upaniṣad, lit. ‘sitting down close to’; the sacred texts which are a part of Brāhmaṇa literature.



vairāgya, lit. ‘loss of colour’; disgust, distaste for; freedom from all worldly desires, asceticism.

vāsana, lit. ‘clothing’, ‘dress’; or from Caus. of vas, ‘causing to dwell’.

vedanā, lit. ‘letting know’ or ‘announcing’; perception; pain.

vedānta, lit. ‘the end of Veda’; Upaniṣads; there are different interpretations of Vedānta: Advaita, Dvaita, Viśiṣṭādvaita.

vidyā, knowledge; as in opposition to avidyā, ignorance or partial knowledge; knowledge of phenomena in time and space; vidyā and avidyā, according to the Īśopaniṣad, are both necessary for the realisation of the Supreme Consciousness.

vijñāna, lit. ‘knowing or realising oneself in detail’; in the TaitUp it is indicating the Supramental Consciousness (SA); according to Sri Aurobindo, ‘Vijñānaholds an image of things at once in its essence, its totality and its parts and properties’. See also ‘prajñāna’.

vipassanā, (Pali) lit. ‘seeing clear’; Buddhist technique of meditation.

viśiṣṭādvaita, philosophical doctrine of Vedānta by Rāmānuja (12th century AD), lit. ‘specified non-duality’, where the souls of men have and preserve their own unique identity in the Brahman, in opposition to Advaita Vedānta of Śaṅkara, where the souls of men lose their separate identity in Brahman, like the drop of water in the ocean.

viṣṇu, lit. ‘vi-ṣnu, who broadens the oneness’; in the Veda the godhead of vastness, Overmental Consciousness, the younger brother of Indra, who is the godhead of the Divine Mind (SA). In the post-Vedic literature is described as having 10 avatāras, becomes one of the major gods of Hinduism.



yoga-nidrā, lit. ‘sleeping yoga’, ‘meditation-sleep’, a state of half meditation/half sleep (which admits the full exercise of the mental powers); light sleep, esp. the sleep of Viṣṇu at the end of a yuga.

yoga-sūtra, N. of a work by Patañjali (2nd cent. BC).

yoga, (fr. yuj) the act of yoking, joining, uniting (RV, MBh); an abstract contemplation, meditation, (esp.) self-concentration; practised as a system taught by Patañjali and called yoga darśana, it is the second of the two Sāṁkhya systems, its aim is to teach the means by which the human spirit may attain complete union with Īśvara; in the practice of self-concentration it is closely connected with Buddhism (Up, MBh, Kāv etc.). In Sāṁkhya it means the union of soul with matter (one of the 10 mūlikārthās or radical facts, tattvas); with Jainas, contact or mixing with the outer world; in astronomy, conjunction, lucky conjuncture (MBh etc.). There are many kinds of yoga. Karmayoga, bhaktiyoga, jñānayoga are dealt with in detail in the Bhagavad Gītā. There are also other kinds of yoga: dhyāna-yoga, rājayoga, haṭhayoga, kriyāyoga, pūrṇayoga etc. Patañjali defines yoga in the Yogasūtra as ceasing the activities of citta: yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ, which can be translated as: ‘yoga is a cessation of the habitual movements of consciousness.’ Generally speaking, any practice which leads the practitioner eventually to union with the Divine can be called yoga.

yogavāsiṣṭha, N. of a work on yoga in the form of a dialogue between Vasiṣṭha and Rāma as his disciple.

yogī, lit. ‘one who practices yoga’.

Abbreviations of source-texts used in the Glossary

ĀśvŚrĀśvalāyana Śrauta-sūtra
AVAtharva-veda Saṁhitā
BhPBhāgavata Purāṇa
KātyŚrKātyāyana Śrauta-sūtra
MaitrSMaitrayaṇī Saṁhitā
MnManu Smṛti
MāṇḍUpMāṇḍūkya Upaniṣad
RVRig-veda Saṁhitā
SASri Aurobindo
TSTaittirīya Saṁhitā
VSVājasaneyī Saṁhitā

Other abbreviations used in the Glossary

Abl.Ablative case
Acc.Accusative case
Dat.Dative case
f.feminine gender
fr.from root
fut.Future Tense
Gen.Genitive case
imperf.Imperfect (Past Tense)
Imp.Imperative Mood
Inst.Instrumental case
Loc.Locative case
m.masculine gender
n.neutral gender
Nom.Nominative case
Opt.Optative Mood
ppp.Participle Perfect Passive (Participle II in English)
pres.Present Tense