Glossary of Terms often used in

Tantric Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism


H to O



The Sakti who presides over the Ajna chakra


Hatha Yoga:

Hatha means "force" and represents the union of two words - ha, "sun," and tha, "moon." Hatha yoga is the ancient Indian system of physical postures and breathing exercises that balances the opposing masculine and feminine forces in the body, the "sun" and the "moon."



The symbol of Shakti, while “A” is the symbol of Siva.


Hamsa ("swan/gander"):

apart from the literal meaning, this term also refers to the breath (prana) as it moves within the body; the individuated consciousness (jiva) propelled by the breath




Ida-nadi ("pale conduit"):

 The prana current or arc ascending on the left side of the central channel (sushumna nadi) associated with the parasympathetic nervous system and having a cooling or calming effect on the mind when activated



One of the three principal channels of the subtle body. It is the (female, lunar) nadi going about the central sushumna


An individual’s chosen deity.


Ishvara ("ruler"):

the Lord; referring either to the Creator or, in Patanjali's yoga-darshana, to a special transcendental Self (purusha)


Ishvara-pranidhana ("dedication to the Lord"):

in Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga one of the practices of self-restraint (niyama)



Jaina (sometimes Jain):

pertaining to the jinas ("conquerors"), the liberated adepts of Jainism; a member of Jainism, the spiritual tradition founded by Vardhamana Mahavira, a contemporary of Gautama the Buddha


The world teacher.



Waking consciousness.


Japa ("muttering"):

 the recitation of mantras



Birth stories or tales. Collection of 547 stories of previous lives of Buddha Shakyamuni which usually illustrate a point of doctrine or morality. These stories depict the good acts carried out by Buddha Shakyamuni in previous lifetimes that enabled him to be reborn as the Buddha in India. Jataka tales are part of Pali canon and are contained in Khuddaka nikaya section of Sutra Pitaka.



Control of the senses; in Tantrism, control of the sexual act and orgasm.


Jiva-atman, jivatman  ("individual self"):

 the individuated consciousness, as opposed to the ultimate Self (parama-atman)


Jivan-mukta ("he who is liberated while alive"):

an adept who, while still embodied, has attained liberation (moksha)


Jivan-mukti ("living liberation"):

 the state of liberation while being embodied videha-mukti



Very deep meditation or concentration that can be reached by the practice of samadhi. This is where one attains supernormal powers, sees his past lives, and gains wisdom of the true nature of reality. There are four levels of dhyana which correspond to the four levels of the form realm. This very deep meditation can also result in being born in these four levels of the form realm.


Jnana ("knowledge/wisdom"):

both worldly knowledge or world-transcending wisdom, depending on the context


Jnana-Yoga ("Yoga of wisdom"):

the path to liberation based on wisdom, or the direct intuition of the transcendental Self (atman) through the steady application of discernment between the Real and the unreal and renunciation of what has been identified as unreal (or inconsequential to the achievement of liberation)




Kaivalya ("isolation"):

Realization of one’s self as being identical with Reality. the state of absolute freedom from conditioned existence, as explained in ashta-anga-yoga in the nondualistic

advaita traditions of India, this is usually called moksha or mukti (meaning "release" from the fetters of ignorance)

Kali—The divine Sakti,

representing the creative and destructive aspects of nature, a transcendental symbol of human abilities. "Dark one.": The aspect of Divine Mother that fights evil and destroys the ego.

Kali Yuga.

"Age of Darkness.": The era of "spiritual decline" that is still in progress today. Described in Vedic scripture as a period "when society reaches a stage where property confers rank, wealth becomes the only source of virtue. . . falsehood the source of success in life. . . and when outer trappings are confused with inner religion." Tantra is a set of teachings intended for this particular age.



In ancient Indian cosmology, an extremely long period of time. There are various views on the length of kalpa.

 In general, a small kalpa is represented as 16,800,000 years, a kalpa as 336,000,000 years and a mahakalpa is 1,334,000,000 years. There is also another kalpa, even longer than mahakalpa, which is called Countless eon. This is the time it takes after you decide to begin collecting virtue to become a Buddha to actually become a Buddha. Master Vasubandhu says in his Abhidharmakosha that Countless eon is a period of three countless (countless actually means a number: about ten to the sixtieth power) mahakalpas.


Kalpa of continuance

Lifespans drop from 80,000 years down to ten years (this is called kalpa of decrease) because people are doing the ten nonvirtues more and more, which creates disturbances in the world. People create more and more powerful weapons. Most people are living in cities. Some people are out in the country when the weapons of destruction are unleashed, and only they survive. The few who survive are overcome with remorse, and decide to give up the ten non-virtues. Lifespans increase from ten years back up to 80,000 years (this is called kalpa of increase). This cycle repeats.


Kalpa of destruction

In the first nineteen small kalpas of the kalpa of decline, sentient beings in the six lower worlds from hell through the world of heavenly beings gradually disappearAt the beginning of the 20th eon, the rain stops and all vegetation dies, the sun supernovas, and splits into two. Later a third sun forms, and all rivers and streams evaporate. A fourth sun forms, and large lakes dry up. A fifth sun forms, and oceans dry up. A sixth sun forms, and continents go up in smoke. A seventh sun forms, and the planet burns up, which also causes the first level of the form realm to burn up. There are other kalpas of destruction by wind or water. There are also minor destruction eons where inhabitants destroy the planet with weapons, etc.


Kalpa of formation

According to Abhidharmakosha, the power of the karma of living beings first causes a small wind to arise in space. This wind grows and forms the windy circle thought to lie at the base of a world. Upon this windy circle, a watery circle and then a gold circle take shape, and upon them forms the land, with a Mount Sumeru, seas, and mountains. Then living beings begin to appear, first in the heavens, then in the human world, and successively in the lower of the six worlds, until finally beings appear in the hells. Human lives are immeasurable (a specific number with > 30 zeros) at this point. The formation eon ends when the first being is born in Avichi hell. Lifespans have dropped to 80,000 years at that point.


Kama Sutra:

The classical Indian treatise on the Art of Love. It is the earliest of the surviving Hindu love manuals, written around the second century A.D. by a sage called Vatsyayana. Other later texts, such as the Ananga Ranga and Koka Shastra, drew their inspiration from the Kama Sutra.

KAMA ( Desire)

Desire; an intrinsic aspect of divine will; the first step of the descent of consciousness toward manifestation of the material world.

Enjoyment, especially in sexual coition and love; desire as a cosmic power.


Kama Tattva

Primordial will, intention, and desire to embrace the life force; essential nature, true reality.



An egg-shaped electromagnetic sphere surrounding the Kundalini, which is the origin of nadis located in the area of the perineum.



Cause, source; Sanctified liquid (wine or juice) in Tantric Chakra-Puja ritual of union.



Action; the law of universal cause and effect.  "The law of cause and effect." The accumulated effect of past deeds and actions


Karman, karma ("action"):

 activity of any kind, including ritual acts; said to be binding only so long as engaged in a self-centered way; the "karmic" consequence of one's actions; destiny


A yoga of action, attaining liberation through reversing previous harmful actions and moving to liberating and energy-producing actions.



Compassion. Universal sympathy in Buddhist youga the complement of wisdom.



“Left-hand” sect of Tantra, usually associated with literal translation and use of the Tantric Scriptures. Rituals include physical coition and not “pretend” sexual actions.



No Tibetan custom is as well known as the offering of a khata or white scarf in greeting. The khata is an auspicious symbol. It lends a positive note to the start of any enterprise or relationship and indicates the good intentions of the person offering it. Khatas are offered to religious images, such as statues of the Buddha, and to Lamas and government officials prior to requesting their help in the form of prayers or other services. The offering of the khata indicates that the request is not marred by corrupt thoughts or ulterior motives.


Khecari-mudra ("space-walking seal"):

 the Tantric practice of curling the tongue back against the upper palate in order to seal the life energy prana.



Discussing the sexual act with another, one of the eight levels of coition.


Kosha* ("casing"):

any one of five "envelopes" surrounding the transcendental Self (/atman/) and thus blocking its light:

anna-maya-kosha ("envelope made of food," the physical body), prana-maya-kosha ("envelope made of life force"), mano-maya-kosha ("envelope made of mind"), vijnana-maya-kosha ("envelope made of consciousness"), and ananda-maya-kosha ("envelope made of bliss"); some older traditions regard the last kosha as identical with the Self (atman/)


Krishna ("Puller"):

 an incarnation of God Vishnu, the God-man whose teachings can be found in the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagavata-Purana.



One of the many incarnations of Vishnu whose teaching is featured in the Bhagava Gita. Often depicted playing his flute, he embodies divine joy, love, playfulness, and male eroticism. Krishna's death inaugurated the Kali Yuga, which is still in full swing today.


Kumbhaka ("potlike"):

breath retention


Kularnava Tantra

An important Tantra of AD 1150.



Pond; fire pit; resting place of kundalini; sacred fireplace.


Shakti energy coiled like a sleeping serpent near the base of the spine, behind the genitals. When aroused, it ascends the central channel of the spine or sushumna.


Kundalini- Shakti:

"She who is coiled." Refers to the powerful creative sexual energy coiled like a sleeping serpent near the base of the spine. One of the goals in Tantra is to gently awaken and guided it to the center at the crown (i.e., the sahasrara-cakra) for full enlightenment to occur.



the yogic path focusing on the kundalini process as a means of liberation


Kwan Yin (Quan Yin):

The Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion. Kwan means "to perceive" and yin means "the sound of the world": "She who hears the suffering of the world." The energy of Kwan Yin is gentle and peaceful. She was known as a great healer and the female energy counterpart of Buddha.



Lam Rim

It is a special set of instructions which is the essence of all that is taught by each and every Buddha, of past, present or future. Lam Rim presents these instructions in a clear, step-like arrangement that makes it easy for any individual practitioner to understand and practice Dharma. The Lam Rim was first formulated by great Indian teacher Atisha when he came to Tibet in 1042 and it was called Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (jang chub lam gyi dron me). Another Lam Rim, probably the most famous one, was written by Je Tsongkhapa and is called The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path (Lam Rim Chen Mo).



A spiritual guide or teacher. Literally, heavy - heavy with knowledge of Dharma. Lama is a highly advanced spiritual teacher, personifying all the three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Holy Sangha. One who shows and guides a disciple on the path to liberation and Enlightenment. Lama can be an ordained or a lay person, a man or a woman.



"Good Fortune." The Goddess of abundance, wealth, and beauty. The female counterpart of the god Vishnu.



Tantrik discipline requiring a female consort. Also the Tantric term for the Asana in which the woman embraces the man as a creeper enfolds a tree.



Merging, cessation, total dissolution.


Laya Yoga:

The path of meditation and subtle energy work. A form of yoga intended to awaken and channel kundalini energy (also known as Kundalini Yoga). an advanced form or process of Tantric yoga by which the energies associated with the various psycho-energetic centers cakra of the subtle body are gradually dissolved through the ascent of the serpent power kundalini-shakti.



The divine play.



Phallus. Generative force in its creative aspect; according to Skanda Purana, the linga is the name for space in which the whole universe is in the process of formation and dissolution. the phallus as a principle of creativity; a symbol of God Shiva



Sanskrit for the male sexual organ meaning "wand of light." The symbol of Shiva.



Totality of the subtle or psychic body.


Mind training tradition came to Tibet with Atisha who regarded these teachings as most precious. They are instructions developing the Mind of Enlightenment and are adorned by three qualities:

- They are transforming selfishness into concern for others. (This way they are eliminating the core obstruction to our happiness and spiritual progress.)

- They are transforming adverse situations into advantages. (They see the real enemy in disturbing emotions.)

- They encourage us to watch all phenomena as like illusions.

Lotus Flower( Kamala):

In Tantric art, the lotus is a symbol of purity, self-transcendence, and expanding consciousness. The lotus petals surrounding the chakras represent the varying intensities of the energies working in the different chakras. Because of its smooth and oily surface the lotus is not sullied by the mud and water in which it grows.




Wine as employed in the secret ritual of Panchatattva by certain schools of Tantra, commonly replaced by honey in rituals.



Yogic asana known as the “great posture” in which the practitioner sits with the left heel pressed against the perineum (yoni place) with the right leg stretched outward, and holding the right foot with both hands. The nine orifices of the body are pressed closely into the chest (jalandhara) for the control of the breath.


Mahatma (from maha-atman, "great self"):

an honorific title (meaning something like "a great soul") bestowed on particularly meritorious individuals, such as Gandhi, Mother Teresa


Maithuna: ("twinning")

Sanskrit word for sexual union. The ceremonial union of Shiva with Shakti. A Tantric rite aimed at raising the kundalini through physical love. the Tantric sexual ritual in which the participants view each other as Shiva and Shakti respectively


Rosary. The 108 or 27 beads or knots commonly used to keep track of the mantras or other ritual performances.


Manas* ("mind"):

 the lower mind, which is bound to the senses and yields information vijnana rather than wisdom


A mystic geometric-based diagram of squares, triangles, and circles, symbolic of cosmic forces, and specific to a deity used as a support for concentration.


Manipura Chakra

The chakra located in the area of the solar plexus. It has ten “petals.” Energy centre associated with the navel and solar plexus, and the fire element; pura means filled or full; the body is an island of gems of self-effulgence.



An audible and sacredly empowered pattern of rhythm and words. A mantra is a spiritual formula, a combination of sacred syllables transmitted from age to age in a religious tradition that forms a nucleus of spiritual power. Om Shakti, for example, is a popular Hindu mantra and means "praise energy."



 the yogic path utilizing /mantras/ as the primary means of liberation


Marman ("lethal [spot]"):

in Ayurveda and yoga, a vital spot on the physical body where energy is concentrated or blocked


Matsyendra ("Lord of Fish"):

an early Tantric master who founded the Yogini-Kaula school and is remembered as a teacher of Goraksha



Creative power, the limiting principle, illusion of the real nature of the world-appearance.



The mythical mountain supporting the world, merudanda; the spine in the human body.



In Buddhism, the Pali word for "lovingkindness." The practice of metta was first taught by the Buddha himself two thousand five hundred years ago as a supremely rich and powerful way of cultivating a generous heart. "Without a generous heart," the Buddha said, "there can be no true spiritual life."



The ultimate spiritual liberation from material bondage. also the condition of freedom from ignorance and the binding effect of karma



The “root” chakra located at the base of the spine and behind the genitals. Its emanation on the surface of the body is in the area of the perineum and lower genitals. It has four “petals” surrounding it.



Primordial root energy.


Mudra: ("seal")

Potent hand positions or whole-body gesture such as viparita-karani-mudra also a designation of the feminine partner in the Tantric sexual ritual that profoundly influence and focus the body's energy.


Nada ("sound"):

 the inner sound, as it can be heard through the practice of nada yoga or kundalini yoga


Nada-Yoga ("Yoga of the [inner] sound"):

 the yoga or process of producing and intently listening to the inner sound as a means of

concentration and ecstatic self-transcendence


Nadi: ("conduit")

one of 72,000 or more subtle channels along or through which the life force prana circulates, of which the three most important ones are the ida-nadi, pingala-nadi, and sushumna-nadi


Nadi-shodhana ("channel cleansing"):

 the practice of purifying the conduits, especially by means of breath control pranayama


Nadi. "River.":

Invisible channels of psychic energy, woven throughout the subtle body. Conduits of prana. Yogic texts state there are 72,000 of them. Together with the chakras, the nadis constitute the composition of the subtle body in Tantra.



The Sanskrit word naga means snake or serpent. Nagas belong half to the animal realm and half to the god realm. Nagas are often snake-like in form, creatures with the torso and head of humans, and the body and tail of a snake, though they can assume human form at will. They dwell in a variety of locations ranging from waterways and underground locations and also in unseen realms. They are broadly divided into two classes: those that live on land (thalaja) and those that live on water (jalaja). The Jalaja-naga live in rivers as well as in the sea, while the Thalaja-naga are regarded as living beneath the surface of the earth.



The traditional Indian form of salutation, a respectful greeting recognizing the equality of all and the sacredness of all. "The God/Goddess in me greets the God/Goddess in you." The gesture (mudra) of namaste is made by bringing together both palms of the hands before the heart.



Nataraj is the dancing form of Lord Shiva. This famous icon of Hinduism depicts Shiva in his "unending dance of destruction/creation," while trampling down "the demon of ego that hinders our progress to enlightenment."


Native American

cultures have diverse religious beliefs and there was never one universal Native American religion or spiritual system. Although many Native American cultures have traditional healers, ritualism's, singers, mystics, lore-keepers and Medicine people, none of them ever used, or use, the term "shaman" to describe these religious leaders.


Neti-neti ("not thus, not thus"):

an Upanishadic expression meant to convey that the ultimate Reality is neither this nor that, that is, is beyond all description


Nirodha ("restriction"):

 in Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga, the very basis of the process of concentration, meditation, and ecstasy; in the first instance, the restriction of the "whirls of the mind"



Final emancipation. Literal translation from sanskrit could be blown out or extinction, while literal translation from tibetan could be gone beyond suffering. Nirvana is the goal of spiritual practice in Hinayana Buddhism, the liberation from the cycle of rebirth and suffering. Lord Buddha Shakyamuni in Anguttara Nikaya defined nirvana as: This is peace, this is exquisite - the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nirvana. In commentary by Kedrup Tenpa Dhargye on Maitreyas work The ornament of Realizations another definition of nirvana is found: Nirvana is a cessation which comes from understanding, and which consists of having eliminated all mental afflictions



Control; yogic discipline of the mind and body. the second limb of Patanjali's eightfold

path, which consists of purity (saucha), contentment (samtosha), austerity (tapas), study (svadhyaya), and dedication to the Lord Ishvara-Pranidhana



"Placing.": A ritual form of touch to awaken the chakras and the energy conduits of the body. Projection of divine entities into various parts of the body.