Yoga Vocabulary: Honorifics

Ever wonder if musicians Krishna Das and Bhagavan Das are related? No, they’re not the Osmonds of devotional singing. “Das,” derived from the Sanskrit word for “servant” or “service,” is a name given to those devoted to serving God. Similarly, “swami” or “pandit” frequently are affixed to the names of spiritual leaders. Swami, meaning “master” or “owner of oneself,” is an honorific title suggesting mastery of a field of knowledge and liberation from worldly desires. Pandit, meaning “scholar,” pays respect to a learned person or expert. (Pandit and the English word “pundit” originate from the same Sanskrit term.) Add “sri” or “ji” to a name or title and you up its reverence quotient. Sri (sometimes “shri” or “shree”) is a gender-neutral prefix along the lines of sir or Mr. The founder of Integral Yoga, for example, is often called Sri Swami Satchidananda. The suffix ji conveys respect and affection. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, is commonly referred to as Pandit Nehru or Panditji, while independence leader Mahatma Gandhi is simply Gandhiji. In Buddhism you’ll find the honorifics “Rinpoche” and “Roshi.” Rinpoche, or “precious one,” is applied to reincarnated lamas and other revered teachers in Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Roshi denotes a spiritual leader in Zen Buddhism.  

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