You’re rich when you know you have enough.
People who were not a contemporary of the Buddha have an asterisk (*) after their name.
A Thai Forest monk who was instrumental in establishing Theravada Buddhism in the West. He died in January of 1992 at the age of 73.
Seeing something clearly as it is. In Buddhism, “acceptance” does not necessarily imply approval, support, or preference. I can clearly accept that my mind is restless without preferring it. I can clearly accept that I feel discouraged without wanting it.
Imponderable; incomprehensible; questions or topics that cannot be answered.
A ruthless serial killer who became a follower of the Buddha and became fully enlightened. He is an exemplar of the redemptive power of the Buddha’s teaching and the universal human potential for awakening. (See Angulimala.)
The lineage holder of the Mahasi tradition in Thailand and one of the countries most venerated Theravada meditation teachers. He resides at Wat Phradhatu Sri Chom Tong Voravihara temple in north Thailand.
Lifestyle; livelihood; how we take care of our basic needs while living in the world. Ajiva is the fifth aspect of the Eightfold Path. (See ariyo atthangiko maggo.)
A class of naked ascetics who believed in fate and predeterminism. An ajivaka named Upaka was the first person the Buddha spoke to after his full awakening. Upaka recognized something special about the Buddha. But when the Buddha tried to teach him, Upaka didn’t get it. In the suttas, ajivaka are rarely referred to favorably and are often derided for their ideas.
A highly respected yogic meditation teacher in the Buddha’s time. He became Siddhartha Gautama’s first teacher. When Gautama mastered the realm of nothingness, Alara Kalama said, “You are the same as I. Stay here and teach my students with me.” Gautama left and found another teacher, Uddaka Ramaputta.
“The Discourse on Mindfulness of Breathing” (see Majjhima Nikaya 118). The Buddha gives an exposition of sixteen steps of mindfulness (sati) of breathing (anapana) and its relationship to the four foundations of mindfulness and the seven awakening factors.
When Ahimsaka finished his training at the university at Takkaskila, his teacher asked for a payment of 1,000 fingers. With unwavering devotion to his teacher, Ahimsaka tried to comply. As he killed people, he collected their fingers on a string around his neck. Not knowing his identity, the people in the surrounding countryside called him Angulimala, which means “finger garland.” The Buddha persuaded him to give up his violent ways.
anatta (Sanskrit: atman)
No unchanging self. Not taking things personally. Selflessness. Atta means “self” and “an-“ is a negation. So anatta is often translated as “no self.” But since the Buddha’s contemporaries often believed in a higher, eternal, unchanging, true self, those listening to the Buddha would have understood the word to mean no eternal, unchanging, self essence. (See atta.)
Impermanent. It is one of the three characteristics of all things in the conditional world: nothing lasts; nothing stays as it is forever.
The discourse “One by One As They Occurred” (see Majjhima Nikaya 111). The Buddha describes Sariputta’s development in meditation, including a succinct description of the jhanas and how they unfold.
Underlying tendency or latent tendency. It is a deep hindrance that is hard to see until it is expressed.
applied and sustained thought
“Applied and sustained thought” is a common though ambiguous translation of two different kinds of thought. They might be better translated as “noticing and examining.” For more, see vitakka and vicara.
arahant (Sanskrit: arhat)
Someone who has reached the final stage of awakening but has not become a Buddha. It literally means “one who is worthy” or “perfected person.”
ariyo atthangiko maggo (Sanskrit: aryastangamarga)
The Noble Eightfold Path. This is one of the major teachings of the Buddha where he laid out important aspects of the path to awakening. It is a checklist to help fine-tune one’s practice. The eight are:
samma ditthi: harmonious perspective, wise view, right view
samma sankappa: harmonious intention, right thought, wise aspiration, wise intention
samma vaca: harmonious communication, right speech, skillful speech
samma kammanta: harmonious conduct, right action, skillful conduct
samma ajiva: harmonious lifestyle, right livelihood, wise livelihood
samma vayama: harmonious practice, right effort, wise effort, skillful use of energy
samma sati: harmonious mindfulness, right awareness, wise observation
samma samadhi: harmonious collectedness, right concentration, Steadiness of Mind
The discourse “The Noble Search” (Majjhima Nikaya 26). In describing the difference between the noble and the ignoble truth, the Buddha gives one of the fuller descriptions of his own path to awakening.
Without body; “a-” means “without” and “rupa” means “body.” The first three of the eight jhanas are considered “rupa” because of the prominence of sensory sensations. The fourth and higher jhanas are considered arupa because of the fading of sensory perceptions.
An 11th-century Bengali prince and spiritual master. He studied with all the most respected teachers of his time and became a religious teacher and leader. He was a major figure in the spread of both Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.
atta (Sanskrit: atman)
Self or soul. The Buddha used the negation, anatta, to say that we have no unchanging eternal self.
avijja (Sanskrit: avidya)
Unawareness, ignorance, delusion about the nature of the mind. Avijja is commonly translated as “ignorance,” though it has fewer pejorative connotations than in English. As in English, the root is “ignore” and indicates a tendency to overlook the true nature of things. Avijja is the beginning of the downstream flow of paticcasamuppada (Dependent Origination). Without it there would be no suffering.
awakening factors (bojjhanga)
Seven factors of the mind-heart that are conducive to awakening, particularly when they are brought into balance together. There are three energizing factors: investigation (dhamma vicaya), energy (viriya), and joy (piti). There are three calming factors: calm/tranquility (passaddhi), collectedness (samadhi) and equanimity (upekkha). There is one so-called neutral factor, mindfulness (sati) that can both energize or calm depending on what’s needed.
The specific type of jhana described by the Buddha. Some schools of meditation describe a jhana as deep states of mental absorption where awareness of the surrounding environment is completely lost. But in the earliest recordings of the Buddha’s talks, some awareness of the environment remains through all but the last jhana. The term “awareness jhana” is used to refer to non-absorption jhanas as the Buddha intended.
Matsuo Bashō was a 17th-century Japanese poet and master of haiku.
See Stephen Batchelor
Title used to address a monk or nun. It literally means “Venerable Sir” and may be used for a monk or a nun.
An American Buddhist monk who is currently Abbot of the Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center in Annapolis, Missouri. He ordained in Northern Thailand in 1986. From 1991 to 2000 he studied and practiced the suttas intensely. He trained with many Asian teachers and may be best known for the Six R practice and for teaching the awareness jhanas.
Habitual tendency or emotional habitual tendency. It is the tenth movement in the flow of paticcasamuppada (Dependent Origination). It is often translated as “becoming” or “existence.” But these meanings are confusing. In meditation, bhava is experienced as the arising of familiar or habitual patterns of thought and emotion.
An ordained male monastic in Buddhism.
“Bodhi” is usually translated as “awakened” or “enlightenment.” The Bodhi tree is the particular fig tree under which Siddhartha Gautama meditated and became the fully awakened Buddha. The tree was in a grove along side the Neranjara River near present day Bodh Gaya India. Today, the large fig tree that grows in that location is thought to be a direct descendent of the original bodhi tree.
See awakening factors.
The four "sublime states" or "divine abodes.” They are metta (friendliness, kindness or goodwill), karuna (compassion), mudita (joy or appreciative joy), and upekkha (equanimity).
A fifth-century Indian Theravadan Buddhist scholar and commentator. He is best known for writing the Visuddhi or Path of Purification. This summary and analysis constitutes the orthodox understanding of Theravada texts since at least the 12th CE. There are significant differences between some of Buddhaghosa’s understandings of meditation and those found in the earlier recordings of the Buddha’s talks. Where differences exist, the earlier texts are a better guide to effective practice. (See “Visuddhimagga." )
cattari ariya saccani
The Four Noble Truths. These are the core of the Buddha’s teaching. “Noble” refers not to the truths but to the mind that can perceive them correctly. The Four Truths are dukkha (dissatisfaction or suffering), tanha (tightness or craving), nirodha (cessation or the release of tanha), and the Eightfold Path (ariyo atthangiko maggo).
Intention; directionality. It is a mental factor that organizes the mind in a particular direction. Cetana includes both conscious will power and unconscious inclinations that we may not notice but nevertheless incline the mind-heart in a particular direction.
Wholesome desire. Not all desires are all bad. Wanting to be more loving, compassionate, or generous are examples of wholesome desires. However, as the mind becomes more serene and receptive, all tightness that accompanies any kind of desire must be relaxed and released. Even wholesome desires can block the mind-heart’s natural clarity from emerging.
A royal servant and head charioteer of Suddhodana. Suddhodana entrusted Channa to attend to the needs of his son Siddhartha who would later become the Buddha. Tradition credits Channa with teaching the young Siddhartha about old age, sickness, death, and the life of a monk. When Siddhartha decided to leave home and become a monk, Channa protested but eventually helped him set out on his quest.
Chöyam Trungpa Rinpoche*
A preeminent teacher, scholar, poet, and meditation master who helped bring Tibetan Buddhism to the west. Trungpa coined the term “crazy wisdom” and may be best known for his book, “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.” Some of his teaching methods and actions were topics of controversy.
Mind. There are three overlapping terms for mind. The other two are mana (prideful mind) and vinnana. Citta often refers to the quality of the mental process as a whole.
Collectedness; calm abiding; stability of mind. The Pali term samadhi is often translated as “concentration” because the attention stays easily on an object. However, samadhi does not have the tension or strain that “concentration” may imply. It is collected and stable because there is little tension to pull it away. Forcing the mind to stay on one object creates tension, not samadhi.
Observe. In English the word “contemplate” often implies actively thinking about a topic. In the suttas, the Pali word “contemplate” is usually a translation of a word like sati which means merely to observe with an open awareness without cogitating upon it.
Personalizing; taking as self something that is not self; lack of objectivity.
Cousin and brother-in-law of Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha. He is probably best known for several failed attempts to kill the Buddha.
dhamma (Sanskrit: dharma)
The law, the way things are, the natural order. The term can also mean a phenomenon in and of itself, a mental quality or a teaching. When capitalized, Dhamma refers to the teachings of the Buddha. To take refuge in the dhamma (lower case) means to take refuge in how things really are. To take refuge in the Dhamma (upper case) is to rely on the Buddha’s teachings.
“The Discourse on Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion,” Samyutta Nikaya 56.11. In this text the Buddha gives his first successful teaching to his old meditation partners, the five ascetics. He explains the Middle Path and the Four Noble Truths.
A collection of short sayings of the Buddha in verse form. It is one of the most widely known Buddhist texts.
Investigation, or investigation of the dhamma. It is one of the seven awakening factors.
Love of or desire for the dhamma, to live in harmony with all that is.
The Sanskrit spelling of dhamma.
The collection of the long discourses of the Buddha.
ditthi (Sanskrit: drsti)
View, perspective, or position. In Buddhism, a view or position is not a simple abstract proposition but a charged interpretation that can shape experience and thought. Right view or harmonious perspective (samma ditthi) is the first fold or aspect of the Eightfold Path. It refers not so much to holding a correct view as to having a way of seeing which is clear and holds to no position. (See ariyo atthangiko maggo.)
Dissatisfaction, suffering, stress, discontent. Dukkha is the first Ennobling Truth, indicating that life has dissatisfaction. The Buddha never said that life is suffering, only that nothing in the relative world of constant change can be a reliable base for happiness. A more colloquial translation of dukkha that conveys its wider range of meaning is “bummer.”
Harmonious path. (See ariyo atthangiko maggo).
Technically a gatha is a song or verse. The Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh popularized the term as a verse or short saying to be recited mentally as part of a meditation practice or means of bringing wise awareness into daily life.
The Buddha’s family name or surname. By tradition, his first name was “Siddhartha.” However, this might be a spiritual name given to him after his awakening.
Four topics the Buddha considered imponderable or incomprehensible. They can be vexing or drive us crazy to try to solve. They are: What are the powers of an enlightened being? What can meditation ultimately achieve? What karma caused a specific event to occur? Where did the universe come from?
An ancient Indian religion known for its main premises of non-violence, many-sidedness, non-attachment, and asceticism. Followers of Jainism take five main vows: non-violence, truth, not-stealing, chastity, and non-attachment.
The final “down river” event in the flow of Dependent Origination or paticcasamuppada. “Jara” literally means “old age.” “Marana” literally means “death.” “Jaramarana” refers to the “whole mass of suffering”: “sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair.”
Birth or birth of action. The term traditionally refers to the arising of a new entity. In Dependent Origination it can also refer to the beginning of a mental, verbal, or physical action.
A stage of meditative knowledge gained through direct experience. The nature of the jhanas and how to work with them is discussed in detail in Buddha’s Map and elsewhere.
A 15th-century Indian mystic poet whose writings were mostly concerned with devotion, mysticism, and discipline.
Action, movement, or conduct. In the Eightfold Path, “samma kammanta” refers to behaving in ways that are harmonious with life and that encourage awakening. (Also see “ariyo atthangiko maggo," the Noble Eightfold Path.)
The talk the Buddha gave to the mendicant Kandaraka (see Majjhima Nikaya number 51). He describes some of the practices used by accomplished meditators and makes the distinction between people who live in ways that harm or disturb themselves or others, and those who live according to the Dhamma.
kamma (Sanskrit: karma)
The effects of our physical, verbal, or mental actions. Everything we do creates the potential for other things to happen. If we are wise, we will act in ways that tend not to create difficulty or unhappiness in the future.
Compassion. It is the second of the four brahmavihara or sublime states.
kasina (Sanskrit: krtsna)
One of ten meditation objects, each of which is an element (earth, water, air, fire) or a color. The meditator focuses his attention on the object. The suttas mention kasina meditation; it is likely that these were borrowed from the Brahmin traditions and inserted into the text at a later time.
Body. “Kaya” refers to the material body alone—what is present in a corpse. “Rupa” refers to a living body.
khandha (Sanskrit: skandha)
Aggregate, heaps. The five khandha (body, feeling tone, perception, concepts and storylines, and consciousness or awareness) refer to the various phenomena people often identify as self. In this context they are often called “aggregates affected by clinging.” Bhante Vimalaramsi calls them “aggregates affected by craving and clinging.”
A rice pudding typically made by boiling rice, broken wheat, milk, sugar and spices. It may be served as a meal or a dessert. The young Sujata brought kier as an offering to the tree spirit of her village and found the Buddha-to-be sitting beneath it close to death. She offered him the kier and helped restore his health.
Mental states that cloud the mind and may manifest in unwholesome actions. Kilesas include anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, depression, and other states that distort the mind.
A paradoxical story or riddle used in Zen Buddhism to move the mind beyond logical reasoning and to provoke awakening.
A town in India that may have been subjugated by the Shakya Clan, to which the Buddha belonged.
A great city in the time of the Buddha. Several Buddhist monasteries were in the vicinity of Kosambi. A great schism among the monks of Kosambi is described in the early texts.
A small hut used for meditation.
An ancient Chinese philosopher, writer, reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, and founder of Taoism. He may have been a contemporary of the Buddha, but there is no direct evidence that the two knew each other.
Path. “Ariyo atthangiko maggo” is the Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha.
The Middle Length Discourses. The Pali Canon is a collection of over 10,000 suttas or discourses attributed to the Buddha or his chief disciples. It is divided into three pitakas (“baskets”). The second basket, the Sutta Pitaka, is divided into five nikayas (collections). The Majjhima Nikaya is the second of the five. It contains 152 suttas. They provide a comprehensive body of teaching concerning all aspects of the Buddha’s teachings.
He is depicted as a demon who tried to seduce the Buddha in various ways, always failing. Mara is described as “the personification of forces antagonistic to awakening.”
Loving kindness, goodwill, and gentle friendship. Metta is the first of the four sublime states (brahmavihara) the Buddha recommended be cultivated. These can be very effective objects of meditation. Metta is usually translated as “loving kindness” but a more accurate rendering is “friendliness.”
Buddhism does not make the distinction between mind and heart often made in the West. I use the term mind-heart to refer to all those qualities together.
That which may pass from one body to the next. Various religious traditions use the term in different ways. Some say the mind-stream contains some of the memories and impressions from one lifetime to the next. It should not be confused with soul or self, because our sense of self is made up of many more transient phenomena.
Joy, especially but not exclusively the joy that arises from seeing someone’s good fortune. Mudita is the third of the four sublime states (brahmavihara) used as a very effective meditation object.
Mind-body. As a phase of Dependent Origination, it refers to a condition before mind or body has arisen as separate phenomena. Mind (nama) and body (rupa) are said to co-arise.
The Buddha became fully enlightened sitting under a tree near the banks of the Neranjara River in northern Indian near the present day town of Bodh Gaya.
nibbana (Sanskrit: nirvana)
Extinguished. The word literally means “blow out” as in a candle that is extinguished. In the scientific thinking of the Buddha’s time, when a fire goes out, the heat element in the flame does not go away. It simply ceases to cling to the burning object. It disperses. So to those who heard the Buddha use the term, it meant the complete cessation of craving and clinging. Through meditation training, we can relax so deeply that all perception and consciousness cease for a period of time. Coming out of this state, we can see Dependent Origination so clearly that we no longer identify with psychophysical processes. When this is deep and full enough, we wake up.
Disenchantment. Seeing the truth of how the things actually operate, the enchantment or attachment to the world fades. At first it can be quite disturbing. But as it deepens, it moves toward dispassion.
Volume; collection; assemblage; class. Nikaya most commonly refers to one of the five collections of the suttas that make up the Pali Canon. These five are: the Digha Nikaya (long discourses), the Majjhima Nikaya (middle-length discourses), the Samyutta Nikaya, (thematically linked discourses), Anguttara Nikaya, (the discourses grouped by content enumeration), and the Khuddaka Nikaya (minor or shorter discourses).
A mental sign or vision that can arise during meditation, particularly during the fourth jhana and beyond. Often it is seen as a white light or a white disk. Some traditions use it as an object of meditation to go into a state of absorption. However, it is wiser to simply know that it is there and
Six-R it like anything else. That allows the mind-heart to go even deeper.
Cessation, absence, or extinction. Nirodha is the third of the Four Noble Truths, which points to the cessation of perception, feeling, and consciousness. With this is the cessation of suffering.
An Indian guru who owned a tobacco shop in Mumbai from which he taught and gave talks. His guru was Siddharameshwar Maharaj. He retired from his shop in 1966, but continued to teach in his home until he died in 1981.
Hindrance; veil; something that gets in the way of meditation progress. The term literally means a covering – it covers something valuable. So the problem is not what we perceive but how we relate to it. If we are skillful, we can use nivarana to point out something that needs wise attention. The Six Rs are the best way to work with hindrances and turn them to our advantage.
The language used in recording the suttas and many early texts. It was close to the language the Buddha spoke (Prakrit), but not actually the same.
Heedlessness; carelessness; negligence that leads to moral lapse.
Wisdom; insight; seeing into the true nature or reality. In Buddhism it has the more specific meaning of understanding Dependent Origination (see paticcasamuppada).
Mental proliferation. The kind of thinking that wanders around sometimes aimlessly.
King Pasenadi was the ruler of the principality of Kosala in ancient India. He was a devoted lay follower of the Buddha and built many monasteries for the Buddhist sangha.
Relax, tranquilize as in “bring tranquility to –––.“ This term can be used as a noun, verb, or modifier. However, in the suttas it is most often used as a verb as in “bring tranquility to the mind-heart.”
Calmness, tranquility, serenity. It is the seventh awakening factor and part of the “higher path” in Dependent Origination.
paticcasamuppada (Sanskrit: pratityasamutpada)
Dependent Origination. This is the central teaching of the Buddha about how everything arises because of causes and conditions. Seeing this clearly is central to his path to awakening.
An American Tibetan Buddhist and student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She is the director of the Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia. She has written many books emphasizing bringing wisdom and heart to difficult times.
phassa (Sanskrit: sparsa)
Contact, raw sense impression. It is defined as the coming together of three factors: sensory data (e.g., light), sensory organ (e.g., eye), and consciousness (e.g., eye consciousness). It is the first movement in Dependent Origination that is noticeable by the average person who has no advanced meditation training.
piti (Sanskrit: priti)
Joy. It is sometimes translated as “rapture,” but “piti” need not be overwhelming. It can range from a huge, overwhelming joy to a peaceful, all-pervasive joy. It is one of the signs of the first jhana.
An ancient Indian language that has many dialects. Prakrit means “natural,” “normal,” “artless,” or “vernacular” as contrasted to the more literary and religious orthodoxy of Sanskrit. The Buddha probably spoke the Ardhamagadhi (“half-Magadhi”) dialect.
Awareness without an agenda or tension; awareness of awareness itself.
The son of the Buddha (before the Buddha awakened) and his wife Yasodhara. Rahula become the first novice monk in the Buddha’s sangha.
Ancient name for the modern city of Rajgir. In the Buddha’s time it was the capital of Magadha. It was probably built by Bimbisara, a lay follower of the Buddha.
Body, physical phenomenon, sense information. It has different meanings in different contexts. As a sensory object, rupa is the object of the sense of sight. As the first khandha, it is physical phenomena or sensations picked by sensory organs. In “namarupa” it means physical as opposed to mental phenomena (“nama”).
saddha (Sanskrit: sraddha)
Confidence, faith. In some contexts it means faith in the Buddha’s path. It is part of the “higher path” of Dependent Origination. With stream entry, it becomes unshakable.
Collectedness, calm abiding. Often it is translated as concentration or one-pointedness. But it has neither the strain implied by “concentration” nor the blocking out of other phenomena as implied by “one-pointedness.” It is a unified and quiet quality of consciousness. Samadhi is one of the awakening factors as well as part of the Eightfold Path. (Also see “ariyo atthangiko maggo," the Noble Eightfold Path.)
Harmonious, skillful, wise. In the context of the Eightfold Path, it is often translated as “right.” But the Pali term does not carry the sense of right and wrong or good and bad implied in English. The name of the eight aspects of the Eightfold Path starts with “samma.” (Also see “ariyo atthangiko maggo," the Noble Eightfold Path.)
Wise view. The first fold of the Eightfold Path. (Also see ariyo atthangiko maggo.)
Commonly translated as “clear comprehension” or “clear knowing” means knowing what’s going on in the moment and knowing the larger context at the same time. It’s like a wide-angle lens that sees both depth and breadth.
The world and the suffering found in it. The word literally means “continuous flow” and refers to the continuous flow from birth to life to death to rebirth.
Origin, source. It is the second Noble Truth that refers to the origin of dissatisfaction (dukkha).
The Connected Discourses. This nikaya is part of the Pali Cannon. This collection of over 10,000 suttas (discourses) is attributed to the Buddha or his chief disciples. It is divided into three pitakas (“baskets”). The second basket, the Sutta Pitaka, is divided into five nikayas (collections). The Samyutta Nikaya is the third of the five. The suttas are grouped into five avgas (sections), each of which is further divided into samyuttas (chapters) on related topics.
Originally it referred to the community of Buddhist monks and nuns. Today it is often used to refer to any community of people dedicated to the Buddha’s teachings.
A division of the Patimokkha or the code of conduct for Buddhist monks. The Sanghadisesa division contained rules that, if broken, were serious enough to require a meeting of the entire sangha.
A primary language of Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Buddhism. It is a “high” language used in liturgy and scholarship. The relationship between Sanskrit and Pali is similar to the relationship between Latin and Italian.
Intention. It has also been translated as “thought” or “aspiration,” but “intention” is closer to the original meaning. It is the second aspect of the Eightfold Path as it grows naturally out of wise or harmonious view of life. (Also see “ariyo atthangiko maggo," the Noble Eightfold Path.)
Thoughts, concepts, storyline, or anything else that has been mentally formed or put together. Sankhara is a complex term that is used in lots of different ways. Khara means “action.” “San-“ puts added emphasis on it. So the word is often translated as “volitional formations.” But this can be confusing in English. “Volitional” in English implies conscious intention or even willpower. But the Pali term can imply unconscious inclinations and tendencies. And “formation” in English implies something solid and lasting. But in Buddhism the sense is fragility — anything that has been put together or formed easily falls apart. (See volition.)
sanna (Sanskrit: Samjna)
Perception, label. It is seen as a subtle but active process whereby we compare an experience to our past experiences and figure out what it is (i.e., what to label it).
Sariputta (Sanskrit: Sariputra)
One of the Buddha’s main disciples who was “renowned in wisdom,” meaning he had an exceptionally clear understanding of the Dhamma.
A small town not far from Varanasi. It was here in the Deer Park that the Buddha first taught the Dhamma to five ascetics who had been companions of his before his enlightenment.
sati (Sanskrit: smrti)
Mindfulness, heartfulness, the state of being fully present without habitual reactions. It is a very important quality in Buddhist practice. The Pali language does not make a distinction between mind and heart, so sati includes both these qualities. It is the balancing factor of the seven awakening factors. It is also the seventh aspect of the Eightfold Path. (See “ariyo atthangiko maggo," the Noble Eightfold Path.)
The Discourse on the Foundation of Mindfulness, Majjhima Nikaya 10. This sutta is considered by many Theravada Buddhists to be the core of the Buddha’s teachings.
A Burmese Buddhist title for a senior monk or abbot of a monastery or a highly respected teacher.
Sayadaw U Tejaniya*
A Theravadan Buddhist monk of Burmese Chinese lineage whose teachings have attracted a global audience for their clarity and sense of humor.
Jainzhi Sengstan is the Third Chinese Zen Patriarch. He is best known as the putative author of the famous Zen poem, “Hsin-Hsin Ming” or “Inscription on Faith in Mind.”
A warrior clan of the late Vedic period (1000 to 500 BCE) in the upper Ganghi’s valley in present-day northern India and southern Nepal. The Buddha was born into this clan where his father, Suddhodana, was the chosen leader.
“Siddha” means “accomplished” and “aretha” means “goal.” “Siddhartha” means “one who accomplished his goal.” By tradition, this was the Buddha’s first name. However, it is more likely that it was a spiritual name given to him after his awakening.
A six-phase technique used in meditation and all of life to deal wisely with distractions and disturbances in the mind-heart. Its effectiveness comes from its simplicity and its foundation in what the Buddha called Wise Effort or samma vayama.
A British author, teacher, and scholar of Buddhism. He trained and ordained as a novice Tibetan monk and went on to study intensively with Theravada and Zen teachers. Years later he disrobed and married. He is probably best known for his writings about secular Buddhism.
Leader of the Shakya clan in ancient India and father of Siddhartha who later became the Buddha.
A young woman who brought food to the Buddha-to-be and helped restore his strength after he had been depleted by severe aesthetic practices. Shortly after his recovery he became fully awakened.
Happiness. An important factor in the first two jhanas.
sutta (Sanskrit: sutra)
A talk given by the Buddha. The suttas are part of the canonical text. The term literally means “thread.” The implication is that to understand the “whole cloth” of the Dhamma, it’s important to know how the suttas are woven together.
A collection of suttas that is part of the Khuddaka Nikaya (collection of shorter suttas). Many scholars believe these may be some of the earliest suttas.
A Sōtō Zen monk who is renowned for founding the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia. His book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, is one of the most popular books on Zen and Buddhism in the West.
A city in ancient India famous for its university.
tanha (Sanskrit: trsna)
Craving, tightness, holding. Though “tanha” is most often translated as craving, it can be very subtle. It is a preverbal tightening as we try to avoid something uncomfortable, hang on to something pleasurable, or space out with something neutral. The Buddha identified it as the “weak link” in Dependent Origination—the easiest place to stop the “down stream” of events by relaxing the tightness. Besides being the eighth phase of Dependent Origination, it is subtly present in all phases as well as being the second of the Four Noble Truths.
(See Sayadaw U Tejaniya.)
Theravada literally means “school of the elder monks.” It uses the Buddha’s Teachings in the Pali Canon as its primary source. It is probably best know for Vipassana or Insight meditation.
Thich Nhat Hanh*
A Vietnamese Buddhist monk who first came to the attention of the West during the Paris peace negotiations for the end of the Vietnam war. He coined the term “engaged Buddhism.” He has published over 100 books about the peace movement, nonviolence, and meditation.
Three qualities that the Buddha taught are part of everything in the relative word, namely impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness or suffering (dukkha), and no unchanging self (anatta).
tilakkhana (Sanskrit: trilaksana)
The three characteristics of all things in the conditioned world: unsatisfying (dukkha), impermanent (anicca), and selfless or impersonal (anatta).
Clinging. It is always experienced as thinking or the beginning of thinking. It is the seventh phase of Dependent Origination. It arises when tanha is not relaxed and released.
A famous teacher and contemporary of the Buddha. “Putta” means son of, so his name literally means son of Rama, who also was a famous teacher. Uddaka became Siddhartha Gautama’s second teacher. Siddhartha mastered all Uddaka could teach and then left to train on his own.
Equanimity. It is the fourth of the sublime states (brahmavihara) and one of the awakening factors. It is very important, particularly in the higher jhanas.
Communication, speech. In the Eightfold Path, it is usually translated as “speech” but refers to more than spoken words. It includes written, typed, and any other kind of communication. (Also see “ariyo atthangiko maggo," the Noble Eightfold Path.)
Practice; skillful or wise effort; effort without strain. It is the sixth aspect of the Eightfold Path and is commonly translated as “effort” or “right effort.” But the term should not be confused with pushing or straining. Skillful effort is to remember to relax and release, not to strive. (Also see “ariyo atthangiko maggo," the Noble Eightfold Path.)
Veda literally means “knowledge.” The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India.
Feeling tone. Vedana can be pleasant, painful, or neither. It arises out of raw perception.
Title of a monk.
The kind of thinking that wisely discerns. For example, in meditation if a small distraction arises, you may decide whether it is minor enough to ignore or if you should Six-R it. Vicara is the type of thinking that skillfully decides what to do. It is not the wondering or free associational kind of thinking. (Compare to papanca.)
(See Bhante Vimalaramsi )
Release, liberation, freedom from the constraints of the conditioned mind.
One of the three main parts of the Buddhist text. It is primarily concerned with the rules for monks and nuns.
vinnana (Sanskrit: vinnana)
Awareness, consciousness. It is the third phase of Dependent Origination and the last of the five aggregates (khandhas).
Insight into the true nature of reality. Vipassana is not just perceiving what’s around us but also being aware of the mind’s response to the perception. The term is often used to refer to the Buddha’s meditation practice based on mindfulness.
Dispassion. It is similar to being unconcerned. However, in viraga, the mind is attentive without being invested in outcomes. It is important for entering the eighth jhana and for the “higher path” of Dependent Origination.
The kind of minimal thought that recognizes an experience and often puts a label on it. (Compare to papanca.)
The Path of Purification. A text composed by Buddhaghosa in about 430 CE. It is probably the most influential text in the Theravadan tradition. Buddhaghosa was attempting to find common ground between the various Buddhist schools at that time. He was not as motivated to decide which aspects coincided best with the Buddha’s earliest teachings but gave equal credit to each school’s interpretation. Thus the texts differ from some of the Buddha’s original teaching in important areas. (See “Buddhaghosa." )
viriya (Sanskrit: virya)
Energy, enthusiasm. This is one of the seven awakening factors. It is naturally arising balanced energy. It is both relaxed and at the same time energized without tension.
A common translation of the Pali term cetana. It applies to things that arise in the mind-heart (as compared to external processes like gravity). However, cetana is not always willful or even conscious intention. It takes a great deal of training and mental clarity to see it in its subtle forms. (See cetana.)
In Thailand a wat is a cross between a monastery and a community center. It is a place where monks often live. But many wats are also a place that lay Buddhists visit to learn or practice Buddhism.
Wholesome qualities are ones that are beneficial. They have little tension in them or tend to reduce tension. Unwholesome qualities have tension or increase tension.
In the highest jhana, the mind becomes so relaxed that it doesn’t completely store memories or fully recognize phenomena. It’s like looking through a pair of high power binoculars into a fogbank. In the text this is called “neither-perception-nor-non-perception.” When the mind relaxes further, perception and memory go off line. This is called “nirodha” or “cessation of perception, feeling, and consciousness.” When it relaxes even further, it’s called “nibbana.” At first it may be hard for yogis to tell the difference between these three. Without perception or memory, subjectively they all feel like blacking out. However, unlike nodding off, when a yogi comes out of these, the mind is exceptionally clear and still. In conversations with yogis, I began collectively calling all three “winking out,” because that’s what they all subjectively feel like. There are subtle and important differences between them. But I use the term to distinguish between these refined meditation phenomena and ordinary grogginess. Recently, the term “winking out” has appeared in the urban dictionary to refer to a kind of spacing out. This is definitely not how I use the term.
Seeing the causal relationships in Dependent Origination. In English, the word “wisdom” has a broad meaning. When the Buddha used the word, he was always referring to seeing the causal relationships. Seeing them is the core of the Dhamma.
(Also see panna.)
A knowledge gained in meditation.
The wife of Siddhartha Gautama who became the Buddha. She was also his cousin and mother to their only child, Rahula. She also became a Buddhist nun and became fully awakened.
A person who sincerely follows a spiritual path that includes a discipline like meditation. Narrowly, the term refers to someone proficient in yoga. I use the term more broadly to include any sincere meditator.
Enthusiasm; energy. It is a common translation of virya. But it doesn’t have the push or blind enthusiasm that may be implied by “zeal.”