Glossary for Bhagavad Gita

This Glossary arranges the concepts of Bhagavad Gita from the Earliest to latest.


Ātman means, “essence, nature, character, peculiarity”. It is the energy activated by innate impulse. In this general sense ātman applies to the characteristic of any “thing” animate or inanimate. In a popular sense, it refers to individual essence. Pure ātman is totally in tune with nature and it is good. The embodied ātman (jivātman or self) acquires samskāra (impressions on the mind from action and experience). The self is essentially activated impressions. The disembodied ātman is different from self. It is essentially made up of non-active impressions that are being carried forward from death to next birth. This brings about evolution. Problems occur when these impressions are not assimilated with nature. (Verses 2:19-30).

Bhagavān literally means “fortunate”, “blessed”, and hence “illustrious”, “divine”, “venerable”, and “holy”. It refers to one who understands the creation and dissolution, the appearance and disappearance of beings, the wisdom and ignorance. In Bhāgavad Gīta, Krishna is referred to as bhagavān.

The one self-existent Spirit, the Absolute. This is the highest metaphysical reality. More practically, Brahma represents the innate impulse that permeates the fabric of the universe. It lies at the core of what we call SELF. Bhagavad Gita talks about “desire” to exist at this level. That is why desire is so difficult to control. (Verse 2:17)

Ātman that carries mental impressions never perishes, but the mental impressions carried by ātman are forever changing. (Verse 2:12-14).

The body which is perishable. (Verse 2:18)

The embodied ātman. It is also referred to as JIVATMAN. Ātman is conscious only when it is embodied. Disembodied ātman is like being in a deep sleep. See ĀTMAN. (Verses 2:13 and 2:28).

All desires have deep roots in innate impulse, and they are shaped by the self. (Verse 2:42).

Aloofness, as from the outcome of one’s actions. It is freedom from prejudice or partiality. (Verse 2:38).

Dharma means, “Established in nature”. For example, the “Dharma” of the sun is to shine and give warmth. Dharma is the basis of all science—physical and spiritual. Nature is continuous, harmonious and consistent. Therefore, dharma exists when there is continuity, harmony and consistency.

When one engages in an action simply to restore the truth of the natural order, then it is an enlightened action. (Verse 2:47).

A person who is established in the truth of natural order; who is always seeing things as they are. (Verse 2:46).

The term “God” may be used for BRAHMA, PARAMĀTMAN, BHAGAVĀN or ĪŚVARÁ.

Guṇas are “modes of existence” (tendencies, qualities, attributes). It is a philosophical and psychological concept developed by the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy. There are three gunas: sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious), rajas (passion, active, confused), and tamas (darkness, destructive, chaotic). All of these three gunas are present in everyone and everything, it is the proportion that is different. The interplay of these gunas defines the character of someone or something, of nature and determines the progress of life. (Verse 2:45).

The viewpoint of self.

Immortality is not identifying with perishable mental impressions of sense-objects. It is freedom from fixations on sense-objects. (Verse 2:15).

Īśvará means, “one who is capable of”, It is used for master, lord, prince, king, mistress, and queen.

Kshatriya is one who protects from hurt or wound. A Kshatriya is a member of the second of the four great Hindu castes, the military caste. The traditional function of the Kshatriyas is to protect society by fighting in wartime and governing in peacetime. (Verse 2:32).

The embodied ātman is aware. It has the natural capacity to recognize what is there and what is not. This is its mind. (Verse 2:16). Mind may be looked upon as “energy form, activated by innate impulse, that is controlling and transmitting motion.”

The supreme or universal ātman that is that is the essence of nature and it is universal. See ĀTMAN.

Puruśa is abstract essence of the Self, Spirit and the Universal Principle that is eternal, indestructible, without form and is all pervasive.

Samkhya refers to the philosophical school in Hinduism based on systematic enumeration and rational examination. It ‘enumerates’ twenty-five Tattvas or true principles; and its chief object is to effect the final emancipation of the twenty-fifth Tattva, i.e. the puruṣa or Self. (Verse 2:39).

Self is the awareness that the embodied ātman has of itself. Some use “self” (lower case) for awareness of oneself as human, and “Self” (upper case) for supreme awareness as God.

Action taken from the universal viewpoint takes everything and everyone into account. It does not favor some narrow self. (Verse 2:40)

Sin consists of acting against one’s inherent beingness, or not acting according to it. (Verse 2:33).

Svadharma is “one’s own duty”. These are actions that follows naturally from beingness. Svadharma is a property peculiar to the beingness. (Verse 2:31).

This is the “I” or “ME” used by Krishna. It is the viewpoint of Paramātman, which is much broader than the human viewpoint. From this viewpoint, Paramātman is manifested as all forms in the universe and not just the human form. The universal viewpoint is the expression of universal principles, and it is neither created nor destroyed. Ultimate authority resides in the universal principles, that are personified as Gods in Hinduism.

A viewpoint is the frame of reference that self is using. It is made up of considerations carried by self.

Yoga school of philosophy is closely related to Samkhya school. It systematically studies to better oneself physically, mentally and spiritually by renouncing attachment and attaining equanimity. (Verse 2:39, 2:48).


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