The Bhagavad Gita


The kingdom of the Bharata family, which the Pandavas and Kauravas fight over in the Mahabharata. (read full term analysis)


The royal family that the Pandavas and Kauravas all belong to (also often known as the Kuru family). (read full term analysis)


Arjuna’s side of the Bharata family, who are battling their cousins (the Kauravas) to take back Hastinapura in the set-up to the Bhagavad Gita. The Pandavas are all “sons” of the king… (read full term analysis)


The side of the Bharata family that opposes Arjuna and the Pandavas. The Kauravas descend from the blind king Dhritarashtra, to whom Sanjaya narrates the Bhagavad Gita. At the beginning of the… (read full term analysis)


A central concept in Hindu philosophy, and arguably the central concept in the Bhagavad Gita, dharma is a moral code of behavior that follows from one’s sacred duty to the gods, other people, and… (read full term analysis)
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Often translated as “discipline” or “spiritual path,” yoga is a practice of deliberate, intense devotional engagement that usually involves meditation. (This sense of yoga far exceeds yoga’s usual connotations in the West as a form… (read full term analysis)


Sanskrit term for action. “Yoga of action” is a translation of “karma yoga.” (read full term analysis)


A form of philosophical knowledge that entails understanding everything in the universe, including the difference between the eternal self and the gunas that comprise material things. (read full term analysis)


The renunciation of action. (read full term analysis)


A Sanskrit term for devotional worship, which Krishna asks of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Bhakti allows Hindus to resolve moral conflicts by turning to a higher power through disciplined, emotional rituals that establish… (read full term analysis)


The three component forms or “threads” that comprise all material things: sattva, rajas, and tamas. The physical world and the bodies that a soul inhabits over time are composed of the three… (read full term analysis)


The highest and lightest of the gunas, sattva is the quality of truthfulness, lucidity, or purity in things that leads people to worship the gods trustfully, act without clinging to consequences or desires, and… (read full term analysis)


The guna of passion, rajas attaches the soul to action’s consequences, leading people toward greed and distancing them from wisdom. (The adjective form of rajas is “rajasic.”) (read full term analysis)


The darkest and heaviest of the gunas, tamas is connected to ignorance, laziness, and neglect. Those governed by tamas tend to reincarnate downward, into inferior bodies, and act destructively, forgetting the gods and religious… (read full term analysis)


The interconnected, imperishable, unitary force of being that animates everything in the universe. Brahman is identical with atman (the individual self) and created by Krishna, who calls it his “womb” and explains that the… (read full term analysis)


The individual self or soul that moves through samsara (the cycle of reincarnation). Atman is a component of Brahman, as its being is connected to that of all other things, and recognizing this fact… (read full term analysis)


The cycle of birth and death (also known as reincarnation or transmigration) in which the eternal self (atman) participates until it forfeits all attachment to the gunas, recognizes its unity with Brahman(read full term analysis)


An sacred syllable and mantra (chant) with various religious meanings, which is ostensibly the highest of all sounds. Krishna encourages devotees to chant “om tat sat” (“om is the truth”) during their discipline and sacrifices… (read full term analysis)


The four oldest and often most authoritative Hindu scriptures, generally considered direct revelations from Brahma (the creator god) and dated to approximately 1,000 years before the Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita. (read full term analysis)


A sage who successfully abandons any attachment to the fruit of actions, a tyagi is the highest kind of human being and destined to join Brahman upon death. (read full term analysis)

Caste System

The Hindu caste system, or social order, consists of four categories: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. The outcaste, or untouchables, exist outside of (and below) the caste system. (read full term analysis)


The highest Hindu caste, traditionally composed of priests and teachers. (read full term analysis)


The second-highest Hindu caste, traditionally composed of warriors and statesmen. (read full term analysis)


The third Hindu caste, traditionally composed of merchants, farmers, and artisans. (read full term analysis)


The fourth Hindu caste, traditionally composed of servants and manual laborers. (read full term analysis)


Also known as untouchables or pariahs, those outside and therefore below the caste system. (read full term analysis)