by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)

Glossary for Breath Meditation: The Breath of Life

Adhara: “To support or prop;” support; substratum; body apparatus. In yoga, it means various places of the body where the attention is focussed for control, concentration, and meditation; adhara’s are reservoirs of pranic energies, storage units for the energies that flow into the subtle bodies through the chakras.

Ahimsa: Non-injury in thought, word, and deed; non-violence; non-killing; harmlessness.

Ajapa japa: The natural japa (mantric sounds) made by the breath as it flows in and out.

Ajna chakra: Energy center located at the point between the eyebrows, the “third eye..

Akasha: “Not visible;” ether; space; sky; the subtlest of the five elements, from which the other four elements arise; the substance that fills and pervades the universe; the particular vehicle of life and sound; the element from which the sense of sound (shabda)–both speech and hearing–arises.

Ananda: Bliss; happiness; joy.

Anandamaya kosha: “The sheath of bliss (ananda).” The causal body. The borderline of the Self (Atman).

Anapanasati: Literally, “the mindfulness (awareness) of inhaling and exhaling, it refers to the practice known as Breath Meditation which consists simply of the awareness of the breath.

Annamaya kosha: “The sheath of food (anna).” The physical–or gross–body, made of food.

Aparigraha: Non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness.

Arahat: An enlightened one who has become freed from the bondage of birth and death.

Arani: Sacrificial wood stick for creating fire through friction.

Arjuna: The third of the five Pandava brothers. A famous warrior and one of the heroes of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. Friend and disciples of Krishna, it was to Arjuna that Krishna imparted the knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita.

Arya(n): One who is an Arya–literally, “one who strives upward.” Both Arya and Aryan are exclusively psychological terms having nothing whatsoever to do with birth, race, or nationality. In his teachings Buddha habitually referred to spiritually qualified people as “the Aryas.” Although in English translations we find the expressions: “The Four Noble Truths,” and “The Noble Eightfold Path,” Buddha actually said: “The Four Aryan Truths,” and “The Aryan Eightfold Path..

Asana: Posture; seat.

Ashtanga Yoga: The “eight-limbed” Yoga of Patanjali consisting of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi.

Asteya: Non-stealing; honesty; non-misappropriativeness.

Atma(n): The Spirit or Self.

Aurobindo Ghosh, Sri: One of India’s greatest yogis and spiritual writers, he was at first involved in the Indian freedom movement, but came to see that yoga was the true path to freedom. His ashram in South India became one of the major spiritual centers in modern India, and his voluminous spiritual writings are read and prized throughout the world.

Bhagavad Gita: “The Song of God.” The sacred philosophical text often called “the Hindu Bible,” part of the epic Mahabharata by Vyasa; the most popular sacred text in Hinduism.

Bhagavan: The Lord; the Personal God.

Bhakti: Devotion; love (of God).

Bhava: Subjective state of being; attitude of mind; mental attitude or feeling; state of realization in the heart or mind.

Bhikkhu: A Buddhist monk.

Bindu: Point; dot; seed; source; the point from which the subtle Omkara arises that is experienced in meditation.

Bodhisattva: One who is destined to be a Buddha; the highest attainment, second only to Buddhahood.

Brahma: The Creator (Prajapati) of the three worlds of men, angels, and archangels (Bhur, Bhuwah, and Swah); the first of the created beings; Hiranyagarbha or cosmic intelligence.

Brahma Sutras: A treatise by Vyasa on Vedanta philosophy in the form of aphorisms. Also called the Vedanta Sutras or Vedanta Darshana.

Brahmacharya: Continence; self-restraint on all levels; discipline.

Brahman: The Absolute Reality; the Truth proclaimed in the Upanishads; the Supreme Reality that is one and indivisible, infinite, and eternal; all-pervading, changeless Existence; Existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute (Satchidananda); Absolute Consciousness; it is not only all-powerful but all-power itself; not only all-knowing and blissful but all-knowledge and all-bliss itself.

Brihaspati: The guru–priest and teacher–of the gods.

Buddhi: Intellect; understanding; reason; the thinking mind.

Chakra: Wheel. Plexus; center of psychic energy in the human system, particularly in the spine or head.

Chidakasha: “Conscious ether” or “conscious space.” The infinite, all-pervading expanse of Consciousness from which all “things” proceed; the subtle space of Consciousness in the Sahasrara (Thousand-petalled Lotus). The true “heart” of all things.

Chitta: The subtle energy that is the substance of the mind.

Deva: “A shining one,” a god–greater or lesser in the evolutionary hierarchy; a semi-divine or celestial being with great powers, and therefore a “god.” Sometimes called a demi-god.

Dharma: Dharma.

Dharana: Concentration of mind; fixing the mind upon a single thing or point.

Dhyana: Meditation; contemplation.
Dharma: The righteous way of living, as enjoined by the sacred scriptures; characteristics; virtue.

Ganges (Ganga): The sacred river–believed to be of divine origin–that flows from high up in the Himalayas, through the plains of Northern India, and empties into the Bay of Bengal. Hindus consider that bathing in the Ganges profoundly purifies both body and mind.

Gita: The Bhagavad Gita.

Guyon, Madame: A seventeenth-century French Catholic mystic.

Hesychia: “The Silence;” the Christian name for Anapanasati.

Indra: King of the lesser “gods” (demigods).

Ishwara: “God” or “Lord” in the sense of the Supreme Power, Ruler, Master, or Controller of the cosmos. “Ishwara” implies the powers of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.

Ishwarapranidhana: Offering of one’s life to God (Ishwara).
Japa: Repetition of a mantra.

Jhana: Meditation. (In Sanskrit: dhyana.

Jiva: Individual spirit; embodied spirit; living entity; life.

Jnana: Knowledge; wisdom of the Reality or Brahman, the Absolute.

Jnana: Knowledge; wisdom of the Reality or Brahman, the Absolute.

Jnanamaya kosha: “The sheath of intellect (buddhi).” The level of intelligent thought and conceptualization. Sometimes called the Vijnanamaya kosha. The astral-causal body.

Kabbalah: The esoteric/mystical tradition in Judaism.

Kabbalistic: Relating to the Kabbalah.

Kapila: The great sage who formulated the Sankhya philosophy which is endorsed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. (See the entry under Sankhya.)
Karma: Action. It is of three kinds: 1) all the accumulated actions of all previous births, 2) the particular portion of such karma allotted for being worked out in the present life, and 3) current karma being freshly performed by the individual. It is the karma operating through the law of cause and effect that binds the jiva or the individual soul to the wheel of birth and death.

Kosha: Sheath; bag; scabbard; a sheath enclosing the soul; body. There are five such concentric sheaths or bodies: the sheaths of bliss, intellect, mind, life-force and the physical body–the anandamaya, jnanamaya, manomaya, pranamaya and annamaya bodies respectively.

Krishna: A Divine Incarnation born in India about three thousand years ago, Whose teachings to His disciple Arjuna on the eve of the Great India (Mahabharata) War comprise the Bhagavad Gita.

Kundalini: The primordial cosmic energy located in the individual; it is usually thought of as lying coiled up like a serpent at the base of the spine.

Lahiri Mahasaya: Shyama Charan Lahiri, one of the greatest yogis of nineteenth-century India, written about extensively in Autobiography of a Yogi.

Mahabharata: The world’s longest epic poem (110,00 verses) about the Mahabharata (Great Indian) War that took place about three thousand years ago. The Mahabharata also includes the Bhagavad Gita, the most popular sacred text of Hinduism.

Mahapralaya: The final cosmic dissolution; the dissolution of all the worlds of relativity (Bhuloka, Bhuvaloka, Swaloka, Mahaloka, Janaloka, Tapaloka, and Satyaloka), until nothing but the Absolute remains. There are lesser dissolutions, known simply as pralayas, when only the first five worlds (lokas) are dissolved.

Mahasamadhi: Literally “the great union [samadhi],” this refers to a realized yogi’s conscious departure from the physical body at death.

Manomaya kosha: “The sheath of the mind (manas–mental substance).” The level (kosha) of the sensory mind. The astral body.

Mantra: Literally, “a transforming thought” [manat trayate], or more exactly: “a transubstantiating thought.” A mantra, then is a sound formula that transforms the consciousness.

Mantric: Having to do with mantra(s)–their sound or their power.

Manu: The ancient lawgiver, whose code, The Laws of Manu (Manu Smriti) is the foundation of Hindu religious and social conduct.

Mara: The force of cosmic delusion or ignorance objectified. The Buddhist equivalent of “Satan” in its broadest sense.

Maya: The illusive power of Brahman; the veiling and the projecting power of the universe, the power of Cosmic Illusion.
Moksha: Release; liberation; the term is particularly applied to the liberation from the bondage of karma and the wheel of birth and death; Absolute Experience.

Nadi: A channel in the subtle (astral) body through which subtle prana (psychic energy) flows; a physical nerve. Yoga treatises say that there are seventy-two thousand nadis in the energy system of the human being.

Neem Karoli Baba: One of India’s most amazing and mysterious spiritual figures. The life of this great miracle-worker and master spanned from two to four centuries (at the least), including most of the twentieth century.
Nirvana: Liberation; final emancipation; the term is particularly applied to the liberation from the bondage of karma and the wheel of birth and death; Absolute Experience.

Nirvikalpa Samadhi: Samadhi in which there is no objective experience or experience of “qualities” whatsoever, and in which the triad of knower, knowledge and known does not exist; purely subjective experience of the formless and qualitiless and unconditioned Absolute.

Nityananda (Avadhuta Paramhansa): A great Master of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in India. His Chidakasha Gita or Nitya Sutras contains some of the most profound statements on yoga and spiritual life.

Niyama: Observance; the five Do’s of Yoga: 1) shaucha–purity, cleanliness; 2) santosha–contentment, peacefulness; 3) tapas–austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline; 4) swadhyaya–self-study, spiritual study; 5) Ishwarapranidhana–offering of one’s life to God.

Noetic: Having to do with the mind, especially as a field of subtle energies.

Paccekebudda: One who is almost a Buddha, and whose attainment of Buddhahood is assured.

Pali: The ancient language in which the complete teachings of Buddha were recorded.

Pandavas: The five sons of King Pandu: Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva. Their lives are described in the Mahabharata.

Pañña: Wisdom.

Parabrahman: Supreme Brahman.

Paramatma(n): The Supreme Self, God.

Parameshwara: The Supreme (Param) Lord (Ishwara).

Paramhansa: Literally: Supreme Swan, a person of the highest spiritual realization, from the fact that a swan can separate milk from water and is therefore an apt symbol for one who has discarded the unreal for the Real, the darkness for the Light, and mortality for the Immortal, having separated himself fully from all that is not God and joined himself totally to the Divine, becoming a veritable embodiment of Divinity manifested in humanity.

Patanjali: A yogi of ancient India, the author of the Yoga Sutras.
Paranirvana: Paranirvana.

Paranirvana: The Supreme, Final Nirvana, when the perfectly enlightened individual is released from physical embodiment, never to return to birth in any world, high or low.

Patanjali: The author of the Yoga Sutras.

Pitri: A departed ancestor, a forefather.

Prajapati: Progenitor; the Creator; a title of Brahma the Creator.

Prajna: Consciousness; awareness.

Prakriti: Causal matter; the fundamental power (shakti) of God from which the entire cosmos is formed; the root base of all elements; undifferentiated matter; the material cause of the world. Also known as Pradhana.

Pralaya: Dissolution. See Mahapralaya.

Prana: Vital energy; life-breath; life-force.

Pranamaya kosha: “The sheath of vital air (prana).” The sheath consisting of vital forces and the (psychic) nervous system.

Pranayama: Control of the subtle life forces, often by means of special modes of breathing. Therefore breath control or breathing exercises are usually mistaken for pranayama.

Pratyahara: Abstraction or withdrawal of the senses from their objects, the fifth limb of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.

Premeshananda, Swami: Affectionately known as “Premesh Maharaj,” Swami Premeshananda was a disciple of Sri Sri Ma Sarada Devi, the wife of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, and a renowned monk of the Ramakrishna Order.

Purusha: “Person” in the sense of a conscious spirit. Both God and the individual spirits are purushas, but God is the Adi (Original, Archetypal) Purusha, Parama (Highest) Purusha, and the Purushottama (Best of the Purushas).

Ramakrishna: Sri Ramakrishna lived in India in the second half of the nineteenth century, and is regarded by all India as a perfectly enlightened person–and by many as an Incarnation of God.

Ramana Maharshi: A great sage of the twentieth century who lived in Arunachala in South India. He taught the path of Self-Inquiry (Atma Vichara) wherein the person simply turns his awareness within asking “Who am I?” until the Self (atma) is revealed.

Ramdas (Swami): One of the best-known and most influential spiritual figures of twentieth-century India, founder of Anandashram in South India and author of the spiritual classic In the Vision of God as well as many other inspirational books.

Sadguru: True guru, or the guru who reveals the Real (Sat–God).

Sadhaka: One who practices spiritual discipline–sadhana–particularly meditation.

Sadhana: Spiritual practice.

Sahaja: Natural; innate; spontaneous; inborn.

Sahasrara chakra: The “thousand-petalled lotus” of the brain. The highest center of consciousness, the point at which the spirits (atma) and the bodies (koshas) are integrated and from which they are disengaged.

Samatha: Calmness, deep peace of mind.

Samadhi (Pali): Meditation, the calm of meditation.

Samadhi (Sanskrit): The state of superconsciousness where Absoluteness is experienced attended with all-knowledge and joy; Oneness; here the mind becomes identified with the object of meditation; the meditator and the meditated, thinker and thought become one in perfect absorption of the mind.

Sampajañña: Self awareness.

Sampradaya: A line or succession of spiritual teachers or spiritual teaching; a “school” of doctrine or practice, such as Vedanta or Yoga.

Samsara: Life through repeated births and deaths; the process of earthly life.

Samskara: Impression in the mind produced by previous action or experience; prenatal tendency. See Vasana.

Sankalpa: Wish; desire; volition; resolution; will; determination; intention.

Sankhya: One of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy whose originator was the sage Kapila, Sankhya is the original Vedic philosophy, endorsed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. (Gita 2:39; 3:3,5; 18:13,19. Also, the second chapter of the Gita is entitled: Sankhya Yoga.) The Ramakrishna-Vedanta Wordbook says: “Sankhya postulates two ultimate realities, Purusha and Prakriti. Declaring that the cause of suffering is man’s identification of Purusha with Prakriti and its products, Sankhya teaches that liberation and true knowledge are attained in the supreme consciousness, where such identification ceases and Purusha is realized as existing independently in its transcendental nature.” Not surprisingly, then, Yoga is based on the Sankhya philosophy.

Sanskrit: The language of the ancient sages of India and therefore of the Indian scriptures and yoga treatises.

Santosha: Contentment; peacefulness.

Sarada Devi (“Holy Mother”): The virgin-wife of Sri Ramakrishna, and a great teacher in her own right, considered by many to be an incarnation of the Mother aspect of God.

Satchidananda: Existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute; Brahman.

Sati: Awareness, mindfulness.

Satya: Truth; the Real; Brahman, or the Absolute; truthfulness; honesty.

Shankara: Shankaracharya; Adi (the first) Shankaracharya: The great reformer and re-establisher of Vedic Religion in India around 300 B.C. He is the unparalleled exponent of Advaita (Non-Dual) Vedanta. He also reformed the mode of monastic life and founded (or regenerated) the ancient Swami Order.

Shaucha: Purity; cleanliness.

Shirdi Sai Baba: Perhaps the most renowned spiritual teacher of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in India. His fame continues to grow in this century as well.

Siddhi: Spiritual perfection; psychic power.

Sivananda (Swami): A great twentieth-century Master, founder of the world-wide Divine Life Society, whose books on spiritual life and religion are widely circulated in the West as well as in India.

Sphota: The Sanskrit original of our English word “spot;” manifester; the idea which bursts or flashes–including the Pranava which burst or flashes forth from the Absolute and becomes transformed into the Relative.

Srimad Bhagavatam: A popular Hindu scripture.

Sthirattwa: Steadiness or firmness of body or mind; the steady tranquillity born of meditation.

Sukha: Happiness; joy; happy; pleasant; agreeable.

Surya: The sun; the presiding deity of the sun, sometimes identified with Vishnu (Surya-Narayana) or the Absolute Brahman.

Surya-mandala: The circle (orbit) of the sun.

Sushupti: The dreamless sleep state.

Sutra: A sacred text.
Sutra: Sutra.

Swadhyaya: Introspective self-study or self-analysis leading to self-understanding.

Taimni, I. K.: A professor of chemistry in India. He wrote many excellent books on philosophy and spiritual practice, including The Science of Yoga, a commentary on the Yoga Sutras. For many years he was the spiritual head of the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society headquartered in Adyar, Madras (Tamilnadu), and traveled the world without publicity or notoriety, quietly instructing many sincere aspirants in the path to supreme consciousness.
Tapas (tapasya): Austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline; spiritual force. Literally it means the generation of heat or energy, but is always used in a symbolic manner, referring to spiritual practice and its effect, especially the roasting of karmic seeds, the burning up of karma.

Tripitaka: The complete collection of Buddhist scriptures.

Triple Gem: The Buddha, The Dharma, and the Sangha.

Tukaram: A poet-saint of seventeenth century India (Maharashtra) devoted to Krishna in his form of Panduranga (Vittala).

Turiya: The state of pure consciousness. A Ramakrishna-Vedanta Wordbook defines it as: “The superconscious; lit., ‘the Fourth,’ in relation to the three ordinary states of consciousness–waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep–which it transcends..

Upanishads: Knowledge portion of the Vedas; texts dealing with the ultimate truth and its realization.

Vasana: A bundle or aggregate of similar samskaras. Subtle desire; a tendency created in a person by the doing of an action or by enjoyment; it induces the person to repeat the action or to seek a repetition of the enjoyment; the subtle impression in the mind capable of developing itself into action; it is the cause of birth and experience in general; the impression of actions that remains unconsciously in the mind.

Vedanta: Literally, “the end of the Vedas;” the Upanishads; the school of Hindu thought, based primarily on the Upanishads, upholding the doctrine of either pure non-dualism or conditional non-dualism. The original text of this school is Vedanta-darshana or the Brahma Sutras compiled by the sage Vyasa.

Vipassana: Clear-sight; insight–not in the intellectual, but in the intuitive sense.

Vivekananda (Swami): The chief disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, who brought the message of Vedanta to the West at the end of the nineteenth century.

Vritti: Thought-wave; mental modification; mental whirlpool; a ripple in the chitta (mind substance).

Vyasa: One of the greatest sages of India, commentator on the Yoga Sutras, author of the Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita), the Brahma Sutras, and the codifier of the Vedas.

Yoga: Literally: union; abstract meditation or union with the Supreme Being; union with God; any course that makes for such union.

Yoga Darshan(a): Hinduism embraces six systems of philosophy, one of which is Yoga. The basic text of the Yoga philosophy–Yoga Darshana–is the Yoga Sutras (also called Yoga Darshana), the oldest known writing on the subject of yoga, written by the sage Patanjali, a yogi of ancient India. Further, the Yoga Philosophy is based on the philosophical system known as Sankhya, whose originator was the sage Kapila.

Yoga Nidra: A state of half-contemplation and half-sleep; light yogic sleep when the individual retains slight awareness; state between sleep and wakefulness.

Yoga Sutras: The oldest known writing on the subject of yoga, written by the sage Patanjali, a yogi of ancient India, and considered the most authoritative text on yoga. Also known as Yoga Darshana, it is the basis of the Yoga Philosophy which is based on the philosophical system known as Sankhya.
Yoga Vashishtha: A classical treatise on Yoga, containing the instructions of the Rishi Vashishtha to Lord Rama on meditation and spiritual life.

Yogananda (Paramhansa): The most influential yogi of the twentieth century West, author of Autobiography of a Yogi and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship in America.

Yogi: One who practices Yoga; one who strives earnestly for union with God; an aspirant going through any course of spiritual discipline.

Yogic: Having to do with Yoga.

Yogiraj: “King of Yogis,” a title often given to an advanced yogi, especially a teacher of yogi.