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Glossary M – P

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mahasamadhi.Sanskrit maha, “great,” samadhiThe last meditation, or conscious communion with God, during which a perfected master merges himself in the cosmic Aum and casts off the physical body. A master invariably knows beforehand the time God has appointed for him to leave his bodily residence. See samadhi.  

Mahavatar Babaji. The deathless Mahavatar (“great avatar”) who in 1861 gave Kriya Yoga (q.v.) initiation to Lahiri Mahasaya, and thereby restored to the world the ancient technique of salvation. Perennially youthful, he has lived for centuries in the Himalayas, bestowing a constant blessing on the world. His mission has been to assist prophets in carrying out their special dispensations. Many titles signifying his exalted spiritual stature have been given to him, but the mahavatar has generally adopted the simple name of Babaji, from the Sanskrit baba, “father,” and the suffix ji, denoting respect. More information about his life and spiritual mission is given in Autobiography of a Yogi. See avatar. 

man. The word is derived from the same root as Sanskrit manas, mind — the uniquely human capacity for rational thought. The science of yoga deals with human consciousness from the point of view of the essentially androgynous Self (atman). As there is no other terminology in English that would convey these psychological and spiritual truths without excessive literary awkwardness, the use of man and related terms has been retained in this publication — not in the narrowly exclusive sense of the word man, denoting only half of the human race, but in its broader original meaning.

Mantra Yoga. Divine communion attained through devotional, concentrated repetition of root-word sounds that have a spiritually beneficial vibratory potency. See Yoga.

master. One who has achieved self-mastery. Also, a respectful term of address for one’s guru (q.v.).

Paramahansa Yogananda has pointed out that “the distinguishing qualifications of a master are not physical but spiritual....Proof that one is a master is supplied only by the ability to enter at will the breathless state (savikalpa samadhi) and by the attainment of immutable bliss (nirvikalpa samadhi).” See samadhi.

maya. The delusory power inherent in the structure of creation, by which the One appears as many. Maya is the principle of relativity, inversion, contrast, duality, oppositional states; the “Satan” (lit., in Hebrew, “the adversary”) of the Old Testament prophets; and the “devil” whom Christ described picturesquely as a “murderer” and a “liar,” because “there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).

Paramahansa Yogananda wrote: “The Sanskrit word maya means ‘the measurer’; it is the magical power in creation by which limitations and divisions are apparently present in the Immeasurable and Inseparable. Maya is Nature herself — the phenomenal worlds, ever in transitional flux as antithesis to Divine Immutability. In God’s plan and play (lila), the sole function of Satan or maya is to attempt to divert man from Spirit to matter, from Reality to unreality.”

meditation. Generally, interiorized concentration with the objective of perceiving God. True meditation, dhyana, is conscious realization of God through intuitive perception. It is achieved only after the devotee has attained that fixed concentration whereby he disconnects his attention from the senses and is completely undisturbed by sensory impressions from the outer world. Dhyana is the seventh step of Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga, the eighth step being samadhi, communion, oneness with God. See Patanjali. 

medulla oblongata. This structure at the base of the brain (top of the spinal cord) is the principal point of entry of life force (prana) into the body. It is the seat of the sixth cerebrospinal center, whose function is to receive and direct the incoming flow of cosmic energy. The life force is stored in the seventh center (sahasrara) in the topmost part of the brain. From that reservoir it is distributed throughout the body. The subtle center at the medulla is the main switch that controls the entrance, storage, and distribution of the life force.

paramahansa. A spiritual title signifying a master (q.v.). It may be conferred only by a true guru on a qualified disciple. Paramahansa literally means “supreme swan.” In the Hindu scriptures, the hansa or swan symbolizes spiritual discrimination. Swami Sri Yukteswar bestowed the title on his beloved disciple Yogananda in 1935.

paramguru. Literally, “the preceding guru”; the guru of one’s guru. To Self-Realizationists (disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda), paramguru refers to Sri Yukteswar. To Paramahansaji, it meant Lahiri Mahasaya. Mahavatar Babaji is Paramahansaji’s param-paramguru. 

Patanjali. Renowned exponent of yoga, a sage of ancient times, whose Yoga Sutras outline the principles of the yogic path, dividing it into eight steps: (1) moral proscriptions (yama), (2) right observances (niyama), (3) meditation posture (asana), (4) life-force control (pranayama), (5) interiorization of the mind (pratyahara), (6) concentration (dharana), (7) meditation (dhyana), (8) union with God (samadhi).

Prakriti. Cosmic Nature; in general, the intelligent, creative vibratory power projected out of Spirit that both objectifies and becomes the triune manifestation (causal, astral, and physical) of the universe and the microcosm of man.

Specifically designated: Maha-Prakriti is the primal Undifferentiated Creative Intelligence of God, Creative Mother Nature or Holy Ghost, that through Cosmic Vibration of Its own Self brings into manifestation all creation. Para-Prakriti (Pure Nature) and Apara-Prakriti (Impure Nature) correlate with the Christian terminologies of Holy Ghost and Satan — respectively, the creative power that expresses the immanence of God’s vibratory Presence in creation, and the dark power of cosmic delusion that obscures the Divine Omnipresence.

prana. Sparks of intelligent finer-than-atomic energy that constitute life, collectively referred to in Hindu scriptural treatises as prana, which Paramahansa Yogananda has translated as “lifetrons.” In essence, condensed thoughts of God; substance of the astral world (q.v.) and life principle of the physical cosmos. In the physical world, there are two kinds of prana: (1) the cosmic vibratory energy that is omnipresent in the universe, structuring and sustaining all things; (2) the specific prana or energy that pervades and sustains each human body through five currents or functions. Prana current performs the function of crystallization; vyana current, circulation; samana current, assimilation; udana current, metabolism; and apana current, elimination.

pranam. A form of greeting in India. The hands are pressed, palms together, with the base of the hands at the heart and the fingertips touching the forehead. This gesture is actually a modification of the pranam, literally “complete salutation,” from the Sanskrit root nam, “to salute or bow down,” and the prefix pra, “completely.” A pranam salutation is the general mode of greeting in India. Before renunciants and persons held in high spiritual regard, it may be accompanied by the spoken word, “Pranam.” 

pranayama. Conscious control of prana (the creative vibration or energy that activates and sustains life in the body). The yoga science of pranayama is the direct way to consciously disconnect the mind from the life functions and sensory perceptions that tie man to body consciousness. Pranayama thus frees man’s consciousness to commune with God. All scientific techniques that bring about union of soul and Spirit may be classified as yoga, and pranayama is the greatest yogic method for attaining this divine union.

 

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