Glossary of Religious Terms

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Abhidharma (Pali: Abhidhamma) (Buddhism) Further or higher teaching. One of the three baskets(pitakas) of the Pali Canon. Label of continuing higher ideas of Buddhism.
Abraham (Judaism; Islam; Christianity) Historical type figure of Judaism. Muslims regard him, Ibrahim, as a prophet and hanif, a worshipper of the God.
Adhan (Islam) The call to prayer from the top of minarets and other places for the canonical prayers.
Adharma (Hinduism) Injustice, evil and against moral laws (not dharma).
Adi Granth (Sikhism) Literally 'first book'. The scripture of the Sikh religion as was compiled by Guru Arjun in 1604. It became the Guru Granth Sahib.
Advaita (Hinduism) The supreme Reality. Used in Vedanta which stresses the unity of the Self (Atman) and Brahman. (without a second)
Advent (Christianity) Literally 'coming' and so preparation for the coming of Jesus. This Christian year thus starts in November or early December (whichever Sunday is nearest November 30th).
Aggadah (Judaism) Non-halakhic teaching material in rabbinic literature consisting of stories, ethical teachings and interpretations of biblical texts.
Ahamkara (Hinduism) Self will, separateness.
Ahimsa (Hinduism, Jainism) Nonviolence, no injury, wishing no harm (not violence) as taught by Gandhi.
ahl al-Kitab (Islam) The Qur'anic expression describing people to whom a holy book has been revealed. At first this went to Christians, Jews and the Sabeans and later Zoroastrians (Islam into Persia). It has since been extended by some to Hindus and Buddhists. Literally 'people of the book'.
Akal Purukh (Sikhism) Timeless One, or the Being Beyond Time and is applied as a name of God.
Akasha (Hinduism) Space and sky; the most subtle of the five elements.
Akhand path (Sikhism) Literally 'unbroken' and so continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib on an important domestic occasion or gur-purb going on for about forty eight hours with a team of readers. Contrast this with the Sahaj path.
Akshara (Hinduism) The eternal, Om.
al-Alim (plural: ulama) (Islam) The scholar with enough education in the tradition who has authority to interpret religion and especially the Divine Law. Literally 'he who knows'.
al-Insan al-Kamil (Islam) It is not divinity but a supreme quality of person. Islamic esotericism has it that Muhammad (pbuh) is most of all the perfect man who has all the possibilities of universal existence and is embodied in the prophets and saints.
Aleynu (Judaism) Literally 'adoration'. A prayer at the end of synagogue worship which focusses on the task, dedication and hope of every Jew.
Amidah (Judaism) Literally 'standing' being a prayer offered silently by members of a synagogue congregation as they stand and face Jerusalem. It is also known as shemoneh.
Amrit (Sikhism) Nectar and applies to sugar water which is used during the Khalsa initiation ceremony.
Amrit Bani (Sikhism) The words of the Sikh acriptures are as sweet as nectar (amrit).
Amrit Bani (Sikhism) The words of the Sikh acriptures are as sweet as nectar (amrit).
Amrit Vaila (Sikhism) The early morning hours after dawn. This is an auspicious time for meditation and prayer according to Guru Nanak.
Amritdhari (Sikhism) Someone who has undergone the Khalsa initiation ceremony.
Amritsanskar (Sikhism) The rite of initiation into the Khalsa brotherhood.
Anand (Sikhism) A state of bliss beyond description. A composition by Guru Amar Das on page 917 of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Ananta (Hinduism) The cosmic serpent on which Vishnu reclines in rest.
Anbhav Prakash (Sikhism) The enlightened perception of reality in a person who has become a gurmukh.
Anand Karaj (Sikhism) Sikh wedding ceremony.
Anglican (Christianity) The name given to an episcopal Church both Protestant and Catholic either being or originating from the Church of England established by henry VIII's break with Rome. A member is also known as an Anglican.
Apara (Hinduism) Lower knowledge; intellectual knowledge (not eternal)
Apocrypha (Judaism) Books of the Jewish Bible in in the Greek version but not the Hebrew version.
Antim Ardas (Sikhism) The last of the Sikh funeral rites.
Apostle (Christianity) Literally 'one who is sent'. The eleven disciples of Jesus, and St. Paul were as such sent out to preach.
Apse (Christianity) A semicircular recess in a church or temple.
Aql (Islam) Intellect as reasoning and a wisdom of knowing.
Arabic (Islam) The language of the Arabs in which the sacred book of Islam is written and can only be fully represented and also in which Muslim prayers are said.
Ardas (Sikhism) The formal prayer given before a Sikh wedding or finishing a Sikh service.
Arjuna (Hinduism) Seeks guidance from Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. One of the five Pandava brothers and an important figure in Indian epic and legend.
Ark (Judaism) The boat in which the family of Noah and selected animals were saved from the Flood (a story of Shoah); or the chest which held the Hebrew tablets of the Law and so a cabinet in the synagogue where the sacred scrolls are held.
Arti (Hinduism) Hindu worship where lamps are waved in front of statues of the gods. Diwali sees them used.
Aryaman (Hinduism) Vedic god and an ancestor of mankind (noble one).
Aryans (Hinduism) The movement of people into northern India about 4000 years ago who developed Vedic material to add to local religion, both developing Hinduism. Other Aryan tribes went Iran and as far west as Ireland.
Asa Di Var (Sikhism) A collection of hymns to be sung at the auspicious time of dawn.
asat (Hinduism) Untruth, untrue, unreal, lacking goodness.
Ascetic (Hinduism plus) A person or way of life who accepts strict discipline in eating, drinking, clothing, accommodation and sexual activity.
Ash Wednesday (Christianity) The first day of the Christian penitential season Lent going towards Easter.
ashvattha (Hinduism) The pipal tree (like fig) or what is holy and found at temples.
Ashvatthama (Hinduism) Drona's son who is a great archer and warrior.
asura (Hinduism) Demon or a being with an evil nature.
Atman (Hinduism)/ Atma (Sikhism) The true Self or Soul called Atman intending ultimately to rise and unite with Brahman For the Sikhs it is the immortal soul.
Avatar (Hinduism) Manifestation of a deity, sometimes in human form. Hinduism extends this term to prophets of other traditions like Jesus. Literally a 'descent'.
avatara (Hinduism) The descent of God; the incarnation of Vishnu; divine consciousness appearing first in the human heart (down cross).
avidya (Hinduism) Ignorance, absence of wisdom, need of knowledge (not wisdom).
avyaya (Hinduism) Changeless, eternal
Ayat (Islam) The smallest division of the sacred book of Islam, a verse. Literally 'a sign'.
Azan (Islam) The Muslim call to prayer.
The Bahir (Judaism) A major work of early Kabbalah apparently by R. Nehuniah ben Ha-Kana of the first century CE but first circulated at the end of the 1100s in Provence.
Baptism (Christianity) Rite of initiation into the Christian faith for babies or adults.
Baptist (Christianity) Christian denomination and member of it which requires adult baptism by total immersion.
Baptistry (Christianity) An artificial pool in a church where people are baptised.
Barakah (Islam) Grace or the spiritual gift come into the world.
Babur Bani (Sikhism) God is said to have sent Babur, the Mughal emperor, as death's messenger. References are in the Guru Granth Sahib.
Baisakhi (Sikhism) Annual April 13th celebration for when Guru Amardas initiated the annual gathering of Sikhs at Goindwal in 1567. In 1699 Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa order on the same date.
Bani (Sikhism) An abbreviation of Gurbani, applied to any of the writings which appear in the Guru Granth Sahib. See Bhagat Bani.
Batin (Islam) Inward revelation and of God who is described in the Qur'an as being both the Inward (al-batin) and the Outward (al-zahir).
Berakliah (Judaism) Blessing.
Beth din (Judaism) Legal function of a synagogue. Literally a 'house of law'
Bhagat Bani (Sikhism) Any of the writings in the Guru Granth Sahib not written by the Gurus.
Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism) 'The Song of the Lord'. The most famous and popular Hindu scripture of before 200 BCE and part of the Mahabharata in which the avatar Krishna reveals himself to the warrior Arjuna about to battle and gives direction in how to do his duty and fight, a metaphor for duty based yoga.
Bhajans (Hinduism) Devotional hymns forming a major part of bhakti worship.
Bhrigu (Hinduism) A sage in ancient legend.
Bhakti (Hinduism) Devotion and love to a personal God usually by hymn singing and even dancing. There is puja too. Bhaktiyoga, the Way of Love, is one of the ways to gain merit towards Moksha by this devotion.
Bhikkhu (Pali: bhikshu) (Buddhism) Usually a monk or nun (bhikkhuni, Pali: bhikshuni) who is supported by the voluntary sharing or almsgiving of others. Literally almsman.
Bhishma (Hinduism) Kaurava dynasty elder who lets himself be killed by Arjuna in the Mahabharata battle.
Bible (Christianity) Literally 'book'. The Bible combines the Jewish scriptures Tenakh (Tanakh) / Old Testament with the Christian New Testament, and is the Canon of each faith but the Old Testament can contain the Apocrypha recognised by Roman Catholicism because it is in the Greek bible.
Bimah (Judaism) A platform in the centre of a synagogue from where the Jewish sacred scrolls are read.
Bodhisattva (Buddhism) The state achieved of moving into enlightenment, as Buddha did in previous lives and before sitting under the Bodhi Tree. In Mahayana bodhisattva return again to help others rather than enter Nirvana.
Book of Common Prayer (Christianity) Collection of services, orders and other materials approved fur use in the English national Church in 1662.
Brahma (Hinduism) The Hindu creator god and communicator of divine knowledge (not Brahman!) that exists with Vishnu (preserver) and Shiva (destroyer).
Brahma charya (Hinduism) A celibate student of Vedic knowledge. It involves self control and purity (conduct leading to God).
Brahman (Hinduism) The holy supreme power in and throughout the universe being the highest God. This supreme Reality is the ground of being and an impersonal God.
brahmanirvana (Hinduism) Spiritual goal; union with eternity, union in Brahman (nirvana in Brahman).
Brahmavidya (Hinduism) The science of knowing Brahman.
Brahmin (Hinduism) The priestly caste of society. Not all Brahmins are priests, but they have the ability and right.
Brihaspati (Hinduism) The guru/ priest of the gods.
Buddha (Buddhism) A title meaning 'awakened' or 'enlightened one'. Gautama was awakened under the Bodhi tree, meaning he was enlightened, and anyone can achieve this. Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni is the full name when enlightened. As well as the central teacher of Buddhism, Buddha is an avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism.
Buddha Dal (Sikhism) The 'army of veterans' formed by Nawab Kapur Singh in 1733. They look after Sikh holy places, preach, and initiate new converts to the Khalsa.
buddhi Discriminating in the understanding of the correct view or correct purpose through true intelligence.
Buddhist (Buddhism) One who follows the teachings of Gautama, the Buddha of 2500 years ago.
Caliph/ Khalifah (Islam) A word meaning 'successor', applied to the men who were chosen by the community to succeed Muhammad (pbuh) as leaders of the Sunni Muslim community.
Calligraphy (Islam, Buddhism) Writing as an art form because art forms were banned or frowned upon in Islam. It was also developed in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism.
Canon (Christianity, Judaism) Written works accepted as normative sacred scriptures. Literally a norm or measuring rod.
Cantor (Judaism) A trained singer who leads worship in Jewish places of worship.
Catacomb (Christianity) Subterranean cemetery where Christians once met to worship.
Catechism (Christianity) Instruction by question and answer as preparation for Christian baptism.
Catechumen (Christianity) A Christian convert who is being trained for baptism.
Chandala (Hinduism) The lowest of untouchable Hindu groups.
Chandoa (Sikhism) The canopy placed over the Guru Granth Sahib.
Chapel (Christianity) Usually a nonconformist place of Christian worship.
Charn-pahul (Sikhism) Water is first poured over a Guru's foot and then given to a disciple to drink. Literally a foot washing initiation.
Chaupai (Sikhism) A four line stanza form used by some of the Gurus.
Chauri (Buddhism, Sikhism) Made of peacock feathers tied together, or of yak hairs, embedded in wood or metal this is a symbol of royalty or authority. Today nylon fibres may be used. In Sikhism it is waved over the Guru Granth Sahib as a symbol of respect.
Chela (Sikhism, Hinduism) Disciple of an Indian spiritual teacher. In Sikhism a disciple of the guru, used in the Guru Granth Sahib to refer to Sikhs.
Chitraratha (Hinduism) King of Gandharvas (having a bright chariot) in the Bhagavad Gita.
Chola (Sikhism) Clothing of the Gurus. Also refers to the coverings of the nishan sahib at a gurdwara.
Christ (Christianity) The Greek word for Messiah applied to Jesus whom Christians believe to be the Messiah and the embodiment of a personality of God. Messiah is whom the Jews expect. Muslims prefer prophet instead.
Church (Christianity) Principally the Christian community but of course each denomination it divides into and each place where it meets locally for worship.
Church of England (Christianity) Christian Church that is Anglican in England and established in law giving privileges and yet responsibilities towards any citizen.
Church of Scotland (Christianity) The established Church in Scotland which is not the episcopal Anglican Church but purely Protestant and mildly Calvinist.
Circumambulation (Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism) Respect and concentration by walking round a person or sacred place. Buddhists go round stupas clockwise, usually three times, affirming the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Muslims go in an anticlockwise direction round the Ka'ba at Makkah. Sikhs at weddings circumambulate the Guru Granth Sahib and this is called phera.
Clergy (Christianity etc.) People specially ordained or undergone a sacred ceremony to conduct religious services.
Communion (Christianity) A Christian service originating from the Last Supper, being also the Lord's Supper, Mass or Eucharist.
Confirmation (Christianity) Rite of full membership of the Christian community coming some time after baptism (whre practiced).
Consecration (Christianity) An act to incorporate for sacred uses and responsibilities.
Convert (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc.) One who has decided to come into a faith from another belief system or agnosticism/ atheism.
Covenant (Judaism) An agreement, especially between God and the Jewish people.
Creed (Christianity) An agreed collective statement of belief of a believing community.
Crematorium (Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Secular etc.) A place where the bodies of dead people are burnt and burned.
daivam (Hinduism) Divine will, destiny.
Darbar Sahib (Sikhism) The building constructed at Amritsar into which Guru Arjan placed the Adi Granth. Sikhs give this name to the Golden Temple.
Dasam Granth (Sikhism) A book of the collected writings of the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh compiled after his death by Bhai Mani Singh and finished in 1734.
Daswandh (Sikhism) Giving one tenth of one's income to charity.
Day of Atonement/ Yom Kippur (Judaism) The most solemn day in the Jewish year. Jews both fast and assemble in the synagogue to ask for God's forgiveness.
Deg Teg (Sikhism) The dual responsibility of the follower to provide food and protection for the needy and oppressed.
Denomination (Christianity) Name given to the Churches into which Christianity is divided, and usually where a decision is made to join rather than a national identity where one can be effectively born into it.
Deuteronomy (Judaism) The last of the five books of the Torah.
deva (Hinduism) A god. Immortal but like mortals in behaviour.
devi (Hinduism) Goddess that is immortal but like a mortal.
Devil (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) Evil personified and may be called Satan and Satan tempts. Islam includes the stoning of the three pillars with 7 stones each during Hajj as an expression of rejecting temptation.
Dhadi(Sikhism) One who sings the praises of God.
Dharam Yudh (Sikhism) War in the defence of righteousness.
Dharamsala (Sikhism) In the early Sikh period its place of worship though later gurdwara. It can apply to a hostel, inn or charitable religious hospice.
Dharma (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism) The universal law that unifies, duty, that which assists one's progress and well being. It is according to caste in Hindu society. Hinduism has at its centre Sanatana Dharma meaning eternal progress. In Buddhism it (Pali: dhamma) becomes more specifically the path of truth, law or teaching that is Buddhism itself, being the vehicle to Nirvana. The Sikh Dharma is religion, teaching and lifestyle to achieve union with God.
Dharma-kaya (Buddhism) Buddha-Nature or truth body of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Dhikr (Islam) The central technique in Sufism to invoke andremember for spiritual realisation. Meaning literally 'to mention'.
Dhoti (Hinduism) One piece of cloth worn by some Indian men. The cloth is wound round the body and then drawn up between the legs.
Dhritarashtra (Hinduism) Being blind since birth Dhritarashtra has never been enthroned as the rightful king of the Kurus, but is the effective ruler. The whole Bhagavad Gita is a narration told by Sanjaya to the blind king, whose sons are the Kauravas.
Disciple (Christianity, Buddhism) Followers such as the twelve specially chosen by Jesus. Literally, 'one who learns'.
Diwan (Sikhism) Sikh act of congregational worship. Literally 'a royal court'.
Divali or Diwali (Hinduism, Sikhism) Held just before the Hindi New Year of Ashwin, being September to October. It is not a Hindu Christmas! It derives from the Ramayana where Rama helped by the monkey god Hanuman defeats the demon king Ravana and so good defeats evil. Light is the symbol of goodness and Divali means a row of lights. Hundreds of arti lamps are lit. Divali cards are sent. Fireworks are set off. Sweets get meade from milk, sugar and coconuts. Rangoli patterns are drawn on the ground to welcome the gods. Stories include Krishna and Ganesha, and southern Indians in business worship Lakshmi. From Guru Amar Das onwards Sikhs gather annually. In 1577 the foundation stone of the Harmandir Sahib was laid in Divali.
Diwan (Sikhism) Congregational worship where Guru Granth Sahib is present.
Doha (Sikhism) Verse form used commonly by Guru Nanak and the syncretistic mystical poet Kabir (1440-1518) consisting of stanzas of two rhyming lines.
Draupadi (Hinduism) The royal princess who married each of the five Pandava brothers.
Drona (Hinduism) A brahmin, then warrior, and later general of the Kaurava army. Teacher of the royal princes. He taught the heroes of the Mahabharata war skills.
Du'a (Islam) Muslim private prayer.
Duhkha (Pali: dukkha) (Buddhism, Hinduism) The first of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism being the 'diseased', suffering, unsatisfactory nature of life. Suffering, pain, sadness.
Easter (Christianity) Christian festival celebrating specifically the rising of Jesus from the dead.
Epic (Hinduism) A long poem with a big message like the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Eucharist (Christianity) Last Supper, or Holy Communion but this is a more sacramental word (the most being Mass, which repeats what took place on the cross). Literally it means 'rejoicing'. It comes from and re-enacts Jesus' last meal with his disciples.
Evangelist (Christianity) One who seeks out converts by preaching and work.
Exile (Judaism, etc.) Thrown out from one's homeland. Used especially of the period spent by the Jews in Babylon (697-538 BCE).
Exodus (Judaism) The journey by the Israelites led by Moses, from Egypt to Canaan. The name of the second book of the Bible.
Fast (Islam etc.) Going without food and/ or drink or certain foods, such as fish or meat, as a religious observance. Christians have Lent. Muslims observe sunrise to sunset complete fasts in Ramadan.
Festival (Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity) An enjoyable, often annual, celebration.
Fitrah (Islam) Man's original nature and in things.
Font (Christianity) A perhaps fixed bowl for water used in the rite of baptism.
Fordmaker (Jainism) Any one of 24 omniscient teachers known as tirthankara. Mahavira was the last of the fordmakers who followed Parshva, both of whom are historical figures with highly mythic content. The fordmakers established Jainism according to Shvetambara scriptures and Digambaras which lead to the Universal History. Jainism is a little like Buddhism but ascetic and has a divine element but no superior God. Mahavira was possibly born from after 600 BCE and died between 527 and 510 BCE depending on source. He was a contemporary of the Buddha. He was born of a transference of embryos between two women, his real mother Devananda being not the one who gave birth, Trishala. He was a wandering ascetic, treated violently by people and animal life, walked naked, rarely washed (so killed nothing), lacked sleep, shelter and contact to gain inner control and freedom. The Universal History says he was attacked by deities and serpents too. Thirteen years after taking renunciation gained kevala, or supreme and unique knowledge, in a field belonging to a farmer called Samaga, squatting on his haunches in fierce sun deprived of water for two and a half days. He then went on to create a community by preaching, one which is vegetarian and non-violent (a reversal of the Vedas' sacrifices into people and animals coming together to hear non-violence). Every Jain temple recreates the samavasarana or place of assembly, a general term for every fordmaker's first sermon as arranged by the gods. This is to repeat the sacred space and what is in the true teachings. Jainism influenced Gandhi. Incidentally, before Mahavira's enlightenment Makkhali Gossala became a fellow ascetic and pupil for six years. They split and according to myth Makkhali Gossala had to admit the other was superior spiritually and died. Parshva is probably the more popular fordmaker with more devotional focus towards him, but stands in relationship with Mahavira, the Parshva being cosmological and the Mahavira more rigorous. Parshva removes obstacles and can save..
Free church (Christianity) Old Dissent (Presbyterian, Congregationalist, baptist) or New Dissent (Methodist and others) Church (in Britain) that formed separately from the Anglican Church.
Gabriel (Christianity, Islam) This angel told Mary she would give birth to the Christ and later revealed the Qur'an through Muhammad (pbuh).
Gandharva (Hinduism) Heavenly musicians who are demigods, sensitive, proud, handsome and amorous.
Gandhi (Mohandas Karamchand) (Hinduism) A Hindu reformer (1869-1948) especially guided by the Bhagavad Gita, who combined elements of Jainism (Ahimsa), Thoreau and Tolstoy, as well as the Sermon on the Mount and as pects of Islam.
Gandiva (Hinduism) Arjuna's bow, a gift from the god offire.
Ganges (Hinduism) The sacred river.
Garuda (Hinduism) Vishnu's great eagle.
gayatri (Hinduism) Metre used in Vedic hymns and especially a prayer to the sun.
Gayatri mantra (Hinduism) 'The mother of the Vedas' key verse of the Hindu scriptures given to a member of the twice-born castes at initiation to be recited daily.
Gematria (Judaism) One rabbinical interpretation of sacred text based on numerical values of letters. This leads to the idea of scriptures as an oracle (compare with official use of Guru Granth Sahib).
Gentile (Judaism, Christianity) People who are not Jews.
Ghaflah (Islam) Negligence or forgetfulness of God which is either the root of sin or at least an impediment to spiritual realisation in Sufism.
Gita (Hinduism) Shorter name of the Bhagavad Gita (the Song).
God (All) For some Hindus the supreme reality is Brahman, and then there is Brahma (creator), Vishnu (Preserver) and Shiva (destroyer recreator) (who may be regarded as aspects of Brahman) and then many specific gods (like Ganesh or Hamuman). Islam calls God the God (Allah) and there is no associate deity (an unforgivable sin). The Jewish God might be named Gd (JHWV) and also has no associate deity. Christian God is trinitarian, and Christ is fully Man and fully God. The Bahai God is progressive (like Islam) and can be reflected in a manifestation of God, specifically Baha'u'llah, but not incarnation (God is still one). The Sikh God is one and a Guru and God is approached through activities of naming. The Pagan God is dual (male and female) or many. The Zoroastrian God Ahura Mazda is one but is in a dualistic battle with evil. Jainism accepts the divine principle as a potential in all beings but has no creator God or intervening God. Buddhism has transitory deities and supernatural helpers in some expressions but no God.
Gompa (Buddhism) Tibetan Buddhists use it for 'a place apart' or 'monastery' but can apply to a part of the vihara. So the gompa might simply be seen as a meditation room.
Gospel (Christianity) The first four books of the Christian New Testament or the 'good news' (literal meaning) in general.
Granthi (Sikhism) One who performs the reading of the Guru Granth Sahib at religious occasions. This can be a man or a woman.
Gregorian calendar (Christianity) A solar calendar established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 and now widely used throughout the world. Use of BC (Before Christ) and AD (Ano Domini) are replaced by BCE (Before the Common Era) and CE (Common Era) but with the same dates.
Grihastha (Sikhism, Hinduism) For the Sikh it is the point when all material and spiritual goals are realised. For the Hindu it is the second stage for the twice-born castes of being a householder and bringing up a family.
Gristhi (Sikhism) This is the Sikh ideal of being married, having a family, earning a living by honest and socially useful employment, serving other people and worshipping God.
Guna (Hinduism) The three qualities making up phenomena: sattva (law, harmony, purity, goodness - can say, "It is sattvic."), rajas (energy, passion - can say, "It is rajasic."), and tamas (inertia, ignorance - can say, "It is tamasi.").
Gurdwara (Sikhism) Sikh place of worship. It means door, or house, of the Guru or gateway to the Guru.
Gurmat (Sikhism) A general term for Sikhism, including the teachings of the Gurus.
Gurmata (Sikhism) A resolution passed in a council presided over by the Guru or using the advice of the Guru.
Gurmukh (Sikhism) Someone who has become God focussed and God filled instead of self centred (manmukh).
Gurmukhi (Sikhism) The written script for Punjabi and is the original script for Sikh sacred writings as promoted by Guru Nanak and Guru Angad.
Gurpurb (Sikhism) The anniversary of the birth or death of one of the ten Gurus, usually celebrated by an unbroken reading of the Adi Granth.
Gursikh (Sikhism) A person deeply and sincerely devoted to the service of the Guru.
Gurpurb (Sikhism) The anniversary of the birth or death of a Guru celebrated. The anniversary of the installation of the Guru Granth Sahib in 1604 and the deaths of the sons of Guru Gobind Singh.
Guru (Sikhism, Hinduism, General) A spiritual mentor. In Sikhism of the ten historical leaders of the community, the Guru Granth Sahib or God himself. A Hindu religious preceptor who communicates knowledge and techniques enabling his chosen students to achieve spiritual liberation.
Guru Granth Sahib (Sikhism) The sacred writings (made into a Guru) of the Sikhs being the Adi Granth and later additions.
Gyani (Sikhism) A trained religious teacher in a gurdwara.
Hadith (plural: ahadith) (Islam) Saying and tradition in Islam, from the knowledge of Muhammad (pbuh). In Shi'ism the sayings of the Imams are added into the collection of Hadith, although not the same as the sayings of the Prophet. Literally 'saying' or 'tradition'.
Hadith qudsi (Islam) A small number of hadith in which God speaks in the first person through the Prophet. This collection is of particular importance for Sufis.
Hafiz (Islam) A person who has learnt to recite the Qur'an from memory in Arabic.
Hajj (Islam) The pillar of Islam which requires an at least once in a lifetime pilgrimage to the Ka'ba at Mecca and nearby places during 8 to 13 Dhul-Hijja.
Halakhah (Judaism) Jewish law, discussions and rulings on the exact practical details to do mitzvot.
Haqiqah (Islam) Combining Truth, spiritual essence and ultimate reality. Contrasted in the context of Sufism with Shariah and tariqah.
Harimandir (Sikhism) Guru Arjan installed the Adi Granth in the place built at Amritsar and now is sometimes the name for the Golden Temple.
Hastinapura (Hinduism) Capital of the Pandavas and descendents, about sixty miles northeast of Delhi (city of the elephants).
Hari (Hinduism) Vishnu or Krishna.
Havan (Hinduism) Contemporary act of worship focussed on a sacred fire yet based on ancient Vedic rituals.
Havdalah (Judaism) Ceremony to mark the end of Shabbat or a festival.
Hebrew Bible (Judaism) Canonized sacred texts, including Torah, books of the Prophets and other writings such as Psalms and Proverbs. Not the Septuagint.
Hijra (Islam) Muhammad (pbuh)'s migration from Makkah to Madinah in 622 CE. Literally 'migration'.
Hikmah (Islam) Wisdom and where theosophy gets mixed with traditional Islamic philosophy.
Himalaya (Hinduism) Mountain range home of Shiva and other gods (hima, laya is snow, abode).
Hindu (Hinduism) Origin in 'Sindhu' or the Persian name for the River Indus. It was just a geographically located term for a population but became one to identify this emergent collection of religious practices as a religion.
Hola Mohalla (Sikhism) Annual spring gathering of Sikhs at Anandpur Sahib for sports contests, music and poetry compositions. It was started by Guru Gobind Singh in 1680.
Holi (Hinduism) It falls the day after the full moon in Phalguna, around March each year. It is a spring festival. Holika is either an evil spirit burned by fire or a loyal sister who sacrifices herself on to the flames of her brother's funeral pyre. Therefore bonfires are lit. Krishna was a playful child and therefore on the second day this is remembered when coloured water is sprayed by children at various people.
Holocaust/ Shoah (Judaism) In Nazi Germany up to six million Jews were murdered (along with gays, gypsies...) and is understood within Judaism as another event of extreme suffering.
Holy Spirit (Christianity) Third person of the Christian Trinity concerned specifically with the activity of God during worship.
Hukamnama (Sikhism) Instructions issued by the Gurus, or other people in Sikh authority. The daily Hukamnama comes from a random opening of the Guru Granth Sahib and is available on the Internet. Hukam means the ordered will of God.
Hymn (Christianity, Sikhism, etc) A religious poem set to music and sung during worship. Christianity saw the evolution of the hymn as a popular Protestant worship form partly replacing psalms, and developed the hymn sandwich, and Sikhism has hymns as a primary part of religious expression especially of the Guru Granth Sahib, which are read through on set occasions.
Ibadah (plural: ibadat) (Islam) Worship under all its forms. All legal injunctions are divided into those about forms of worship (ibadat) compared with those about human relations and transactions (mu'amalat).
Ihram (Islam) The basic clothing worn while on pilgrimage.
Ijma (Islam) The consensus of opinion of the community, of probably learned men (ulama).
Ik Onkar (Sikhism) At the beginning of the Mool Mantra this says there is only one God.
Ikshvaku Son of Manu, founder of the great Solar Dynasty of kings.
Imam (Islam) Sunnis use this as an honourific title for outstanding religious scholars but Shias reserve Imam to mean special initiating power arising from prophetic revelation. Literally he who stands at the front, hence the leader of the daily prayers and also he who is the leader of the community.
Indra (Hinduism) The god of storms and battle. Indra is the chief of the gods (devas) in the Veda, but his place declines afterwards.
Irfan (Islam) Gnosis or divine knowledge.
Ishvara (Hinduism) The Lord, God.
Islam (Islam) The religion revealed to Muhammad (pbuh) into the Qur'an and meaning submission to the God Allah.
Israel (Judaism) The Jews were the people Israel in Biblical times but also means the ancient Hebrew kingdom and then was the (rather different) Jewish state established in 1948.
Itihad (Islam) The exercising of judgment about religion and Islamic law by authoritative experts.
Jalous (Sikhism) An outdoor procession led by the Guru Granth Sahib and five in the Khalsa brotherhood.
Janaka (Hinduism) Ancient effective king and a holy sage too.
Janam sakhi (Sikhism) The hagio-graphic biographies written down two or three generations after the death of Guru Nanak and it can refer to other Gurus too. It means 'birth evidences'.
Janardana (Hinduism) Krishna (he who stirs up the people).
Janeu (Hinduism) The sacred thread with which Hindu boys of the twice-born varnas (classes, castes) are invested at initiation. The ceremony is called upanayam. The Brahmin class do this at eight years, the Kshatriyas at eleven and Vaishyas at twelve (Shudras are once born and Dhalits do not count).
Jap (Sikhism) Devout repetition of the divine name of God, or a scripture.
Japji (Sikhism) Guru Arjan made it the opening hymn of the Sikh sacred writings because it is one of the most important hymns of Guru Nanak and should be said by Sikhs every morning.
Japu Sahib (Sikhism) A composition of Guru Gobind Singh read by Sikhs as part of their daily prayers.
Jataka (Buddhism) Birth story usually of the previous lives of Gautama Buddha.
Jesus (Christianity, religious humanism, Islam) For most Western Christians Jesus is the Christ, which means for many he was God, pre-existent with the Father (Arians have regarded Jesus as divine but subordinate to the Father), born of a virgin, and who suffered and died (although he did not need to, but did for humankind), and was resurrected, who ascended to heaven and will come again to judge the living and the dead. He is the third Person of the Trinity (agreed 325 CE). Yet he was also fully human. This fully God and fully man definition (agreed 451 CE) presents itself as a riddle to others. For liberal Christians and others, the full humanity of Jesus compromises such uniqueness of divinity (just as for docetics and others, divinity compromised humanity), so that it is considered mythological and linguistic, and therefore any special divinity comes about because of the power of his teaching, dedication and closeness to God (however God is understood). It may be that he was resurrected, but this was because he became divine. This kind of viewpoint goes along with the fact that the full doctrine of the Trinity is not contained explicitly within the New Testament but is a later finding of the Church (and in some Churches later rejected the doctrine or have effectively modified it within theology). Or for some the resurrection was a subjective experience of the disciples and others, being a testimony to the power of his preaching and personality. For others still, the teaching and service stands as human and exemplary if humanly tragic, and he is a special human person. And then for others of a religious humanist position, it is the general moral and teaching position that is extracted, either away from or remaining caught within his supernatural end-time beliefs which were part of the immediate culture and which framed his internal mission and external expectations. For many he never claimed he was the Messiah, though increasingly he considered he had a central part to play in the coming of a Messiah, and certainly could never have mouthed the heresy of being the son of God, which would have made no sense. For Muslims, Jesus or Isha (peace be upon him) fits in a modified way (from the Christian view) into the supernatural. He is part of the revelatory process and of one of God's messengers, after Adam, Abraham and Moses, and like them his message was corrupted, and so Gabriel appeared again (as to Mary) and recited the Qur'an to Muhammad (peace be upon him). Note that for Muslims Jesus did not die on the cross but he was resurrected and is expected to return.
Jhatka Meat (Sikhism) Meat of an animal that was killed quickly with one stroke. Guru Gobind Singh ordered that Sikhs cannot eat Muslim Halal meat because the animal was slowly bled to death.
Jihad (Islam) The lesser jihad is against obstacles tothe divine order (may involve war) and the greater jihad is the drive against inner forces of being open to God.
jiva (Hinduism) Living soul but one which is separate from Atman, the eternal Soul, Living being.
Jivan Mukti (Sikhism) The Sikh stance that a person may achieve spiritual liberation during their lifetime and not just on their death.
jnana Wisdom, spiritual knowing (jna is to know). Jananyoga is one of the yogas towards Moksha. It is the path of wisdom.
Ka'ba or Ka'bah or Ka'aba (Islam) According to Muslim tradition it is a cube shaped building established by Adam and rebuilt by Abraham or Ibrahim and Ishmael in Makkah but surrounded with pagan deities until Muhammad's (pbuh) work. It contains the sacred black rock in one corner. It is the focal point of worldwide Muslim prayer.
Kabbalah (Judaism, Pagan) Jewish mysticism but according to logical connections as formulated from 12th century onwards. The Pagans have taken it on themselves as a form of secret knowledge. Literally means 'receiving'.
Kachha or katchera (Sikhism) Drawers or briefs which are one of the five Ks that a Khalsa Sikh must wear. They are a symbol of self control.
Kaddish (Judaism) Jewish prayer of sanctification in the synagogue service.
Kalimah (Islam) The Muslim confession of faith, 'There is no god but the God and Muhammad (pbuh) is the messenger of God.'
Kalpa (Hinduism) One Day of Brahma or 1000 great yugas meaning 4320 million years.
Kalyug (Sikhism) An age in which righteousness and godliness is forgotten. Contrast with Satyug.
Kam (Sikhism) Lust, being one of the weaknesses.
Kama (Hinduism) Many forms of desire and craving and Kamadeva personifies this.
Kamadhuk (Hinduism) The cow of wishes who grants all desires.
Kanga (Sikhism) Comb, which is one of the five Ks symbols that a Khalsa Sikh must wear. It symbolises hygiene and discipline.
Kapila (Hinduism) First teacher of Sankhya philosophy.
Kar Seva (Sikhism) Voluntary work carried out for religious purposes, in particular the building of gurdwaras. Its other meaning is the removal of silt every 50 years from the tank surrounding Harmandir Sahib.
Kara (Sikhism) The steel bracelet which is one of the five Ks or physical symbols that a Khalsa Sikh must wear. It symbolises restraint and recalling God.
Karah parshad (Sikhism) A food prepared from flour or semolina, butter, sugar and water, shared at the end of a service and most religious observances, in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib and sanctified by prayers. It symbolises the equality of all members of the congregation. It means 'pudding'.
Karma (Hinduism, Buddhism) (Pali: kamma) Cause and effect process (from kri, meaning to do). The law of Karma in Hinduism is that good actions assist a good rebirth and bad actions a bad rebirth. In Buddhism it is a way of spiritual progress that may involve rebirth but rebirth means more than reincarnation and refers to everything changing (we are not the same person when older than when younger). Literally it means 'actions'. In Sikhism God may give or withhold Karma which means reward or punishment. Karma leads to Moksha in Hinduism and Karmayoga is one of the yogas in this regard meaning doing action and selfless service.
Karna (Hinduism) Brave warrior in Mahabharata but short mention in the Bhagavad Gita.
Karta Purukh (Sikhism) A name of God, the Creator.
Kaur (Sikhism) The mandatory name given to all females initiated into the Sikh community. It means 'princess'. It can also be a midle or last name for others.
Kauravas (Hinduism) Duryodhana and brothers, seen as wicked usurpers, greedy for wealth and power, and enemies of the Pandavas brothers, who are the good guys. They fight the Pandavas for the ancient throne of Hastinapura. The battle to decide their conflict is ready to commence in the Bhagavad Gita (the sons of Kuru).
Kes (Sikhism) Sikhs in the Khalsa brotherhood have uncut hair as a symbol of spirituality and this is a requirement. It is one of the five Ks.
Kaurava (Hinduism) One of the two rival families in the Mahabharata.
Ketubim (Judaism) The writings being the third part of the Jewish Bible.
Khalifah (Islam) The representatives of the Prophet who became caliphs but in the spiritual sense it means universal man as God's vice-gerent before the whole of creation.
Khalsa (Sikhism) The Sikh order instituted by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. It means either 'pure' or 'God's own'. Khalsa Sikhs should keep vows and wear the five Ks.
Khanda (Sikhism) Seen on badges and the Sikh flag, it is the emblem of a double-edged sword, circle and two scimitars representing balance as introudced by Guru Hargobind.
Khutba (Islam) Sermon preached in a mosque on Fridays.
Kiddush (Judaism) Sanctification ceremony at the commencement of Shabbat and festivals.
Kirpan (Sikhism) The decorative knife that is worn. This is one of the five symbols that a Khalsa Sikh must wear and represents the fight against injustice and religious oppression.
Kirtan Sohila (Sikhism) A collection of three hymns by Guru Nanak, one by Guru Ram Das and one by Guru Arjun. They are recited as part of Nitnem before bed. They also form part of the funeral rites. A kirtan is a musical rendering of Sikh gurbani.
Kripa (Hinduism) Teacher of the royal family and warrior.
Krishna Incarnation of Vishnu to restore dharma and who personifies spiritual love in everyone. Krishna is the friend and advisor of Arjuna (in the Bhagavad Gita) and the other Pandava brothers (either black or to krish to draw or be attractive). There are other stories of Krishna as a naughty child, for instance told to admit he swallowed mud he opened his mouth to reveal the mud which displayed the whole universe.
Kshatriya (Hinduism) Protector or warrior class of ancient Indian society and varna (caste) which can study but may not teach Hindu sacred writings. It is one of the twice born (the first three varnas) and its males come of age at 11.
kshetra (Hinduism) A field, a place, a sacred place or temple.
Kubera (Hinduism) God of wealth.
kundalini (Hinduism) Spiritual or evolutionary energy, coiled at the base of the spine and, according to yogi texts, to be brought out by meditation and yoga so that it can rise up and activate higher centres of con-sciousness (The serpent power).
Kurahts (Sikhism) The vows of abstinence on becomming a Khalsa which involve not cutting your own hair, not eating Muslim halal meat, indulging in adultery, nor drinking and taking intoxicants.
Kurukshetra (Hinduism) Site of the Mahabharata battle
Lailat al-Qadr (Islam) The Night of Power when Gabriel first revealed the Quran to Muhammad (pbuh) and is commemorated on the night before the 27th Islamic month of Ramadan.
Laity (Buddhism, Christianity, etc.) Members of a religion not ordained as priests, monks, nuns, etc.
Langar (Sikhism) Free community Kitchen in a Sikh gurdwara where people eat to express hospitality and symbolises rejection of caste and class. This is a fundamental aspect of the Sikh religion demonstrating equality as instituted by Guru Nanak.
Latin (Christianity) The language of the ancient Romans which became the language of the Western Christian church and the Bible used in church for many centuries.
Lawan (Sikhism) This is when the couple circumvent the Guru Granth Sahib during the Sikh marriage ceremony. It is also the name of the four stanza composition by Guru Ram Das found on page 773 of the Guru Granth Sahib. See Phera.
Laws of Manu (Hinduism) Hindu code of conduct compiled going towards 200 BCE. It covers many aspects of living and issues like gender inequality.
Lectern (Christianity) Reading desk, especially used for reading the Bible.
Lent (Christianity) Period of fasting and penitence ahead of the Christian festival of Easter.
Lila game Krishna in divine play disguises himself as someone in the world (The field of the Kurus).
Liturgy (Christianity, Judaism) A fixed form or order of public worship.
Lord's Prayer (Christianity) Prayer taught by Jesus and, in slight variations, used by all Christians in public and private.
Lunar (Islam, Hinduism, etc) Months or calendars calculated by the movement of the moon round the earth. Hinduism adjusts the lunar calendar to keep in with the sloar calendar by instituting extra months. Islam will catch up with the Western Common Era calendar.
Madhava (Hinduism) Krishna (the descendant of Madhu).
Madhusudana (Hinduism) Krishna, because he killed the demon Madhu (Slayer of Madhu).
Mahabharata (Hinduism) The great Indian epic from 2,500 years ago, traditionally written by Vyasa. It tells of the deep conflict between the descendants of Pandu (the forces of light) and Dhritarashtra (the forces of darkness).
Mahala (Sikhism) Each contributing Guru used the name Nanak in the Guru Granth Sahib, so there needs to be extra identification. So Mahala 5 is Guru Arjun, Mahala 3 is Guru Amardas.
Ma'rifah (Islam) Divine knowledge or gnosis following the love (mahabbah) and fear (makhafah) of God.
Mahayana (Buddhism) The great vehicle but which includes various schools of Buddhism, such as the Tibetan, Pure Land and Zen. The principle difference from Hinayana is the claim that the enlightened Boddhissatvas return back to the earth rather than Nirvana to help the still unenlightened.
Mahdi (Islam) In the context of Islamic history the title of the person who will be sent to re-establish justice on earth before the end of time and to prepare the second advent of Christ. In Sunnism the identity of the mahdl is not specified while in Shi'ism he is identified with the Twelfth Imam. Literally the 'guided one'.
Maimonides (Judaism) R. Moshe ben Maimon (1135-1204) who was the major philosopher and codifier of Halakhah. He was born in Spain but persecutions forced exile to Morocco and then Egypt where he became physician to the Vizier of Saladin and leader of the Jewish community.
Mala (Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity) Beads strung together as an aid to meditating upon God, or the Dharma for Buddhists. Christians call such an aid to meditation a rosary: Muslims use the name subha, tasbi or tashir. Sikh and Buddhist malas are made up of a hundred and eight knots or beads.
Manas (Hinduism) That which receives and retains sensory impressions, which we call the mind.
Mandala (Hinduism, Buddhism) The individual ten divisions of the Rig Veda or any symbolic and sacred diagram acting as an aid to meditation.
Mandir (Hinduism) A Hindu place of worship.
Manji (Sikhism) The stool or string bed upon which the Guru Granth Sahib is placed on as a symbol of its sovereignity.
Manmukh (Sikhism) A self-centered person who has forgotten God, the opposite of a Gurmukh.
Mantra/ Mantram (Hinduism, Buddhism etc.) A sacred chant to release spiritual power or simply a repetitive verse to aid meditation. The Sikh Mool Mantra is not a chant but a credo.
Manu The first man of humankind. There are Laws of Manu.
Marichi (Hinduism) A demigod in the Vedas (particle of light)
Martyr (Islam, Christianity) Someone who dies being loyal to the faith and its demand.
Masoretes (Judaism) A group of Jewish scholars who produced an accurate text of the Hebrew Bible in the 700s CE.
Matta tekna (Sikhism) Bowing down and touching the floor with the forehead in front of the Guru Granth Sahib as a sign of respect to this Living Guru.
Maya (Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism) Immersion and attachment in the material world and assuming that this is the be all and end all: for Buddhism this attachment is samsara and has lost the truth that the world is transitory. Hinduism sees it as appearance instead of reality but such appearance is also demonstrative of the creative power of God.
Meditation (Buddhism, Hinduism etc.) A focussed means of calming the mind and increasing perception. There are breathing, counting, imaging and chanting methods.
Mela (Sikhism) Any Sikh religious festival other than the birth or death of a Guru.
Menorah (Judaism) A seven branched candle holder which stood in the Jewish Temple but is now found in synagogues.
Meru (Hinduism) A mountain at the centre of the world/ cosmos. It is a place of beauty in both cities and gardens.
Messiah (Judaism, Christianity) The deliverer many Jews expect God to send. For Christians Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Literally 'the anointed one'.
Mezuzah (Judaism) A small container holding the Shema fastened to the door post of Jewish houses. Literally 'doorpost'.
Mezuzah (Judaism) Container attached to door posts in a house but specifically contains parchment scroll with words from the Torah (portions of the shema).
Midrash (Judaism) Corpus of homiletic rabbinic literature; classical midrashim extend until the end of 10th century. It is also the whole genre of interpretation based on allusions in the text.
Mihrab (Islam) The niche in a mosque which marks the qiblah or direction of Ka'ba at Makkah.
Mikvah (Judaism) Bath for ritual washing in a synagogue.
Minaret (Islam) The tower from which Muslims are called to prayer by the muezzin.
Minister Usually a but not always a nonconformist clergyman.
Mira (Hinduism) A mediaeval Indian female saint who gave songs to Krishna.
Miri and Piri Spiritual and worldly matters in balance as introduced by Guru Hargobind and represented by two swords as shown on the Khanda.
Mishkan (Judaism) The Tabernacle described in book of Exodus being the forerunner of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Mishnah (Judaism) The earliest codification and record of the rabbinical Oral Traditionproduced around 200 CE under R. Yehudah Ha-Nasi in Israel and records halakhic rulings and details of the religious practices in earlier Judaism.
Missal (Christianity) The Order of service of the Roman Catholic Mass.
Mithras (Pagan) An important Iranian god widely worshipped by soldiers in the Roman army.
Mitzvah (Judaism) A religious command in the Torah (plural: mitzvol), its details transmitted through the Oral Tradition.
Moksha (Hinduism) Liberation, salvation and illumination. The Hindu term for the ending of rebirths in achieving union with God. Sikhs use mukti. Buddhist Nirvana is quite different because of the belief in no self (and no God) rather than the true self.
Monk (Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity) A man who has taken vows and become a member of a religious community.
Monotheism (Hinduism, Christianity, Sikhism, Islam) Belief that only one God exists.
Mool Mantra (Sikhism) Sikh statement of belief on the qualities of God. Sometimes it is spelt Mul Mantra. It is contained in the opening lines of the Japji by Guru Nanak and the beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib. It is considered the cornerstone of Sikhism.

God is one.
His name is True.
He is the Creator.
His is without fear.
He is inimical to none.
His existance is unlimited by time.
He is beyond the cycles of birth and death, self existent and can be realized through the grace of the Guru.
Mosque (Islam) Muslim building for public worship derived from the Arabic masjid, meaning a place of prostration. The Masjid al-Haram, the Great Mosque or Grand Mosque, Makkah, Saudi Arabia, can hold a million worshippers within its walls and is the location of the Ka'ba. It is the only mosque in the world without a mihrab, the niche in the qiblah wall of a mosque that faces the Ka'ba!
Mu'amalah (Islam) The portion of Islamic law dealing with transactions (plural: mu'amalat).
Muezzin (Islam) The person who summons the Muslim faithful to collective prayer.
Mughal (Islam) The Muslim rulers of India from the 1500s to the 1800s.
Muhammad (pbuh) (Islam) The final prophet of Islam who from the age of 40 started receiving revelations which, according to Islam, were remembered and given to others to write and eventually after his death came together to form the Qur'an. He is not regarded as its author because it was through him that the revelations came. He is regarded as the final prophet of Islam because Islam existed before him and was continually corrupted until the perfect Qur'an was written. The Qur'an preserves Allah's message. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is said to have helped rebuild the Ka'ba once the Pagan deities were removed.
Mujtahid (Islam) The one learned enough to give ijtihad being judgment on religious problems.
Mukti (Sikhism) Spiritual liberation from the cycles of birth and death that Hindus call Moksha.
Mundavani (Sikhism) This is the concluding poem by Guru Arjun in the Guru Granth Sahib which describes the spiritual qualities of reading and following the Guru Granth Sahib. Mundavani means seal.
Muslim (Islam) One who submits himself to God by following Islam, particularly starting with the shahadah, the first pillar of Islam.
Nabi (Islam) Prophet who brings tidings from the invisible world.
Nafs (Islam) The soul between the body (jism) and the spirit or intellect (ruh or aql).
Nagara (Sikhism) A kettledrum found in some gurdwaras and introduced by Guru Hargobind to be beaten when langar food is ready. It also symbolises royal authority.
Nakula (Hinduism) A younger Pandava brother.
Nam or Naam (Sikhism) The name of God. It is the central task of rememberance of God through meditation on Gods name. The word means name.
Nam Japna, Kirt Karna, Vand Chakna (Sikhism) The three central requirements for Sikhs of meditation on God's name, honest work, and giving to charity.
Nam simran (Sikhism) Meditation upon the Name so that one attains God realisation.
Nanak Panthi (Sikhism) A follower of Guru Nanak.
Narada (Hinduism) The divine musician and sage and devotee to Krishna.
Nevi'im (Judaism) Second section of the Jewish Bible containing the prophetic writings.
Nihang (Sikhism) An order that follows the soldier lifestyle of Guru Gobind Singh. Followers wear blue robes and reject household comforts.
Nirankar (Sikhism) A name of God meaning no physical form. See nurguna.
Nirguna (Sikhism) Like nirankar this is about God meaning without form or material attributes. God is beyond human knowledge and comprehension.
Nirmana-kaya (Buddhism) The manifestation body of a Buddha on the earth. There are many Buddhas and the main one with all aspects is Shakyamuni Buddha, according to various Tibetans.
Nirvana (Buddhism, Hinduism) (Pali: nibbana) The point of arrival at the pure state where there is no more attachment: no greed, hate and delusion. Samsara is ended. In Hinduism the meaning is related to Moksha: No further separateness of the soul (nir, vana, out, to blow; that is blowout).
nirvikalpa samadhi (Hinduism) Pure state of awareness beyond all dualities and within God.
Nishan sahib (Sikhism) Sikh flag flown over a gurdwara.
Nitnem (Sikhism) Nitnem are daily prayers. In the morning these are the Japji of Guru Nanak, and Jap and Ten Swayyas of Guru Gobind Singh; at sunset they are Rahiras, a collection of nine hymns by Guru Nanak, Guru Amar Das and Guru Arjun; and before bed the Kirtan Sohila, five hymns also by Guru Nanak, Guru Amar Das and Guru Arjun. See sodar.
Nonconformist (Christianity) A Protestant Christian who does not conform to the form of worship, organisation and belief contained in the Book of Common Prayer.
Nun (Buddhism, Christianity) A woman who has taken vows and become a member of a religious community.
Om/ Aum (Hinduism) Holy Word for God (Brahman) repeated in meditation as taught in the Upanishads. Also a sound representing God in Hinduism spoken by Lord Brahma (Creator god). Om of the same root is probably the Latin version of A U M, the letters that originate the alphabet and language. It is the most appropriate name for God and should be said regularly (according to the Bhagavad Gita). It is used in Buddhist mantras as a sound which draws together all meanings.
Onkar(Sikhism) God as the Primal Being. Onkar is also a compositon of Guru Nanak on page 929 of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Orthodox (Judaism, Christianity) Someone who accepts a given belief statement or creed, or a Jew who lives by the teachings of the Torah and Talmud, or the Christian Orthodox Church which split from the Western European (Roman Catholic) Church in 1054 CE, the origins of which lay in the establishment of the eastern Roman Empire especially under Julian in Constantinople which survived after Rome fell, and which became its own religious centre. Orthodoxy is contrasted with orthopraxy.
Orthopraxy (Buddhism) This is where proper practice (praxis) is carried out to achieve an end result. Buddhism is particularly orthopraxic because it is by doing the meditation that the claims are realised. An argument runs that orthodoxy is also orthopraxic too in order to be realised, but there is a different theory of knowledge involved. Orthopraxy is bound to be less dogmatic because it is disproven in individual cases, and this is why Buddhism is essentially individualistic.
Pada (Sikhism) Hymns are divided into padas in the Guru Granth Sahib which vary from one to four verses.
Palki (Sikhism) The wooden, golden or marble palaquin in a gurdwara which the Guru Granth Sahib is ceremonially placed.
Palm Sunday (Christianity) The Sunday before Easter when Christians remember Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and so called because the crowds welcomed him by waving palm branches. It is the start of Holy Week, the drama leading directly to the death and believed resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
Pandava (Hinduism) Arjuna and brothers, Yudhishthira, Bhima, Nakula, and Sahadeva, enemies of Kauravas, and about to fight to a conclusion in the Bhagavad Gita (the sons of Pandu).
Panj Kakke (Sikhism) The five Ks, being physical items and symbols, which must be worn at all times by Khalsa Sikhs

Panj Piaras (Sikhism) The first five Sikhs initiated into the Khalsa order by Guru Gobind Singh are known as the five beloved ones. Five Khalsa Sikhs are required for initiation of a new member.
Panth (Sikhism) The Sikh community.
Parable (Christianity) A story that expresses a spiritual or moral truth in a manner that makes the hearer think further.
Paramatman (Jainism) The supreme soul is paramatman released in liberation and potential in everyone. It is a divine principle within but unlike Hinduism there is no God.
Partha (Hinduism) Arjuna or his brothers Bhima and Yudhishthira (son of Pritha).
Patanjali The author of the Yoga Sutras which teach mediation through to self-realisation using raja yoga. He lived around the 100s B.C.E.
Path (Sikhism) A reading of the Guru Granth Sahib. The daily Hukamnama is such a reading.
Patit (Sikhism) A Khalsa Sikh who has not kept the vows of the Khalsa order.
Paudi (Sikhism) A stanza of the Guru Granth Sahib.
Pauri (Sikhism) Verses in the Guru Granth Sahib where the length and metre vary.
Pavaka (Hinduism) God of fire (the purifier).
Pentateuch (Judaism) The first five books of the Bible and the Torah Law.
Pesach (Judaism) Passover being the spring festival celebrating freedom from slavery in Egypt.
Pharaoh (via Judaism) The title used by Egyptian rulers; basically a king.
Pharisees (Judaism, Christianity) Devout and strictly observant and yet renewing Jews active from around 200 BCE to 200 CE. The New Testament gives them a bad press.
Phera (Sikhism) Circling of the Guru Granth Sahib during the wedding ceremony. See Lawan.
Polytheist (Hinduism, Pagan) One who believes in the existence of many gods that may or may not be part of the Ultimate.
Pothi (Sikhism) A volume of religious hymns.
Prahlada (Hinduism) A demon prince yet devoted to Vishnu.
Prajapati (Hinduism) One great Father of all creatures, although there can be seven or more creating fathers or sages (lord of offspring).
prajna (Hinduism) Transcendental knowing from meditation (jna, to know, as in jnanayoga).
Prakash Karna (Sikhism) The early morning ceremony when the Guru Granth Sahib is formally opened and the day's worship begins.
prakriti (Hinduism) Forming energy of mental and physical worlds; nature.
prana (Hinduism) Vital force, breath of life.
Priest (Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Paganism) A person specially given rights to officiate at religious ceremonies and, specifically, ordained Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders who can administer the sacraments, and members of the Brahmin class who carry out Hindu ceremonies; or historically a member of the family of Aaron who officiated at worship in the Jerusalem Temple.
Pritha (Hinduism) (or Kunti) Arjuna's mother thus he can be Partha (son of Pritha).
Protestant (Christianity) Christians who do not acknowledge the authority of the Roman Catholic or Orthodox churches. Martin Luther (1529) criticised the inulgences of the Roman Catholic church and, in the context of supporting German and other authorities, started a whole blossoming of different non-Roman churches.
Psalter (Judaism, Christianity) A book containing the Psalms being poems found in the Hebrew Bible. Mainstream Christian use adds on recognition of the Trinity.
Pulpit (Christianity) The place at which preaching is given in a Christian church. Of course other religions have equivalents of pulpits but with their own names.
Purana (Hinduism) Collections of poems celebrating the power and works of the Hindu gods. Literally 'ancient'.
Purim (Judaism) Festival celebrating the saving of the Jews from the first recorded attempt at genocide or shoah, being that of Haman in Book of Esther.
Purusha (Hinduism) The Atman or spiritual soul (person) and the Bhagavad Gita uses both.
Purushottama (Hinduism) Supreme Being (highest person).
Pyre (Hinduism) The fire upon which corpses are cremated and, in the past, wives of dead husbands.
Qibla or Qiblah (Islam) The direction in which Muslims pray (towards Makkah).
Qiyas (Islam) Analogical thinking (in logic, syllogism), and in certain schools of jurisprudence it is one basis of the Shariah.
Quakers (Christianity) The Society of Friends now of a spread from liberal Christianity to humanism to universalism.
Qur'an or Koran (Islam) The sacred book of Islam perfect in every word and word order, delivered through Muhammad (pbuh), told to others and gathered together after his death and made uniform under Uthman.
Rabbi (Judaism) Rabbi is a teacher (Jesus was 'Rabbi') but has a more specific meaning of rabbinic Judaism being the Oral tradition (as well as the written tradition) coming from Moses. Moses received the Torah from Sinai, he gave it to Joshua, Joshua handed it to the elders, the elders then gave it to the prophets, and the prophets handed it down to the men of the 'Great Assembly' (which ruled about 500-300 BCE). Thus there is the Talmud. These days Rabbinic Judaism means Orthodox Judaism.
Rag Mala (Sikhism) This is the last composition in the Guru Granth Sahib. It is a listing of 84 rags used in Indian music in the early seventeenth century. A Rag is a tune, or the series of five or more notes upon which it is based.
Ragi (Sikhism) A musician who sings the hymns of the Guru Granth Sahib in gurdwaras.
Rahiras (Sikhism) The nine hymns, four by Guru Nanak, 3 by Guru Ram Das and 2 by Guru Arjun which are read at sunset as part of Nitnem.
Rahit Nama (Sikhism) Any manual of many regarding conduct for Khalsa Sikhs which began to be produced from the eighteenth century. The Rahit Maryada is the Sikh Code of Conduct conceived by the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which gained control in 1925 and ended the governance of gurdwaras by corrupt officials. Their oversight is especially Punjab, Haryana & Himachal Pradesh.
Raj Karega Khalsa (Sikhism) The concluding line of the daily prayer Ardas. It comes from the battle cry translated as "The Khalsa shall rule" during the rule of Banda Singh Bahadur.
raja yoga (Hinduism) Patanjali taught this meditation as in the Yoga Sutras (the Royal Path).
rajas (Hinduism) Energy or passion being one of the three guna qualities making up phenomena.
Rama (Hinduism) An incarnation of Vishnu being the son of Dasharatha (king of Ayodhya), the prince who killed the evil demon Ravana to get his wife Sita back (Rama is Prince of Joy).
Ramadan (Islam) Ninth month of the Muslim calendar, being the month of fasting.
Rashi R. Shlomo ben Yitzhak (1040-1105, France) (Judaism) He wrote extensive and authoritative commentaries on most books of the Hebrew Bible and Babylonian Talmud and his biblical commentary emphasises both literal and midrashic interpretations.
Rasul (Islam) A class of prophets who bring a message for a particular humanity.
Reformation (Christianity) The movement to reform the Western Church (Roman Catholic) starting with Martin Luther that led to the Protestant denominations.
Resurrection (Judaism, Christianity) In the time of Jesus, The saduccess did not believe in a general resurrection but the pharisees did. Resurrection is a general Jewish belief today and this belief justifies burial over cremation in a near Eastern religions. Resurrection is a belief in the rising of bodies on the last day to face the last judgment. Jesus as a miracle worker is said to have resurrected Lazarus, and this story follows resurrection in the Old Testament. He was then, according to the Gospels and Paul, resurrected. There are two elements: the earliest is the appearances in a spiritual body, and then the rising on the 3rd day of the actual body, an important biblical tradition and number. These are not necessarily the same thing though of course the Christian narrative places them together. For Jesus to have been resurrected, he did have to die first, and the important point of the resurrection is that people believed a cause of death was the weight of sin, and of course Jesus being sinless did not have to die. That he did, so that humanity was saved of its sin, leads on to resurrection and its point. However, even though he was resurrected, and indeed is in the Church, he still has to come again. The contemporary argument often heard is that something happened to re-inspire the disciples, and of course there are even today accounts of visions of the dead as if close and alive that comfort and restore the bereaved, but they give this a more spiritual meaning without the language of resurrection readily available if radical at the time of Jesus and beyond.
Rig Veda (Hinduism) Oldest revealed Hindu scriptures of hymns, compiled in the second millenium BCE. Literally 'Royal knowledge'.
Rik (Hinduism) Oldest of the four Vedas.
Rishi (Hinduism) Hindu seers who received the revelations of the Vedas.
Romalla (Buddhism) A square of silk cloth to cover the Guru Granth Sahib. Sometimes this is given by Sikhs to show gratitude or suggest God's care after a bereavement or before going on a long journey.
Roman Catholics (Christianity) Christians who acknowledge the Pope as successor of St. Peter and is the vice-regent of Christ.
Rosary (Christianity) Beads used by Roman Catholics in their private devotions. The use of beads goes far further than Christians.
Rosh Hashanah (Judaism) The Jewish New Year.
Rudras (Hinduism) Either a group of gods or a single one dealing with destruction which replaced Shiva in later Hinduism.
Rumala (Sikhism) The cloth which covers the Guru Granth Sahib.
Rupa (Buddhism) A form or body used for images of the Buddha.
Sabbath (Judaism) Originally the Jewish holy seventh day of the week but now any religious holy day or day of rest.
Sach Khand (Sikhism) The realm of truth which is the final stage of spiritual ascent where the believer becomes one with God.
Sacrament (Christianity) An outward visible sign in the rites of the church of a spiritual blessing.
sadhana (Hinduism) A body of disciplines or way of life going to total self realisation.
Sadhu (Hinduism) Holy man or sage.
Sadducees (Judaism) Jewish priests who recognised only the written Torah and not the Oral Talmud. They were no more after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.
Sadh Sangat (Sikhism) The Sikh congregation and indeed community. A sangat is a holy community.
Sahadeva (Hinduism) A younger brother of the Pandavas.
Sahib (Sikhism) Term of respect used for the Sikh Holy Book and also used for historical gurdwaras.
Sahibzadas (Sikhism) The four sons of Guru Gobind Singh who all died as marytrs:
  • Ajit Singh
  • Jujhar Singh
  • Zorawar Singh
  • Fateh Singh
Sahaj (Sikhism) The spiritual peace that comes from the attainment of union with God.
Sahaj Path (Sikhism) When the whole Guru Granth Sahib is read but not continuously. This is contrasted with the Akhand path which is continuous.
Salah (Islam) Ritual prayer and the second pillar of Islam.
Salvation Army (Christianity) A Christian evangelical denomination founded by William Booth in the nineteenth century that was deliberately populist by using militarism and brass bands.
Sama One of the four Vedas with songs and chants.
Samadhi (Hinduism) Concentration bringing consciousness in line with God.
Samsara (Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikh) Birth, decay, death and rebirth which forms the cycle of existence linking all creatures. A state of rebirth and going from one body to another as a cycle of suffering. Literally 'going through'.
Sangat (Sikhism) The congregation assembled for worship.
Sangha (Buddhism) The Buddhist community and one of the refuges. The term is narrowly used for monks and nun.
Sangrand (Sikhism) On first day of the Indian lunar month the relevant portion of the composition Barhmaha by Guru Nanak or Guru Arjun Dev is read out.
Sanjaya (Hinduism) From divine perception he told the Bhagavad Gita to Dhritarashtra.
Sankhya (Hinduism) This Hindu philosophy (one of six) teaches the ultimate separation and thus liberation of the individual purusha (spirit) from prakriti (mind and matter).
sannyasa (Hinduism) Renunciation.
Sanskrit (Hinduism) The sacred language in which the most ancient Indian scriptures are written.
Sarbat Khalsa (Sikhism) A representative meeting of all Sikhs to consider important matters related to the panth.
sat (Hinduism) Truth, good, reality (to be).
Sat Guru (Sikhism) The supreme Guru, God.
sattva (Hinduism) One of the three qualities making up phenomena, this being law, harmony, purity and goodness.
Satya (Hinduism) Truth and truthful, good and the Good, eg satyagraha
Satyug (Sikhism) An era in which Truth prevails, unlike with Kalyug.
Savikalpa samddhi (Hinduism) Meditation state where awareness of object and subject remain and where there is not total unity with God (having distinctions, admitting separateness).
Scroll (Judaism) A roll of parchment or paper used before books. Still used in public worship.
Seder (Judaism) The ritual followed at the Passover meal.
Sefer Yelzirah (Judaism) Early mystical text attributed to Abraham which sees Hebrew letters as agents of creation.
Sefirah (plural: sefirot) (Judaism) A complex amalgam of the principles of number and meaning and so the ten sefirot form the Kabbalah or the tree of life. It is understanding God.
Seli (Sikhism) A woolen cord to symbolise being in the world but not of it that was worn by Guru Nanak and other gurus. Guru Hargobind who chose to wear the symbol of two swords of Meri and peri instead.
Septuagint (Christianity) The Greek version of the Hebrew Bible as translated in the 200s BCE.
Sermon (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism) A faithful monologue delivered as part of a religious service.
Seva Panthi (Sikhism) A Sikh whose life is devoted to the service of the Sikh community.
Shabad (Sikhism) The religious hymns contained in Sikh scriptures.
Shabbat (Judaism) The Sabbath being the day of holiness and rest as a reminder of God's work of creation. It begins before sunset on the Friday and extends until three stars are visible on the Saturday night. This Jewish understanding of day does extend into Christianity where, for example, some people open presents on Christmas Eve, the start of Christmas.
Shahadah (Islam) The first pillar of Islam that there is no god but the God and Muhammad (pbuh) is his messenger.
Shakti (Hinduism) Feminine side of God or the divine mother, power.
Shama Peace from deep meditation.
Shankara (Hinduism) Shiva (giver of peace).
Shariah (Islam) The (level of the principles of) the Divine Law of Islam and generally the religious law of any revealed religion.
Shavuol Festival (Judaism) Recollects the revelation of Torah on Mt. Sinai.
Shekhinah (Judaism) In Kabbalah, the Shekhinah is the feminine aspect of God (in the sefirah mulkhut) but more generally it is the indwelling presence of God.
Shema (Judaism) A central prayer and affirmation of belief declaring the unity of God which focuses on the love of God and earthly dependence on divine providence and comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 & 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41.
Shirk (Islam) The only unforgivable sin in Islam which is a claim of divinity and so compromising God's unity.
Shiva Destroys and conquers death coming after Brahma, the Creator, and Vishnu, the preserver.
Shofar (Judaism) The ram's horn trumpet blown in the synagogue at New Year and the Day of Atonement.
shraddha (Hinduism) Faith.
Shrove Tuesday (Christianity) The last day before the beginning of the Christian season of Lent and time for a feed.
Shudra (Hinduism) A worker or servant, being the fourth one born Hindu caste.
Sifra Rabbinic (Judaism) Halakhic commentary on the book of Leviticus, Sifre Rabbinic, halakhic commentary on the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Sifre Rabbinic (Judaism) Halakhic commentary on the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Simchat Torah (Judaism) Means 'Rejoicing of the Torah' and is the festival marking the end and the beginning of the weekly Torah reading cycle.
Sin (Christianity, Judaism) The continuing human condition since the fall of disobedience from God and moral failure.
Sinai, Mount (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) The place where, according to the Bible and Jewish tradition, Moses received the Torah.
Singh (Sikhism) The name given to all male members of the Sikh khalsa. Literally 'lion'.
Skanda (Hinduism) A god and son of Shiva and being general of the divine forces against the demons.
Smrti (Hinduism) Hindu writings like the bhagavad Gita different from the revealed scriptures. Literally 'that which is remembered'.
Society of Friends (Christian humanism) It retains its form of worship and structure since the early days of George Fox refusing all creeds, oaths, sacraments and priestly structures. Though quite liberal now its resistance comes now in terms of being anti war.
Sodar (Sikhism) A composition of Guru Nanak's read at sunset as part of Rahiras.
solar (Sikhism) Months or calendars calculated by the movement of the earth round the sun.
Soma (Hinduism) the drink of the gods used in Vedic ritual.
Sri (Hinduism) Lord or holy and often placed before Krishna.
Sruti (Hinduism) Revealed Hindu scriptures particuarly the Vedas. Literally 'what is heard'.
Stupa (Buddhism) Mound or mound-shaped buildings, which contain relics forming distinctive monuments in Buddhist areas.
Subha (Islam) The string of a hundred beads (also called called a tasbi or tasbir) used in private devotions.
Sufi (Islam) A Muslim mystic and a major tradition of holiness in Islam.
Sukh Asan (Sikhism) The ceremony at the end of the day when the Guru Granth Sahib is formally closed for the night.
Sukkot (Judaism) Autumn festival of the journey through the wilderness, commemorated by dwelling in a temporary structure, the sukkah.
Sunnah (Islam) The way of living and being carried out the Prophet of Islam, an idea for all Muslims.
Surah (Islam) The hundred and fourteen divisions of the Qur'an.
Sutra (Buddhism) (Pali: sutta) The teachings, sayings and discourses of the Buddha. One of the three sections of the Pali Canon, and in Mahayana writings (for example the Lotus Sutra). Literally a thread.
Svadharma (Hinduism) Individual dharma and therefore the duty appropriate to a person.
Swayya (Sikhism) A group of hymns composed by Guru Gobind Singh and found in the Dasam Granth.
Swastika (Hinduism) An ancient Hindu symbol of love. This was perverted by the Nazis.
Synagogue (Judaism) Jewish meeting place for worship and instruction.
Tamas (Hinduism) One of the three qualities making up phenomena, being inertia or ignorance.
Tapas (Hinduism) Where having self control delivers spiritual strength.
Ta'wil (Islam) The esoteric and spiritual interpretation of both the Qur'an and creation. Literally 'to take something back to its origin'.
Tafsir (Islam) The hermeneutic and esoteric interpretation and commentary of the Quran.
Tajalli (Islam) The Truth of the names and qualities of God is reflected in the world but does not enter into the world or be affected by it. The analogy is a mirror or shiny surface because light does not enter the mirror.
Takht (Sikhism) There are five gurdwaras which are designated as takhts, so it is a seat of Sikh authority.
Tallith (Judaism) Worn over the shoulders by Jewish men in private devotion and during synagogue worship and often called a prayer shawl.
Talmud (Judaism) The Talmud is the major work of rabbinic Judaism, having the roots of all subsequent halakha rulings as well as much aggadic material. The Jerusalem Talmud was edited in Israel approaching the 400s and then came the Babylonian Talmud up to the end of the 400s. The Babylonian Talmud is more significant as it contains the Mishnah as well as the Gemara recording the discussions on the Mishnah in rabbinic academies of Babylon.
Tankhaiya (Sikhism) A person who has committed a religious offence meriting punishment.
Targum (Judaism) Translation of the Bible into Aramaic where the most important is Targum Onkelos (100s CE) which has significant interpretations, as well as the literal translation, of the original Hebrew.
Tariqah (plural: turuq) (Islam) The spiritual path leading to God. The Sufi way is called the tariqah, being the path to God. Literally 'the path' or 'the way'.
Tasawwuf (Islam) The inner or esoteric dimension of Islam leading to Sufism, with origins in the 700s.
Tawhid (Islam) Divine Unity and that sense of integration that realises Unity.
Temple (Sikhism, Hinduism, Judaism) A place of worship. The Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE. Hindu temples are sometimes called mandirs. A Sikh temple is a gurdwara.
Tenakh/ Tanakh (Judaism) The Jewish Bible.
Theravada/ Hinayana (Buddhism) The way of the elders. Found mainly in Sri Lanka and Thailand and is the earlier more individualist Buddhism.
Three Jewels/ Three Refuges (Buddhism) The Buddha, Dharma (path) and Sangha (Community) to which the Buddhist commits.
Throne of Glory (Judaism) The essence of the higher world of creation (especially in Kabbalistic thought) from where the divine influence is directed into the lower worlds.
Torah (Judaism) More than simply the first five books of the Bible revealed to Moses, or Written Torah, because of the elucidation, the Oral Torah. It is authoritative. Literally means 'teaching' or 'instruction'.
Trinity (Christianity) The Christian doctrine that there is one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These persons have their functions but God is one.
Tripitaka (Buddhism) The threefold division of the Theravada Buddhist scriptures into Sutra, Vinaya and Abhidharma, which are called the three baskets (Pali: Tipitaka).
Tyaga (Hinduism) Renunciation.
Ummah (Islam) The Islamic community, as defined by the adherence of its members to the Islamic revelation and the traditions of the Prophet of Islam. By extension other religious communities are also known to Muslim as the ummah of different prophets.
Unitarian (Christian humanism) Small creedless denomination that evolves its belief. Unitarianism emerged from Presbyterians in England and Congregationalists in the United States, and sometimes General Baptists. Prebsyterians had refused creeds and were broad (catholic) in church outlook, if not then belief. The declining and slowly liberalising Puritans were uplifted by rejuventing biblical unitarian believers (Jesus was human but a healing miracle worker and resurrected), but the more catholic and more liberal types got the upper edge later. They became less Christian and even religious humanist, and now draw from different faiths, whilst a liberal Christian element (which may even be trinitarian in places!) continues.
United Reformed Church (Christianity) Christian Protestant denomination of Presbyterians mainly from Scotland into England and most English congregationalists. Most English Presbyterians went Unitarian.
Upanishads (Hinduism) Ancient late Vedic Hindu scriptures produced from around 2500 years ago. Heard or revelatory documents.
Ushanas (Hinduism) A sage and poet in the Vedas.
Vajrayana (Buddhism) The vajra sets out to displace conventional ideas and life to open the road to Nirvana. It is a Tibetan Buddhist School of Tantric Buddhism. Literally means 'thunderbolt' or 'diamond' vehicle.
Varna (Hinduism) Any one of the four broad castes or classes of traditional Hindu society. Castes are actually more detailed.
Varuna (Hinduism) God of waters and the ocean who in the Veda is the moral overseer of the world.
Vasuki (Hinduism) The king of the serpents who lives in the under world and balances the world on his serpent hood.
Veda (Hinduism) The most ancient of Hindu scriptures, in Sanskrit, being heard as knowledge from God to the mystics (vid, to know). They are therefore regarded as revealed. They were composed between 4000 and 3000 years ago. Literally 'knowledge'. An example is the Rig Veda.
Vidya (Hinduism) Knowledge, wisdom in general or a science/ field of study.
Vinaya (Hinduism) The monastic rules which form one of the three sections or baskets of the Pali Canon in Buddhism.
Vijnana (Hinduism) Knowledge, judgment, understanding.
Vishnu (Hinduism) The Preserver (after Brahma the creator and before Shiva the destroyer) who always becomes incarnate in every age for dharma and the welfare of all.
Vivasvat (Hinduism) The ancestor of mankind who is also the sun god and is the father of Manu.
Vrishni (Hinduism) A clan in north India which completely perished at the end of Krishna's life when their city, Dvaraka, disppeared into the sea.
Vyasa (Hinduism) The father of both Dhritarashtra and Pandu, who gave Sanjaya the mystic vision to give the dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, and so is regarded as the author of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita.
Wahdat al-wujud (Islam) Explicitly formulated for the first time by Muhyi al-Din ibn 'Arabi, it is the transcendent unity of being forming the centre of Sufi metaphysics.
Wahy (Islam) Revelation by a prophet compared with inspiration (ilham) by anyone.
Wesak (Hinduism, Buddhism) The Sinhalese month Wesak (in April/ May) during which Gautama Buddha's birth, death and enlightenment are celebrated by Hinayana Buddhists.
Yajna (Hinduism) Offering, sacrifice and worship.
Yajur (Hinduism) One of the four Vedas.
Yarmulka (Judaism) Skull cap worn by Jewish males either during synagogue worship or always by many Orthodox Jews.
Yoga (Hinduism) A discipline of variations to realise the union with God and all life and also one of the six branches of Hindu philosophy as is Sankhya (yuj, to unite).

Disciplines include:
Yogi (Hinduism) Person carrying out a spiritual discipline.
Yom Kippur (Judaism) The Day of Atonement.
Yudhishthira (Hinduism) Arjuna's elder brother, who kept to the dharma.
Yuga (Hinduism) The world goes through 1000 yuga-cycles during one kalpa (a day of Brahma). There are four parts to a yuga-cycle, representing deterioration. First is Krita yuga or the age of perfection, and then treta yuga, followed by dvapara, after which Krishna was made incarnate, and finally the fourth and final yuga, kali happens, where creation is the most deteriorated (yuga is from a game of dice).
Zahir (Islam) The external aspect of the manifestation of God, al-Zahir being a Divine Name contrasted with al-batin, the inward.
ZamZam (Islam) A spring near the Ka'ba at Makkah which was discovered by Ishmael, the baby son of Abraham, according to tradition.
Zen (Buddhism) Japanese translation of the Chinese Ch'an and the Sanskrit dhyana, being meditation. It is part of Mahayana Buddhism from China into Japan and since beyond.
Zionism (Judaism) Nineteenth-century Jewish movement aimed at establishing a national homeland in Israel and now associated with racism and nationalism.
The Zohar (Judaism) The major text of Kabbalah said to be by the second century CE Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai whilst modern scholarship states its final author to be Moses de Leon of Spain in the 1200s.