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    Arjuna. The exalted disciple to whom Bhagavan Krishna imparted the immortal message of the Bhagavad Gita (q.v.); one of the five Pandava princes in the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, in which he is a key figure.

    ashram. A spiritual hermitage; often a monastery.

    astral body. Man’s subtle body of light, prana or lifetrons; the second of three sheaths that successively encase the soul: the causal body (q.v.), the astral body, and the physical body. The powers of the astral body enliven the physical body, much as electricity illumines a bulb. The astral body has nineteen elements: intelligence, ego, feeling, mind (sense consciousness); five instruments of knowledge (the sensory powers within the physical organs of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch); five instruments of action (the executive powers in the physical instruments of procreation, excretion, speech, locomotion, and the exercise of manual skill); and five instruments of life force that perform the functions of circulation, metabolization, assimilation, crystallization, and elimination.

    Aum (Om). The Sanskrit root word or seed-sound symbolizing that aspect of Godhead which creates and sustains all things; Cosmic Vibration. Aum of the Vedas became the sacred word Hum of the Tibetans; Amin of the Muslims; and Amen of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Jews, and Christians. The world’s great religions state that all created things originate in the cosmic vibratory energy of Aum or Amen, the Word or Holy Ghost. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....All things were made by him [the Word or Aum]; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1, 3).

    Amen in Hebrew means sure, faithful. “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14). Even as sound is produced by the vibration of a running motor, so the omnipresent sound of Aum faithfully testifies to the running of the “Cosmic Motor,” which upholds all life and every particle of creation through vibratory energy. In the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons (q.v.),Paramahansa Yogananda teaches techniques of meditation whose practice brings direct experience of God as Aum or Holy Ghost. That blissful communion with the invisible divine Power (“the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost” — John 14:26) is the truly scientific basis of prayer.

    avatar. From the Sanskrit avatara, with roots ava, “down,” and tri, “to pass.” Souls who attain union with Spirit and then return to earth to help mankind are called avatars, divine incarnations.

    avidya. Literally, “non-knowledge,” ignorance; the manifestation in man of maya, the cosmic delusion (q.v.).Essentially, avidya is man’s ignorance of his divine nature and of the sole reality: Spirit.

    Babaji. See Mahavatar Babaji.

    Bhagavad Gita. “Song of the Lord.” An ancient Indian scripture consisting of eighteen chapters from the sixth book (Bhishma Parva) of the Mahabharata epic. Presented in the form of a dialogue between the avatar (q.v.)Lord Krishna and his disciple Arjuna on the eve of the historic battle of Kurukshetra, the Gita is a profound treatise on the science of yoga (union with God) and a timeless prescription for happiness and success in everyday living. The Gita is allegory as well as history, a spiritual dissertation on the inner battle between man’s good and bad tendencies. Depending on the context, Krishna symbolizes the guru, the soul, or God; Arjuna represents the aspiring devotee. Of this universal scripture Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “Those who will meditate on the Gita will derive fresh joy and new meanings from it every day. There is not a single spiritual tangle which the Gita cannot unravel.”

    Bhagavan Krishna. An avatar who lived as a king in India ages before the Christian era. One of the meanings given for the word Krishna in the Hindu scriptures is “Omniscient Spirit.” Thus, Krishna, like Christ, is a spiritual title signifying the divine magnitude of the avatar — his oneness with God. The title Bhagavan means “Lord.” In his early life, Krishna lived as a cowherd who enchanted his companions with the music of his flute. In this role Krishna is often considered to represent allegorically the soul playing the flute of meditation to guide all misled thoughts back to the fold of omniscience.

    Bhakti Yoga. The spiritual approach to God that stresses all-surrendering love as the principal means for communion and union with God. See Yoga.

    Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva.Three aspects of God’s immanence in creation. They represent that triune function of the Christ Intelligence (Tat) that guides Cosmic Nature’s activities of creation, preservation, and dissolution. See Trinity.

    Brahman (Brahma). Absolute Spirit. Brahman is sometimes rendered in Sanskrit as Brahma (with a short aat the end); but the meaning is the same as Brahman: Spirit, or God the Father, not the circumscribed concept of the personal “Brahma-the-Creator” of the Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva triad (which is rendered with a long â at the end, Brahmâ). See Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva

    breath. “The influx of innumerable cosmic currents into man by way of the breath induces restlessness in his mind,” Paramahansa Yogananda wrote. “Thus the breath links him with the fleeting phenomenal worlds. To escape from the sorrows of transitoriness and to enter the blissful realm of Reality, the yogi learns to quiet the breath by scientific meditation.”


    caste. Caste in its original conception was not a hereditary status, but a classification based on man's natural capacities. In his evolution, man passes through four distinct grades, designated by ancient Hindu sages as Sudra, Vaisya, Kshatriya, and Brahmin. The Sudra is interested primarily in satisfying his bodily needs and desires. The Vaisya is ambitious for worldly gain as well as for satisfaction of the senses; he has more creative ability than the Sudra and seeks occupation wherever his mental energy finds fulfillment. The Kshatriya, having through many lives fulfilled the desires of the Sudra and Vaisya states, begins to seek the meaning of life; he tries to overcome his bad habits, to control his senses, and to do what is right. Kshatriyas by occupation are noble rulers, statesmen, warriors. The Brahmin has overcome his lower nature, has a natural affinity for spiritual pursuits, and is God-knowing, able therefore to teach and help liberate others.

    causal body. Essentially, man as a soul is a causal-bodied being. His causal body is an idea-matrix for the astral and physical bodies. The causal body is composed of thirty-five idea elements corresponding to the nineteen elements of the astral body (q.v.) plus the sixteen basic material elements of the physical body.

    causal world. Behind the physical world of matter (atoms, protons, electrons), and the subtle astral world of luminous life energy (lifetrons), is the causal, or ideational, world of thought (thoughtrons). After man evolves sufficiently to transcend the physical and astral universes, he resides in the causal universe. In the consciousness of causal beings, the physical and astral universes are resolved to their thought essence. Whatever physical man can do in imagination, causal man can do in actuality — the only limitation being thought itself. Ultimately, man sheds the last soul covering — his causal body — to unite with omnipresent Spirit, beyond all vibratory realms.

    chakras. In Yoga, the seven occult centers of life and consciousness in the spine and brain, which enliven the physical and astral bodies of man. These centers are referred to as chakras ("wheels") because the concentrated energy in each one is like a hub from which radiate rays of life-giving light and energy. In ascending order, these chakras are muladhara (the coccygeal, at the base of the spine); svadhisthana (the sacral, two inches above muladhara); manipura (the lumbar, opposite the navel); anahata (the dorsal, opposite the heart); vishuddha (the cervical, at the base of the neck); ajna (traditionally located between the eyebrows; in actuality, directly connected by polarity with the medulla; see also medulla and spiritual eye); and sahasrara (in the uppermost part of the cerebrum).

    The seven centers are divinely planned exits or "trapdoors" through which the soul has descended into the body and through which it must reascend by a process of meditation. By seven successive steps, the soul escapes into Cosmic Consciousness. In its conscious upward passage through the seven opened or "awakened" cerebrospinal centers, the soul travels the highway to the Infinite, the true path by which the soul must retrace its course to reunite with God.

    Yoga treatises generally consider only the six lower centers as chakras, with sahasrara referred to separately as a seventh center. All seven centers, however, are often referred to as lotuses, whose petals open, or turn upward, in spiritual awakening as the life and consciousness travel up the spine.

    chitta. Intuitive feeling; the aggregate of consciousness, inherent in which is ahamkara (egoity), buddhi(intelligence), and manas (mind or sense consciousness).

    Christ. The honorific title of Jesus: Jesus the Christ. This term also denotes God's universal intelligence immanent in creation (sometimes referred to as the Cosmic Christ or the Infinite Christ), or is used in reference to great masters who have attained oneness with that Divine Consciousness. (The Greek word Christos means "anointed," as does the Hebrew word Messiah.) See also Kutastha Chaitanya and Kutastha Chaitanya.

    Christ center. The Kutastha or ajna chakra at the point between the eyebrows, directly connected by polarity with the medulla (q.v.); center of will and concentration, and of Christ Consciousness (q.v.); seat of the spiritual eye (q.v.).

    Christ Consciousness. The projected consciousness of God immanent in all creation. In Christian scripture, the "only begotten son," the only pure reflection in creation of God the Father; in Hindu scripture, Kutastha Chaitanya or Tat, the universal consciousness, or cosmic intelligence, of Spirit everywhere present in creation. (The terms "Christ Consciousness" and "Christ Intelligence" are synonymous, as also "Cosmic Christ" and "Infinite Christ.") It is the universal consciousness, oneness with God, manifested by Jesus, Krishna, and other avatars. Great saints and yogis know it as the state of Samadhi meditation wherein their consciousness has become identified with the divine intelligence in every particle of creation; they feel the entire universe as their own body. See Trinity.

    Concentration Technique. The Self-Realization Fellowship Technique of Concentration (the Hong-Sau Technique) taught in the Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons. This technique helps scientifically to withdraw the attention from all objects of distraction and to place it upon one thing at a time. Thus it is invaluable for meditation, concentration on God. The Hong-Sau Technique is an integral part of the science of Kriya Yoga (q.v.).

    consciousness, states of. In mortal consciousness man experiences three states: waking consciousness, sleeping consciousness, and dreaming consciousness. But he does not experience his soul, superconsciousness, and he does not experience God. The Christ-man does. As mortal man is conscious throughout his body, so the Christ-man is conscious throughout the universe, which he feels as his body. Beyond the state of Christ consciousness is cosmic consciousness, the experience of oneness with God in His absolute consciousness beyond vibratory creation as well as with the Lord's omnipresence manifesting in the phenomenal worlds.

    Cosmic Consciousness. The Absolute; transcendental Spirit existing beyond creation; God the Father. Also the samadhi-meditation state of oneness with God both beyond and within vibratory creation. See Trinity.

    cosmic delusion. See maya.

    cosmic energy. See prana.

    Cosmic Intelligent Vibration. See Aum.

    Cosmic Sound. See Aum.

    darshan. "Holy sight,"as of one's guru; i.e., the blessing bestowed by the sight of a God-realized being.

    dharma. Eternal principles of righteousness that uphold all creation; man's inherent duty to live in harmony with these principles. See also Sanatana Dharma.

    diksha. Spiritual initiation; from the Sanskrit verb-root diksh, to dedicate oneself. See also disciple and Kriya Yoga. disciple. A spiritual aspirant who comes to a guru seeking introduction to God, and to this end establishes an eternal spiritual relationship with the guru. In Self-Realization Fellowship, the guru-disciple relationship is established by diksha, initiation, in Kriya Yoga. See also guru and Kriya Yoga.

    Divine Mother. The aspect of God that is active in creation; the shakti, or power, of the Transcendent Creator. Other terms for this aspect of Divinity are Aum, Shakti, Holy Ghost, Cosmic Intelligent Vibration, Nature or Prakriti. Also, the personal aspect of God embodying the love and compassionate qualities of a mother.

    The Hindu scriptures teach that God is both immanent and transcendent, personal and impersonal. He may be sought as the Absolute; as one of His manifest eternal qualities, such as love, wisdom, bliss, light; in the form of an ishta (deity); or as Father, Mother, or Friend.

    dhyana. See meditation.


    egoism. The ego-principle, ahamkara (lit., “I do”), is the root cause of dualism or the seeming separation between man and his Creator. Ahamkara brings human beings under the sway of maya (q.v.), by which the subject (ego) falsely appears as object; the creatures imagine themselves to be creators. By banishing ego-consciousness, man awakens to his divine identity, his oneness with the Sole Life: God.

    elements (five). The Cosmic Vibration, or Aum, structures all physical creation, including man’s physical body, through the manifestation of five tattvas (elements): earth, water, fire, air, and ether (q.v.). These are structural forces, intelligent and vibratory in nature. Without the earth element there would be no state of solid matter; without the water element, no liquid state; without the air element, no gaseous state; without the fire element, no heat; without the ether element, no background on which to produce the cosmic motion-picture show. In the body, prana (cosmic vibratory energy) enters the medulla and is then divided into the five elemental currents by the action of the five lower chakras (q.v.), or centers: the coccygeal (earth), sacral (water), lumbar (fire), dorsal (air), and cervical (ether). The Sanskrit terminology for these elements is prithivi, ap, tej, prana, and akasha.

    Energization Exercises. Man is surrounded by cosmic energy, much as a fish is surrounded by water. The Energization Exercises, originated by Paramahansa Yogananda and taught in Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons(q.v.), enable man to recharge his body with this cosmic energy, or universal prana.

    ether. The Sanskrit word akasha, translated as both “ether” and “space,” refers specifically to the vibratory element that is the subtlest in the material world. (See elements.) It derives from â, “toward” and kasha, “to be visible, to appear.” Akasha is the subtle “background” against which everything in the material universe becomes perceptible. “Space gives dimension to objects; ether separates the images,” Paramahansa Yogananda said. “Ether-permeated space is the boundary line between heaven, or the astral world, and earth,” he explained. “All the finer forces God has created are composed of light, or thought-forms, and are merely hidden behind a particular vibration that manifests as ether.”

    evil. The satanic force that obscures God’s omnipresence in creation, manifesting as inharmonies in man and nature. Also, a broad term defining anything contrary to divine law (see dharma) that causes man to lose the consciousness of his essential unity with God, and that obstructs attainment of God-realization.

    gunas. The three attributes of Nature: tamas, rajas, and sattva — obstruction, activity, and expansion; or, mass, energy, and intelligence. In man the three gunas express themselves as ignorance or inertia; activity or struggle; and wisdom.

    guru. Spiritual teacher. Though the word guru is often misused to refer simply to any teacher or instructor, a true God-illumined guru is one who, in his attainment of self-mastery, has realized his identity with the omnipresent Spirit. Such a one is uniquely qualified to lead the seeker on his or her inward journey toward divine realization.

    When a devotee is ready to seek God in earnest, the Lord sends him a guru. Through the wisdom, intelligence, Self-realization, and teachings of such a master, God guides the disciple. By following the master’s teachings and discipline, the disciple is able to fulfill his soul’s desire for the manna of God-perception. A true guru, ordained by God to help sincere seekers in response to their deep soul craving, is not an ordinary teacher: he is a human vehicle whose body, speech, mind, and spirituality God uses as a channel to attract and guide lost souls back to their home of immortality. A guru is a living embodiment of scriptural truth. He is an agent of salvation appointed by God in response to a devotee’s demand for release from the bondage of matter.

    “To keep company with the Guru,” wrote Swami Sri Yukteswar in The Holy Science, “is not only to be in his physical presence (as this is sometimes impossible), but mainly means to keep him in our hearts and to be one with him in principle and to attune ourselves with him.” See master.

    Gurudeva. “Divine teacher,” a customary Sanskrit term of respect that is used in addressing and referring to one’s spiritual preceptor; sometimes rendered in English as “Master.”

    Gurus of Self-Realization Fellowship. The Gurus of Self-Realization Fellowship (Yogoda Satsanga Society of India) are Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, and a line of exalted masters of contemporary times: Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar, and Paramahansa Yogananda. To show the harmony and essential unity of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Yoga precepts of Bhagavan Krishna is an integral part of the SRF dispensation. All of these Gurus, by their universal teachings and divine instrumentality, contribute to the fulfillment of the Self-Realization Fellowship mission of bringing to humanity a practical spiritual science of God-realization.

    The passing of a guru’s spiritual mantle to a disciple designated to carry on the lineage to which that guru belongs is termed guru-parampara. Thus Paramahansa Yogananda’s direct lineage of gurus is Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Swami Sri Yukteswar.

    Before his passing Paramahansaji stated that it was God’s wish that he be the last in the Self-Realization Fellowship line of Gurus. No succeeding disciple or leader in his society will ever assume the title of guru. “When I am gone,” he said, “the teachings will be the guru....Through the teachings you will be in tune with me and the great Gurus who sent me.”

    When questioned about the succession of the presidency of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, Paramahansaji stated: “There will always be at the head of this organization men and women of realization. They are already known to God and the Gurus. They shall serve as my spiritual successor and representative in all spiritual and organizational matters.”


    Hinduism. See Sanatana Dharma.

    Holy Ghost. The sacred Cosmic Intelligent Vibration projected from God to structure and sustain creation from Its own vibratory Essence. It is thus the Holy Presence of God, His Word, omnipresent in the universe and in every form, vehicle of God’s perfect universal reflection, Christ Consciousness (q.v.). The Comforter, Cosmic Mother Nature, Prakriti (q.v.). See Aum and Trinity.

    intuition. The all-knowing faculty of the soul, which enables man to experience direct perception of truth without the intermediary of the senses.

    ji. A suffix denoting respect, added to names and titles in India; as, Gandhiji, Paramahansaji, Guruji.

    Jnana Yoga. (Pronounced gyana yoga.) The path to union with God through transmutation of the discriminative power of the intellect into the omniscient wisdom of the soul.

    karma. Effects of past actions, from this or previous lifetimes; from the Sanskrit kri, to do. The equilibrating law of karma, as expounded in the Hindu scriptures, is that of action and reaction, cause and effect, sowing and reaping. In the course of natural righteousness, each man by his thoughts and actions becomes the molder of his destiny. Whatever energies he himself, wisely or unwisely, has set in motion must return to him as their starting point, like a circle inexorably completing itself. An understanding of karma as the law of justice serves to free the human mind from resentment against God and man. A man’s karma follows him from incarnation to incarnation until fulfilled or spiritually transcended. See reincarnation. The cumulative actions of human beings within communities, nations, or the world as a whole constitute mass karma, which produces local or far-ranging effects according to the degree and preponderance of good or evil. The thoughts and actions of every man, therefore, contribute to the good or ill of this world and all peoples in it.

    Karma Yoga. The path to God through nonattached action and service. By selfless service, by giving the fruits of one’s actions to God, and by seeing God as the sole Doer, the devotee becomes free of the ego and experiences God. See Yoga.

    Krishna. See Bhagavan Krishna.

    Krishna Consciousness. Christ Consciousness; Kutastha Chaitanya. See Christ Consciousness.

    Kriya Yoga. A sacred spiritual science, originating millenniums ago in India. It includes certain techniques of meditation whose devoted practice leads to realization of God. Paramahansa Yogananda has explained that the Sanskrit root of kriya is kri, to do, to act and react; the same root is found in the word karma, the natural principle of cause and effect. Kriya Yoga is thus “union (yoga) with the Infinite through a certain action or rite (kriya).” Kriya Yoga is praised by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita and by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Revived in this age by Mahavatar Babaji (q.v.), Kriya Yoga is the diksha (spiritual initiation) bestowed by the Gurus of Self-Realization Fellowship. Since the mahasamadhi (q.v.) of Paramahansa Yogananda, diksha is conferred through his appointed spiritual representative, the president of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India (or through one appointed by the president).

    kundalini. The powerful current of creative life energy residing in a subtle coiled passageway at the base of the spine. In ordinary waking consciousness, the body’s life force flows from the brain down the spine and out through this coiled kundalini passage, enlivening the physical body and tying the astral and causal bodies (qq.v.)and the indwelling soul to the mortal form. In the higher states of consciousness that are the goal of meditation, the kundalini energy is reversed to flow back up the spine to awaken the dormant spiritual faculties in the cerebrospinal centers (chakras). Also called the “serpent force,” because of its coiled configuration.

    Kutastha Chaitanya. Christ Consciousness (q.v.). The Sanskrit word kutastha means “that which remains unchanged”; chaitanya means “consciousness.”

    Lahiri Mahasaya. Lahiri was the family name of Shyama Charan Lahiri (1828–1895). Mahasaya, a Sanskrit religious title, means “large-minded.” Lahiri Mahasaya was a disciple of Mahavatar Babaji, and the guru of Swami Sri Yukteswar (Paramahansa Yogananda’s guru). Lahiri Mahasaya was the one to whom Babaji revealed the ancient, almost-lost science of Kriya Yoga (q.v.). A Yogavatar (“Incarnation of Yoga”), he was a seminal figure in the renaissance of yoga in modern India who gave instruction and blessing to countless seekers who came to him, without regard to caste or creed. He was a Christlike teacher with miraculous powers; but also a family man with business responsibilities, who demonstrated for the modern world how an ideally balanced life can be achieved by combining meditation with right performance of outer duties. Lahiri Mahasaya’s life is described in Autobiography of a Yogi.

    life force. See prana.

    lifetrons. See prana.


    mahasamadhi. Sanskrit maha, “great,” samadhi. The last meditation, or conscious communion with God, during which a perfected master merges himself in the cosmic Aum and casts off the physical body. A master invariably knows beforehand the time God has appointed for him to leave his bodily residence. See samadhi.

    Mahavatar Babaji. The deathless Mahavatar (“great avatar”) who in 1861 gave Kriya Yoga (q.v.)initiation to Lahiri Mahasaya, and thereby restored to the world the ancient technique of salvation. Perennially youthful, he has lived for centuries in the Himalayas, bestowing a constant blessing on the world. His mission has been to assist prophets in carrying out their special dispensations. Many titles signifying his exalted spiritual stature have been given to him, but the mahavatar has generally adopted the simple name of Babaji, from the Sanskrit baba, “father,” and the suffix ji, denoting respect. More information about his life and spiritual mission is given in Autobiography of a Yogi. See avatar.

    man. The word is derived from the same root as Sanskrit manas, mind — the uniquely human capacity for rational thought. The science of yoga deals with human consciousness from the point of view of the essentially androgynous Self (atman). As there is no other terminology in English that would convey these psychological and spiritual truths without excessive literary awkwardness, the use of man and related terms has been retained in this publication — not in the narrowly exclusive sense of the word man, denoting only half of the human race, but in its broader original meaning.

    Mantra Yoga. Divine communion attained through devotional, concentrated repetition of root-word sounds that have a spiritually beneficial vibratory potency. See Yoga.

    master. One who has achieved self-mastery. Also, a respectful term of address for one’s guru (q.v.). Paramahansa Yogananda has pointed out that “the distinguishing qualifications of a master are not physical but spiritual....Proof that one is a master is supplied only by the ability to enter at will the breathless state (savikalpa samadhi) and by the attainment of immutable bliss (nirvikalpa samadhi).” See samadhi.

    maya. The delusory power inherent in the structure of creation, by which the One appears as many. Maya is the principle of relativity, inversion, contrast, duality, oppositional states; the “Satan” (lit., in Hebrew, “the adversary”) of the Old Testament prophets; and the “devil” whom Christ described picturesquely as a “murderer” and a “liar,” because “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).

    Paramahansa Yogananda wrote: “The Sanskrit word maya means ‘the measurer’; it is the magical power in creation by which limitations and divisions are apparently present in the Immeasurable and Inseparable. Maya is Nature herself — the phenomenal worlds, ever in transitional flux as antithesis to Divine Immutability. In God’s plan and play (lila), the sole function of Satan or maya is to attempt to divert man from Spirit to matter, from Reality to unreality.”

    meditation. Generally, interiorized concentration with the objective of perceiving God. True meditation, dhyana, is conscious realization of God through intuitive perception. It is achieved only after the devotee has attained that fixed concentration whereby he disconnects his attention from the senses and is completely undisturbed by sensory impressions from the outer world. Dhyana is the seventh step of Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga, the eighth step being samadhi, communion, oneness with God. See Patanjali.

    medulla oblongata. This structure at the base of the brain (top of the spinal cord) is the principal point of entry of life force (prana) into the body. It is the seat of the sixth cerebrospinal center, whose function is to receive and direct the incoming flow of cosmic energy. The life force is stored in the seventh center (sahasrara) in the topmost part of the brain. From that reservoir it is distributed throughout the body. The subtle center at the medulla is the main switch that controls the entrance, storage, and distribution of the life force.

    paramahansa. A spiritual title signifying a master (q.v.). It may be conferred only by a true guru on a qualified disciple. Paramahansa literally means “supreme swan.” In the Hindu scriptures, the hansa or swan symbolizes spiritual discrimination. Swami Sri Yukteswar bestowed the title on his beloved disciple Yogananda in 1935.

    paramguru. Literally, “the preceding guru”; the guru of one’s guru. To Self-Realizationists (disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda), paramguru refers to Sri Yukteswar. To Paramahansaji, it meant Lahiri Mahasaya. Mahavatar Babaji is Paramahansaji’s param-paramguru.

    Patanjali. Renowned exponent of yoga, a sage of ancient times, whose Yoga Sutras outline the principles of the yogic path, dividing it into eight steps: (1) moral proscriptions (yama), (2) right observances (niyama), (3) meditation posture (asana), (4) life-force control (pranayama), (5) interiorization of the mind (pratyahara), (6) concentration (dharana), (7) meditation (dhyana), (8) union with God (samadhi).

    Prakriti. Cosmic Nature; in general, the intelligent, creative vibratory power projected out of Spirit that both objectifies and becomes the triune manifestation (causal, astral, and physical) of the universe and the microcosm of man.

    Specifically designated: Maha-Prakriti is the primal Undifferentiated Creative Intelligence of God, Creative Mother Nature or Holy Ghost, that through Cosmic Vibration of Its own Self brings into manifestation all creation. Para-Prakriti (Pure Nature) and Apara-Prakriti (Impure Nature) correlate with the Christian terminologies of Holy Ghostand Satan — respectively, the creative power that expresses the immanence of God’s vibratory Presence in creation, and the dark power of cosmic delusion that obscures the Divine Omnipresence.

    prana. Sparks of intelligent finer-than-atomic energy that constitute life, collectively referred to in Hindu scriptural treatises as prana, which Paramahansa Yogananda has translated as “lifetrons.” In essence, condensed thoughts of God; substance of the astral world (q.v.) and life principle of the physical cosmos. In the physical world, there are two kinds of prana: (1) the cosmic vibratory energy that is omnipresent in the universe, structuring and sustaining all things; (2) the specific prana or energy that pervades and sustains each human body through five currents or functions. Prana current performs the function of crystallization; vyana current, circulation; samana current, assimilation; udana current, metabolism; and apana current, elimination.

    pranam. A form of greeting in India. The hands are pressed, palms together, with the base of the hands at the heart and the fingertips touching the forehead. This gesture is actually a modification of the pranam, literally “complete salutation,” from the Sanskrit root nam, “to salute or bow down,” and the prefix pra, “completely.” A pranam salutation is the general mode of greeting in India. Before renunciants and persons held in high spiritual regard, it may be accompanied by the spoken word, “Pranam.”

    pranayama. Conscious control of prana (the creative vibration or energy that activates and sustains life in the body). The yoga science of pranayama is the direct way to consciously disconnect the mind from the life functions and sensory perceptions that tie man to body consciousness. Pranayama thus frees man’s consciousness to commune with God. All scientific techniques that bring about union of soul and Spirit may be classified as yoga, and pranayama is the greatest yogic method for attaining this divine union.


    Raja Yoga. The “royal” or highest path to God-union. It teaches scientific meditation (q.v.) as the ultimate means for realizing God, and includes the highest essentials from all other forms of Yoga. The Self-Realization Fellowship Raja Yoga teachings outline a way of life leading to perfect unfoldment in body, mind, and soul, based on the foundation of Kriya Yoga (q.v.) meditation. See yoga.

    Rajarsi Janakananda (James J. Lynn). Exalted disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, and first successor to him as president and spiritual head of Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society of India until his passing on February 20, 1955. Mr. Lynn first received Kriya Yoga initiation from Paramahansaji in 1932; his spiritual advancement was so swift that the Guru lovingly referred to him as “Saint Lynn,” until bestowing on him the monastic title of Rajarsi Janakananda in 1951.

    reincarnation. The doctrine that human beings, compelled by the law of evolution, incarnate repeatedly in progressively higher lives — retarded by wrong actions and desires, and advanced by spiritual endeavors — until Self-realization and God-union are attained. Having thus transcended the limitations and imperfections of mortal consciousness, the soul is forever freed from compulsory reincarnation. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out” (Revelation 3:12).

    rishis. Seers, exalted beings who manifest divine wisdom; especially, the illumined sages of ancient India to whom the Vedas were intuitively revealed.

    sadhana. Path of spiritual discipline. The specific instruction and meditation practices prescribed by the guru for his disciples, who by faithfully following them ultimately realize God.

    samadhi. The highest step on the Eightfold Path of Yoga, as outlined by the sage Patanjali (q.v.). Samadhi is attained when the meditator, the process of meditation (by which the mind is withdrawn from the senses by interiorization), and the object of meditation (God) become One. Paramahansa Yogananda has explained that “in the initial states of God-communion (savikalpa samadhi) the devotee’s consciousness merges in the Cosmic Spirit; his life force is withdrawn from the body, which appears ‘dead,’ or motionless and rigid. The yogi is fully aware of his bodily condition of suspended animation. As he progresses to higher spiritual states (nirvikalpa samadhi), however, he communes with God without bodily fixation; and in his ordinary waking consciousness, even in the midst of exacting worldly duties.” Both states are characterized by oneness with the ever new bliss of Spirit, but the nirvikalpa state is experienced by only the most highly advanced masters.

    Sanatana Dharma. Literally, “eternal religion.” The name given to the body of Vedic teachings that came to be called Hinduism after the Greeks designated the people on the banks of the river Indus as Indoos, or Hindus.See dharma.

    Satan. Literally, in Hebrew, “the adversary.” Satan is the conscious and independent universal force that keeps everything and everybody deluded with the unspiritual consciousness of finiteness and separateness from God. To accomplish this, Satan uses the weapons of maya (cosmic delusion) and avidya (individual delusion, ignorance). See maya.

    Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sanskrit term for God that expresses the essential nature of Spirit as eternal Being or Truth (Sat), infinite consciousness (Chit), and ever new Bliss (Ananda).

    Sat-Tat-Aum. Sat, Truth, the Absolute, Bliss; Tat, universal intelligence or consciousness; Aum, cosmic intelligent creative vibration, word-symbol for God. See Aum and Trinity.

    Self. Capitalized to denote the atman or soul, as distinguished from the ordinary self, which is the personality or ego (q.v.). The Self is individualized Spirit, whose nature is ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new joy. Experience of these divine qualities of the soul’s nature is achieved through meditation.

    Self-realization. Paramahansa Yogananda has defined Self-realization as “the knowing — in body, mind, and soul — that we are one with the omnipresence of God; that we do not have to pray that it come to us, that we are not merely near it at all times, but that God’s omnipresence is our omnipresence; that we are just as much a part of Him now as we ever will be. All we have to do is improve our knowing.”

    Self-Realization. An abbreviated way of referring to Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), the society founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, often used by him in informal talks; e.g. “the Self-Realization teachings”; “Self-Realization headquarters in Los Angeles”; etc.

    Self-Realization Fellowship. The international nonsectarian religious society founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in the United States in 1920 (and as Yogoda Satsanga Society of India in 1917) to disseminate worldwide the spiritual principles and meditation techniques of Kriya Yoga, and to foster greater understanding among people of all races, cultures, and creeds of the one Truth underlying all religions. The mission for Paramahansa Yogananda’s society is set forth in his “Aims and Ideals of Self-Realization Fellowship.” Paramahansa Yogananda has explained that the name Self-Realization Fellowship signifies “fellowship with God through Self-realization, and friendship with all truth-seeking souls.”

    Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons. The teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, sent to students throughout the world in a series of lessons for home-study, available to all earnest truth-seekers. These lessons contain the yoga meditation techniques taught by Paramahansa Yogananda, including, for those who qualify, Kriya Yoga (q.v.).

    Self-Realization Fellowship/Yogoda Satsanga Society Monastic Order. Part of the ancient Swami Order established by the first Shankaracharya for those who feel called to complete renunciation in a life of seeking and serving God through the yoga ideals of meditative and dutiful activities. Monks and nuns of the Order reside in the society’s ashram centers and serve Paramahansa Yogananda’s worldwide work in many capacities, including: conducting Self-Realization Fellowship temple services, retreats, classes, and other spiritual and ministerial functions; providing spiritual counsel and guidance to thousands of students of the teachings each month; and administering the society’s various charitable activities. The monastics, of many different backgrounds and ages, come from all parts of the world.

    Self-Realization magazine. An annual journal published by Self-Realization Fellowship, featuring the talks and writings of Paramahansa Yogananda; and containing other spiritual, practical, and informative articles of current interest and lasting value.

    Shankara, Swami. Sometimes referred to as Adi (“the first”) Shankaracharya (Shankara + acharya,“teacher”); India’s most illustrious philosopher. His date is uncertain; many scholars assign him to the eighth or early ninth century. He expounded God not as a negative abstraction, but as positive, eternal, omnipresent, ever new Bliss. Shankara reorganized the ancient Swami Order, and founded four great maths (monastic centers of spiritual education), whose leaders in apostolic succession bear the title of Jagadguru Sri Shankaracharya. The meaning of Jagadguru is “world teacher.”

    siddha. Literally, “one who is successful.” One who has attained Self-realization.

    soul. Individualized Spirit. The soul is the true and immortal nature of man, and of all living forms of life; it is cloaked only temporarily in the garments of causal, astral, and physical bodies. The nature of the soul is Spirit: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Joy.

    spiritual eye. The single eye of intuition and omnipresent perception at the Christ (Kutastha) center (ajna chakra) between the eyebrows. The deeply meditating devotee beholds the spiritual eye as a ring of golden light encircling a sphere of opalescent blue, and at the center, a pentagonal silver-white star. Microcosmically, these forms and colors epitomize, respectively, the vibratory realm of creation (Cosmic Nature, Holy Ghost); the Son or intelligence of God in creation (Christ Consciousness); and the vibrationless Spirit beyond all creation (God the Father; Cosmic Consciousness). The spiritual eye is the entryway into the ultimate states of divine consciousness.

    Jesus also spoke of the spiritual eye: “When thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light....Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness” (Luke 11:34-35).

    Sri. A title of respect. When used before the name of a religious person, it means “holy” or “revered.”

    Sri Yukteswar, Swami. Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri (1855–1936), India’s Jnanavatar, “Incarnation of Wisdom”; guru of Paramahansa Yogananda, and paramguru of Self-Realization Fellowship Kriyaban members. Sri Yukteswarji was a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya. At the behest of Lahiri Mahasaya’s guru, Mahavatar Babaji, he wrote The Holy Science, a treatise on the underlying unity of Christian and Hindu scriptures, and trained Paramahansa Yogananda for his spiritual world-mission: the dissemination of Kriya Yoga (q.v.). Paramahansaji has lovingly described Sri Yukteswarji’s life in Autobiography of a Yogi.

    superconscious mind. The all-knowing power of the soul that perceives truth directly; intuition.

    superconsciousness. The pure, intuitive, all-seeing, ever blissful consciousness of the soul. Sometimes used generally to refer to all the various states of samadhi (q.v.) experienced in meditation, but specifically the first state of samadhi, wherein one drops ego-consciousness and realizes his self as soul, made in the image of God. Thence follow the higher states of realization: Christ consciousness and cosmic consciousness (qq.v.).

    swami. A member of India’s most ancient monastic order, reorganized in the ninth century by Swami Shankara (q.v.). A swami takes formal vows of celibacy and renunciation of worldly ties and ambitions; he devotes himself to meditation and other spiritual practices, and to service to humanity. There are ten classificatory titles of the venerable Swami Order, as Giri, Puri, Bharati, Tirtha, Saraswati, and others. Swami Sri Yukteswar (q.v.) and Paramahansa Yogananda belonged to the Giri (“mountain”) branch. The Sanskrit word swami means “he who is one with the Self (Swa).”


    tattvas. See elements.

    Trinity. When Spirit manifests creation, It becomes the Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Ghost, or Sat, Tat, Aum. The Father (Sat) is God as the Creator existing beyond creation (Cosmic Consciousness). The Son (Tat) is God’s omnipresent intelligence existing in creation (Christ Consciousness or KutasthaChaitanya). The Holy Ghost (Aum) is the vibratory power of God that objectifies and becomes creation.

    Many cycles of cosmic creation and dissolution have come and gone in Eternity (see yuga). At the time of cosmic dissolution, the Trinity and all other relativities of creation resolve into the Absolute Spirit.

    Upanishads. The Upanishads or Vedanta (lit., “end of the Vedas”), which occur in certain parts of the four Vedas, are essential summaries that form the doctrinal basis of the Hindu religion.

    Vedanta. Literally, “end of the Vedas”; the philosophy stemming from the Upanishads, or latter portion of the Vedas. Shankara (eighth or early ninth century) was the chief exponent of Vedanta, which declares that God is the only reality and that creation is essentially an illusion. As man is the only creature capable of conceiving of God, man himself must be divine, and his duty therefore is to realize his true nature.

    Vedas. The four scriptural texts of the Hindus: Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, and Atharva Veda. They are essentially a literature of chant, ritual, and recitation for vitalizing and spiritualizing all phases of man’s life and activity. Among the immense texts of India, the Vedas (Sanskrit root vid, “to know”) are the only writings to which no author is ascribed. The Rig Veda assigns a celestial origin to the hymns and tells us they have come down from “ancient times,” reclothed in new language. Divinely revealed from age to age to the rishis, “seers,” the four Vedas are said to possess nityatva, “timeless finality.”

    Yoga. From Sanskrit yuj, “union.” The highest connotation of the word yoga in Hindu philosophy is union of the individual soul with Spirit through scientific methods of meditation. Within the larger spectrum of Hindu philosophy, Yoga is one of six orthodox systems: Vedanta, Mimamsa, Sankhya, Vaisesika, Nyaya, and Yoga. There are also various types of yoga methods: Hatha Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga, the “royal” or complete yoga, is that which is taught by Self-Realization Fellowship, and which Bhagavan Krishna extols to his disciple Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita: “The yogi is greater than body-disciplining ascetics, greater even than the followers of the path of wisdom or of the path of action; be thou, O Arjuna, a yogi!” (Bhagavad Gita VI:46). The sage Patanjali, foremost exponent of Yoga, has outlined eight definite steps by which the Raja Yogi attains samadhi, or union with God. These are (1) yama, moral conduct; (2) niyama, religious observances; (3) asana, right posture; (4) pranayama, control of prana, subtle life currents; (5) pratyahara, interiorization, withdrawal of the senses from external objects; (6) dharana,concentration, (7) dhyana, meditation; and (8) samadhi, superconscious experience; union with God.

    yogi. One who practices Yoga (q.v.). Anyone who practices a scientific technique for divine realization is a yogi. He may be either married or unmarried, either a man of worldly responsibilities or one dedicated to formal religious vows.

    Yogoda Satsanga Society of India. The name by which Paramahansa Yogananda’s society is known in India. The Society was founded in 1917 by Paramahansa Yogananda. Its headquarters, Yogoda Math, is situated on the banks of the Ganges at Dakshineswar, near Kolkata. Yogoda Satsanga Society has a branch math at Ranchi, Jharkhand (formerly Bihar), and many branch centers. In addition to Yogoda meditation centers throughout India, there are twenty-two educational institutions, from primary through college level. Yogoda, a word coined by Paramahansa Yogananda, is derived from yoga, union, harmony, equilibrium; and da, that which imparts. Satsanga is composed of sat, truth, and sanga, fellowship. For the West, Sri Yogananda translated the Indian name as “Self-Realization Fellowship.”

    yuga. A cycle or subperiod of creation, outlined in ancient Hindu texts. Sri Yukteswar (q.v.) describes in The Holy Science a 24,000-year Equinoctial Cycle and mankind’s present place in it. This cycle occurs within the much longer universal cycle of the ancient texts, as calculated by the rishis of aeons past and discussed in Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 16.

    Pronunciation Guide