Last Updated: August 12, 2020

Definition - What does Kula mean?

Kula is a Sanskrit word that can be translated as “community,” “clan” or “tribe.” In Hinduism, the term kula is used in Dharmashastra (religious law) to refer either to part of a village or a member of a family.

Kula is also the name given to an influential and widespread group of Indian Tantrics, and can additionally be used as a term to refer to a single member of this lineage. In Tibetan Buddhism, kula refers specifically to the families of gods and goddesses.

The term is used within yoga to highlight the sense of community that is developed by those who come together to practice. In likening the yoga community to family, the term kula denotes the inclusivity and sense of belonging that is often cultivated through yoga.

Any group of people who come together to practice yoga with shared intentions can be considered a kula. Generally, this suggests a welcoming, open-minded and accepting community of practitioners.

Yogapedia explains Kula

In both Hinduism and Buddhism, the term kula is used to refer to specific families. The clan of Indian Tantrics referred to as kula have had a prominent influence on the development of Indian Tantra, highlighted by scriptures such as Kaulavali Nirnaya Tantra, Kubjika Tantra, Kularnava Tantra, Parasurama-kalpa Sutra and Yogini Tantra.

In Vajrayana or Tantric (Tibetan) Buddhism, kula refers to the five families of gods and goddesses which are understood to represent the five skandhas (cosmic elements) from which the world is composed. These five kulas are:

  1. Dvesa (hatred)

  2. Moha (delusion)

  3. Raga (attachment)

  4. Cintamani (wish-fulfilling gem)

  5. Samaya (convention)

In yoga, the term kula has been adopted to reflect the notion that those who practice yoga together feel as though they are part of a family. Although yoga is traditionally considered to be a personal and individual practice, there is now much more emphasis on community and the experience of connection with others as much as with the self.

The notion of kula embraces the shared values, experiences and sense of connection that many yoga communities strive to create. The adoption of the term within the yoga sphere highlights the idea that those who practice together tend to inspire, motivate and support one another.

As such, those who practice in kula are more likely to go out into the wider community and inspire and support others in the same way.

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