A glossary of terms related to Ram Dass, Maharaj-ji, yoga, Zen, Buddhism, and more

In my post on Ram Dass’s best books and other places, I use terms related to the work of Ram Dass, including terms on yoga, Hinduism, Maharaj-ji, Buddhism, meditation, mindfulness, mantras, and the different names of the man he called Maharaj-ji (aka, Maharaji, Neem Karoli Baba, Neeb Karori Baba).

Sources of the terms and definitions

To help understand that article, and the speeches, books, and other writings of Ram Dass, I have put together the following “Ram Dass glossary of terms.” Note that the definitions below come from internet research and the following books:

Sanskrit terms

In The Bhagavad Gita, by Eknath Easwaran, he states in his glossary that these are Sanskrit terms. Wikipedia describes Sanskrit as, “a classical language belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages.”


Here’s the glossary of terms:

“Not dharma.” Injustice, evil, anything that goes against moral laws.
Nonviolence, non-harming in deeds, words, and thought.
The third eye, a spot between the two eyebrows.
A ritual performed to show reverence of a deity.
Literally means “seat.” A yoga posture or position.
A spiritually based residence or retreat site where yoga is lived and taught.
Ashtanga Yoga
An eightfold path of yoga as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
Non-stealing. One of the yamas.
The individual soul or self in Hindu philosophy. Miracle of Love calls it the “God within.” Easwaran’s Bhagavad Gita states, “The innermost soul in every creature, which is divine.”
Devotion, the path of devotion and love towards the Divine. Ram Dass refers to this as the yoga of devotion. “The way Bhakti works — you just love until you and the Beloved become one.”
A Buddhist monk or mendicant.
The practice of chastity. One of the yamas. Easwaran’s Bhagavad Gita states, “‘Conduct leading to God’, self-control, purity.”
The ultimate reality or cosmic consciousness in Hinduism. Easwaran’s Bhagavad Gita states, “The supreme reality underlying all life, the divine ground of existence, the impersonal Godhead.”
Literally, a person who strives to know Brahman.
An energy center or wheel in the subtle body according to yoga and Hinduism. One of seven energy vortices or nerve plexuses along the astral spinal column.
A clay pipe used for smoking.
Elder brother.
Refers to Dada Mukerjee, Maharaji’s personal assistant (who wrote the book, By His Grace: A Devotee’s Story).
Soup made from lentils (and possibly other ingredients like vegetables, spices, and herbs).
The act of seeing or beholding the divine, often through the gaze of a revered spiritual teacher or deity. Being in the presence of a deity, saint, or enlightened being ... with the intention of receiving their grace and blessings. A spiritual meeting.
das, dass
A divine being or deity. It is often used to describe gods or celestial beings in Hinduism and other Indian religions. The term can also be translated as “celestial” or “shining one.” The feminine devi is “goddess.”
Devi puja
Worship of the Divine Mother.
Concentration on a single subject.
One's duty or righteous behavior according to cosmic law. A spiritual way of life.
A hostel, especially for pilgrims.
A traditional garment worn by men, typically 4-6 yards in length, it’s wrapped around the waist and and legs and tied in place. Part of it may also cover the upper body, and the style of draping can vary depending on regional and cultural preferences.
Meditation or contemplation, often a part of the eight limbs of yoga.
dukka, duhka
Pain, suffering.
Another word for sadhu. (I believe this is a Muslim word.)
A liberated being who remains on Earth and serves as a doorway to God.
A name of Vishnu or Krishna. Per Wikipedia, Hari translates as “one who takes away” (sins, darkness, illusion).
Hatha Yoga
A form of yoga that emphasizes physical postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama). A physical method of achieving union with God.
The left nadi (stream of energy) that runs along the sushumna (the astral spinal column that carries the kundalini energy). It is feminine in nature. See also pingala.
Jai Ram
“Glory to Ram,” or “Hail Lord Rama.”
Wisdom, or higher knowledge.
Jnana Yoga
The path of wisdom and knowledge, focusing on self-inquiry and discrimination between the real and unreal.
A period in cosmic time, equaling one Day of Brahma or 1,000 “great yugas”, which translate as 4.32 billion years.
The law of cause and effect, stating that every action has consequences.
karma yoga
The path of selfless action and service performed without attachment to the results.
Spiritual energy.
Per Easwaran’s Bhagavad Gita, “kundalini is described as a force coiled at the base of the spine ... it may be aroused through meditation and the practice of yoga; then it rises up through the subtle body, awakening the higher centers of consciousness.”
Neem Karoli Baba suggested that you can raise kundalini energy by trying to love everyone and serve everyone.
The divine play or cosmic game, according to Hindu philosophy.
Per Easwaran’s Bhagavad Gita, “the divine play of the Lord disguising himself as the many beings of this world.”
A realm or plane of existence in Hinduism and Buddhism.
A water pot.
A sacred word, sound, or phrase repeated during meditation or prayer.
The practice of silence or abstaining from speech, often used as a spiritual discipline.
Literally means “illusion.” The illusion of the material world, according to Hindu philosophy.

In Hindu philosophy, particularly in Advaita Vedanta, Maya refers to the illusory nature of the material world. It’s the idea that the physical world we perceive is not ultimately real — ultimate reality — but rather a projection or illusion created by the mind. Maya can be seen as the veil of illusion that hides the true nature of reality, leading individuals to mistakenly identify with their physical bodies and material possessions rather than recognizing their deeper spiritual essence.

Ram Dass often emphasized the importance of seeing through the illusion of Maya to attain spiritual liberation and connect with one’s true self or higher consciousness. In one book I remember him referring to the “illusion of separateness.”
In Paths To God, he says, “The flux that underlies everything that is created and dissolved (i.e., the phenomenal world). That which diverts humans from Spirit (Reality) to matter (unreality).”
Spiritual enlightenment and liberation. It refers to liberation or release from the cycle of birth and death (samsara) and the attendant suffering. It is considered the ultimate goal of human life and the highest state of spiritual attainment.
Moksha entails liberation from the cycle of reincarnation (rebirth) and the cessation of the karmic cycle. It is freedom from the limitations of the individual ego (jiva) and the realization of one’s true nature as Brahman, the ultimate reality.
A sacred image or idol representing a deity in Hinduism.
The state of ultimate liberation and enlightenment in Buddhism.
Per Easwaran’s Bhagavad Gita, “Complete extinction of self-will and separateness; realization of the unity of all life.”
The second limb of Ashtanga Yoga, consisting of moral observances or personal disciplines.
The cosmic syllable. Often used as a mantra, and in meditation.
The right nadi (stream of energy) that runs along the sushumna (the astral spinal column which carries the kundalini energy). It is masculine in nature. See also ida.
Nature, the material world, or the manifest universe in Hindu philosophy.

In Hindu philosophy, Prakriti is considered the material energy or the dynamic aspect of reality, which includes the physical elements, senses, mind, and ego. It is seen as the realm of change, impermanence, and diversity.

Ram Dass’s often taught the need to transcend identification with the material world (Prakriti) and to connect with the deeper, eternal aspect of oneself (Purusha or Atman). By doing so, people can experience a profound shift in consciousness and attain a state of inner peace and fulfillment.
A gesture of respect or salutation in Indian culture.
The practice of breath control in yoga. Per Ram Dass, it is “regulation of the breath to control prana, or the life force of the body. Used in yoga and meditation for cleansing the body and concentrating the mind.”
Consecrated food.
The fifth limb of Ashtanga Yoga, involving withdrawal or control of the senses. Withdrawal of senses from objects to still the mind. This is what we do in “corpse pose (savasana).”
Raja Yoga
The royal path of yoga, emphasizing meditation and mental control.
One of the two major epics of ancient Indian literature, narrating the life and adventures of Lord Rama.
Spiritual practice or discipline undertaken to attain spiritual goals.
A renunciate.
Translates as “existence-consciousness-bliss.” It is pure existence (sat), pure consciousness (chit), and infinite bliss (ananda).
Sat Guru
Supreme guru.
Enlightenment or sudden spiritual awakening, often associated with Zen Buddhism.
A community of spiritual seekers.
One of the three gunas (qualities) in Hindu philosophy, representing purity and harmony.
Selfless service performed with the intention of benefiting others. It emphasizes the idea of serving others without attachment to personal gain or recognition, driven by a sense of compassion and love for all beings. For Ram Dass, seva is not just about performing charitable acts or volunteering but embodying a mindset of service as a spiritual practice.
The divine feminine energy and creative power in Hinduism. Also, psychic energy.
Literally means “peace.” A mantra like “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti” means “Peace, peace, peace.”
Spiritual powers or attainments acquired through advanced yogic practices and meditation.
Ethical conduct or morality in Buddhism.
Ram’s wife, the divine mother.
A wooden bed.
Skillful means or expedient means, referring to various methods and teachings used in Buddhism to guide disciples towards enlightenment.
The oldest sacred scriptures of Hinduism, consisting of hymns, rituals, and philosophical teachings.
The philosophical school based on the teachings of the Upanishads, emphasizing the unity of the individual soul with the universal consciousness.
General: The first limb of Ashtanga Yoga, consisting of ethical principles or moral restraints.
From Ram Dass’s Paths To God: One of the external disciplines: ahimsa (non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity), and aparigraha (non-covetousness).
A spiritual, mental, and physical practice originating in ancient India. Per Ram Dass, it literally means to yoke or join ... the way to or the union of the soul with the Ultimate Reality.
One who seeks union with God. My teacher used to call a man practitioner a “yogi” and a woman a “yogini.”


I’ll keep adding to this Ram Dass glossary of terms over time, but for today I hope this is a good start.