Material success and social prestige, one of the four goals of life
One who renounces physical pleasures and worldly attachments for the sake of spiritual advancement; common in Hinduism and many other religious traditions; most notably Jainism
The eternal self, which the Upanishads identify with Brahman; also used (often in lowercase) to signify the eternal soul of an individual that is reincarnated from one body to the next and is ultimately identified with Atman.
An incarnation, or living embodiment, of a deity, generally of Vishnu, who is sent to earth to accomplish a divine purpose; Krishna and Rama are the most popular avatars.
A short section of the epic poem Mahabharata in which the god Krishna teaches the great warrior Arjuna about the Path of Devotion (bhakti marga) and other ways to God; Hinduism's most popular sacred text.
The eternal essence of reality and the source of the universe, beyond the reach of human perception and thought.
The highest of the four castes, made up of priests.
Traditional social categories dividing Hindu society into four main classes: brahmin kashatriya, vaishya, and shudra; each class contains numerous subcates, resulting in more than three thousand categories.
Ethical duty based on the divine order of reality; one of the four goals of life
Pleasure, especially of sensual love; one of the four goals of life
The moral law of cause and effect of actions; determines the nature of one's reincarnation
The second of the four castes, made up of warriors and administrators
Cosmic illusion brought about by divine creative power
Liberation or release of the individual self, atman, from the bondage of samsara; salvation; one of the four goals of life.
The doctrine that reality is ultimately made up of only one substance and that all things share a common essence
Path of Devotion
The most popular of the three paths to salvation, emphasizes loving devotion to one's chosen god or goddess
Path of Knowledge
One of three Hindu paths to salvation, emphasizes knowing the true nature of reality through learning and meditation
Path of Works
One of three Hindu paths to salvation, emphasizes doing right actions according to dharma
A collection of 1,017 Sanskrit hymns composed about 1500 B.C.E. or earlier; Hinduism's oldest sacred text
A trance-like state in which self-consciousness is lost, and the mind is absorbed into the ultimate reality; the culmination of the eight steps of Yoga
The wheel of rebirth or reincarnation; the this-worldly realm in which rebirth occurs
A system of Hindu philosophy and one approach within the Path of Knowledge, which asserts that reality is composed of two distinct categories; matter and eternal selves
A wandering ascetic who has advanced to the fourth and highest stage of life.
The traditional practice of burning a widowed wife on her husband's funeral pyre; outlawed in 1829, though still occurs rarely
The lowest of the four castes, made up of servants and laborers
A collection of over two hundred texts composed between 900 and 200 B.C.E. that provide philosophical commentary on the Vedas
The third of the fur castes, made up of producers, such as farmers, merchants, and artisans
A system of Hindu philosophy and one approach within the Path of Knowledge, which holds that all reality is essentially Brahman; most notable advocate is the medieval Hindu philosopher Shankara
A system of Hindu philosophy and one approach within the Path of Knowledge, which seeks to free the eternal self from the bondage of personhood, culminating in the experience of samadhi.