Brahma – an important god; supreme power in the universe
Vishnu – an important god; the preserver of life
Shiva – an important god; the destroyer of ignorance
hereditary – passed on by reason of birth
caste system – one of the hereditary social classes in Hinduism that restricts the occupations of their members and their associations with members of other castes
Brahmins -highest caste group (priests, scholars, etc.)
Untouchables – members of a large hereditary group in India that many believed would defile (make unclean) members of higher castes if social contact was permitted (NOTE: Untouchables are not segregated from society as they previously were.)
dalit – Hindu word for “untouchables”; meaning oppressed
reincarnation – rebirth of a person’s soul during more than one life
Vedas – holy books
puja – Hindu worship
avatara (or avatar) – a divine descent or incarnation; Krishna and Ram are avataras of Vishnu
Bhagavad Gita– (often just Gita, which means song) – a section of the Mahabharata epic, often printed separately and esteemed as the greatest Hindu scripture
bhajan – a spiritual song, usually sung antiphonally (alternating between leader and group) and repetitiously
bhakta – a devotee; bhakti – devotion
bindi, tilak – the red dot worn by women on the forehead
dharma – duty; righteousness; order; that which sustains society; laws governing a person’s relationships and way of life in society to preserve proper order.
Dipavali or Diwali – The festival of lights, largest of the national religious holidays among Hindus, celebrated in the Fall.
guru – (sometimes called swami) – a teacher, in the highest spiritual sense often considered and treated as a god.
Hindi – official language of India (along with English), spoken primarily in the northern states.
karma – 1. in the general sense, good works; religious, moral and caste duties. 2. the principle that reward or punishment follows every deed.
mantra – a verse of Vedic scripture (but in popular use, a word or saying of mystic meaning that is considered to have great power)
om – mystic syllable without definition, often used at the beginning and end of a spiritual writing or meeting and in meditation
prasad – 1. grace 2. consecrated food that has been offered to a deity
sannyasi, sadhu – a holy man or woman. Traditionally a sannyasi is the fourth and final stage of the life of a high caste Hindu man. This is a stage for renunciation of everything earthly, including family ties, caste status and worship of idols–all in preparation for moving beyond this life into eternity.
Sanskrit- language of the Hindu scriptures, still spoken by some pandits (religious teachers)
Satsang – a spiritual meeting focused on truth and reality