Gunas, Koshas, Margas, Doshas… Sanskrit, the language of the great Pantanjali, has become part of our vocabulary. But why do we use these words instead of their translation into our own languages?
If we look at the BYC program for this year we find quite a few Sanskrit words. They are the Sanskrit original and not a translation into Spanish, English or Catalan. We constantly hear them too in our yoga classes or read them in our yoga books.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
There are two main reasons why translating Sanskrit words is difficult.
- Sanskrit words express complex aspects of yogic philosophy and spirituality and therefore have many hues of meaning.
- Each Sanskrit word has a special vibration, and these sounds have a particular effect on us. We could say that Sanskrit words are instruments of power with a life of their own.
A BASIC UNDERSTANDING
That said, we need a basic understanding of what we’re talking about when we say, for example, “Ahimsa”. Although we could debate endlessly about what Ahimsa means for you or for me.
Here is a short and very simple Sanskrit glossary (A – D) with some of the most common Sanskrit words used by yoga practitioners today.
THE LETTER A
Ahimsa: non-violence; one of the five yamas within Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga.
Ajna: sixth chakra, or “third eye” chakra, located between the eyebrows.
Amrita: lit. “immortality”; often referred to in sacred texts as the elixir or nectar of the deities.
Anahata: fourth or heart chakra, located at the centre of the chest area.
Anandamaya kosha: lit. “sheath made of bliss”; it corresponds to the more subtle or spiritual body.
Anjali mudra: hands joined together in front of the heart; a gesture practiced throughout Asia and beyond and used as a sign of respect, greeting or when praying.
Annamaya kosha: lit. “food sheath”; it corresponds to the coarse or physical body.
Apana vayu: air or wind pervading the area from the navel and downwards, and regulating urination, menstrual cycle and giving birth among other functions of elimination.
Apana: descending manifestation of prana, waste.
Aparigraha: generosity/non-attachment; one of the five yamas in Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga.
Asana: pose or posture; third stage in Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga.
Ashram: traditionally, a spiritual hermitage or retreat place.
Asteya: integrity/non-stealing; one of the five yamas in Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga.
Avidya: false understanding, ignorance, confusion.
Ayurveda: “the knowledge of life”, a traditional Indian medicine system that uses the principles of nature to maintain health and balance.
THE LETTER B
Bandha: inner body lock engaging both the physical and the energetic body.
Bhagavad Gita: a sacred text, part of the Indian epic Mahabharata, where the god Krishna teaches yoga to his devotee Arjuna.
BHAKTI YOGA: THE PATH OF DEVOTION; ONE OF THE FOUR MAIN MARGAS OR YOGA PATHS MENTIONED IN THE BHAGAVAD GITA AS WAYS TO REACH LIBERATION.
Bindu: dot representing the point beyond which energy cannot be condensed.
Brahma: the Hindu god of creation and one of the Trimurti, the others being Vishnu and Shiva.
Brahmacharya: moderation/celibacy; one of the five yamas in Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga.
THE LETTER C
Chakras: subtle energy centres at the hub of a person’s being.
Chin mudra: a hand gesture or seal done by joining the tips of your thumbs and index fingers.
THE LETTER D
Deva: in Hinduism, the benevolent gods associated with a harmonious natural order and in constant battle with the asuras.
Devi: in Hinduism, the female aspect of the divine representing consciousness and bliss.
Dharana: concentration; sixth stage in Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga.
Dharma: virtue or true way of life; it can also be translated as the Path of Harmony.
Dhyana: meditation; seventh stage in Patanjali’s eight-limbed path of yoga.
Dosha: different constitution types according to Ayurveda; there are three doshas: vata, pitta, kapha.
Dukkha: a Buddhist term commonly translated as suffering, unsatisfactoriness, or unease.
With the following Kirtans in the program, there will be plenty of opportunities for Bhakti at the BYC:
Rising Souls Marcus Felsner Tina Malia Kirtaniyas Soulnanda Karmalicious Sivani Mata Mira GauraVani & Jahnavi Harrison Johannes Vogt Shakti Mamas Neelam & David Bhakti Brothers