The Spiritual Heart

Our real and essential nature, the Supreme and Divine Self, Atman.

Hiranyagarbha

Cosmic intelligence, cosmic mind, cosmic egg.

Mahakasha

The great space.

Ananda

Bliss; happiness; joy; beatitude.

Atma Vichara

Self-enquiry, asking the question: “Who am I?”

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), was the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who transmitted to him by grace the state of samadhi, which gave him a great spiritual understanding. He applied spirituality even to politics, and taught globally about Vedantic philosophy, including a famous speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 1893. He was considered one of the most influential spirits of the Hindu religion.

Samadhi

Oneness, when the self (the little I) merges into the Supreme Self, atman.

Sama-rasa

In Hridaya Yoga, during the practice of Hatha Yoga, the physical asanas combine with advaita, the vision based on non-duality. The asanas are performed while holding the inner spiritual attitudes recommended in traditional texts of Tantra and Shaivism including Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Spanda Karika, Shiva Sutra, etc. The practice of hatha yoga is geared towards getting intimate inner knowledge of the physical body and of its bio-energies.

Eckhart Tolle

A modern German Advaita master and teacher, Eckhart Tolle (1948- ) emphasizes not being caught up in thoughts of past and future as a way of being aware of the present moment, subjects he explored in his nonfiction bestseller, The Power of Now. His later book, A New Earth, further explores the structure of the human ego and how this acts to distract people from their present experience of the world. He asserts that it is the feeding of the human ego that is the source of inner and outer conflict, and that only by examining the ego may spiritual aspirants begin to see beyond it and to reach a sense of spiritual awakening or a new outlook on reality.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

The “Great Forest Upanishad” is probably the oldest upanishad and in its earliest portions may date back to 1500 BC. This work contains the first clear enunciations of the doctrines of rebirth and liberation.

Karma Yoga

Selfless action; a spiritual path in which the transformation comes through acting without a selfish involvement.

Karma

Action.

Shakti

Power, energy, force; the feminine aspect.

Ishvara

“Personal” God; a form or an expression of the Supreme Reality.

Yogi

One who practices Yoga.

Yoga

Union, philosophy of Patanjali.

Who am I?

The question used in the Self-enquiry method of Ramana Maharshi.

Witness Consciousness

The witness Consciousness is present on a number of layers of various depths. When we speak about a conscious action, we usually refer to the attitude of being conscious of that particular action. However, according to the Advaita tradition, an action is truly conscious when the mind is transcended and when, at the same time, the individual consciousness is transcended as well, along with all its filters. A truly conscious action is one in which there is no individual observer, no personal objective, no expectation, and no reference to memory or to a particular authority. Yoga of the Spiritual Heart teaches us to discard or detach from the burden of our attachments of all sorts such as prejudices and physical and psychic attachments. Our action is conscious indeed only when we realize that the underlying background of that action is the Infinite Consciousness or the Spiritual Heart, that the Spiritual Heart is the ultimate source of any action. A conscious action is then the action which occurs free of any attachments and out of love rather then as a strategy to promote a self-image. The witness consciousness doesn’t imply seeking isolation from life or becoming inaccessible emotionally or in any way. On the contrary, the witness consciousness is the expression of the spiritual aspiration experienced in the “heart” of/in any gesture, action, asana, etc. As a mater of fact, ultimately, at the “heart” of any act is the Spiritual Heart, the divine consciousness.

Viveka

Discrimination between the real and the unreal. Vivekananda, Swami – Swami Vivekananda, also known as Vivekananda the Great (1863-1902), was the chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who transmitted to him by grace the state of samadhi, which gave him a great spiritual understanding. He applied spirituality even to politics, and taught globally about Vedantic philosophy, including a famous speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. 1893. He was considered one of the most influential spirits of the Hindu religion. Vritti – Thought wave, mental modification.

Virat

Macrocosm, the physical world.

Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

This classical but brief Tantric text constitutes a collection of purely monistic teachings, in which Bhairava (Shiva) describes 112 ways to enter into the universal and transcendental state of consciousness. Traditionally regarded as a manual for masters, VBT is a practical work and a comprehensive aid to students of meditation from any tradition, since it deals with the profound underlying principles of spiritual practice and contains a vast library of techniques ranging from elementary to advanced. Most techniques explore the use of dharana, or concentration, for reaching the supreme realization of Oneness with the Absolute. VBT, released for the first time in English in 1918, is a core text of the monistic tradition of Kashmiri Shaivism.

Vijnana

The principle of pure intelligence.

Vichara

Inquiry into the nature of the Self.

Via negativa

The term “negative theology” refers to theologies which regard negative statements as primary in expressing our knowledge of God, contrasted with “positive theologies” that give primary emphasis to positive statements. The distinction was developed within Muslim, Jewish, and Christian theism.

Vedanta

“Veda end” is a comprehensive term for the metaphysical ideas that originated with the Vedas but found their classic expression in the Upanishads, Vedanta is the dominant philosophy of Hinduism, favoring a nondualist (advaita) interpretation of existence.

Veda

A scripture of the Hindus.

Vasana

Subtle desire.

Vairagya

Detachment from worldly things.

Vac or Vak

Speech – Or the eternal Word, this refers to the Goddess of divine speech, who is mentioned already in the Rig Veda.

Taittiriya Upanishad

The Taittiriya Upanishad speaks of levels of bliss that can be experienced – from simple pleasure to unexcelled bliss – and the idea that existence is inherently blissful (ananda). Spiritual life consists in discovering the culmination of bliss, which is inherent in the Absolute (Brahman). This scripture also contains the first reference to the doctrine of the five “sheaths” (koshas), of which the fifth and final sheath is composed of pure bliss. Here (II.4.1) we also find the first recorded mention of the word Yoga in the technical sense, as the conscious control of the fi ckle senses (indriyas).

Brihad-Âranyaka Upanishad

The “Great Forest Upanishad” is probably the oldest upanishad and in its earliest portions may date back to 1500 BC. This work contains the first clear enunciations of the doctrines of rebirth and liberation.

Upanishad

“To sit down close to (one’s teacher).” This is a reference to the mode in which esoteric knowledge is transmitted by word of mouth from teacher (guru) to disciple (shishya). Traditionally, 108 such works are spoken of. They are the esoteric continuation of the Vedic ritualism. The earliest of them were composed in the era prior to Buddhism, dating as far back perhaps as the middle of the second millennium B.C.

Turiya

“The fourth” superconscious state, samadhi; the revelation of the background of the other three states of consciousness (wakefulness, dream, dreamless sleep).

Tolle, Eckhart

A modern German Advaita master and teacher, Eckhart Tolle (1948- ) emphasizes not being caught up in thoughts of past and future as a way of being aware of the present moment, subjects he explored in his nonfiction bestseller, The Power of Now. His later book, A New Earth, further explores the structure of the human ego and how this acts to distract people from their present experience of the world. He asserts that it is the feeding of the human ego that is the source of inner and outer confl ict, and that only by examining the ego may spiritual aspirants begin to see beyond it and to reach a sense of spiritual awakening or a new outlook on reality.

Tattva

Element, essence.

Tamas

Ignorance, darkness, one of the three gunas.

Taittiriya Upanishad

The Taittiriya Upanishad speaks of levels of bliss that can be experienced – from simple pleasure to unexcelled bliss – and the idea that existence is inherently blissful (ananda). Spiritual life consists in discovering the culmination of bliss, which is inherent in the Absolute (Brahman). This scripture also contains the first reference to the doctrine of the five “sheaths” (koshas), of which the fifth and final sheath is composed of pure bliss. Here (II.4.1) we also find the first recorded mention of the word Yoga in the technical sense, as the conscious control of the fi ckle senses (indriyas).

Swarupa

Essence, essential nature, true nature of being.

Swami Sivananda

Swami Sivananda (1887-1963) was born in Pattamadai, South India, as Kuppuswami. He went to medical school in Tanjore and then took up a job as a doctor in Malaysia. Although he was a very successful doctor, when his wife died he renounced the world, went back to India, and became a Swami. Swami Sivananda performed austerities for many years and became enlightened through an intensive Yoga practice. Even so, he continued to help the sick, and after his serious sadhana, he continued extensive charitable efforts to bring the gifts of natural Ayurvedic medicine and spiritual literature to people.

Sunya

Void.

Sublimation

A transformation in the nature or quality of energy. When an emotion is embraced and welcomed with an attention free of mind patterns or personal reactivity, the energy is transformed in a natural way. The sublimation is fueled by the alchemic athanor (the alchemic furnace) of the Heart. This is the most natural way to sublimate individual energies and emotions. As long as energies or states of mind are not embraced in the radiance of the Pure Presence, the changes will continue to occur at an individual level and will be governed by lower, ego-based intentions. This type of change does not allow a vertical leap as spiritual growth such as the one from the sphere of the individual consciousness into the Pure Presence.

Sphurana

Throbbing, breaking, bursting forth, or pulsing; vibration.

Spanda Karika

This “Composition on Vibration,” authored by either Vasugupta or (less likely) his chief disciple Kallata, is an independent commentary on the Shiva Sutra. It explains the notion of divine “vibration” (spanda), which is a central doctrine of Kashmiri Shaivism. The Spanda Karika contains several significant commentaries, including a vritti by Kallata.

Spanda

Described variously as divine activity, the dynamic aspect of Shiva, and the creative primordial vibration, spanda (“quiver” or “vibration”) is a prominent technical concept in Kashmiri (or Northern) Shaivism. It is the “throb” of the utter bliss of Ultimate Reality. It is not movement as ordinarily understood but the transcendental cause of all motion. This philosophical notion is elaborated at length in Vasugupta’s ninth-century Spanda Karika, which is often ascribed to his disciple Kallata.

Sloka

Sacred verse.

Siddhi

Psychic power.

Siddha

A perfected being.

Shastra

Scripture.

Shankaracharya, Adi

A genius and the main representative of Advaita Vedanta, Adi Shankaracharya (788-820) was a great Hindu mystic and scholar who made the greatest revival of Indian philosophy and spirituality in his short lifespan, being alone responsible for a country almost entirely Buddhist becoming again almost entirely Hindu.

Sakti or Shakti

Power, energy, force.

Sattva or Sattwa

Light, purity, being, existence, one of the three gunas.

Satsang

Association or audience with enlightened ones or sages.

Sat-Guru

Inner Self.

Sat-Chit-Ananda

Pure Existence-Awareness-Bliss.

Sankalpa

Thought, desire, imagination.

Samskara

Mental impression.

Samsara

The worldly life of illusion; phenomenal reality; manifestation.

Sama rasa

Unison of Shiva; identity of Consciousness; a state in which all differentiation has disappeared. It is an important concept of the Siddha Movement (in Southern India), especially Hatha Yoga. It stands for the process and state of resonating bodily in harmony with the Divine. Samadhi – Oneness, when the self (the little I) merges into the Supreme Self, atman .

St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross (1542-1591), a Spanish mystic, priest, and friar, was considered a major figure of the Catholic Reformation and a founder – alongside St. Teresa of Avila – of the Discalced (“barefoot”) Carmelites. He was well known for his prolific writings on the soul united with God in prayer that revealed profound mystical expressions, experiences, and insights. His commentaries depend on positive statements about God, first for their context – enabling the mind to be directed in attention and love toward God and no other – and second for their verbal expression. This state of being directed toward God is typified when the mind is moved toward a loving, non-conceptual knowledge of God, setting aside images and concepts.

St. Gregory of Sinai

St. Gregory of Sinai (1260s-1346) was instrumental in the emergence of “technical” (Athonite) Hesychasm on Mount Athos, Greece, in the early 14th century. Due to Muslim raids on Athos, he sought protection in Bulgaria, where he founded a monastery. The Philokalia includes five texts by Gregory: On Commandments and Doctrines, Warnings and Promises; On Thoughts, Passions and Virtues; On the Signs of Grace and Delusion; On Stillness; and On Prayer.

St. Catherine of Siena

A Dominican reformer, theologian, scholastic philosopher, and mystic, St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) had an active but short life, campaigning to restore the Papacy to Rome (from Avignon), advocating the reform of the clergy, and advising people that repentance and renewal could be done through “the total love for God.” She reported a “mystical marriage” with Jesus at age 19, and upon her death left behind hundreds of letters considered to be great Tuscan literature. Her biographer claims that she was told by the Christ to leave behind her withdrawn life of piety to enter the public life of the world, which she did, helping the poor and ill until her death by a stroke at age 33.

St. Callistus

Also known as Pope Callixtus I (birth year unknown; served as Pope 217-222, the year of his death), St. Callistus was martyred for his Christian faith and is a canonized saint of the Roman Catholic Church. St.

Sahaja

The word sahaja (from saha and ja, “to be born”) means literally “together born” or “coemergent.” It signifies the idea that freedom is not external to us but is our very condition; that the phenomenal reality (samsara) arises simultaneously with, and within, the transcendental Reality (nirvana); and that the conditional mind and enlightenment are not mutually exclusive principles. According to this teaching, true spontaneity or naturalness is an expression of Reality, and enlightenment is always close at hand. Unlike the states of cosmic consciousness or samadhi, experienced only in meditation, sahaja brings this realization down to the level of the physical body and of the material world. In this process, the Hatha Yoga practices have their own importance. The Yoga of the Spiritual Heart includes methods and techniques focused on favoring the awakening and expression of the state of naturalness (natural simplicity) – sahaja. see more

Saguna Brahman

The Absolute conceived of as endowed with qualities (gunas).

Sadhu

Pious or righteous person.

Sadhana

Spiritual practice.

Sadhaka

Spiritual aspirant. The Sanskrit word sadhaka means “accomplisher.” In the Eastern tradition, a sadhaka is a spiritual practitioner, someone who follows a particular spiritual discipline with the aspiration to purify any inner limitations and, thus, reveal the Consciousness of Oneness. According to the Siva Samhita (5:10-14), there are four types of practitioners, depending on their enthusiasm, energy, character, style of yoga practiced, and commitment to the spiritual process: mild, middling, ardent, and most ardent.

Sacred tremor of the Heart

see spanda.

Rumi, Jalal-addin

The greatest Sufi poet, Afghanistan-born Rumi (1207-1273) composed prolific lyrical and devotional poems in Persian, living out most of his life in modern-day Turkey. Following his death, his followers and his son, Sultan Walad, founded the Mawlawiyah Sufi Order, also known as the Order of the Whirling Dervishes, famous for its Sufi dance known as the sama ceremony. He is now one of the world’s most beloved poets.

Ramana Maharshi

At the age of 16, Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), named Venkataraman at birth, had an intense spiritual experience involving a sudden and overwhelming fear of death. He went into the experience and it became the death of his ego, which invoked a flood of Self awareness. Soon after, he left home for Arunachala – a South Indian mountain whose very name had mysteriously called to him as a holy place worth seeking – to pursue a purely spiritual life. He spent his time in deep meditation, often entering high states of consciousness and samadhi. Eventually he settled on the slopes of Arunachala and his followers built an ashram around him. He answered their questions and commented on the spiritual works they presented him, but always with the same simple issue, pointing to the source of our thoughts summed up in the question: “Who am I?”

Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886) was born near Calcutta, and spontaneously reached states of ecstasy even as a child. At an early age he became priest of the Kali Temple of Dakshineswar, and began in earnest the sadhana of the Goddess. Following a vision of the Goddess, he studied with other teachers including a famous female Tantric guru (Bhairavi Brahmani), and eventually a sage named Totapuri took him to the fi nal stage of enlightenment. His great interest and mission was to teach the Truth of all world religions. His foremost disciple was Swami Vivekananda, who took over his mission.

Rajas

Passion, restlessness; one of the three aspects of cosmic energy or gunas.

Purusha

The Self which abides in the heart of all things.

Purna

Full, complete, infi nite.

Prema

Divine love. Puja – Worship.

Prana

Vital energy, life breath.

Pralaya

Complete merging.

Prakriti

Original, uncaused cause of phenomenal existence.

Prajna

Consciousness, awareness.

Parabrahman

The Supreme Absolute.

Para

Supreme, other.

Open Attention

Open Attention is the natural expression of a consciousness which is not preoccupied with achieving a thing or another. It is an impersonal attention, free of attachments, the attention of the Witness Consciousness. Therefore, it does not lose itself in the knowing of the object, but it maintains an awareness of the Spiritual Heart, of the source of attention itself. The traditional texts about Yoga include numerous references to open attention.

Nous

A concept derived from the writings of Greek philosopher Plotinus (ca. 204-270). For the Fathers of the Desert, nous, intellect, is the highest faculty of man through which he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike diamoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect of the Heart does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or simple cognition (the term used by St. Isaac the Syrian). The intellect, nous, dwells “in the depths of the soul”; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart. The intellect is the organ of contemplation, “the eye of the heart.”

Niskama

Without desire.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

A great enlightened sage and Advaita Vedanta master, Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981, born Maruti) spent his life as a householder and shopkeeper, until he met his guru, Sri Siddharameshwar, and began a serious mantra sadhana. On the death of his guru, he renounced his family and left for the Himalayas. He was later convinced to return to worldly life and a path of action, and devoted the rest of his life to meditation and the Vedantic teachings of his guru. He was known for his penetrating insight and no-nonsense style. His teachings are most well known through the enduring book, I Am That.

Nirvana

Liberation; final emancipation; enlightenment.

Nirmana kaya

The physical body of a spiritually realized being.

Nirguna Brahman

The impersonal, attributeless Absolute.

Nirguna

Without attributes; unqualified; it applies to the transcendental Reality, which eternally abides beyond the guna qualities, or primary constituents, of Nature.

Neti neti

Literally “not this, not this,” neti neti represents a process of discriminating the world and the relative existence from the Absolute Reality of the Self using disidentification with or negation of all names and forms in order to arrive at the underlying truth.

Namarupa

Name and form. A term that expresses the relative nature of the world (seen as a limited superficial reality – only names and forms).

Nama

Name.

Murti

Idol; the form of a deity.

Muni

A sage; an austere person.

Mula

Origin, root

Moksha or Mukti

Liberation; release.

Mirabai

A Rajput princess and Hindu mystical singer, Mirabai or Meera (ca. 1498-1547) was a signifi cant fi gure of the Sant tradition of the Vaishnava Bhakti movement, contributing 1,200-1,300 prayerful songs or bhajans to Krishna worshippers of India’s Middle Ages.

Meister Eckhart

A German theologian, philosopher, and mystic.

Mauna

Silence.

Mantra

Sacred syllable or word or set of words.

Manolaya

Involution and dissolution of the mind into its cause.

Manas

Constant thinking, reflection, meditation.

Manana

The thinking faculty; mind.

Mahesvara

Great Lord.

Mahavakhyas

The four “Great Sayings” or Affirmations of the Upanishads, which indicate the unity of the individual essence, atman with Brahman. The sayings are:

  1. Prajnanam Brahman (“Consciousness is Brahman”); ]
  2. Ayam Atma Brahma (“The Self [Atman] is Brahman”);
  3. Tat Tvam Asi (“Thou art That”); and
  4. Aham Brahmasmi (“I am Brahman”).

Maha

Great.

Linga

Mark or sign; can also denote the symbol of the masculine principle; Shiva.

Lila

Play. Advaita Vedanta sees the world as a purely spontaneous, arbitrary creation or divine play.

Laya

Dissolution, merging.

Lalla

The Kashmiri poetess Lalleshvari, widely known as Lalla (1320-1392), left an unhappy early marriage to become a disciple of the Shaivite guru Siddha Srikantha. She reached enlightenment and began singing songs to Shiva, dancing naked, and expressing her divine ecstasy in unconventional ways. Lalleshvari was very infl uential in shaping Kashmiri culture and attitudes toward life and religion, and her sayings constituted a memory of the Kashmiri classical age in popular consciousness. Her verses are the earliest compositions in the Kashmiri language to have come down to the modern era.

Kundalini

Primordial cosmic energy.

Kumbhaka

Retention of breath.

Kriya

Physical action.

Kosa or Kosha

Sheath.

Kaya Sthairyam

This meditation practice involves concentration on the steadiness of the body to induce steadiness of the mind, leading toward Pure Stillness.

Karta

Doer.

Kama

Desire, lust.

Kalpana

Imagination of the mind.

Jnana

Knowledge.

Jiva

Individual soul.

Japa

Repetition of a mantra.

Jagrat

Waking condition.

Jagat

World.

Iswara or Ishvara

“Personal” God; a form or an expression of the Supreme Reality.

Inner Asana

A general attitude in life and specifically an attitude of practicing Yoga postures in Yoga of the Spiritual Heart, with the goal of bringing the inner energy into perfect balance, perfect neutrality. This is a gate of perfect equilibrium by which one can go beyond manifestation, yin or yang, or the chakras to where the Infinite is revealed. In this mood, when there is energy in muladhara, there is no personality there, there is no longer a personal energy – it is cosmic vitality, the universal energy. This attitude gives clarity of thoughts as well as a perception of Infinity and, at this level, the natural perfection of sublimation is reached entirely with awareness and not by physical effort.

“I-I”

The witness of the feeling of I (Aham vritti); the awareness of the individual consciousness, or the awareness of the awareness itself (a term used by Ramana Maharshi).

Hridaya

The Heart, the mystical center, the non-manifest seat of the Supreme Reality, realized as Pure Existence, Pure Awareness, and Pure Bliss. This “seat of God” within us (the projection of the Supreme Reality in the physical body) is found in the center of the chest, slightly to the right, as expounded by Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Heart

The Spiritual Heart, our real and essential nature, the Supreme and Divine Self, Atman.

Hatha Yoga

Yoga system for gaining control of the physical body and breath.

Guru

Teacher, preceptor.

Guna

Attribute, quality born of nature. The three gunas are: sattva, rajas, and tamas.

Gita

Song

Gayatri

Sacred Vedic mantra.

Fathers of the Desert

The first Christian hermits, who abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude (mostly in the Scetes Desert of Egypt), were ascetics and monks who emphasized an ascent to God through great austeries, stoic self-discipline, and privations that led to the illumination of Divine Unity.

Meister Eckhart

(ca. 1260-1328) reached insight into the journey of the soul and the Supreme Truth through Christian prayer and contemplation. He was one of the most influential 14th century Neoplatonists who introduced many novel concepts to Christian metaphysics. His manner of expression was simple yet abstract, and bold enough to get him tried for heresy during the Inquisition, although he died before a verdict was issued.

Eckhart, Meister

A German theologian, philosopher, and mystic.

Duality

A twofold division in spiritual or philosophical doctrines; the fact of recognizing subject and object or two complementary yet opposite states or forces; the state of perceiving Self and other.

Dhyana

Meditation, contemplation.

Deva

Divine being.

Cit

This term, meaning awareness or consciousness, is used in Yoga and Vedânta scriptures to denote the transcendental Consciousness, or pure Awareness.

Vishuddha Chakra

The fifth center of force, located above the hollow of the neck, attunes with ether and the energies of space and time. It bestows quick and deep intelligence, the highest aesthetic and symbolic vision, and spiritual intuition.

Svadhisthana Chakra

Located three finger-breadths above the sexual organs, the second center of force grants attunement with water energies and magnetic forces, instincts including hunger and sex, and confers sensitivity and social conformism.

Sahasrara

At the top of the head, above the physical body, the seventh center of force – not technically a chakra – synthesizes all the other centers and corresponds with real wisdom, the Absolute.

Muladhara Chakra

The first center of force, located in the area of the perineum, is the seat of vitality, the “battery” of the being, attuned with earth energies and mechanical forces (such as gravity).

Manipura Chakra

The third center of force in the human body, located in the navel region, manipura (known as hara in some Eastern traditions) attunes with fire energy. It is represented by willpower, ambition, ego, dynamism, and violence.

Anahata Chakra

The fourth center of force in the human body, seated exactly in the middle of the chest, anahata is related with air energy and the heart, bestowing unconditional love, selflessness, humility, affection, and transpersonal emotions.

Ajna Chakra

The sixth center of force in the human body, located in the middle of the forehead, ajna represents cosmic mind, intelligence, deep insight, and coordinates all chakras below it – the mental “command center.”

Chakra

Plexus; Energy Center.

Chaitanya

Consciousness.

Buddhi

Intellect.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

The “Great Forest Upanishad” is probably the oldest upanishad and in its earliest portions may date back to 1500 BC. This work contains the first clear enunciations of the doctrines of rebirth and liberation.

Brahmarandhra

Opening in the crown of the head; the ending point of sushumna nadi.

Blowing upon the Embers of the Heart

A meditative practice in Yoga of the Spiritual Heart (Hridaya Yoga).

Bija

Seed; source.

Bheda

Otherness. (See Abheda)

Bhajan

Song of worship, or simply worship.

Bhagavan

God; the Lord. The same word as “Bhagavad” with a different case-ending; the commonly used word for “God.” Terms such as Iswara,Brahma, Vishnu, Siva and names for the various aspects of God are more technical or philosophical. In ordinary conversation a man says either Bhagavan God) or Swami (the Lord). The term Bhagavan is used by general consensus for those few supreme sages who are recognized as being completely One with God.

Bhagavad Gita

Literally the “Divine Song” or, more correctly, “God-Song,” since “Bhagavad” is a noun used adjectivally. The scripture of Sri Krishna, the eighth Avatar, probably the most widely studied and followed Hindu scripture. It occurs as an episode in the Sanskrit epic, The Mahabharata.

Ayurveda

The traditional Hindu system of medicine.

Avatar

An incarnation or manifestation of Vishnu or God as the Preserver and Sustainer of the Universe. Within the anvantara or cycle stretching (according to Christian symbolism) from the Earthly Paradise (the state of Adam before the fall) to the Heavenly Jerusalem (the consummation after the second coming of Christ) there are 10 avatars. The seventh is Rama, commemorated in the Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic; the eighth is Krishna, commemorated in the Bhagavad Gita; the ninth is described as the non-Hindu avatar and is identifi ed as Buddha or Christ or both, the 10th is Kalki, the destroyer of sin with whose coming the Kali Yuga or dark age will end. He is still to come and is equivalent to the second coming of Christ awaited by the Christians and Muslims and the Maitreya Buddha of the Buddhists. Sometimes the term avatar is used more loosely to indicate a divine manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo (1872 – 1950) was born on 15 August, 1872, in Calcutta. As a child of 7 he was sent to England for his education. There he studied at St. Paul’s in London and at King’s College, Cambridge, where he mastered not only English but also Greek, Latin, and French. On his return to India at age 21, he studied Indian culture intensely, and became active in the struggle for Indian freedom. Because of his political activity, from 1908 to 1909 Sri Aurobindo was kept under detention by the British government. During this year of seclusion he underwent a series of decisive spiritual experiences which set him on the spiritual path. He said after his release: “The only result of the wrath of the British government was that I found God.” In 1910, Sri Aurobindo withdrew from the political field and went to Pondicherry to devote himself entirely to his evolving spiritual mission. His spiritual partner, known as “the Mother”, joined him in 1920. Together they established the Sri Aurobindo Ashram where he dedicated himself to his voluminous writings. Sri Aurobindo affirms that all life is Yoga and that man has a greater destiny awaiting him, and through a conscious aspiration he can evolve into a higher being and can open himself to a new consciousness, which he called the Supramental.

Atmaswarupa

Literally the “form of the Spirit,” this term is used to indicate that the Universe has no intrinsic reality but exists only as a manifestation of the Spirit.

Atma nivedana

Atma nivedana or “self offering”) is one of the aspects of the Yoga of devotion (Bhakti Yoga). It means the total surrender of the ego and unconditional worship of the Divine as it is possible only in the state of ecstasy (samâdhi).

Atma-jnâna

Atma-jnâna (“Self-knowledge”) or âtma-darshana (“Self-vision”) is the recovery (discovery) of one’s authentic identity as the transcendental Reality. This is not a cognitive process or mere experience, but a radical shift at the root of consciousness which involves the transcendence of the human mind as well as the body. It is synonymous with enlightenment or liberation.

Atman

The word atman has been used to denote the transcendental Self since the time of the ancient Upanishads. Even the etymology of the word predisposes toward this significance since “a” in this word is a negative particle and “tma” means “darkness.” Therefore “atma” or “atman” means “opposite to darkness,” “shining.” As such it is a key concept of Hindu metaphysics.

Atman is the immortal and immutable aspect of mortal existence, which is the substratum of every object of creation including man. The Self is the essential core of one’s being or what is known in the Christian tradition as the eternal soul. It is one’s very essence. In most spiritual traditions of Hinduism, it is considered to be pure Awareness.

The Self cannot be seen, cannot be perceived, cannot be reached, cannot be grasped since It is the seer, the grasper, the observer, the indweller of all embodied beings, and the doer of everything. In other words, the Self reveals itself only to itself.

No finite act of cognition is involved. It is the supreme revelation. In this way the Self becomes the subject, the object, and the means of the experience. Hence the Shiva Samhita (I.62) states:

“Having abandoned the perception of false states [of consciousness], the renouncer of all volition certainly beholds the Self [the object] in the Self [the subject] by the Self [the means of the revelation].”

Its nature cannot be explained or described adequately, as it is beyond the senses and the mind. It can only be revealed when all the sensory activity ceases to impact the mind and when the mind itself is freed from the movement of thoughts and sense objects and the torment of desires. This mystery unfolds when the mind is still and the heart is opened. One enters into (his) Oneness only wearing the robe of stillness.

The word atman means also in some contexts the ego, which shows another truth: that the ego doesn’t have a separate existence from the Self. It is just a reflection of the Self in the mind-mirror. And the mind with its binary system, needs a first and a second and because of this it enthrones the ego as the king giving it the position of control and ownership, whereas in actual reality it is a mere reflection.

The Katha Upanishad explains the relative status of the two selves in this manner: 
“There are two selves, the separate ego and the indivisible Atman. When one rises above I, me, and mine, the Atman reveals Itself as the real Self.”

The Mundaka Upanishad is more explicit and poetic: “Like two birds perched on the same tree, intimate friends, the ego and the self, dwell in the same body. The former eats the sweet and sour fruits of life, while the later looks on with detachment.”

And Bhagavad Gita offers us inspiring thoughts about atman:
8:3 …Principle, eternal nature (of all beings) is Atman… 

6:7 He who attained Atman obtains the whole world for he finds refuge in the Divine Consciousness, when (his body) finds itself either in cold or heat, happiness or grief, honor or dishonor.

6:10 A yogi should always try to concentrate his mind on Atman…

6:18 When his purified thoughts, devoid of all material desires, are concentrated on Atman alone, he is said to be in harmony.

5:17 He who perceives himself as consciousness, who identifies himself with Atman, whose faith is wholly on the Supreme, who takes refuge only in Him – that one approaches Liberation being purified by Wisdom.

15:11 Yogis who have the right aspiration come to know not only the soul in themselves, but Atman as well. But those lacking knowledge do not find Atman.

2:58 When – like a tortoise drawing its legs and head within the shell – a (yogi)… withdraws his senses from sense objects, then he attains true knowledge. 

13:22. The Watching, Sustaining, All-accepting Supreme Lord, and also the Divine Atman – so called in this body – is the Highest Spirit.

13:29. One who sees that all actions are performed in prakriti alone while the Atman remains out of action – that one truly sees.

13:31 Eternal and not bound by prakriti, the Divine Atman though residing in bodies does not act and is not subject to any influence…

15:32 As omnipresent Emptiness does not blend with anything due to its subtlety, so the Atman present in bodies does not blend with anything.

10:8 I am the source of all; everything emanates from Me. The wise ones who come to understand this worship Me with deep delight in their hearts.

10:9 Those whose thoughts dwell in Me, whose lives are surrendered to Me, who enlighten one another and constantly converse about Me – they are fully satisfied and blissful.


We can conclude by saying that the realization of the transcendental Self is the noblest and worthiest ideal of human existence.

Asana

Posture (in particular, a pose of Yoga); seat.

Arunachaleswar

God in the form of Arunachala, a contraction of Arunachala-Iswara.

Anugraha

Grace.

Akasha

Space; ether.

Ajnana

Ignorance; lack of knowledge.

Aham

Normally the personal pronoun “I” (aham ) refers to the conditional ego, the ahamkâra. The word ahamkâra means literally “I-maker.” This is the ego, or principle of individuation. However, often it simply denotes the ego illusion, that is, the sense of being a particular body-mind and of being the doer originating actions. This is the primordial illusion induced by the ego from where all the others come up, such as the sense of identification with/or of having certain attributes (“my feelings,” “my ideas,” “my children,” etc.). In fact, the ego is just a reflection of the real Doer who is the Self, atman. Ego’s existence is not illusory because it is an instrument, a function in the dynamism of creation. What is illusory is the position of the ego as the Supreme Doer. That’s why all spiritual traditions agree that the ego sense must be transcended. Sometimes this is wrongly interpreted as a demand to be altruistic or to fi ght with the ego in order to destroy this “impostor.” This will only enhance the ego, nourishing it with attention and importance. Something much more profound is intended, namely a radical shift in our sense of who we are: from self (personal) identity, we aim to move to Self Identity -from ahamkâra to âtman. By perseverant practice of discrimination (viveka) and self-inquiry (using the question “Who am I?”) this identifi cation with the ego fades away, allowing the Self to reveal itself more and more. In Kashmiri Shaivism, however, Aham designates the transcendental Self, the transcendental eternal Identity, as Shiva, and is also known as ahamtâ or “I- ness.”

Agni

Fire.

Adya

Primordial; original.

Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta is probably the best known of all Vedanta schools of Hinduism, the others being Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita. Nondual Vedanta is considered the pearl of Indian philosophy and it has influenced virtually all schools of Indian thought.

The key texts from which all Vedanta texts draw are the Upanishads (especially 12 or 13 in particular), which are commentaries on the Vedas, and the Brahma Sutras (also known as Vedanta Sutras), which is in turn constitute a work discussing the essence of the Upanishads.

The nondual message of the Upanishads, of the Bhagavad Gita, and of the Brahma Sutra is that only the one Absolute, the Undivided Self is real, It being the only Truth to be seen, surrendered to and ultimately realized.

The pillar of Advaita Vedanta was Adi Shankara (788-820 AD), who consolidated the principles of Advaita. Continuing the line of thought of some of the Upanishadic teachers, and also that of his own teacher Gaudapada, Shankara expounded the doctrine of Advaita – a nondualistic reality.

The supreme truth of Advaita is the nondual reality of Brahman, in which atman (the individual soul) and brahman (the ultimate reality) are identified absolutely. It was Adi (meaning “first” in Sanskrit) Shankara who gave Advaita its name and actively tried to spread its ideas.

He systematized his conceptions of nondualism and its practice into coherent works such as the Viveka-Chudamani (Crest-Jewel of Discrimination) and Brahma Bhashyas, which are commentaries on the Brahma Sutras. Adi Shankara’s contributions to Advaita thought and Hinduism in general are crucial. He revived monism in India and brought a profound understanding of existence.

He considered that the ultimate truth was Brahman, the one divine ground that is beyond time, space, and causation. He did not mean to negate the phenomenal universe, but rather the identification of our true nature with the ephemeral structures, such as body, psyche, and mind. Indeed, while Brahman is the efficient and material cause for the cosmos, Brahman itself is not limited by its self-projection and indeed transcends all binary opposites/dualities, especially such individuated aspects as form and being, since it is incomprehensible by the human mind.

The limitless Self cannot be comprehended by mind. Transcending the mind is the path of recognizing our ultimate essence, atman.

Later Vedantins debated whether the reality of Brahman was saguna (with attributes) or nirguna (without attributes). The spreading of devotional attitudes had its roots in the belief in the concept of Saguna Brahman. However, it is important to mention that Advaita Vedanta did not deny Saguna Brahman. Shankara counseled worship of God in different forms, and has composed numerous works deploring the uselessness of intellect and calling for the true intuition of the heart to be found in love of the Lord.

Advaita Vedanta is commonly misperceived as an intellectual philosophy, whereas it is quite practical, seeking to awaken discrimination ( viveka ) that leads to Self-realization.

Verse 25 of the Avadhuta Gita says:

By such sentences as “That thou art,” (Tat Tvam Asi) our own Self is affirmed. Of that which is untrue and composed of the five elements, the Sruti (scripture) says, “Not this, not this.” (Neti Neti). Therefore, by discriminating between what is Brahman and what is not, one comes to the truth. Brahman is neither the body nor the mind. Through this process, the aspirant, or yogi, soon realizes that Brahman is all, is infinite sat cit ananda (pure existence-pure consciousness-pure bliss) and attains moksha (liberation).

We can say that the affirmation “not this, not this” (neti neti) sumarizes the Advaita path, the path of discrimination.

Two well known and influential nondualist texts are the Ashtavakra Gita and Avadhuta Gita, the former said to have been written by the Sage Ashtavakra and the latter by Sage Dattatreya.

 
“There is only one Great Being, which the sages call Brahman, in which all the countless forms of existence reside. That Great Being is utter Consciousness, and IT is the only Essence or Self (Atman) of all beings.” -Georg Feuerstein, Sacred Paths

Advaita

Advaita literally means “not two,” and is a monistic or non-dualistic system which essentially refers to the identity between the Selfatman and the Supreme Absolute (Brahman). This doctrine says that nothing exists apart from the Spirit, but everything is a form assumed by the Spirit. The principal doctrinal division among the Hindus is between the schools of Advaita and Dvaita. The Dvaitists or Dualists worship a Personal God separate from the worshipper. The Advaitists, while recognizing the truth of this conception on its own plane, go beyond it to the conception of identity between the Self and Brahman (Absolute); the human being discovers that his origin is one and the same with the origin of the entire universe, which is pure Existence, pure Consciousness, and pure Bliss. In traditional Advaita teachings, spiritual realization was sought not through Yogic sadhanas as much as it was through the systematic practice of discriminating the Real, the Truth, the One from the unreal, illusory “that which IT is not.” The one and only goal of the Advaita teachings is the pursuit of unity and singularity. Mahanirvana Tantra states in chapter XIV, sloka 116: “Final liberation is attained by the knowledge that the atma is the witness, is the truth, is omnipresent, is one, free from all deluding distractions of self and not-self, the Supreme, and though abiding in the body is not in the body.”

Abheda

No other. The difference between bheda and abheda is substantially the same as that between dvaita and advaita. The exponent of bheda regards himself as “other than God,” whereas the exponent of abheda regards God as the Absolute or Infinite apart from which there can be no other.

Vijnana

Principle of pure intelligence.

Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

This classical but brief Tantric text constitutes a collection of purely monistic teachings, in which Bhairava (Shiva) describes 112 ways to enter into the universal and transcendental state of consciousness. Traditionally regarded as a manual for masters, VBT is a practical work and a comprehensive aid to students of meditation from any tradition, since it deals with the profound underlying principles of spiritual practice and contains a vast library of techniques ranging from elementary to advanced. Most techniques explore the use of dharana, or concentration, for reaching the supreme realization of Oneness with the Absolute. VBT, released for the first time in English in 1918, is a core text of the monistic tradition of Kashmiri Shaivism.

Veda

A scripture of the Hindus.

Spanda

Described variously as divine activity, the dynamic aspect of Shiva, and the creative primordial vibration, spanda (uiver or vibration) is a prominent technical concept in Kashmiri (or Northern) Shaivism. It is the thro of the utter bliss of Ultimate Reality. It is not movement as ordinarily understood but the transcendental cause of all motion. This philosophical notion is elaborated at length in Vasugupta ninth-century Spanda Karika, which is often ascribed to his disciple Kallata.

Tolle, Eckhart

A modern German Advaita master and teacher, Eckhart Tolle (1948- ) emphasizes not being caught up in thoughts of past and future as a way of being aware of the present moment, subjects he explored in his nonfiction bestseller, The Power of Now. His later book, A New Earth, further explores the structure of the human ego and how this acts to distract people from their present experience of the world. He asserts that it is the feeding of the human ego that is the source of inner and outer confl ict, and that only by examining the ego may spiritual aspirants begin to see beyond it and to reach a sense of spiritual awakening or a new outlook on reality.

Swami Sivananda

Swami Sivananda (1887-1963) was born in Pattamadai, South India, as Kuppuswami. He went to medical school in Tanjore and then took up a job as a doctor in Malaysia. Although he was a very successful doctor, when his wife died he renounced the world, went back to India, and became a Swami. Swami Sivananda performed austerities for many years and became enlightened through an intensive Yoga practice. Even so, he continued to help the sick, and after his serious sadhana, he continued extensive charitable efforts to bring the gifts of natural Ayurvedic medicine and spiritual literature to people.

Sutra

A terse sentence.

Sublimation

A transformation in the nature or quality of energy. When an emotion is embraced and welcomed with an attention free of mind patterns or personal reactivity, the energy is transformed in a natural way. The sublimation is fueled by the alchemic athanor (the alchemic furnace) of the Heart. This is the most natural way to sublimate individual energies and emotions. As long as energies or states of mind are not embraced in the radiance of the Pure Presence, the changes will continue to occur at an individual level and will be governed by lower, ego-based intentions. This type of change does not allow a vertical leap as spiritual growth such as the one from the sphere of the individual consciousness into the Pure Presence.

St. Callistus

Also known as Pope Callixtus I (birth year unknown; served as Pope 217-222, the year of his death), St. Callistus was martyred for his Christian faith and is a canonized saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Sahaja

The word sahaja (from saha and ja, to be born) means literally together born or coemergent. It signifies the idea that freedom is not external to us but is our very condition; that the phenomenal reality (samsara) arises simultaneously with, and within, the transcendental Reality (nirvana); and that the conditional mind and enlightenment are not mutually exclusive principles. According to this teaching, true spontaneity or naturalness is an expression of Reality, and enlightenment is always close at hand. Unlike the states of cosmic consciousness or samadhi, experienced only in meditation, sahaja brings this realization down to the level of the physical body and of the material world. In this process, the Hatha Yoga practices have their own importance. The Yoga of the Spiritual Heart includes methods and techniques focused on favoring the awakening and expression of the state of naturalness (natural simplicity) – sahaja.

Ramana Maharshi

At the age of 16, Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), named Venkataraman at birth, had an intense spiritual experience involving a sudden and overwhelming fear of death. He went into the experience and it became the death of his ego, which invoked a flood of Self awareness. Soon after, he left home for Arunachala – a South Indian mountain whose very name had mysteriously called to him as a holy place worth seeking – to pursue a purely spiritual life. He spent his time in deep meditation, often entering high states of consciousness and samadhi. Eventually he settled on the slopes of Arunachala and his followers built an ashram around him. He answered their questions and commented on the spiritual works they presented him, but always with the same simple issue, pointing to the source of our thoughts summed up in the question: Who am I?

Ramakrishna

Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (1836-1886) was born near Calcutta, and spontaneously reached states of ecstasy even as a child. At an early age he became priest of the Kali Temple of Dakshineswar, and began in earnest the sadhana of the Goddess. Following a vision of the Goddess, he studied with other teachers including a famous female Tantric guru (Bhairavi Brahmani), and eventually a sage named Totapuri took him to the fi nal stage of enlightenment. His great interest and mission was to teach the Truth of all world religions. His foremost disciple was Swami Vivekananda, who took over his mission.

Rabia

Rabia al-Adawiyya (717-801), the first female Sufi saint, spent much of her life in fervent prayer as an ascetic Muslim, eventually living in the desert in solitude after a period in which she was enslaved. She refused many offers of marriage, even (tradition has it) one from the Amir of Basra, as she had no time in her life for anything but God. More interesting than her absolute asceticism, however, is the concept of Divine Love that Rabia introduced. She was the first to introduce the idea that God should be loved for God own sake, not out of fear – as earlier Sufis had done. She taught that repentance was a gift from God because no one could repent unless God had already accepted him and given him the gift of repentance

Open Attention

Open Attention is the natural expression of a consciousness which is not preoccupied with achieving a thing or another. It is an impersonal attention, free of attachments, the attention of the witness consciousness. Therefore, it does not lose itself in the knowing of the object, but it maintains an awareness of the Spiritual Heart, of the source of attention itself. The traditional texts about Yoga include numerous references to Open Attention.

Nous

A concept derived from the writings of Greek philosopher Plotinus (ca. 204-270). For the Fathers of the Desert, nous, intellect, is the highest faculty of man through which he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike diamoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect of the Heart does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or simple cognition (the term used by St. Isaac the Syrian). The intellect, nous, dwells in the depths of the soul it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart. The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the eye of the heart.

Nisargadatta Maharaj

A great enlightened sage and Advaita Vedanta master, Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981, born Maruti) spent his life as a householder and shopkeeper, until he met his guru, Sri Siddharameshwar, and began a serious mantra sadhana. On the death of his guru, he renounced his family and left for the Himalayas. He was later convinced to return to worldly life and a path of action, and devoted the rest of his life to meditation and the Vedantic teachings of his guru. He was known for his penetrating insight and no-nonsense style. His teachings are most well known through the enduring book, I Am That.

Nirguna Brahman

The impersonal, attributeless Absolute.

Inner Asana

A general attitude in life and specifically an attitude of practicing Yoga postures in Yoga of the Spiritual Heart, with the goal of bringing the inner energy into perfect balance, perfect neutrality. This is a gate of perfect equilibrium by which one can go beyond manifestation, yin or yang, or the chakras to where the Infinite is revealed. In this mood, when there is energy in muladhara, there is no personality there, there is no longer a personal energy – it is cosmic vitality, the universal energy. This attitude gives clarity of thoughts as well as a perception of Infinity and, at this level, the natural perfection of sublimation is reached entirely with awareness and not by physical effort.

Christianity

Christianity is a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (Messiah) or Savior and Son of God (an incarnation of God), as relayed in the New Testament of the Bible. Beginning as a Jewish sect, by the 4th century Christianity had become the dominant religion of the Roman Empire. A consummately virtuous historical figure, some say that Jesus spent his adult life in Northern India and Kashmir, in study of the highest wisdom of the planet at that time. At age 30, Jesus returned to Judea to fulfill perhaps the greatest spiritual mission of anyone in known history by taking the spiritual karma of humanity onto himself, through full sacrifice. Christianity is characterized by the faith that Jesus suffered persecution, died from crucifixion, was buried, and then ascended from the dead principally to open the way to Heaven for those who believe in him and trust him for the remission of their sins (salvation).

Brahmin

The Hindus were divided traditionally into four castes, of whom the Brahmins were the highest, being devoted to a life of spirituality and study. Next came the Kshatriyas, who were the rulers, warriors, and administrators. The Vaishyas were the middle classes and the Shudras the laborers. The castes were not at first exclusively hereditary, but since each caste married within itself, even the law of heredity made them so practically. In course of time they became strictly so and also subdivided into hereditary sub-castes, largely on a professional basis, like medieval guilds in Europe. Also they tended to abandon their caste functions and engage in those of other castes. Today caste has little functional meaning. The Indian government is trying to destroy it.

Brahman

The One without a second, Brahman is not only the principle and Creator (as God) of all there is, but is also fully present within each individual. Brahman is the highest and ultimate conception, the Absolute, about which nothing can be postulated, since any assertion would be a limitation. The first stage in the manifestation of Brahman is Iswara, the Personal God.

Brahmarandhra

Opening in the crown of the head; the ending point of sushumna nadi.

Brahma

Iswara, Personal God, is conceived of under the threefold aspects of Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver), and Siva (the Destroyer).

Bhakta

Devotee. Also one who approaches God through love and devotion.

Bhajan

Song of worship, or simply worship.

Bhagavan

God; the Lord. The same word as Bhagavan with a different case-ending; the commonly used word for God. Terms such as Iswara, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva and names for the various aspects of God are more technical or philosophical. In ordinary conversation a man says either Bhagavan God) or Swami (the Lord). The term Bhagavan is used by general consensus for those few supreme sages who are recognized as being completely One with God.

Avatar

An incarnation or manifestation of Vishnu or God as the Preserver and Sustainer of the Universe. Within the anvantara or cycle stretching (according to Christian symbolism) from the Earthly Paradise (the state of Adam before the fall) to the Heavenly Jerusalem (the consummation after the second coming of Christ) there are 10 avatars. The seventh is Rama, commemorated in the Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic; the eighth is Krishna, commemorated in the Bhagavad Gita; the ninth is described as the non-Hindu avatar and is identifi ed as Buddha or Christ or both, the 10th is Kalki, the destroyer of sin with whose coming the Kali Yuga or dark age will end. He is still to come and is equivalent to the second coming of Christ awaited by the Christians and Muslims and the Maitreya Buddha of the Buddhists. Sometimes the term avatar is used more loosely to indicate a divine manifestation.

Sri Aurobindo

Sri Aurobindo (1872 – 1950) was born on 15 August, 1872, in Calcutta. As a child of 7 he was sent to England for his education. There he studied at St. Paul in London and at King College, Cambridge, where he mastered not only English but also Greek, Latin, and French. On his return to India at age 21, he studied Indian culture intensely, and became active in the struggle for Indian freedom. Because of his political activity, from 1908 to 1909 Sri Aurobindo was kept under detention by the British government. During this year of seclusion he underwent a series of decisive spiritual experiences which set him on the spiritual path. He said after his release: The only result of the wrath of the British government was that I found God. In 1910, Sri Aurobindo withdrew from the political field and went to Pondicherry to devote himself entirely to his evolving spiritual mission. His spiritual partner, known as the Mother, joined him in 1920. Together they established the Sri Aurobindo Ashram where he dedicated himself to his voluminous writings. Sri Aurobindo affirms that all life is Yoga and that man has a greater destiny awaiting him, and through a conscious aspiration he can evolve into a higher being and can open himself to a new consciousness, which he called the Supramental.

Atmaswarupa

Literally the form of the Spirit,  this term is used to indicate that the Universe has no intrinsic reality but exists only as a manifestation of the Spirit.

Atma nivedana

Atma nivedana or is one of the aspects of the Yoga of devotion (Bhakti Yoga). It means the total surrender of the ego and unconditional worship of the Divine as it is possible only in the state of ecstasy.

Atman

The word atman has been used to denote the transcendental Self since the time of the ancient Upanishads. Even the etymology of the word predisposes toward this signifi cance since  in this word is a negative particle and means.  Therefore  or means to darkness, shining. As such it is a key concept of Hindu metaphysics.

Aham

Normally the personal pronoun (aham ) refers to the conditional ego, the aham. The word aham means literally maker.  This is the ego, or principle of individuation. However, often it simply denotes the ego illusion, that is, the sense of being a particular body-mind and of being the doer originating actions. This is the primordial illusion induced by the ego from where all the others come up, such as the sense of identification with/or of having certain attributes. In fact, the ego is just a reflection of the real Doer who is the Self, atman. Ego existence is not illusory because it is an instrument, a function in the dynamism of creation. What is illusory is the position of the ego as the Supreme Doer. That why all spiritual traditions agree that the ego sense must be transcended. Sometimes this is wrongly interpreted as a demand to be altruistic or to fight with the ego in order to destroy this impostor. This will only enhance the ego, nourishing it with attention and importance. Something much more profound is intended, namely a radical shift in our sense of who we are: from self (personal) identity, we aim to move to Self Identity -from aham to Гўtman. By perseverant practice of discrimination (viveka) and self-inquiry (using the question Who am I?) this identifi cation with the ego fades away, allowing the Self to reveal itself more and more.In Kashmiri Shaivism, however, Aham designates the transcendental Self, the transcendental eternal Identity, as Shiva, and is also known as aham or  ness.

Jnana

Direct Knowledge.

Bhakti

Love or devotion.

Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

This classical but brief Tantric text constitutes a collection of purely monistic teachings, in which Bhairava (Shiva) describes 112 ways to enter into the universal and transcendental state of consciousness. Traditionally regarded as a manual for masters, VBT is a practical work and a comprehensive aid to students of meditation from any tradition, since it deals with the profound underlying principles of spiritual practice and contains a vast library of techniques ranging from elementary to advanced. Most techniques explore the use of dharana, or concentration, for reaching the supreme realization of Oneness with the Absolute.

Who am I?

The question used in Self-enquiry method of Ramana Maharshi.

Ramana Maharshi

At the age of 16, Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), named Venkataraman at birth, had an intense spiritual experience involving a sudden and overwhelming fear of death. He went into the experience and it became the death of his ego, which invoked a flood of Self awareness. Soon after, he left home for Arunachala – a South Indian mountain whose very name had mysteriously called to him as a holy place worth seeking – to pursue a purely spiritual life. He spent his time in deep meditation, often entering high states of consciousness and samadhi. Eventually he settled on the slopes of Arunachala and his followers built an ashram around him. He answered their questions and commented on the spiritual works they presented him, but always with the same simple issue, pointing to the source of our thoughts summed up in the question: “Who am I?”

Ashram

Hermitage; the establishment or colony that grows up around a sage or guru; sometimes mistranslated as “monastery.”

Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

This classical but brief Tantric text constitutes a collection of purely monistic teachings, in which Bhairava (Shiva) describes 112 ways to enter into the universal and transcendental state of consciousness. Traditionally regarded as a manual for masters, VBT is a practical work and a comprehensive aid to students of meditation from any tradition, since it deals with the profound underlying principles of spiritual practice and contains a vast library of techniques ranging from elementary to advanced. Most techniques explore the use of dharana, or concentration, for reaching the supreme realization of Oneness with the Absolute.

Rumi

The greatest Sufi poet, Afghanistan-born Rumi (1207-1273) composed prolific lyrical and devotional poems in Persian, living out most of his life in modern-day Turkey. Following his death, his followers and his son, Sultan Walad, founded the Mawlawiyah Sufi Order, also known as the Order of the Whirling Dervishes, famous for its Sufi dance known as the sama ceremony. He is now one of the world’s most beloved poets.