Just the facts on religion.

Glossary of Religion

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Mahabharata
("Great Tale of Bharata's descendents"). Epic tale of over 100,000 verses in length composed between about 400 BCE and 400 CE. The Mahabharata recounts the battle between the Pandavas and Kauravas for kingship. It contains the Bhagavad-Gita, in which the god Krishna assists the Pundava hero Arjuna at a moment of decision.
Mahadeva
One of the names of Shiva.
Mahavidyas
("great" + "knowledge"). Ten Hindu goddesses who represent the ten forms of transcendent knowledge and tantric power. They are personifications of Brahman's Sakti, so through worship of them, one can gain knowledge of Brahman. They are: Kali, Tara, Sodasi, Bhukanesvari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta/Viraratri, Dhumavati, Bagala, Matangi and Kamala. The Mahavidyas were especially popular in medieval Bengal.
Mahesvara
("Great Lord"). Epithet of Shiva, sometimes of Vishnu.
Mahesvara-sutra
A Saivite text attributed to Shiva, dealing with the four ways that lead to ultimate insight: yoga, vedanta, language and music.
Mahesvari
Consort of Mahesvara; a name for Shakti; one of the goddesses created by Shiva who constitute the Divine Mothers (Matrkas).
makarismos
Greek, "blessed." Used in Homer and possibly in rites of initiations in mystery cults.
Maltese cross
Symbol of the Order of St. John (Knights of Malta), Malta, and many modern-day firefighters and paramedics.
mantra
Sacred sound believed to possess supernatural powers.
marga
Path or way to moksa.
martyr
A person who is killed because of their religion.
Mary
The mother of Jesus Christ and one of the most important figures of the Christian religion, especially in Catholicism.
maschalismos
A practice mentioned in tragedies, which may or may not have been common in real life, of cutting off the extremities of a murder victim and placing them under the corpse's armpits (maschalai). The purpose was probably humiliation, but may have also served to avoid pollution or prevent the corpse from taking vengeance.
mashgiach
(Hebrew) Rabbi trained to certify foods as kosher.
matzah
(Hebrew, "unleavened bread"). Also spelled matzo or mazzah. Unleaved (non-yeast) bread used during Passover based on Exodus 12:39, in which the Israelites fled Egypt with only unleavened bread because they could not wait for the dough to rise. Called the "bread of affliction" based on Deuteronomy 16:3.
mazel tov
(Hebrew, "good planetary influences "). "Good luck." Usually said at the end of a wedding or upon hearing good news.
meaning of life
The significance or purpose of human existence.
Meditation
Mental concentration for the purpose of relaxation, enlightenment, communion with the divine, or all of the above.
menorah
(Hebrew, "candelabrum"). A seven-branch candlestick. Part of the furnishings of the tabernacle in the wilderness and the Temple in Jerusalem. In 1948 it became the official symbol of the State of Israel. Often used to refer to the chanukkiah.
Messiah
(Greek christos; "anointed one"). The future hero or king of Israel predicted by the Hebrew prophets.
mezuzah
(Hebrew, "doorpost"). Small parchment of Torah verses placed on the doorpost of Jewish homes in obedience to Deut. 6:9.
Midrash
(Hebrew derash, "sermon"). Stories, sermons, parables, and other material explaining the Talmud.
mikva
Body of natural water used for ritual cleansing.
ming
(Chinese, "name"). n Chinese thought, to name something is to assign it a place in the hierarchy of the universe. The Tao is therefore nameless.
minyan
Quota of ten adult Jews required for certain prayers and observances.
Mishnah
(Hebrew, "a teaching that is repeated"). Rabbinic commentary on the Torah and part of the Talmud. Codified c. 200 CE by Judah Ha-Nasi.
Mishneh Torah
(Hebrew, "repetition of Torah"). The book of Deuteronomy or, more commonly, the code of Maimonides.
Mithraism
A Roman mystery religion based on the Persian god Mithras, which flourished from the 2nd through 4th centuries CE.
mitre
(Greek mitra, "turban"). Liturgical headdress of a bishop. In the Eastern Church it resembles a crown similar in form to that worn by Byzantine Emperors. In the Western Church it is shield-shaped and made of embroidered satin, which is often jewelled. Two fringed pieces hang down in the back.
mitzvot
(Hebrew "commandments"). Commandments; religious actions (singular mitzvah). Sometimes used more generally to refer to any good deed.
mlecchas
In ancient India, foreigners, especially those considered barbarians or less civilized.
modalism
Belief system in which God consists of a single person who reveals himself in different modes. Thus the Son is divine, but the same person the Father. Declared heretical in the early church. Closely related to patripassianism and Sabellianism.
mohel
(pronounced "MOY-el"). The person who performs the ritual of circumcision. Must be an observant Jew trained in the applicable Jewish law and surgical technique.
moksa
("release"). Liberation from the cycle of rebirth, which is believed by most philosophical schools to be the ultimate goal of life.
monarchianism
General term for early Christian heretical beliefs that focused on safeguarding the oneness of God by denying the Trinity. In dynamic monarchianism, Jesus was a man who was given the power of God. In modalist monarchianism, Jesus was the Father incarnate.
monk
A man who is a member of a monastic order.
Muharram
First month in the Islamic calendar. Also a name for al-Hijra, the Islamic New Year.

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