Bhagavad-Gita Glossary

Glossary

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adharma

the opposite of dharma; includes all forms of injustice, evil, and immorality.

ahimsa

the sanskrit word for nonviolence.

akasha

the sanskrit word for the sky.

akshara

the equivalent of the syllable Om; a verbal equivalent of the eternal.

ashvattha

a holy tree, which Krishna references his depictions of the extent of divine power.

atman

the Self or deepest part of the soul in every being that is often concealed by illusions, deceit and delusion.

avatar

an avatar is a form that a God takes in order to come to Earth. Since Gods do not come to Earth in their most powerful, divine forms, they take the shape of animals, humans, or other recognizable earthly creatures.

Bhagavad Gita

The Gita literally means 'Song of our Lord' and recounts the conversation between Arjuna and Krishna before Arjuna goes to fight the Kaurvas for the kingdom of Hastinapura.

bhakti

the sanskrit word for love and devotion.

brahmin

the highest class in Hindu society - a priest or learned person.

deva

another word for God in Hindu mythology. Vishnu, Shiva, and Braham together make up the three main devas.

dharma

one of the key concepts of the Gita; literally translates to 'law' or 'duty.' Every being is subject to a cycle of birth and death in which one has to come to Earth to work off their karma by fulfilling their dharma -- or duty -- in a given lifetime. In the Gita, it is Arjuna's karma that he must rescue his kingdom from the evil Kauravas. But it is his dharma that he must fight in battle in order to do so -- his dharma is as a kshatriya, or as a warrior.

guna

The gunas are referenced often in the Gita as the three qualities which can be used to categorize much of earthly beings and phenomena. The three gunas are saatva, or harmony and purity, rajas or energy/passion, and tamas, which is darkness/ignorance.

jnana

the sanskrit word for the highest form of wisdom.

karma

the most important concept in the gita, explaining the cycle of birth and rebirth. People have a debt of karma to work off in their lifetime, and do so either by fulfilling or avoiding their dharma. Every action has a karmic consequence and so karma either accumulates or dissolves until the cycle of birth and rebirth ends.

kshatriya

A kshatriya is a member of the warrior class, which is traditionally the ruling class of Hindu societies.

lila

'play,' or Krishna's divine game -- everything on Earth is a product of Krishna's lila, though there is a strict divine order and rule of law.

maya

the illusion that can mask the divine. This mask is sometimes conjured by the divine himself, as when he takes a disguise or an avatar. Or it is conjured by man himself in an attempt to deny the true form of divinity in order to pursue selfish actions.

prakriti

the energy of the world from which the physical world appears -- it weaves with purusha, which is more the unseen spiritual matter -- to create the 'warp' and 'woof' of life.

prana

the sanskrit word for breath.

purusha

the unseen spirit which links all beings and opposes prakriti or the material form on earth.

samsara

the cycle of birth and death that ends only when a person fully dissolves their karma.

tyaga

the hindu word for total renunciation.

vijnana

the act of living with the highest form of knowledge; it's putting jnana to work in everyday life.

yoga

yoga, literally "skill in action," is the process of achieving union with God, or nirvana. Achieving yoga means not only being selfless in action but achieving true meditation on the divine at all points in one's life, even the smallest of moments.