Glossary for Patanjali Yoga

Reference: Patanjali Yoga Sutras

This is the Glossary for Patanjali Yoga. It is based on the subject clearing of the book, FOUR CHAPTERS ON FREEDOM by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, First edition 1976, Published by Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India.


Key Word List

Patanjali, Yoga, Sutra, Yoga Sutra, Patanjali Yoga, Raja Yoga, Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, Ashtanga, Nirodha, Chitta, Vritti, Purusha, Prakriti, Pramana, Viparyaya, Vikalpa, Nidra, Pratyaya, Samskara, Samprajnata, Asamprajnata, Beeja, Sabeeja, Nirbeeja, Ishvara, Tattva, Sādhana, Prāna, Vāsanā, Samapatti, Trataka, Savitarka, Nirvitarka, Savichara, Nirvichara, Ananda, Asmita, Linga, Japa, Shabda, Artha, Jnana, Alinga, Guna, Sattva, Rajas, Tamas, Sat, Ritam, Satyam, Shruta, Anumana, Samyama, Ritambhara, Upāsana, Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishvara pranidhana, Klesha, Avidyā, Māyā, Raga, Dvesha,



  1. Sanskrit Dictionary 1
  2. Sanskrit Dictionary 2


ABHINIVESHA (अभिनिवेश)
Abhinivesha means “tenacity, adherence to, fixation”. An example of such a fixation is the “fear of death.” Even learned people fear death. They have an equally strong desire for life. This is true of the philosopher, the thinker and the layman. It can be seen in everybody, therefore, it is called svarasavahi—a natural force inherent in everyone. 

ABHYĀSA (अभ्यास)
Abhyasa refers to repeated or constant practice. In abhyasa, the effort becomes a part of your nature.

ALINGA (आलिङ्ग)
Alinga means “absence of marks”. It is a state without mark or symbol. See LINGA.

ĀNANDA (आनन्द)
Ananda  means pure happiness, bliss. In ananda there is the feeling of absolute peace and absolute bliss, but that bliss is not the state of your sense experience.

ANUMĀNA (अनुमान)
Anumana means “inference, consideration, reflection; guess, conjecture”. Knowledge from inference and testimony differs from individual to individual. The sensations carried through the indriyas (senses) are different, but supreme knowledge is one.

ARTHA (अर्थ)
Artha mans “meaning, object, purpose”. Artha refers to the ultimate purpose, and that is the real knowledge of the object.

ASAMPRAJNĀTA (असम्प्रज्ञात)
Asamprajnata samadhi occurs between successive stages of vitarka, vichara, ananda, and asmita of samprajnata samadhi. In asamprajnata samadhi, there is no awareness of any symbol (unconsciousness); but there is an underground dynamism called samskara. The consciousness is not static, so asamprajnata is still a form of sabeeja samadhi. Thus in asamprajnata there are two distinct characteristics: one, dropping of the pratyaya (content of the mind) and two, the presence of samskara. From the state of asamprajnata one may either ascend to a deeper state of consciousness or one may revert back to a grosser state. When the samskara is completely finished, the consciousness is completely dissolved; that state is nirbeeja samadhi (samadhi without a basis).

ĀSANA (आसन)
Asana refers to yoga postures; fixed sitting position. The purpose of an asana in Patanjali yoga is to balance the different nerve impulses, feelings of pain and pleasure, heat and cold and all other opposite sensations.

ASHTĀNGA (अष्टाङ्ग)
Eight elements (of practice of yoga culminating in samadhi).

ASMITĀ (अस्मिता)
Asmita means egoism. In asmita, the awareness is absolutely pure, there is no thought, there is no awareness of time or space, and there is complete understanding or realization of that awareness; only a pattern of ‘I-ness’ remains. Also see Sutra 2:6.

AVIDYĀ (अविद्या)
Avidya means “ignorance, spiritual ignorance.” It is also illusion. It is not seeing things for what they are. It is misperceiving a whole scale of values as the black and white of duality. It is to be fixated on the body. We misunderstand our relations with people due to avidya.


BEEJA (बीज)
Beeja means “germ, element, primary cause or principle, source, origin”. It is the object on which you are meditating. It forms the basis of support for the consciousness.


CHITTA (चित्त)
Chitta means individual consciousness which includes the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels of mind. Chitta is derived from the basic idea of chit, which means to see, to be conscious of, to be aware. Chitta is comprised of three stages: the sense or objective consciousness, the subjective or astral consciousness, and the unconsciousness or mental state of dormant potentiality. Jivatman, the individual awareness, is made up of Atman plus chitta.


DHĀRANĀ (धारणा)
Dharana is the step before meditation that is concerned with fixing awareness on one object to the exclusion of all others. Patanjali yoga utilizes a psychic symbol as a focal point for internal concentration. It can be one’s guru, a deity, a mantra, an enquiry (anomaly); it can be almost anything. It must be something that spontaneously attracts the attention of the individual and must be chosen to suit the inherent nature of the mind and personality. 

DHYĀNA (ध्यान)
Dhyana is merely an extension of dharana. It arises when one is able to maintain a smooth, unfluctuating flow of concentration towards the inner symbol for a period of time. The mind becomes moulded around one pattern in the form of the psychic symbol. This is the start of meditation.

DVESHA (द्वेष)
Dvesha means “aversion, dislike, enmity to.” Whenever there is an object of pain and the mind runs away from it, wishing to avoid it, this is called dvesha. Dvesha is a more powerful binding force. When dvesha is removed, meditation becomes deeper and then raga can also be given up.


GUNA (गुण)
Guna means the threefold aspects of nature: sattva (essence), rajas (dissipation) and tamas (darkness). All functions of the body, mind and world are an interplay of these three gunas. When sattva has free expression, one-pointedness dawns. When rajas is overpowering, the mind is dissipated. When tamas comes into play, there is neither one-pointedness nor dissipation; there is only dullness and inactivity.


ISHVARA (ईश्वर)
Ishvara refers to master, lord, God, etc. Ishvara does not mean some personality that lords over you. Ishvara is the ultimate consciousness, which is completely free of ignorance, I-feeling, like, dislike, and fear of death. It is there in each one of us, and it has always been there in everyone. It is not possible to reach it through thinking, speeches, discourses, intellect, listening to others or the scriptures. It must be experienced directly through practices, such as, yoga. In it there is the seed of limitless knowledge, but that knowledge is not gained from outside.

ISHVARA PRANIDHANA (ईश्वरप्रणिधान)
Ishvara pranidhana means “surrender to God.” It is placing the mind completely at the disposal of the inner self.


JAPA (जप)
Japa means “muttering, whispering”. It refers to repetition of a mantra.

JNANA (ज्ञान)
Jnana means “knowing, becoming acquainted with”. Jnana is inner sense perception (conceptualization). It refers to the higher knowledge (cognition, knowingness). 


KLESHA (क्लेश)
Klesha is pain, affliction, distress, pain from disease, anguish. In yoga, five Alesha’s are named: “ignorance”, “egotism”, “desire”, “aversion”, and “tenacity of mundane existence”.


LINGA (लिङ्ग)
Linga refers to the invariable mark which proves the existence of anything. It is the symbol for the seed, or ultimate basis, of consciousness.


MĀYĀ (माया)
Maya means “illusion, unreality, deception, fraud, trick, sorcery, etc.”


NIDRĀ (निद्रा)
Nidra refers to sleep, slumber, sleepiness, sloth. In this state there are thoughts but they are not present before the mind. It is an unconscious state of mind.

NIRBEEJA (निर्बीज)
Nirbeeja means “without seed.” Nirbeeja samadhi is a state devoid of consciousness. According to yoga, consciousness or awareness is in the form of motion or vibration, but nirbeeja samadhi is not a state of motion or vibration. It involves stillness. 

NIRODHA (निरोध)
Nirodha does not mean the suppression of the flow of ordinary thoughts, feelings, passions and desires from the mind. It means the blocking the process of consciousness responsible for remanifestation. Using the terminology of Scientology, it simply means the stopping of restimulation. This restimulation can go very deep in consciousness. Sahasrara, the highest chakra, is the seat of nirodha. See Kundalini and the Chakras. In nirodha, neither tamas, nor rajas, nor sattva guna functions. blocking; stopping; state of mind beyond the three gunas. 

NIRVICHĀRA (निर्विचार)
Nirvichara means not reflecting or considering. In nirvichara, the space, time and idea are taken out but behind that something else remains, and that is called the essential nature of thought.

NIRVITARKA (निर्वितर्क)
Nirvitarka means without reason or thought; unreflecting, inconsiderate.

NIYAMA (नियम)
Niyama refers to fixed observances or rules; personal code. The niyamas are intended to harmonize one’s inner feelings. The five niyamas are: shaucha (cleanliness); santosha (contentment); tapah (austerity); swadhyaya (self-study) and Ishwara pranidhana (surrender to the cosmic will). 


PATANJALI (पतञ्जली)
An Indian sage who lived between 2nd and 4th century CE. Very little is known about him.

PATANJALI YOGA (पतञ्जली योग)
Patanjali yoga is that system of Raja Yoga, which consists of eight stages: yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. It is therefore widely called ashtanga yoga (the yoga of eight stages).

PRAJNA (प्रज्ञा)
Prajna refers to intuition; revelation; intuitive knowledge.

PRAKRITI (प्रकृति)

PRAMĀNA (प्रमाण)
Pramana is a measure of any kind. It is any proof or testimony or evidence. It is a correct notion or right perception.

PRĀNA (प्राण)
Prana means “breath, exhalation, breath of life.” It refers to bioplasmic energy expressed through living protoplasm. The subtle prana is in the form of energy, and the gross prana has the form of breath.

PRĀNAYĀMA (प्राणायाम)
Pranayama is the yogic practice of focusing on breath. In Sanskrit, prana means “vital life force”, and yama means to gain control. There is a whole science of pranayama (breath control). Just by practicing rechaka (prolonged exhalation), kumbhaka (breath retention) and the three bandhas (locks), the mind can be brought to a state of stillness.

PRATYĀHĀRA (प्रत्याहार)
Pratyadhara is the yogic practice of withdrawal of the senses. Pratyahara means ‘to gather inwards’. The practice is concerned with checking and curbing the outgoing tendencies of the mind so that awareness can be directed inwards.

PRATYAYA (प्रत्यय)
Pratyaya is the content of mind. Our consciousness has something to dwell upon during concentration. That support, which may be a symbol or a particular idea, gross or subtle, is called pratyaya. When you meditate on Aum, the form Aum is the pratyaya for the mind; similarly with other symbols. The aspirant’s mind must have something to rest upon during the process of meditation. Pratyaya only drops intermittently, when it is called virama pratyaya; but it remains until the end.

PURUSHA (पुरुष) and PRAKRITI (प्रकृति)
Purusha is a particular manifestation of consciousness which may be translated as a viewpoint. The ultimate purusha (viewpoint) is Ishwara (God), which may be described by The Static Viewpoint. Prakriti is a particular manifestation of energy, which may be translated as a form that is manifested in space and time. Scientology defines Purusha as Theta; and Prakriti as MEST.

Purusha is the personal and animating principle; whereas, Prakriti is the original or natural form or condition of anything. The purusha implies the drashta (seer) and prakriti implies the drishya (seen). The purusha means subjective being and prakriti means objective, external existence. Existence and the individual being arise when purusha and prakriti come together. 


RAGA (राग)
Raga means “liking, attachment, vehement desire of.” Whenever there is an object of pleasure and the mind runs after it, wishing to have the pleasurable experience again and again, this is called raga. 

RAJAS (रजस्)
Rajas means “vapour, mist,”. It is the “darkening” quality, passion, emotion, affection. It represents the active and fluctuating state of mind and nature; When rajas is predominant, with sattva and tamas suppressed, the mental condition is scattered and dissipated. It compares to ALTER-ISNESS of Scientology.

RĀJA YOGA (राज योग)
The royal path of yoga; It is the science of mental discipline and includes various methods of making the mind one-pointed. Patanjali defines his method of yoga as ‘the elimination of mental fluctuations’. 

RITAM (ऋतम्)
Ritam is the absolute, cosmic or changeless aspect of this universe. It is is beyond energy and change. It appears to be still and void (shoonya शून्य). It is not seen, and can be understood only through spiritual consciousness.

Ritambhara means “bearing the truth in one’s self”. It refers to cosmic harmony, or to the mental matrix in which all impressions are assimilated.


SABEEJA (सबीज)
Sabeeja, literally, means “with seed or germ.” In sabeeja samadhi we have a basis or content or a centre or a symbol. A beginner has to use a certain basis for fixing the mind. Finally, when the consciousness becomes concentrated in the form of that beeja (seed) they become one, and the subjectivity of the mind is lost.

SĀDHANA (साधन)
Sādhana is a discipline undertaken in the pursuit of a goal. Abhyāsa is repeated practice performed with observation and reflection. Kriyā, or action, also implies perfect execution with study and investigation. Therefore, sādhanaabhyāsa, and kriyā all mean one and the same thing. A sādhaka, or practitioner, is one who skillfully applies…mind and intelligence in practice towards a spiritual goal.

For the dynamic person, karma yoga is best suited. Bhakti is better for those who are emotional, who can surrender to God; they form the majority of the population. The third group, mystic people, are prone to practice raja yoga and the allied practices of hatha yoga, swara yoga, kriya yoga, nada yoga and trataka, etc. The fourth (rational) type form the few jnana yogis. They like to read the Upanishads, the Gita, etc. wherein the deeper aspects of life, the universe and meditation are described. Many of us have a mixture of these four tendencies. Hence a mixture of practices is to be recommended.

SAMĀDHI (समाधि)
Eventually Dhyana leads to an elimination of duality; the seer, seen and seeing merge into unity and one’s being fuses into the state of samadhi. A good definition is: When the five senses of perception together with the mind are at rest, when even the intellect has ceased to function, that, say the sages, is the supreme state—absorption, superconsciousness; concentration of the mind on an object of meditation. 

Samadhi is the state in which the mental matrix is fully assimilated. Even the grainy perceptual elements are assimilated into oneness. Samadhi is to reach the deepest level of consciousness where even the sense of individuality disappears. In the approach to samadhi one starts to become aware of fixations one by one and resolves them. The primary fixation is on the body and the self. The fixation is both physical and spiritual. In the beginning there may be a basis of meditation, such as, a mantra, or an auditing question; but, gradually, all such supports are dropped.

SAMĀPATTI (समापत्ति)
Samapatti means complete absorption; complete acceptance. In samapatti, all disturbance in consciousness fades away. This gives rise to purely objective consciousness of the object upon which the mind is cast. 

Samprajnata refers to a samadhi that is accompanied by discernment and illumination. In Samprajnata samadhi there are stages of vitarka (reasoning), vichara (reflection), ananda (bliss), and asmita (feeling of ‘I-ness’). Samprajnata is a form of sabeeja samadhi (samadhi having a basis). Ultimate samadhi is the nirbeeja samadhi (samadhi without a basis) in which even the sense of individuality disappears.

SAMSKARA (संस्कार)
The word samskara may be translated in English as latent impression, or dormant or past impressions. Samskara is the seed of consciousness which survives up to the state of samprajnata samadhi.  Samskaras also refer to mental tendency that causes one to act in a specific manner. These impressions may be prenatal and determine actions, illnesses, talents and so forth. This is the hereditary aspect of man.

SAMYAMA (संयम)
Samyama  means “control of the senses, self-control.” It consists of dhāranā (concentration), dhayāna (meditation) and samadhi (absorption).

SAT (सत)
Sat is the entire universe that is in a process of evolution.

SATTVA (सत्त्व)
Sattva means “essence”. It is true essence, nature, disposition of mind, character. It compares to AS-ISNESS of Scientology.

SATYAM (सत्यम्)
Satyam is the relative, changing and interdependent aspect of this universe. it is perceptible by the senses and understandable by the mind. The world of planets and stars is satyam because it is relative.

SAVICHĀRA (सविचार)
Savichara means that to which consideration is given. In savichara, one does not think of any object in terms of normal understanding. There is no form present. The whole process is through reflection that has no language.

SAVITARKA (सवितर्क)
Savitarka means accompanied with reason or thought.

SHABDA (शब्द)
Shabda refers to the  sound, word or mantra. Shabda is a thought process in the form of words. It is mental argumentation.

SMRITI (स्मृति)
Smriti refers to memory. It is the recalling of existing impressions. The impressions do not exhaust themselves upon recall; they remain.

SHRUTA (श्रुत)
Shruta means “heard, listened to, heard about or of, taught, mentioned, orally transmitted or communicated from age to age”. It specifically refers to the Vedas, because they were revealed. Through them, we know the supreme being and atman.

SUTRA (सूत्र)
The word sutra means ‘thread’. The word implies that the written words carry an underlying continuous thought; the various ideas connect together like the beads on a necklace to form a complete philosophy.

SVADHYAYA (स्वाध्याय)
Svadhyaya means “self-study.” It includes study of the entire physical, mental, emotional and spiritual structure of your personality. You are looking at your own consciousness. 


TAMAS (तमस्)
Tamas means “darkness, gloom”. Tamas is the dull, inert state of mind and nature; When tamas predominates, then nothing in the world can keep you active, spiritual or blissful. It compares to NOT-ISNESS of Scientology.

TAPAS (तपस्)
Tapas means “warmth, heat.” It refers to religious austerity, bodily mortification, penance, severe meditation, special observance.

TARKA (तर्क)
Tarka means logic or reasoning. It is a system or doctrine founded on speculation or reasoning.

TATTVA (तत्त्व)
Tattva is a true principle or axiom. It is the essence or substance of anything.

TRATAKA (त्राटक)
Trataka is a Sanskrit word, which means “to look” or “to gaze.” It is a method of fixing the eye on one object. As such, this meditation technique involves starting at a single point of focus.


UPĀSANA (उपासन)
Upasana means “homage, adoration, worship”. It is an activity of being intent on or engaged in.


VĀSANĀ (वासना) 
Vāsanā is the impression of anything remaining unconsciously in the mind, the present consciousness of past perceptions, knowledge derived from memory. It is said that consciousness has two supports: prana (vital energy) and vasana (impressions). These are the supports on which the mind rests and consciousness works. If one of them is removed, the other goes automatically.

VAIRAGYA (वैराग्य)
Vairagya is indifference to worldly objects and to life. It is freedom from all worldly desires, One has a sense of objectivity with which one looks at everything. This frees one up from all the seeming appearances of nature to which one gets attached.

VICHARA (विचार)
Vichara means pondering, deliberation, consideration, reflection, examination, investigation. The definition of vichara is when the consciousness is flowing without the basis of language. It is not thinking; there is only a contemplative pattern. The mind simply alternates in time, space and idea. 

VIKALPA (विकल्प)
Vikalpa refers to false notion, fancy, imagination. It is an unfounded belief that has no corresponding object at all.

VIPARYAYA (विपर्यय)
Viparyaya means perversion or alteration. It results in misconceptions.

VRITTI (वृत्ति)
Vritta is a mental modification, whether pleasant or painful. Vritti means circular. When you throw a stone into a pond, the movements of the water spread outward in the form of circles. In the same manner, the consciousness, when disturbed, moves out in a circular patterns. Therefore, the attitudes of chitta, the modes of mind, are called chitta vritti.


YAMA (यम)
Yama refers to self-restraints, abstinences, or social code. The yamas are designed to harmonize one’s social interactions. The five yamas are satya (truthfulness); ahimsa (feeling of non-violence to all things: human, animal, etc.); asteya (honesty); brahmacharya (sexual control or abstinence) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness). 

YOGA (योग)
Yoga, literally, means ‘union’. Yoga is the control of the patterns of consciousness as explained by Patanjali.

YOGA SUTRA (योग सूत्र)
The Yoga sutras is one of the most important texts in the Indian tradition and the foundation of classical Yoga.It is the Indian Yoga text that was most translated in its medieval era into forty Indian languages. The text fell into obscurity for nearly 700 years from the 12th to 19th century, and made a comeback in late 19th century due to the efforts of Swami Vivekananda and others. 


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