Last Rites Glossary

Agarbatti = Incense stick Agni deva = God of fire Akash = Sky or Space Antyeshti = Last Rights Asthi = Bones (Remains after cremation) Advance Planning = The act of making arrangements for final disposition, including a funeral, cremation, memorial, ceremony or other service/plans prior to death. Advance Planning can involve simply recording one’s wishes (preplanning), or making financial arrangements (pre-paying). Also known as “preneed.” Aerial Scattering = A form of scattering ashes that involves the use of planes, hot air balloons, or other airborne devices to disperse the cremated ashes while in active flight. Affirmation or Celebration of Life Service = An alternate type of service that is highly personalized and follows no standard set of rules. It may be religious or non-religious, and can vary widely in content and format, depending on the plans and wishes of the deceased and their family. Aftercare = A term used to refer to the various services (final arrangements) that are available from a funeral home or crematory following the death of a loved one. Alternative Container = A container made of unfinished wood, fiberboard, pressed wood, or composition materials, which lacks fine finish or ornamentation. Alternative containers are often chosen for cremations due to their combustible nature. Alternative containers may also be the preferred container for direct burials or green burials. Arrangement Conference = A meeting between the funeral director and the family or representative of the deceased for the purpose of setting up funeral arrangements. Ashes = Also known as “cremated remains,” the ashes are the material that remains after a body has been cremated. Autopsy = Following death, an autopsy is a complete examination of the body by a doctor to determine the cause of death.
Acharya Acarya One who teaches by example. Usually refers to a prominent or exemplary spiritual leader.
Advaita Adwaita Non-dual. Refers to the impersonality philosophy which unqualifyingly equates God, the soul and matter.
Ahimsa Ahinsa Not killing. Non-violence; respect for life.
Arjuna One of the central characteristics of the Mahabharata. He is the leader for whom Krishna is charioteer in the Bhagavad Gita.
Artha Economic development. The second aim of life.
Arti Arati Welcoming ceremony in which auspicious articles such as incense and lamps are offered to the deity or to saintly people.
Aryan Noble. Refers to those who know the spiritual values of life. Scholars say it refers to the original inhabitants of the Sindu region in India.
Ashram Asram A place set up for spiritual development.
Ashrama Asrama A stage of life (of which there are four) adopted according to material considerations, but ultimately as a means to spiritual realisation.
Atharva Veda The fourth of the Vedas.
Atman Atma Self. Can refer to body, mind or soul, depending on context. Ultimately, it refers to the real self, the soul.
Aum Om The sacred symbol and sound representing the ultimate; the most scared of Hindu words.
Avatar Avatara, Avtara One who descends. Refers to the descent of a deity, most commonly Vishnu. Sometimes it is translated as incarnation which, although inaccurate, may be the best English word available.
Ayodhya Birthplace of Rama
Bhajan = Devotional songs Brahma = Creator Burial = Placing the body in the ground following death. Burial Flag = A flag which is furnished by the government to honor the memory of the veteran’s service to his country, and is displayed during the funeral of the veteran. Burial Permit = A legal document used for used to authorize burial, cremation, scattering or disinterment.
Bhagavad Gita The Song of the Lord. Spoken by Krishna, this is the most important scripture for most Hindus. Tradition dates it back to 3000 BCE, though most scholars attribute it to the first millennium BCE. Considered an Upanishad.
Bhajan Bhajana Devotional hymn or song.
Bhakti Devotion; love. Devotional form of Hinduism.
Bhakti-yoga The path of loving devotion, aimed at developing pure love of God.
Brahma A Hindu deity, considered one of the Trimurti, and in charge of creative power; not be to be confused with Brahman or Brahmin.
Brahmachari Brahmacari, Brahmacharin One in the first stage of life, a celibate student of Vedic knowledge.
Brahmacharya Brahmacarya Brahma ch(c)ari The first ashrama or stage of life.
Brahman The ultimate reality, or the all pervading reality; that from which everything comes, in which it rests and into which it will eventually go.
Brahmin Brahman, Brahmana The first of the four varnas, the principal social groupings from which priests are drawn. Some writers, rather confusingly, use the spelling Brahman and the meaning only become clear in context. See also Brahman and Brahma