A Beginner’s Glossary of Tantra Terms

June 5, 2013    BY Yoga International
agama
Traditional doctrine, sacred knowledge related to Shaivism as revealed by Lord Shiva; tantric scriptures

apavarga
Liberation, freedom, salvation; established in one's true nature

apurva
From "a" meaning not, and "purva" meaning before. That which did not exist, now exists by virtue of practice; a ritual-created apurva creates a new pattern which projects into the future and creates a new reality

Bhairava
Vibrant form of Shiva; often associated with destruction; the form of Shiva that destroys ignorance and grants mental clarity and spiritual illumination

bindu
Drop, dot; seed or source; union of Shiva and Shakti; synonym for sexual potency which must be stabilized along with the mind and prana to achieve the goal of yoga; in kundalini yoga, it refers to the concentrated energy field at or above the ajna chakra (the eyebrow center)

buddhi
Rational and intuitive intelligence, one of four functions of mind; faculty of discrimination and wisdom; inner observer

chakra
An energy center in the subtle body along the spinal axis through which consciousness manifests in human form; lit., a spinning wheel

chakra puja
A special term referring to the left-hand tantric practice that employs liquor, meat, fish, mudra, physical union or its substitute; the tantric practice which is done by a group of practitioners under the supervision of a master; lit., ritual worship of the chakras

Chamunda
An aspect of Durga featured in the Durga Saptashati; so named for destroying Chanda (aggression) and Munda (egoism)

dakini
A tantric deity; a feminine embodiment of enlightened energy; presiding deity of a chakra

dakshina
South; right hand; a payment of fees

dakshina marga
Right-hand path of kaula Tantra

deva(s)
Celestial being, gods, forces of nature; beings with bodies of light

devi
Goddess, feminine aspect of the Divine; Divine Mother

dharana
Concentration, stabilization, anchoring; the sixth of eight limbs of the yoga system in the Yoga Sutra; the first stage of meditation marked by an inward turning of the mind and transcendence of body-awareness

Durga
A form of the Divine Mother with the power of will, knowledge, and action

Durgam Saptashati
Tantric scripture dedicated to different aspects of the Divine Mother Durga; consists of 700 mantras from the Markandeya Purana in the form of a dialogue between a sage, a merchant, and a king

dvandva
Pairs of opposites, such as light/dark, male/female, hot/cold, pleasure/pain, positive/negative

Ganesha, Ganesh
Elephant-headed deity; in tantric tradition, he is the visionary inside us, the indomitable will within, the remover of obstacles, our own intelligence and conscience, and our constant guide and friend. He stands as the gatekeeper at the door of our conscience

granthi
Forces that bind consciousness into individual form; brahma granthi at the muladhara (root) chakra, vishnu granthi at the heart center, and rudra granthi at the ajna chakra; lit., knot

guru
Teacher, spiritual guide; lit., dispeller of darkness

guru chakra
Energy center above the eyebrow center that connects to the inner guru and primordial master

hatha yoga
Yoga system that works with asana, pranayama, cleansing practices, mudras, and meditation to balance the solar/lunar, masculine/feminine energies; the yoga of perfecting the body and energy system of the body; lit., forceful

havan
Fire offering ritual, usually involving ghee, herbs, grains and other ingredients offered to a sanctified fire with mantras

homa
Ritual offering, especially of ghee, to a consecrated fire

ida nadi
Left-side axial energy channel in the subtle body; one of three principal energy channels governing states of awareness; terminates in the left nostril; associated with lunar, cooling, and feminine energies

ishta deva
Personal form of the Divine; a personified form of a mantra

jalandhara bandha
Chin lock; a hatha yoga practice to stabilize the cervical spine and connect the heart and throat chakras with energy centers in the head

japa
Mental repetition of a mantra, which gradually awakens the energy vibrations of the mantra

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

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

Kamadeva
Primordial master who sits deep in the cave of our heart and drives the chariot of life to its destination; the spirit of guru shakti, the seer of Sri Vidya mantra, teacher and primordial master of the Sri Chakra

kanda
Bulb; egg-shaped structure in subtle body which is the origin of nadis; located in lower pelvis at the perineum

karana sharira
Causal body or linga shariram

karmashaya
Storehouse of samskaras; a well-defined group of karmas, stored in one place with the ability to mature at the same time and to be processed in a particular manner; lit., pouch, basket, package, container, repository of karma

Kaula
School of Tantra which uses worldly means and objects and external ritual for spiritual unfoldment

kula; kula devi
Lineage; family deity; spiritual lineage

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

kundalini
“Coiled up energy”; the dormant potential energy in all living beings; self-contained totally independent locus point; a point of reference which is saturated with the principle of creativity

kundalini shakti
The primordial divine force; the dormant energy which resides in the human body in latent form and can be awakened with yoga

kundalini yoga
A systematic method of awakening the dormant force and leading it step by step to the sahasrara, the highest center of consciousness

Lalita
The goddess of Sri Chakra and Sri Vidya; Kameshvara is her consort

Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra
Famous healing mantra from the Yajur Veda and further elaborated in tantric scriptures; the mantra of the great conqueror of death; the form of Shiva that grants immortality and freedom from all pains and miseries

mani
Gem lit by its own inherent light; in mythology, a cobra has a mani in its hood, and he is lifeless without his mani; a mani bestows special powers

manipura chakra
Energy center 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

mantra
Revealed sounds used for meditation or to effect change on the subtle level; that which guides and protects; usually passed from guru to student via initiation

Matangi
A goddess often associated with Sarasvati, the goddess of wisdom and fine arts

mulabandha
Root lock; an important bandha which restrains downward flowing pranic energy

nadi
Energy channel of the subtle body in which prana moves; conduit for the life force; the three main nadis are ida, pingala, and sushumna

nadi shodhanam
A pranayama practice of inhaling and exhaling through alternate nostrils; used to purify nadis and balance the nervous system; lit., channel purification

nauli kriya
A practice for the navel center; a vigorous rotation of the abdominal muscles, one of the six cleansing actions of hatha yoga

navarna mantra
The nine-syllabled mantra of the Divine Mother; a particular variation of the mantra which belongs to the Sri Vidya tradition

Parashurama
Disciple of sage Dattatreya; the sage who received the knowledge of Tripura; an important sage in the Sri Vidya tradition

Patanjali
Sage who compiled the Yoga Sutra around the second century BC; also authored an authoritative commentary on Panini's Sanskrit grammar and an Ayurvedic text

pingala nadi
Right-side principal energy channel governing the flow of the life force and states of consciousness; terminates in the right nostril; associated with solar, heating, and masculine energies

prakriti
Primordial nature, the ultimate cause of the material world; primordial phenomenal world, comprised of three primary qualities or gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), whose interplay permeates the material world; in Ayurveda, an individual's inborn tendencies and inherent nature

prana
Life force, the vital force that nourishes both body and mind; the breath of life; five major aspects are prana, apana, vyana, udana, and samana; and five minor aspects: naga, kurma, krikara, devadatta, and dhananjaya; also the cosmic vibratory power underlying creation

prana anusadhana
Examination, study, research, or investigation of prana; usually in the context of breath awareness training or pranayama

prana dharana
Concentration and stabilization of the pranic force using pranayama and inner focus to direct and hold prana in a specific inner field; activating, intensifying, and stabilizing prana shakti

prana pratishtha
Establishing and localizing prana, often in a physical object; invoking a divine energy in the heart for meditation

prana shakti
Awakened aspect of the primordial pool of consciousness and energy; the life force, resulting in vigor, self-confidence, motivation and insight

pranayama
Breath control; restraint and augmentation of prana; the most important technique of hatha yoga; the fourth limb of ashtanga yoga in the Yoga Sutra; breathing techniques leading to mastery over the pranic force; the science of prana that enables an aspirant to gain access to the pranamaya kosha, the pranic body that lies beyond the physical body

prarabhda karma
Karmas that have begun producing their fruits, and are in the process of manifesting in the form of destiny

purana
Collection of legends and myth-like stories carrying the message and meaning of the Upanishads and Vedas; lit., ancient

purashcharana
The practice of completing a specific amount of mantra japa in a specific period of time while observing a specific set of disciplines; lit., moving ahead, or taking the next step

Rudra
Another name for Shiva, especially the aspect that destroys the world or those tendencies that keep us caught in the worldly net

rudra granthi
Rudra's knot; one of the three knots which block pranic flow through sushumna nadi

sadhana
Spiritual practice; spiritual path to realization; spiritual discipline

samaya
The purely meditative school of Tantra in which all practices are done while maintaining an awareness of oneness with the Divine within

samsara
Cycle of birth and death; the phenomenal world, worldly cycles, the constant flux of events which is the realm of karma, birth, death, suffering, and ordinary human life

samskara, sanskara
Subtle impressions of our actions stored in the unconscious mind; latent mental or behavior pattern produced by past experiences

sankhya, samkhya
Philosophical system related to yoga; one of six darshanas of Indian thought, based on duality of prakriti (material and mental nature) and purusha (pure spirit); systematized by Sage Kapila circa 600 BCE

Saundarya-Lahari
Important tantric text attributed to Shankaracharya, delineating the practice and philosophy of Sri Vidya

Shakti
Creative principle of existence; the feminine active power of a deity; the Divine Mother; consort of Shiva; the vibrant self-conscious energy through which the whole universe evolves

shakti sadhana
Spiritual discipline that leads to the realization of Shakti, the divine force within

shariram
Body; the three bodies are the causal body (karana or linga shariram), the subtle body (sukshma shariram), and the gross body (sthula shariram)

Sri Chakra
Geometrical form of Sri Vidya; the highest yantra which is a complete map of the microcosm and macrocosm; the chakra of the Divine Mother Sri

Sri Vidya
The most complete and comprehensive of the ten Mahavidyas, or paths to ultimate realization; presiding deity of Sri Chakra; lit., auspicious wisdom

sthula shariram
Gross body composed of material elements (bhuta)

sukshma shariram
Subtle body; inner or psychic level of existence which remains after death of physical body

surya bhedana
A pranayama practice for enlivening the solar plexus and navel center; similar to bhastrika pranayama, surya bhedi strongly activates and expands the pranic body from the navel center, and like nadi shodhanam, stimulates the flow of energy equally in the two master nadis, ida and pingala

tanmatra
The five sensory potentials or subtle elements, the subtle aspect of the material elements of sense experience; the potentials of sound (shabda), touch (sparsha), form (rupa), taste (rasa), and odor (gandha)

Tantra, Tantrism
Spiritual path which includes philosophy and practical instruction in the use of hatha yoga, pranayama, meditation, mantra, yantra, mudras, rituals and hundreds of esoteric techniques for engendering worldly and spiritual prosperity

tattva(s)
Principles or elements; according to Samkhya philosophy, there are 24, and according to Shaktism there are 36; lit., that-ness

uddiyana bandha
Upward flying lock; one of three important bandhas in hatha yoga which connects energy from the pelvic and heart centers; a contraction and upward drawing of the abdomen

vasana
Traits of personality; combinations of samskaras (subliminal activators); inclinations produced by samskaras; lit., fragrance

yajna
Ritual; fire ceremony; the ceremonial ritual of life; a key concept in Vedic philosophy and practice; sacrifice of lower desires to achieve cosmic awareness
 

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