In Pali and English terms.
Ajahn: (Thai) Teacher. Equivalent to the Pali ‘Acariya’.
Anatta: ‘No-self’; ‘No-soul’ — The absence of an inherent or independent self; insubstantiality; the lack of an abiding entity in anything. Anatta is the third of the three characteristics of existence (see below). Anatta is also the third characteristic of the unconditioned (Nibbana), i.e. Nibbana is also devoid of self or a permanent entity.
Anicca: ‘impermanence’ — The first of the three characteristics of existence.
Arahant: lit. ‘Worthy One’ — A fully enlightened being; one who has uprooted all greed, hatred and delusion from their mind. It is the final stage of the four stages of enlightenment.
Avijja: ‘not knowing‘; ignorance; synonymous with delusion (moha). The primary root of all suffering. It is the delusion which blinds one from seeing the true nature of things, i.e. the three characteristics of conditioned things.
Bhavana: mental cultivation — Usually refers to the two-fold practice of concentration (samatha) and insight (vipassana).
Bhikkhu: A fully-ordained Buddhist monk.
Bodhisatta: lit: ‘A being intent on enlightenment’ — This term is used by the Buddha to refer to himself prior to attaining enlightenment.
Brahma Vihara: The four Divine Abodes, also called the four boundless states. 1. Loving-kindness (metta); 2. compassion (karuna); 3. sympathetic joy (mudita); 4. equanimity (upekkha).
Buddha: ‘Enlightened One’; ‘Awakened One’ — One who discovers and proclaims the liberating law (Dhamma). Sakyamuni Buddha was the most recent in this lineage of Awakened Ones. A Buddha can only appear in the world when all traces of the previous Buddha’s teachings have vanished, and hence there can be only one Buddha in existence at any one time.
Buddho: ‘The One Who Knows‘ — An epithet for the Buddha. This word is also used as an object of concentration, largely in the Forest Tradition of NE Thailand.
Characteristics of Existence: See Tilakkhana.
Clear Comprehension (sampajanna): frequently taught together with mindfulness. From the discourse on mindfulness (Satipatthanana Sutta): “(one is) fully conscious when going forwards and returning… when one is stretching and bending… when one is eating, drinking, chewing and tasting… when one is walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep, waking up, talking, & remaining silent.”
Concentration: see ‘samadhi’.
Consciousness: The fifth of the five aggregates (see ‘khandha’). Literally ‘that which knows an object’. Consciousness is of six types: visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile and mental.
Craving: The second of the Four Noble Truths. See Tanha.
Dana: ‘generosity’; ‘giving’. The first of the Ten Perfections.
Defilement: See ‘kilesa’.
Delusion: Synonymous with avijja – ignorance.
Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada): the root teaching of the Buddha that describes how suffering comes to be and how it is extinguished. It enumerates twelve links that demonstrate how ignorance conditions this ‘entire mass of suffering’, and how with the replacing of ignorance with wisdom ‘this whole mass of suffering ceases’. The twelve links: with ignorance comes kammic formations; with kammic formations comes consciousness; with consciousness comes mind and matter; with mind and matter comes the six-sense bases; with the six-sense bases comes contact; with contact comes feeling; with feeling comes craving; with craving comes attachment; with attachment comes becoming; with becoming comes rebirth; with rebirth comes old age, sickness and death, pain, grief and despair. With the cessation of ignorance comes the cessation of kammic formations, and so on, until birth, aging and death cease, i.e. Nibbana, the unconditioned, is realised.
Deva: lit. ‘Radiant One‘ – heavenly beings; deities; celestial beings, are beings who live in happy worlds for inconceivable periods of time and, as a rule, are invisible to the human eye. But, still in the throes of ignorance they are not free from samsara, the round of birth and death, and, according to their kamma are still liable to be born in any realm of being.
Dhamma: The teachings of the Buddha, and the truth which those teachings enable one to understand.
dhamma (small d): ‘phenomena’; ‘things’ — conditioned or unconditioned.
Dhamma-Vinaya: ‘Teaching and Discipline’ – the name the Buddha gave to his religion.
Dosa: ‘hatred’; ‘aversion’ — the second of the three root defilements of the mind, the other two being lobha (greed) and moha (delusion).
Dukkha: ‘unsatisfactoriness’; ‘suffering’. As the first of the Four Noble Truths and the second of the three characteristics of existence, dukkha is not limited to mental and physical pain but describes the fundamentally flawed and unreliable nature of all conditioned things. It is inextricably linked to impermanence, for what is impermanent and subject to change cannot be regarded as being a source of true happiness. This truth does not deny that pleasure is experienced in life, it simply highlights that even pleasure is essentially unsatisfactory due to its ephemeral nature. This teaching is given prominence in order to jolt us from our complacency, rousing us to seek the highest, i.e. Nibbana.
Five Aggregates: see ‘khandhas‘.
Five Hindrances: obstacles to the development of concentration and insight. They are: 1. sensual desire; 2. ill-will; 3. sloth and torpor; 4. restlessness and remorse; 5. doubt.
Four Elements: the classes of matter: earth (solidity; hardness; softness); water (fluidity; cohesion); fire (heat; maturity); wind (motion).
Four Foundations of Mindfulness: see ‘Satipatthana‘.
Four Noble Truths: the briefest synthesis of the Buddha’s teachings. “As the footprint of every creature that walks the earth can be contained in an elephant’s footprint, so does the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths embrace all of my teachings.” (M.28). The first truth: Dukkha (see above); the second: the cause of dukkha – craving; the third: the end of dukkha – Nibbana – “the giving up, letting go, and abandoning of that same craving.” The fourth: the way to Nibbana – the Noble Eightfold Path.
Gotama: the Buddha’s family name.
Greed: the first of the three root defilements.
Hatred: the second of the three root defilements.
Ignorance: see ‘avijja‘.
Impermanence: see ‘anicca‘.
Insight meditation: see ‘vipassana‘.
Jhana: ‘mental absorption’. Full, one-pointed concentration of the mind during which the five hindrances are temporarily absent. The clarity of mind that arises in these states is used to develop insight (vipassana). These states cannot produce enlightenment by themselves; they must be used as a springboard to develop wisdom. Jhana refers chiefly to the four levels of absorption of the fine-material sphere.
Kamma: ‘action‘. More specifically it means intentional action. “Intention is kamma.” (A.VI.63). Kamma refers to actions that are rooted in either the three principle defilements – greed, hatred or delusion; or their opposites – generosity, loving-kindness or wisdom. An enlightened being produces no kamma.
Kamma Vipaka: ‘the result of action‘. The results of actions depend on the moral tone of the intention behind an action. For instance, if one intends to do harm by way of body, speech or mind and then follows through with an action then a painful experience for the doer, now, or in the future, will be the result. Likewise, if the action is rooted in one of the virtuous qualities, then happiness will be the result. Note: there is no arbitrator giving out the results: kamma is a natural law akin to the law of gravity: you throw something up, it comes back down; you act out of greed and so on and suffering is the result; you act out of generosity and so on and happiness is the result.
Karuna: ‘compassion‘. The second of the Four Brahma Vihara. The wish that all beings be free from suffering.
Khandhas (the five): The ‘five aggregates‘; ‘groups of clinging’; ‘groups of existence’. Our entire experience of the world is comprised within these five groups. They are: 1. form (body); 2. feelings; 3. perceptions; 4. mental formations; 5. consciousness. We can also divide them into two groups: (khandhas 2 – 5) – mind; (khandha 1) – matter. When we speak of a person we are referring to a combination of these five aggregates, where no permanent entity abides. Just as when wheels, an engine, a steering wheel, and so on, come together we say ‘car’, so when these five aggregates come together we say ‘person’. It is these khandhas on which we focus the clarity of concentrated mindfulness to generate insight (vipassana), and consequently, by degrees, we will see them in the light of the three characteristics: that they are each impermanent, unsatisfactory, and without self or substance. The Buddha delivered a very famous sermon where he described the empty nature of each khandha: the body is like a lump of foam; feelings – a bubble; perception – a mirage, formations – a banana tree (no core); and consciousness – a magical illusion. With the complete understanding of the selfless nature of these aggregates all attachment to them falls away and the unconditioned is realised.
Kilesa: ‘defilement of the mind‘; that which spoils the mind. The Buddha listed ten. The first three being the root defilements, with delusion as the parent of greed and hatred. 1. greed; 2. hatred; 3. delusion; 4. conceit; 5. sceptical views; 6. sceptical doubt; 7. mental torpor; 8. restlessness; 9. lack of moral shame; 10. lack of moral dread.
Loka-dhamma: ‘the eight worldly conditions’ – gain and loss; fame and dishonour; happiness and suffering; praise and blame.
Lobha: greed – the first root defilement.
Metta: ‘loving-kindness’ – the first of the four Brahma Viharas. The unconditional love for all beings that is free from all greed, attachment and sense of possession. Just as the sun shares its warmth and light with all beings, without discrimination, so a person with a mind imbued with metta will viewall beings with unconditional friendliness and love. “Even if bandits were to saw you limb from limb with a two-handled saw, if anyone were to give rise to a thought of anger they would not be following my teaching.” (MN 21). Although we can (and we should!) develop metta as an object of meditation in its own right, real metta arises in tandem with the gradual rooting of insight; as we begin to see impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and not-self then metta and compassion arise spontaneously. Similarly, metta cannot overlay anger; it can only truly arise when anger and hatred are removed. Once anger and hatred are absent, only metta will remain.
Mind: not a single entity but a combination of diverse mental factors – chiefly the second to the fifth aggregates.
Mindfulness (sati): that present moment awareness that observes whatever is being experienced, without being tainted with like or dislike. It is a choiceless awareness. It is mindfulness which, powered by concentration, is the cause for insight to arise. Mindfulness has the characteristic of being non-superficial, i.e. it does not take things it experiences (i.e. thoughts, feelings, sights, sounds, etc.) at face value, but reveals their fundamental nature. Mindfulness is often described in unison with ‘clear comprehension‘; ‘clarity of consciousness’ (sampajanna). For the Four Foundations of Mindfulness see ‘Satipatthana‘.
Moha: see ‘delusion‘.
Nibbana: lit. ‘extinction‘ (to cease blowing, to become extinguished); freedom from desire; freedom from suffering. The third of the Noble Truths and the goal of Buddhist practice. Freedom from greed, hatred and delusion. Liberation from the beginingless cycle of rebirth. “Extinction of greed, extinction of hate, extinction of delusion: this is called Nibbāna” (S. XXXVIII. 1). Also in the Buddha’s words: “The Unconditioned; The destruction of lust, hate, delusion; The Uninclined; The Taintless; The Truth; The Other Shore; The Subtle; The Very Difficult to See; The Unaging; The Stable; The Undisintegrating; The Unmanifest; The Unproliferated; The Peaceful; The Deathless; The Sublime; The Auspicious; The Secure; The Destruction of Craving; The Wonderful; The Amazing; The Unailing; The Unailing State; The Unafflicted; Dispassion; Purity; Freedom; Non-attachment; The Island; The Shelter; The Asylum; The Refuge; The Destination and The Path Leading to the Destination.”
One-pointedness of mind (citt’ekaggata):