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Glossary/Vocabulary

If you are new to Eastern traditions, or if you are walking the Sha'can path, you may find this to be a helpful resource. We have listed the most common terms that one may run across in our tradition, and hope you find this useful.

acarya (aah-chaar'-yah) - teacher; an advanced jnana yogi; traditionally, the formal title used for a respected teacher, appended to the end of their name, such as the famous teacher Shankaracarya (Shankar + acarya = Shankaracarya). Sometimes equated with guru, the acarya is differentiated somewhat from a guru as having deep knowledge in the scriptures and ability to use them to support his/her teaching, as well as a pure connection with the Divine.

agni (uhg'-nee) - fire; also the God of fire, one of the most important Gods of the Vedas; as such, Agni is considered the first purohit.

bali (buh'-lee or boh'-lee) - sacrifice. We use a melon, as is done in daksinacara Hindu practice, as the sacrifice in our puja.

dada (daa'-daa) - elder brother in Bengali

daksinacara (dak-shee'-na-chaara) - the “right-hand” path of Tantra; the dualistic path in which symbols are used in ritual as substitutes for what are otherwise used in vamacara practice to connect worshippers with the divine.

dasa mahavidya (duh'-shuh muh-haa'-vid'-yaah) - literally, the ten great female wisdoms, or the ten great wisdom goddesses; the ten fierce (primarily Tantrik) Goddesses who are considered forms of Kali. There are many lists that variously give their names. In the Sha'can tradition, we primarily worship this list: Kali, Tara, Sodashi/Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshvari, Chinnamasta, Bhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagala/Bagalamukhi, Matangi, Kamala.

deva (day'-vuh) - god

devanagari (day'-vah-nah'-gah-ree) - the script used for writing both Sanskrit and Hindi. Literally, "of the city of the gods."

devi (day'-vee) - goddess

dhyana (dyaah'-nuh) - meditation

-di (dee) - a Bengali honorific appended to a name to show respect or honor (like the Hindi -ji).

didi (dee'-dee) - elder sister in Bengali

evam astu (aay'-vum aah'-stoo) - thus it will be (synonymous with "blessed be," "so shall it be," so mote it be, or "amen")

Ganesha (Guh-nay'-shuh) - literally "Lord of the Multitudes" ("gana" referring to Shiva's multitude of attendants); the elephant-headed God of knowledge, wisdom, compassion, the remover of obstacles, the lord of the dance. He is traditionally worshiped first in all pujas, to remove obstacles to devotion. It is also said on a spiritual level that "ga" means knowledge and "na" means salvation - thus Ganesha is also the Lord of Knowledge and Salvation.

gayatri (gai'-yuh-tree... where "gai" rhymes with "pie") - a song or hymn; a meter for Sanskrit poetry; also the name of a Goddess who is the Mother of the Vedas and a personification of the famous Gayatri Mantra (not to be confused with the Kali Gayatri).

guru (goo'-roo) - teacher or guide; literally, venerable/worthy of praise; one who helps to cross from darkness (gu) to light (ru); one gifted with the ability to impart not only knowledge, but experience of the Divine, who can open the pathway to each individual's experience. This term is widely misunderstood, especially in the West.

A true spiritual guru, being continually and intimately connected with the Divine, serves the Divine and encourages each individual to explore their own direct connection with the Divine. They help guide others toward their own realization of Divinity, in the spirit of service to the Divine and to humanity. False gurus (sometimes referred to as cult leaders) often claim Divine oneness, then demand unquestioning faith for the purpose of self-glory, self-promotion and the exploitation and control of their followers.

Although we honor our lineage holders and teachers for helping us to connect more fully and deeply to our chosen paths, SHARANYA does not require or request any pledge of faith to any guru.

homa (hoh'-muh... where "hoh" rhymes with "show") - fire ceremony, during which clarified butter and other sacred substances are offered to the fire.

Jai Maa! - literally, "Victory to the Mother!" We've also heard it lovingly translated as "hooray Kali!" - which is a sweet and wonderful translation that captures its essence.

japa (juh'-puh) - literally, "muttering." It is the term for the process of devotionally repeating mantras with a mala, which when it becomes fast and quiet sounds like muttering.

-ji (jee) - a Hindi affectionate honorific; appended to the end of a name to denote affection.

jnana (nyaah'-nuh) - knowledge; wisdom. As a yogic path, the pursuit of connection with the Divine via intensive study of the Sanskrit scriptures and traditions, as well as intensive meditative and ritual devotional practice.

Kali (kaah'-lee) - based on the word meaning either "time" or "black," in simplest translation, Kali is "She Who is Time," or "She Who is Black." There are other, expanded meanings, as well. Her name should not be confused with the similar-looking word "kali," which means "terrible," but in devanagari is spelled differently and is also pronounced differently. In simple transliteration, the Goddess is Kaalii, and the word meaning "terrible" is kali.

kaula (kow'-luh) - family; as a Tantric term, this traditionally refers specifically to initiates in the same Tantric tradition, but we use it also to refer to those sincerely practicing Sha'can, not necessarily just initiates.

Maa - mother (affectionate colloquialism for Mata); somewhat better translated as "mama" or "mommy." Also spelled Ma.

maha (muh-haah') - great (as in Mahakali - the Great Kali; Mahadeva - the Great God)

mala (maah'-luh) - garland; the garland of beads similar to a rosary used for japa.

mandir (mun'-deer) - temple

mata (maah'-taah) - mother

marga (maar'-guh) - path or way, as in vamamarga.

matrika (muh'-tree-kaah) - little mother (as in the asta matrikas, "the eight little mothers"); in Sha'can, the second level of commitment toward ordination, after initiation.

namaste (nuh'-muh-stay) - literally, I bow to you. The spirit of this word, however, is the recognition of the divinity in each person.

prana (praah'-nuh) - the life-breath; energy carried on the breath into the body.

prema (pray'-muh) - love

puja (poo'-juh) - worship (specifically, ritual worship)

pujari (poo-jaah'-ree) - a priest who facilitates worship in a traditional Hindu service.

purohit (puh'-row-heet) - literally, the one who stands before others; i.e., the lead priest in a traditional Hindu ritual.

puspa (poosh'-puh) - flower; a symbol for menstrual blood.

rashani (rah-shaa'-nee) - priestess; in Sha'can, one who is ordained. It is a Romani (Gypsy) word, and thus symbolic of our standing as a bridge between East and West. (N.B. while in some instances we have learned of interesting twists on this meaning, the original meaning of the word Rashani is priestess, and this is how we use it in community.)

ritu (rih'-too) - cycle; used in Tantra to designate the menstrual cycle in particular as well as the blood of that cycle.

sa'ham (saah'-hum) - when pronounced with a long aa, it means literally "I am She;" when pronounced with a short a (often written “so'ham”), it means "I am He." This is frequently used in the feminine form by members of our community as a greeting or farewell and to recognize their oneness with Maa, the inherent divinity in themselves, and thus in all beings.

sankalpa (sun-kaahl'-puh) - intention

Shaiva (shai'-vuh) - one who primarily worships the God Shiva

Shakta (shaahk'-tuh) - one who primarily worships the Goddess; most typically, Shaktas worship Kali or Lalita (Also known commonly as Sri or Tripura Sundari)

shakti (shuhk'-tee) - power or energy; also, the name of the Goddess as the essence of the power of the universe; the divine female force.

shanti (shaahn'-tee) - peace

sharanya (shuh'-ruhn-yuh) - sanctuary, refuge

Shiva (shih'-vuh) - auspicious; the name of the God who is the consort of Kali Maa, and as such "He Who is the Auspicious One." He is the Great God, the Great Yogi, and the Lord of the Dance - referring to his cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction, which he dances with Maa Kali.

shri (shree) - an honorific denoting respect; used in front of a name. Deities are often referred to as "Shri Shri" and then their name.

shuddhi (shood'-hee) - purification

ugra (ooh'-grah) - angry, powerful or fierce

Vaishnava (vaish-naah'-vuh) - one who primarily worships the God Vishnu and/or his incarnations, such as Krishna and Rama

vamacara (vaah'-muh-chaara) - the 'left-hand' path of Tantra; the non-dualistic path in which traditionally impure, unclean or polluting substances are utilized in ritual in order to break down the practitioner's acculturated resistance to or fear of certain aspects of the divine.

vamamarga (vaah'-muh-maar'-guh) - the left-hand path (see also vamacara)

vidya (vihd'-yuh) - wisdom, knowledge

yogini (yoh-gee'-nee) - one who seeks spiritual union with the divine; sometimes causally used to refer to a practitioner of hatha yoga. A female divine intermediary who functions and acts on behalf of the absolute in the mundane realm. The first commitment level toward ordination in Sha'can after initiation.



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