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 P, Q, and R. 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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PADMASAMBHAVA: An 8th Century Buddhist Teacher, Padmasambhava (sometimes Padma-sambhava, it means “the Lotus born”) is considered to be the historical founder of Tibetan Buddhism. He is revered as a Buddha. For book titles, please click here.
PHOWA: A Tibetan word (pronounced “po-wa”, meaning “change of place”) for the meditation practice by which an individual transfers his or her consciousness to a divine being, saint, buddha, or other Teacher. Phowa is particularly associated with the moment of physical death, enabling a safe and serene passage. There is an excellent discussion of phowa, with instructions, in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.
PRAKRITI: A Sanskrit word meaning “nature” or “matter”, Prakriti is the primal matter of which the universe consists; it is the stuff of ourselves, of our lives, and of the world we perceive by our senses. Prakriti is the Ultimate Indivisible Reality perceived separatively in (or by or as) thought.
QUAKERS, FRIENDS: Founded by George Fox in England during the mid-to-late 1600s, the Society of Friends was originally composed of loose groups of believers in an “Inner Light”. Also called Quakers (we are not sure why), Friends believe in divine, immediate (in the sense of no intermediary) revelation from within. Accordingly, they offer allegiance to no outer authority, such as a church, creed, or clergy. Over the years, Quakers’ beliefs and practices have put them in conflict not only with established religious institutions, but also with governments. Their work in social causes, including prison reform, opposition to war, relief for refugees, treatment for the mentally ill, among others, earned the Society (specifically its American and British organizations) the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947. For more about the Society of Friends, see here; for related book titles, click here.
QUR’AN: See Koran
RABBIA: Born in Basra (in what is now Iraq) in 717 C.E, Rabbia (also Rabi’a or Rabe’ah al-Adawiya), a Sufi, is one of Islam’s, and the world’s, most beautiful saints. Because of her clarity and virtue and power, she came to be referred to as the “Crown of Men” (Taj al rejal). The quotation on the Letters page is from Vivekananda - The Yogas & Other Works, page 537 ; the quotation in The Quiet Room is from Women Saints, East and West (Vedanta Press), page 269.
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RAMAKRISHNA & SARADA: Born in 1836, Sri Ramakrishna lived as a simple, virtually illiterate priest at a temple in Dakshineswar near Calcutta, where God was worshipped as Kali, the Mother of the Universe. Although he was a Hindu, Ramakrishna personally realized and embraced the Truth in all religions. In virtually constant communion with God, Ramakrishna is the very embodiment of compassion, love, and grace, and even now, his words and his life offer a continuing source of comfort, encouragement, and inspiration to seekers of every description. Ramakrishna died in 1886. Suggested reading: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, preferably the unabridged version (here, more is better), available from TZF’s bookstore. (A reminder: A purchase initiated at TZF’s “bookstore” yields us nothing. Also, consider that here — as is the case with many of our other recommended titles — for us, the purpose is not so much to learn anything, not to accumulate knowledge, as it is to ingest the life and Teaching and spirit of the subject.) The quotations in our “Righteous Teacher” article are from that book, pages 217 and 301, respectively. There is more about Ramakrishna at the website of the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York. For a few titles about Ramakrishna, please click here. Sri Sarada Devi (sometimes Sharada) was Ramakrishna’s wife, and played an important role in his Teaching, as well as being a powerful Teacher herself. A very nice book about her is Holy Mother. There is more about her at the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center’s website and also here.
RAMANA MAHARSHI: Self-Realized at age seventeen, Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) was, is, one of India’s greatest Teachers. He is an extraordinarily powerful source of instruction. The path he Teaches is self-inquiry, and the method is the simple question, tirelessly directed to oneself, “Who am I?” Suggested reading: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharsi, Be As You Are, Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi and Day by Day with Bhagavan. For more about this Teacher, please visit the Ramana Maharshi ashram’s home page at http://www.ramana-maharshi.org/ and David Godman’s site http://davidgodman.org. For an anecdotal glimpse of Ramana, please click here. For additional book titles, please click here.
REALITY, TRUTH: These are words we use frequently. They cannot be defined, because it is the purpose of definition to limit, and these words point to what cannot be limited, what is infinite and eternal. In that sense, these words are beyond the capability of our limited minds to understand. Thus, Reality and Truth are about That Which is beyond the separative, egoic “I am me and you aren’t” body/mind personality each of us calls “me”. Reality or Truth is the Constant, the Eternal, the Beginningless & Endless One that is no one or no thing. It is not a person, a place, a phenomenon, an experience. It is beyond all of that, but somehow it includes all of that, too. One of the dictionaries on our desk offers the following: That which exists independently of ideas about it, independently of all other things, and from which all other things derive. As an admittedly flawed analogy, consider a production of William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet”. On the stage, a great drama unfolds, shaped by prejudice, youthful beauty, romance, joy, delight, love, fear, anger, despair, faith, death – the stuff of all our lives. But none of it is real. None of the characters is real, none of the emotions is real, none of the action actually occurs. There is no such person as “Romeo”, there is no such person as “Juliet”. They were never born, they never loved, they never died. It is all an illusion. The only reality in that context consists of Shakespeare as author, the actors as players, and ourselves as audience. All of those know the play is an illusion, and that all that is real is themselves. But still, the play is performed again and again, and again and again we laugh and we cry. As if it were real. Likewise, what you and we each call “my life” is thoroughly an illusion. Here, we do not truly know what is Real because each of us has taken on the identity of “me”, the principal character in “my life”. And just as neither “Romeo” nor “Juliet” can know Shakespeare, neither can the separate, separative (”I am me, and you aren’t”) self of our lives know our Reality. For that, we must transcend the character, and recognize and resume our True Identity in and as and with (choose a preposition) the Author, the Source, the Supreme, the One (choose a label). That is the spiritual process, transforming our current sense of identity bit by bit until finally it is transcended altogether, and we “Remember I Am”. Then, we Realize we never were the character, that we have never been born and cannot die, and that What Is always was and always will be. In a word, Reality destroys illusion. See also God, Universe, Self-Realized.
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REINCARNATION: This is the belief that the soul of a living being, upon the death of the body, returns to the earth in another body or form. As we understand it at TZF, one premise behind this theory is that a single physical lifetime, especially a lifetime interrupted by an “untimely death”, does not seem to offer a soul sufficient time to address its needs, redress its errors, come to an awareness of its purpose and nature (and act on that awareness), and otherwise do whatever it came to earth to do. For us, this concept raises the question, Who reincarnates? Thus, when someone says, for example, “In a former life, I was Cleopatra” or “I was Genghis Khan”, who precisely is speaking? Is it the current personality, or is it the soul? And if it is the latter, then awakening ourselves to the soul’s True Nature is an essential part of understanding reincarnation … and of transcending it. See also karma. For Brother Theophyle’s take on reincarnation, please click here.
RELIGION v. SPIRITUAL TRADITION: We are sometimes asked why we prefer the phrase “spiritual tradition” to the word “religion.” Religion suggests to us an outer-oriented, separative phenomenon, an institution frequently at odds with itself and others. Spiritual tradition suggests something inner-directed, inclusive, and at peace. Consider that history is crowded with religious wars and persecutions, one after another, destroying countless men, women, children, beasts, plants, and landscapes, and, whatever the outcome, everyone loses. The only spiritual war ever fought is waged within, only illusions are destroyed, the outcome is uniformly joyful, and everyone wins.
Another way of saying that might be, religion seems too often to speak out loud, even shout, while spiritual tradition seems to communicate in silence.
We have read that in ancient Hebrew, the language of much of the Judeo-Christian Bible, there was no word for religion. For Brother Theophyle’s take on that, please click here; for his take on the differences among religions, please click here. See also Christ. [Editor’s Note: If you came to this definition from one of our framed pages (if you see remnants of the earlier page around the margins of this page), and would like to get out of that earlier page altogether, click here. Alternatively, if you would like to return to the earlier page, click your browser’s back button or the back arrow in one of the images on this page.]
ROSHI: A Japanese word meaning “old or venerable master”, Roshi is a title accorded a Zen master, under whom a seeker must study if he or she hopes to achieve satori or enlightenment. Traditionally, the title was reserved for masters who had themselves reached the highest state. In modern times, it is a title of respect accorded any Zen monk.
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THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM: Omar Khayyam was an eleventh century Persian Sufi poet. His seventy-five quatrains (a quatrain is a stanza or poem consisting of four lines) known as “The Rubaiyat” (from the Arabic for quatrains) were first translated into English in the mid-nineteenth century by the poet Edward Fitzgerald, who apparently completely misunderstood their meaning. To Fitzgerald, Khayyam was a hedonist, and the poetry a celebration of sensual pleasure. In fact, The Rubaiyat is about the seeker’s journey, from first awakening to intoxication in God. Yogananda has written a very nice consideration of The Rubaiyat, with explanation and commentary. See also The Sufis by Idries Shah.
RUMI: A Persian Sufi, Jalaluddin (sometimes Jelaluddin or Jalal al-Din) Rumi (1207-1273) is a Teacher of the very highest order. His poetry and other writing can be at once comforting, challenging, confusing, disturbing, nourishing, and overwhelming. It is always inspiring. Consider these sources: The Essential Rumi by Coleman Barks (Harper Collins); The Sufis by Idries Shah (Doubleday Anchor); The Sufi Path of Love by William C. Chittick (SUNY); Discourses of Rumi, Arthur J. Arberry. Bill Moyers has conducted an excellent interview of Coleman Barks about Rumi which appeared on American public television. Videotapes may be available commercially. See also The Rumi Daybook.
Most recent update: October 15, 2021
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