Hinduism Exam Definitions
Brahman: The concept of ‘ultimate reality’. It is absolute, eternal, ineffable and impersonal. In Upanishads the knowledge of
Brahman is responsible for the liberation of Samsara (death and rebirth). In Advaita, a liberated human being sees Brahman as his
or her own true self.
Brahmin: Priests that occupy the highest order of the caste system. They administer to the spiritual needs of the people. The
superiority of the Brahmin caste is related to their roles as lords of the sacrifice, the power that controls the cosmos in the ancient
vedic religion. The Brahmins are called ‘ gods of the earth’because they carry the sacrifice of the gods.
Samhitā: The oldest strata of Vedic literature. It is compromised of four groups of texts, Rgveda Samhitā, Sama Veda Samhitā,
Yajur Veda Samhitā, and theAtharva Veda Samhita. Most of this vast literature has yet to be translated into any modern
Upanisads: One of the four genres of Vedic Literature, the Upanisads existed from 800 BCE- 18th Century CE. The Upanisads
are not a homogenous group of texts. They are also escoteric and are aimed at revealing the ‘hidden’meaning behind the apparent
meaning of the Samhitā.
Ātman: Sanskrit Word that translates best to soul, In the Vedanta school of Hinduism Ātman refers to true self, the essence of an
individual. To attain liberation one must realize that their true self (Ātman) is identical with Brahman.
Mohenjodaro: Adeveloped Urban culture, Mohendaro was one of the Indus Valley Civilizations most important cities and housed
some 40,000 individuals all enjoying a high standard of living. The city had sophisticated water technologies, drainage systems,
and rubbish chutes emptying into waste pots.
Asko Parpola: Professor at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Is an Indologist and Sindhologist. He specializes in Indus script
and created universally used classification of Indus valley seals and proposed decipherment of the language of the script.
Agnicāyana: Is a Vedic religion ritual. Involves the piling of the altar ofAgni. The practice is cited in the Yajurveda Samhita.
Karma: Derives from the root ‘to do’and literally means ‘action’. Karma refers to not only all action, but also to the consequence
that result from action. There are three types of Karma, Sañcita (exhausted Karma) , Prārabdha (Karma being used at Present),
and Āgāmi (Karma that will be used in the future)
Purusārthas: The four legitimate ends to human life. They represent a realization that humans possess complex personalities that
seek fulfillment through four channels. The four ends of life are : artha (prosperity) , kama (pleasure), dharma (law, religious
duty) and moksa (liberation).
Varnāśramadharma: Combination of Varna,Asrama and Dharma. Is considered an idealistic model for living that changes
emphasis according to 2 factors; one’s caste (varna) and stage of life (asrama). Not a model of reality but an idealized social
Śramana: Meaning “hard work”, refers to the three renunciate or ascetic tradition of SouthAsia, concerned iwth “ultimate”
questions or metaphics. These traditions include Jainism, Buddhism, and Upanishadic tradition. All three share the concept of
Karma, the ideal of enlightenment, and the goal of liberation.
Bhagavadgītā: One of two major Sanskrit epics, the Bhagavadgītā contains 18 chapters and is embedded in the Mahabarata. The
dates of the epic range from 200 BCE to 500 CE and the epic preaches that liberation can be attained through 3 modes: Karma
yoga, Jñana Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga.
Advaita: One of the three major schools of Vedanta. Sankara has a strong presence within the text. Deals with ignorance of nature
of Brahman and illusion as the causes of Ātman’s bondage in Samsara.
Śruti: The first source of the Dharma and the divinely revealed Veda that acts