Philosophy 304


Glossary of Terms and Concepts: Hinduism

advaita (monism)

Different forms os this doctrine are current in Hindu Philosophy, the most famous being that of the absolute monism of Sankara.

ahimsa (nonviolence)

non-injury to beings and things in thought, word, or deed; harmlessness.

artha (material gain)

the goal of practical material gain


The four stages of life for the "twice born:" 1. student, 2. householder with wife and children, 3. a hermit meditating in the forest, 4. a sannyasin

atman (self)

As Brahma-atman, man at one with God.

avatar (incarnation)

the descent of God into the world in various forms at various times.

bhakti (devotion)

Self-forgetting love.

Brahmin or Brahman (priest)

the highest varna, members are "twice born"

caste (caste-Portuguese) (house or lineage)

several thousand endogamous occupational groups which are related to the four varnas.

dharma (duty, law)

The path a man should follow in accordance with his station in life: virtue.

guru (teacher)

A spiritual preceptor who has himself already attained insight.


The Self which has realized its oneness with Brahman while still in its human body.

jnana (knowledge)

As jnana-yoga, the path leading to union with God through knowledge of God.

kama (love)

the goal of love and pleasure.

karma (action, fate)

The law of causation applied to the moral code showing that all actions have inevitable moral consequences. The stock of merit or demerit arising from past deeds.

Kshatriya (warrior or noble-man)

the second highest varna, members are "twice born"


A syllable, word, or verse which has been revealed to a seer in meditation; and embodiment in sound of a deity.

marga (way)

the three ways of obtaining salvation in sectarian Hinduism are 1. Karma-Marga (way of works) 2. jnana-marga (way of knowledge), 3. bhakti-marga (way of devotion)

maya (illusion)

From the human point of view, maya is illusion producing ignorance; from the point of view of the creator, it is the will or energy to create the appearance of the world; the illusion by which the One appears as many; cosmic energy; the material cause of the world.

moksha (salvation)

Liberation or release from the bondage of finite existence.


The most sacred mantra of the Vedas; it stands for both the personal and impersonal God.


a person whose caste is so low that he cannot belong to any varna. Given the name “Harijan” by Gandhi.

prakriti (matter)

unconscious primal matter; ultimate cosmic energy.

rita (physical law)

the natural and moral order in the universe; cosmic law.

samadhi (attainment)

The achievement of perfect concentration resulting in the vision of God.

samsara (impermanence)

The impermanent world into which individual souls are born; the passing of individual souls from one life to another.

Sannyasin (saint)

One who has renounced the world. A homeless wanderer who is holy and free from earthly ties.

Shudra (slave)

the lowest varna, members are not "twice born"

Sri (Lord)

A mode of address meaning beauty, prosperity, and richness.

sutra (an aphorism)

A thread of suggestive words or phrases; compact mnemonic phrases summarizing religious and philosophical instruction.

turiya (the fourth)

the fourth stage of OM (Aum); the silence surrounding OM, pure intuitional consciousness

vaishya (commoner)

the third highest varna, members are "twice born"

varnas (color)

the four social classes are called the varnas

vedanta (end)

Literally, the end of the Vedas; a system of philosophy.

yoga (union, pathway, discipline, yoke identification)

Literally, union with God, or a disciplined path leading to that union.