Buddhist Terms: A - E

Abhidhamma: (1) In the discourses of the Pali Canon, this term simply means “higher Dhamma,” a systematic attempt to define the Buddha’s teachings and understand their interrelationships. (2) A later collection of analytical treatises based on lists of categories drawn from the teachings in the discourses, added to the Canon several centuries after the Buddha’s life.

Ahimsa: (Pali) Non-harming or not hurting; gentleness to all forms of life.
Ajahn: The Thai word for ‘teacher’; often used as the title of the senior monk or monks at a monastery. This is also spelt ‘achaan’, ‘acharn’ (and several other ways – all derived from the Pali word ‘acariya’).

Amida: The Buddha who is the main object of devotion in the Pure Land School of Chinese Buddhism, and the Jodo and Shin Schools in Japan.

Amida: (Japanese) Amitabha. The Buddha of Infinite Light.

Amitabha: (Sanskrit) The Buddha who is the main object of devotion in the Pure Land School of Chinese Buddhism, and the Jodo and Shin Schools in Japan.

Amitabha: Literally means boundless light. He is the Buddha in the Land of Ultimate Bliss (Pure Land), in which all beings enjoy unbounded happiness. Amitabha has forty-eight great vows to establish and adorn his Pure Land. People who also recite or call upon his name by the time of dying will be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss with the reception by Amitabha.

Anagarika: (Pali/Sanskrit) ‘Homeless one’. One who enters the homeless life without formally joining the Sangha.

Ananda: One of the Shakyamuni Buddha’s Ten Great Disciples, and the Buddha’s cousin. He was first in hearing the Buddha’s words. As he had excellent memory, he memorized the Buddha’s sermons, which were later recorded as sutras. He was also the cousin of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Anapana-sati: (Pali) ‘Mindfulness on In-and-out breathing’, is one of the most important exercises for reaching mental concentration and the four absorbtions (jhanas).

Anathapindika: A name given to Sudatta, meant one who gives to the needy. He was a wealthy merchant of Savatthi in ancient India who bought the land from Prince Jeta with as much gold as would cover the ground for the construction of Jetavanna Grove – one of the great monastery or Bodhimandala of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Anatman/Anatta: ‘Non-self, Non-ego’ impersonality, the Buddhist negation of the Hindu understanding of atman as indestructible core of personal individuality.

Anatta: (Pali) Anatman (Sanskrit) No-soul non-self teaching of Buddhism.

Anittya/Anicca: (Skt./Pali) ‘Impermanence’, one of the three essential characteristics of existence, along with Anicca and Dukkha.

Anjali: (Pali) To join the palms in a reverential gesture of respect.

Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi: (Pali) Supreme perfect enlightenment.

Apaya: (Pali) Realm of destitution. One of the four lower realms of existence, in which beings suffer because of their bad Kamma: hell, the realm of hungry shades, the realm of angry demons, and level of common animals. In the Buddhist cosmology, a person reborn in any of these realms may stay there for long or short periods of time, but never for an eternity. After the bad kamma has worked out, the person will return to the higher realms.

Apsara: Celestial nymph.

Arahat: (Pali) The perfected disciple; one who has completed the discipline required to attain liberation.

Arahant: (Pali) A “worthy one” or “pure one;” a person whose mind is free of defilement and thus is not destined for further rebirth. A title for the Buddha and the highest level of his noble disciples.

Arhat: (Sanskrit) The perfected disciple; one who has completed the discipline required to attain liberation.

Ariya: (Pali) Arya: (Sanskrit) Noble; the noble ones; the elect.

Asava: Effluent; fermentation. Four qualities – sensuality, views, becoming, and ignorance – that “flow out” of the mind and create the flood of the round of death and rebirth.

Asavas: The ‘cankers’ which obstruct spiritual achievement (e.g. sensual longing, desire for continued separate existence, ignorance).

Ashoka: A Buddhist monarch of 300 B.C., the third emperor of the Mauryan Dynasty, who unified most of India under his rule and fostered the dissemination of Buddhism. It is said that the Third Council was held during his reign. Ashoka set the model for many other rulers who sought to govern in accordance with Buddhist philosophy.

Asura: (Ashura in Sanskrit, Asura in Pali). It is a peculiar path in the Six Paths. They are the enemies of the devas, and are the mightest of all demons. In terms of material enjoyment and psychic power, it is similar to Deva. However, in some aspects, it is even worse than the Human Path. The male Asura is extremely ugly and furious, and they always fight with each other. The female Asura is as beautiful as an angel.

Asubha: (Pali) ‘Impurity’, loathsomeness, foulness, the perception of Impurity.

Atta: ‘Self’, Ego, Personality, is in Buddhism a mere conventional expression, and no designation for anything really existing.

Avalokiteshvara: One of the principal Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition; personifies boundless compassion.

Avalokitesvara: In Chinese, Kwan Yin. A Bodhisattva conceived as merciful to those in special need.

Avidya/Avijja: (Pali /Sanskrit) ‘Ignorance’, nescience, unknowing, synonymous with Delusion: is the primary root of all evil and suffering in the world.

Bhagawan: Epithet of a Buddha, meaning one who has destroyed all obstacles, who is endowed with realizations and who has transcended the world.

Bhakti: (Sanskrit) Devotion to a spiritual ideal.

Bhante: (Pali) Venerable Sir.

Bhavana: ‘Mental development’, (lit., ‘calling into existence, producing) is what in English is generally but rather vaguely known as meditation. (Sanskrit and Pali)

Bhikkhu: (Pali) Alms mendicant; the term for a monk, who lives on alms and abides by training precepts which define a life of renunciation and morality.

Bhikkhuni: (Pali) Nun.

Bhikshu: (Skt.) Monk.

Bhikshuni: (Skt.) Nun.

Blue Cliff Record: This collection of 100 koans with appreciatory verses and commentaries is a key text in the Rinzai school. It was studied by Dogen Zenji, who carried a handwritten copy back to Japan from China.

Bodhi: (Sanskrit and Pali) Enlightenment; the spiritual condition of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.

Bodhicitta: (Sanskrit and Pali) The aspiration to attain full enlightenment in order to enlighten all beings.

Bodhidharma: The twenty-eighth Ch’an patriarch in India and the first in China. He brought Zen to China from India.

Bodhisatta: “A being (striving) for Awakening;” a term used to describe the Buddha before he actually became Buddha, from his first aspiration to Buddhahood until the time of his full Awakening. Sanskrit form: Bodhisattva.

Bodhisattva: One moved by compassionate zeal to aid fellow beings, hence willing to postpone his or her own entrance into Nirvana to this end.

Bodhisattva: One whose ‘being’ or ‘essence’ (sattva) is Bodhi.

Bodhi tree: Sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa), under which the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Bon-po: (Tibetan) The indigenous religion of Tibet. A form of nature-worship which has affected Tibetan Buddhism.

Bonze: Monk of the Mahayana school, active in China and Japan. Original meaning is the chief monk in a Buddhist monastery, now used for any monk.

Bo-tree: Sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa), under which the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Brahma: One of the three major deities of Hinduism, along with Visnu (Vishnu) and Siva (Shiva). Adopted as one of the protective deities of Buddhism.

Brahman: The highest of the Four Castes in ancient India at the time of Shakyamuni. They served Brahma, with offerings; the keepers of the Vedas, i.e. priestly caste.

Brahmana: Usually spelled Brahmin. A member of the highest, namely the priestly, caste.

Brahmin: Name used in the present text for the priestly caste of Hindus. See Brahman.

Buddha: The Illumined One. The main title of the founder of Buddhism after his Enlightenment.

Buddha: fully “enlightened one,” a historical person in the Theravada view; one of innumerable beings in Mahayana view because each person is a potential Buddha.

Buddhi: intuitive awareness, true intelligence, that mental faculty capable of profoundest insight.

Buddha Hall: Traditionally, the room or building in a Zen Buddhist monastery in which services are held.

Buddha Rupa: an image of the Buddha.

Butsu: (Japanese) Buddha.

Chaitya: (Sanskrit) (Pali: Cetiya) A tumulus raised over a burial mound. In Buddhism synonymous with Dagoba, Stupa, Tope or Chorten; sometimes used for a hall (for meditation).

Chakra: Dharma wheel

Ch’an: (Chinese) Dhyana or meditation. Japanese: Zen.

Channa: The young Buddha’s charioteer and personal attendant.

Chan-shih: (Chinese) Zenji; Zen master (an honorific title).

Chela: (Sanskrit) A disciple or follower of a Guru.

Chenrezig: (Tibetan) Avalokiteshvara. The Buddha of compassion. A male meditational deity embodying fully enlightened compassion.

Citta: Consciousness or knowing.

Compassion: To vibrate in sympathy with others.

Contemplation: Abstract contemplation. There are four levels through which the mind frees itself from all subjects and objective hindrances and reaches a state of absolute indifference and annihilation of thought, perception, and will. See also Meditation.

Cyclic Existence: The cycle of death and rebirth, fraught with suffering and dissatisfaction, that arises from ignorance of the true nature of reality.

Daitokuji: Rinzai Zen monastery in Kyoto, Japan.

Dalai Lama: Head of Tibetan Sangha and the former ruler of Tibet.

Dana: (Sanskrit and Pali) giving assistance physically, mentally or verbally. Gift, Offering or Donation.

Deva: Literally, “shining one”. An inhabitant of the heavenly realms.

Devadatta: Buddha’s cousin.

Dhamma (Pali) Sanskrit form: Dharma: The Universal Truth; The Teachings and the inner practice of the Teachings of Buddha; Essential quality and factual reality.

Dhammapada: (Dhammapada in Pali, Dharmapada in Sanskrit). A sutra consisting of two sections and 39 chapters, with 423 short verses of the Buddha, teachings given at various times and places. It is regarded as the “original” teaching of the Buddha, which can be used for reference, moral instruction and inspiration.

Dharani: Words or sentences possessing magic power.

Dharma Discourse: Formal talk given by a teacher explicating a koan.

Dharmakaya: Literally, body of the law. In Mahayana thought, one aspect of ultimate reality.

Dhyana: Meditation, concentration. It is the Sanskrit word of which Ch’an and Zen are Chinese and Japanese transliterations.

Dogen Zenji: Founder of the Japanese Soto school of Zen, he established Eiheiji, the principal Soto training monastery of Japan. He is the author of the Shobogenzo.

Dojo: (Japanese) Spot or place of enlightenment of the Buddha under the bodhi tree; one’s own place of enlightenment; the training centre.

Dokusan: (Japanese) To go alone; to work alone; Sanzen, the personal interview between the Roshi and student.

Dorje: (Tibetan) The ‘thunder-bolt’ symbol used in art and ritual magic.

Dosa: (Pali) Hatred, anger, ill will. One of the ‘Three poisons’, which cause Dukkha.

Dukkha: (Pali) Suffering, stress, pain, misery, sorrow, unhappiness, dissatisfaction with the way things are, a central factor in the human condition, one of the “three marks” of existence.

Eightfold Path: The path that leads to liberation, consisting of right understanding, right aim, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

Emptiness: (Skt. Shunyata) (Pali, Sunyata) The actual way in which all things exist, the absence of the apparent inherent existence of things.

Enlightenment: Complete elimination of all negative aspects of the mind and perfection of all positive qualities.