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The Yoga Dictionary

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The Sanskrit language is rich in words to communicate ideas about spiritual life, yoga, and God realization. This dictionary, appearing by installments in BACK TO GODHEAD, will focus upon the most important of these words (and, occasionally, upon relevant English terms) and explain what they mean. (For a guide to proper pronunciation, please see page 1.)

Brahmana—one who knows Brahman, the Absolute. The Vedic social system assigns an occupation to each person according to his personal qualities and the work he is capable of performing. The brahmanas are the intellectuals, those whose work calls for the most keenly developed intelligence. They form the brain of the society, while those who pursue other occupations—the government leaders, soldiers, businessmen, farmers, artists, workers, and so on—form the arms, stomach, and legs of the social body.

A brahmana is an intellectual. But not your confused, angst-torn intellectual. Nor your technological whiz kid or your tweedy speculating professor. A brahmana is one whose intellect has been sharpened and refined by cultivation of spiritual knowledge.

According to the Vedic ideal, it’s not enough merely to have a quick and subtle mind. The Vedic conception is that an intellectual—a brahmana—should be a man of fine spiritual character and deep spiritual insight.

A brahmana, first of all, must have his mind and senses under his control. He’s not just someone who plays games with his mind, caters to his senses, floats about in a nebulous ether of speculative ideas, or uses his brain power merely to make a good living.

On the contrary, he uses his intelligence to try to understand the ultimate meaning and purpose of life—and tries to enlighten others.

A brahmana must be austere, not self-indulgent. He must be willing to undergo personal troubles for a higher realization. And he must be a man of principle, one who lives for the truth and can’t be swayed or bought off by position or pleasures.

A brahmana must be a man of cleanliness—clean physically and clean at heart—and he must be tolerant and simple. He must also have faith in the Supreme, the Personality of Godhead, and be willing to live in harmony with God’s laws.

Above all, a brahmana must have true knowledge—not just psychological insight, technological know-how, or a command of facts and figures, but a true understanding of who he is and what his life is for. In short, he must be a man of spiritual realization, one who understands the difference between matter and spirit, between the temporary and the eternal. And his realization must be more than theoretical—he must be able to use his spiritual understanding to resolve the problems of his own life, and the lives of others.

A brahmana with these qualifications is the true intellectual leader of society. He is a man of vision, one who clearly sees what is what and can make it clear to others.

According to the Vedic system, the brahmana lives simply, modestly, yet he is the most respected, exalted member of society. It is he whom kings and statesmen must approach for guidance, both in their personal lives and in the momentous affairs of state.

It should be obvious that no one is “born a brahmana.” Wise parents may give birth to a fool, or fools to a child of wisdom. A real brahmana is one who knows Brahman, the supreme Absolute Truth.

Throughout the world there are men of brahminical inclinations, but they must be trained so that these qualities grow and flourish. A man may have the potential to be a great doctor, but first he must be trained. And so it is with brahmanas.

But although the world has so many colleges and universities, where can one go to be trained in brahminical culture? We teach our young men to waste their intelligence in matters of no ultimate consequence. And the whole world suffers for want of spiritual vision. A social body without brahmanas is like a body without a head. There’s no way it can survive. The need to train intelligent young men as brahmanas is therefore urgent beyond out power to express.

Buddhi-yoga—intelligence in Krsna consciousness. Buddhi means “intelligence,” and yoga indicates a relationship with the Supreme, or Krsna. So to act in devotional service to Krsna is buddhi-yoga. Lord Krsna confirms in Bhagavad-gita (10.10) that when one engages steadily in His loving devotional service. He gives one the spiritual intelligence by which one can come to Him.

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