Sanskrit Terms

What is an acharya?2017-01-17T07:25:02-08:00

One who understands the purport of the revealed scriptures, teaches it to others, and personally practises it.

What is bhakti?2017-02-25T01:16:12-08:00

Devotion to the Supreme Being, Sri Guru, and the Vaisnavas, specifically endeavouring to satisfy them without any selfish motivation.

Bhakti is the natural function of the soul and path to the soul’s ultimate potential and eternal joy.

What is dharma?2017-02-25T01:16:16-08:00

That which sustains and leads to the ultimate welfare of the world and every living being within it. In the absolute sense, dharma is the eternal service of the Supreme Lord.

What is a guru?2017-02-25T01:30:57-08:00

The word guru literally means ‘heavy’ and is also parsed to mean dispeller (ru) of darkness (gu). Generally, a guru is a master teacher of a discipline. On the spiritual path, a guru is a special form the Supreme Lord assumes out of divine compassion to distribute spiritual understanding to sincere seekers.

What is kirtan?2017-01-17T17:51:25-08:00

Kirtan is praise of the Divine, specifically devotional chanting of the Supreme Lord’s Name, Qualities, and Pastimes.

What is the Holy Name?2017-02-25T01:16:57-08:00

The Holy Name is a transcendental sound vibration form of the Supreme Lord nondifferent from the Lord Himself.

Through sincere chanting of the Holy Name in the spirit of service, a living being develops love for the Supreme Lord and becomes fit to personally meet the Supreme Lord and render service to Him.

What is a mantra?2017-02-25T01:32:26-08:00

A hymn composed in concise, metric Sanskrit. Literally, man means ‘thought’ and tra means ‘instrument’. So, a mantra is traditionally defined as “that which liberates by being meditated upon (mananat trayate).”

What is the mahamantra?2017-02-25T01:19:14-08:00

The mahamantra is ‘the supreme mantra’, the mantra by chanting which every living being attains the highest benefit:

hare krishna hare krishna krishna krishna hare hare
hare rama hare rama rama rama hare hare

The mahamantra was first distributed broadly by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who taught that chanting the Holy Names is the ideal way to develop divine love for the Supreme (Sri Krishna-prema). Why?

Read on

What is prasadam?2017-01-17T08:19:16-08:00

The mercy of the Supreme Lord, Sri Guru, or the Vaisnavas; the remnants of offerings made to them, such as fragrances, flowers, and especially foods.

What is prema?2017-02-25T01:20:21-08:00

Prema is divine love, love that is selfless and dedicated to the Supreme Lord.

Prema is the goal of life, the highest attainment of the soul that gives entrance into an eternal and dynamic life of wholehearted service to the Supreme Lord, His devotees, and all that is dear to Him.

What is a sadhu?2017-01-17T07:26:12-08:00

One who is devoted to truth, specifically, eternal spiritual truth.

What are the Vedas?2017-01-17T07:33:16-08:00

Veda literally means ‘knowledge’, specifically, knowledge revealed mainly at the beginning of creation by the Supreme Lord through Lord Brahma and the rishis that explains the proper way for all souls to live and serve the Lord. This body of eternal knowledge was preserved through hearing and memorisation until the beginning of Kali-yuga (about 5,000 years ago) when Krishna Dvaipayan Vedavyas recorded it in written form as the Rg-veda, Sama-veda, Yajur-veda, Atharva-veda, the Upanisads, and other texts.

What is yoga?2017-01-17T17:52:12-08:00

Yoga is a Sanskrit word derived from the root yuj, which means to connect or to unite. The word yoga is used in many different fields and thus has numerous definitions and translations, but in relation to bhakti, yoga means ‘path’ or ‘practice’, and in relation to the Divine, means connection.


What is true knowledge?2017-01-18T04:57:43-08:00

True knowledge is knowledge of eternal truth. All knowledge of the temporary is false knowledge.

What constitutes true knowledge?2017-01-18T04:56:52-08:00

Four elements:

  • Pramata: the knower
  • Prameya: that which is to be known
  • Pramana: the means of knowing
  • Pramiti: the acquired knowledge
How can we acquire true knowledge?2017-01-18T04:55:07-08:00

By three means:

  • Sense perception (pratyaksa)
  • Inference (anuman)
  • Revelation (sabda)
What is sense perception?2017-01-18T04:54:14-08:00

Awareness of the senses contacting an object.

There are two types of perceptions: external and internal.

  • External perception is awareness of a sense contacting a gross material object, e.g.
    • the ear hears a call or the eye sees a flame.
  • Internal perception is awareness of thoughts, emotions, reasons, and so forth, e.g.
    • musing on a distant place, a trill of excitement, a contradiction in logic
Does sense perception have any defects?2017-01-18T04:52:52-08:00

Yes, perception is subject to four defects:

  • Misperception: mistaking one thing for another, e.g. a rope for a snake
  • Inattentiveness: being unaware of something when it happens, e.g. not hearing a bird singing while at work
  • Deceitfulness: the tendency to cheat others, e.g. withholding information known to be relevant or showing someone anything other than what is known to be true
  • Limitedness: the limited capacity of the senses, e.g. inability to identify an object at a long distance
Can we attain true knowledge through sense perception?2017-01-18T04:51:46-08:00

No. The material senses have no capacity to perceive eternal reality and have very minute capacity to perceive even material objects.

What is inference?2017-01-18T04:50:43-08:00

Reaching a conclusion based on a proposition, cause, and precedent, and perception.

For example:

  • Proposition: there is fire on the mountain.
  • Cause: there is smoke.
  • Precedent: wherever there is smoke, there is fire, as in a kitchen.
  • Perception: there is smoke on the mountain.
  • Conclusion: there is fire on the mountain.
Can we attain true knowledge through inference?2017-01-18T04:49:14-08:00

No. All forms of inference are based on sense perception and subject to the same defects that sense perception is.

What is revelation?2017-01-18T04:15:34-08:00

Revelation is testimony from a trustworthy source. In the scriptures, it is called sabda, lit. ‘that which is heard’. There are two types of sabda:

  • pauruseya: testimony from human beings
    • This is subject to the four defects mentioned above
  • apauruseya: testimony from a non-human, that is, divine source
    • This is not subject to the four defects.
Can we attain true knowledge through revelation?2017-01-18T04:14:45-08:00

Yes, divine revelation (apauruseya-sabda) is the one and only means to attain true knowledge (all other means being subject to defects).

As only light can dispel darkness, so only revelation of true knowledge can dispel ignorance. As no form of darkness can dispel another form of darkness, so by no perception of or inference based on the temporary material world can we attain true knowledge.

Why are perception and inference accepted as means to true knowledge if they are unable to access it?2017-01-18T04:13:48-08:00

Perception and inference do not lead to or produce true knowledge, but they assist us as secondary instruments in receiving and understanding revelation of true knowledge. Thus, they are honoured as part of the means to true knowledge.

As ministers who carry out the orders of a king are respected as authorities, so perception and inference that are governed by and thus purified by revelation are honoured as part of the means to true knowledge.

What are the properties of eternal truth?2017-01-18T04:12:34-08:00

Eternal truths are:

  • Imperceptible by the material senses
    • Inaccessible through perception
  • Inconceivable to the material intelligence
    • Inaccessible through inference
  • Fundamental
    • The basis of the whole existence in both its eternal and temporary aspects
    • Existent prior, during, and after the material world
  • Wonderful
    • Completely fulfilling to every living being who realises them
Where can we find divine revelation?2017-01-18T04:10:56-08:00

In the Vedas. The Vedas are supramundane statements made by the rishis, the seers of eternal truth. These statements reveal that which is otherwise unknowable and are the only unerring means to know eternal truth.

How is it that ‘seers’ perceive eternal truth?2017-02-25T01:35:01-08:00

The rishis ‘see’ eternal truth only because it is revealed to them by the Supreme Lord. That which is transcendental can only be known by its own agency, not by our own or another’s. As the sun is seen by its own light, so the Supreme Lord reveals eternal truth by His own means and agency.

Why does the Supreme Lord choose to reveal eternal truth?2017-01-18T04:09:24-08:00

He is merciful. He has compassion for all beings living in samsara, the world of impermanence and suffering. He cares for every living being and desires to have an eternal loving relationship with them. So, He makes known the eternal nature of the soul, of Himself, of the love exchanged between Him and all beings, and He thus gives everyone the chance to choose their destiny.

How do we know that the Vedas and the Supreme Lord are actually eternal and truth, and are not just a fantasy?2017-02-25T01:39:22-08:00

There is only one way to know: follow the path they prescribe. No amount of worldly perception or inference (no amount of science, philosophy, or common sense) can prove or disprove the reality of the Vedas or the Supreme Lord and His mercy.

The senses and intellect are material, and eternal truths are spiritual. That which is material cannot recognise that which is spiritual: it can neither confirm nor deny its existence. So, there is no use seeking proof in the realm of perception and inference for that which exists outside their reach.

So, the question really is: is the prospect they present us worth pursuing? Is eternal life and well-being a greater prospect than temporary attainments in the world of impermanence? If so, then all there is do to is follow the path they prescribe. There’s nothing to prove or argue about. As soon as we take up the path, we’ll start to experience first-hand the factual existence eternal truth and the unique fulfilment found there alone.

How do we begin to follow the prescribed path?2017-01-18T04:07:43-08:00

First, we need to be resolute that such endeavour is the sole means to our welfare. Then, we must proceed in such endeavour sincerely. With this foundation, we should take shelter of a Guru, a living representative of the Supreme Lord who is surcharged with His mercy and capable of conveying to us all the truths taught in the Vedas. Then, as we adhere to the guidance of our Guru, we will gradually pass through all the stages and marks along the path, we will realise the truth within all the statements of the Vedas, and we will attain the highest good.

Additional References

Instant Understanding

A series of concise questions and answers.

Absolute Vision

An excerpt from Srimad Bhagavatam that summarises a series of concise answers to questions Lord Krishna offers to His dear devotee Uddhava.

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