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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 Cod 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.)

Bhakta. One who performs bhakti; a devotee (in particular, a devotee of the Supreme Lord).

Bhakti (bhakti-yoga). Bhakti-yoga is the cultivation of activities favorable for satisfying Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Such activities must be free from all misguided attempts to attain spiritual knowledge by one’s own feeble speculative powers. Bhakti-yoga also excludes all activities directed merely toward satisfying one’s own senses instead of the senses of the Supreme Lord. When one is free from all false identification with the temporary body and the temporary families, societies, and nations with which the body is allied, when one’s consciousness is fully purified, and when one engages one’s senses in serving the supreme master of the senses—the Supreme Lord, Krsna—one is said to be situated in pure bhakti-yoga.

One may engage one’s senses in the service of Krsna in any of nine different ways: by hearing about Krsna, chanting about Krsna, remembering Krsna, serving the lotus feet of Krsna, worshiping Krsna, offering prayers to Krsna, carrying out the orders of Krsna, becoming Krsna’s friend, or surrendering everything to Krsna. By serving Krsna in any or all of these ways, one makes one’s life perfectly successful in Krsna consciousness.

Bhakti-yoga begins when one develops an interest in spiritual or transcendental understanding. Impelled by such an interest, one associates with devotees of Lord Krsna, and gradually, under the guidance of a pure devotee, one molds one’s life in a devotional way. As one renders devotional service to the Lord, one gradually becomes free from all unwanted materialistic habits and develops firm faith in Krsna consciousness. As a result, one increasingly appreciates the taste of devotional service and becomes strongly attached to Krsna. This attachment then evolves into transcendental ecstasy, which culminates in pure, unalloyed love for Krsna. This is the step-by-step process for attaining perfection in bhakti-yoga.

The Bhagavad-gita says that of all systems of yoga, bhakti-yoga is the highest. Particularly in the present age, it is also the system most easy to follow.

Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. The spiritual master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura (1874-1936), a great devotee and scholar, wrote and published a wealth of literature explaining the science of Krsna consciousness in Sanskrit, Bengali, English, and other languages. He taught how to live a spiritual life of perfect renunciation not by artificially giving everything up but by using everything in the service of Krsna. He established sixty-four centers of Krsna consciousness in various parts of India, and in 1922 he instructed His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to teach Krsna consciousness in English. It was this order that led to the advent of Krsna consciousness in the West, and throughout the world.

Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), the founder and original spiritual guide of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, founded back to godhead magazine in 1944. It was he who introduced bhakti-yoga and the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra to the West and spread them around the world. He is the author of Bhagavad-gita As It Is, The Nectar of Devotion, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and multi-volume translations (with commentary) of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta, as well as many other books. An adequate appreciation of Srila Prabhupada is not possible here. A biography of Srila Prabhupada—Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta—is appearing in condensed installments in back to godhead. The name Bhaktivedanta indicates that he taught bhakti-yoga as the culmination of spiritual knowledge.

Bhaktivinoda Thakura. A great poet, scholar, and devotee in the disciplic line of Krsna consciousness, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura (1838-1914) was the father of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. While living as a householder and working as a government magistrate, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura vigorously wrote and published devotional poetry and scholarly expositions of Krsna consciousness. During a time of spiritual confusion, he reestablished the integrity of the cultural movement of pure devotional service inaugurated centuries earlier by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the great proponent of love of Krsna. back to godhead, Vol. 16, No. 8, carried an appreciation by Dr. Thomas J. Hopkins (Franklin and Marshall College) of how Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s work preserved and strengthened the Krsna consciousness movement and carried it forward toward its eventual journey to the West.

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