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Key Terms on Hinduism

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Henry Shiu

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Key Terms for the Lecture on Hinduism
1.sanatana dharma: eternal law. An alternative term designating a comprehensive
tradition, but it is common in only a few parts of India & some classes of society. The
term is seldom used to refer to local manifestations of the faith.
2.tilak (or tilaka): A dot of mark on the forehead made with colored powder. Or
forehead markings
Bharata: Indigenous term for India
Karma: Action, good and bad, as it is believed to determine the quality of rebirth in future lives.
3.Samsara: The continuing cycle of death and rebirths
Indus Valley Civilization: The Indus Valley civilization may have spanned over one million
square kilometers. Most important of the excavating sites are Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa.
Indus Valley culture flourished between 3000 to 1500 BCE.
4.Mohenjo-Daro: a town on the banks of the Indus River in Pakistan. Mound of the
Dead. The citadel at Mohenjo Daro has a huge swimming pool like structure that
archaeologists call the Great Bath, surrounded by porticos & flights of stairs.
5.Harappa: A large town on the banks of the Indus River in Pakistan. The culture
extends well beyond the Indus Valley itself & is therefore called the Harappa
6.Aryans: They were not highly organized. They were nomads rather than settled
agriculturalists. The standard vew in the early 20th century was that it had grown
from a fusion of the indigenous religions of the Indus Valley with the faith of the
Aryans, an Indo-European people usually thought to have migrated there sometimes
between 1750 & 1500 BCE.
7.Sanskrit: The Aryan language evolved into the Sanskrit, the official language of the
Hindu religion.
8.Puranas: Old tales’, stories about deities that became important after the Vedic
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Bhagavad-Gita: A section of the Mahabharata epic recounting a conversation between Krishna
and the warrior Arjuna, in which Krishna explains the nature of God & the human soul.
Vedas: The 4 collections of hymns and ritual texts that constitute the oldest & most highly
respected Hindu sacred literature. Almost everything we know about the gods comes
from a collection of writings known as the Veda. In the Hindu tradition, the term Vedas
denotes the whole corpus, starting with the hymns, continuing through the ritual
treatises, and concluding with the texts of a more philosophical character.
Rg-Veda: One of the 4 samhitas or collections of the Veda. Rg Veda is the oldest & most
important. Some people argue that the Rg Veda is more than 30,000 years old. The
earliest section og the Rig Veda contains 1,028 hymns.
9.Yajur-Veda: One of the 4 Vedic collections. The hymns of the Yajur Veda are largely
borrowed from the Rig Veda.
10.Sama-Veda: One of the 4 Vedic collections. Hymns from the Sama Veda are largely
borrowed from the Rig. The Sama Veda was meant to be sung.
11.Atharva-Veda: One of the 4 Vedic collections. It differs from the other 3 Vedas in
that if includes material that scholars consider non-Aryan, such as incantations and
remedies to ward off illness & evil spirits. Unlike the hymns of the other Vedas,
these chants were used for purposes other than sacrificial rituals. Some call for hard
to befall ones enemies and one verse refers to the use of herbs to make a lover
return. Another requests luck in gambling.
12.Samhitas: One of the 4 sections in the 4 collections. Many Orientalists & Wester
Indologists have used the Veda only for the hymns, the samhita portion of each
collection. Hymns, the earliest parts.
13.Brahmanas: One of the 4 sections in the 4 Vedic collections regarding rituals;
directions for the performance of sacred rituals.
14.Aranyakas: One of the 4 sections in the 4 Vedic collections called compositions for
the forest.
15.Upanishads: One of the 4 sections in the 4 Vedic collections. Philosophical
texts/works in the form of reported conversations on the theory of the Vedic ritual
and the nature of knowledge, composed around the 6th century BCE.
Prana: an internal air current of the body, is often spoken of as the basic animating principle.
The Prana is what makes us alive.. No specific detailed definition but has to do with
breathing & energy
16.Atman: The individual self, held by Upanishadic & Vedantic thought to be identical
with Brahman, the world-soul.
17.Brahman: The world-soul, sometimes understood in impersonal terms; Supreme
Being, the single source of all that is
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