Current Research in Complementary & Alternative Medicine (ISSN: 2577-2201)

Article / commentary

"Glossary of Sanskrit Terms"


*National Ayurvedic Medical Association,CA, USA

*Corresponding author: Ann Holaday, National Ayurvedic Medical Association, CA, USA.Tel:+13606361472;

ReceivedDate: 20 September, 2017; Accepted Date: 02 October, 2017; Published Date: 10 October, 2017


1.       Aakasha: Ether element space sometimes referred to as the 5th element because it has no material elements in it. It is Soft, Light, Subtle, Smooth. It is the most pervasive element. 

2.       Abhyangha: Literally means massage. It commonly refers to ayurvedic massage. Ayurvedic massage is different to Western massage, which concentrates on muscles.A lot of medicated oil is used and the purpose is to stimulate the flow of “Alparana”. There is a wide range of ayurvedic massages all of which have a purpose in treatment.

 3.       Achaurya (Yamas):Non-coveting. Is the practicing of not wishing that you had something that another person has, comparing yourself to others and wishing you had what they have? This inhibits peacefulness in the heart. 

4.       Agni: Fire element. It is Light, Dry, Subtle, Rough, Hot, Sharp, slightly oily. The digestive fire is referred to as Agni, it is the force of transformation. 

5.       Ahamkara:English equivalent word is ego, but not the usual interpretation of ego. In Sanskrit it is the sense of self or sense of identification with the outer world. It is the 4th principle ofevolution.

6.       Ahimsa - (Yama)- Non-violence:This is a practice of realizing that everything is a part of you.Ahimsa unites us to all creation. Not only non-violence against other human beings, but against all living things and is why yogis do not eat meat of any kind. Violence is involved in the procurement of any kind of meat as food. 

7.       Ama: Toxins produced by undigested food. It manifests as a coating on the tongue. Ama is not eliminated in the normal digestive process and remains in the system. Over time it becomes a thick slimy substance which gets trapped in the joints lines the arteries where there is inflammation as cholesterol and forms plaques on the brain interfering with near transmission. 

8.       AnulomaViloma: Alternate nostril breathing. There is a thin membrane between the base of the brain and the nasal passage, therefore anulomaviloma is effective in bringing prana (Air) to the brain. The right nostril is heating (sun) brings prana to the left brain. The left nostril is cooling (Moon) brings prana to the right brain. There are many different ways to practice but the most common to breath in to a count of four and exhale to a count of eight. Twelve rounds are the most common. 

9.       Aparigraha (Yamas): Non-stealing. This goes beyond the meaning of taking what doesn’t belong to you; it means not to take what others give out to you. Often people will insult you or say things which hurt you. 

10.    Asana: Seat because originally there was only one posture. There are 176 postures described by Iyengar.Originally yoga was practicedin the form of a dance. Asanas yogic postures prepare the body and mind for long periods of meditation. There are many benefits of asana both physical and mental. Asana helps digestion and circulation; it balances hormones and strengthens the nervous system. It is beneficial for all ages especially in aging populations or where movement is impaired for any reason. Benefits of a complete practice done regularly are mentally and physically far reaching. 

11.    Ashtanga:Eight ashtangha Yoga is the eight limbs of yoga systemized by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. 

12.    Bhramari Pranayama:In this practice the thumbs are placed on the tragus of the ears, little fingers on the marma points at the base of the nose at the sides of the nostrils.With the tongue to the top of the mouth a humming sound is made which creates a vibration in the head. This technique is effective for clearing Ama and stimulating the brain. Over time there is an improvement in memory, cognitive powers, clarity of thought and improvement in sleep. 

13.    Buddhi: Intelligence - Discriminating mind.


-          Innate Intelligence - Swabhavika - what we are born with, part of our true nature.

-          Cellular Intelligence - intelligence within our body.

-          Cognitive Intelligence - Manas - derives from our education, is what we learn.

-          Moral Intelligence - ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

-          Social Intelligence - ability to understand people around us.

-          Emotional Intelligence - skill which helps us to harmonize and manage our emotions.

-          Spiritual Intelligence - ability to find meaning in life’s experiences.

-          Environmental Intelligence - awareness of nature

14.    Brahmacharya (Yamas): Control of sexual energy. Literally means to move to bigger things. In other words, not to think of I am man, I am woman which can add up to illicit relationships, but to think beyond the physical to the Divine. 

15.    Chitta:Can be compared to the hard disc of the computer, it is the bridge between the mind and soul. Chitta is where all lifes experiences and images are kept but we are unaware of it constantly taking in and storing our experiences. 

16.    Dharana: Sanskrit word meaning concentration. 

17.    Dhyana:Sanskrit word meaning meditation. 

18.    Dosha:Are the energies of life which are the energy and qualities of the five elements. Air and space (VataDosha) Fire & Water (Pitta Dosha) Water and Earth (KapahDosha) 

19.    Gunaha: Qualities gross qualities of matter of which there are 20 pairs. Subtle qualities are. Sattva (Purity) Rajas (Action) Tamas (Inertia) 

20.    Jala: Water element. It is Liquid, Oily, Cold, Heavy, Moist, Soft. It is the force of cohesion. 

21.    Ishvarapranidhana (Niyama): surrender to God and the love of the Divine. 

22.    KaphaDosha: one of the three dosha with the energies of the elements Earth and Water. It has the qualities of heaviness, cold, unctuous (Oily), stable (Stagnant), wet.  

23.    Karma:literally means action. Whatever actions we take there will be an equal and opposite re-action. “What goes around comes around” This refers in our personal lives and collectively as society. 

24.    Mahat: Cosmic Intelligence divine principle 3rd principle of evolution 

25.    Manas: The sensate mind. English word “Man” comes from this word. It is the semi-conscious mind or cognitive intelligence. It is the “Outgoing mind” and its job is to get information from the outside world through the senses and to coordinate their activities with the sense organs. Manas are the general capacity for thought and the ability to consider things coming in through the senses. It is an instinctive level of mind, unable to process information only to observe it. It only explores desires such as avoiding pain and seeking pleasure at the level of the senses. As long as we operate at this level we are merely sensate creatures of habit without values; our energy and thoughts will be directed outward. 

26.    Marma therapy: Treatment which can be compared to acupressure in Chinese medicine.Marma points are where the nadis are close to the surface and can be influenced by pressure. Similar to meridians in as Chinese medicine

27.    NadiShodhana pranayama: There is a thin membrane between the base of the brain and the nasal passage nadishodhana is very effective in bringing prana (Air) to the brain. The right nostril is heating (Sun) brings prana to the left brain. The left nostril is cooling (moon) brings prana to the right brain. There are many different ways to practice but the most common is to breathe in to a count of four and exhale to a count of eight. Twelve rounds are the most common. 

28.    Nasya: ASprocedure in pancha karma to clear kapha from the nasal passages including the sinuses. It can be done daily using a nettie pot and water with a small amount of salt and then nourish the tissues with oil or ghee. 

29.    Ohm:The primordial sound of creation and a powerful mantra. The sound is in three phases, “Ahh” in the lower chest “Uhh” in the upper chest and “Mmm” in the nasal cavity. The sound lasts through the breath. Sanskrit is the language of mantra and evolved from sounds of the universe and of nature. They are effective because they appeal to our spiritual self. It may be construed that other languages can be substituted but they will only appeal to the mind and not to the true self. 

30.    Ojas:The pure essence of our being and represents our immunity, stamina, feeling of well-being and vitality. In digestion, food nourishes seven layers of tissues. At each level of digestion, there is a waste product until it nourishes the seventh layer, reproductive tissue where the product is “Ojas” There is said to be eight drops in the heart and death occurs when all are used by the body. When Ojas are depleted, we feel run-down, exhausted lacking in energy and depressed. 

31.    Pancha Karma (PK): Literally means five actions which are enema (Vasti) for Vata pacification, purgation (Verechena) for Pitta and vomiting (Vamana) for Kapha. Nasya is clearing of the nasal passages mainly kappa and bloodletting (Rakta Moksha) Bloodletting. PK is a systematic, ayurvedic detoxification procedure. It is a long, involved process to be done correctly and is prescribed according to the condition of the patient. Therefore, diagnosis is critical. The goal in PK is to detoxify all of the tissues and bring all cells to a normal functioning state.

 32.    PanchaMahubutas: The five elements of ether (Space) air, fire, water and earth. 

33.    Patanjali:A spiritual leader of 1000 BCE who wrote the yoga sutras or threads to enlightenmenthe devised the eight limbs of yoga 

34.    Pitta: one of the three dosha and is the energy of fire and water. It has the qualities of hot, dry, mobile and gross 

35.    Prajnaparadha:Literally means “Failure of wisdom” or misuse of intelligence. It is the misuse of buddhi. Prajnaparadha is the root cause of all disease, this is when we only use the outward function of buddhi misusing the body and senses for our own selfish desires. 

36.    Prakriti: Literally means “true nature”. In the cosmos it is the base substance of the Universe. In the body it is the true characteristic of the body and is in two states.One never changes and is what we are born with and comes from the prakriti of our parents. The other changes throughout life, throughout the day and in the seasons. It can be aggravated by diet and lifestyle. 

37.    Prana:Life force coming into the body through the breath it is the energy which makes us gasp for air when we hold the breath 

38.    Pranayama:Increases prana in the body and mind. It balances the doshas in a positive manner, increases the digestive fire and helps to remove toxins. On a mental level it increases sattva and reduces rajas and tamas. As we get older and less able to do yogic practices and are generally less active, pranayama becomes more important as it doesn’t require a particular space; it can be done in a chair, anywhere and at any time. 

39.    Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses, daily practice of silence except for sounds of nature. Listening to the silence within brings us inner peace and joy. Withdrawal of the senses is probably the most difficult practice of the eight limbs and is the first of inner yoga. In today’s world there is “Sensory overload” Telephones, short bites of information, an emphasis on the physical and sexual aspects of our being and constant barrage of visual images. Everything which comes into the mind is food and has a positive or negative effect. The mind is constantly stimulated, is it any wonder that one of the biggest health issues today is dementia, mental illness, depression and Alzheimer’s. 

40.    Priti: Divine Love. 

41.    Pritvi: Earth element. It is Heavy Stable, Hard, Tough. 

42.    Purusha: Source of consciousness. 

43.    Raktamoksha: Bloodletting is a process in pancha karma where there is vitiated blood usually from infection. Leaches are often used especially in India or by making a small incision and draining the blood from the site. 

44.    Rajas: Quality of action in the mind. 

45.    Sadhana: Daily spiritual practises. 

46.    Samadhi:Samadhi does not mean a difficult state and very few are able to achieve it. We may get a taste of it when we are completely absorbed in music or in a piece of art. Maybe we get a glimpse of it once or twice in a lifetime when it happens when we least expect it. When we are in that place of bliss there is no mistaking it that is when we realize, there is more to us than just the physical and mental self. 

47.    Samskara:Deep-seated memories, emotions, habits attachments and impressions are all stored in the subconscious. Impressions on Chitta are called “Samskaras”The word scar must come from this word. Every experience leaves Samskaras on the Chitta and not all experiences are positive ones, these impressions will affect a person throughout life. 

48.    Santosha - (Niyama) contentment: Be happy with what you have and where you are in the moment and not to complain. Complaining breeds negativity.

49.    Sattva:Quality of purity and balance in the mind. 

50.    Satya (Yamas):Truthfulness. Because we do not lie to ourselves, why should we lie to others.

 51.    Senses:Hearing, related to ether or space element: Touch, related to air element: Sight, related to fire element: Taste, related to water element: Smell, related to earth element. 

52.    Shaucha(Niyamas):Purity and refers to the cleansing of ama in ayurveda not just of the body but of the mind. 

53.    Shirodhara:Shiro meaning oil dharma meaning pouring the practice of pouring oil over the head, mainly aimed at the third eye, which affects AGYA the 6th chakra 

54.    Shiro Vasti:A method of immersing the skull in medicated oil daily for a period of time for several days. 

55.    Shitali Pranayama:Is when the teeth are clenched together and a deep breath is pulled in through the teeth. Alternatively, the tongue is rolled and air sucked in. This is called a cooling breath and useful to remember when heat rises in the body. 

56.    Svadhyaya (Niyama): Self-study, observe the mind and how it behaves. 

57.    Svedena:Steam bath used in pant karma to promote sweating and release of toxins through the skin. 

58.    Tamas:Quality of Inertia or resistance to action in the mind. 

59.    Tapas (Niyamas):Self-discipline, forbearance, penance. Learning to control the urge to avoid everything which is uncomfortable 

60.    Tejas:Subtle energy of pitta in the mind. It is the fire of perception, inspiration and awareness. When Tejas is low the mind is dull and lacking in sparkle. 

61.    Trataka:Is the practice of gazing at a candle flame, or any flame for that matter. It helps to culture concentration and one-pointedness of the mind. 

62.    Vamana: Vomiting is a process in pancha karma to eliminate kapha which accumulates in the chest. 

63.    Vasti:Emema either of medicated oil or of an herbal decoction used in pancha Karma. Because the colon is the seat of Vata it is used for Vata pacification. 

64.    VataDosha:One of the three doshas with the qualities of air and space which are subtle, dry, light, cold, mobile. 

65.    Vayu: Air element - It is Mobile, Light, Dry, Subtle. It is the force of movement.

66.    Virechana:Purgation as a pancha karma procedure for Pitta pacification. It involves the intake of ghee in increasing quantities to tolerance then herbal substances used to clear the stomach and small intestine (duodenum) which is the seat of pitta.


Citation: Holaday A (2017) Glossary of Sanskrit Terms. Curr Res Complement Altern Med: CRCAM-115. DOI:10.29011/2577-2201/100015

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