The Way Home
These pages offer definitions to help visitors to this site understand what we think we are saying. They are not exactly dictionary or encyclopedia definitions, although some of it will be drawn from those sources, but rather explanations of what we mean by certain words.
On this first page of our definitions are words beginning with the letters A, B, and C. The next page has words beginning with the letters D, E, and F. And so on. To get to the other pages, please click on the appropriate link above. If you are looking for a particular word, please click on the Words Index link or on the green circle below, where you will find an index of all the words defined in these pages. For a partial list of our sources, go here. To return to the page you came here from, click on any back arrow below, or on your browser’s BACK button.
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The titles of some books mentioned here are hyperlinked to the Internet bookstore Amazon.Com. If you click on them, you will be jumped to their site, where, if you wish, you may purchase the book. (For more about this, please visit our bookstore page.)
A COURSE IN MIRACLES (ACIM): Since its publication in 1967, this set of three books (now available in a single binding, as well as on audio tape and CD) has attracted much attention, and generated a variety of spin-off books, products, and hoopla. Undertaken in earnest, with discipline, patience, humility, and aspiration, it is what its title suggests. A search of the title at google.com or any of the other search engines, yields a wealth of responses. Here are a few links we know of: The publisher at The Foundation for Inner Peace; the Foundation for A Course in Miracles; Miracle Studies; and Miracle Distribution Center. Please see the two related items at TZF’s Consider This! and “ACIM,1” & “ACIM,2 ” at TZF’s Letters page. A visitor to The Zoo Fence has developed a website in Japanese providing an overview of A Course in Miracles for Japanese readers. To visit that, please click here. For an assortment of titles about A Course in Miracles, click here .
ADI DA or DA FREE JOHN : Also known as Bubba Free John, Master Da, Da Avabhasa, Adidam, the Bright, Da Kalki, Da Love-Ananda, and simply Da, among other names, Da Free John was born Franklin Jones in New York City in 1939. He died in 2008. He lived in his own community on the island of Naitauba (he called it Translation Island) in Fiji. Da Free John is considered by his followers to be the first ever Western avatar, a Sanskrit term meaning an incarnation of a god or of God. For more information and book titles, write Dawn Horse Press, 2040 Siegler Springs Road, Middletown, CA 95461, or visit their web site here. See also the page about Adidam at the University of Virginia’s Religious Movements site. In our view, some of Da Free John’s books are a brilliant source of spiritual wisdom. That said, we are concerned by apparently unrefuted allegations of behavior by Da Free John which, by our measure, is inappropriate in a spiritual teacher. For more on that, please see “The Case of Adi Da ” here. For a website which offers “interpretations of Adi Da and Adidam that differ from the ones that they have created for themselves, as well as allegations about facts and events that they have been reluctant to disclose,” please click here. Numerous websites have evolved questioning Da Free John’s character, his methods, and his worth as a spiritual guide. For a list of titles related to Da Free John, click here.
ADVAITA: A Sanskrit word meaning “nonduality”, advaita is that state or reality which cannot be known by the separate or separative ego (“I am me, and you are not me”) precisely because the separative ego lives in, depends upon, is a function of, a dual reality (“I am me, you are you, God is God”). In advaita there is no “you and me”, there is only one, the One. Just so, Advaita-Vedanta, one of the three chief branches of Hinduism, teaches that manifest creation (“the world”), the individual soul, and God are identical, one and the same one.
AHIMSA & Non-Violence: From a Sanksrit word meaning “without injury, or non-harming”, ahimsa describes the principle and practice of non-injury to any living beings, whether by action, word, or thought. For many, it is the basis of vegetarianism. Consider this: Human beings arbitrarily separate the physical world into three distinct kingdoms -- animal, plant, and mineral, by drawing lines across the face of reality based upon parameters which we define. Then, we decide which inhabitants of those kingdoms are alive and which are not, and which among those which we consider to be alive, are more alive than others. So, for example, human beings conclude that lava is not alive, and cows are more alive than carrots. Naturally, we label ourselves as the most alive (most sensitive) of all. As we see it in TZF, there is only one kingdom, the One, and it is entirely, absolutely, indivisibly, and thoroughly alive, for it is Life Itself, and all the lines, separations, definitions, labels, and distinctions which human beings place upon the One are false, illusory, and misleading. For us, ahimsa means living a life which seeks to understand, to apply, and to Real-ize That Truth. So, we consider what we eat to be less important than why we eat, or than what we think about what we eat. We believe that to look upon a thing as separate and distinct from, not to mention less than, ourselves, does both it and ourselves harm and injury, whether the thing be a ledge of rock, a leaf of lettuce, or a leg of lamb. See Gandhi.
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ANNAPURNA, SIDDHI OF ANNAPURNA: In Hinduism, Annapurna is another name of Shakti, Mother of the Universe. The book Miracle of Love about Babaji says this about her: “Annapurna is the Goddess of Grain, the aspect of the Divine Mother that feeds the universe. One who has Annapurna’s siddhi can keep distributing from a store of food, yet it will remain full,” which brings to mind the Gospels story of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:31), among others. See also siddhi.
AQUINAS & AUGUSTINE: Known as Doctors of the Church, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are two of the great intellects and institutional authorities of Roman Catholicism. Their extensive writings, little of it easy reading, even now remain the accepted basis of much of the church’s theology. Augustine (354-430) was born in present-day Algeria. He converted to Christianity in his thirties, was eventually ordained Bishop of Hippo, and quickly became an active advocate and defender of the faith, particularly against various heresies of the time. Among his compelling arguments is a consideration of Grace as irresistible, undeserved, and immediate. That is, as fallen sinners, human beings are powerless to choose salvation; but God’s Grace, operating within us spontaneously by no merit or action of our own, enables us to accept Him. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274), a Dominican monk born near Naples, Italy, lived at a time when Aristotle’s philosophy was being re-introduced to western Europe, threatening the church’s position on many issues. Thus, one of Aquinas’ great legacies, so-called Thomism, reconciled orthodox Christian faith and Aristotelian thought. Near the end of his life, Aquinas lay down his pen, and observed, “Everything I have written seems to me like so much straw compared to the truths which I have seen, and which have been revealed to me.” [Quoted from “The Life and Spirit of Thomas Aquinas” by L. H. Petitot (Priory Press).] An excellent website for Aquinas material is http://www.aquinasonline.com. For Augustine (and other Catholic saints), click here.
ASHRAM: This is a Sanskrit word indicating a spiritual community or any place where seekers meet, presumably for instruction, under the authority or auspices of a guru.
AVATAR: From the Sanskrit for “passing down” or “passing over,” an avatar (sometimes avatara) describes the descent to earth of a deity, or of the Deity, in material, usually humanly, form. Thus, a Teacher so labeled is believed to be a direct and conscious incarnation of the Divine, born without any karmic baggage, come to earth for a specific purpose, such as to establish a new spiritual path or way.
AUM: See OM.
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BABA: This is a Hindi term of endearment. Although it means “father” or “grandfather,” it may be applied to persons of any age, including children, about whom one feels particular affection and respect. It is often used to address a monk, contemplative, or other ascetic. Sometimes it is spoken as Babaji. See also Neem Karoli Baba, Sai Baba, and Meher Baba. Babu is a different word, meaning “lord,” and may also be used as a term of respect, although a friend of TZF who was born in India tells us that under some circumstances Babu may be used disparagingly.
BIBLE: Bible sources are indicated: REB – “Revised English Bible”; IV – “An Inclusive Version”; KJ – “King James Version”; RSV – “Revised Standard Version”; SV – “Scholars Version” (available at TZF’s Bookstore)
BISMILLAH: In Islam, and perhaps particularly among Sufis, this word, which is Arabic for “In the Name of Allah”, is expressed as a prayer or a benediction before many activities. See also the Names of Allah and Namaste.
BODHIDHARMA: Sometimes spelled Bodaidaruma, Bhodhidharma (ca. 470-543) brought Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism to China. In the Indian lineage, Bodhidharma is the 28th patriarch after Buddha.
BODHISATTVA: From two Sanskrit words meaning “wisdom or enlightenment” and “being”, bodhisattva is a term applied in Buddhism to a seeker who reaches for enlightenment not only for himself or herself but also, and perhaps especially, for all “sentient” beings. Specifically, a boddhisattva elects not to enter into nirvana until all beings do so; in effect, to remain “behind” to guide and teach the rest of us toward enlightenment. Thus, a bodhisattva’s spiritual search is said to be motivated solely by compassion and love. The graphic in The Quiet Room is scanned from a photograph in the September 1997 issue of Smithsonian magazine, to whom we offer our thanks.
BUDDHA: A Sanskrit word meaning “awakened,” buddha describes a person who has attained full Enlightenment, and who therefore has transcended, and is released from, the cycle of birth-and-death that marks human existence. At TZF, buddha is synonymous with Teacher. When capitalized, as Buddha, the word usually refers to Siddartha Gautama (c. 566 – c. 486 BCE), the founder of Buddhism, also referred to as Shakyamuni Buddha, or simply, the historical Buddha. [See also Noble Truths and Christ]. For a discussion of Buddhism as a religion, consider the website A View on Buddhism.
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CHAKRA: Sometimes spelled cakra, chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning “wheel”, and refers to (1) a circle or group of spiritual seekers, and (2) to the centers or points (usually considered to be seven in number) of spiritual power that reside in or compose the human astral body. These points, or centers of consciousness, are considered to have correspondences with the physical body that run along the spine from the very base to the very crown. Each point represents a different kind or quality of subtle energy which can be focused and activated by various practices. See kundalini. See also “A sounds practice” at our Letters page.
CHELA: Chela is a Sanskrit word meaning “servant”. In the spiritual context, it is applied to one who is a devotee or disciple of a Guru or Teacher, and who, as such, is always in Union with the Guru or Teacher, whether knowingly or unknowingly.
SRI CHINMOY: Sri Chinmoy came to the United States from his native India in 1964 at the age of thirty-two, after having spent more than twenty years at a spiritual community founded by Sri Aurobindo. From his center in New York City, Sri Chinmoy conducts regular meditations at the United Nations, and travels extensively throughout the world, sponsoring free, public meditations and a variety of other activities, including art shows of his paintings, concerts (he plays the flute and other instruments), and sports events (he is an accomplished marathon runner). This Teacher follows the Path of Love, or bhakti yoga, whose way and goal are intense devotion for God. His writing is deceptively simple. There are numerous pages on the web associated with Sri Chinmoy, and the name “Chinmoy” entered in any of the search engines yields a wealth of responses. You will find one of those on our Links page. For additional information and book titles, write: Sri Chinmoy Centre, 150-47 87th Avenue, Jamaica, NY 11432. There have been leveled against this Teacher allegations of misconduct which, if true, we would consider very serious. For more, please see the discussion at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sri_Chinmoy_Information/messages. Also, an interesting and fun-to-read book about Chinmoy by one of his closest disciples is Cartwheels in A Sari by Jayanti Tamm (for a review of the book by TZF’s Anna, please click here). Sri Chinmoy died at his Centre in New York City on October 11, 2007. (For our own personal experience with Sri Chinmoy, please click here and here.)
CH’I: Sometimes spelled qi, ch’i is a Chinese word meaning air, breath, or energy, among other things. We have heard it pronounced with a soft ch like cheese by some who should know, but we believe the proper pronunciation is key, hence the sometimes English spelling qi. On the other hand, pronunciation of Chinese apparently varies enourmously among the different regions of the country. However pronounced, ch’i is central to both Taoism and Chinese medicine, where it is the life force of all things.
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CHRIST, PROPHET, BUDDHA: There is only One Thing in the Universe. (For a discussion of this idea, please see “The Simple Way” at Consider This!) It will answer to as many names as there are names. For, there being only One Thing, regardless of what name or word we utter, and whether or not we realize it, we speak of and to It. In effect, then, all words and all names are Synonyms for That. (In Tibetan Buddhism, it is said, “See all beings as Buddha, all places as Nirvana, and all sounds as Mantra”.) Although universally true, this identity of meaning is particularly apparent as regards words or names for Truth. Thus, all of the following words or names refer equally to the very same Thing: Allah, Avatar, Brahman, Buddha, Christ, Christ Consciousness, Eternal, Father, God, Great Spirit, Guru, Heaven, Holy Spirit, Infinite, Kali, Life, Light, Love, OM (or AUM), Mother, Prophet, Realization, Samadhi, Self-Realization, Son, Spirit, Tao, Teacher, Truth, Wisdom, Yahweh, Yoga. All of these (and they are only a random handful), and all of their like in every language and from every culture or tradition, are essentially the same word, the name of the Nameless Self-Same Priorly True Awakened State that is the Fundamental Basic Reality of every Spiritual Tradition, and which happens to be the natural, inherent birthright of every single apparent one of us. To be sure, in ordinary usage, all of us employ these words and others like them as if they referred to some particular person or thing or place that is separate and distinct from all other persons, things, and places. In order to communicate with one another, we pretty much have to do that with all words. But as seekers, we do well to remind ourselves frequently of what is True and what is not, what is Real and what is, however well-intentioned, an expression of ignorance. There is only One. It does not matter what we call It, or even whether we call It, the Fact Remains. See also Self-Realized, Yahweh.
THE CLOUD OF UNKNOWING: The author of this extraordinary book about the contemplative life leading to union is not known, although it has been attributed to several different fourteenth century English mystics. The “cloud of unknowing” in the title is that which forever hides perception of the One, God, from our every separative, egoic faculty. That is, however clever we may become, as long as we think, in effect, “I am me, and God is an other,” there must exist an invisible, impassable boundary between us. For, it is indelibly true that in the One, there are no others, and so, the only way truly to Know It, is to Be It. There is Surrender, which is Union. For three brief excerpts in The Quiet Room, please click here and here and here. See also discussion at TZF’s Gazebo here.
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update: July 9, 2019
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