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A Brief Buddhist Glossary

from Buddhism Depot
  • Alms: In Buddhism, the offering of food to monks on their daily rounds and the donation of goods and money to the monasteries. 
  • Amida Butsu: Japanese version of Amitabha Buddha. See Amitabha 
  • Amitabha: The Bodhisattva whose name means "Budha of Boundless Light" and who dwells in the paradise called the Pure Land. He is also the founder of this sect of Buddhism. 
  • Arhat: A Buddhist monk who is free from all illusions and who has achieved personal enlightenment. This term is used primarily in Theravada Buddhism. 
  • Atman: Hindu idea of a soul - the individual consciousness that was reborn again and again. 
  • Avalokiteshvara: Bodhisattva of Compassion. Compassion and Wisdom represent the two main concepts of Mahayana Buddhism. See Manjushri. 
  • Bardo: A human soul between the stages of after-death and rebirth. 
  • Bardo Thodol: The Tibetan name for the Book of the Dead. 
  • Bhikkhu: A fully ordained monk who has left his home and renounced all his possessions in order to follow the Way of the Buddha 
  • Bikkhu: See Bhikkhu 
  • Bikshu: See Bhikkhu 
  • Bodhisattva: A being in the final stages of attaining Buddhahood, who has vowed to help all sentient beings achieve Nirvana, or enlightenment, before he himself achieves it. 
  • Bo Tree: The tree beneath which the meditating Gautama sat before he achieved enlightenment. 
  • Bodhi Tree: See Bo Tree 
  • Bodhidharma: The legendary monk who brought Buddhism from India to China in the sixth century C.E. 
  • Brahman: the Ultimate Reality. Similar to a Supreme Being. 
  • Buddha: Enlightened One 
  • Buddha-nature: The nature innate in every sentient being. The potential for attaining Buddhahood. 
  • Butsu-dan: Japanese Buddhist household altar. 
  • Chaitya: An assembly hall for monks. 
  • Ch'an: Forms of Mahayana Buddhism in China. Japanese version is called Zen. See also Zen 
  • Cuanda: Blacksmith that gave a meal to Buddha, causing him to become ill. 
  • Dharma: The ultimate law, or doctrine, as taught by Buddha, which consists of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. 
  • Dhyana: A state of mind achieved through higher meditation. 
  • Dukkha: Suffering, emptiness, impermanence. 
  • Hinayana: Literally, "small vehicle." A term used by the Mahayanists to describe earlier orthodox sects of Buddhism (Theravada School). Their scriptures are written in Pali, an ancient Indian language. See also Theravada and Vajrayana 
  • Karma: Literally, "deed." A concept that binds its followers to an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth and, according to one's deeds in life, determines the condition of one's rebirth. 
  • Koan: A riddle, tale, or short statement used by Zen masters to bring their students to sudden insight. 
  • Lama: Literally, "superior one." A Buddhist monk of Tibet. 
  • Mahayana: Literally, "great vehicle." One of the three major forms of Buddhism, Mahayana is considered the more liberal and practical. Its scriptures are written in Sanskrit. See also Theravada and Vajrayana. 
  • Maitreya: Literally, "Friendly One." The Bodhisattva who embodies the virtues of wisdom and eloquence. 
  • Manjushri: Bodhisattva of Wisdom. Wisdom (prajna) is, along with Compassion, represents the two main concepts of Mahayana Buddhism. See Prajna and Avalokiteshvara. 
  • Mandala: A painting or tapestry with images of Buddha, bodhisattvas, and other images. Used as a focus of meditation for monks and as an object of worship for many. 
  • Mantra: Ritual sound, word, or phrase used to evoke a certain religious effect. 
  • Mara: The personification of evil. The god of death. 
  • Maya: Queen Maya, mother of Buddha. 
  • Moksha: Literally, "release." An idea originally developed from Upanishadic teachers. By leading a highly spiritual life (or several lives), a soul could be reunited with Brahman, the Ultimate Reality. 
  • Mudra: Hand gestures often depicted on statues of the Buddha. The gestures symbolize different meaning (meditation, etc). 
  • Namu Amida Butsa: Literally, "Praise to the Buddha Amitabha". In Japanese Pure Land sect, this is the phrase used to call on Amitabha Buddha. See Nembutsu 
  • Nirvana: Literally, "extinction." The ultimateM#<2 goal of Buddhists, characterized as the extinction of both craving and the separate "ego." The state of peace and quietude attained by extinguishing all illusions. 
  • Nembutsu: Short form of "Namu Amida Butsa". See Namu Amida Butsa 
  • Parinirvana: Death of the Buddha. 
  • Prajna: Literally, Wisdom. This term represents the wisdom obtained during enlightenment, and one of the key insight is emptiness. 
  • Prajna-Paramita Sutra: Collection of 40 Mahayana sutras dealing with Prajna and its attainment. 
  • Pure Land: A sect of Mahayana Buddhism founded by Amitabha Buddha. The Pure Land is a paradise in the "west" where people can go when they die. People must call on Amitabha to enter this paradise. See Namu Amidha Butsu 
  • Rahula 
    1. Literally, "fetter" or "impediment." 
    2. Son of Siddhartha 
  • Rajah: Chief or king 
  • Sakyamuni 
    1. Sage of the Sakyas 
    2. Another name of the Buddha 
  • Samsara: The continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (reincarnation) 
  • Sangha: An organized assembly of Buddhist monks. 
  • Shuddhodana: King Shuddhodana, father of Buddha. 
  • Siddhartha 
    1. He whose aim is accomplished 
    2. Birth name of the Buddha 
  • Skandhas: Five elements each individual is composed of. 
  • Stupa: A dome, or pagoda, in which sacred relics are deposited. 
  • Sunyata: Emptiness; The belief that all phenomena are dependent on and caused by other phenomena, thus without intrinsic essense. 
  • Sutra: Literally, "thread" or "string." A scripture containing the teachings of Buddha. 
  • Sutta: See Sutra 
  • Theravada: Literally, "School of the Elders." Aso known as Hinayana. One of the three major forms of Buddhism, Theravada is considered to be the original and orthodox form of Buddhism. See also Hinayana and Vajrayana. 
  • Tipitaka: Literally, "Three Baskets." According to Buddhist belief, the scriptures were stored in three baskets, dividing Buddha's teachings into the code of discipline for monks, his sermons and discourses, and the higher doctrine (Buddhist philosophy and psychology) 
  • Upasaka: Followers of Buddhism that believed in Buddha's teachings, but did not follow the strict rule of the Sangha. 
  • Urna: A mark on the Buddha's forehead, between his eyebrows, that signifies his great intuition. 
  • Ushanisha: A protuberance atop Buddha's head that signifies his great wisdom. 
  • Vajrayana: Literally, "diamond vehicle." One of the three major forms of Buddhism, Vajrayana is popular in Tibet. See also Theravada and Mahayana 
  • Vihara: Cave dwellings for monks. 
  • Yasodhara: Wife of Buddha 
  • Zen: Forms of Mahayana Buddhism in Japan. Chinese version is called Ch'an. See also Ch'an