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The upper info is for display reasons for pages refering to words not included in this dictionary. Useful additions, for Ven. Thanissaro's use can be made here.
This brief Glossary by Ven. Thanissaro Maha Thera contains often used word-use in his teachings and translations. It has been generously given via Dhammatalks and can and will be enriched by the uses of terms of the honored Dhamma teacher. One is of course given to add words and the Ven. Translators use of them.
— Johann 2018/09/05 10:58
Notes by the Author:
English- Pāḷi: Although I have tried to be as consistent as possible in rendering Pāḷi terms into English, there are a few cases where a single English term will not do justice to all the meanings of a Pāḷi term. Although the rule of one English equivalent per one Pāḷi word makes for consistency, any truly bilingual person will know that such a rule can create ludicrous distortions in translation. Thus, while I have generally tried to avoid using one English term to translate two different Pāḷi terms, there are cases where I have found it necessary to render single Pāḷi terms with two or more English terms, depending on context. Citta in some cases is rendered as mind, in others as heart, and in still others as intent. Similarly, loka is rendered either as cosmos or world, manasa as intellect or heart, āyatana as medium or dimension, upādāna as clinging or sustenance, and dhamma as phenomenon, quality, or principle. If you see the word heart in a prose passage, it is translating citta; if in a passage of poetry, it is translating manasa.
Also, for some of the Pāḷi terms playing a central role in the teaching, I have chosen equivalents that do not follow general usage. In the following list I have marked these equivalents with asterisks. Explanations for these choices are provided at the end of the list.1) Thanissaro Bhikkhu
➥ Abhidhamma: (1) In the discourses of the Pāḷi Canon, this term simply means “higher Dhamma,” and a systematic attempt to define the Buddha’s teachings and understand their interrelationships. (2) A later collection of treatises collating lists of categories drawn from the teachings in the discourses, added to the Canon several centuries after the Buddha’s life.
➥ Ājīvaka: An ascetic belonging to any one of a group of schools that, for various reasons, taught that morality was nothing more than a social convention and that human action was either unreal, totally predetermined, or powerless to effect results. See DN 2.
➥ Āmisa: Literally, “flesh”; “bait”; “lure.” Used to describe objects of sensual enjoyment and the feelings of pleasure, pain, and neither pleasure nor pain that arise in the quest for sensual enjoyment. Its opposite is nirāmisa — not of the flesh — which describes the feelings developed around jhāna and the pursuit of release from suffering and stress.
➥ anussati: Recollection as a meditation exercise. Strictly speaking, there are seven themes recommended for recollection: the virtues of the Buddha, of the Dhamma, and of the Saṅgha; moral virtue; generosity; the qualities that lead to rebirth as a heavenly being; and the peace of nibbāna. (This last topic is for those who have already experienced a glimpse of nibbāna, but have not yet attained arahantship.) In addition, the following practices are also sometimes classed as “anussati”: mindfulness of death, mindfulness of breathing, and mindfulness immersed in the body.
➥ Āpalokana-kamma: A procedure to use in conducting communal business of the Saṅgha, in which certain non-controversial issues are settled simply with an informal announcement. The following terms – ñatti-kamma, ñatti-dutiya-kamma, and ñatti-catuttha-kamma – refer to procedures where the issue must be settled by a formal motion stated once, twice, or four times, giving all the monks present the opportunity to object to the motion before it is carried.
➥ Apāya: Realm of destitution. One of the four lower realms of existence, in which beings suffer because of their bad kamma: hell, the realm of hungry shades, the realm of angry demons, and level of common animals. In the Buddhist cosmology, a person reborn in any of these realms may stay there for long or short periods of time, but never for an eternity. After the bad kamma has worked out, the person will return to the higher realms.
➥ apāya-bhūmi: Realm of deprivation; the four lower states of existence: rebirth in hell, as a hungry shade, as an angry demon, or as a common animal. In Buddhism, none of these states are regarded as eternal conditions.
➥ Bhagavant: An epithet for the Buddha, commonly translated as ‘Blessed One’ or ‘Exalted One.’ Some commentators, though, have traced the word etymologically to the Pāḷi root meaning ‘to divide’ and, by extension, ‘to analyze,’ and so translate it as ‘Analyst.’
➥ Bodhisatta: “A being (striving) for awakening;” the term used to describe the Buddha before he actually became Buddha, from his first aspiration to Buddhahood until the time of his full awakening. Sanskrit form: Bodhisattva.
➥ Brahman: In common usage, a brahman is a member of the priestly caste, which claimed to be the highest caste in India, based on birth. In a specifically Buddhist usage, “brahman” can also mean an arahant, conveying the point that excellence is based, not on birth or race, but on the qualities attained in the mind.
➥ Brahmā: An inhabitant of the heavenly realms of form or formlessness, a position earned – but not forever – through the cultivation of virtue and meditative absorption, along with the attitudes of limitless goodwill, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity.
➥ Brahma-vihāra: A mental attitude that, when developed to a level where it can extend without limit to all beings, is conducive to rebirth in one of the Brahmā worlds. There are four altogether: unlimited goodwill (mettā), unlimited compassion (karuṇā), unlimited empathetic joy (muditā), and unlimited equanimity (upekkhā).
➥ Dhamma: (1) Event; action; (2) a phenomenon in & of itself; (3) mental quality; (4) doctrine, teaching; (5) nibbāna (although there are passages describing nibbāna as the abandoning of all dhammas). Sanskrit form: Dharma.
➥ dhātu: Element; property; potential. In the Pāḷi Canon this word occurs primarily in discussions of the causes of activity, in which it forms the ultimate precondition underlying the causal chain leading to the activity in question. The arousal or irritation of the dhātu is what causes the activity to take place. Thus on the psychological level, the properties of sensuality, anger, or delusion in a person’s mind are the basic conditions underlying unskillful action on his or her part. On the level of nature at large, phenomena such as windstorms, fires, floods, and earthquakes are explained as resulting from the arousal of the properties of earth, wind, fire, and water. Such disorders cease when the disturbed property grows calm. Thus, for instance, when the fire property runs out of sustenance to cling to, it grows calm and the individual fire goes out. On the level of the human body, diseases are explained as resulting from the aggravation of any of these properties, all of which permeate the entire body. For example, in Thai medicine, belching, fainting, cramps, convulsions, and paralysis are associated with disorders of the internal wind element.
All of this explanation may make the notion of dhātu seem rather foreign, but when used as an object of meditation, the four physical dhātu are simply a way of viewing the body in impersonal, purely physical terms. They are experienced as the elementary sensations and potentials — warmth, movement, etc. — that permeate and make up the internal sense of the body (see rūpa). Thus the meditation exercise of spreading the breath throughout the body is simply the feeling of linking the sensations of the in-and-out breath with the subtle sense of motion that permeates the body at all times. The six dhātu — the four physical dhātu plus space and consciousness — constitute the elementary properties or potentials that underlie the experience of physical and mental phenomena.
➥ Dhutaṅga: Ascetic practice. Optional observances that monks may undertake to cut away mental defilement and attachment to the requisites of life. There are thirteen altogether, and they include the practice of wearing robes made from thrown-away cloth, the practice of using only one set of three robes, the practice of going for alms, the practice of not by-passing any donors on one's alms path, the practice of eating no more than one meal a day, the practice of eating from one’s alms bowl, the practice of not accepting food after one has eaten one’s fill, the practice of living in the wilderness, the practice of living at the foot of a tree, the practice of living under the open sky, the practice of living in a cemetery, the practice of living in whatever place is assigned to one, and the practice of not lying down.
➥ Hīnayāna: “Inferior Vehicle,” a pejorative term, coined by a group who called themselves followers of the Mahāyāna, the “Great Vehicle,” to denote the path of practice of those who aimed at Arahantship, rather than full Buddhahood. Hīnayānists refused to recognize the later discourses, composed by the Mahāyānists, that claimed to contain teachings that the Buddha felt were too deep for his first generation of disciples, and which he thus secretly entrusted to underground serpents. The Theravāda school of today is a descendent of the Hīnayāna.
➥ Idappaccayatā: This/that conditionality. This name for the causal principle the Buddha discovered on the night of his Awakening emphasizes the point that, for the purposes of ending suffering and stress, the processes of causality can be understood entirely in terms of conditions in the realm of direct experience, with no need to refer to forces operating outside of that realm.
➥ Kilesa: Defilement. Mental qualities that obscure the clarity of the mind. There are three basic sorts — passion, aversion, and delusion — but these can combine into a variety of forms. One standard list gives sixteen in all: greed, malevolence, anger, rancor, hypocrisy, arrogance, envy, miserliness, dishonesty, boastfulness, obstinacy, violence, pride, conceit, intoxication, and complacency.
➥ Khandha: Aggregate; physical and mental phenomena as they are directly experienced; the raw material for a sense of self: rūpa — physical form; vedanā — feeling-tones of pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain; saññā — perception, mental label; saṅkhāra — fabrication, thought construct; and viññāṇa — sensory consciousness, the act of taking note of sense data and ideas as they occur. Sanskrit form: Skandha.
➥ Magga: Path. Specifically, the path to the cessation of suffering and stress. The four transcendent paths — or rather, one path with four levels of refinement — are the path to stream entry (entering the stream to nibbāna, which ensures that one will be reborn at most only seven more times), the path to once-returning, the path to non-returning, and the path to arahantship.
➥ Nāga: A magical serpent, technically classed as a common animal, but possessing many of the powers of a deva, including the ability to take on human shape. Sometimes this term is used metaphorically, in the sense of “Great One,” to indicate an arahant.
➥ Nibbāna: Literally, the “unbinding” of the mind from passion, aversion, and delusion, and from the entire round of death and rebirth. As this term also denotes the extinguishing of a fire, it carries connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. “Total nibbāna” in some contexts denotes the experience of awakening; in others, the final passing away of an arahant. Sanskrit form: Nirvāṇa.
➥ nibbāna (nirvāṇa): Liberation; the unbinding of the mind from greed, anger, and delusion, from physical sensations and mental acts. As the term is used to refer also to the extinguishing of a fire, it carries connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. (According to the physics taught at the time of the Buddha, the property of fire exists in a latent state to a greater or lesser degree in all objects. When activated, it seizes and sticks to its fuel. When extinguished, it is “unbound.”)
➥ Paṭicca-samuppāda: Dependent co-arising; dependent origination. A map showing the way ignorance and craving interact with the aggregates (khandha) and sense media (āyatana) to bring about stress and suffering. As the interactions are complex, there are several different versions of paṭicca samuppāda given in the suttas. In the most common one (given, for example, in SN 12.2), the map starts with ignorance. In another common one (given here in DN 15), the map starts with the interrelation between name (nāma) and form (rūpa) on the one hand, and sensory consciousness on the other.
➥ Pavāraṇā: Invitation; a monastic ceremony marking the end of the rains retreat on the full moon in October. During the ceremony, each monk invites his fellow monks to accuse him of any offenses they may have suspected him of having committed.
Vinaya → (1) an invitation whereby a donor gives permission to a bhikkhu or a Community of bhikkhus to ask for requisites. See BMC Pc 47. (2) A ceremony, held at the end of the Rains-residence (see vassa), in which each bhikkhu invites the rest of the Community to confront him with any transgressions they may have seen, heard, or suspected that he has committed. See BMC2, Chapter 16.
➥ Rāhu: An asura who, according to legend, tried to swallow the sun. He is now a head with no body who still tries to swallow the sun and moon — thus causing solar and lunar eclipses — but his lack of a body means that such eclipses last only a short while.
➥ rūpa: The basic meaning of this word is “appearance” or “form.” It is used, however, in a number of different contexts, taking on different shades of meaning in each. In lists of the objects of the senses, it is given as the object of the sense of sight. As one of the khandhas, it refers to physical phenomena or sensations (visible appearance or form being the defining characteristics of what is physical). This is also the meaning it carries when opposed to nāma, or mental phenomena. The act of focusing on the level of physical and mental phenomena (literally, form and name) means focusing on the primary sensation of such phenomena in and of themselves, before the mind elaborates them further. In the list, “kāma, rūpa, a-rūpa” — the types of object that the mind can take as its preoccupation and the states of becoming that result — kāma refers to images derived from the external senses, rūpa to the internal sense of the form of the body, and arūpa to strictly mental phenomena. This last sense of rūpa is also what is meant in the term “rūpa jhāna.”
➥ Samaṇa: Contemplative; monk. This word is derived from the adjective sama, which means “in tune” or “in harmony.” The samaṇas in ancient India were wanderers who tried through direct contemplation to find the true nature of reality — as opposed to the conventions taught in the Vedas — and to live in tune or in harmony with that reality. Buddhism is one of several samaṇa movements. Others included Jainism, Ājivakan fatalism, and Lokāyata, or hedonism.
➥ sammati: In Thai, the primary meaning of this word is “supposing,” which is how it is translated here, but it also conveys the meaning of convention (i.e., usages which are commonly designated or agreed upon), make-believe, and conjuring into being with the mind.
➥ Saṁyojana: Fetter. The ten fetters binding the mind to repeated birth and death are self-identity views, uncertainty, grasping at precepts and practices, sensual passion, irritation, passion for form, passion for formlessness, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance. The first three fetters are abandoned at the first level of Awakening, called stream-entry; the next two are abandoned at the third level of Awakening, called non-returning; and remaining five are abandoned at the fourth and final level of Awakening, arahantship.
➥ Saṅgha: On the conventional (sammati) level, this term denotes the communities of Buddhist monks and nuns. On the ideal (ariya) level, it denotes those followers of the Buddha, lay or ordained, who have attained at least stream-entry.
Vinaya → Community. This may refer to the entire Community of bhikkhus or of bhikkhunīs, or to the Community living in a particular location. In this book (BMC) I have tried to distinguish between the two by calling the first Saṅgha, and the second Community, but there are some contexts where it is difficult to draw a clear line between the two.
➥ Saṅkhāra: Fabrication (see also Khandha). Fabrication — any force or factor that fabricates things, the process of fabrication, and any fabricated thing that results; anything conditioned, compounded, or fashioned by nature, whether on the physical or the mental level. In some contexts this word is used as a blanket term for all five khandhas. As the fourth khandha, it refers specifically to the fabrication of urges, thoughts, etc., within the mind.
➥ Soḷasa Pañhā: The Sixteen Questions, the final chapter in the Sutta Nipāta, in which sixteen young Brahmins question the Buddha on subtle points of the doctrine. Mogharāja’s Question is the last of the sixteen.
➥ Tathāgata: Literally, “one who has become authentic (tatha-āgata) or is truly gone / (tathā-gata)”: an epithet used in ancient India for a person who has attained the highest religious goal. In Buddhism, it usually denotes the Buddha, although occasionally it also denotes any of his arahant disciples.
➥ Theravāda: The “Teachings of the Elders” — the only one of the early schools of Buddhism to have survived into the present; currently the dominant form of Buddhism in Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Burma.
➥ Upādāna: The act of clinging to something to take sustenance from it. The activities that, when clung to, constitute suffering are the five khandhas. The clinging itself takes four forms: to sensuality, to habits & practices, to views, and to theories about the self.
➥ Uposatha: Observance day, coinciding with the full moon, new moon, and half moons. Lay Buddhists often observe the eight precepts on this day. Monks recite the Pāṭimokkha on the full moon and new moon uposathas. (Vinaya: see BMC2, Chapter 15.)
➥ yoni: Mode of generation. In the Pāḷi Canon, four modes of generation are listed: birth from a womb, birth from an egg, birth from moisture, and spontaneous appearance (this last refers to the birth of heavenly beings).
➥ Acquisition: upadhi, literally means “belongings,” “baggage,” “paraphernalia.” In the suttas, it means the mental baggage that the mind carries around. The Cūḷaniddesa, a late canonical work, lists ten types of upadhi craving, views, defilement, action, misconduct, nutriment (physical and mental), irritation, the four physical properties sustained in the body (earth, water, wind, and fire), the six external sense media, and the six forms of corresponding sensory consciousness. The state without upadhi or acquisitions is unbinding.
➥ Becoming: bhava. The processes of giving rise, within the mind, to states of being that allow for physical or mental birth on any of three levels: the level of sensuality, the level of form, and the level of formlessness.
➥ Clinging/sustenance: upādāna. The Pāḷi term upādāna, which is used both on the physical and psychological levels, carries a double meaning on both levels. On the physical level, it denotes both the fuel of a fire and to the fire’s act of clinging to its fuel. On the psychological level, it denotes both the sustenance for becoming that the mind clings to, and to the act of clinging to its sustenance. To capture these double meanings, I have sometimes rendered upādāna as clinging, sometimes as sustenance, and sometimes as both.
➥ enlightened one: dhīra. Throughout these suttas I have rendered buddha as “Awakened,” and dhīra as “enlightened.” As Jan Gonda points out in his book, The Vision of the Vedic Poets, the word dhīra was used in Vedic and Buddhist poetry to mean a person who has the heightened powers of mental vision needed to perceive the “light” of the underlying principles of the cosmos, together with the expertise to implement those principles in the affairs of life and to reveal them to others. A person enlightened in this sense may also be awakened in the formal Buddhist sense, but is not necessarily so.
➥ Fabrication: Saṅkhāra literally means “putting together,” and carries connotations of jerry-rigged artificiality. It is applied to physical and to mental processes, as well as to the products of those processes. Various English words have been suggested as renderings for saṅkhāra, such as “formation,” “determination,” “force,” and “constructive activity.” However, “fabrication,” in both of its senses, as the process of fabrication and the fabricated things that result, seems the best equivalent for capturing the connotations as well as the denotations of the term. See also: saṅkhata (fabricated)
➥ Harmonious and Dissonant: sama. Throughout ancient cultures, the terminology of music was used to describe the moral quality of people and acts. Dissonant intervals or poorly-tuned musical instruments were metaphors for evil; harmonious intervals and well-tuned instruments were metaphors for good. In Pāḷi, the term sama — “even” — describes an instrument tuned on-pitch; visama means off-pitch. AN 6.55 contains a famous passage where the Buddha reminds Soṇa Koḷivisa — who had been over-exerting himself in the practice — that a lute sounds appealing only if the strings are neither too taut nor too lax, but “evenly” tuned. This same terminology came to be applied to human actions, with the connotation that good actions were not only appealing, but also in tune with the true nature of the laws of action.
➥ Inconstant: anicca. The usual rendering for anicca is “impermanent.” However, the antonym of the term, nicca, carries connotations of constancy and reliability; and as anicca is used to emphasize the point that conditioned phenomena are unreliable as a basis for true happiness, this seems a useful rendering for conveying this point.
➥ Objectification: papañca. The term papañca has entered popular usage in Buddhist circles to indicate obsessive, runaway thoughts that harass the mind. But in the suttas, the term is used to indicate, not the amount of thinking that harasses the mind, but the categories used in a particular type of thinking that harasses the mind and extends outward to create conflict with others. Sn 4.14 states that the root of the categories of papañca is the perception, “I am the thinker.” From this self-objectifying thought, in which one takes on the identity of a being, a number of categories can be derived: being/not-being, me/not-me, mine/not-mine, doer/done-to, feeder/food. This last pair of categories comes from the fact that, as a being, one has to lay claim to food, both physical and mental, to maintain that being (Khp 4). Thinking in terms of these categories inevitably leads to conflict, as different beings fight over their food. Because this harassment and conflict come from a self-objectifying thought that leads to the objectification of others as well, objectification seems to be the best English equivalent for papañca.
➥ Obsession: Anusaya is usually translated as “underlying tendency” or “latent tendency.” These translations are based on the etymology of the term, which literally means, “to lie down with.” However, in actual usage, the related verb (anuseti) means to be obsessed with something, for one’s thoughts to return and “lie down with it” (or, in our idiom, to “dwell on it”) over and over again.
➥ Stress: dukkha. The Pāḷi term dukkha, which is traditionally translated in the commentaries as, “that which is hard to bear,” is notorious for having no truly adequate equivalent in English, but stress — in its basic sense as a strain on body or mind — seems as close as English can get. In the Canon, dukkha applies both to physical and to mental phenomena, ranging from the intense stress of acute anguish or pain to the innate burdensomeness of even the most subtle mental or physical fabrications.
➥ Unbinding: nibbāna. Because nibbāna is used to denote not only the Buddhist goal, but also the extinguishing of a fire, it is usually rendered as “extinguishing” or, even worse, “extinction.” However, a close look at ancient Indian views of the workings of fire (see The Mind Like Fire Unbound) shows that people of the Buddha’s time felt that a fire, in going out, did not go out of existence but was simply freed from its agitation and attachment to its fuel. Thus, when applied to the Buddhist goal, the primary connotation of nibbāna is one of release and liberation. According to the commentaries, the literal meaning of the word nibbāna is “unbinding,” and as this is a rare case where the literal and contextual meanings of a term coincide, this seems to be the ideal English equivalent.
➥ Defilement: (kilesa) Mental qualities that obscure the clarity of the mind. There are three basic sorts — passion, aversion, and delusion — but these can combine into a variety of forms. One standard list gives sixteen in all: greed, malevolence, anger, rancor, hypocrisy, arrogance, envy, miserliness, dishonesty, boastfulness, obstinacy, violence, pride, conceit, intoxication, and complacency.
Initially from the Buddhist Monastic Codex (BMC).
Preface from Ven. Thanissaro Bhikku in his BMC:
This glossary is designed to help the reader in two sorts of situations: (1) when encountering a Pāḷi term in this book in a passage where it is not explained; and (2) when encountering Vinaya terminology in other books or conversations and wanting to know how it is defined and/or where it is discussed here. For terms that have entire chapters devoted to them — such as nissaya and pācittiya — see the relevant chapter.BMC, Thanissaro Bhikkhu
➥ Bhikkhunī: a female mendicant ordained by both the Bhikkhunī and the Bhikkhu Saṅghas, subject to the training rules of the Bhikkhunī Pāṭimokkha and the eight rules of respect (garu-dhamma). See BMC Pc 21 and BMC2, Chapter 23.
➥ Garu-bhaṇḍa (Vinaya): a heavy or expensive article. Garu-bhaṇḍa belonging to the Saṅgha includes monasteries and monastery land; dwellings, land on which dwellings are built; furnishings such as beds, chairs, and mattresses; metal vessels and tools; building materials, except for such things as rushes, reeds, grass, and clay; and articles made of pottery or wood. see BMC Pr 2, Sg 6, Pc 81, and BMC2, Chapter 7.
➥ Kaṭhina (Vinaya): a ceremony, held in the fourth month of the rainy season, in which a Community of bhikkhus receives a gift of cloth from lay people, bestows it on one of their members, and then makes it into a robe before dawn of the following day. see BMC NP 1-3, Pc 81, and BMC2, Chapter 17.
➥ Lahu-bhaṇḍa (Vinaya): a light or inexpensive article. Lahu-bhaṇḍa of the Saṅgha includes such things as cloth, food, and medicine; small personal accessories such as scissors, sandals, and water strainers; and light building materials, such as rushes, reeds, grass, and clay. see BMC Pr 2, Sg 6, and Pc 81.
➥ Niyasa-kamma (Vinaya): demotion (also called nissaya-kamma, an act of dependence) — a transaction whereby a bhikkhu released from dependence is required to return to dependence under a mentor until he mends his ways. see BMC Chapter 2 and BMC2, Chapter 20.
➥ Saṅgha (Vinaya): Community. This may refer to the entire Community of bhikkhus or of bhikkhunīs, or to the Community living in a particular location. In this book I have tried to distinguish between the two by calling the first Saṅgha, and the second Community, but there are some contexts where it is difficult to draw a clear line between the two.
➥ Tajjanīya-kamma (Vinaya): censure, a transaction whereby a Community strips a bhikkhu of some of his communal rights if he is a maker of strife; if he is defective in virtue, conduct, or views; or if he criticizes the Buddha, Dhamma, or Saṅgha. If he mends his ways, the act may be repealed. see BMC Sg 8, Ay 1, Chapter 11, and BMC2, Chapter 19.
➥ Ukkhepanīya-kamma (Vinaya): suspension — a transaction whereby a Community deprives a bhikkhu of his right to associate with the Saṅgha as a whole until he mends his ways. see BMC Pc 68 & 69 and BMC2, Chapter 19.
➥ Vassa (Vinaya): Rains-residence — a three-month period, generally beginning the day after the full moon in July (or the second, if there are two), during which certain restrictions are placed on the bhikkhus’ wanderings; usually considered a time to accelerate one’s efforts in study or practice. see BMC BMC2, Chapter 11.