ACBSP: This website has used this abbreviation (of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada) as a suffix to distinguish disciples of His Divine Grace.

Acharya: One who teaches by words and example. Acharyas in the pure Vaishnava line instruct people and initiate them into the Supreme Lord’s devotional service.

Archa-vigraha: Deity

abhishek: A ceremonial bath performed in the worship of a Deity.

arati : A standard ceremony of worship with offerings of lamps, fans, incense, flowers, bathing water, and other items. Its origin is the custom of greeting a guest to one’s home at night (a-ratrikam) with a lamp.

ashram: 1. The hermitage of a sage or teacher. 2. One of the four stages of spiritual development in the varnashram social system: brahmacharya (celibate student life), grihastha (marriage), vanaprastha (retirement), and sannyasa (the renounced order).

Arjuna: One of the five Pandava brothers; Lord Krishna became his chariot driver during the battle of Kurukshetra and spoke Bhagavad-gita to him.

atma : The individual spirit soul, an eternal fragment of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

avatar: A “descent” of the Supreme Lord to the material world in one of His many forms.


Balarama (Baladeva, Balabhadra) : Krishna’s elder brother, and His first plenary expansion..

Bhagavad-gita (Bg): The essential teachings on progressive spiritual life and pure devotion to the Supreme Lord spoken by the Supreme Lord Himself, Krishna, to His friend Arjuna at Kurukshetra in the last moments before the great battle.

Bhagavan: The Personality of Godhead, who possesses in full the six opulences (bhagas) of perfection—strength, fame, beauty, knowledge, renunciation, and power to control.

bhajan: Loving devotional service to the Supreme Lord, performed favourably and free from the selfish motives of profit and liberation. Used in this website as synonymous with songs sung for the Lord.

bhakta: A devotee of the Supreme Lord.

bhakti: Devotional service to the Supreme Lord.

bhakti-sanga: The association of devotees.

Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati: (1874-1936) Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual master.

Bhaktivedanta: a title meaning "one who has realized that devotional service to the Supreme Lord is the end of all knowledge."

Bhaktivinoda Thakur: (1838-1915) a Vaishnava spiritual master, father of Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, who wanted to bring Krishna consciousness to the western world.

bhakti-yoga: The spiritual discipline of linking to the Supreme Lord through pure devotional service.

Bhagavat-purana: Srimad-Bhagavatam

brahmacari :A celibate boy in the student phase of spiritual life, receiving education at the residence of a spiritual master.

brahma-muhurta: The hour and a half just before sunrise, a time-span considered the most auspicious for daily spiritual practices.

brahmana: A member of the most intelligent class among the four occupational divisions in the varnashram social system.


Chaitanya-charitamrita, Sri: The biography and philosophy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, written by Srila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami.

chakra: wheel or disc.

chamara: A fan made from the hairs of a yak’s tail, usually bleached white. Used in worship and the attendance of kings, it also has the practical purpose of driving away flies.

charanamrita: The water that has bathed the feet of the Supreme Lord or His devotee. One honors charanamrita, normally collected after the daily worship of the Deity, by sipping it and sprinkling it on one’s head

chaturmasya: The four months of the rainy season in India (approximately July, August, September, and October). During this period, there are certain rules and regulations which are strictly followed to decrease sense enjoyment and increase remembrance of the Lord.


darshan: “Viewing,” an auspicious audience with a Deity or holy person

das/dasi: lit., “servant”. An appellation which along with a name of Krishna or one of His devotees is given to a devotee at the time of initiation.

demigods : Administrative managers of the material universe on behalf of the Supreme Lord.

dham: A domain where the Supreme Lord personally resides and enjoys eternal pastimes with His loving devotees; abode.

dharma: “Religious principles,” or, more properly, individual duty. In another sense, dharma is the inseparable nature of a thing that distinguishes it, like the heat of fire or the sweetness of sugar.

diksha: formal initiation of the disciple by the spiritual master into the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

Dvapara (-yuga): The third of four repeating ages that form the basic cycles of universal time. During its 864,000 years, the mode of passion becomes dominant. The latest Dvapara-yuga ended about five thousand years ago, at the time of the avataras of Krishna and Dvaipayana Vyasa and the Battle of Kurukshetra.


Ekadasi: a day on which Vaishnavas fast from grains and beans and increase their remembrance of Krishna. It falls on the eleventh day of both the waxing and waning moons.


Garuda: The man-bird carrier of Lord Visnu.

gopi: cowherd maiden (eternal consorts of Krsna).

Goloka: The eternal abode of the Supreme Lord in His original form of Krishna. It is located above all the other Vaikuntha planets. It has three parts—Vrindavana, Mathura, and Dvaraka.

goshala: cowshed

goswami: one who controls his mind and senses; title of one in the renounced order of life. May refer specifically to the Six Goswamis of Vrindavana, who are direct followers of Lord Chaitanya in disciplic succession, and who systematically presented His teachings.

grihastha: A member of the household order of life, the third stage of spiritual progress in the varnashrama social system.

guru: A spiritual master. The gurus who initiate one and instruct one in pure Krishna consciousness are to be honored equally with the Supreme Lord.

gurukul: The guru’s family,” a teacher’s ashram where traditional education is given. In ISKCON terms, a Krishna conscious school.

guru-puja: Worship of the spiritual master, usually with an arati ceremony.


halvah: a sweet dish made from roasted grains, butter, sugar, and water or milk.

Hanuman: Lord Ramachandra’s most faithful eternal servant, who has the body of a kimpurusha, a humanlike monkey. Hanuman, son of Anjana, was minister to Sugriva in the monkey kingdom Kishkindha.

Haridasa Thakura: A great devotee of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu; known as the namacharya, the master who taught the chanting of the holy names by his own example.

harinam: Used in ISKCON to refer to public chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

hatha-yoga: The system of practicing sitting postures for sense control.

ISKCON: Acronym for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness


Jagannatha (-deva): “Lord of the universe,” an ancient Deity of Krishna. He was established along with His brother Balarama and sister Subhadra in the holy city of Puri, on the coast of Orissa.

Janmashtami: The festival of Krishna’s birth

Japa: Chanting of a mantra quietly to oneself.


Kali (-yuga): The fourth of four repeating ages that form the basic cycles of universal time. In each Kali-yuga the world degrades into quarrel and dishonesty. The present Kali-yuga began 5,000 years ago and will continue for another 427,000 years.

Kartals: Hand cymbals used during kirtan.

karma: Pious or impious material activities that lead to material happiness or suffering;

karma-kanda: The portions of the Vedas that teach ritual sacrifices for material success in this life and the next.

Kartik: The Vedic month corresponding to October–November in which Lord Damodara is worshiped.

katha: Sacred narrations

kirtan: The primary devotional practice of chanting the Supreme Lord’s glories.

Krishna: The Supreme Personality of Godhead in His original form, enjoying as a youthful cowherd with His family and friends in Vrindavana and later as a valiant prince in Mathura and Dvaraka.


lakh: One hundred thousand.

Lakshmi (Devi): The eternal consort of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. She presides over the infinite opulence of Vaikuntha, and her partial expansion dispenses opulence in the material world; money.

Lakshmi-Narayana: Expansions of Radharani and Krishna worshiped in the mood of awe and reverence, as in the Vaikuntha planets.

lila: “Pastimes,” the eternal activities of the Supreme Lord in loving reciprocation with His devotees. Unlike the affairs of materially conditioned souls, the Lord’s lilas are not restricted by the laws of nature or impelled by the reactions of past deeds.

lotus feet: With the lotus regarded as an emblem of beauty in the material world, the term “lotus” is accepted to describe the all-pure and all-attractive feet of the Supreme Lord or His pure devotee.


Mahabharata: The epic history of “greater India” composed by Dvaipayana Vyasa. One chapter is the Bhagavad-gita.

maha-mantra: The mantra recommended for chanting in Kali-yuga : Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.

maharaja: “Great ruler,” a term of address to kings and renounced holy men.

maha-prashad: Food directly from the plate that has been offered to the Supreme Lord.

mantra: A short expression in sacred language chanted to purify the mind and fulfill various aspirations.

Maya: Illusory and external energy of Krishna

Modes of nature: The three qualities (goodness, passion, and ignorance) that hold sway over all action in the material world.

mridanga: A two-headed clay drum, traditionally used in kirtana.


nama-hatta: A place outside a temple where devotees gather to hear and chant about Krishna. Or also a devotee who attends a nama-hatta programme.

Narasimha (-deva): The pastime incarnation of the Supreme Lord Vishnu as half-man half-lion.

Narottama dasa Thakura: A Vaishnava spiritual master in the disciplic succession from Lord Chaitanya and writer of many standard Vaishnava hymns.

Nityananda: The incarnation of Lord Balarama who is a principal associate of Lord Chaitanya.


pancharatriki: The rules and regulations of Deity worship, as set down by Narada Muni in his Narada-pancharatra.

Pancha-Tattva: Lord Chaitanya and His closest associates : Advaita Acarya, Lord Nityananda, Gadadhara, and Srivasa Thakur.

pandal: lit., “tent.” Refers to religious programmes and lectures, typically held under large tents.

parampara: An authorized Vaishnava disciplic succession of spiritual masters.

parikrama: A walking pilgrimage.

prabhu: lit., “master.” Added to a devotee’s name by another devotee to show respect.

Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami: Founder-acharya of ISKCON and foremost preacher of Krishna consciousness in the Western world.

prashad/prashadam: The remnants of food and other items offered to the Supreme Lord. By accepting Krishna’s prasada one can rapidly become purified and achieve pure love of God.

prema: Pure ecstatic love of God.

puja: Formal worship of the Supreme Lord or some demigod or respected person.

pujari: A devotee who performs the direct worship and service of the Deity in a temple.

Puranas: The histories of the universe, supplements to the Vedas. There are eighteen major


Radha (-rani, Radhika): Krishna’s original pleasure potency, from whom all His internal energies expand. She is His eternal consort in Vrindavana and the most dedicated and beloved of His devotees.

Rama (-chandra) : An incarnation of the Supreme Lord as a perfect righteous king, born as the son of Dasharatha and Kaushalya. Rama is also a name of Lord Krishna, meaning “the source of all pleasure,” and a name of Lord Balarama and Lord Parashurama. As part of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, refers to the highest eternal pleasure of Lord Krishna; may also refer to Lord Balarama or Lord Ramacandra.

Ramayana: The epic history of Lord Ramachandra. The original version was written by the sage Valmiki, a contemporary of Lord Rama.

Rupa Gosvami: One of the six Goswamis of Vrindavana, principal followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Srila Rupa is the prime authority on the science of rasa, loving exchanges with God, which he explained in his Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu and Ujjvala-nilamani. He was also an eminent playwright and poet. Most Gaudiya Vaishnavas consider themselves rupanugas, followers of Rupa Goswami.


sadhana-bhakti: Pure devotional service in practice, which purifies the heart and brings one toward spontaneous loving service to the Supreme Lord.

sadhu: A saint or Krsna conscious person

samsara: The cycle of repeated birth and death in the material world

sampradaya: A school of philosophy or religion. According to the Padma Purana, there are four authorized Vaishnava sampradayas, founded by Lord Brahma, the goddess Lakshmi, Lord Siva, and the four Kumara sages. In Kali-yuga these schools have been reestablished by the acharyas Madhva, Ramanuja, Vishnu Svami, and Nimbarka. The sampradaya of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is officially connected with the Madhva line, but incorporates teachings of all four sampradayas.

Sanatan: eternal.

sanga: Association.

sanatana-dharma: The eternal religion; devotional service

sankirtan: Congregational chanting of the names and glories of Krishna, which is the prime means for spiritual success in the current Age of Kali.

sannyasa: The renounced order of life. See sannyasi.

sannyasi: A man in the renounced order, the final stage of spiritual progress in the varnashram system. Sannyasis take a vow of lifetime celibacy.

Sita (Devi): The eternal consort of Lord Ramachandra. She appeared as the daughter of King Janaka of Videha.

Satya-yuga: The first of four repeating ages that form the basic cycles of universal time. During its 1,728,000 years, purity and spiritual competence are prominent.

Seva: service.

Shastra: Revealed scripture, or an authorized textbook in any subject

shikha: A tuft of hair grown at the crown of the head of male Vaishnavas

shiksha-guru: An instructing spiritual master.

Shiksha: instruction.

shudra: A member of the laborer class. in the varnashram social system.

Six Goswamis: Six great disciples of Lord Chaitanya who wrote many books on devotional service and who established the major temples in Vrindavana.

sri :A term of respect given to men, male deities, and sacred objects or literatures; a name for Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune.

Srimad-Bhagavatam: Also known as the Bhagavata Purana, it teaches unalloyed devotional service to Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

sriman : “Having the favors of the goddess of fortune,” an honorific used with the names of respected males.

srimati : The female form of the title Sriman.

Subhadra: Krishna’s sister, also known as Yogamaya. She is Krishna’s internal energy who arranges His pastimes and fosters spontaneous love for Him by making His intimate devotees forget He is God.

supersoul: An expansion of the Supreme Lord as an all-pervading personal presence in the universe and in the heart of every living entity.

swamiji: lit., “great master.” A common term of respect addressed to sannyasis.

swami: one who controls his senses; a title of one in the renounced order of life.


tilak: Auspicious marks, of sacred clay and other substances, applied daily on the forehead (and sometimes on various limbs as well) to dedicate one’s body to God.

Treta (-yuga): The second of the four repeating ages that form the basic cycles of universal time. During its 1,296,000 years, the mode of passion comes into prominence. The system of Vedic fire sacrifices is developed elaborately during the Treta-yuga.

tulasi: The sacred plant most beloved of Krishna. Tulasi is a form of the gopi Vrinda, the expansion of Srimati Radharani who owns the Vrindavana forest. Without the leaves of the tulasi plant, no offering of food is accepted by Lord Vishnu, and no worship to Him is complete.

tulasi-mala: A strand of beads made of wood from the sacred tulasi plant, which is very dear to Krishna. Vaishnavas wear a small mala on their necks as a sign of submission to Krishna and carry a larger mala with which to count the Lord’s names they have vowed to recite.
Upanishads : The philosophical chapters of the Vedas, organized into 108 books. They are also called Vedanta, meaning “the culmination of Vedic knowledge,” and were explained systematically by Dvaipayana Vyasa in his Vedanta-sutra.


vaidhi-bhakti: The regulative practice of devotional service.

Vaikuntha (-loka): Literally, the place free from anxiety. The kingdom of God, full of all opulences and unlimited by time and space.

Vaishnava: A devotee of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. Since Krishna and Vishnu are different aspects of the same Supreme Person, devotees of Krishna are also Vaishnavas.

vaishya: A member of the third among the four occupational divisions of the varnashram social system. The vaishyas engage in agriculture, cow protection, and business.

vanaprastha: A man or woman in the pre- retirement years of life, the third stage of spiritual progress in the varnashram social system.
varnashram: The Vedic social system, consisting of four occupational divisions (varnas) and four stages of spiritual development (ashrams).

Vedanta: The conclusion of Vedic philosophy.

Vedas: The original revealed scriptures, eternal like the Supreme Lord and thus in need of no author. Because in Kali-yuga the Vedas are difficult to understand or even study, the Puranas and epic histories, especially Srimad-Bhagavatam, are essential for gaining access to the teachings of the Vedas.

Vedic: Pertaining to the Vedas, or more broadly, following or derived from the Vedic authority.

Vishnu-tattva: The original Personality of Godhead’s primary expansions, each of whom is equally God.

Vraja (-bhumi): The eternal place of Krishna’s pastimes with the cowherds, manifest on earth in the district of Mathura.

Vrinda (-devi) : A principal gopi, a direct expansion of Srimati Radharani. She is the presiding deity of Vrindavana forest, and the tulasi plant is her expansion.

Vrindavan (-dham) : Krishna’s most beloved forest in Vraja-bhumi, where He enjoys pastimes with the cowherd boys and the young gopis; also, the entire district of Vraja.


yajna: Vedic sacrifice, or any work done for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord Vishnu.

Yamuna: The holiest of rivers, flowing through Vraja-bhumi and thus touched by the dust of Krishna’s feet.

Yashoda (Devi): Krishna’s mother in Vraja. She raised Him from infancy until He moved to Mathura. She is the most exalted of all of Krishna’s devotees in the mood of parental love.

yoga: Spiritual discipline to link oneself with the Supreme. There are various kinds of yoga, including karma-yoga (the offering of the fruits of one’s work for the pleasure of the Supreme), jnana-yoga (the cultivation of spiritual knowledge of the soul and Supersoul), ashtanga-yoga (the eightfold process of meditation taught by Patanjali), and bhakti-yoga (pure devotional service to the Personality of Godhead).

Yogamaya (Mahayoga): The aspect of Krishna’s personal energy who enhances His loving pastimes with His devotees by putting the devotees in benign illusion, making them forget that He is God.

yugas: Ages in the cycle of universal history : Satya, Treta, Dvarapa, and Kali.

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