The Way Home
These pages offer definitions to help visitors to this site understand what we think we are saying. They are not exactly dictionary or encyclopedia definitions, although some of it will be drawn from those sources, but rather explanations of what we mean by certain words.
Here you will find words beginning with the letters J, K, and L. To jump to other pages, please click on the appropriate link above. If you are looking for a particular word, please click on "Words Index" or on the green circle below, where you will find an index of all the words defined in these pages. For a partial list of our sources, go here.
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JESUS, ISSA: “Jesus” is the English form of the Latin form of the Greek form of the Hebrew word Yeshua or Yehoshua. In fact, the man’s name was probably in Aramaic, something like Issa Ben Yussuf. Does the name make any difference? For some, raised from childhood in the orthodox Christian tradition, the word Jesus is laden with memories and meanings that have little or even nothing to do with the needs of an adult seeker. For this reason, it is not uncommon that such seekers turn to Buddhism, Hinduism, or other spiritual traditions for inspiration and guidance. And yet, Jesus is so powerful a Teacher, and his Teachings are so powerful, it seems a cosmic shame to deny this Resource simply because of the circumstances under which we were first introduced to it. One solution may be to address him differently, as Yeshua perhaps, or Rabbi Issa, or, as he himself suggested, simply Teacher (“You call me Teacher and Master, and you’re right: that’s who I am.” John 13.13 SV). All that said, should we not acknowledge that it would be far more respectful of us to call him by his more likely true name, Issa, rather than Jesus, as we commonly do, a name based on Latin, the language of his oppressors? I was taught the I in INRI atop the cross to which they nailed him is for Iesus (as in, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum), not Issa. Maybe. But who among us thinks that those who knew him and loved him his mother, his brother James, Peter, Mary Magdalene addressed him as Iesus, the name assigned to him by Rome? Then why do we? To be sure, it is unlikely that it matters to him how we address him; but should it not matter to us? In the final analysis, of course, it is literally True that, seen one Teacher, seen them All. Just so, our observation has been that, whatever tradition seekers of Truth choose initially, in time they seem to drift naturally away from the ism, and come to rest in the Teachings themselves, there to discover that, just as all the Teachers themselves insist, all Teachers and all Teachings are One and the Same One in Truth. See also Christ. We suppose there exist an infinite number of books about Jesus. We have read some of them, many of which are good; but far and away the best … in our opinion … is Jesus – A Life by A. N. Wilson. This is a mature study of the man and the phenomenon, human and spiritual. It is at once informative, challenging, disturbing, fascinating, and inspiring. (For a conversation we hope took place between Jesus and Judas, please click here.)
JI, DEV, DEVI, BHAGAVAN: In parts of India, ji is a term of respect added to some words, particularly names. Thus, for example, Jiddu Krishhamurti is sometimes referred to as Krishnaji, and Neem Karoli Baba as Babaji. Also, a seeker might refer to his or her guru as guruji (or, more likely, Guruji). Similarly, the suffix dev (from deva, meaning “shining one”; compare “deus” in Latin) may be used in reference to someone who has Realized God, or a Teacher. Thus, for example, Gurudev. Similarly, Devi is used in conjunction with the names of goddesses and female Teachers, as “Sarada Devi”. Bhagavan, sometimes bhagwan, is an epithet for God, meaning the exalted or most holy One. In India, seekers sometimes refer to or address their Teacher as Bhagavan or Sri Bhagavan. See also Swami, Maharaj.
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JIHAD, ISLAM: Jihad is an Arabic word meaning exertion, struggle, or strife. In Islam, jihad is the struggle for the faith. It can manifest on the outer, as holy war, or on the inner, as the spiritual process. The latter is known as the Great Jihad. Note that the Arabic word ISLAM means submission or surrender to the Will of God, which is the very essence, the means and the end, of every True path or tradition. Thus, for each of us, the true jihad or holy war is our struggle against accepting God and Truth (not to mention, ourselves) as It Is and not as we would have them be. Happily, this is a conflict God always wins. See “The Great Jihad” in The Quiet Room, also Qur’an (Koran), and Muhammad. A website with information about Islam is Islam 101. See also Hadj, Five Pillars.
JIVANMUKTA: From Sanskrit meaning “one who is liberated while still alive,” Jivanmukta refers to a seeker who has achieved Self-Realization, and is no longer bound by the egoic self-perception/illusion “I am me, and you aren’t” but is instead actively aware of identity with and as the Supreme (God) not only of himself/herself but of all apparent others and everything else as well, all the while continuing in the physical body. Such a One is Sri Ramana Maharshi.
KABIR: An Indian mystic and poet (c. 1440 - 1518), Kabir is revered by both Muslims and Hindus. His poetry, beautiful and powerful, addresses God as both the all-pervading spirit in all and transcending all, and as the soul’s eternal beloved known only by pure love. One book of his work is The Kabir Book by Robert Bly. We have it, and like it; but it has received mixed reviews. Another we like is Songs of Kabir, translated by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. For other books about Kabir, please click here.
KARMA: The word means “act or deed”, and refers to any action, whether good or bad, that is willfully taken. The premise of karma is this: Every action is a cause that sooner or later will have an effect on the one who performed the action. Or, every deed produces its own fruit, which when ripe, falls onto the one who performed the deed. In a word, what goes around, comes around. Generally, this theory accompanies the theory of reincarnation, to explain that (1) we may not experience the effects of this life's actions until some later life, and (2) the circumstances of our current life may be the fruit of some former life or lives. Karma depends upon our separate and separative perception of ourselves (“I am me, and you aren't”), each of us living “my life” according to “my karma”. In Truth, God being all there is (for more about that, please click here), there is no such thing as “me” and “my life” or of past and future, and therefore no person to experience and no when to accommodate cause-and-effect. Thus, the operative words in the first sentence above are willfully taken, for they suggest a separative “I”, an “I” that is perceived as “me, not you”. See also dharma, samskara, reincarnation. For a related idea, see here.
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KATAGIRI & SUZUKI: Dianin Katagiri Roshi (1928-1990) was an influential teacher of Zen in the United States. Born in Japan, he came to America in 1963, where he taught at centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. He is the author of Returning to Silence. Katagiri Roshi was associated with Shunryu Suzuki Roshi who came to America from Japan in 1959, and who is considered to have been the most influential teacher of Zen in America. Suzuki Roshi’s book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is a classic. For other books about Suzuki, please click here. Suzuki Roshi died in 1971.
KHIDR: In Islam, Khidr, sometimes Khadir or al-Khadir (“the green one” in Arabic), is described as an angel, a saint, a prophet, a teacher, and a friend. He is the representative of or personification of the Presence of Divine Wisdom in the world. Among Sufis particularly (but not only), Khidr is an initiator and a guide to all who call upon him. According to tradition, the reference to “one of Our servants” in the Qur'an at verse 18:65 is Khidr himself: “So they [speaking of Moses and an attendant] found one of Our servants on whom We had bestowed mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from Our own Presence”.
KOAN: In Zen, a koan is a sort of word puzzle, assigned to students by their master. Strictly speaking, koans are not riddles, in that a riddle is a word puzzle which can, however tortuously, be solved rationally. Koans are intentionally beyond the power of the mind to solve. Their purpose is to force an intuitive leap which carries the student beyond the rational plane to an enlightened state, even if initially only for a moment. Although answers to some koans are publicly available, they are useless to a student, because the correct answer is not so much a particular set of words as it is the enlightened position from which they are delivered, and that cannot be faked, copied, or borrowed. Perhaps the most commonly known koan is “This – [the master claps his or her hands together] – is the sound of two hands clapping. What is the sound of one hand clapping.” Books aplenty are available about koans; here are a few. To read Elsa Joy’s take on this, please click here. For Brother Theophyle’s encounter with a koan, click here.
KORAN, QUR’AN: From the Arabic for “The Recital”, the Koran or Qur’an is the sacred scripture of Islam, delivered by God through the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad in dreams, visitations, and auditions, over a twenty year period from about 610. The Qur’an is composed of 114 chapters or surahs. As with any scripture or sacred document, it is impossible to single out one chapter as the most signifcant or telling, but if there is such, surely Surah 112 is it: “O Messenger say: ‘He, Allah, is but One! …’” (see here). The Arabic word Allah translates to the God in English. It is said that some of the power, impact, and breadth of this remarkable document reside in the original Arabic, both the language and the form, and that therefore no translation can be entirely effective. We expect it is likely true of all scriptures (even any written work?) that they are best read in their original language. Just so, in his book Misquoting Jesus, Bart D. Ehrman observes “… reading the New Testament in Greek is like seeing it in color, whereas reading it in translation is like seeing it in black and white: one gets the point but misses a lot of the nuances”. That said, the English renditions of the Qur’an we have encountered pack plenty of wallop. Two editions we really like are The Koran, translated by N. J. Dawood (Penquin) and The Holy Qur’an, translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an). For a translation on the web, please click here. See also Hadith, Jihad. We are sometimes asked how we can feel positively about Islam generally, considering the violence currently being perpetrated in its name, and about the Qur’an specifically, considering the passages within it which condone and even endorse violence, particularly against women. Our response is that other scriptures include passages we find offensive, and, speaking specifically as products of the West, we cannot imagine what the image of Christianity, the Bible, and the Gospels must be to those whose only knowledge of them is the Crusades and the Inquisition, not to mention the environment in the early American colonies, about which an excellent book on the subject, Founding Faith, writes “Forced worship, taxpayers paying ministers’ salaries, voting right limited to certain religious denominations, brutal punishments for worshipping in a different manner … were common in the colonies”. It seems to be unfortunately true that religion brings out the best and the worst in the species human, hence our preference for spiritual traditions over religions.
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KRISHNA, RAMA, SIVA, HANUMAN: Perhaps the best-known Hindu deity in the West, Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu (sometimes perceived as the sustainer, in trinity with Brahma the creator and Siva (Shiva) the destroyer), is the Divine Teacher in the Bhagavad Gita. Rama, also an incarnation of Vishnu, is the hero of the epic poem, Ramayana. He and his wife Sita are considered the ideal husband and wife. Hanuman (sometimes Hanumanji, Hanumat), the monkey king who stands with Rama in battle, personifies perfect devotion of a servant to a master. See Maharajji. See also Shakti. (Speaking of Shiva as destroyer, we remember reading somewhere of a Teacher reassuring a seeker not to fear Shiva, for “He destroys only what you do not want.”)
KRISHNAMURTI, JIDDU & U.G.: Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in India in 1895. He died in the United States in 1986. Krishnamurti was believed by the Theosophical Society to be the vehicle for a new World Teacher, in effect a messiah; and so, while he was still a youth, they groomed him for that function. Then, in 1929, in a speech at Ommen, Holland, Krishnamurti renounced the title and all its trappings, and embarked on a life-long mission to set man “absolutely, unconditionally free”. The quotation in the article “Guru Who? (The Righteous Teacher)” is from that Ommen talk, of which there is an extended excerpt on our Ampers&nd feature. For the full text, and additional information and material about this Teacher, write the Krishnamurti Foundation of America at P.O. Box 1560, Ojai, CA 93024 or visit their web site, or the Krishnamurti Information Network. Two books we particularly recommend are his The Awakening of Intelligence and Pupul Jayakar's Krishnamurti, A Biography. For some years, there have been disquieting “hints and allegations” (to use Paul Simon’s great expression) concerning behavior by J. Krishnamurti that is probably inappropriate in a teacher; Radha Rajagopal Sloss's book Lives in the Shadow with J. Krishnamurti addresses some of that from the perspective of someone who was there. For other titles related to Krishnmaurti, click here. For information about U. G. Krishnamurti (who studied with and later rejected J. Krishnamurti, but who is not otherwise related, and who died in Italy in March 2007), please click here and here on The Zoo Fence, and here on the web.
KUNDALINI: Sometimes KUNDALINI SHAKTI (“serpent power”), kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning snake or serpent. It symbolizes the spiritual energy that lies sleeping, coiled like a serpent, at the base of the spine of every one of us. As it awakens, it moves upward along the spine, into and through one center (chakra) after another, expressing or manifesting itself in various ways appropriate to each level, until finally it emerges through the top of the head, when the separate self (not to mention kundalini itself!) is recognized to have always been an illusion, and awareness of self-apparent Union with the Infinite Self is Realized or Remembered or Awakened. A very good consideration of kundalini activity and symptoms is The Kundalini Experience: Psychosis or Transcendence by Lee Sannella, MD. For a few other titles, please click here. See also chakra.
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LADY TSOGYAL: Sometimes Lady Tsogyel or Yeshe Tsogyel, Lady Tsogyal (Tibetan for “Princess of The Wisdom Lake”) (757-817) was an intimate companion and student of Padmasambhava. She is revered in Tibetan Buddhism as a DAKINI (the inspiring power of consciousness). The only biography we know of is Lady of The Lotus Born.
LAO TZU & TAO TE CHING & TAOISM: Said to have been conceived by a shooting star, Lao Tzu (sometimes Lao Tse), which is Chinese for “old master”, was born about 600 BCE. The legend is that toward the end of his life, the Teacher was urged to record his wisdom for posterity, and the Tao Te Ching (sometimes DAO DE JING) is the result. The quotation in “The Creation of Self-Consciousness” is from The Way of Life According to Lao Tzu, a translation by Witter Bynner (Perigee), verse 1. It continues, “Terms may be used but are none of them absolute.” In a translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English (Vintage), the line reads, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.” Timothy Freke’s translation reads, “Tao is not a way that can be pointed out. Nor an idea that can be defined.” According to Bynner, tao translates as “the way of all life,” te means “the fit use of life by men,” and ching is “text.” The Tao Te Ching is certainly all of that. Lao Tzu is considered to be the founder of the philsophy known in the West as TAOISM which is based on the Tao Te Ching or The Way. For a variety of book titles about Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching, click here. For a consideration of another translation of the first few lines of the Tao Te Ching, please click here.
update: January 3, 2023
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