Hinduism Glossary

Arya Samaj

Hindu sect and reform movement founded by Dayananda Sarasvati in Bombay in 1875. Striving for a return to the original purity of Hinduism found in the Vedas, followers reject image worship, child marriage, polygamy and meaningless ritual.

Brahma Kumaris

A Hindu movement based on the religious experiences of the merchant Dada Lekhraj in 1930s Hyderabad.


("growth, expansion"). The impersonal Absolute, the unproduced Producer of all that is. In the Vedas, Brahman is the force behind the magical formulas. In the Upanishads it is the supreme, eternal principle behind the origin of the universe and of the gods. In Vedanta philosophy, it is the Self (atman) of all beings and knowledge of Brahman results in liberation (moksha).


Religion of ancient India based on the Vedas.


("action" or "deed"). Impact of previous deeds (usually in former lives) on one's current circumstances.


Very popular Hindu epic, composed around 700 CE by Valmiki. It is as long as the Christian Bible and tells the story of the virtuous hero Rama who rescues his beloved Sita from the evil king.


Hindu denomination devoted to the worship of Shiva, which usually tends to be more ascetic than Vaisnavism. Saivas are distinguished by three horizontal markings on the forehead. Saiva ascetics usually wear their hair long and matted and are often covered in ashes.


Hindu devotional (bhakti) tradition centered on the god Vishnu, who is mainly worshipped in the form of one of his incarnations. Vaisnavites wear three markings in a V formation on their foreheads.


("knowledge"). Collection of Hindu scriptures regarded as sacred and authoritative by all Hindus.

Yoga, Hatha

The yoga (path) focusing on bodily postures to improve meditation. Popular in the West as a means to health, fitness, and relaxation.