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Subject specific vocabulary: Hinduism

The following subject specific vocabulary defines the key Hinduism terms in our A-level Religious Studies specification: 7062/C. Your students should understand all these terms.

Advaita Vedanta

A branch of Hindu philosophy founded by Shankara. It advocates a non-duality of Brahman/Atman.


Ahimsa is the ethical principle of non-harm. This is a guiding principle used by Hindu reformer Mahatma Gandhi.


An Ashram is a spiritual retreat centre.


The inner or self/spirit/soul.


The decent of a deity to Earth. In Hindu this is thought to relate to the ten avatars of Vishnu. For example, Rama and Krishna.

Bhagavad Gita

A Hindu smrti text which translates to ‘Song of the Lord’.

Book six of the Mahabharata centres on a discussion between Arjuna and Krishna and has an overarching theme of Dharma.

Bhakti yoga

The path of loving devotion towards the Divine.


The Ultimate Reality/Divine.

Brahmo Samaj UK

A 19th century Hindu reform movement, Founded by Ram-Mohan Roy. It focuses on monotheism.

Caste system

The Caste system is an historic system of division based on birth. Its place/role within Hinduism is heavily contested and debated and many wish to disassociate it from the Hindu Traditions.

The term derives from ‘jati’ which means ‘birth’.

Darwin’s Theory of evolution

The Theory of Evolution is English naturalist Charles Darwin’s explanation for the origin of life on Earth. He proposed that modern species evolved from simpler life forms.

Dayananda Saraswati

A 19th century Hindu reformer. He founded the Arya Samaj (Society of Nobel Ones), and wanted Hinduism to be rooted in Vedic revalation/tradition.


Dharma are moral and social duties/obligations. Otherwise known as the Fulfillment of one’s purpose.

Four aims of life

Purusartha. Hindu’s believe life has four aims or goals:

  1. Dharma (duty)
  2. Artha (ecomnic prosperity)
  3. Kama (sensual pleasure)
  4. Moksha (release/liberation).


A Hindu reform leader. He campaigned for Indian independence through non-violent means (ahimsa).


The Ganges is a sacred and holy river in India. An incredibly popular place of pilgrimage (yatra) for Hindus, it’s particularly associated with death rituals.

Many Hindus believe the Ganges is a deity, often referring to it as Mother Ganga.

Genetic engineering

The scientific process of changing/editing genetic material.


A spirtual teacher who gives guidance to those seeking spirtual wisdom.


Hinduness. An ideology associated with the Hindu Nationalist movement, it attempts to define who is Hindu.


International Society of Krishna Consciousness. It’s a Vasihnava tradition, which exalts Krishna as the supreme deity. ISKON is often found in public places, with the chanting of the Maha Mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare.


The law of cause and effect. Believed by Hindus to impact their reincarnation.

Katha Upanishad

One of the principle Upanishads, centering on the discovery of the nature of man and the relationship of Atman/Brahman.

Kena Upanishad

One of the principle Upanishads, based around an understanding of the nature of Brahman.


Believed by many Hindus to be the eighth avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu. Exalted by ISKCON to be the superme deity.

The Manushi Organisation

Founded in 1978, the Manushi Organisation attempts to promote and advocate social justice and human rights in India, especially for women.


A smrti legal text (Dharmashastra).


One of four goals for Hindus. The release / union of the self with the Ultimate Reality.

Nirguna Brahman

An understanding of Brahman, which suggests Brahman is without qualities / an impersonal force. Discussed in the Upanishads.

Parable of the Chariot

Part of the Katha Upanishad which discusses the meaning and nature of Atman.

Personal law

A branch of governance which gives different religious groups / communities the ability to govern their own affairs.

Indian religious communities have personal laws for matters of family, marriage, divorce etc.


Otherwise known as a Yatra. A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey to a sacred place - such as the River Ganges.

Practical Vedanta

A reinterpretation of Shankara’s Vedanta philosophy by Swami Vivekananda. It’s the philosophy that underpins the work of the Ramakrishna Mission, aiming to help all those in need. It defines how Hinduism should view other religions.


The practice of worship in the home or temple (mandir).

Purusha Sukta

A text from the Rig Veda known as ‘The hymn of the Cosmic Being.’

Ram Mohan Roy

A Hindu reformer. He was the founder of Brahmo Samaj and campaigned for women’s rights. This involved ridding Hinduism of practices such as child marriage, polygamy and Sati.


Believed by many Hindus to be the seventh avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu. A central figure of the Ramanaya.

Ramakrishna Mission

An organisation which seeks to service humanity by offering services including education, healthcare, women’s advocacy and natural disaster relief. Founded by Ramakrishna and based on the principles of Vivekananda.


An epic smrti text, which describes the life of Rama.


A Hindu eschatological concept which teaches that you are reborn into another form when you die.

Rig Veda

One of the four Vedas. A collection of 1,028 hymns – mostly praising Vedic deities. The Veda in which the Purusha Sukta is found.

Saguna Brahman

An understanding of Brahman which suggests Brahman is with qualities/form.


A dualistic school of Hindu philosophy. It suggests the world contains two realities: purusa and prakrti.


The cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

Sanatana Dharma

The eternal law or religion.

Sangh Parivar

A group/collection of Hindu Nationalist organisations.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

The second President of India and prolific writer on Hinduism/Hindu Philosophy.


The declining influence and prevalence of religious belief, thought and practice within contemporary society.


A place set aside for puja (worship), often housing images/murtis of deities, offerings, candles and incense.


‘To hear’. A category of Hindu text which is thought to have divine origins, having been revealed by God to the rishis. Comprises the Vedas and Upanishads.

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram

A movement and spiritual retreat center founded in 1957, honoring and practicing the teachings of Swami Sivananda Saraswati Maharaj.

Skanda Vale Ashram

A multi-faith spiritual retreat centre, following the teachings of Guru Sri Subramanium, established in 1973.


‘To remember.’ A category of Hindu text which is thought to have human orign, they have been passed down via word of mouth. For example, the Ramanyana, the Bhagavad Gita and Manusmrti.

Swami Sivananda

A Hindu spiritual teacher who founded the Divine Life Society, advocating the practices and teachings of Yoga and Vedanta.


Mandir. A Hindu place of worship.

The Big Bang theory

A theory which offers an explanation for the origin of the universe. Suggests the universe began from a rapid expansion of a singularity, 13.8 billion years ago.


Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.


A Hindu shruti text. Literally translates as ‘sit down nearby’. The final book of the Vedas characterised by its mystical and philosophical speculation of the nature of the Self and Ultimate Reality.

Varnashrama Dharma

Laws/duties for each stage and class of life.

Vedanta as Religion

A philosophical position which suggests all faiths / traditions are expressions of Vedanta.


A Hindu shruti text. The earliest form of revelation from the Divine to the rishis. Comprised of four books: Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva.


A Hindu reformer. He was the chief disciple of Ramakrishna. He was responsible for raising awareness of Hinduism outside India, founding the Ramakrishna Mission and advocating interfaith dialogue and co-operation.


The path of achieving union with the Divine. For example, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga.