Essential Concepts in the Yoga of the Spiritual Heart 

This glossary of spiritual concepts, terminology, and biography is intended to help practitioners of Hridaya Yoga, Advaita Vedanta, and other spiritual paths in their studies and practice. Words from Sanskrit, Hindi, or other languages appear in italics.

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.

Advaita – Advaita literally means “not two,” and is a monistic or non-dualistic system which essentially refers to the identity between the Self atman 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.”

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.

Adya – Primordial; original.

Agni – Fire.

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.”

Ajnana – Ignorance; lack of knowledge.

Akasha – Space; ether.

Ananda – Bliss; happiness; joy; beatitude.

Anugraha – Grace.

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

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

Ashram – Hermitage; the establishment or colony that grows up around a sage or guru; sometimes mistranslated as “monastery.” Asramam – The Tamil form of ashram.

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.

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.

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-pratyâbhijnâ – “Self-recognition” is the pivotal aspect of the Pratyâbhijnâ school of Kashmiri Shaivism. It refers to the state of enlightenment in which the adept recognizes his true nature as the ultimate Self or Reality in the form of Shiva.

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.

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.

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.

Ayurveda – The traditional Hindu system of medicine.

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.

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.

Bhajan – Song of worship, or simply worship.

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

Bhakti – Love or devotion. Bhakti-marga – The approach to God through love and devotion.

Bheda – Otherness. (See Abheda)

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

Bija – Seed; source.

Blowing upon the Ember of the Heart – A meditative practice in Yoga of the Spiritual Heart (Hridaya Yoga).

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

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.

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.

Brihadnarayana Upanishad – see Upanishads: Brihadnarayana.

Buddhi – Intellect.

Chaitanya – Consciousness.

Chakra – Plexus; Energy Center.

Chakra: ajna – 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: anahata – 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.

Chakra: manipura – The third center of force in the human body, located in the naval region, manipura (known as hara in some Eastern traditions) attunes with fi re energy. It is represented by willpower, ambition, ego, dynamism, violence.

Chakra: muladhara – 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).

Chakra: 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.

Chakra: svadhisthana – 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.

Chakra: vishuddha – 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.

Chakrapani – Shakti, energy. Chidakasha – Consciousness, space, “I Amness.” Chit – Universal consciousness. Chitta – Mind stuff. 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).

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

Deva – Divine being.

Dhyana – Meditation, contemplation.

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.

Eckhart, Meister – A German theologian, philosopher, and mystic, 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.

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.

Gayatri – Sacred Vedic mantra.

Gita – Song.

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

Guru – Teacher, preceptor.

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

Heart – see Spiritual Heart. Hiranyagarbha – Cosmic intelligence, cosmic mind, cosmic egg.

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.

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).

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.

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

Jagat – World.

Jagrat – Waking condition.

Japa – Repetition of a mantra.

Jiva – Individual soul.

Jnana – Knowledge.

Kalpana – Imagination of the mind.

Kama – Desire, lust.

Karma – Action.

Karta – Doer.

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

Kosa or Kosha – Sheath.

Kriya – Physical action.

Kumbhaka – Retention of breath.

Kundalini – Primordial cosmic energy.

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.

Laya – Dissolution, merging.

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

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

Maha – Great. Mahakasha – The great space.

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”).

Mahesvara – Great Lord.

Manana – The thinking faculty; mind.

Manas – Constant thinking, reflection, meditation.

Manolaya – Involution and dissolution of the mind into its cause.

Mantra – Sacred syllable or word or set of words.

Mauna – Silence.

Meister Eckhart – see Eckhart, Meister.

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.

Moksha or Mukti – Liberation; release.

Mula – Origin, root.

Muni – A sage; an austere person.

Murti – Idol; the form of a deity.

Nama – Name.

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

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.

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

Nirguna Brahman – The impersonal, attributeless Absolute.

Nirmana kaya – The physical body of a spiritually realized being.

Nirvana – Liberation; fi nal emancipation; enlightenment.

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.

Niskama – Without desire.

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.”

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.

Para – Supreme, other.

Parabrahman – The Supreme Absolute.

Prajna – Consciousness, awareness.

Prakriti – Original, uncaused cause of phenomenal existence.

Pralaya – Complete merging.

Prana – Vital energy, life breath.

Prema – Divine love. Puja – Worship.

Purna – Full, complete, infi nite.

Purusha – The Self which abides in the heart of all things.

Rabia – Rabia al-Adawiyya (717-801), the fi rst 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’s 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.

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

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.

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?”

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.

Sacred tremor of the Heart – see spanda.

Sadhaka – Spiritual aspirant.

Sadhana – Spiritual practice.

Sadhu – Pious or righteous person.

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

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.

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.

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. 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. 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.

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 .

Samsara – The worldly life of illusion; phenomenal reality; manifestation.

Samskara – Mental impression.

Sankalpa – Thought, desire, imagination.

Sat-Chit-Ananda – Pure Existence-Awareness-Bliss.

Sat-Guru – Inner Self.

Satsang – Association or audience with enlightened ones or sages.

Sattva or Sattwa – Light, purity, being, existence, one of the three gunas.

Sakti or Shakti – Power, energy, force.

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.

Shastra – Scripture.

Siddha – A perfected being.

Siddhi – Psychic power.

Sloka – Sacred verse.

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.

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.

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

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.

Sunya – Void. Sutra – A terse sentence.

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.

Swarupa – Essence, essential nature, true nature of being.

Taittiriya Upanishad – see Upanishads: Taittiriya.

Tamas – Ignorance, darkness, one of the three gunas.

Tattva – Element, essence.

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.

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

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.

Upanishad: Brihad-Âranyaka – 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: Taittiriya – 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 fi nd the fi rst recorded mention of the word Yoga in the technical sense, as the conscious control of the fi ckle senses (indriyas).

Vac or Vak – Speech – Or the eternal Word, this refers to the Goddess of divine speech, who is mentioned already in the Rig-Ved.

Vairagya – Detachment from worldly things.

Vasana – Subtle desire.

Veda – A scripture of the Hindus.

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.

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.

Vichara – Inquiry into the nature of the Self.

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.

Virat – Macrocosm, the physical world.

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.

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.

Who am I? – The question used in Self-inquiry method of Ramana Maharshi.

Yoga – Union, philosophy of Patanjali.

Yogi – One who practices Yoga.