Basic Buddhist Vocabulary
Abhidharma pitaka -- higher teachings, philosophy
Alaya-vijñana -- “store” consciousness (similar to collective unconscious?)
Amitabha -- the Buddha of the Western “Pure Land." Also known as Amida.
Ananda -- Buddha’s friend, cousin, and favorite disciple, and the monk who
remembered the Sutras.
Anatman (anatta) -- not-self, self or ego not ultimately real.
Annitya (anicca) -- change, impermanence of all things, including us.
Arahant -- Worthy one, a name for the Buddha.
Arhat -- a monk who has achieved nirvana.
Asanga -- one of two brothers who lived in India in the 300's ad who developed
Asita -- the astrologer who predicts Buddha’s fate
Asuras -- titans or demigods.
Avalokiteshwara -- boddhisattva of compassion
Avidya (avijja) -- ignorance, delusion.
Bardo -- (Tibet) the period between death and rebirth.
Bhagava -- The blessed one, a name for the Buddha.
Bhikshu -- monk.
Bhikshuni -- nun.
Bodh-gaya -- a town in Bihar where Buddha was enlightened at 35.
Bodhi -- enlightenment, awakening.
Bodhi tree -- the fig tree under which Buddha gained enlightenment.
Bodhicitta -- sanskrit word for 'mind of enlightenment'
Bodhidharma -- monk who brought Buddhism to China.
Bodhisattva -- enlightened being who remains in this existence to help others,
Brahma -- the supreme deva, who convinced Buddha to teach.
Brahma vihara -- four "sublime states" of the boddhisattva: Maitri, Karuna,
Buddha -- The awakened one, the enlightened one.
Ch’an -- Chinese for Zen Buddhism.
Chandaka -- Buddha’s squire, who helped him leave his princely life.
Ching-T’u -- Chinese for Pure Land.
Citta -- basic mind or consciousness
Citta-matra -- mind only, idealism
Dalai Lama -- the leader of Tibetan Buddhists.
Deer Park -- where Buddha gave his first sermon, in Sarnath, near Benares, to
the five sadhus.
Dependent origination -- “one thing leads to another,” all is connected.
Devadatta -- Buddha’s “evil” cousin. "Theodore."
Devas -- gods.
Dhamma -- Pali for dharma.
Dharma (dhamma) -- the teachings of the Buddha.
Dharmakaya -- Buddha-mind, the pervasive essence
Dharmas -- ultimate elements of the universe (not dharma as in teachings!)
Dhyana (ch’an, zen) -- meditation.
Dogen (1200-1253) -- monk who brought Soto Zen to Japan.
Duhkha (dukkha) -- suffering, distress, lack of peace. First noble truth.
Dzogchen -- Tibetan tantric techniques for rapid enlightenment.
Dvesha (dosha) -- hatred, anger, avoidance.
Eightfold Path -- right view, aspiration, speech, action, livelihood, effort,
Five sadhus -- the five ascetics who practiced self-mortification with the
Flower Adornment School -- a sect which attempted to consolidate all forms of
Buddhism. Also known as Hua-Yen or Kegon.
Gandharvas -- angelic beings who provide the gods with music.
Gati -- realm. Used to refer to the six realms (gods, titans, humans, animals,
ghosts, and demons)
Gautama (Gotama) -- Buddha's family name.
Hinayana -- southern Buddhism (“small or lesser vehicle or journey”.
Ho-tei -- Japanese name for Pu-tai
Indra -- a major deva, originally the Hindu sky god.
Jodo, Jodoshin -- Japanese for Pure Land.
Kalpa -- millions of years, an eternity.
Kamma -- Pali for karma.
Kanthaka -- Buddha’s horse.
Kapilavastu -- Shakyan capital, where Buddha grew up.
Karma (kamma) -- intentional or willed act.
Karuna -- compassion or mercy, the special kindness shown to those who suffer.
One of the four brahma vihara.
Kashinagara -- were Buddha died (near Lumbini), in a grove of sala trees.
Koan -- a very brief story demonstrating the paradoxical nature of dualistic
thinking. Used in Zen meditation.
Kwan Yin , Kwannon -- Chinese and Japanese names for Avalokiteswara.
Lama -- Tibetan tantric master, now often used to refer to any respected monk.
Lumbini Grove -- where Buddha was born, during his mother’s trip to her parents
Madhyamaka -- middle way, negative logic, not this -- not that
Mahakyashapa -- the monk who understood the silent sermon and led the first
Mahamaya, or Mayadevi -- Buddha’s mother, who died seven days after his birth
Mahaprajapati -- Buddha’s aunt and stepmother, founder of Buddhist nuns.
Mahayana -- northern Buddhism (“large or greater vehicle or journey”.
Maitreya -- the future Buddha, who will be born 30,000 years from now.
Maitri -- caring, loving kindness displayed to all you meet. One of the four
Manas -- I-consciousness, mind, intelligence
Mandala -- a complex, circular, symmetrical image used in meditation
Mantra -- a phrase or syllable repeated during meditation
Mara -- a deva associated with death and hindrances to enlightenment. It was
Mara who tempted Buddha under the bodhi tree.
Marga -- the path, track. The eightfold noble path. Fourth noble truth.
Metta -- Pali for Maitri.
Mudita -- sympathetic joy, being happy for others, without a trace of envy.
One of the four brahma vihara.
Mudra -- symbolic hand positions
Nagarjuna -- monk who developed Madhyamaka in India about 150 ad.
Nagas -- great serpents (or dragons, or water creatures). The king of the Nagas
protected Buddha from a storm.
Narakas -- demons (hell beings)
Nibbana -- Pali for nirvana.
Nichiren -- Japanese school popular in west, and the name of its founder.
Nirmankaya -- Gotama, the historical Buddha.
Nirodha -- containment of suffering. Third noble truth.
Nirvana (nibbana) -- liberation, enlightenment, release from samsara.
Pali -- a language related to Sanskrit in which the earliest scriptures were
recorded in Sri Lanka.
Pali canon -- see the Tripitaka.
Pancha shila -- five moral precepts: Avoid killing, or harming any living
thing; Avoid stealing; Avoid sexual irresponsibility; Avoid lying, or any
hurtful speech; Avoid alcohol and drugs which diminish clarity of
Pañña -- Pali for prajña
Pitaka -- basket, referring to the Tripitaka or scriptures.
Prajña (pañña) -- wisdom.
Prajña -- goddess of knowledge. Buddha’s mother was considered an incarnation.
Prajñaparamita -- a massive collection of Mahayana texts, including the Heart
and Diamond Sutras.
Prateyaka-buddha -- solitary realizer.
Pretas -- hungry ghosts.
Puja -- ceremony in which offerings and other acts of devotion are performed.
Pu-tai -- the laughing buddha, chinese monk, incarnation of Maitreya
Pure Land -- Chinese/Japanese sect, emphasizing worship of Amitabha Buddha.
Ching- T'u, Jodo and Jodoshin.
Rahula -- Buddha’s son.
Rinzai Zen -- a Zen sect that makes extensive use of koans.
Rupa -- form, the physical body and senses
Samadhi -- meditation.
Samatha -- Pali for Shamatha.
Sambhogakaya -- Buddha as a deva or god.
Samjña -- perception
Samsara -- the wheel of cyclic existence, birth-life-suffering-death-rebirth...
Samskara -- mental formations (emotions and impulses)
Samudaya -- arising or root of suffering. Second noble truth.
Sangha -- the community of monks and nuns.
Sanskrit -- an early language of northern India, modified and used as a
religious language by some Buddhists.
Sanzen -- interview with a master in Zen Buddhism
Sati -- Pali for smrti.
Satori -- Zen term for enlightenment.
Shakyamuni -- Sage of the Sakyas, a name for the Buddha.
Shakyas -- a noble clan, ruled an area of southern Nepal.
Shamatha (samatha) -- “calm abiding,” peacefulness.
Shikantaza -- mindfulness meditatio