Yoga Vocabulary: Honorifics

May 15, 2015    BY Anna Dubrovsky

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.  

Anna Dubrovsky
Anna Dubrovsky is an award-winning journalist and author whose productivity has plummeted with the birth of her two children. But she always makes time for assignments that broaden her horizons. Her work has appeared in dozens of print and online publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Utne Reader, Fitnessmagazine.com, and Parents.com. She has been practicing yoga since 2001 and teaching since 2008. After much globetrotting, she now makes her home in Southern California.

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