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A few Sanskrit terms:  The various schools such as Vedanta, etc. have different meanings for many Sanskrit words. Here I have given you the general meaning, but mainly the Kashmir Shaivite understanding - and occasionally mine.


Ahamkara:  the state of I-ness, the I-making principle, the I-feeling; the [delusional] idea that you are an individual ego, separate and distinct from the Oneness. Ahamkara is the small personality ego-self identity; that limited ‘I-consciousness’ which feels that it is separate and distinct from the unlimited I-consciousness that is the Oneness, Parabhairava, meaning God consciousness. [VSF]

Ananda: bliss, the nature of Shakti is bliss, delight.

AntarAtma: The conditioned inner soul consisting of the subtle body (puryastaka); different from the gross physical body that covers the soul. [Jaideva Singh]

Anu: literally means ‘atom’ and refers to the limited individual (jiva) who breathes and is conditioned by the body.

Anugraha: the act of Grace. “The act of unfolding or revealing His (God’s) nature” accomplished by the individual, but dependent on the will of God. There are nine levels of Grace. [Swami Lakshmanjoo in Kashmir Shaivism] My understanding is that Grace is God consciousness expanding within you, revealing and allowing you to recognize that your Real nature is the Oneness. [VSF]

Anutarra: the Highest, Supreme; the Sanskrit vowel ‘a’.

Atma: the inner Self, soul, not the limited individual ego; from the root verb meaning ‘to move constantly.’ [Jaideva Singh]

Avidya: primal ignorance consisting of the feeling of imperfection that leads to extroversion (looking for completion in the temporal illusory hologram).


Bandha: bondage, limited knowledge; bondage due to primal ignorance.

Bhairava: the Highest Reality; BHA – sustain, support & maintenance of the world, RA – withdrawal & dissolution of the world, VA – creation & projection of the world. [Jaideva Singh]

Bhakti: devotion.

Bhakti yoga: Union with God through devotion. [Explained by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter XII.]

Bhuvanadhva [SLJ]: “the Path of all the worlds” and these worlds are said to number one hundred eighteen. Not one planet, rather this whole cosmos is called one world. One hundred eighteen of these worlds have been ‘seen’ found by Shaivite yogins in Samadhi. [Kashmir Shaivism]

Bindu: a point, metaphysical point.

Bindu [Abhinavagupta’s thinking as understood by Paul Muller-Ortega]: The point (bindu) or dot (vindu) that stands within the Heart; a point whose nature is the vibrating hum (nada) and is found in all living beings. Bindu comprises both an undivided light and a sounding vibratory roar. The bindu is at once pure illumination (prakasha) as well as the vibratory sound (vimarsha) generated as that vibratory sound continuously maintains self-consciousness by referring back into itself. The bindu is spoken of as pure consciousness. [‘The Triadic Heart of Shiva’]

Buddhi: discriminating intelligence, the intellect, the discriminative faculty; from the root-verb budh, meaning ‘to enlighten, to know.’ [John Grimes]


Cakra /pronounced chakra/: literally ‘wheel,’ the collective whole of the Shaktis; there are seven cakras (wheels of light) in the human body; from the root-verb car meaning to ‘move.’ [J. Grimes]

Cit /pronounced chit/: the Absolute, foundational consciousness; the consciousness that is the unchanging principle of all changes [Jaideva Singh].


Deva: gods, celestial beings, one who shines, from the verb-root div meaning ‘to shine.’

Devas [SLJ]: the ‘gods’ are your own sense organs - the five senses, the mind (manas), the intellect (buddhi), and the individual ego (ahamkara).


Hrydaya: the Heart as the center of the Self and God consciousness. It is within and simultaneously everywhere, ubiquitous.

Hrydaya - defined by Abhinavagupta in Muller-Ortega:

The Heart is the very self of Shiva [the Oneness], of Bhairava, and of the Devi, the Goddess who is inseparable from Shiva. As consciousness the Heart is the unbounded, infinite light (prakasha) as well as the freedom (svantantrya) and spontaneity (vimarsha) of that light to appear in a multitude and variety of forms.

The Heart is the ultimate (anuttara), which is both utterly transcendent to and yet totally immanent in all created things. The Heart embodies the paradoxical nature of Shiva that is the plenum, that is the unbound fullness and simultaneously an inconceivable emptiness.

The Heart is in a state of perpetual movement, a state of vibration (spanda), which is continually contracting and expanding, opening and closing (unmesa-nimesa), trembling (ullasita), quivering (sphurita), throbbing, waving, and sparkling (ucchalata). The Heart is the Ocean of Consciousness and creates the emission of the entire universe.  [Paul Muller-Ortega – The Triadic Heart of Shiva]


Iccha: will


Jagat: the world, cosmos.

Jiva: the individual soul, an embodied portion of the Oneness.

Jivanmukti: being Liberated (mukti) while still living in the body.

Jñana: Wisdom Knowledge; from the verb-root jña, meaning ‘to know.’


Kancuka /pronounced kanchuka/: The five coverings of Maya that conceal the Oneness: 1) time bound, 2) attachment that comes from the feeling of emptiness, 3) limited knowledge, 4) place bound (the Oneness is and ‘feels’ ubiquitous), 5) the impression of limited creativity.

Kula: the embodied cosmos, Shakti manifesting herself in 36 tattvas. [Jaideva Singh]

Krama: a sequential order, stages; God realization through worshipping aspects of the Divine Goddess in sequence.

Khecari /pronounced khe-cha-ree/: one who moves in space (kha), which is the vast expanse of consciousness.


Lila: play, sport, divine play; the idea that creation is a play of the divine, existing for no other reason than the mere joy of it. [J. Grimes]

Loka: a world or plane of existence.


Mala: limitations; the three impurities: karmamala – impressions connected with actions, mayiya mala – creates differentiation in one’s own consciousness, anavamala – the feeling of being incomplete.

Mantra: sacred words used in chanting; from the verb-root ‘man’ meaning to think, “that which saves the one who reflects.” Jaideva Singh’s etymology of mantra: manana – pondering over the highest light of I-consciousness; trana – protection by terminating the transmigratory existence full of difference.

Matrika-cakra: theory of the alphabet (see Shiva Sutra 2.7).

Maya: the power of illusion, the principle of appearance; the beginning-less cause that brings about the illusion of the world.

Maya [SLJ]: The kingdom of Maya (illusion) is the state in which we have come down from undifferentiated knowledge, and we are no longer aware that everything is filled with divinity. We have become one with that Maya, the [temporal] illusion of differentiated perception (of the 31 elements – the tattvas); and thus are absolutely deprived of our real nature, which is undifferentiated God consciousness.

Maya tattva: The principle that throws a veil over pure consciousness and is the material cause of physical manifestation, the source of the five coverings (kancukas). [Jaideva Singh]

Mukti: liberation from bondage, also Moksha.


Para: the Highest, the Absolute, Supreme.

Pashu: the bound individual, literally ‘beast.’

Prakasha: shining, luminous, effulgence, illumination. Literally light; the principle of Self-revelation; consciousness; the principle by which everything else is known. [Jaideva Singh]

Prakriti: the element known as ‘nature’ that creates the three gunas. [SLJ]: the three gunas emerge from Prakriti, the field where the three tendencies, the three qualities, rajas, tamas, & sattva arise and flow forth.

Rajas: action, passion; one of Prakriti’s three gunas. Rajas means attachment which results from not being full, it leaves the impression in purusha that he is not full, not complete, and he must have this or that to become full; he feels he is incomplete, which gives rise to ambition, greed, aggression. [SLJ]

Tamas: the principle of inertia and delusion, one of Prakriti’s three gunas.

Sattva: the ‘quality’ that is truth, pure, goodness, illuminating; one of Prakriti’s three gunas. [Being in the Sattvic (pronounced sat-wic) state will elevate your consciousness and allow the God within you to reveal all wisdom and Knowledge – VSF].

Pralaya: the dissolution of manifestation, periodic cosmic dissolution.

Prana: vital energy, life breath.

Pranana: the breathless breath.

Purusha: the limited soul, bound and entangled by the five kancukas. In Shaivism Purusha is the unrealized soul that responds to Prakriti, and is bound and limited; purusha becomes the ‘victim’ plaything for Maya; deluded by the veiling of his own nature, purusha takes on limited individuality. [Swami Lakshmanjoo - Kashmir Shaivism]

Puryastaka: the subtle body (the physical body is the temporal manifestation of the subtle body). “Entering into the puryastaka and moving about in all forms of existence, the Self is to be known as the inner soul (antarAtma), bound by the residual traces of good and evil deeds. [Svacchanda Tantra XI, 85 - Jaideva Singh] These ‘residual traces’ are known as Samskaras or Vasanas and are embedded in the subtle body and draw the soul into its future lives through repeated births and deaths, Samsara. [VSF]

Puryastaka: composed of the five Subtle Elements (the five senses tanmatras: smell – gandha, taste – rasa, form – rupa, touch – sparsha, sound - shabda), manas (mind), buddhi (the discriminating intellect), and ahamkara (the ego, attributing any action or knowledge to yourself, as in “I have done this”). [SLJ]


Sabda: sound, sound as word.

Samadhi: one-pointedness, absorption, a unifying concentration; collectedness of mind in which there is a cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. [Jaideva Singh]

Samvit: Supreme consciousness.

Samsara: the wheel of repeated birth & death, transmigration.

Shakti: power, energy, potency; Shiva’s power to manifest.

Aghora Shaktis: The Shaktis that lead the aspirant back to God consciousness; they inspire the empirical selves (jivas) towards the path of Liberation (moksha).

Mahaghora or Ghora Shaktis: the Shaktis personified as deities that push the individual soul (jiva) towards a downward path in Samsara; the deities (as seats of the sense organs) who hover about the consciousness – the psychic center above the head (Brahma-randhra) – with a ‘terrible noose’ and delude people constantly. [“Strangled with hundreds of nooses of expectation, giving into desire and anger…” The Bhagavad Gita XVI.12 - J.A.B. van Buitenen translation.]

Shaktipata: spiritual awakening through the descent of divine grace.

Shiva: literally auspicious, the Divine foundation, ultimate Reality.

Shuddha-vidya tattva: “This exists when purusha actually realizes his own nature and yet that realization is not stable; it is flickering, it is moving. Sometimes you realize it, sometimes you forget it.” [SLJ - Kashmir Shaivism]

Siddhi: power, supernatural powers attained through yogic practices. These yogic powers exist in the sphere of Maya and thus are obstacles to be avoided by the yogi.

Susupti: dreamless sleep.

Spanda: apparent motion in the motionless Shiva (the Oneness) which brings about the manifestation, maintenance, and withdrawal of the universe. [Jaideva Singh]

Svatantrya: the absolute Free Will of God, [God is the Oneness that pervades and permeates All - VSF]


Tattva: That-ness, a principle or category (from ‘tat’ - that); the elements.

Turya: the fourth state of consciousness beyond the waking, dream and deep sleep states; the witness consciousness.


Vasanas: residual traces of acts and impressions, tendencies, conditioning; also called Samskaras.

Vimarsha: self-referential consciousness, awareness. Vimarsha is the capacity of consciousness to be conscious of itself; vimarsha continuously doubles back on itself to engender self-referential consciousness. [Muller-Ortega]

Visarga: emanation, creation, the power of emission.


Yoga: union

Yoni: womb, source; metaphorically the entire universe is created, emerges, explodes, shoots forth from the Divine Yoni, the matrix.


Upayas: the ‘means’ to God Realization, skillful means, means of liberation, technique, way, path, means of approach. In Kashmir Shaivism there are four upayas; each preceding step may lead to the next naturally:

Anavopaya: (also called kriyopaya), the means that is dependent upon concentration, mantra, breath, and other techniques; external aids.

Shaktopaya:  (also called jñanopaya), the means by which God consciousness is achieved through grace and one-pointedness; recognition of one’s own essential unity is sought.

Shambhavopaya: (also called icchopaya), thoughtlessness is the means; knowledge of the ultimate Reality arises through a mere exercise of will power.

Anupaya: (the highest) effortless spontaneous God Realization; you do not have to do anything; for very advanced aspirants. [According to Swami Lakshmanjoo, sometimes Lord Shiva, the Oneness, just simply grants this kind of spontaneous Grace to the seeker, even to a few of those who might not be seeking! It is cosmic ‘play’ – Lila.]


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KASHMIR SHAIVISM, The Secret Supreme, Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo, edited by John Hughes; The Universal Shaiva Fellowship, 1985, 2003.

Swami Lakshmanjoo: Shiva Sutras, The Supreme Awakening, With the Commentary of Kshemaraja, Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo, and edited by John Hughes; Universal Shaiva Fellowship, 2002.

Jaideva Singh: Siva Sutras, The Yoga of Supreme Identity, Text of the Sutras and the Commentary Vimarsini of Kshemaraja Translated into English with Introduction, Notes, Running Exposition, Glossary and Index; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1979 and reprints.

A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy, (New & Revised Edition), Sanskrit Terms Defined in English, John Grimes; Indica Books, 2009.

The Triadic Heart of Shiva, Kaula Tantricism of Abhinavagupta in the Non-Dual Shaivism of Kashmir, by Paul Eduardo Muller-Ortega; State University of New York Press, Albany NY, 1989.

Sanskrit-English Dictionary, M. Monier-Williams; Two volumes, Recomposed and improved edition; Indica Books and Parimal Publications, New Delhi, 2008.


Useful web links

Listen to the sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet:


The Arthur A. Macdonell Dictionary


More links