YOGA, YOGAS – System of Thought and Practice

The word yoga is frequently used in Indian philosophy. It means “union” and connotes uniting the individual self with the higher Self. The Bhagavad Gîtâ defined yoga as “skillfulness in action” and “steadiness of mind.” Yoga as a system of Indian thought was founded by Patanjali, probably of the second century B.C.E. Around the time … Read more

VEDAS – The Holy Scripture of Hinduism

Veda means “knowledge,” but specifically refers to the eternal wisdom of the four collections of hymns, sacrificial rituals, and other sacred texts that are called the Vedas. Along with the four collections (the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Âranyakas, and the Upanishads), two more bodies of literature, the Sutras and the Vedângas, are sometimes included in … Read more

VÂLMÎKI – The Author of the Râmâyana

There are no authentic records about Vâlmîki’s parentage. The popular version considered him to be the tenth son of Varuna, god of the sea. Vâlmîki was considered to be the first poet. There is an interesting story about the earlier part of Vâlmîki’s life. He began this life as a hunter named Ratnâkra who looked … Read more

VAIVASVATA MANU – The Manu of the Current Age

Vaivasvata Manu is the “first man” of the current manvantara (age or era). In the Rigveda there were references to Father Manu, implying that he was either a creator or a progenitor of the human race, but this reference seemed to refer to the sun god Sûrya. In the Satapatha Brahmana Manu was known as … Read more

URVASÎ – Famous Apsara (Celestial Nymph)

Urvasî’s story is unusual. She was an apsara, but instead of being born or created in heaven she was born from the thigh of a mortal. She resulted from a conflict between Indra and her father, the sage Nârâyana. It happened in this way. Nârâyana and Nara, sons of Dharma and grandsons of Brahmâ, were … Read more

UPANISHAD – Scripture from Last Four Parts of Vedas

The meaning of upanishad is “to sit near attentively.” They usually consisted of a metaphysical discussion between the sage and a disciple. There are 108 Upanishads traditionally, although only a dozen, the so-called major Upanishads, are in every list. Minor Upanishads are still being written. In the early Vedic period, before the Upanishads were recognized … Read more

TAPAS – The Hindu Concept of Austerity

Tapas, a central term in Hindu mythology, literally means “heat.” It served as a metaphor for the heat generated in ascetic and esoteric practices. Austerities that generated tapas, often themselves called tapas, were not always ascetic in spirit. Most myths link tapas with powers (siddhis): one practiced tapas in order to gain siddhis. The demons … Read more

TANTRA, TANTRISM – The Religious Practice

Tantra has had many meanings: a class of literature (the Tantras), practices that are non-Vedic (tantrika), one of the religious sects of Hinduism. There is no single word in Sanskrit for Tantrism as a religious perspective, even though its additions to the Hindu tradition make it quite distinctive. Tantrism can be seen in the point … Read more

TÂLADHVAJA – King and Husband of a Sage

The story of Tâladhvaja was retold to solve a variety of problems—above all, how a sage could remain an ascetic when he had changed genders to marry a king. The solution in the Devî Purâna was a kind of popular use of Advaitan philosophy in a myth: using a popular understanding that life is mâyâ, … Read more