Terminology of Advaita Vedanta
(Key Words with Explanations)

 

Source: A Dictionary of Advaita Vedanta, by Swami Harshananda, Ramakrishna Math, Bangalore, India. (This is an excellent reference book for everyone interested in Advaita).  This is available through Ramakrishna Mission Publications. To explain Advaita Vedanta, these words are useful but they are neither necessary nor sufficient! These terms are specifically chosen to indicate a brief outline of Vedantic Philosophy.
 
Advaita
Advaita means non-dual, one without the second. Specifically, it refers to the Vedantic philosophy advanced by Sankara. According to Sankara, Brahman the Absolute is the only reality. Advaita denies the permanent existence of the world and individual souls.
Brahman
Also Atman is described as pure consciousness (also known as sat, cit, ananda).
Jiva
The living being in the state of bondage and undergoing transmigration. According to Vedanta, the jiva is a reflection of the pure consciousness through buddhi, the intellect. The bondage is caused by ajnana or ignorance and jiva can get liberation through jnana or spiritual knowledge.
Vrtti
They are the waves constantly arise in the mind and are obstacles to yoga or perfect concentration on the Atman or Self. They can be directed toward Atman through Sadhana in the course of time.
Sadhana
Sadhana represents the means of spiritual enlightenment and the four sadhanas are Viveka (discrimination), vairagya (renunciation), samadi-satka (the group of six spiritual attributes), and mumukstutva (desire for liberation).
Viveka
Discrimination between real and the unreal.
Vairagya
Vairagya represents the spirit of a detachment mostly to the objects of pleasure.
Samadi-satka
Samadi-satka consists of sama (tranquillity), dama (self-control) uparati (cessation of external organs from the pursuit of sense-objects), titiksa (endurance), samadhana (concentration), and sraddha (faith).
Mumuksutva
The desire for liberation and is the most important among the four sadhanas.
Sankalpa
Represents the general aspects of the functioning of manas, a resolve of the type, ‘I will do this,' ‘I shall have it,' etc. In Hindu religious rituals, sankalpa is the statement of the purpose and mode of performance of a ritual.
Yoga
Yoga is the mode of sadhana to keep the mind from vrtti (thouht waves). The word ‘yoga' derived from the root yuj has two senses: Samadhi or superconscious experience through concentration of the mind; yoking or uniting the individual self with God.
Nirguna and Saguna
Guna means quality or attribute and Nirguna means without quality or attribute. In Advaita Vedanta, the Brahman, the Absolute has no gunas (qualities or attributes). The dualistic and theistic schools accept the Brahman with Saguna or full of divine attributes.
Nirvikalpaka and Savikalpaka
Vikalpa means distinction between ‘me,' the Brahman and the world.
Nirvikalpaka means without distinctions.
Savikalpaka means the persistence of the distinction between ‘me,' and ‘Brahman' and the world.
Samadhi
The total absorption in the object of concentration. In Vedanta the object is the unity of Atman with Brahman. Samadhi is of two kinds: savikalpaka and nirvikalpaka. In the savikalpaka samadhi the consciousness of one's own personality as distinct from Brahman, persists, however declined it may be. In the nirvikalpaka state, however, all awareness of multiplicity including that of oneself as distinct from Brahman is completely dissolved.
Mukti, Mohsa, Kaivalya or Nirvana
The state of freedom or liberation from all bonds due to ajnana (ignorance) or maya (illusory power). It is characterized by bliss and cessation of rebirths.
Brief Outline of Vedantic Philosophy of Human Life

The goal of Vedanta is to help the jiva (human life) to attain mukti. Jiva's bondage starts with the vrtti (waves of thoughts in the mind), for example the sight of a banana. When banana is seen just as a banana, it denotes the state of nirvikalpaka vrtti. At the state of savikalpaka vritti, banana is seen with distinct attributes such as good banana, bad banana, rotten banana, big banana, small banana etc. The decision to eat and/or taste the banana represents the sankalpa state. Yoga becomes necessary to get rid of the sankalpa and reprogram the mind to deny the influence of vrtti. Sadhanas are the essential components of Yoga and the practice of Yoga helps reach the state of Samadhi and ultimately mukti.
Note: This is just an outline and there are lots of ifs and buts and they are left for contemplation and for discussion.