01 August 2008

Buddhist Terminology

  • Anatta

The state of non-self (an atman). It means non-self, without self, not-self, ego-lessness,

etc. By anatta is meant the fact that there is neither in ourselves or others a lasting

essence, centre or core, that is to be without an essence (sunnata). Therefore anatta does

not only mean being unegoistical, although the understanding of anatta can lead to that.

Through the illusion of the existence of a self (soul or unchanging personality) and the

inevitable accompanying idea of self, arise wrong ideas which gain expression through

such things as pride, suppression, exuberance, aggression, violence and war.

  • Anicca

The concept that all compounded things are impermanent 

  • Bodhisatva

A being who can attain Nirvana, but who chooses not to enter this state in order to help

other beings. The Bodhisattva vow declares that “I will not enter into Nirvana until all

other beings attain enlightenment”. This term is also used to refer to the Buddha in his

previous lives, after he had declared his wish to become a Buddha.

  • Brahmavihara

The four lofty states of mind: Metta, Karuna, Mudita, Upekkha

  • Buddha

The Awakened One, the Enlightened. This is a name given to a historical individual,

however, it can also be a mental state. A Buddha is a World Teacher who proclaims and

explains the Four Noble Truths, so that he can set others on the path to the attainment of

this same Enlightenment.

  • Dharma

The Teachings of the Buddha. The word dharma has many meanings, which is why the

Teachings of the Buddha are referred to as the Buddha-Dharma.

  • Dukkha

Suffering, stress, discontentment, dysphoria

  • Eight-fold Path

This follows from the fourth Noble Truth (below). The Noble Eightfold Path is the means

that leads to the end of suffering:

1. Right view - view and wisdom in accordance with the Truths;

2. Right thought - to think without selfishness, anger and cruelty;

3. Right speech - to speak the truth, not to gossip or slander, not to use rough or

harsh language and not to talk uselessly;

4. Right action - not to kill or harm humans and animals, not to steal directly or

indirectly, not to have pleasure at the cost of others;

5. Right livelihood - to practice an honest and wholesome profession;

6. Right effort - the effort to let the wholesome arise and increase, and to decrease

and remove the unwholesome;

7. Right mindfulness - mindfulness of that which arises in the here-and-now;

8. Right concentration - to be directed and concentrated on a wholesome object or at

what is taking place in the here-and-now.

  • Four Noble Truths

1. The noble truth of suffering

Suffering is used here for the word dukkha. "Birth is suffering, ageing is suffering,

sickness is suffering, death is suffering, grief and lamentation, pain and sorrow are

suffering, being associated with that which we don't wish to be associated with is

suffering, to be parted from those who we love is suffering, the non- fulfillment of

wishes is suffering; in short, the factors which build up life are suffering." Both nice,

pleasant and painful, unpleasant circumstances are impermanent (anicca). This forms

a direct threat for individual existence and is therefore a source of anxiety,

excitement, etc. for many.

2. The noble truth of the cause of suffering

The cause of suffering is desire, craving, or longing (tanha). Because we are

confronted with circumstances in and around us there arises an unquenchable thirst

for pleasant sensations. The illusion of a non-changing soul, a self, ego or personality

is the basis of this. In this way we are caught up in ourselves, caught up in the things

outside of ourselves, entangled in the net of suffering. That is why the Buddha

declares: "Don't bite in the bait (i.e. pleasures) of the world," because suffering is the

inescapable consequence.

3. The noble truth of the end of suffering

He who breaks through ignorance, the illusion of a self, will be free of desire. The

flame of passion will go out due to a lack of fuel. The defilements which have not yet

been broken through and which bind us to the Cycle of Rebirth serve as fuel for

endless rebirths in samsara - the conditioned, dependent existence.

4. The Noble Eightfold Path is the means that leads to the end of suffering (see

Eightfold Path above)

  • Karma

A person’s actions

  • Karuna

This means compassion which has as its main characteristic the wish to free others from

their suffering. In this way compassion is something totally different from pity. It leads to

generosity and the wish to help others by word and deed. Karuna plays an important role

in the Teachings of the Buddha which are also called the Teachings of Wisdom and

Compassion. It was the Buddha's deep compassion which led to him deciding to expound

the Buddha-Dharma to all beings.

  • Mahayana:

The New or reformed schools of Buddhism including:

Tibetan Buddhism: in Tibetan Buddhism the emphasis is placed on the path of the

Samma-Sambuddha (becoming fully-enlightened). They divide their system into

Hinayana (Lesser, Small or Inferior Vehicle), Mahayana (Higher Vehicle) and

Vajrayana (Diamond or Superior Vehicle). The teachings of the Buddha are

written in Tibetan. Although the Dalai Lama is sometimes referred to as being the

head of all Buddhists he is exclusively the head of Tibetan Buddhism.(M)

Zen: This form of Buddhism developed out of Samadhi-meditation, directed

towards the jhana (in Chinese ch'an), and it is especially popular in Japan. The

teachings of Zen Masters are important. In general little is taught over the

Teachings of the Buddha himself.(Z)

Chinese Buddhism: In addition to the Texts (in Chinese or Sanskrit) the sayings of

the Patriachs are also important. As in other Mahayana Schools there is a strong

affinity with the Bodhisatta-ideal, i.e. to work for the good of all beings and the

postponement of your own Enlightenment until all beings can attain the same

Enlightenment. The most important is Kwan Yin (in Tibetan Buddhism Chenrezi

or Avalokiteshvara).(C)

  • Metta

This can be translated as loving kindness, all embracing love, benevolence, unselfish

universal and unbounded love. Metta points to the mental quality which has the goal of

making others happy. The direct fruits of metta are: beneficence, freedom from irritation

and agitation, peace in yourself and with your surroundings. For this metta should be

developed for all living beings, including the very smallest. Metta is not to be confused

with sensual or preferential love, although the power of metta is compared to the love of

a mother for her only born child.

  • Mudita

This is the sympathetic joy we feel when we see or hear of another's happiness and wellbeing,

it is joy in another's success without being jealous. Through sympathetic joy such

qualities of the heart as happiness and morality are cultivated.

  • Nama-Rupa

Physical and mental processes which in a complicated mix of conditioning and interdependency

form our existence

  • Nirvana or Nibbana

The Pali word Nibbana comes from the words nir and wana. Nir is a negative; wana

means to weave or to crave and is the power which ensures that we go from one life to

another. Nirana is therefore being free from the bond to the cycle of life and death

through the extinguishing of desire.

  • Sangha

Community of Buddhists, can be monks, nuns or lay people.

  • Samatha

The development of inner peace through intense directedness of mind (meditation).

  • Skandhas or khandhas

These form the, or the (five) groups which a non-enlightened person holds onto as being

self or belonging to a self: all physical processes that form the body (rupa), the different

sorts of feeling, the six sorts of sensual perception, the will and the different sorts of

consciousness. Through misunderstanding the interaction between these five groups,

there arises the belief that there is a self or soul which attributes the not yet known to an

unknown, outside of himself, vague power, to whom he should also give service in order

to ensure his safe existence (ie God). As a result the ignorant person is constantly in a

field of tension between his anxieties and desires, his ignorance and his ideas about

reality. The one who understands that this rests upon the illusion of an idea of self, can

free himself from all suffering.

  • Sunnata

To be without essence, nothingness, state of no-mind.

  • Ten Perfections

The Ten Perfections are: 1. To be generous (dana parami), 2. To be virtuous, moral (sila

parami), 3. Not to be selfish or renunciation (nekkhamma parami), 4. To be wise (panna

parami), 5. To be energetic (viriya parami), 6. To be patient (khanti parami), 7.

Truthfulness (sacca parami), 8. Determination (adhitthana parami), 9. Loving Kindness

(metta parami), 10. Even mindfulness (upekha parami) .

  • Theraveda (or Hiniyana) Buddhism

The original form or early Buddhism such as is principally practiced in Myanmar, Sri

Lanka and Thailand - this school refers to the oldest Texts, which were written in Pali.

The emphasis is placed on the path of the Arahatta-Buddha (person becoming an

individual Buddha), but the path of the Samma-Sambuddha (full enlightyenment) is also

practiced. There is less ritual than in the most other schools.

  • Tipitaka

This is the ‘Three Baskets’ of the Buddhist Canon; this contains the Teachings given by

the Buddha. The Tipitaka is made up of three parts: 1. Vinaya Pitaka - This collection

contains the Vinaya, the Discipline for the Order of Disciples (the Sangha). The word

vinaya means that which dispels evil. 2. Sutta Pitaka - This collection of teachings

consists of various teachings on Buddhism. 3. Abhidhamma Pitaka - The collection of the

Analytical Reflections, in which the psychological and philosophical aspects of the

Teaching are expounded in accordance with reality. The Tipitaka was first put into

written form (on palm leaves - alu) circa 101-77 BCE near Kandy, Sri Lanka. The

Tipitaka and commentaries are written in Pali, the language spoken by the Buddha, as

well as in Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese.

  • Upekkha

This is equanimity which is the result of a tranquil, steady and stable state of mind. This

finds expression especially when faced with unhappiness or misfortune. Someone with

equanimity faces every situation with the same courage and without anxiety or

recklessness. If they become aware of another's misfortune, they are neither sorrowful nor

happy. Without prejudice and calmly they treat everyone, in every situation, with the

same inner attitude. Regular contemplation over one's actions (karma) and the results

thereof (vipaka) destroys prejudice and preference, by bringing about the realization that

everyone is the owner and heir of his own actions.

  • Vipaka

The fruition or results of Karma

  • Vipassana

Meditation on insight and wisdom through the application of mindfulness with respect to

mental and physical processes. It is the effort to come to understand life as it truly is.

Every time that we become aware of impressions through means of our senses we should

make the effort to see through their illusionary nature. We have the tendency to see the

things in and around us as being perfect, lasting, satisfying and as self or not myself. An

attentive mind however can understand their true nature and learn to see that in reality

they are imperfect, subject to change, finally unsatisfactory and empty of an essence. This

gives the practitioner the possibility to free themselves from fear, confusion and agitation,

and from every other hindrance which hinders them from inner peace and harmony.

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