‘Absolute’ capitalized would refer to a supramundane or spiritual Absolute that cannot be transcended. Absolute in this sense is the ultimate spiritual reality and not the absolute of a material or physical property. Absolute more often refers to the impersonal aspect of God (Godhead) and is used synonymously with ‘Supreme.’
A meditation posture as defined by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras. Asanas are sometimes referred to as “yoga postures” or “yoga positions” performed just for health purposes. Asanas promote good health in various ways. Placing the body in the positions prescribed by yoga also cultivates self-awareness, relaxation and concentration.
Aspiration as we use it does not mean ‘ambition’ or a motive for personal gain, but rather a deep psychic will to implement the inspirations of spiritual practice right up to and including Self-Realization (God Realization) and Enlightenment. Aspiration is intimately connected with deeper spiritual inspiration and is the resolve to go forward in one’s spiritual practice and achieve ones inner inspirations sequentially until there is a conscious union between body and soul, mind and God or Ultimate Reality. (See Inspiration)
To concentrate one focuses his awareness in such a way as to exclude other influences. In the concentrated awareness of meditation, the meditator is able to enter into a relationship or conscious oneness or insight with the object of his or her concentration. In meditation, concentration is a penetrating force exerted without discursive thinking. In one system of thought, the meditative process goes through three general stages: concentration > meditation > contemplation. By concentration we enter into the peaceful meditative state, and from the peaceful ground of meditation we enter into deeper and more refined states of insight.
‘Dharma’ has a variety of meanings. Capitalized, it often refers to the formal techings of the Buddha or to the scriptural teachings of the Vedas as the Sanatan Dharma, or cosmic law. ‘dharma’ with a lower case ‘d’ also refers to phenomena and the many laws that govern phenomena. It can also refer to the particular order or duty of ones personal life, namely, what those duties are and their extent.
(Also see Liberation, Moksha. Realization)
To be enlightened is to be fully and permanently awakened to reality as reality actually is. (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi) To be enlightened is to be free of delusional ideas, personal opinions and impressions. The enlightened being is said to be unhindered by the defilements and imperfections that vex ordinary human beings. Such clarity produces a supermundane insight into the workings and relationships of the world and therefore gives rise to great compassion and wisdom. Associated with, but may not be identical with Realization in all its varied usages.
HAPPINESS – MUNDANE
Happiness can be used in the everyday or lesser sense being satisfied and cheer with ones present experience. This ‘everyday’ sense would have much to do with sensory gratification and the fulfilment of vital or mental desires. Such human happiness is often referred to as the ‘mundane’ or ‘ordinary’ happiness associated with pleasant external conditions. This ‘external’ has to do with body and mind, so a happy mental disposition would be included as well. Such happiness is often dependent upon acquisition of desired objects and expectations. Mundane happiness, however intense or well founded in the moment is impermanent and therefore unrealiable.
Happiness of a psychic or spiritual nature would refer to the constant condition of the soul, or inmost being. This ‘happiness’ arises, not from pleasant external conditions, but from an awareness that the soul and God/Ultimate Reality are one and that oneness cannot be disturbed or interrupted. Such happiness does not depend on life conditions but is a constant reality in the deepest inmost nature of being. One does not ‘attain’ or ‘achieve’ spiritual happiness, so much as eliminate the defilements or personal obstructions to it. This is achieved the various spiritual disciplines and practices.
In Sanskrit, avidya means ignorance. This ignorance is not just a lack of education but a lack of deeper life wisdom. An uneducated man may be very wise in life, while a man with many degrees may be quite foolish. Ignorance in this spiritual sense is a lack of subtle insights into oneself. This implies the presence of defilements and vexations that block deep insight. As knowledge is associated with education, insight is associated with wisdom. In Buddhism and Hinduism, ignorance avidya is the ultimate source of all problems. It is corrected, not by formal education, but by developing the skill of insight through meditation and other spiritual practices.
Inner (inner world, inner reality, etc.) refers to the functions of our deeper consciousness and the spiritual component of our being. This would refer less to the mind and emotions than to psyche or soul. Because thoughts and emotions arise from the physical nature and physical conditions, they would be considered ‘outer’ expression in our blogs. The ‘inner’ life, would refer to the deeper origins of the soul or psyche that is independent of the body and the physical mind. (See OUTER).
In life we all have inspirations. Some of these arise from deep within our inmost nature and some arise from very shallow mental or vital desires. Some may be positive and some negative in tone and effect. ‘Inspiration’ as used in our blogs refers to the positive insights and movements that arise from the deepest responses to life. They are the vision we have for becoming better human beings and for helping the world to become a better place for all.
One man’s ‘spiritual inspiration’ may be another man’s ‘common desire,’ thus any definition of ‘inspiration’ must necessarily be linked to the level of a person’s selfless aspiration. (see ASPIRATION) Spiritually, as in our usage, ‘inspiration’ is a desire to move closer to ones soul or essential nature and to God or Ultimate Reality. A person’s aspiration is his or her will to realize their deepest spiritual inspirations.
What is deep to one may be shallow to another. A ‘spiritual’ inspiration is that which arises from the deepest part of your being that you can access. Inspirations are positive in nature, they cause us to become a happier and a better person. A spiritual person is one who pursuits and fulfils his or her deepest inspirations through a spiritual will (see Aspiration).
(Also see Moksha, Enlightenment, and Realization)
Liberation is freedom from suffering caused by ignorance and the defilements of our human nature. Examples of defilements are: greed, lust, hate and delusion. Liberation arises in the advanced states of spiritual practice where defilements have eliminated or transcended. (Buddhist) In should be noted that this liberation is of a spiritual or psychological nature. It is not always a physical freedom from negative sensations like pain. Rather, physical pain would no longer create a negative psychological impression such as anxiety or fear. Liberation takes place within the consciousness of the liberated and is a state of spiritual or psychological freedom.
This psychological freedom will result in physical benefits as well. Many physical maladies have their origins in the mind, such would no longer exist for the ‘liberated’ person. Liberation is conceived by some as a stage leading to Ultimate Enlightenment. (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi) or the word ‘liberation’ may be used synonymously with ‘enlightenment.’ In such cases it is conceived of as ‘Final or Ultimate Liberation’ and may be capitalized.
Light as used in our blogs generally refers not to the light of consciousness and not to physical illumination. Capitalized as ‘Light,’ it refers to a supramundane or divine consciousness, whether impersonal (Buddha Mind or Godhead) or personal (God or a that of a specific saint). When referring to the mundane and secular consciousness, light is not capitalized. Buddha’s Light would be capitalized because of the spiritual nature of his consciousness; the light of Einstein would not be capitalized because of the secular nature of his consciousness. The secular and spiritual obviously overlap in all people’s consciousness, so the distinction is ultimately arbitrary. In our blogs capitalized nouns in mid-sentence generally refer to a word’s spiritual or religious connotation.
LOVE – ANIMAL
Animal love is carnal lust associated with sexual attractions. In reference to yoga it is an attraction of a primarily physical nature, as opposed to an attraction based on psychological or spiritual causations. Animal love is the most temporary and unstable of all loves. It is often violent in nature and associated with conquest and domination. Associated with purely biological urges and the organs of reproduction. In the hierarch of some spiritual theologies animal love is give the lowest and least desirable status as a form of love.
LOVE – HUMAN
Human love may well include elements of ‘animal love’ but is founded mainly upon psychological attractions. People in successful relationships of ‘human love’ are thought to ‘compatible’ in a variety of ways having to do with personality traits or psychological inclinations. There may still be a strong sense of possessiveness and even elements of abuse in human love. There is often a psychological clinging or co-dependency, but qualities of selflessness and genuine caring. In some spiritual systems human love is thought to be a transitional stage between animal love and higher spiritual states of ‘divine love.’ Associated with the personal longings of the heart.
LOVE – DIVINE
Divine Love is love of God and love of the soul, or inmost essence, of all things. Divine Love is unconditional compassion for all living beings. ‘Divine’ means it is pure and is utterly without personal interest. This separates it from ‘human love.’ Saints and persons far advanced in spiritual practice are said to possess or to e possessed by ‘divine love.’ Sometime ‘human love’ may rise to a level of selflessness that appears ‘divine’ and the same can be said for animals, but the quality other than selflessness that makes love ‘divine’ is its permanence. Human and animal love may rise at times to a new height, but divine love is constant and unwavering at all times and in all circumstances. In the dynamic of spiritual practice it is thought of as a transformation of human love. Divine love is associated with the higher states of spiritual development like moksha, realization and enlightenment and is considered to have its origins in the soul, or inmost nature of our being.
Meditation is often used in conventional literature as a synonym for thinking deeply. This deep thinking can go deeper still and lapse into meditation proper on occasions, but our usage generally refers to the more technical and spiritual definition of a fixed concentration that turns the focus of consciousness inward.
Meditation may or may not begin with an identifiable object to concentrate upon. If there is an object it, may be either physical (a flower or religious icon, etc.) or it may be an abstraction (peace); but to penetrate to its ultimate aim, meditation must become a deeply internalized silence. This silence is psychic and not physical. It may be found in the midst of chanting or singing, for example. Experienced meditators can arrive at this internal silence even in a noisy environment like a subway train. A pleasant and quiet place is recommended for beginners because it affords fewer external distractions.
(Also see Liberation, Enlightenment, Realization)
Moksha referred to variously as a state or condition of spiritual release, usually from the presumed cycle of birth and death (Hindusim) but may also mean freedom from vexations, in in the Buddhist definition of ‘liberation.’ Moksha differs from Nirvana (Buddhist) in that it is thought of as a blissful state, whereas Nirvana is a state removed from negative or positive feelings.
Despite its many mistaken usages in modern advertising, ‘Nirvana’ does not mean ‘bliss’ or refer to a ‘heavenly existence.’ It is not heaven even for Buddhists. Nirvana means being free of desires and discriminate thinking. To be in Nirvana is to be unmoved by circumstances (good or bad, etc.). It is a perception independent of the dualistic and discursive nature of ordinary mind. A person utterly without personal desires but imbued with abundant life energy and a sharp awareness is a person who exists in Nirvana. This state is always within us, but is uncovered or revealed by spiritual practice and deep wisdom.
In our blogs ‘outer’ usually refers to that which has its cause in physical conditions. Most, if not all of our thoughts and emotions would be referred to as ‘outer’ phenomena because they arise for the most part as a result of the workings of body and mind, and thus have a physical causation. The ‘inner’ aspect of our existence is not dependent upon body and mind. One may be ill and have brain damage and be spiritually or ‘inwardly’ at peace. In our blogs ‘inner’ refers to the spiritual aspect of our existence. ‘Outer’ refers to all else. (See INNER)
A Samadhi is a state of awareness and a condition of being generated by a particular level or kind of concentration. Some Samadhis are named after the object of their concentration, some according to the height or depth of the concentration. As a condition of consciousness, we all live in and are the result of a particular Samadhi, the concentration of our individual consciousness. In the narrower and more technical sense, a Samadhi is a formal state of meditative concentration. (Nirvakalpa Samadhi, etc.)
Soul is primarily used to refer to the inmost nature of living beings and is often thought of as a spiritual entity independent of the body or human personality, or it may be thought to arise from the physical nature, as in the case of the human personality or mental consciousness. Like the word ‘love’ it is used in a variety of ways and not all are consistent or compatible with others. Religious dogmas affix a variety of definitions to the word, but the common quality is that soul is just the essence of the individual being. The soul is thought by some to be a permanent entity and by others to be an individualized manifestation of a common and infinite ‘universal soul’ (as a drop of water in relation to the ocean). Soul appears in literature and other writings with a variety of other definitions. (See dictionary definition below)
The value of yoga as a spiritual practice is that it brings our physical nature into a closer and more harmonious relationship with the soul. Some synonyms for ‘soul’ used in our blogs are, ‘inner being’, ‘inmost self’, ‘true or real self’, ‘the inner child’, ‘original self’, etc.
1 seeing the soul through the eyes: spirit, psyche, (inner) self, inner being, life force, vital force; individuality, makeup, subconscious, anima; Philosophy pneuma; Hinduism atman.
2 he is the soul of discretion: embodiment, personification, incarnation, epitome, quintessence, essence; model, exemplification, exemplar, image, manifestation.
3 not a soul in sight: person, human being, individual, man, woman, mortal, creature.
4 their music lacked soul: inspiration, feeling, emotion, passion, animation, intensity, fervor, ardor, enthusiasm, warmth, energy, vitality, spirit.
‘Supreme’ is used interchangeably to mean a supreme personal God and/or an ultimate impersonal Godhead. The Supreme is the highest reality or insight accessible to the human consciousness, but it would also be all that is beyond what the human consciousness can comprehend or experience. The Supreme is the Ultimate Cause and Reality. For an example of both impersonal and personal usage, click the hyperlink above.
Sutra (IAST: sūtra सूत्र) is a Sanskrit word that means “string” or “thread”. In Indian literary traditions, it also refers to an aphorism or a collection of aphorisms in the form of a manual or text.
In Hinduism, sutra denotes a compilation of short aphorisms around which teachings of ritual, philosophy, grammar or any field of knowledge can be woven. The abbreviated nature of the sutras allows key points of knowledge to be memorized and conveyed orally over many generations. Teachers then elaborate upon or explain the sutras in relation to present circumstances and conditions.
In Buddhism, sutra or sutta refers primarily to canonical scriptures, many of which are regarded as records of the oral teachings of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. The Pali word, sutta, refers exclusively to refer to the early Pali Canon, the texts recognized by Theravada Buddhism as canonical
In Jainism, sutra or suya refers to canonical sermons of Mahavira contained in the Jain Agamas and to some later (post-canonical) normative texts
Most of the time when the word ‘vital’ is used as a noun, we are referring to the energy field of the body and its overall effect on our behavior and well-being. Various systems of philosophy have compartmentalized human existence. Each of these aspects of being, are seen as a locus of consciousness. For instance, Buddhism envisions five aggregates of being: bodily form, the sensations of the body, the perceptions that arise from these sensations, the thoughts that arise from our perceptions and finally an over arching consciousness that results from the interaction of the other four. These aggregates make up our human identity.
Another system posits a different five: the physical body, the vital energies of the body, the heart or psychic nature, the mind and mental nature, and finally the soul or spiritual nature. These five together form our concept of whom we are and each is said to have its own ‘consciousness.’ The consciousness of the body is lethargic, the vital is energetic in both positive and negative ways. The heart is loving but insecure, the mind is rather sterile and mechanistic, while that of the soul is peaceful and blissful in all circumstances. When we refer to ‘vital’ it is more often than not as this conscious force of physical energy in the body as it affects the whole of our being.