Ganesha is the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati and the keeper of the thresholds of space and time, to be honored at the doorway and at the outset of any venture. He is both the “lord of beginnings” and the “remover of obstacles.”


A monastery is the residence of monks, or monastics; the term is commonly used in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions. Monasticism refers to the life of work, study, and discipline led by monks and nuns.


In the religious traditions of India, a sadhu is a holy man, an ascetic who has renounced the world. In the Jain tradition monks (sadhus) and nuns (sadhvis) are also called munis, literally the “silent” holy ones. Traditionally, they are supposed to move from village to village, accepting only what food someone offers them along the way. They go by foot, for travel by vehicles is seen to be much more damaging to the multitude of tiny life-forms. During the four months of the monsoon season, the monks and nuns settle down in various villages in order to avoid harming the many organisms that... Read more about sadhu


Ananthapadmanabha is a name of Vishnu as the Infinite Lord, in the Hindu tradition, from whose body or navel the lotus of the whole created world arises.


The Ramayana is a Hindu epic telling the story of Rama, the heir-apparent to the throne of Ayodhya who was forced into exile by a court rivalry. Obedient to dharma, Rama left for life in the forest with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana. After Sita was abducted by the Demon-King Ravana, Rama, with the aid of the loyal monkey Hanuman, rescued Sita and slew Ravana. His fourteen years of exile over, he returned to Ayodhya to reign as king. The Sanskrit Ramayana attributed to Valmiki is dated between about 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E. There are also regional Ramayanas, the most popular being the... Read more about Ramayana


Vivekananda (1863-1902) was the foremost disciple of the great mystic Ramakrishna. Well educated and articulate in English, he spoke at the World’s Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893, describing Vedanta as a rational, spiritual, and universal tradition. He established Ramakrishna Vedanta Societies in the United States and the more socially-activist Ramakrishna Mission in India before his death at thirty-nine years of age.

Devi, Sarada

Sarada Devi was the wife of Sri Ramakrishna, the 19th century mystic of Calcutta. She was originally a village woman, who became worshipped by Ramakrishna not as his earthly wife, but as the divine Holy Mother. Her special place in the Ramakrishna movement in India and the Vedanta Societies in America is perhaps second only to Ramakrishna himself. Her image is invariably present in Vedanta Society sanctuaries. She lived three decades after Ramakrishna’s death, dying only in 1920.

kundalini yoga

Kundalini is a powerful spiritual energy, understood to be concentrated at the base of the spine like a coiled serpent. The discipline of releasing and raising that energy to the head where it transforms one’s consciousness is called kundalini yoga, a spiritual regimen common to some Hindu and Buddhist traditions, as well as to the Sikh Dharma taught by Yogi Bhajan.


The “royal gateway” of a temple is called a rajagopuram. In South Indian temple styles, the tallest tower or spire is over the gateway of the temple, not over its inner sanctum. Many large temples have a series of gopurams that rise over a successive series of gateways. The rajagopuram is the tallest, standing at the outermost gateway of the temple. It is usually highly ornamented with images of divine beings and auspicious protective guardians. In U.S. temples, the rajagopuram is often the last part of the temple to be completed and the consecration of the rajagopuram is a great festive... Read more about rajagopuram

Vedanta Society

The Vedanta Society is affiliated with the Ramakrishna Order, headquartered at Belur Math in Calcutta. The first Vedanta Society in the United States was founded in New York in 1894 by Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902). Vivekananda emphasized both Vedanta philosophy and the practice of yoga. Although the Vedanta Society has remained small, it has played an important role as the earliest organization to introduce Americans to Hinduism and yoga.


Chaitanya is a 16th century charismatic Hindu saint; a devotee of Krishna, who urged the simple chanting of the Lord’s name as a powerful form of devotion. The ISKCON or “Hare Krishna” movement is one of several devotional movements that look to Chaitanya for inspiration.

karma yoga

Karma yoga means the spiritual discipline (yoga) of action (karma): active engagement with the concerns and affairs of the world, but with a spirit of detachment or renunciation, action without any ego-attachment to its fruits or results. In the Bhagavad Gita karma yoga is placed alongside inner realization (jnana) and expressive devotion (bhakti) as one of the main spiritual paths.


For the religious traditions of India, the term puja simply means “worship.. For Hindus, puja is the sequence of hospitality rites through which worshippers honor a deity with offerings such as water, fruit, a coconut, cloth, incense, and an oil lamp, and receive the “grace” of God in return. For Jains, especially Murtipujak Jains, puja may be offered before an image of a Tirthankara or Jina, but Jains do not believe that the beings represented by the images actually receive the offerings made. Instead, the acts of worship are among the ways in which those who perform... Read more about puja


In the religious traditions of India, an upadhyaya is a teacher or preceptor.

Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Sanstha (BSS)

Bochasanwasi Swaminarayan Sanstha is a worldwide organization under the leadership of Shri Pramukh Swami Maharaj. It is one of the two major branches of the Hindu Swaminarayan movement, honoring Swaminarayan, a 19th century Gujarati teacher who is seen to be the human manifestation of the highest Divine reality.