Advaita Acharya a principal associate of Sriman Mahaprabhu and member of the Pancha Tattva who participated in countless Pastimes of the Lord and played the role of inviting the Lord to descend to the earth. He is the Avatar of Mahavisnu and Sadasiva in the Pastimes of Sriman Mahaprabhu.
Agama lit. ‘that which has come down’; scriptures spoken by Lord Siva to Parvati Devi that describe creation, destruction, worship of deities, preparatory rites, methods of meditation, and other subjects.
Anantadev (Ananta Sesa) a partial Avatar of Lord Balaram in the form of a serpent who holds the planets on his innumerable heads and chants the glories of the Lord with his innumerable mouths. He also assumes the forms of all the paraphernalia required for the Lord’s service, such as the Lord’s umbrella, slippers, bed, pillow, clothing, resting chair, house, sacred thread, and throne. Because He serves the Lord in innumerable ways, He is known as ‘Ananta’ (‘Unending’), and because He reaches the ultimate limit of serving the Lord, He is known as ‘Sesa’ (‘the end’).
anarthas lit. ‘meaningless’ or ‘separate interest’; anything undesirable or unnecessary for spiritual progress. Specifically, there are four types of anarthas: misconceptions, desires for the mundane, offences, and weaknesses of heart.
aprakrta lit. ‘not mundane’; supramundane, divine, spiritual; part of, or related to, the highest plane of spiritual existence, the land of Lord Krishna’s Pastimes, which at times resembles the mundane world but is nevertheless ‘not mundane’.
ashram lit. ‘no fatigue’; a shelter; a residence where people practise spiritual life; the hermitage of a sage or guru; any of the four social orders: brahmacharya, grhastha, vanaprastha, and sannyas. Brahmacharis are students whose duty is service to Sri Guru; grhasthas are householders whose duty is maintaining others and performing worship; vanaprasthas are retired householders whose duty is performing austerities and realising the self; and sannyasis are renunciants whose duty is equanimity and nonviolence.
astanga-yoga the eightfold path of yoga practice taught by Patanjali comprised of rules for behaviour, codes of conduct, postures, breath regulation, restraint of the senses, concentration, meditation, and trance. Astanga-yoga is the dharma of the Age of Satya and the primary means to attain realisation of the Supersoul. It is impractical in the Age of Kali, though modified forms of it are practised at present as a means to pursue health, enjoyment, supernatural powers (siddhis), and impersonal liberation (sayujya-mukti).
atma the self, esp. the eternal soul. According to context, atma may also refer to the Absolute (Brahma), the body, the mind, endeavour, steadiness, intelligence, or nature. As a name of the Supreme Lord, Atma signifies ‘He who is all-pervasive and the source of everything’. See Supersoul.
avadhut lit. ‘shaken off’; one who is oblivious to the world, in particular, the upkeep of their own body, the laws of Vedic society (varnasram-dharma), and the rules and regulations given by the scriptures for spiritual practice; one who is disregarded by society because their behaviour is incomprehensible and often apparently inappropriate; a highly realised sadhu immersed in divine experience and situated in a fifth stage of detachment beyond the four stages of sannyas (kutichaka, bahudaka, parivrajaka, and paramahamsa); a name of Sri Nityananda Prabhu.
Avatar lit. ‘one who crosses down’; a form or role assumed by the Lord or one of His devotees when they descend from the spiritual world to the material world. In general, the Lord has six types of Avatars: Purusa-avatars (who maintain the creation), Lila-avatars (who perform special Pastimes), Guna-avatars (who regulate the modes of material nature), Manvantara-avatars (the fathers of mankind), Yuga-avatars (who establish the dharma for each age), and Saktyavesa-avatars (souls who are empowered to perform particular functions).
Balaram (Baladev) the elder brother of Lord Krishna; the first expansion of Krishna; the source of Lord Narayan and all other Avatars. He appears as Sri Nityananda Prabhu in the Pastimes of Sriman Mahaprabhu.
Bhagavad-gita lit. ‘the Lord’s song’; the scripture that documents Lord Krishna’s instructions to the warrior Arjuna just prior to the Battle of Kuruksetra. This text appears is an excerpt from the Mahabharata compiled by Vedavyas. Within Bhagavad-gita, the soul, the Lord, reincarnation, action, knowledge, sacrifice, purity, devotion, and surrender to the Lord are all clearly and concisely explained. Bhagavad-gita is thus renowned as the essential primary scripture for all spiritual practitioners.
Bhagavan lit. ‘possessor of fortune’; the Supreme Lord, the Supreme Being replete with all virtues who is the rightful recipient of the service of all other living beings; the eternal proprietor of all things, esp. the six foremost virtues of majesty, power, fame, beauty, knowledge, and detachment, within which all other virtues are contained.
bhakti devotion, dedication, love. Bhakti is derived from the verbal root bhaj, which means to serve, honour, and/or adore. Bhakti typically refers to devotion to the Supreme Being, to Sri Guru, to the Vaisnavas. and specifically entails service rendered solely, unconditionally, and constantly for the satisfaction of its recipient.
bhava (bhava-bhakti) devotion composed of the Lord’s spiritual energy (the samvit- and hladini-saktis) that resembles a ray of the sun of prema-bhakti and melts the heart with ruchi; the second of the three stages of bhakti, following sadhana-bhakti and preceding prema-bhakti.
Brahman (also Brahma) (1) the Absolute; a Name for the Supreme Being which is defined as brihatvat brihanatvat iti Brahma: the being who is the greatest and always becoming greater”; (2) the bodily effulgence of the Supreme Being; the infinite expanse of spiritual energy which makes up, surrounds, and pervades all living beings and all planes of existence; (3) the Vedic scriptures that describe Brahman.
Brahma the first being in the material universe, who is considered both self-born and the son of Lord Visnu. Brahma performs a variety of duties: creating all life forms within the material world using the material elements manifested by the energy of the Supreme Lord; regulating the mode of passion within the material world; revealing the Vedas to the rishis; performing sacrifices for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord; and overseeing the affairs of the demigods, the sages, and human beings. ‘Brahma’ is a post occupied by a soul in each material universe, and each material universe manifests and dissolves with his birth and death.
brahmin (also brahman) lit. ‘knower of Brahman’ (in the sense of the Absolute and in the Vedas); one who, as a result of realisation of Brahman, is endowed with twelve qualities: virtuousness, truthfulness, self-control, austerity, non-enviousness, humility, tolerance, non-maliciousness, expertise in sacrifice, charitableness, steadiness, and learning. One is not a brahmin in the true sense simply by being born as the son of a brahmin; one must have the appropriate qualities and behaviour.
Chaitanya-charitamrta the biography of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu composed by Srila Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami which systematically presents the life and teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu according to the conception given by Srila Svarup Damodar and Srila Raghunath Das Goswami; the foremost scripture of the Gaudiya–Vaisnava sampradaya. Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta is honoured as the most revolutionary theological literature to ever see the light of day; it is considered to contain the essence of Sriman Bhagavatam, all other Vedic literature, and all other revealed scriptures throughout the world and to reveal unprecedented divine truths that eclipse in value all preexisting conceptions to the extent that if all other texts in the world were destroyed and Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta alone remained, there would be no loss for any aspirants on the spiritual path.
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Sri) the Supreme Personality of Godhead; the combined form of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna; the Absolute in His aspect as a devotee of Himself; the origin of all Avatars, manifestations, and energies. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appeared on earth in the land of Bengal with His associates and divine abode (from 1486 to 1534) to spread prema-dharma, the path of divine love, through Nam-sankirtan, the congregational chanting of the Lord’s Holy Names. He is renowned for His compassion, wisdom, devotion, and unparalleled ecstatic love. He is also known as Chaitanya, Gaura, Gaurachandra, Gaurahari, Gauranga, Gaurasundar, Mahaprabhu, Nimai, Sachi Nandan, Visvambhar, and other names.
Chandi Das a pure devotee of Lord Krishna who appeared at the beginning of the 15th century in a family of brahmins in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. His poetry describing the Pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna is very dear to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Chitragupta the scribe of Yamaraj who records every action in the life of every living being.
Deity (archa, murti, thakur, vigraha) any form the Lord mercifully assumes to accept worship within material existence. Deities may be made of eight types of material (SB: 11.27.12): stone, wood, metal, earth, paint, sand, mental energy, and jewel. Deities should be honoured as divine manifestation nondifferent from the Lord Himself.
Dham lit. ‘abode’; the homeland of the Supreme Lord where He performs His eternal lila; a plane existing in the spiritual world that manifests within the material world when the Lord descends to perform lila.
Ekadasi the eleventh day of each lunar fortnight; the day during each fortnight that the Vaisnavas fast and engage more deeply in devotional activities. Sriman Mahaprabhu instructed that Ekadasi should be observed only on days when the eleventh phase of the moon has begun before dawn. Such days are known as Suddha Ekadasi (‘pure Ekadasi’).
Gadadhar Pandit the Avatar of Srimati Radharani in Sriman Mahaprabhu’s Pastimes; the most intimate devotee of Sriman Mahaprabhu; a member of the Pancha Tattva. He was a lifelong companion of the Lord who in particular served the Lord during His final Pastimes by reciting Srimad Bhagavatam. His humility, service, and love for the Lord are unparalleled.
Ganga the sacred river Ganges; the consort of the Supreme Lord who serves Him in the form of a river. After washing the lotus feet of Lord Visnu and filling the Causal Ocean, the Ganga enters this material universe, flows through the heavenly planets, and descends to the earth after her fallen is broken by Lord Siva. From the Himalayas, the Ganga flows across India into the Bay of Bengal, purifying and blessing all souls with devotion to the Lord.
Gauda (Gauda Mandal) lit. ‘the district of gur (a type of unrefined sugar)’; the central portion of the land of Bengal; the land of sweetness: the land of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s eternal Pastimes, which descended to the earth with the Lord. At present, Gauda Mandal is a district in central West Bengal that is renowned for Vaisnavism.
Gokula lit. ‘cow-herd’ or ‘cow-quarters’; the homeland of Lord Krishna; the name of the village in Mahavan where Krishna lives as a boy before moving to Nanda Gram. Gokula often refers to the abode of Krishna revealed in the material world as opposed to Goloka, the abode of Krishna in the spiritual world.
Goloka lit. ‘cow-land’; the Name of the eternal, spiritual abode of Krishna, the topmost plane within the spiritual world where the Lord’s sweetest Pastimes take place. It contains three divisions: Dvaraka, Mathura, and Vrndavan.
gopa lit. ‘maintainer of cows’; a cowherd boy or man; an inhabitant of Vrndavan and associate of Lord Krishna in His eternal abode and Pastimes. Gopas serve Krishna as servants (in dasya-rasa), friends (in sakhya-rasa), and affectionate guardians (in vatsalya-rasa).
gopi lit. ‘female maintainer of cows’; a cowherd girl or woman; an inhabitant of Vrndavan and associate of Krishna in His eternal abode and Pastimes. Gopis serve Krishna as affectionate guardians (in vatsalya-rasa) or paramours (in parakiya-madhura-rasa). They are the greatest devotees of Lord Krishna and the bodily expansions of Srimati Radharani.
Govardhan lit. ‘cow-nourisher’; the mountain in the land of Vraja where the cows graze and Krishna plays with the gopas and gopis. Govardhan is revered by the residents of Vraja as both the greatest servitor of Krishna and a form of Krishna Himself.
Hanuman the foremost servitor of Ramachandra and the epitome of dasya-rasa; the prime minister of the Kiskindha kingdom of human-like monkeys ruled by Sugriva that helped Ramachandra recover Sita Devi.
Haridas Thakur the close associate of Sriman Mahaprabhu who is renowned as the foremost Acharya of chanting the Holy Name (the Namacharya). After Lord Brahma offended Lord Krishna in Vrndavan and performed austerities in Antardwip, Lord Krishna blessed him to accept the form of an outcast to fulfil his desire to humbly chant the Lord’s Name and serve in the Lord’s association. He thus became Haridas Thakur.
Hari-vasar lit. ‘the Lord’s day’; days throughout the year on which Vaisnavas fast and engage more deeply in devotional activities. Such days include pure Ekadasis, special Dvadasis, and appearance days of the Lord, such as Janmastami and Gaura Purnima.
hladini-sakti lit. ‘pleasing energy’; the pleasure potency of the Supreme Lord; the energy by which the Lord feels pleasure and gives pleasure to all souls. The hladini-sakti appears to conditioned souls as sense pleasure, to liberated souls as the pleasure of Brahman, and to souls devoted to the Lord as rasa. The essence of the hladini-sakti is divine love, and its ultimate personification is Srimati Radharani.
Jagannath lit. ‘Lord of the universe’; the renowned Deity of the Supreme Lord situated in Sri Purusottam Dham (Puri, Odisha); a peculiar form Lord Krishna assumes when He is overwhelmed by feelings of separation from the devotees of Vrndavan.
Jayadev Goswami the author of Sri Gita-govinda; a renowned Vaisnava poet whose writings were deeply appreciated by Sriman Mahaprabhu and His associates, as well as Lord Jagannath and the Vaisnavas throughout the ages.
Jiva Goswami the greatest philosopher in the history of Vedic culture and most prolific writer in the Gaudiya Vaisnava sampradaya; a nephew and disciple of Srila Rupa Goswami. He was blessed by Sriman Mahaprabhu and Sri Nityananda Prabhu to systematically present and protect Their teachings and the proper conclusions of the Vedic scriptures. He spent the majority of his life in Vrndavan engaged in writing and worship.
jnan knowledge; consciousness; calculation; speculation; the pursuit of liberation; knowledge of the soul; knowledge of Brahman; knowledge of the Supreme Lord, His energies, and their relationships (sambandha-jnan).
jnana-sunya-bhakti devotion free from knowledge; devotion based exclusively on the sambandha-jnan acquired from Sri Guru and the sadhus.
Kala lit. ‘time’; the personification of time (in the sense of the destroyer of all things); death; a name for Yamaraj.
Kali lit. (1) ‘the personification of quarrel’ or (2) ‘the wife of Lord Siva’. Because the names are spelled with vowels that require diacritics to spell accurately in roman alphabets, there is often confusion between Kali (कलि), the personification of quarrel, and Kālī (काली), the wife of Lord Siva. They are entirely different persons. Kali the personification of quarrel predominates in the present era and was allotted five places to reside throughout the world by Maharaj Pariksit: those of intoxication, illicit sex, slaughter, money, and gaming. Kali the wife of Lord Siva is a special form that Lord Siva’s wife assumes to subdue the demonic.
Kali-yuga the fourth (and current) of the four ages of the material universe (Satya, Treta, Dvapar, and Kali). Known as the age of quarrel and comparable to a dark winter, Kali-yuga lasts 427,000 years and began about 5,000 years ago, just after the battle of Kuruksetra and the disappearance of Lord Krishna from the earth. Kali-yuga is characterised by degradation of the fundamental virtues—honesty, cleanliness, compassion, and austerity—and a predominance of gaming, intoxication, illicit sex, slaughter, and hoarding of wealth. It is nonetheless considered the most desirable of all ages by the sages and scriptures because during that time the prescribed means to serve the Lord is chanting His divine Name, which is the easiest, most purifying, and most joyful of all spiritual practices.
karma action; reactions to previous actions; worldly action; action performed to attain its fruit; action performed as a profession or duty; action performed according to scriptural directives; destiny.
karma-yoga the pursuit of enjoyment, both in the earthly and heavenly planes, by practising selfless action according to the directives in the scriptures; propitiating the Lord and the demigods by performing one’s duty, acting virtuously, being charitable, engaging in sacrifices, conducting ceremonies, and offering worship.
kirtan glorification; chanting, speaking, writing, and so on of the Names, Forms, Qualities, and Pastimes of the Supreme Lord and His associates; the spiritual practice prescribed for the Age of Kali; the best of all practices of devotion.
krama-patha the gradual path; the path given by Srila Rupa Goswami in Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu (Purva-vibhaga, 4.15–6) for the development of prema-bhakti which contains nine general stages sraddha, sadhu-sanga, bhajana-kriya, anartha-nivritti, nistha, ruchi, asakti, bhava, and finally prema. Krama-patha also in some cases refers to the gradual process by which the Lord reveals Himself sequentially as His nama, rupa, guna, and then lila—His Name, then His form, then His qualities, and finally His Pastimes.
Krishnadas Kaviraj Goswami the author of Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta and Sri Govinda-lilamrta.
Laksmi the goddess of fortune and eternal consort of Lord Narayan. She resides with the Lord eternally in Vaikuntha, and Her expansion resides on the chests of the forms of Lord Visnu who preside over the material world.
madhura-rasa lit. ‘sweet taste’; a relationship of conjugal love with the Lord, which is the most exalted of all relationships with the Lord and contains within it the qualities of all the other relationships. There are two forms of madhura-rasa: (1) svakiya: serving the Lord as one’s husband, and (2) parakiya: serving the Lord as one’s paramour. Parakiya madhura-rasa, which has been given to the world by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, is found only in Sri Vrndavan Dham, and is the highest possible attainment of the soul.
Mahabharata lit. ‘the epic of the Bharatas’; the epic composed by Krishna Dvaipayan Vedavyas that outlines the lives of the descendants of King Bharat (after whom the modern country of India was named in ancient days) and has been revered for ages as a master narrative to teach the laws of dharma.
mahajan lit. ‘great soul’; a renowned devotee of the Supreme Lord; an Acharya whose teachings and behaviour are authoritative and instructive for people in general; one or all of twelve great persons known by this title: Brahma, Narad, Siva, the four Kumaras (Sanaka, Sanatan, Sananda, and Sanat), Kapiladev, Manu, Prahlad Maharaj, Janaka Raja, Bhismadev, Bali Maharaj, Sukadev Goswami, and Yamaraj.
mahamantra lit. ‘supreme mantra’; the Hare Krishna mahamantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Sriman Mahaprabhu established the chanting of this mantra as the primary way to practise the dharma of the Age of Kali: chanting the Name of the Lord.
mahamaya lit. ‘great illusion’; the material world; the energy of the Supreme Lord known as His illusory energy, material energy, and external energy; another name of the goddess of illusion, Maya Devi.
mahaprasad (also mahaprasadam) lit. ‘great kindness’; the remnants of offerings made to the Lord or Sri Guru, esp. the remnants of the foods or other articles that were physically consumed by them or placed directly before them.
mantra lit. ‘that which delivers by being meditated upon’; a hymn, prayer, instruction, incantation, or principle composed in concise and metric Sanskrit, typically originating from a Vedic scripture.
markata-vairagya lit. ‘monkey renunciation’; outwardly presenting oneself as a renunciant while privately pursuing material enjoyment. Such behaviour is comparable to that of a monkey, who outwardly lives like a renunciant (wears no clothes, has no house, begs for food), but inwardly seeks only food, comfort, and sex.
Maya Devi the goddess of illusion, who serves the Supreme Lord by detaining souls who are averse to the Lord within the material world and subjecting them to the law of karma. Her purpose is to completely remove all forms of aversion to the Lord from the hearts of the conditioned souls. When souls fully surrender to the Lord and become indifferent to her temptations, she considers her purpose fulfilled and happily releases them. She is the consort of Lord Siva and known by numerous names, such as Parvati, Durga, and Kali.
mayavad lit. ‘illusionism’; the theory that the eternal spiritual existence of the Lord, His energies, His personal forms, His abodes, the soul (devotees of the Lord), and devotion to the Lord are all an illusion. Mayavad is the ultimate antithesis of Vaisnavism and claims that the highest aim in life is to merge into Brahman. Mayavad was propagated by Lord Siva in the form of Sankar Acharya on the order of Lord Krishna to attract the dissenting people of the time back to the Vedic scriptures. Mayavad and ideas similar to it are also known as Advaitavad, Vivartavad, and Nirvisesavad.
mukti liberation; liberation from material existence; liberation from ignorance of the self, the Lord, and their relationship; realisation of one’s true nature as an eternal servant of the Lord. The scriptures describe five types of liberation: salokya (residing in the Lord’s abode), sarupya (having a form like the Lord’s), sarsti (having opulence like the Lord’s), samipya (having the association of the Lord), and sayujya (absorption into the body or effulgence of the Lord). Vaisnavas may accept the first four of these for the sake of service to the Lord, but they never accept sayujya-mukti, in which knowledge, the object of knowledge, and the knower (jnan, jneya, and jnata) are all demolished. Such liberation is sought by jnanis and is often awarded to demonic persons who have attacked the Supreme Lord or His devotees; devotees shun it because it denies one the opportunity to serve the Lord eternally.
Nabadwip lit. ‘nine islands’; the eternal abode of Sriman Mahaprabhu, nondifferent from Sri Vrndavan, which He brought with Him to the earth during His Pastimes here. The region known as Nabadwip is the centre of Sri Gauda Mandal and is divided by streams of the Ganges, Yamuna, Saraswati, and other sacred rivers into nine islands—Simantadwip, Godrumadwip, Madhyadwip, Koladwip, Rtudwip, Jahnudwip, Modadrumadwip, Rudradwip, and Antardwip. At present, Nabadwip also refers to the town on the western bank of the Ganges within Koladwip in West Bengal, India.
Nama lit. ‘name’; the Name of the Supreme Lord; the personal form of the Lord as His Name, nondifferent from the Lord Himself. The Name is chanted in three forms within the material world: (1) Suddha-nam, as the pure Name Himself, (2) Namabhas, as a semblance of the Name, and (3) Namaparadha, a form of the Name covered by offences.
Namabhas lit. ‘a semblance of the Name’; chanting the Name impurely. Namabhas is comparable to a fog of ignorance and to clouds made up of selfish desires, offences, and weakness of heart. These cover the soul so that the light of the pure Name, comparable to a bright sun, is only faintly visible. There are four types of Namabhas listed in order from least to most gross (SB: 6.2.14): (1) sanketa, indirect chanting, as in the case of Ajamil, who called out to his son named Narayan, or in the case of persons who speak other languages and utter the syllables of the Name with intentions unrelated to the Lord; (2) parihasa, chanting jokingly, as in the case of the non-Hindus who jokingly chanted the Name during the lunar eclipse at the time of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s appearance; (3) stobha, chanting mnemonically, as in the case of Sri Hari-namamrta-vyakarana, in which the Names of the Lord are used as part of a system of grammatical terminology, and (4) hela, chanting neglectfully, that is, without respect or affection but also without disdain, as in the case of calling out the Name to shake off lethargy. Namabhas can give the soul piety, wealth, enjoyment, freedom from active and inactive karmic reactions, deliverance from hell, liberation, and sukrti. It cannot, however, give the soul divine love for Krishna. Namabhas, as a semblance of the Name, is further understood to be either a shadow of the Name, as in the case of those who chant the Name in the four ways mentioned above, or a reflection of the Name, as in the case of mayavadis or materialists who intentionally chant the Name with a conception and purpose contrary to the soul’s nature of being an eternal servant of Krishna. The benefits of Namabhas listed above apply only to those who chant the shadow form of the Name; those who chant the reflected form make offences to the Name and are not benefitted by their practices.
Narad (Devarsi Narad) a Saktyaves-avatar of the Lord delegated to travel throughout the material and spiritual worlds as a devotee sage, constantly chanting the Lord’s glories to the music of his vina. He takes part in countless Pastimes of the Lord in many of the Lord’s appearances in the world and gives guidance to numerous sages, kings, and devotees throughout the ages.
Narayan lit. ‘the shelter of all beings’; the Lord of Sri Vaikuntha Dham; the four-armed form of the Lord who presides over His eternal majestic abode of awe-inspired worship. Narayan is an expansion of Sri Balaram and the source of Mahavisnu and all the Avatars of the Lord in the material world.
Nityananda Prabhu (Nitai) a principal associate of Sriman Mahaprabhu and member of the Pancha Tattva who is the first expansion of the Lord Himself. He is Lord Balaram in the Pastimes of Lord Krishna and the origin of Lord Narayan, Lord Visnu, Lord Sesa, and all other Avatars of the Lord. As the embodiment of unconditional mercy, He is always joyful and eager to engage souls, even the most fallen, in the service of Sriman Mahaprabhu.
Pancharatra lit. ‘five nights’; the scriptures compiled from a conversation spanning five nights between Lord Siva and Devarsi Narad which describe the processes of Deity worship and mantra meditation.
Pancha Tattva lit. ‘five truths’; the fivefold manifestation of the Absolute Truth: the Supreme Lord Sriman Mahaprabhu, His expansion Sri Nityananda Prabhu, His Avatar as a devotee Sri Advaita Prabhu, the embodiment of His personal energy Sri Gadadhar Pandit, and the representative of His devotees Sri Srivas Thakur.
Pandavas the five sons of King Pandu: Yudhisthir, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakul, and Sahadev. The Pandavas were intimate devotees and friends of Lord Krishna. Their trials and tribulations in serving Lord Krishna and ultimately attaining sovereignty over the world form the major theme of Mahabharata.
papa sin; inauspicious karma; actions that produce suffering. Such actions may be divided into the following categories: (1) violence, (2) cruelty, (3) duplicity, (4) madness, (5) falsity, (6) disobeying superiors, (7) covetousness, (8) selfishness, (9) impurity, (10) uncivil behaviour, and (11) destructive behaviour. The consequences of such actions are also called papa and exist in three forms: aprarabdha, inactive, prarabdha, active, and bija, seed. Inactive sin refers to sin that will take effect in future births, active sin refers to sin that will effect in this birth, and the seed form of sin refers to the desire to commit sin. Devotion can destroy all three forms of papa, as well as their root cause, avidya, ignorance, misunderstanding of the self.
Paramatma lit. ‘Supreme Soul’; the Supersoul; the all-pervading Soul who functions as the observer, permitter, maintainer, supporter, and supreme master of all beings in the material creation; the infinitesimal animating principle within every particle of material energy; the third Purus-avatar Ksirodakasayi Visnu.
phalgu-vairagya useless renunciation; rejecting as mundane anything that is favourable to the Lord’s service; making a show of detachment but internally pursing selfish ends, esp. liberation. The term comes from the appearance of the Phalgu River near Gaya in India which for part of the year appears to be a dry bed of sand but always has water running within it just below the surface.
Prabhu master; lord. Prabhu was traditionally used as a title for Sri Guru and for the Supreme Lord (esp. Mahaprabhu, Nityananda Prabhu, and Advaita Prabhu). Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur started the practice of referring to his disciples as Prabhu because he saw them as extensions of his Gurudev, and he also encouraged his disciples to adopt this practice. Thus, Prabhu is used within the Saraswat Gaudiya–Vaisnava sampradaya as a respectful address for initiated, male devotees of all ages, with the exception of sannyasis.
Prahlad a renowned devotee of Lord Visnu whose devotion could not be checked even by the extreme abuse of his father Hiranyakasipu. Prahlad Maharaj is glorified for perfectly practising the process of remembering the Lord (smaranam) and being the paramount example of santa-rasa devotion. His life and teachings establish the foundation of pure devotion to the Lord.
prayaschitta atonement for sin; the numerous penances prescribed in the scriptures—such as fasting, begging, and performing unusual austerities—to absolve oneself of sins. Such acts can remove the inauspicious karma that is produced by committing sin, but they cannot remove the desire or susceptibility to commit sin in the future, and they cannot absolve the soul of offences against the Lord’s Name or His devotees.
prema (prema-bhakti) divine love; intense desire to please the Lord; the goal of life and perfection of the soul; extremely intense bhava that completely melts the heart and produces intense feelings of loving possessiveness for the Lord.
Puranas lit. ‘ancient’; a canon of eighteen primary scriptures compiled by Srila Vyasadev, totalling hundreds of thousands of verses, that describe the Lord’s Avatars and Pastimes, the function of the material and spiritual worlds, the perfection of life, and the lives of sages and kings over the course of numerous manifestations of the material universes.
Radha (Radhika, Radharani) lit. ‘She whose worship is supreme’; Lord Krishna’s eternal consort, the embodiment of the highest service and sacrifice to the Lord; the female aspect of the Supreme Absolute Truth.
Radha Kunda the lake made by Srimati Radharani and Her companions beside Syama Kunda near Govardhan Hill; the site of Radha and Krishna’s most confidential Pastimes; the most exalted of all holy place for Rupanuga Vaisnavas.
Raghunath Das Goswami a principal follower of Sriman Mahaprabhu whose intense standard of service and renunciation greatly satisfied the Lord and deeply inspired all devotees. After receiving the blessings of Sriman Nityananda Prabhu in Bengal, he resided in Jagannath Puri for the last sixteen years of Sriman Mahaprabhu’s Pastimes as the personal assistant of Sri Svarup Damodar. He participated in many of the Lord’s confidential Pastimes, and his personal accounts of these Pastimes form the foundation of Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta. Raghunath Das eventually went to Vrndavan, found new life in the company of Sri Rupa and Sri Sanatan, and spent his final days at Sri Radha Kunda. He is revered within the Gaudiya–Vaisnava sampradaya as the Acharya of prayojan-tattva, as he illuminated the highest attainment of the soul in the service of Srimati Radharani under the guidance of Sri Rupa Manjari.
Ramananda Ray the intimate associate of Sriman Mahaprabhu whom the Lord regarded as His Guru in raga-marg service to Sri Krishna. Ramananda was the first to perceive the innermost identity of Sriman Mahaprabhu—that of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna combined—and the first to speak the essential teachings that the Lord descended to distribute to the world. He first met the Lord in South India while serving as the governor of the Godavari region, but at the Lord’s request he resigned and spent the rest of his life with the Lord in Jagannath Puri, serving Him intimately during His later Pastimes by reciting verses that suited His intense feelings of separation for Krishna. Sriman Mahaprabhu praised his scholarship, worldly detachment, and expertise in rasa as unparalleled. He is Sri Visakha Devi in the Pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna and is held in the highest regard by all Gaudiya–Vaisnavas.
Ramanuja Acharya the foremost proponent of the Sri sampradaya, one of the four Vaisnava sampradayas in the Age of Kali. Ramanuja Acharya appeared in the eleventh century as a South Indian brahmin, and with the blessings of Sri Yamuna Acharya and other Vaisnavas, he established the Vedantic school of visista-advaitavad (qualified nondualism), preached widely throughout India, founded numerous Temples, and showed above all the dignity of surrender to the Lord.
rasa taste, pleasure; the inconceivable, wonderful substance tasted in the hearts of pure devotees; rati (sthayi-bhava) brought into the heart by hearing, chanting, and other practices of devotion and nourished by vibhavas, anubhavas, sattvika-bhavas, and vyabhichari-bhavas; the dispositions in which souls serve the Supreme Lord, which are of five primary types: adoration, servitorship, friendship, affectionate guardianship, and (wedded or paramour) love (santa-, dasya-, sakhya-, vatsalya-, and madhura-rasa).
Rupa Goswami the principal follower of Sriman Mahaprabhu; the foremost authority on rasa and the practice of devotion. In the eternal Pastimes in Vraja, he serves Radharani and Lalita Devi as Sri Rupa Manjari.
sadhana a means to an end; a practice, in particular, sadhana-bhakti: engagement in the practices of hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, and so on under the guidance of Sri Guru and the sadhus with faith in the revealed truth and with the aim of overcoming all anarthas, attaining constancy in service to the Lord, and uncovering the innate potential of the soul for divine love.
samadhi lit. ‘complete meditation’; (1) full absorption of the self in the spiritual plane, to the extent that one becomes unconscious of one’s physical environment. For a yogi, attaining samadhi is synonymous with liberation and the perfection of astanga-yoga., while for a devotee it implies entrance into the eternal Pastimes of the Supreme Lord. (2) A temple or monument constructed over a soul absorbed in the state of samadhi.
samsara lit. ‘continuous motion’ or ‘that within which there is constant motion’; transmigration; the cycle of repeated birth and death in which souls pass from one body to the next within the material world according to their desires, pushed by the forces of time, karma, and material nature. In this cycle, the soul may assume the form of an inanimate object, a plant, an animal, a human, or a heavenly form such as that of god or sage. Souls wander indefinitely around the wheel of samsara until they attain the association of souls who are engaged in the Lord’s service and surrender to the Lord. Samsara also connotes the material world itself, the range of experiences the soul undergoes within it, esp. suffering, and the pursuit of worldly happiness, esp. family life.
Sanatan Goswami a principal follower of Sriman Mahaprabhu and the elder brother of Srila Rupa Goswami. He was shown the highest respect by everyone, including Sriman Mahaprabhu Himself. According to the Lord’s instructions, he discovered lost holy places, re-established the worship of Deities, compiled numerous scriptures, and cared for the whole community of devotees in Vrndavan. He is revered within the Gaudiya–Vaisnava sampradaya as the Acharya of sambandha-jnan.
Sankar Acharya an avatar of Lord Siva whom Lord Krishna sent to the earth to conceal the true purport of the Vedanta. He is renowned as the greatest proponent of monism (illusionism) and the pursuit of merging into Brahman (sayujya-mukti).
sankhya lit. ‘enumeration’; discrimination between spirit and matter, the self and the non-self; systematic analysis of the elements within the material creation. The Lord taught the process of sankhya in various Avatars, such as that of Kapiladev, as a means to understand the self, the creation, and the soul’s purpose within the creation to ultimately awaken devotion within the heart of the soul. Non-devotional and even atheistic forms of sankhya are also practised by philosophers, of whom the most well-known is also (confusingly) named Kapila.
sannyas lit. ‘complete abandonment’; the renounced order of life; the fourth ashram in Vedic society; the practice of giving up selfish action and fully dedicating oneself to the Lord, primarily by preaching the principles of pure devotion. Formally, this entails celibacy, withdrawal from family, wearing the robes of a renunciant, and engaging one’s speech, thought, and action exclusively in the Lord’s service.
saranagati lit. ‘to take shelter’; to surrender to the Absolute; to (1) become detached from all forms of matter, illusion, and self-interest, (2) develop faith that devotion to the Lord is everything—the highest duty and fulfilment for every living being, (3) give up all worldly duties and interests, and (4) take shelter of the Lord exclusively and in all respects.
Saraswati a consort of the Supreme Lord; the goddess of knowledge, learning, and the arts; the sacred river which is a form of Saraswati Devi that flows from the Himalayas to Prayag and enters the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna; a title of a greatly learned person.
Satya-yuga the age of truth, which lasts 1,728,000 years and is characterised by honesty, austerity, and meditative devotion. Satya-yuga is the first of the four ages that cycle throughout the existence of the material universe (Satya, Treta, Dvapar, and Kali).
Siksastakam lit. ‘eight verses of instruction’; the only poem known to be composed by Sriman Mahaprabhu Himself. Within it, all the Lord’s teachings are summarised in the eight verses describing the chanting of the Holy Name.
Siva lit. ‘the auspicious one’; a unique expansion of the Supreme Lord who performs numerous functions: regulating the mode of ignorance in the material world, cyclically destroying the material world, infusing the material world with souls, satisfying the desires for enjoyment and liberation of those who are averse to the Supreme Lord, supporting the demigods in their management of the material world, bearing the Ganges River on his head as she descends from Dhruvaloka, protecting the devotees of the Supreme Lord, and setting a paramount example of pure devotion to the Supreme Lord.
smrti lit. ‘that which is remembered’; the scriptures compiled by Vedavyas and other sages that illuminate the sruti. These include the Puranas, Niti-sastras, Itihasas, Mahabharata, Ramayana, and law books such as that of Manu.
Srimad Bhagavatam the essence of all Vedic literature. Written by Srila Vyasadev as the fruit of his meditation on the four verses spoken by Lord Krishna to Lord Brahma at the beginning of creation, Srimad Bhagavatam is Vyasadev’s natural commentary on the Vedanta-sutra, the foremost of all the Puranas, and the conclusion of all the Vedic literatures. The text is comprised of 18,000 verses and explains ten subjects: (1) the creation: the manifestation of the material elements, (2) the sub-creation: the manifestation of the life-forms within the creation, (3) position: the Lord’s rule over the creation, (4) nourishment: the Lord’s mercy upon His devotees, (5) conditioning: the impressions created by actions, (6) the Manus: the establishment of proper dharma, (7) discussion of the Lord: narrations of the activities of the Lord’s Avatars and Their devotees; (8) the destruction: the souls laying at rest (after the dissolution of the material elements), (9) liberation: realisation of the true self, and (10) the shelter: the Supreme Being. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu accepted Srimad Bhagavatam as the purest and most authoritative revelation of the Absolute as it describes the dharma of the paramahamsas, is dearmost to the Vaisnavas, explains the highest engagement of liberated souls, establishes Lord Sri Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and shows divine love for Him to be the ultimate attainment.
Srivas Thakur a principal associate of Sriman Mahaprabhu and member of the Pancha Tattva who lives near the Lord in Mayapur and participates in countless Pastimes of the Lord. Sriman Mahaprabhu is eternally present in his courtyard. There, the Lord performs kirtan every night with His intimate associates.
sthayi-bhava foundational rati for Krishna, which has any one of five primary forms santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya, and madhura [adoration, servitude, friendship, affectionate guardianship, and paramour love].
Sukadev lit. ‘divine parrot’; a liberated soul from birth who appeared as the son of Vedavyas and spoke Srimad Bhagavatam in the assembly of Maharaj Pariksit. His testimony serves as the principal evidence that the Pastimes of Lord Krishna are supramundane and attract even liberated souls away from samadhi in Brahman.
sukrti lit. ‘proper action’; merits; actions that lead to favourable future results. There are three types of sukrti: those that lead to enjoyment, to liberation, and to devotion. Chiefly, sukrti refers to merits that lead the soul to devotion, in other words, to that which gives the soul the capacity to appreciate Truth and inspires the soul to seek the Absolute (punya typically refers to merits that lead to enjoyment). Here, sukrti denotes service rendered knowingly or unknowingly to the Lord, that which is His own, or those who are dear to Him. The opportunity to render such service comes to the soul by good fortune and fructifies (typically over the course of a number of lifetimes) as association with sadhus, by whose grace the soul develops faith and progresses on the path of devotion.
Supersoul standard English rendering of Paramatma; the all-pervading Soul who functions as the observer, permitter, maintainer, supporter, and supreme master of all beings in the material creation; the infinitesimal animating principle within every particle of material energy; the third Purus-avatar Ksirodakasayi Visnu.
Svarup Damodar the constant companion of Sriman Mahaprabhu who was regarded as the leader of all the Lord’s devotees and a second manifestation of the Lord Himself. He participated in the Pastimes of the Lord in Nabadwip, accepted sannyas after the Lord did, and then joined Him in Sri Puri Dham. Both his scholarship and his singing were unparalleled amongst the Lord’s servants, and he served Sriman Mahaprabhu night and day, personally caring for the Lord during His fits of divine madness. He screened all compositions that were brought to the Lord, and his writings about the identity and Pastimes of the Lord are renowned as the most profound and authoritative representation of Sriman Mahaprabhu. He is Sri Lalita Devi in the Pastimes of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna and the guardian of all Gaudiya–Vaisnavas.
tantra a body of scriptures that prescribes methods for chanting mantras, worshipping Deities, conducting sacrifices, casting spells, and performing other mystical rites. Vaisnavas practise a sattvik form of tantra but shun the non-sattvik forms.
Tulasi lit. ‘she who is incomparable’; Lord Krishna’s favourite plant. Without her leaves, Krishna will not accept any offering. Tulasi is a form of the gopi Vrnda Devi, the personal expansion of Srimati Radharani who serves as the mistress of Vrndavan: she who distributes devotion to the Lord, gives entrance into Vraja, and makes arrangements for Radha and Krishna’s Pastimes.
Vaikuntha lit. ‘that which has no limit’ or ‘where there is no anxiety’; the spiritual world; the eternal abode of the Supreme Lord; the portion of the spiritual world presided over by Laksmi and Narayan, where the Lord’s majesty is predominant and devotees serve the Lord with awe and reverence.
vairagya renunciation; lit. ‘absence of attachment’ or ‘intense attachment’. For a Vaisnava, both senses are applicable—detachment from the mundane and attachment to the Lord—though in common speech, the word is typically used in the first sense.
varna the occupational divisions within society created by the Lord: the brahmins, ksatriyas, vaisyas, and sudras. These divisions are differentiated by their functions and the modes of nature predominant within them, and strictly speaking an individual should be accepted as a member of one of them according to their character, not their heredity (though in recent history this is largely misunderstood). Brahmins study and teach the scriptures, perform worship for themselves and on behalf of others, and accept and give charity. They are situated in the mode of goodness. Ksatriyas govern society, collect taxes, and engage in warfare. They also perform many of the duties of brahmins and are situated in a mixture of the modes of goodness and passion. Vaisyas engage in agriculture, animal husbandry, and commerce. They also perform the duties of brahmins. Sudras engage in service to the other three varnas.
varnashram-dharma the social and occupational orders established by the Lord consisting of the four varnas (brahmin, ksatriya, vaisya, and sudra) and the four ashrams (brahmacharya, grhastha, vanaprastha, and sannyas). When souls observe their duties within this system according to their nature as a means to serve the Supreme Lord, they gradually transcend the modes of material nature and satisfy the Lord. When the orders within the system are thought to be determined by birth and when souls use the system to pursue material gain or liberation, however, no one attains spiritual benefit simply by following it.
Veda lit. ‘knowledge’; the knowledge revealed by the Supreme Lord through Lord Brahma and the rishis that explains the proper way for all souls to live and serve the Lord; the body of eternal knowledge recorded in separate scriptures at the beginning of Kali-yuga by Vedavyas, made up of the Rg-veda, Sama-veda, Yajur-veda, and Atharva-veda, the Upanisads, and other texts.
Vraja lit. ‘corral’; the eternal abode of Lord Krishna; the 168-square-mile circular district that encompasses Vrndavan, Govardhan, and the other sites of Lord Krishna’s Pastimes with the gopas and gopis. Often used synonymously with Vrndavan.
Vrndavan lit. ‘forest of Tulasi’; the eternal homeland of Lord Krishna commonly known as Vraja; the supreme abode in the spiritual world where love and devotion reach their zenith. This abode appeared on earth with Lord Krishna in what is known today as the Mathura district of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India.
Vyasadev (Vedavyas) the Saktyavesa-avatar of the Lord who compiled the Vedic literatures (the four Vedas, the Upanisads, the Puranas, Mahabharata, and other texts) and ultimately revealed Lord Sri Krishna as the Absolute Truth in Srimad Bhagavatam.
Yamaraj lit. ‘master of regulation’; the god of justice who maintains order within the material world. He is revered as one of the twelve mahajans and a devotee of the Supreme Lord. He judges souls after death on the basis of the record of their actions kept by his assistant Chitragupta, and administers punishments or rewards as are appropriate in the form of the soul’s future body, destination, and fortune. He presides over Patalaloka, the lower region of the universe, and is also known as Kala (Time), Dharma or Dharmaraj (Order), and Mrtyu (Death).
Yogamaya the aspect of the Lord’s personal energy that coordinates His eternal Pastimes. She is best known for her power to remove awareness of the Lord’s majesty from both the Lord’s devotees and the Lord Himself in order to facilitate their exchanges of pure love.
yukta-vairagya lit. ‘proper renunciation’; using anything favourable to the Lord’s service in His service without personal attachment to it; recognising Sri Guru, the Name, the Deity, the scriptures, and mahaprasad as spiritual, seeing everything in connection to the Lord, fully dedicating all of one’s available energy and resources to the Lord’s service, and accepting no less and no more than is necessary for oneself to engage in the Lord’s service.