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ARATI. Worship of the deity accompanied by the offering of lights.
ASHRAM. A hermitage or monastery for religious-minded people. Also, a place for practicing or studying religion.
AVIDYA. Ignorance, cosmic or individual, which is responsible for the non-perception of Reality.
BABU. A title like Mr., used at the end of the name of a gentleman.
BIGHA. A measure of land.
BILVA. Sacred leaves offered in worship.
BRAHMACHARINI. A novice nun or student who is serving her teacher or preceptor and observing the vow of continence and austerity.
CHAITANYA MAHAPRABHU. A saint and scholar of great fame, born in 1485 A.D. at Navadwip in Bengal and worshipped by many Vaishnavas (worshippers of Vishnu) as an incarnation of Krishna and Radha together.
DADA. Elder brother.
DAKSHINESWAR. A sacred place on the Ganges, nearly six miles north of Calcutta, where, in the famous temple garden of the goddess Kali, Sri Ramakrishna lived for many years.
DAMODAR SHILA. A round stone that represents Krishna. (Damodar is another name for Krishna.)
DIDI. Elder sister.
DURGA SAPTASHATI (also known as the Chandi), A sacred book of the Hindus in which the Divine Mother is described as the Ultimate Reality.
GOPIS. The milkmaid companions of Sri Krishna, symbols of one-pointed devotion.
GURU. Spiritual master or teacher.
HOMA. A Vedic sacrifice in which oblations are offered into a fire.
ISHTA DEVATA. The form of God or spiritual ideal that the devotee chooses to follow.
JAPA. Repetition in prayer of the name of one's chosen deity or some holy name.
KAISTHA. A caste in the Indian system, below the highest.
KALI. The Divine Mother.
KALI BARI. A temple garden where the chief deity in the temple is the goddess Kali.
KRISHNA. An incarnation of Vishnu, one of the three gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh – who represent the powers of the creator, preserver, and destroyer.
LAKSHMI. The consort of Vishnu and the goddess of fortune.
MAHABHARATA. One of the two great epics of India, narrating the story of the five Pandava brothers and their hundred cousins; part of which is the Bhagavad Gita, which consists of a dialogue between Krishna, who expounds spiritual truths, and Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers.
MAHASAMADHI. Literally, "the great samadhi," the final merging of a saint's consciousness into the Absolute at the time of his or her passing.
NAHABAT. A place where an orchestra is played; also, a small building at Dakshtneswar attached to the temple there and formerly used for that purpose, but now the place where Sri Sarada Devi lived when she stayed at Dakshineswar.
PRANAMS. Salutations offered to a holy person, where the devotee bends down to touch the feet of the holy person.
PURANAS. Books of Hindu mythology.
RAAS PURNIMA. A full-moon day in October or November when Lord Krishna sported and danced with His playmates and devotees on the bank of the Jamuna River in Brindavan.
RADHESHYAM. Another name for Krishna.
RAMAKRISHNA. A nineteenth-century sage who spent most of his life at a temple garden at Dakshineswar near Calcutta, practicing many spiritual disciplines and sharing the fruits of his practices with all who came to him. (Ramakrishna Math is a monastic order founded in the name of Sri Ramakrishna, with many branches in India and across the world.)
RAMAYANA. One of the two great epics of India, telling the story of Rama and his wife Sita, who are believed to be incarnations of Vishnu and his consort, Lakshmi, and who came to earth to reestablish ethical conduct in a society that had become decadent.
RANCHODJI TEMPLE. A famous temple in Dwarka on the west coast of India. (Ranchodji is another name for Krishna.)
SADHANA. The practice of a particular spiritual discipline for the attainment of enlightenment.
SADHU. A monk.
SAMADHI. Absorption in the Spirit, a trance-like state.
SANNYASIN. A man who renounces the world in order to realize God.
SANNYASINI. A woman who renounces the world in order to realize God.
SARADA DEVI. Sri Ramakrishna's wife, also known to devotees as Holy Mother.
SATCHIDANANDA. Literally, "Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute." A name of Brahman, the Absolute Reality.
SHAKTI. The energy of the Divine as it manifests in the material world. Shakti is regarded as feminine.
SHALIGRAM. A round stone symbol of Vishnu.
SHYAMA. Literally, "the dark one." A name of Kali, the Divine Mother.
STOTRAS. Hymns in verse describing the glories of the various gods and goddesses.
SUPREME PURUSHA. Supreme Person, God.
SWAMI. A title of the monks belonging to the Vedanta school.
TAPASVINI. A woman who has undertaken intense tapasya. (Masculine form is tapasvin or tapasvi.) TAPASYA. Religious austerity.
THAKUR. A term of respect, meaning Master.
TILAK. A red or white mark on the forehead, usually having religious significance.
TULSI. The basil plant, which is sacred to the Hindus. Its leaves are used for worship.
VIDYA. Knowledge leading to liberation, i.e., to the Ultimate Reality.
VIVEKANANDA, SWAMI. Sri Ramakrishna's most famous disciple, who participated In the first Parliament of World Religions held in Chicago in 1893.
YAJNA. A ritualistic ceremony in which oblations are offered into a fire.
YASHODA. The foster mother of Krishna.
YOGI, YOGINI. One who practices yoga or spiritual disciplines.