Definition of Terms

Like the finger that points to the moon but can never really capture the totality of the moon, it’s difficult for any language to describe the indescribable. Words themselves, regardless of the language used, often mean different things to different people. Over time, words like enlightenment and awakening have become loaded with distorted imagery and meaning.

When it comes to Vedanta, the path of knowledge, learning a few Sanskrit terms can support understanding because: 1) Sanskrit was the language used on the Indian continent when the Rishis (see-ers/sages) were opening their minds to knowledge which later became known as Vedanta, 2) Sanskrit is a powerful language that carries energetic properties that support understanding.

Ananda: Often translated as bliss but actually means without limit.
Atman: Individual soul.
Avidya: Ignorance, not knowing.
Bhakti: Devotion. On this path for the long haul. Karma Yoga, offering all acts in service to creation. Deities are symbols of the self.
Brahman: Pure, limitless, attribute-less awareness/consciousness.
Causal Body: Reservoir of past karma in the the form of vasanas (likes and dislikes). The causal body is the place from which the gunas flow – rajas, tamas and sattva.
Dama: control of the senses, including speech, in spite of urges.
Deep Sleep: Awareness enjoying its own nature as bliss. No objects or experiences present.
Dharma: physical, psychological and moral laws (forces) present in the jagat (universe).
Direct Knowledge: Knowing and living with the knowledge, I am the self as awareness.
Discrimination: Discriminating you as awareness from all the objects and experiences that appear in awareness.
Dreams: Out picturing of vasanas associated with a particular subtle body.
Ego: The apparent person’s sense of being a separate, limited and independently-existent, volitional entity. Do-er, enjoyer, and experiencer.
Enlightenment: The knowledge that I am… whole, complete, limitless, non-dual, action-less, ordinary, unconcerned awareness. Living from this place of knowing.
Four Pursuits: 1) Security (artha) which includes wealth, relationship, and occupation. 2) Pleasure (kama), when security needs are met, 3) Virtue (dharma), the need to be good, and 4) Freedom (moksha), the aim of the first three pursuits.
Free Will: From the jiva’s (embodied soul) position, there is free will choice. From Isvara’s position, the jiva does not have free will choice, as Isvara creates the whole field of experience including the thoughts that enter the jiva’s mind.
Gunas (ropes): The three energetic constituents or qualities of consciousness. Rajas (projection), Tamas (covering), and Sattva (balance, clarity).
Indirect Knowledge: When you see the self as an object. Wersus direct knowledge, which is knowing and living from the awareness of self.
Isvara: (pronounced Ishwara) The macro-cosmic dhamric field. Awareness conditioned by maya, which renders awareness omniscient and omnipotent.
Ignorance: incorrect knowledge about your body, mind, the world and your self.
Jijnasu (mumukshu): a seeker of self knowledge and freedom via the teachings of Vedanta.
Jiva: Embodied soul. Awareness plus three bodies (causal, subtle and gross).
Jivanmukta: an embodied soul that is free from binding vasanas, knows the difference between the real and not real. A jiva that is identified with the seer, not the seen.
Jnana Yoga: the yoga of knowledge. Discriminating between the real and the not-real, the permanent and the transitory.
Karma: action in thought, word and deed.
Karma-Pala-Data: Isvara (the dharmic field) is the giver of the fruits of your actions.
Karma Yoga: taking timely action in alignment with personal dharma and the collective dharma with no attachment to the result of our action.
Knowledge: Indirect – I experience the self (awareness) as an object that is separate. Direct – I am awareness.
Koshas: The five sheaths of the jiva, like lamp shades veiling atman. 1) Anna-maya-kosha, the physical sheath, 2) Prana-maya-kosha, the energetic or pranic sheath, 3) Mano-maya-kosha, the psycho-emotional sheath, 4) Vijnana-maya-kosha, the intellect or wisdom sheath, 5) Ananda-maya-kosha, the bliss sheath.
Maya: A conditioning agent or deluding power within Brahman (awareness) that allows Brahman to appear as matter/form/objects/experience.
Meditation: Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses. Focusing attention inwardly on the subject – awareness and the objects (sensation, emotion and thought) that appear within awareness. Vipassana is a powerful practice which supports dis-identifications with the arising of internal objects – sensation, emotion and thought.
Mind: Subtle machine capable of carrying out its designed function of perceiving, integrating, doubting, conceiving, discriminating, deciding, and emoting. In other words, it is what we might call an “experience processor.” As such, the mind has no independent self-nature; its functioning is entirely dependent on awareness.
Moksha: Freedom/liberation from the bondage of suffering. Freedom from our dependence on objects for happiness. Freedom from binding vasanas.
Mumukshutwa: Burning desire for freedom.
Non-dual: Not two, you can’t split it up into parts.
Objects: Anything but me as awareness. Anything I can become aware off. Includes sensation, emotion and thought as well experience. Have a beginning and an end.
Prasad: Gift from god.
Qualifications: Support the process of assimilating knowledge, realizing and actualizing the self and experiencing freedom: 1) discrimination (viveka), 2) dispassion, 3) mind control (sama), 4) control of the senses (dama), 5) self duty (svadharmaha), 6) concentration (samadama), 7) burning desire for freedom (mumukshutva), 8) forbearance (tadiksha), 9) devotion (bhakti), 10) faith (shredna).
Rajas: one of the three gunas – the quality of projection, action, passion and energy.
Satya: Sat. What is real or true, never changes, awareness, and true self.
Sadhana: Spiritual practice.
Samadama: Concentration on a particular topic, like freedom or self inquiry.
Samanya Dharma: Collective dharma, universal physical, psychological, ethical and moral structure to the field of creation.
Sattva: One of the three gunas: purity, clarity, stillness.
Self: Awareness, Brahman, Attman, consciousness, non-dual, limitless, and ordinary.
Self-Actualization: Applying the knowledge or truth (self and not-self) to daily life until moksha is obtained via the process of self-inquiry.
Self-Inquiry: Application of knowledge. Discriminating between what is real and not real. Three phases: 1) Shravanym – exposure to the teachings under the guidance of a qualified teacher. 2) Mananam – raising every conceivable question that one might have concerning the teachings in order that doubts can be resolved and the ignorance that has given rise to them removed. 3) Nididhyasanam involves constant contemplation of or meditation on the teachings of Vedanta and the moment-to-moment application of non-dual vision to every aspect of our lives until at last such vision becomes spontaneous or natural—so natural that we no longer have to think about it.
Shraddha: Faith in the teacher and the teachings, pending your experience and investigation. Accept and operate from the perspective that you are whole, complete, pure and limitless.
Space: A word used to help understand consciousness. It accommodates whatever you put within it. Is not contaminated by anything in it. Only difference between space and consciousness is that space doesn’t know anything.
Subject-Object: The subject is awareness. Objects included all manifestations in Maya.
Suffering: The source of suffering is not the circumstances of one’s experience, but rather one’s attitude toward and reaction to those circumstances. With awakening, pain and pleasure will persist though suffering will cease. The mental and emotional component associated with pain.
Svadharma: Self duty. The jiva’s dharma – vasanas, gifts, passions, life purpose. It’s vital to be yourself and not be like another. We each have our unique and important role to play.
Tamas: one of the three gunas (qualities of consciousness) – inactivity, darkness, laziness and veiling.
Titiksha: Forebearance. There will be challenges on this journey.
Three States of Consciousness: walking, dreaming and deep sleep.
Tri-Guna Vibrava: Yoga of the three gunas. Regulating rajas and tamas through the actions we take with the intention of creating more sattva.
Vairagya: Dispassion. Indifference to the results of actions. The realization that happiness is not in objects.
Vasanas: The impressions left in the causal body resulting from actions taken. Vasanas become our likes and dislikes (raga and dveshas) and through repetition, become our desires and fears. Vasanas plus tamas = depression. Vasanas plus rajas = rage.
Vedanta: A complete means of knowledge that explores/explains the jiva (emboided sol), jagat (field of creation) and Brahman (self/awareness).  Describes what is real, not real and the difference between the two.
Viveka: Discrimination between the real and the not real. Real is that which does not change. Objects and experiences change and therefore are not real but they exist.
Vritti: Whirlpool. Mental modifications. Waves or ripples in the mind (thoughts) that obscure the reflection of awareness. “Yoga chitta vritti nirodha:” Yoga/meditation is used to silence the mind.
Yoga: practices that serve to withdraw one’s attention from its extroverted focus and redirect it inward toward the self. Practices that cultivate a sattvic mind which can more accurately and clearly reflect consciousness.

Gratitude to James Swartz, Ted Schmidt and the Vedanta lineage for defining these terms.

For a more extensive list of Sanskrit terms created by Ted Schmidt, visit Sanskrit Glossary.

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