What follows is a glossary with brief and, hence, incomplete definitions of the common words in the Dharmic lexicon. (S) refers to Sanskrit words, (P) to Pali words. The definition of a word will be presented beside its most common usage. For a more thorough treatment of a definition, click the “more…” link, if available.
Anātman (S): Sanskrit for anattā, see “Anattā”.
Anattā (P): literally, not-self or non-self; refers to the nonsubstantial and dependent nature of physical and mental phenomena; historically, the concept of anattā was presented by the Buddha as a refutation of the Upanisadic (and, later, Vedanta) idea of an unchanging, independent essence or self (Ātman); one of the three marks of existence. (more…)
Anicca (P): impermanence, the ever-changing nature of physical and mental phenomena; one of the three marks of existence. (more…)
Ātman (S): translated as Self or soul; refers to the independent, immortal essence of a person in the Upanisads and, later, Vedanta; considered identical with Brahman, the realization of which leads to liberation from samsāra; it was the concept of Ātman which the Buddha refuted with the doctrine of anattā. (more…)
Attā (P): Pali for Ātman, see “Ātman”.
Bhava tanhā (P): craving for being, craving for becoming. (more…)
Brahman (S): ultimate reality in the Upanisads and the Vedanta school of Hinduism; related to the concept of Ātman. (more…)
Brahmavihārās (S,P): literally, means divine abodes; refers to the four mental qualities or virtues that a Buddhist practitioner strives to cultivate through meditative practices (mettā, karunā, upekkhā, and muditā); meditative techniques for cultivating the divine abodes are sometimes referred to as ‘heart practices’. (more…)
Buddha (S,P): literally, means one who is awake; refers to the historical person of Siddhartha Gautama after his enlightenment in the 5th century BCE; may also refer to the principal of awakening and the potential for awakening in each person; part of the triple gem. (more…)
Dharma (S), Buddhism: can mean truth, law, teaching, or doctrine; most commonly refers to the teachings of the Buddha (and is capitalized when used in this context) and is part of the triple gem; in traditional Abidhamma literature, ‘dharma’ refers to elementary parts of existence; as one of the four foundations of mindfulness, it can also refer to a framework for viewing phenomena. (more…)
Dharma (S), Hinduism / Jainism: can mean duties, laws, conduct, virtues, or correct way of living; refers to any thought, behavior, or activity that upholds a universal order; colloquially, may connote one’s purpose or calling in life. (more…)
Dhamma (P): Pali for Dharma, see “Dharma, Buddhism”.
Dukkha (P): commonly translated as suffering, stress, and unsatisfactoriness; refers to the inherently unsatisfactory nature of mundane phenomena; etymologically related to the word for an improperly fitted axle hole, thus creating what one may consider a ‘bumpy ride’; the principal subject of the first of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths; one of the three marks of existence. (more…)
Kāma tanhā (P): craving for sense pleasure. (more…)
Kamma (P): Pali for karma, see “Karma, Buddhism”.
Karma (S), Buddhism: literally, means action or the intention behind an action; the implication is that any action with an intention bears an appropriate consequence, or “karmic fruit” (called karmaphala); strongly tied to ideas of rebirth. (more…)
Karma (S), Hinduism: literally, means action; refers to the moral quality of an action and the appropriate consequence of that action, whether in a current or future life; developed most significantly during the Upanisadic period and distinguishable from earlier notions of karma which referred specifically to the efficacy of Vedic ritual and practice. (more…)
Karunā (S,P): compassion; may refer to a mental quality or a meditation geared towards cultivating it; one of the four Brahmavihārās. (more…)
Maitrī (S): Sanskrit for metta. see “Metta”.
Mettā (P): commonly translated as loving-kindness or benevolence; may refer to a mental quality or a meditation geared towards cultivating it; one of the four Brahmavihārās. (more…)
Muditā (S,P): sympathetic joy, or taking pleasure in the well-being of another; may refer to a mental quality or a meditation geared towards cultivating it; one of the four Brahmavihārās. (more…)
Nibbāna (P): Pali for nirvana, see “Nirvana”.
Nirvāna (S): literally, means extinguishing or blowing-out; refers to liberation in the Buddhist context and represents the end of rebirth in samsara and, hence, the end of suffering; colloquially synonymous with enlightenment and awakening. (more…)
Samsāra (S,P): literally, means wandering about and refers to the cyclic nature of birth, life, death, and rebirth; has a negative connotation in Dharmic religions and represents the antithesis to liberation. (more…)
Samskara (S): Sanskrit for sankhāra, see “Sankhāra”. (more…)
Sangha (S,P): literally, means assembly, community, or association; traditionally refers to the monastic Buddhist community, especially in Thervadan schools; colloquially used to connote the entire community of Buddhist believers and practitioners; part of the triple gem. (more…)
Sankhāra (P): literally, means that which has been put together; a mental disposition, which follows from prior actions and thoughts, and inclines one’s future actions and thoughts; can best be thought of as a habit of mind; one of the five aggregates. (more…)
Tanhā (P): literally means thirst, commonly translated as craving; designated as the cause of suffering in the second of the Four Noble Truths. (more…)
Three Marks Of Existence: suffering, impermanence, and not-self (dukkhā, aniccā, & anattā); ignorance of the these three characteristics of the world binds people to samsāra; insight into the three marks constitutes wisdom and leads towards Nibbāna. (more…)
Three Refuges: same as Triple Jewel and Three Refuges, see “Triple Gem”.
Triple Gem: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; the three principal elements of Buddhism in which practitioners place their confidence en route to liberation; also called the Three Refuges and the Triple Jewel; the Refuges may be taken as a vow, symbolizing a commitment to the Buddhist path. (more…)
Upekkhā (P): equanimity; the evenness and stability of mind amidst the chaotic and unsatisfactory world; may refer to a mental quality or a meditation geared towards cultivating it; one of the four Brahmavihārās. (more…)
Upeksā (S): Sanskrit for Upekkhā, see “Upekkhā”.
Vedanā (P): feeling tone, or the quality of sensation as being pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral; one the four foundations of mindfulness. (more…)
Vibhava tanhā (P): craving non-existence, craving for annihilation. (more…)