Many Buddhist terms and concepts are directly translated from Sanskrit and Chinese in our publications. We hope this comprehensive glossary will help readers understand their meanings and implied concepts within the Buddhist context.
abhidharma. Chinese: 阿毘曇 obitan.
In Sanskrit, “high doctrine.” The philosophical commentaries on the Buddha’s teachings and the third section of the Buddhist canon. See also Buddhist canon.
affliction. Chinese: 煩惱 fannao. Skt. kleśa.
Any conscious or unconscious mental functions rooted in greed, anger, and ignorance that impede the attaining of enlightenment.
āgama / agama. Chinese: 阿含 ohan.
In Sanskrit and Pāli, “teaching.” This refers to the Buddha’s teachings: The Numerical Discourses [Ekottarāgama], The Middle Length Discourses [Madhyamāgama], The Long Discourses [Dīrghāgama], and The Connected Discourses [Saṃyuktāgama].
Age of Declining Dharma. Chinese: 末法.
The Age of Declining Dharma is the period when the Buddha’s teachings go into decline. Sentient beings misunderstand and cannot distinguish between true teachings and false ones, and become stubborn and difficult to teach. Meanwhile, non-Buddhist teachers who invoke the name of the Buddha do as they please.
Age of Right Dharma. Chinese: 正法.
The Age of Right Dharma is the period not long after the Buddha has passed into final nirvana, during which his disciples are still able to maintain monastic discipline and uphold the Buddha’s teachings in form and essence without misinterpretation.
Age of Semblance Dharma. Chinese: 像法.
The Age of Semblance Dharma is the period after the Buddha’s final nirvana has receded into the past, and the esteem and admiration that sentient beings hold for the Buddha’s teachings have waned. Different ideas and understandings of the Buddha’s teachings appear, and this leads to ideas about the Buddha’s teachings that only resemble the Right Dharma.
A Brahmin who invited the Buddha and five hundred of his disciples to stay in his mansion during the rainy season. Agnidatta was so absorbed by pleasures, however, that he neglected to let the Buddha and his disciples through the gates. Because of this, the monastic assembly had to beg for alms in a time of famine, receiving only horse feed for three months.
Ājñāta-Kauṇḍinya / Ajnata-Kaundinya. Chinese: 阿若憍陳如 oruoqiaochenru.
In Sanskrit, also known as “Kauṇḍinya.” One of the five ascetics Siddhārtha Bodhisattva practiced asceticism with. After the Bodhisattva renounced asceticism in favor of the Middle Way and achieved Buddhahood, Kauṇḍinya was the first to understand the insights of the Buddha during the first turning of the Dharma wheel. He is also the first disciple to take ordination as a monastic.
Akṣayamati Bodhisattva / Aksayamati Bodhisattva. Chinese: 無盡意菩薩 wujinyi pusa.
In Sanskrit, “Inexhaustible Intention.” A bodhisattva who expounds the Akṣayamatinirdesa. In the “Universal Gate Chapter” of The Lotus Sūtra, he asks the Buddha about Avalokiteśvara’s name and attributes; upon hearing the Buddha’s discourse, Akṣayamati gives Avalokiteśvara his necklace of precious gems.
Akṣobhya Buddha / Aksobhya Buddha. Chinese: 阿閦佛 achu fo.
In Sanskrit, Akṣobhya means “Immoveable One”; his Buddha land in the east is called Abhiriti, meaning “Joyous”; He is associated with perfect mirror-like wisdom, and he is one of the five wisdom Buddhas.
all-wisdom. Chinese: 一切智 yiqiezhi. Skt. sarvajñā.
The wisdom of a Buddha, which is the comprehensive knowledge of all things in both the ultimate and conventional truth.
ambrosia. Chinese: 甘露 ganlu. Skt. amṛta.
In Sanskrit, literally “deathless” or “immortal”; in Chinese, this is translated as “ganlu” or in the English rendering of the Chinese, “sweet dew” or “nectar.” This reflects the sweetness and pleasure of the Dharma, compared to the bitterness and pain of the cycle of birth and death. Ambrosia refers to liberation, the aim of practice, and ultimately nirvāṇa.
Amitābha Buddha / Amitabha Buddha. Chinese: 阿彌陀佛 omituo fo.
“Omituo” is the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit word Amitābha Buddha, meaning “Infinite Light” and “Infinite Life.” Amitābha Buddha is usually depicted with Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva and Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva, and this grouping is known as the “three noble ones of the west.” In a past life, when he was Dharma Treasure (Skt. Dharmākara) Bhikṣu, he made forty-eight vows to establish and adorn a Pure Land. After mindfully cultivating for five kalpas, he finally attained Buddhahood, and the realm he adorned became the Western Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.
Āmrapālī / Amrapali.
A well-known courtesan in the kingdom of Vaiśālī during the Buddha’s time. Later in life, she converted to Buddhism and is known for donating her mango grove (Skt. Āmrapālīvana) to the Buddha and his disciples.
Ānanda / Ananda. Chinese: 阿難 o’nan.
One of the Buddha’s ten great disciples. He is known as foremost in hearing much and is a cousin of Siddhārtha Bodhisattva. After the Buddha entered final nirvāṇa, Ānanda recited the teachings of the Buddha and compiled the sūtras in a cave at Rājagṛha, in the Kingdom of Magadha, where the five hundred arhat disciples of the Buddha assembled.
Aniruddha. Chinese: 阿泥盧豆 o’niludou.
One of the ten great disciples of the Buddha. He was Siddhārtha Bodhisattva’s cousin and brother of Mahānāman. Once, Aniruddha was reprimanded by the Buddha for sleeping too much, which motivated him to practice vigorously without sleep, eventually resulting in his blindness. However, Aniruddha continued to practice and attained heavenly eyes, becoming the foremost disciple in that attainment.
Anuttara. Chinese: 阿耨多羅 o’nouduoluo, or 無上 Wushang.
In Sanskrit, “Unsurpassed.” This is an epithet of the Buddha reflecting his unsurpassed morality, meditative concentration, wisdom, and teachings in guiding sentient beings.
anuttara-samyaksaṃbodhi / anuttara-samyaksambodhi / . Chinese: 阿耨多羅三藐三菩提 o’nouduoluo sanmiao sanputi.
In Sanskrit, “supreme, perfect enlightenment.” It refers to the enlightenment of all Buddhas.
Apalāla / Apalala. Chinese: 阿波羅邏 oboluoluo.
A protector of Rājagṛha. As a Brahmin in a former life, he ended a terrible draught with his spiritual power, gaining the favor of the people. When they stopped paying tribute, he became angry and vowed to be reborn as a nāga-king in order to ravage their crops. King Ajātaśatru asked the Buddha for help. Thus, Apalāla was subdued and converted by the Buddha.
Ārāḍa / Arada. Chinese: 阿羅洛 oluoluo.
Along with Udraka, one of Siddhārtha Bodhisattva’s two teachers in meditation before his enlightenment. Also known by his full name, Ārāḍa Kālāma.
arhat. Chinese: 阿羅漢 oluohan.
In Sanskrit, “worthy one.” One who has attained awakening and achieved liberation.
Āśā / Asa. Chinese: 漚舍那 oushe’na.
An upāsikā who was the seventh of the fifty-two teachers that Sudhana encountered on his pilgrimage and search for the teachings of enlightenment.
aśaikṣa / asaiksa. Chinese: 無學 wuxue.
Translated in The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise as “those who have attained arhatship” and “those beyond practitioners.” Aśaikṣa is commonly used as an epithet for an arhat who has attained the fruit of arhatship.
asaṃkhyeya / asamkhyeya. Chinese: 阿僧祇 osengqi.
In Sanskrit, literally, “incalculable” or “infinite.” It is often used in the phrase “incalculable kalpas” (eons) or an extremely large number.
asaṃkhyeya-kalpa / asamkhyeya-kalpa. Chinese: 阿僧祇劫 osenqi jie.
In Sanskrit, an “incalculable eon.” This is the longest designation of a kalpa. The path to Buddhahood is described as taking three asaṃkhyeya-kalpas to complete, since the accumulation of wisdom and merit necessary are infinitely massive.
ascetic. Chinese: 梵志 fanzhi. Skt. brahmacārin.
Literally, it means “one who follows the religious life”; this term identifies those who have taken celibate spiritual paths.
ascetic practice. Chinese: 頭陀 toutuo. Skt. dhūta.
This is the accepted practice of austerities on the Buddhist path. It is the means to cultivate body and mind by sacrificing the comforts of clothing, food, housing, and transportation. Such practices aim to rid one of defilements and afflictions. These are twelve common practices:
(1) living in the wilderness,
(2) only eating what is given in alms,
(3) wearing robes of cast-off rags,
(4) receiving one meal per day,
(5) eating a limited amount,
(6) not drinking broth after noontime,
(7) dwelling in cemeteries,
(8) staying under a tree,
(9) dwelling in an open place,
(10) only sitting and not laying down,
(11) collecting alms in order, and
(12) wearing only the three robes.
asceticism. Chinese: 苦行 kuxing.
These are the austerities of self-mortification the Bodhisattva practiced for the six years prior to his enlightenment. Finding no ultimate benefit in these practices, the Bodhisattva founded the Middle Way, a path avoiding the extreme of self-mortification and sensual indulgence.
Asita. Chinese: 阿夷陀 oyituo.
A respected sage who, upon seeing Siddhārtha Gautama as a newborn, predicted he would become a fully enlightened one because of the thirty-two marks of excellence.
asura. Chinese: 阿修羅 oxiuluo.
In Sanskrit and Pāli, literally, “non-gods.” One of the six realms of existence. Asuras are depicted as malevolent and powerful in Buddhist texts.
ātman / atman. Chinese: 神我 shenwo or 我 wo.
In Sanskrit, “self” or “soul.” A philosophical concept of an independent, eternal, and unchanging identity.
avaivartika. Chinese: 阿毘跋致 obibazhi.
In Sanskrit, “not regressing.” This is a bodhisattva who will not regress on the path to Buddhahood. This means that the faith and understanding realized through practice has reached a point that it is no longer possible for such a bodhisattva to turn back from attaining Buddhahood.
Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva / Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.
Chinese: 觀世音菩薩 guanshiyin pusa. In Sanskrit, Avalokiteśvara means “Observing the Sounds of the World”; he is called the bodhisattva of compassion. Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta assist Amitābha Buddha in the Western Pure Land. Together they are known as the “three noble ones of the west.” Avalokiteśvara and, later, Mahāsthāmaprāpta will become Buddhas after Amitābha and become leaders of the Western Pure Land. Also known as “Guanyin.”
Avīci Hell / Avici Hell. Chinese: 阿鼻地獄 abi diyu.
In Sanskrit, Avīci means “uninterrupted torment.” This is the hell of extreme suffering; transgressors who fall into this hell experience measureless suffering without respite or pause. Those who commit the five great violations fall into this hell.
Bamboo Grove Monastery. Chinese: 竹園 zhuyuan or 竹林精舍 zhulin Jingshe. Skt. Veṇuvana-vihāra.
This is the monastery that King Bimbisāra offered to the Buddha and his disciples in the kingdom of Magadha, near its capital of Rājagṛha. It was the first of such offerings and became a precedent that allowed monastics to accept donations of land offered by the laity.
Bhagavat. Chinese: 世尊 shizun.
Often translated as “World-Honored One” in Chinese, it is one of the epithets of a Buddha. Because the Buddha has accomplished innumerable, perfect virtues, there is no one in the world more honorable than him, hence the epithet.
bhikṣu / bhiksu. Chinese: 比丘 biqiu.
Male members of the Buddhist monastic community who have renounced the household life and received full ordination.
bhikṣuṇī / bhiksuni. Chinese: 比丘尼 biqiuni.
Female members of the Buddhist monastic community who have renounced the household life and received full ordination.
bodhi. Chinese: 菩提 puti.
In Sanskrit and Pāli, “awakening” or “enlightenment”; liberation from the cycle of birth and death by means of perfecting spiritual practice and understanding.
bodhi mind. Chinese: 菩提心.
An aspiration to enlightenment. A mind that strives for enlightenment and to benefit all sentient beings.
bodhi path. Chinese: 菩提道.
The path leading to the benefit of all sentient beings and the aspiration of enlightenment.
bodhi tree. Chinese: 菩提樹 puti shu.
The sacred tree under which the Buddha achieves enlightenment.
bodhisattva. Chinese: 菩薩 pusa.
One who vows to attain Buddhahood and liberate all sentient beings from suffering. While the term can describe a practitioner anywhere on the path to Buddhahood, it usually refers to a class of beings who practice all perfections and remain in the world to help sentient beings achieve enlightenment.
bodhisattva path. Chinese: 菩薩道.
The path that leads to accomplishing the bodhisattvas’ vows and liberating all sentient beings from suffering.
both kinds of liberation. Chinese: 共解脫 gongjietuo. Skt. ubhayatobhāgavimukta.
This form of liberation involves both liberation by way of the four fruits of śramaṇa (i.e. stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner, and arhat), which is called “liberation through wisdom,” and liberation by way of meditative concentration, which is called “liberation of the mind.” All Buddhas and their chief disciples are liberated in both ways, which is the complete experience of awakening.
Brahmā / Brahma / Brahmā Heaven King. Chinese: 梵天王 fantian wang.
He is the ruler of the heaven of the first dhyāna in the form realm and resides in Mahābrahmā Heaven, the Heaven of the Great Brahmā.
Brahmā heavens / Brahma heavens. Chinese: 梵天 fantian.
The three heavens of the first dhyāna in the form realm. These are Brahmā-parisadya Heaven, also known as the Heaven of the Followers of Brahmā; Brahmā-purohita Heaven, also known as the Heaven of the Ministers of Brahmā; and Mahābrahmā Heaven, also known as the Heaven of the Great Brahmā.
Brahmin. Chinese: 婆羅門 poluomen.
This is one of the castes of ancient India, typically made up of priests and scholars, who acted as intermediaries between the gods, the world, and human beings.
Buddha. Chinese: 佛 fo.
In Sanskrit, “Awakened One.” Though there are many Buddhas, the term typically refers to Śākyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha and founder of Buddhism.
Buddha land. Chinese: 佛土 fotu.
This is a transcendental realm created through the vows of a Buddha to help ease the suffering of living beings, should they choose to be reborn there.
Buddha world. Chinese: 佛世界 foshijie.
It is the domain where a Buddha teaches and guides sentient beings.
Buddhahood. Chinese: 佛道 fodao.
This refers to the state of attaining supreme, perfect enlightenment.
Buddhism. Chinese: 佛教.
Founded by Sakyamuni Buddha around 2,500 years ago.
Buddhist canon. Chinese: 三藏 sanzang. Skt. tripiṭaka.
In Sanskrit, “three baskets.” The common organizing system of the Buddhist canon divides the texts into three parts: the sūtra-piṭaka, or basket of discourses; the vinaya-piṭaka, or basket of disciplinary texts; and the abhidharma-piṭaka, or basket of treatises. These are each called a piṭaka, or basket, because of the custom of storing palm-leaf or wooden slips of handwritten texts in baskets in early Buddhism.
caṇḍāla / candala. Chinese: 旃陀羅 zhantuoluo.
This is the lowest level of ancient Indian society, below the four castes; they are considered outcasts or untouchables. They often handle what are considered to be “polluting” jobs, such as butchering, handling waste, carrying out executions, and the disposal of corpses.
causes and conditions. Chinese: 因緣 yinyuan.
This is used to analyze causal relationships in a Buddhist context. A cause denotes the major factor that produces an effect, while a condition is a minor factor whose presence allows for a cause to produce a given effect.
Chaṇḍaka / Chandaka. Chinese: 車匿 che’ni.
Siddhārtha Bodhisattva’s charioteer who accompanied him on the outings when he first witnessed the three sufferings of aging, sickness, and death, and later when he left the palace to renounce the worldly life. Because of this close position to the Buddha, when Chaṇḍaka was later ordained, he became swollen with pride. Thus, the Buddha issued that Chaṇḍaka be shunned by his fellow monastics. Upon hearing this, Chaṇḍaka become contrite for his behavior, learned from Ānanda, and later attained arhatship.
charnel ground. Chinese: 屍陀林 shituolin. Skt. śītavana.
A site where corpses are left to decompose. This setting was regularly used by meditators to contemplate impermanence by watching the decomposition of human bodies.
compassion. Chinese: 悲 bei. Skt. karuṇā.
This is one’s wish to free all sentient beings from suffering.
consciousness. Chinese: 識 shi. Skt. vijñāna.
This includes the six sense consciousnesses of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, and also is one of the five aggregates and the twelve links of dependent origination.
cycle of birth and death. Chinese: 生死 shengsi. Skt. saṃsāra.
When sentient beings die, they are reborn into one of the six realms of existence (heavenly beings, asuras, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings), in a continuous cycle, due to the karmic effects of their deeds. This is also known as transmigration.
Deer Park. Chinese: 鹿林 lulin or 鹿野苑 luyeyuan. Skt. Mṛgadāva.
Located in the present-day city of Sarnath, this is where the Buddha delivered his first teaching, “Turning the Wheel of Dharma,” after his enlightenment. He taught here to the group of five ascetics he formerly practiced with, who later became the first five bhikṣus of Buddhism.
dependent origination. Chinese: 因緣起法 yinyuanqi fa.
This is the Buddhist concept that all phenomena arise and cease due to causes and conditions. Thus, no phenomena possess an inherent nature.
desire realm. Chinese: 欲界 yujie. Skt. kāmadhātu.
This is the lowest of three realms in Buddhist cosmology. All beings of this realm attach to pleasures derived from the senses.
Devadatta. Chinese: 提婆達多 tipodaduo.
A monastic disciple and cousin of Siddhārtha Bodhisattva; he wished to wrest leadership of the saṅgha away from the Buddha and attempted to murder him several times.
deviant speech. Chinese: 邪語 xieyu.
Lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, and flattery.
dhāraṇī / dharani. Chinese: 陀羅尼 tuoluoni.
From the Sanskrit root meaning “to hold” or “to maintain.” Dhāraṇīs are used to retain what is wholesome and to keep out what is unwholesome.
Dharma. Chinese: 法 fa.
A Sanskrit term with multiple meanings, including truth, fundamental principle, and phenomena. When capitalized, it denotes both the ultimate truth and the Buddha’s teachings. When the term appears in lowercase, it is anything that can be thought of, experienced, or named. This usage is close in meaning to the concept of phenomena.
Dharma body. Chinese: 法身 fashen. Skt. Dharmakāya.
It is the true nature of the Buddha, which is present throughout all existence. The Buddha has three bodies: the Dharma body (Skt. Dharmakāya), the reward body (Skt. Sambhogakāya), and the manifested body (Skt. Nirmāṇakāya).
Dharma eyes. Chinese: 法眼 fayan. Skt. dharmacakṣus.
This is the ability to see things as they really are, including the truth of impermanence. Having “attained the pure Dharma eyes” is a commonly used expression meaning that one fully understands the Buddha’s teachings.
Dharma nature. Chinese: 法性 faxing. Skt. dharmatā.
In Sanskrit, “the nature of reality.” It is the inherent nature of all phenomena. This nature is described as being in tranquil repose and without contention.
diamond throne. Chinese: 金剛座 jin’gang zuo. Skt. vajrāsana.
The seat Śākyamuni Buddha took under the bodhi tree where he attained enlightenment. At that seat, the Buddha subdued māra’s temptations and challenges while practicing meditative concentration. Diamond refers to being immutable, indestructible, and powerful. This can also be the symbolic seat of the Buddha at the head of an assembly.
diligence. Chinese: 精進 jingjin. Skt. vīrya.
It is the energy and enthusiasm to perform virtuous deeds. A cure for indolence, diligence takes joy from virtuous tasks and does not apply to nonvirtuous ones.
Dīpaṃkara Buddha. Chinese: 燃燈佛 randeng fo.
In Sanskrit, Dīpaṃkara means “Maker of Light”; this is a Buddha of the past that preceded Śākyamuni in the succession lineage of Buddhas. Dīpaṃkara Buddha gave the Bodhisattva the prediction that he would become a Buddha named Śākyamuni.
dvipadottama. Chinese: 兩足尊 liangzuzun.
In Sanskrit, it literally means “most honored on two feet”; a designation for the Buddha. The two feet are comparable to relative and ultimate [truth], morality and meditative concentration, merit, and wisdom, and understanding and practice; the Buddha has perfected both.
duṣkṛita / duskrita. Chinese: 突吉羅 tujiluo.
In Sanskrit, “wrongdoing.” The term is sometimes translated into Chinese as “minor misdeed” or “light fault.” A duṣkṛita transgression is a minor offense that can be corrected by repentance in the monastic community.
eight classes of celestial beings. Chinese: 天龍八部 tianlong babu.
Heavenly beings, nāgas, yakṣas, asuras, gandharvas, garudas (golden-winged birds), kiṃnaras, and mahoragas.
eight cold hells. Chinese: 八寒冰地獄.
(1) Arbuda Hell. Ch. 頞浮陀. Also known as the Hell of “having some openings.”
(2) Nirarbuda Hell. Ch. 尼羅浮陀. Also known as the Hell of “having no openings.”
(3) Aṭaṭa Hell. Ch. 阿羅羅. Also known as the Hell of “the sound of shivering in the cold.”
(4) Apapa Hell. Ch. 阿婆婆. Also known as the Hell of “the sound of suffering in the cold.”
(5) Huhuva Hell. Ch. 睺睺. Also known as the Hell of “the sound of also suffering in the cold.”
(6) Utpala Hell. Ch. 漚波羅. Also known as the Hell of “outer wall like a blue lotus flower.”
(7) Padma Hell. Ch. 波頭摩. Also known as the Hell of “red lotus flower.”
(8) Mahāpadma Hell. Ch.摩訶波頭摩. Also known as the Hell of the “great lotus” / Great Lotus Hell.
eight difficulties. Chinese: 八難 ba nan.
There are eight kinds of difficulty that impede one’s ability to learn Buddhism: the hell realm; the realm of hungry ghosts; the animal realm; being born in the heavens of the formless realm; being an inhabitant of the “Excellent Continent” (the continent of Uttarakuru); physical or mental disability; being an intelligent debater engaging in worldly sophistry; and being born at a time between Buddhas.
eight great hells. Chinese: 八大地獄.
(1) Hell of Reviving. Ch. 活地獄. Skt. Saṃjīva.
(2) Hell of Black Rope. Ch. 黑繩地獄. Skt. Kālasūtra.
(3) Hell of Compound Converging. 合會地獄. Skt. Saṃghāta.
(4) Hell of Crying Out. Ch. 叫喚地獄. Skt.
(5) Hell of Great Crying Out. 大叫喚地獄. Skt. Mahāraurava.
(6) Hell of Scorching. 熱地獄. Skt. Tāpana.
(7) Hell of Great Scorching. 大熱地獄. Skt. Pratāpana.
(8) Hell of Uninterrupted Torment. Ch. 阿鼻地獄. Skt. Avīci.
eight hot hells. Chinese: 八炎火地獄.
(1) Hell of the Charcoal Pit. Ch. 炭坑地獄. Skt. Kukūla.
(2) Hell of Boiling Excrement. Ch. 沸屎地獄. Skt. Kuṇapa.
(3) Hell of Burning Forest. Ch. 燒林地獄. Skt. Ādīptavana.
(4) Hell of the Forest of Swords. Ch. 劍林地獄. Skt.
(5) Hell of the Road of Knives. Ch. 刀道地獄. Skt. Kṣuramārga.
(6) Hell of the Forest of Iron Spikes. Ch. 鐵刺林地獄. Skt. Ayaḥśalmalivana.
(7) Hell of the Salty River. Ch. 醎河地獄. Skt. Vaitaraṇi.
(8) Hell of Copper Stakes. Ch. 銅橛地獄. Skt. Tāmrastambha.
eight kinds of diligence. Chinese: 八種精進.
(1) Eliminate arisen unwholesomeness, (2) prevent unwholesomeness that has not yet arisen, (3) generate unrisen wholesomeness, (4) increase wholesomeness that has already arisen, (5) diligence of the five faculties, (6) diligence of the five strengths, (7) diligence of the seven factors of awakening, and (8) diligence (also known as “right effort”) of the Noble Eightfold Path.
eight liberations. Chinese: 八背捨 ba beishe.
(1) With (the perception of) inner forms, one contemplates outer forms; (2) without (the perception of) inner forms, one contemplates outer forms; (3) one realizes liberation by contemplating on the impure as pure; (4) one enters the concentration of limitless space; (5) one enters the concentration of limitless consciousness; (6) one enters the concentration of nothingness; (7) one enters the concentration of neither thought nor non-thought; and (8) one enters the concentration of complete cessation.
eight precepts. Chinese: 八關齋戒 baguan zhaijie.
These are eight principles of conduct that a Dharma practitioner vows to uphold on observance days (the six monthly fast days) for “one day and one night,” and sometimes for longer periods of time. In addition to upholding these eight precepts, practitioners do not take meals after midday.
(1) Refrain from killing: This precept means to not violate the life of others. This includes human life, as well as non-human animals, insects, and the like. However, as Buddhism is a religion based upon human beings, the precept to refrain from killing primarily refers to the killing of human beings.
(2) Refrain from stealing: This precept means to not violate the property of others. Stealing can be defined simply as taking anything which was not given.
(3) Refrain from sexual conduct: Unlike the five precepts, the third precept is not to refrain from sexual misconduct but from sexual conduct of any kind.
(4) Refrain from lying: This precept not only includes not speaking words that are false but also includes not speaking words that are divisive, harsh, or idle.
(5) Refrain from consuming intoxicants: This precept means to refrain from any drug that causes one to lose rationality and damage one’s moral character.
(6) Refrain from sitting on high grand seats: This precept means to refrain from a rich material life.
(7) Refrain from wearing flowers or necklaces, or applying perfume to the body or clothing: This precept means to wear clothing that is very simple.
(8) Refrain from singing, dancing, or making music; or watching and listening to shows: This precept means to not enter places of sensual entertainment.
eight realizations of the great ones. Chinese: 八大人念.
(1) Few desires, not many desires; (2) being content, not unsatisfied; (3) quiet tranquility, away from afflictions of the body and mind; (4) being diligent, not indolent; (5) right mindfulness in body, feeling, mind, and phenomena; (6) being in concentration, not distracted; (7) right wisdom, seeing the truth; and (8) right speech, not engaging in frivolity.
eight spheres of mastery. Chinese: 八勝處 ba shengchu.
(1) With the perception of inner forms, one contemplates outer forms, few in number; (2) with the perception of inner forms, one contemplates outer forms, many in number; (3) without the perception of inner forms, one contemplates outer forms, few in number; (4) without the perception of inner forms, one contemplates outer forms, many in number; (5) without the perception of inner forms, one contemplates outer forms in blue; (6) without the perception of inner forms, one contemplates outer forms in yellow; (7) without the perception of inner forms, one contemplates outer forms in red; and (8) without the perception of inner forms, one contemplates outer forms in white.
eighteen exclusive attributes. Chinese: 十八不共法 shiba bugong fa.
(1) Impeccable physical action, (2) impeccable speech, (3) impeccable mindfulness, (4) impartiality, (5) unfailingly concentrated mind, (6) relinquishing all, after having fully understood, (7) undiminishing aspiration, (8) undiminishing diligence, (9) undiminishing mindfulness, (10) undiminishing wisdom, (11) undiminishing liberation, (12) undiminishing liberated knowledge and vision, (13) all physical actions are directed by wisdom, (14) all speech is directed by wisdom, (15) all mental actions are directed by wisdom, (16) he knows the past through wisdom, unimpeded, (17) he knows the future through wisdom, unimpeded, and (18) he knows the present through wisdom, unimpeded.
eighteen realms. Chinese: 十八界 shiba jie.
These are the six sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind), six sense objects (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and dharmas), and six kinds of consciousness (eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness, and mind consciousness).
eighteen types of emptiness. Chinese: 十八空 shiba kong.
(1) emptiness of the internal, (2) emptiness of the external, (3) emptiness of both the internal and the external, (4) emptiness of emptiness, (5) great emptiness, (6) emptiness of the ultimate truth, (7) emptiness of the conditioned, (8) emptiness of the unconditioned, (9) emptiness of the ultimate emptiness, (10) emptiness without beginning, (11) emptiness dispersion, (12) emptiness of [inherent] nature, (13) emptiness of inherent characteristics, (14) emptiness of all dharmas, (15) emptiness of the unobtainable, (16) emptiness of nonexistence, (17) emptiness of existence, and (18) emptiness of nonexistence and existence.
eighty notable characteristics. Also known as eighty minor marks. See thirty-two marks of excellence. [more to come]
Elder Śrīgupta / Elder Srigupta. Chinese: 長者尸利崛多 zhangzhe shili jueduo.
A wealthy lay elder who supported teachers outside of the Way. Once, after inviting the Buddha and his disciples for a food offering, he intended to kill them by hiding a fire pit as a trap and poisoning the food. Through his supernatural powers, the Buddha thwarted all attempts on his life and the lives of the monastics. Śrīgupta then repented for his misdeed.
Elder Sudatta. Chinese: 長者須達多 zhangzhe xudaduo.
Also known as Anāthapiṇḍaka. He was a wealthy lay elder, who was declared “chief among laymen in giving” by the Buddha. His most famous offering is the Jeta Grove Monastery in Śrāvastī.
emptiness. Chinese: 空 kong. Skt. śūnyatā.
This is the concept that everything in the world arises and ceases due to dependent origination and has no permanent self or substance. All phenomena are empty of an independent self.
enlightenment. Chinese: 覺 jue.
The state of awakening to the truth. One awakens to one’s intrinsic nature, thus attaining freedom from all afflictions, suffering, and rebirth in the six realms of existence.
equanimity. Chinese: 捨 she. Skt. upekṣā.
Non-attachment, even-mindedness, and impartiality. It is the fourth immeasurable mind.
fetters. Chinese: 結 jie. Skt. saṃyojana.
Another name for affliction. Fetters bind sentient beings in the cycle of birth and death and impede them from attaining nirvāṇa.
field of merit. Chinese: 福田 futian. Skt. puṇyakṣetra.
Giving is like planting a field: regardless of the seeds being planted, they must be planted in a good field to yield a good harvest. Those who are worthy of respect are the best fields of merit, such as the Triple Gem, bodhisattvas, and arhats.
final nirvāṇa / final nirvana. Chinese: 般涅槃 boniepan or 滅度 miedu. Skt. parinirvāṇa.
When the Buddha passes away and relinquishes his physical body, it is called final nirvāṇa.
five aggregates. Chinese: 五眾 wuzhong or 五陰 wuyin. Skt. skandha.
The five aggregates, also known as the “five heaps” or “five components,” are the five factors that make up sentient beings. “Aggregate” here means accumulation, as in the accumulations of five kinds of conditioned phenomena: form, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.
five aspects of teaching.
Aspiration, effort, mindfulness, discerning wisdom, and single-mindedness.
five bhikṣus / five bhiksus. Chinese: 五比丘 wu biqiu. Skt. pañcavargika.
This was the group of five ascetics who were with the Bodhisattva during his six years of asceticism but left when he renounced the practice. Following his enlightenment, the Buddha sought out the five ascetics, and after hearing his teachings, they became his first disciples.
five eyes. Chinese: 五眼 wuyan. Skt. pañcacakṣus.
These are five different states of vision that can be achieved with the eyes: the eyes of flesh, the heavenly eyes, also known as heavenly vison, the wisdom eyes, the Dharma eyes, and the Buddha eyes.
five degenerations. Chinese: 五濁 wuzhuo; 五惡 wue.
The kalpa degeneration, view degeneration, affliction degeneration, sentient being degeneration, and lifespan degeneration.
five faculties. Chinese: 五根 wugen. Skt. indriya.
The five faculties crucial to development on the spiritual path: faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom.
five great violations. Chinese: 五逆罪 wunizui.
Killing one’s father, killing one’s mother, killing an arhat, shedding the blood of a Buddha, and creating a schism in the monastic community.
five hindrances. Chinese: 五蓋 wugai.
Desire, anger, sleepiness, agitation and remorse, and doubt.
five lower fetters.
Greed, anger, views of the body, views attached to immorality, and doubt. These five are tethered to the desire realm.
five precepts. Chinese: 五戒 wujie. Skt. pañcaśīla.
These are the fundamental principles of conduct and discipline that were established by the Buddha for wholesome and harmonious living: refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and consuming alcohol and intoxicants.
five realms of existence. Chinese: 五道 wudao.
These are the realms of heavenly beings, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings.
five robes. Chinese: 五衣 wu yi. Skt. pañca cīvarāṇi.
The outer robe (Skt. saṃghātī), the lower robe or waistcloth (Skt. antarvāsa), the upper robe (Skt. uttarāsaṅga), the robe that covers the shoulders (Skt. saṃkakṣikā), and the underskirt (Skt. kusūlaka) make up the five robes for female Buddhist monastics.
five sense desires.
This refers to wonderful form, sound, smell, taste, touch. All who seek meditative concentration must abandon these.
five strengths. Chinese: 五力 wuli. Skt. bala.
These are the five faculties when fully developed into strengths of the spiritual practitioner: faith, diligence, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom.
five supernatural powers. Chinese: 五神通 wu shentong. See six supernatural powers.
Flower Adornment Sutra. Chinese: 大方廣佛華嚴經. Skt. Mahavaipulya-buddhavatamsaka-sūtra.
Also known as the Avatamsaka Sūtra. It has been the foundation for many Buddhist thinkers and practitioners throughout the ages. It is the basis for the East Asian Huayan (華嚴) School of Buddhist philosophy.
form realm. Chinese: 色界 sejie. Skt. rūpadhātu.
This is one of the three realms in Buddhist cosmology, located above the desire realm and below the formless realm. Beings in the form realm have superior forms and are sustained by the pleasure of meditative concentration. However, they are still subject to death and rebirth.
formless realm. Chinese: 無色界 wusejie. Skt. ārūpadhātu.
This is the highest realm of the three realms in Buddhist cosmology. Beings reborn here exist entirely as mental beings, no longer needing even the most subtle of forms, yet they are still subject to death and rebirth.
four bases of mindfulness. Chinese: 四念處 si nianchu.
These are objects of contemplation for practitioners to establish right mindfulness and achieve liberation, or nirvāṇa: contemplate the impurities of the body, contemplate the suffering of feelings, contemplate the impermanence of the mind, and contemplate the non-selfhood of phenomena.
four bases of spiritual power. Chinese: 四如意足 si ruyi zu. Skt. ṛddhipāda.
Aspiration, effort, mind, and contemplation.
four comportments of the body. Chinese: 四威儀 si weiyi.
These are the four postures of physical activity: walking, standing, sitting, and lying down.
four conditions. Chinese: 四緣 si yuan.
Causal conditions (Skt. hetu–pratyaya), comparable uninterrupted conditions (Skt. samanantara–pratyaya), object conditions (Skt. ālambana), and advancing conditions (Skt. adhipati–pratyaya).
four continents. Chinese: 四天下 si tianxia.
According to an ancient Indian perception of the world, the “four continents” are oriented around Mount Sumeru in each of the cardinal directions: Jambudvīpa in the south, Pūrvavideha (also known as Videha) in the east, Aparagodānīya (also known as Godānīya) in the west, and Uttarakuru in the north.
four dhyānas or four fundamental dhyānas. Chinese: 四禪 si chan or 四根本禪 si genben chan.
These are states of deep meditative concentration in which the mind becomes progressively more pure and refined. In the first dhyāna, the mind has completely withdrawn from sense desire, but is still capable of searching and examining, and one feels joy and bliss; in the second dhyāna, searching and examining fade away, only very subtle forms of thinking remain, and one feels great joy; in the third dhyāna, the mind becomes even quieter and one feels great bliss; and in the fourth dhyāna, even subtle forms of thought and sense of bliss fade away in equanimity, and one’s mind is perfectly still and unmoved. Those who master any of these concentrations will be reborn in one of the corresponding heavens of the form realm.
four directions. Chinese: 四方.
Also known as the four cardinal directions: north, west, east, and south.
four fearlessnesses. Chinese: 四無所畏 si wusuowei.
The Buddha’s fearlessness derives from his knowledge of all phenomena, his knowledge that all the outflows are eliminated, his ability to expound all the obstacles to liberation, and his teachings on the noble path, which can end all sufferings and lead to nirvāṇa.
four formless concentrations. Chinese: 四空定 si kongding. Skt. arupyacaradhyana.
These are (1) the concentration of limitless space (Skt. ākāśānantyāyatana-samāpatti), (2) the concentration of limitless consciousness (Skt. vijñānānantyāyatana-samāpatti), (3) the concentration of nothingness (Skt. ākiṃcanyāyatana-samāpatti), and (4) the concentration of neither thought nor non-thought (Skt. naiva-saṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana). Those who master any of these meditative concentrations can be reborn in one of the corresponding heavens of the formless realm.
four fruits of arhatship. Chinese: 四果 siguo. See fruits of śramaṇa.
four great elements. Chinese: 四大 sida. Skt. mahābhūta.
Earth, or solidity; water, or fluidity; fire, or heat; and wind, or movement. The combinations of these elements make up the physical world.
four heavenly kings. Chinese: 四天王 si tianwang.
They reside in the Heaven of the Four Kings, which is the lowest of the six heavens in the desire realm and located on the upper slopes of Mount Sumeru. They are the protectors of the world guarding over the four cardinal directions: Dhṛtarāṣṭra guards the east; Virūḍhaka guards the south; Virūpākṣa guards the west; and Vaiśravaṇa, the chief of the four kings, guards the north.
four immeasurable minds. Chinese: 四無量心 si wuliang xin. Skt. apramāṇa.
Also called the Brahmā abode. These are loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. One can fill one’s mind with loving-kindness, and expand that to eventually include all beings in all directions. The same is done with compassion, joy, and equanimity.
Four Noble Truths. Chinese: 四聖諦 sishengdi.
A fundamental and essential teaching of Buddhism that describes (1) suffering, (2) the cause of suffering, (3) the cessation of suffering, and (4) the path leading to the cessation of suffering.
four right efforts. Chinese: 四正勤 si zhengqin. Skt. samyak prahāṇa.
Eliminate arisen unwholesomeness, prevent unwholesomeness that has not yet arisen, generate unrisen wholesomeness, and increase wholesomeness that has already arisen.
four statements. Chinese: 四句 si ju. Skt. catuṣkoṭika.
In this form of argument, one examines four possible evaluations of a topic. These are expressed in two ways: one is A, B, both A and B, and neither A nor B; and the other is A, not A, both A and not A, and neither A nor not A. This appears in questions formulated by those outside of the Way, speculating on the metaphysical reality of the world and self, which when asked, the Buddha does not answer. Nāgārjuna used this to examine the possible outcome of each possible answer to various questions, eventually finding that any absolute position is unacceptable.
four unobstructed wisdoms. Chinese: 四無礙智 si wu’aizhi or 四辯 si bian. Skt. pratisaṃvid.
These are forms of wisdom in terms of meaning, teaching, expression, and explanation.
fourfold assembly. Chinese: 四眾 sizhong.
The collective name for bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇis, upāsakas, and upāsikās.
fourfold faith. Chinese: 四信 sixin.
This is the unwavering faith in the Buddha, the Dharma, the Saṅgha, and morality.
fourteen mental states of transformation. Chinese: 十四變化心 shisi bianhua xin.
The mental states of transformation obtained through meditative concentration: the first dhyāna has two: associated with the desire realm and the first dhyāna; the second dhyāna has three: the desire realm, the first dhyāna, and the second dhyāna; the third dhyāna has four: the desire realm, the first dhyāna, the second dhyāna, and the third dhyāna; and the fourth dhyāna has five: the desire realm, the first dhyāna, the second dhyāna, the third dhyāna, and the fourth dhyāna.
fourteen questions. Chinese: 十四難 shisi nan. Skt. avyākṛta.
The fourteen questions are not related to life and liberation, so the Buddha refused to answer them; in The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise, it is explained that answering these will lead one to fall into further delusion.
fruits of śramaṇa / fruits of sramana. Chinese: 沙門果 shamen guo.
There are four fruits of śramaṇa, or four levels of great spiritual attainment: stream-enterer (Skt. srota–āpanna), once-returner (Skt. sakṛdāgāmin), non-returner (Skt. anāgāmin), and arhat. The first three are practitioners (Skt. śaikṣas), while arhats are known as those beyond practitioners (Skt. aśaikṣas). This is synonymous with four fruits of arhatship. See aśaikṣa and śaikṣa.
gandharva. Chinese: 犍闥婆 jiandapo.
Usually described as “heavenly musicians,” they are one of the eight classes of celestial beings. They can function as heavenly attendants, fly through space, and serve as musicians in the courts of heavenly beings.
Ganges River. Chinese: 恒河 heng he.
This is the largest river in India, where many of the important kingdoms that supported the Buddha and the saṅgha, and later Buddhism as a whole, were based. A common saying in Buddhist texts is, “as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges River.” This phrase is used as a simile for infinity because of how extremely fine in texture the sand in the Ganges is reputed to be.
Gautamī / Gautami. Chinese: 瞿曇彌 qutanmi.
Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī was Siddhārtha Bodhisattva’s aunt, who raised him after his mother’s death. The bhikṣuṇī order was established as a result of her requests to Śākyamuni Buddha, and she was the very first one to be ordained. Later she attained arhatship.
giving. Chinese: 布施 bushi. Skt. dāna.
The forms of giving are explained as giving material things, giving fearlessness, and giving the Dharma as is needed by sentient beings. Giving relieves the receivers of their worry and despair while helping the givers eliminate greed. Giving is like planting a field: regardless of the seeds being planted, they must be planted in a good field to yield a good harvest. Those who are worthy of respect are the best fields of merit, such as the Triple Gem, bodhisattvas, and arhats.
Godānīya / Godaniya. Chinese: 劬陀尼 qutuoni. See four continents.
golden-winged bird. Chinese: 金翅鳥 jinchiniao. Skt. garuḍa.
One of the eight classes of celestial beings. Garuḍa are often in attendance at the Buddha’s teachings, and they are natural enemies with, and feed on, nāgas.
gośīrṣa sandalwood / gosirsa sandalwood. Chinese: 牛頭栴檀 niutou zhantan. Skt. gośīrṣa candana.
Sometimes translated as “ox head” sandalwood, “cow’s-head” sandalwood, or red sandalwood. It is a very fragrant variety of sandalwood that is brass in color. The first statue of the Buddha, commissioned by King Udayana-vatsa (or Udayana) of Kauśāmbī, was sculpted of gośīrṣa sandalwood. Gośīrṣa sandalwood is often used as analogy for the precious Dharma.
Great Vehicle. Chinese: 大乘.
Also known as Mahayana Buddhism. It is one of the major branches of Buddhism, and is the form of Buddhism prominent in North Asia, including China, Mongolia, Tibet, Korea, and Japan.
group of six bhikṣus / six bhiksus. Chinese: 六群比丘 liuqun biqiu. Skt. ṣaḍvārgika.
A notorious group of six monks whose misbehavior led to the promulgation of many rules of conduct for the Buddhist order, as documented in the Vinaya. The names of the six vary in different texts.
habitual tendency. Chinese: 習(氣) xi(qi). Skt. vāsanā.
In Sanskrit, literally, “perfuming.” A subtle tendency created by the mind as a result of repeated conditioning by positive or negative experiences. This is like the smell of incense that remains in the censer after the incense itself has burned away. These subtle afflictions can obstruct one’s attainment of Buddhahood. Even arhats or pratyekabuddhas may still have traces of habitual tendencies. Only the Buddha has fully eliminated them.
heaven. Chinese: 天 tian.
In Buddhist cosmology, there are heavens within the three realms of the world. While the texts may differ in the total number of heavens, a common description lists twenty-eight in total as follows:
(A) heavens of the desire realm (Chinese: 欲界天 yujie tian):
1) Heaven of the Four Kings. Ch. 四天王天 si tian wang tian. Skt. Caturmahārājika (Heaven).
2) Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods. Ch. 三十三天 sanshisan tian /忉利天 daoli tian. Skt. Trāyastriṃśat (Heaven).
3) Heaven of Timely Restraint. Ch. 夜摩天 yemo tian. Skt. Yāma (Heaven).
4) Heaven of Contentedness. Ch. 兜率陀天 doushuaituo tian / 兜率天 doushuai tian. Skt. Tuṣita (Heaven).
5) Heaven of Joyful Creation. Ch. 化自在天 hua zizai tian / 化樂天 hua le tian. Skt. Nirmāṇarati (Heaven).
6) Heaven of Robbing Others’ Pleasures. Ch. 他化自在天 tahua zizai tian. Skt. Paranirmita–vaśavartin (Heaven).
(B) heavens of the form realm (Chinese: 色界天 sejie tian), which are further divided into
1) heavens of the first dhyāna (Chinese: 初禪天 chuchan tian):
a) Heaven of the Followers of Brahmā. Ch. 梵眾天 fan zhong tian. Skt. Brahmā–pāriṣadya (Heaven).
b) Heaven of the Ministers of Brahmā. Ch. 梵輔天 fan fu tian. Skt. Brahmā–purohita (Heaven).
c) Heaven of the Great Brahmā. Ch. 大梵天 dafan tian. Skt. Mahābrahmā (Heaven).
2) heavens of the second dhyāna (Chinese: 二禪天 erchan tian):
a) Heaven of Limited Radiance. 少光天 shaoguang tian. Skt. Parīttābha (Heaven).
b) Heaven of Infinite Radiance. 無量光天 wuliang guang tian. Skt. Apramāṇābhā (Heaven).
c) Heaven of Radiant Sound. 光音天 guangyin tian. Skt. Ābhāsvara (Heaven).
3) heavens of the third dhyāna (Chinese: 三禪天 sanchan tian):
a) Heaven of Limited Purity. Ch. 少淨天 shaojing tian. Skt. Parīttaśubha (Heaven).
b) Heaven of Infinite Purity. Ch. 無量淨天 waliang jing tian. Skt. Apramāṇaśubha (Heaven).
c) Heaven of Pervasive Purity. Ch. 遍淨天 bianjing tian. Skt. Śubhakṛtsna (Heaven).
4) heavens of the fourth dhyāna (Chinese: 四禪天 sichan tian):
a) Heaven Produced by Virtue. Ch. 福生天 fusheng tian. Skt. Puṇyaprasava (Heaven).
b) Heaven of Lovers of Virtue. Ch. 福愛天fu ai tian; also known as “Heaven Without Clouds” Ch. 無雲天 wuyun tian; (transliteration)
Ch. 阿那跋羅伽 anabaluojia. Skt. Anabhraka (Heaven).
c) Heaven of Bountiful Fruits 廣果天 guangguo tian / 大果天 daguo tian. Skt. Bṛhatphala (Heaven).
d) Heaven Without Thought. Ch. 無想天wuxiang Skt. Asaṃjñisattvāḥ (Heaven).
e) Heaven Without Affliction. Ch. 無煩天 wufan tian. Skt. Avṛha (Heaven).
f) Heaven Without Heat. Ch. 無熱天 wure tian. Skt. Atapa (Heaven).
g) Heaven of Skillful Vision. Ch. 善見天 shanjian tian. Skt. Sudarśana (Heaven).
h) Heaven of Skillful Manifestation. Ch. 善現天 shanxian tian. Skt. Sudṛśa (Heaven).
i) Supreme Heaven of the Form Realm. Ch. 色究竟天 se jiujing tian. Skt. Akaniṣṭha (Heaven).
(C) heavens of the formless realm (Chinese: 無色界天 wusejie tian):
1) Heaven of Limitless Space. Ch. 空無邊處天 kong wubian chu tian / 虛空處天 xukong chu tian.
Skt. Ākāśānantyāyatana (Heaven).
2) Heaven of Limitless Consciousness. Ch. 識無邊處天 shi wubian chu tian / 識處天 shi chu tian.
Skt. Vijñānānantyāyatana (Heaven).
3) Heaven of Nothingness. Ch. 無所有處天 wu suoyou chu tian. Skt. Ākiñcanyāyatana (Heaven).
4) Heaven of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought. Ch. 非有想非無想處天 fei youxiang fei wuxiang chu tian.
Skt. Naiva–saṃjñānāsaṃjñāyatana (Heaven).
Heaven of Pervasive Purity. Chinese: 遍淨天 bianjing tian. Skt. Śubhakṛtsna.
This is the highest heaven of the third dhyāna in the form realm. It is called pervasive purity because the heavenly beings here glow with a steady radiance.
heavenly beings. Chinese: 天人 tianren. Skt. deva.
One of the six realms of existence. It is the highest realm of rebirth, where heavenly beings enjoy the full range of pleasures possible to sentient beings. Rebirth as a heavenly being is the karmic effect of virtuous deeds in previous lifetimes, but these effects are only temporary, as they are still part of the cycle of birth and death.
heavenly eyes. Chinese: 天眼 tianyan. Skt. divyacakṣus.
Also known as “heavenly vision,” this is one of the six supernatural powers and three supernatural knowledges. Those with heavenly eyes have the ability to not only see things that are far away, but also to see through obstruction, to see in darkness, and to observe in which realm beings will be reborn after their deaths.
Heavens of the Pure Abodes. Chinese: 淨居天 jingju tian. Skt. Śuddhāvāsa.
A term used to refer collectively to the five highest of the heavens in the fourth dhyāna: Heaven Without Affliction, Heaven Without Heat, Heaven of Skillful Vision, Heaven of Skillful Manifestation, and Supreme Heaven of the Form Realm; these heavens are the abode of non-returners. See heavens.
hungry ghost. Chinese: 餓鬼 e’gui.
One of the six realms of existence. Those who are reborn in this realm have committed the ten unwholesome actions and suffer from insatiable appetites.
ignorance. Chinese: 無明 wuming or 癡 chi. Skt. avidyā̄.
It is a misunderstanding of reality. Ignorance sustains the cycle of birth and death and keeps sentient beings bound to it.
impermanence. Chinese: 無常 wuchang. Skt. anitya.
All phenomena do not remain fixed and constant, but instead undergo a process of arising, abiding, changing, and ceasing. Impermanence means that there is not one single thing in this world that is unchanging and exists forever.
Indra. Chinese: 因提梨 yintili. See Śakra.
intermediate state. Chinese: 中陰 zhongyin. Skt. antarābhava.
This is the state between death and rebirth, which may last up to forty-nine days.
intrinsic nature. Chinese: 自性.
It has many names, including “Buddha nature,” “Dharma body,” “body of inherent purity,” “Tathagata nature,” and “awakened nature.” It is a quality that is originally complete in and of itself. It cannot be influenced or altered by external factors.
Jambudvīpa / Jambudvipa. Chinese: 閻浮提 yanfuti.
Literally, “the Land of Jambu Trees”; “Jambu” is a species of tree, and “dvipa” is the word for land or continent. One of four continents situated around Mount Sumeru. Buddhas appear only on this continent.
Jataka / Jataka. Chinese: 本生經 bensheng jing.
In Sanskrit, “birth” or “nativity.” Stories of the past lives of the Buddha.
Jeta Grove Monastery. Chinese: 祇樹給孤獨園 qishu jigudu yuan. Skt. Jetavana.
This monastery was donated by Elder Sudatta of Sravasti. Elder Sudatta took joy in good works and charitable acts; thus, he was called Anathapindaka, meaning “benefactor of the poor and orphaned” in Sanskrit. It was his sincere faith in the Buddha that inspired Prince Jeta to donate his garden and later to supply funds to help construct a monastery.
joy. Chinese: 喜 xi. Skt. muditā.
It is the third of the immeasurable minds. This is one’s wish to bring joy to all sentient beings.
kāla / kala. Chinese: 迦羅 jialuo.
One of the two Sanskrit terms for time mentioned in The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise. Kāla is time as a general concept, including years, months, seasons, or any time period. Those outside of the Way hold the mistaken view of time as a real entity and this is reflected in this word. See samaya.
kalaviṅka / kalavinka. Chinese: 迦陵毘伽 jialingpijia.
A mythical bird said to come from the Himalaya Mountains. Their incredibly beautiful songs can be heard even before hatching from their egg and are compared to the Buddha’s and bodhisattvas’ voice.
kalpa. Chinese: 劫 jie.
An Indic unit of time measurement, this is roughly equivalent to the concept of an eon. There are three types: small kalpas, medium kalpas, and great kalpas. A medium kalpa is the length of twenty small kalpas. A great kalpa is the length of four medium kalpas. A great kalpa is the length of time that a world system undergoes a cycle of formation, abiding, destruction, and void. During the period of destruction, the three thousandfold world system undergoes destruction by fire, by water, or by wind.
Kapilavastu. Chinese: 迦毘羅婆 jiapiluopo.
This is where Siddhārtha Bodhisattva was raised and lived as a prince until he renounced his household life. Kapilavastu was the country of the Śākya clan and was located north of Kośala.
karma. Chinese: 業 ye.
It is the action produced by one’s body, speech, and mind. The fortunes and misfortunes of life are all generated by one’s karma.
Kāśyapa brothers / Kasyapa brothers. Chinese: 迦葉兄弟 jiashe xiongdi.
Also known as the three Kāśyapa brothers. They were fire worshipers and ascetics with a following of one thousand disciples. Eventually, the Buddha converted each of them through his wisdom and virtue.
Kāśyapa Buddha / Kasyapa Buddha. Chinese: 迦葉佛 jiashe fo.
The sixth of the Seven Ancient Buddhas and the third Buddha of the present kalpa.
Kātyāyanīputra / Katyayaniputra. Chinese: 迦旃延尼子 jiazhanyannizi.
Author of The Eight-Category Generation of Wisdom Treatise [Jñāna-prasthāna-aṣṭagrantha], the central text of the Sarvāstivāda School.
Kauśambī / Kausambi. Chinese: 拘睒彌 jushanmi.
In Ancient India, it was the capital of the large kingdom Vatsā. Sometimes, it was also referred to as a country unto itself.
Kauśika / Kausika. Chinese: 憍尸迦 qiaoshijia.
The name of Śakra (also known as Indra or Śakra Devānām Indra) in a previous lifetime when he was a Brahmin priest. This name is used in Buddhist texts to address Śakra in a more friendly fashion. See Śakra.
kiṃnara / kimnara. Chinese: 甄陀羅 zhentuoluo.
One of the eight classes of celestial beings. They look similar to humans but with small horns. They are skilled musicians and dancers of Śakra.
King Ajātaśatru / King Ajatasatru. Chinese: 阿闍世王 asheshi wang.
The son of King Bimbisāra of Magadha, and his successor as king. Originally, Prince Ajātaśatru was a disciple of Devadatta, who convinced the prince to kill his father, the king, and usurp the throne. Eventually, King Ajātaśatru felt remorse for his wrongdoing and sought forgiveness from the Buddha, becoming his disciple and patron.
King Aśoka / King Asoka (ca. 304–232 BCE). Chinese: 阿育王 ayu wang.
He was King of the Maurya Kingdom and the first to rule over a united India. He also was the foremost royal patron of Buddhism in India.
King Bimbisāra / King Bimbisara. Chinese: 頻婆娑羅王 pinposuoluo wang.
King of Magadha Kingdom and one of the chief royal patrons of the Buddha. He reigned from his capital city of Rājagṛha.
King of Hell. Chinese: 閻羅王.
Also called King Yama or King of the Dead. He is said to supervise the hell realm.
King Mūrdhagata / King Murdhagata. Chinese: 頂生轉輪王 dingsheng zhuanlun wang.
Śākyamuni Buddha in a previous life when he became a wheel-turning monarch. He ruled over all four continents and eventually shared the throne of Śakra to rule over the Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods. Though his achievement was already great, he considered killing Śakra so he could reign alone. He died shortly after thinking this.
King Prasenajit. Chinese: 波斯匿王 bosini wang.
The ruler of the Kingdom of Kośala during the lifetime of Śākyamuni Buddha. He was often the archetype for proper Buddhist kingship because of his dedication to the saṅgha and the Dharma.
King Śuddhodana / King Suddhodana. Chinese: 淨飯王 jingfan wang.
In Sanskrit, literally, “Pure Rice.” He was Siddhārtha Bodhisattva’s father, a king of the Śākya clan, and ruler of the city of Kapilavastu.
King Udayana. Chinese: 優填王/憂填王 youtian wang.
Ruler of Kauśāmbī, in the Kingdom of Vatsa, during the lifetime of Śākyamuni Buddha. He commissioned the first statue of the Buddha, which was sculpted of gośīrṣa sandalwood.
King Virūḍhaka / King Virudhaka. Chinese: 毘樓璃王 pilouli wang.
Son of King Prasenajit; after he took over the throne, he invaded Kapilavastu and massacred the Śākya clan during the Buddha’s time.
King Yama. Chinese: 閻羅王.
Yama is the lord of death. Birth, old age, sickness, and punishment are his messengers sent to remind people to act virtuously and avoid misdeeds.
Kośala / Kosala. Chinese: 憍薩羅 qiaosaluo.
During the Buddha’s life, this was an important Indian kingdom situated in the foothills of modern-day Nepal, in the Ganges River Basin. Kośala’s capital was in Śrāvastī and was one of the two strongest kingdoms during the Buddha’s time, the other being Magadha.
koṭi / koti. Chinese: 倶胝 juzhi or 億 yi.
In Sanskrit and Pāli, literally “end.” It is a large number defined as ten million in The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise.
Kṣatriya / Ksatriya. Chinese: 剎利種 chalizhong.
In Sanskrit, “warrior” or “royalty.” The four castes of traditional Indian society include Kṣatriya, which Siddhārtha Bodhisattva belonged to, as well as Brahmin (priests), Vaisya (merchants, artisans, farmers, and tradesmen), and Sudra (laborers and servants).
kumbhāṇḍa / kumbhanda. Chinese: 鳩槃茶 jiupantu.
A class of malevolent misshapen spirits who are described as having testicles shaped like large pots, being able to shape-shift, and feeding on the vitality of humans.
Kuśalamūla / Kusalamula. Chinese: 善根 shan’gen.
In Sanskrit, “roots of wholesomeness.” Namely, non-greed, non-anger, and non-ignorance. They are referred to as “roots” because from them all virtues, all wholesome actions, arise.
Kuśinagara / Kusinagara. Chinese: 俱夷那竭 juyinajie.
A town located in what is now Uttar Pradesh, India. This is the location where the Buddha entered his final nirvāṇa (Skt. parinirvāṇa).
liberation. Chinese: 解脫 jietuo. Skt. vimokṣa.
It is freedom from all afflictions, sufferings, and the cycle of birth and death.
lion’s roar. Chinese: 師子吼 shizihou. Skt. siṃhanāda.
A metaphor used to describe the teachings of the Buddha and his disciples. When the lion roars, all other animals become silent and listen. So too, when the Buddha proclaims the Dharma, all sentient beings are awakened to the truth.
lokapāla / lokapala. Chinese: 護世者 hushizhe.
In Sanskrit, “world protectors.” This is a title and name for the four heavenly kings, who were entrusted with the protection of the beings of the world after listening to the Buddha’s teachings.
Lokavid. Chinese: 路迦憊 lujiabei.
In Sanskrit, “Knower of the World.” This is an epithet of the Buddha, reflecting his profound knowledge of the characteristics of sentient beings and the insentient as neither permanent nor impermanent, neither finite nor infinite, and neither going nor not going.
loving-kindness. Chinese: 慈 ci. Skt. maitrī.
This is one’s wish to bring all sentient beings joy and happiness.
Lumbinī Garden / Lumbini Garden. Chinese: 嵐毘尼園 lanbini yuan.
The birthplace of Siddhārtha Bodhisattva, located in what is now the Terai Region of modern-day Nepal.
Magadha. Chinese: 摩伽陀國 moqietuoguo.
A large and powerful kingdom in Northern India during the Buddha’s lifetime. Two of Magadha’s rulers, first King Bimbisāra and then his son who usurped him, Ajātaśatru, were major royal patrons to the Buddha and the saṅgha. Magadha’s capital was Rājagṛha.
Mahākāśyapa / Mahakasyapa. Chinese: 摩訶迦葉 mohe jiashe.
One of the ten great disciples of the Buddha. He is known as foremost in ascetic practices and is considered the first patriarch of the Indian Chan School of Buddhism.
Mahākātyāyana / Mahakatyayana. Chinese: 摩訶迦旃延 mohe jiazhanyan.
Also known as Kātyāyana. He was one of the ten great disciples of the Buddha and known as foremost among the disciples in his ability to explain and debate the Buddha’s teachings.
Mahāmaudgalyāyana / Mahamaudgalyayana. Chinese: 摩訶目伽連 mohe mujianlian.
Also known as Maudgalyāyana. He was one of the ten great disciples of the Buddha and known as foremost in supernatural power.
Mahānāman / Mahanaman. Chinese: 摩訶男 mohe’nan.
The ruler of the Śākya clan during the Buddha’s later life. He was Aniruddha’s older brother and Siddhārtha Bodhisattva’s cousin. Mahānāman was declared by the Buddha to be the foremost of lay disciples in offering good food. Not only notable for his generosity to the Buddha and the saṅgha, but he was also deeply interested in the Dharma.
mahāsattva / mahasattva. Chinese: 摩訶薩 mohesa.
In Sanskrit, “great being.” One who has an unwavering great brave mind, great loving-kindness, and compassion toward sentient beings, practices the great vehicle, and vows to cultivate and attain Buddhahood. This is an epithet of an advanced bodhisattva.
Mahāsthāmaprāpta Bodhisattva / Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva. Chinese: 大勢至菩薩 dashizhi pusa.
In Sanskrit, Mahāsthāmaprāpta means “Arrival of Great Strength”; Mahāsthāmaprāpta is a bodhisattva-mahāsattva that represents the power of wisdom. Along with Avalokiteśvara, he assists Amitābha Buddha in the Western Pure Land. Together they are known as the “three noble ones of the west.” Mahāsthāmaprāpta practiced the mindful recitation of Amitābha Buddha’s name and attained the “patience of the non-arising of phenomena,” the highest level of patience. This is why he teaches sentient beings to recite Amitābha Buddha’s name and receives them into the Pure Land.
Mahāyāna / Mahayana. Chinese: 摩訶衍 moheyan or 大乘 Dasheng.
Sanskrit for “Great Vehicle.” It stresses that helping other sentient beings to achieve enlightenment is as important as self-liberation.
Maheśvara / Mahesvara. Chinese: 摩醯首羅天 moxi shouluotian.
Literally, “great sovereign.” He is described as the heavenly king of a great thousandfold world who resides in the supreme heaven of the form realm.
mahoraga. Chinese: 摩睺羅伽 mohouluoqie.
One of the eight classes of celestial beings. They are large serpents described as having the body of humans and the head of a serpent.
Maitreya Bodhisattva. Chinese: 彌勒菩薩 mile pusa.
In Sanskrit, “Loving-Kindness One”; he is called the bodhisattva of joy. He is the future Buddha of our world. He currently presides over Tuṣita Heaven where he is expounding the Dharma to heavenly beings.
Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva / Manjusri Bodhisattva. Chinese: 文殊師利菩薩 wenshu shili pusa.
In Sanskrit, “Wondrous Virtue” or “Wondrous Auspiciousness”; he has the wisdom to see the true nature of all phenomena and thus is known as the bodhisattva of wisdom. He and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva are usually depicted as standing on the left and right side, respectively, of Śākyamuni Buddha.
māra / mara. Chinese: 魔 mo.
That which tempts one away from one’s virtues and wholesome deeds in spiritual progress. There are four kinds of māra: the māra of affliction; the māra of five aggregates; the māra of death; and the heavenly being māra of the Paranirmita-vaśavartin Heaven. The māra king refers to the heavenly being māra.
Maudgalyāyana / Maudgalyayana. Chinese: 目犍連 mujianlian. See Mahāmaudgalyāyana.
meditative concentration. Chinese: 禪定 chanding.
This is a state of mind without distraction; it is the capacity to fix and maintain one’s mind on the object of meditation of one’s choice.
mental formations. Chinese: 行 xing. Skt. saṃskāra.
From ignorance, the actions of body, mind, and speech arise, which creates wholesome or unwholesome karma; therefore, they are called mental formations.
merit. Chinese: 福 fu. Skt. puṇya.
The karmic effect of virtuous deeds; merit is the store of wholesome and beneficial karma that will fructify in one’s current or future lives.
middle kingdom. Chinese: 中國 zhongguo. Skt. madhyadeśa.
This is the area in northwestern India where the Buddha traveled and taught. It is usually referred to in texts as civilized regions, in contrast with borderlands outside of the middle kingdom that mleccha inhabit. It is considered a fortunate rebirth to be born in the middle kingdom because of one’s access to the Dharma. See mleccha.
Middle Way. Chinese: 中道 zhongdao.
This is the fundamental teaching of Śākyamuni Buddha, which guides us away from extremes—the duality of existence and non-existence or eternalism and nihilism.
mleccha. Chinese: 彌離車 miliche.
This means, roughly, “those who do not speak correctly”; it is equivalent in usage to the Greek barbaros, referring to outsiders of a culture (borderland peoples), and was originally a derogatory term.
morality. Chinese: 戒 jie. Skt. śīla.
Morality constitutes the precepts that train and discipline the body, speech, and mind from committing non-virtuous deeds while promoting virtuous ones.
Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa. Chinese: 耆闍崛山 qishejue shan. See Vulture Peak.
Mount Makula. Chinese: 莫拘羅山 mojuluo shan. alt. Makalu.
It is the fifth tallest mountain in the world, resting on the border of Nepal and China and considered sacred for associated stories of the Buddha going to its peak to give teachings.
Mount Sumeru. Chinese: 須彌山 xumi shan.
The center of the world in Buddhist cosmology. Surrounded by the four continents, one in each cardinal direction, Mount Sumeru stands eight yojana high (approximately 64 miles or 104 kilometers).
Mūrdhagata / Murdhagata. Chinese: 頂生轉輪王 dingsheng zhuanlun wang.
Referred to as “King Mūrdhagata” as well as “wheel-turning monarch Mūrdhagata.” See King Mūrdhagata.
nāga / naga. Chinese: 龍 long.
In Sanskrit and Pāli, “serpent” or as rendered in Chinese, “dragon.” One of the eight classes of celestial beings. Nāgas inhabit bodies of water and the earth beneath trees, often protecting treasure. They are beings of great power and appear as protectors of the Dharma.
Nāgārjuna / Nagarjuna. Chinese: 龍樹 longshu.
One of Buddhism’s most influential philosophers, who was born in India in the second or third century. He founded the Madhyamaka School and authored many treatises, such as The Middle Way Treatise and The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise.
Nairañjanā River / Nairanjana River. Chinese: 尼連禪河 nilianchan he.
The present-day Lilaja River, a tributary of the Ganges River, in the Indian state of Bihar. The Buddha practiced six years of asceticism beside this river, and later, after abandoning those futile efforts, attained enlightenment nearby.
Nanda. Chinese: 難陀 nantuo.
The half-brother of Siddhārtha Bodhisattva and son of Śuddhodana and Mahāprajāpatī. Nanda was dignified in appearance among the Buddha’s disciples; he attained arhatship and became foremost in guarding his sense organs.
nayuta. Chinese: 那由他 nayouta.
Ten million koṭis. In The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise, a koṭi is a large number defined as “ten million”; thus, nayuta is defined as ten million ten millions or one hundred trillion.
nine kinds of anger and distress. Ch. 九種瞋惱 jiuzhong chennao.
Anger and distress from thinking thus: someone 1) has harmed me, 2) is harming me, 3) will harm me, 4) has harmed someone I love, 5) is harming someone I love, 6) will harm someone I love, 7) has lovingly respected someone I hate, 8) is lovingly respecting someone I hate, or 9) will lovingly respect someone I hate.
nine ranks of the Western Pure Land. Chinese: 西方淨土九品.
There are nine ranks of rebirth in the Pure Land. In the Contemplation of the Buddha of Infinite Life Sutra, the Sakyamuni Buddha mentions human beings can achieve rebirth into the Pure Land if they contemplate Amitabha or recite Amitabha’s name.
nine sequential concentrations. Chinese: 九次第定 jiu cidi ding.
These are the four dhyānas, the four formless concentrations, and the concentration of complete cessation cultivated as a series.
nirgrantha. Chinese: 尼犍子 nijianzi.
Referring to ascetics of the Jaina tradition; the term is often translated as “naked mendicants.”
nirmitaka. Chinese: 化人 huaren.
Translated in The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise as “transformation beings.” Buddhas, bodhisattvas, arhats, and even ghosts use their supernatural power to transform into many kinds of beings for the purpose of teaching and liberating sentient beings.
nirvāṇa / nirvana. Chinese: 涅槃 niepan.
In Sanskrit, “extinction.” A state of perfect tranquility that is the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice. It is the absolute extinction of all afflictions and desires, the state of liberation beyond the cycle of birth and death.
nirvāṇa without remainder. Chinese: 無餘涅槃 wuyu niepan. Skt. nirupadhiśeṣa-nirvāṇa.
When a Buddha or an arhat passes away, they leave no remainder of the five aggregates.
Noble Eightfold Path. Chinese: 八正道 ba zhengdao.
The path leading to enlightenment as taught by Śākyamuni Buddha, which includes right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditative concentration.
non-contention. Chinese: 無諍 wuzheng. Skt. araṇā.
In Sanskrit, literally, “no dispute.” Contention is another name for affliction. Non-contention is the wisdom that can help sentient beings not to give rise to the afflictions of greed, anger, and ignorance; it also has the power of stopping the afflictions of others. Only Buddhas and arhats attain non-contention.
non-duality. Chinese: 不二 bu’er.
Non-duality is going beyond the dividing of phenomena into the opposites of subject vs. object, wholesome vs. unwholesome, outflow vs. non-outflow, conditioned vs. unconditioned, and so forth.
non-returner. Chinese: 阿那含 o’nahan. Skt. anāgāmin.
The third of the four fruits of śramaṇa. A non-returner is one that will never again be reborn into the human realm because of their practice and attainment. They will have one more rebirth in the heaven realm and attain arhatship there.
non-self. Chinese: 無我 wuwo. Skt. anātman.
This concept states that all phenomena and beings have no real, permanent, or substantial self. Everything arises, abides, changes, and ceases based on dependent origination.
not regressing. Chinese: 不退 butui. Skt. avaivartika.
This is a bodhisattva who will not regress on the path to Buddhahood. This means that the faith and understanding realized through practice has reached a point that it is no longer possible for such a bodhisattva to turn back from attaining Buddhahood.
once-returner. Chinese: 斯陀含 situohan. Skt. sakṛdāgāmin.
The second of the four fruits of śramaṇa. One is called a once-returner because of the elimination of the views of the body, attachment to immorality, and doubt—and one has greatly attenuated sensual desire, anger, and ignorance. They will be reborn in the heaven realm, then in the human realm one more time before they attain arhatship.
other shore. Chinese: 彼岸 bi’an. Skt. para.
In Sanskrit, literally, “distant” or “opposite.” This is a common metaphor for nirvāṇa in which saṃsāra is the near shore one must leave to escape suffering, and nirvāṇa is the far shore where relief from that suffering is found; the Dharma, acting as one’s ship, allows one to reach nirvāṇa.
outflows. Chinese: 漏 lou. Skt. āsrava.
These refer to unwholesome mental qualities, which keep one in the cycle of birth and death. It is another name for afflictions.
outflows, extinction of. Chinese: 漏盡 loujin. Skt. āsravakṣaya.
This is the state where all wholesome mental qualities are eliminated. One who has realized this extinction of outflows attains nirvāṇa and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
pāramitā / paramita. Chinese: 波羅蜜 boluomi.
A Sanskrit word meaning “crossed over” or “perfection.” “Parami” means “to cross over” in that one crosses from the shore of suffering over to the other shore of nirvana, while “ta” is an auxiliary particle that indicates completion. This is spiritual success.
Paranirmita-vaśavartin Heaven / Paranirmita-vasavartin Heaven. Chinese: 他化自在天 tahua zizai tian.
The sixth and highest heaven of the desire realm. In Sanskrit, it means “Heaven of Robbing Others’ Pleasures” because the heavenly beings desire and indulge themselves with other’s transformations. This is where the malevolent heavenly being māra resides.
path of seeing the truth. Chinese: 見諦道 jiandi dao. Skt. darśanmārga.
The first of the three paths to liberation. This path is distinguished by the practitioner’s first direct perception of the truth, and at its culmination, proceeds sequentially to the “path of practicing the truth.”
patience. Chinese: 忍辱 renru. Skt. kṣānti.
There are three kinds of patience: the patience for sentient beings, the patience for phenomena, and the patience of the non-arising of phenomena. The last of these comes from the realization that, on a supramundane level, phenomena do not truly arise or cease; all things are simply as they are.
patience of the non-arising of phenomena. Chinese: 無生法忍 wusheng faren. Skt. anutpattika-dharma-kṣānti.
Buddhism speaks of three levels of patience. The third and final level comes from the understanding that phenomena fundamentally do not arise or cease; all things are simply as they are.
perfection of wisdom. Chinese: 般若波羅蜜 bore boluomi or 智度 zhidu. Skt. prajñā-pāramitā.
This is the sixth perfection of the bodhisattva path, the most important among all six, and ultimately the guide to perfecting each of them. This is an understanding that transcends ordinary knowledge and is required to achieve Buddhahood. This perfection is essentially seeing the true nature of reality.
Pilindavatsa. Chinese: 必陵伽婆蹉 bilingjiapocuo.
An arhat disciple of the Buddha who was foremost in being loved by heavenly beings. He is noted because of his habitual tendency left over from previous lives to be arrogant.
Prabhūtaratna Buddha / Prabhutaratna Buddha. Chinese: 多寶佛 duobao fo.
In Sanskrit, Prabhūtaratna means “Many Treasures.” According to chapter 11 of The Lotus Sūtra, in the distant past, he was the Buddha of a world called “Treasure Purity” in the east. While still a bodhisattva, he vowed that even after entering nirvana, he would appear with his treasure stūpa in order to bear witness to the teachings of The Lotus Sūtra, wherever it might be taught. In The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise, he is is referred to as “World-Honored One Many Treasures.”
prajna. Chinese: 般若.
A Sanskrit word meaning “wisdom.” This typically refers to a transcendent variety of wisdom that comes from seeing the true nature of reality. Prajna wisdom is considered the highest form of wisdom, the wisdom of insight into the true nature of all phenomena.
prajñā-pāramitā / prajna-paramita. Chinese: 般若波羅蜜 bore boluomi. See perfection of wisdom.
pratyekabuddha. Chinese: 辟支佛 pizhifo.
One who is awakened to dependent origination by himself during the time there is no Buddha in the world.
precept. Chinese: 戒.
The precepts are the basis for all good deeds, and the cornerstone of all moral conduct. The Buddha instructed his disciples to treat the precepts as their teacher when he was about to enter final nirvana.
pudgala. Chinese: 人 ren.
In Sanskrit, “person”; although Buddhism denies the permanent existence of the self, the idea of personhood is accepted as a provisional quality of human beings; conventionally, personhood is an effect caused by the five aggregates coming together to create human form and consciousness.
Pūraṇa-Kāśyapa / Purana-Kasyapa. Chinese: 富蘭迦葉 fulan-jiashe or 富那羅 funaluo. See six teachers outside of the Way.
Pure Land. Chinese: 淨土.
A transcendent realm created through the power of a Buddha’s vow to help ease the suffering of sentient beings, should they choose to be reborn there. One of the most commonly discussed Pure Lands is the “Western Pure Land,” the realm where Amitabha Buddha presides. It came into existence due to Amitabha Buddha’s forty-eight great vows. Sentient beings can make a vow to be reborn there.
Pūrṇa / Purna. Chinese: 富樓那 fulouna.
In Sanskrit, “Fulfilled.” An eminent arhat and one of the ten great disciples of the Buddha. Pūrṇa was proclaimed foremost in teaching the Dharma by the Buddha.
Puruṣa-damya-sārathi / Purusa-damya-sarathi. Chinese: 富樓沙曇藐婆羅提 fulousha tanmiao poluoti.
In Sanskrit, “Tamer Who Can Transform Men.” This is an epithet of the Buddha that emphasizes his ability to apply skillful means to guide sentient beings to liberation. In doing this through various methods, he allows them to attain happiness in the present life, happiness in the next life, and, eventually, the happiness of nirvāṇa.
Rādha / Radha. Chinese: 羅陀 luotuo.
An arhat whom the Buddha declared foremost among his disciples in inspiring the speech of others. He first attempted to join the monastic order in old age after his children neglected him. Though at first, he was refused ordination because of his age, he was eventually ordained by Śāriputra because of his generosity.
Rāhula / Rahula. Chinese: 羅睺羅 luohouluo.
The son of Siddhārtha Bodhisattva, and one of the Buddha’s ten great disciples. At age six, he entered the saṅgha and was instructed by Śāriputra. He was foremost in esoteric practices.
Rājagṛha / Rajagrha. Chinese: 王舍城 wangshe cheng.
Present-day Rajgir, the capital city of the ancient Kingdom of Magadha. Its ruler King Bimbisāra was one of the Buddha’s chief patrons.
rākṣasa / raksasa. Chinese: 羅剎 luocha.
In Sanskrit, “ogre” (in female form: rākṣasī or “ogress”). A flesh-eating demon in Buddhist texts that is able to shape-shift in order to deceive humans, luring them in order to eat them.
rākṣasī / raksasi. Chinese: 羅剎女鬼 luocha nügui.
In Sanskrit, “ogress” (in male form: rākṣasa or “ogre”). A flesh-eating demon in Buddhist texts that is able to shape-shift in order to deceive humans, luring them in order to eat them.
real perfect state. Chinese: 實際 shiji. Skt. bhūtakoṭi.
It shares the same meaning as Dharma nature, nirvāṇa, and suchness.
Sahā world / Saha world. Chinese: 娑婆世界 Suopo shijie.
In Sanskrit, Sahā means “endurance.” The Sahā world refers to our world; the world in which Śākyamuni Buddha teaches the Dharma. Although human beings in this world are tormented by suffering due to their greed, anger, hatred, and ignorance, they have the power to endure it.
śaikṣa / saiksa. Chinese: 有學 youxue.
In Sanskrit, “practitioner,” one who has realized the Four Noble Truths and has attained the path toward stream-enterer but still needs to deeply learn the five aggregates and the trainings of morality, meditative concentration, and wisdom. Śaikṣas include those who have attained the path toward stream-enterer, the fruition of stream-enterer, the path toward once-returner, the fruition of once-returner, the path toward non-returner, the fruition of non-returner, and the path toward arhatship. Because they are still training in their practice, they are called śaikṣas. See aśaikṣa and fruits of śramaṇa.
Śakra / Sakra. Chinese: 釋提桓因 shitihuanyin.
Śakra is an abbreviation of Śakra Devānām Indra and is synonymous with Indra. He is the ruler of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods.
Śākyamuni Buddha / Sakyamuni Buddha. Chinese: 釋迦牟尼佛 shijia mouni fo.
Siddhārtha Gautama, the historical Buddha and founder of Buddhism. Being born into the Śākya clan, he became known as Śākyamuni, which means “Sage of the Śākyans.”
samādhi / samadhi. Chinese: 三昧 sanmei.
Literally translated as “establish” or “make firm.” It is a state in which the mind is concentrated in a one-pointed focus and all mental activities are calm. In samādhi, one is free from all distractions, thereby entering a state of inner serenity.
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. Chinese: 遍吉菩薩 pianji pusa; also known as 普賢菩薩 puxian pusa.
In Sanskrit, “All-encompassing Auspicious”; he is the symbol of vows and practice in Mahayana Buddhism and is thus known as the bodhisattva of great practice. Samantabhadra Bodhisattva made these ten great vows to practice:
(1) Pay homage to all Buddhas
(2) Praise the Tathāgatas
(3) Practice offering extensively
(4) Repent all unwholesome karma
(5) Rejoice in others’ merits and virtues
(6) Request the turning of the Dharma Wheel
(7) Request the presence of Buddhas in the world
(8) Always learn the Dharma
(9) Forever assist according to sentient beings’ needs and abilities
(10) Dedicate merit and virtue to all sentient beings
samaya. Chinese: 三摩耶 sanmoye.
One of the two Sanskrit terms for time mentioned in The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise. Samaya represents time as fleeting and momentary. This term is more commonly used in Buddhist texts. See kāla.
saṃghātī / samghati. Chinese: 僧伽梨衣 sengqie liyi.
In Sanskrit, “outer robe.” The saṃghātī, along with the lower robe or waistcloth (Skt. antarvāsa) and the upper robe (Skt. uttarāsaṅga), make up the three robes for Buddhist monastics.
Samyak-Saṃbuddha / Samyak-Sambuddha. Chinese: 正遍知 zhengbianzhi.
Translated in The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise as “Truly All-Knowing,” “Samyak” means “truly,” “sam” means “all,” and “budh” means “to know.” This is an epithet of the Buddha used to emphasize that the wisdom of the Buddha is both perfectly true and perfectly complete. It is all-inclusive, extending everywhere and covering all things.
saṅgha / sangha. Chinese: 僧伽 sangqie.
The Buddhist monastic community or assembly. When capitalized, it refers to the Triple Gem; when the term appears in lowercase, it denotes general usage.
Śāriputra / Sariputra. Chinese: 舍利弗 shelifo.
One of the Buddha’s ten great disciples. He is known as the foremost in wisdom.
Sarvāstivāda / Sarvastivada. Chinese: 說一切有道 shuoyiqieyou dao.
In Sanskrit, “Teaching that All Exists”; an important non-Mahāyāna school of Indian Buddhism named for its theory that all conditioned aggregates continue to exist throughout the three time periods of past, present, and future.
seer. Chinese: 仙人 xianren. Skt. ṛṣi.
This term, originating from the Vedic period, refers to a sage of spiritual insight or knowledge.
sentient being. Chinese: 眾生 zhongsheng. Skt. sattva.
Any being with consciousness, with sentience, and composed of the five aggregates. All sentient beings inherently have Buddha nature and can become a Buddha.
seven factors of awakening. Chinese: 七覺支 qijuezhi. Skt. saptabodhyaṅgāni.
These are (1) mindfulness, (2) investigation of phenomena, (3) diligence, (4) joy, (5) tranquility, (6) concentration, and (7) equanimity.
seven treasures. Chinese: 七寶 qibao or 七珍 qizhen.
Although the exact list varies, it refers to seven precious natural materials. The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise lists silver, beryl, crystal, emerald, carnelian, and red pearls. Another common list referenced in the treatise substitutes mother-of-pearl for emerald.
Shixian (1686–1734 CE). Chinese: 實賢.
The ninth patriarch of the Pure Land School.
Śikhin, Brahmā Heaven King / Sikhin. Chinese: 式棄 shiqi.
Ruler of the three thousandfold world system, he requested the Buddha to make the first turning of the Dharma wheel.
śikṣamāṇā / siksamana. Chinese: 式叉摩那 shicha mona.
This refers to female novices who are preparing to join the monastic order. They are above the śrāmaṇerikā and observe an additional six precepts for a period of two years before being fully ordained as bhikṣuṇīs.
(1) corresponding cause (Skt. saṃprayukta–hetu), (2) concurrent cause (Skt. sahabhū–hetu), (3) similar cause (Skt. sabhāga–hetu), (4) universal cause (Skt. sarvatraga–hetu), (5) ripening cause (Skt. vipāka–hetu), and (6) nominal cause (i.e., the effective cause; Skt. karaṇa–hetu).
six perfections. Chinese: 六波羅蜜 liu boluomi or 六度 liudu.
These are six qualities that bodhisattvas develop on their way to Buddhahood: giving (Skt. dāna), morality (Skt. śila), patience (Skt. kṣānti), diligence (Skt. vīrya), meditative concentration (Skt. dhyāna), and wisdom (Skt. prajñā).
six realms of existence. Chinese: 六道 liudao.
The six realms of existence are the possible destinations of rebirth as heavenly beings, asuras, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings. It is differentiated from the five realms of existence because of the inclusion of asura as a separate realm.
six sense organs. Chinese: 六情 liuqing or 六入 liuru. Skt. ṣaḍāyatanas.
The eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. These are the organs that interact with the sense objects of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and dharmas.
six supernatural powers. Chinese: 六神通 liu shentong. Skt. abhijñā.
This refers to a set of supernatural powers that are the result of meditative practice: a wide range of spiritual abilities (also translated as teleportation), such as the ability to walk through walls, transform oneself into many, and appear or disappear at will; heavenly eyes, the ability to see in darkness, over great distances, those in other realms, and the future rebirth of beings; heavenly hearing, the ability to hear from far away; the knowledge of past lives; the mind-reading, the ability to know others’ thoughts; and the knowledge of the extinction of outflows. “Five supernatural powers” refer only to the first five.
six teachers outside of the Way. Chinese: 六師外道 liushi waidao.
A classification of thought at the time of the Buddha in India. The six teachers outside of the Way each represent, in Buddhist texts, what is taken as mistaken views on the world and in practice: Pūraṇa-Kāśyapa, who denied the moral law of cause and effect; Maskarin-Gośālīputra, who taught the doctrine of fatalism; Ajita-Keśakambala, who taught materialism and nihilism; Kakuda-Kātyāyana, who taught eternalism; Sañjaya-Vairāṭīputra, who taught agnosticism; and Nirgrantha Jñātīputra (also known as Mahāvīra, founder of the Jaina tradition), who emphasized the restraint of action.
sixteen noble practices. Chinese: 十六聖行 shiliu sheng xing.
These are contemplations of each of the Four Noble Truths. The contemplation of suffering has four aspects: (1) impermanence, (2) suffering, (3) emptiness, and (4) non-self; the contemplation of the cause of suffering has four aspects: (5) accumulation, (6) causes, (7) conditions, and (8) arising; the contemplation of the cessation of suffering has four aspects: (9) cessation, (10) extinguishment, (11) sublimity, and (12) release; and the contemplation of the path has four aspects: (13) path, (14) rightness, (15) practice, and (16) leading to liberation.
skillful means. Chinese: 方便.
The ability to bring out the spiritual potentialities of different people by statements or actions that are adjusted to their needs and adapted to their capacity for comprehension.
śramaṇa / sramana. Chinese: 沙門 shamen.
In Buddhism, a generic referent for monastics. In a more general sense, these are spiritual practitioners of various sects that flourished during the time of the Buddha.
śrāmaṇera / sramanera. Chinese: 沙彌 shami.
A junior monk; one who has joined the monastic order but has yet to receive full ordination.
śrāmaṇerikā / sramanerika. Chinese: 沙彌尼 shamini.
A junior nun who has joined the monastic order but has yet to receive full ordination, and just as the śrāmaṇera, they only undertake ten precepts.
śrāvaka / sravaka. Chinese: 聲聞 shengwen.
In Sanskrit, “one who has heard.” One who has been liberated from the cycle of birth and death after listening to the Buddha’s teachings but does not seek to become a Buddha.
Śrāvastī / Sravasti. Chinese: 舍婆提城 shepoti cheng.
The capital of Kośala. During the life of the Buddha, it was ruled by King Prasenajit, one of the Buddha’s royal patrons. After his enlightenment, the Buddha spent many years teaching in Śrāvastī.
stream-enterer. Chinese: 須陀洹 xutuohuan. Skt. srota-āpanna.
The first of the four fruits of śramaṇa; a stream-enterer is one who is free of the three fetters: views of the body, attachment to immorality, and doubt.
stūpa / stupa. Chinese: 塔 ta.
Originally a tumulus burial mound enshrining the relics of a holy person such as a Buddha or objects associated with his life.
Subhadra / Subhadra. Chinese: 須跋陀 xubatuo.
An arhat and the Buddha’s last disciple.
Subhūti / Subhuti. Chinese: 須菩提 xuputi.
One of the Buddha’s ten great disciples. He was foremost in understanding emptiness.
suchness. Chinese: 如 ru. Skt. tathatā.
This is the true nature of all things—the pure, original essence of all phenomena. It shares the same meaning as Dharma nature, nirvāṇa, and real perfect state.
Sudhana Bodhisattva. Chinese: 須達那菩薩 xudana pusa.
The major protagonist of the “Entry into the Dharma Realm Chapter” of The Flower Adornment Sutra, also called The Inconceivable Sūtra. Sudhana is a youth who seeks out a spiritual teacher after being instructed by Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva. He meets fifty-two teachers, including the great bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Maitreya, and twenty female teachers. Eventually, he meets Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, gaining access into the Dharma realm, and has hence become a symbol of devotion and pilgrimage. [F5]
Śuddhāvāsa Heavens. Chinese: 首陀會天 shoutuohui tian. See Heavens of Pure Abodes.
Sudinna. Chinese: 須提那 xutina.
A disciple of the Buddha whose misdeeds made the formation of the monastic code of discipline (vinaya) necessary. The first rule that formed because of Sudinna’s misconduct is termed the “defeat” offense and forbids sexual intercourse.
suffering. Chinese: 苦 ku. Skt. duhkha.
The first of the Four Noble Truths describes suffering as a fundamental characteristic of life. The body experiences the pain and suffering of old age, sickness, and death while the mind experiences the pain and suffering of greed, anger, and ignorance. [F1]
Sugata. Chinese: 修伽陀 xiuqietuo.
In Sanskrit and Pāli, literally, “well gone.” The Buddha’s wisdom has eliminated all confusion. The Buddha has transcended the mundane world and arrived at the other shore of nirvāṇa. There is no more returning to the ocean of the cycle of birth and death, and in this sense, he is “well-gone.”
summer retreat. Chinese: 夏安居 xia’anju. Skt. varṣā.
In Sanskrit, literally, “rains.” This is a three-month retreat (usually between July and October) that requires monastics to stay in one place, instead of continuing their traditional wandering lifestyle. This was prescribed by the Buddha to avoid monastics harming the insects and small animals that were prevalent on the roads during India’s monsoon season.
śūraṃgama samādhi / suramgama samadhi. Chinese: 首楞嚴三昧 shoulengyan sanmei.
In Sanskrit, “heroic-progress concentration.” This is a meditative concentration in which one firmly collects and upholds all Dharmas, fearlessly walking alone like a lion. This can only be achieved by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the fiftieth level out of fifty-two total.
sūtra / sutra. Chinese: 經 jing.
A Sanskrit word meaning, “concordant discourses.” Most commonly used to refer to the recorded discourses of the Buddha. See also Buddhist canon.
svastika. Chinese: 卍字 wan.
A Sanskrit word meaning “fortune”; it is one of the Buddha’s “eighty noble characteristics,” a set of physical features manifesting on the Buddha as a result of previous wholesome karma. The sign symbolizes the coming together of good fortune and all virtues.
Tathāgata / Tathagata. Chinese: 多陀阿伽陀 duotuo oqietuo.
In Sanskrit, literally, “Thus Come One.” This is one of the ten epithets of the Buddha, meaning the one who has attained full realization of suchness, true essence, or actuality—one who dwells in the absolute beyond all transitory phenomena and has the ability to freely come and go everywhere.
ten directions. Chinese: 十方 shifang. Skt. daśadiś.
These are the four cardinal directions, the four intercardinal directions, the zenith (up), and the nadir (down). By covering all of these directions, this phrase is used as imagery to mean everywhere.
ten epithets of the Buddha. Chinese: 佛陀十號 fotuo shihao.
Among the various sutras, there are eleven commonly used names that are grouped together as the “ten epithets of the Buddha” by combining names (i.e., “Well-gone” and “Knower of the World”) from the following list:
(1) Tathāgata (Thus-Come)
(2) Arhat (Worthy One)
(3) Samyak-Saṃbuddha (Truly All-Knowing)
(4) Vidyācaraṇa-Saṃpanna (Perfect in Knowledge and Conduct)
(5) Sugata (Well-Gone)
(6) Lokavid (Knower of the World)
(7) Anuttara (Unsurpassed)
(8) Puruṣa-damya-sārathi (Tamer)
(9) Śāstā deva-manuṣyāṇām (Teacher of Heavenly and Human Beings)
(10) Buddha (Awakened One)
(11) Bhagavat (World-Honored One)
ten powers. Chinese: 十力 shili.
These are the ten powers of the Buddha: (1) he knows completely what is possible and not possible; (2) he knows completely the causes and conditions of one’s actions and karmic effects; (3) he knows completely various kinds of meditative concentrations that lead to liberation; (4) he knows completely all sentient beings’ dispositions and wholesome and unwholesome roots; (5) he knows completely all sentient beings’ various aspirations and understandings; (6) he knows completely the infinite nature of sentient beings of various worlds; (7) he knows completely where all the actions and paths lead to; (8) he knows and remembers completely all actions of past lives; (9) he sees clearly, with his heavenly eyes, the passing away and rebirth of all sentient beings in various realms and the beings’ karmic effects of being beautiful or ugly, rich or poor, and so on; and (10) he knows completely the extinction of all outflows and habitual tendencies.
ten unwholesome actions. Chinese: 十不善道 shi bushan dao or 十惡 shi e.
There are three actions of the body: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; four of speech: lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, and flattery; and three of the mind: greed, ill will, and deviant views.
ten universal visualizations. Chinese: 十一切處 shiyiqie chu.
Earth, water, fire, wind, blue, yellow, red, white, space, and consciousness. This is a visualization technique focused on willing all elements in the universe into one of these ten bases. If successful, everything then becomes the base focused on for the practitioner.
ten wholesome actions. Chinese: 十善 shishan.
There are three of the body: no killing, no stealing, and no sexual misconduct; four of speech: no lying, no divisive speech, no harsh speech, and no flattery; and three of the mind: no greed, no ill will, and no deviant views.
thirty-seven aspects of awakening. Chinese: 三十七道品 sanshiqi daopin.
The four bases of mindfulness, four right efforts, four bases of spiritual power, five faculties, five strengths, seven factors of awakening, and the Noble Eightfold Path. These are the fundamental teachings of the Buddha.
thirty-one fetters. Chinese: 三十一結 sanshiyi jie.
These include the twenty-eight afflictive compulsions that are to be abandoned by seeing the truth and three fetters that are to be abandoned by practice: greed, ignorance, and pride. See twenty-eight afflictive compulsions.
thirty-two marks of excellence. Chinese: 三十二相 sanshi’er xiang. Skt. mahāpuruṣalakṣaṇa.
Also referred to as the “thirty-two major marks” and “marks of a great man,” these are the characteristics of excellence adorning Buddhas and wheel-turning monarchs. The marks on the Buddhas are much clearer and more defined than on the wheel-turning monarchs. In addition to the thirty-two marks, Buddhas and great bodhisattvas (but not wheel-turning monarchs) also are adorned with the eighty notable characteristics, also known as the eighty minor marks. In the sūtras, it is said, “It takes one hundred kalpas to perfect the major and minor marks of the Buddha and three incalculable kalpas to perfect the merit and wisdom of the Buddha.” For a more detailed description, please see The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise, Fascicle Four, pp. 97–113.
(1) the mark of “the soles of the feet set down well,”
(2) the mark of “the soles of both feet bearing Dharma wheels,”
(3) the mark of “long fingers,”
(4) the mark of “broad and even heels,”
(5) the mark of “webbed fingers and toes,”
(6) the mark of “soft and delicate hands and feet,”
(7) the mark of “perfectly formed and arched insteps,”
(8) the mark of “antelope-like limbs,”
(9) the mark of “hands touching the knees when standing straight,”
(10) the mark of “a concealed male organ,”
(11) the mark of “a body of equal span and height,”
(12) the mark of “hair turning upward,”
(13) the mark of “a single hair growing from each pore,”
(14) the mark of “a golden hue,”
(15) the mark of “a ten-foot light,”
(16) the mark of “fine and delicate skin,”
(17) the mark of “perfect fullness of the seven parts,”
(18) the mark of “perfect fullness under both armpits,”
(19) the mark of “a lion-like upper body,”
(20) the mark of “a large and straight body,”
(21) the mark of “perfectly, well-formed shoulders,”
(22) the mark of “forty teeth,”
(23) the mark of “the teeth being even” and “the teeth being close together,”
(24) the mark of “white teeth,”
(25) the mark of “a lion-like jaw,”
(26) the mark of “tasting the most excellent flavors,”
(27) the mark of “a large tongue,”
(28) the mark of “a Brahmā-like voice,” “the voice of the kalaviṅka bird, ” and a “a drum-like voice,”
(29) the mark of “real blue eyes,”
(30) the mark of “eyelashes like an ox,”
(31) the mark of “a protuberance on the crown of the head,” and
(32) the mark of “a white tuft of hair.”
three lower realms of existence. Chinese: 三惡道 san e’dao.
These are the rebirth destinies of animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings.
three poisons. Chinese: 三毒 sandu.
The root causes of all suffering: greed, anger, and ignorance.
three realms. Chinese: 三界 sanjie.
These are the realms where sentient beings reside and transmigrate: the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm.
three robes. Chinese: 三衣 san yi. Skt. trīṇi cīvarāṇi.
The outer robe (Skt. saṃghātī), the lower robe or waistcloth (Skt. antarvāsa), and the upper robe (Skt. uttarāsaṅga) make up the three robes for male Buddhist monastics.
three supernatural knowledges. Chinese: 三明 sanming. Skt. trividyā.
These are the three knowledges possessed by a Buddha or an arhat: the knowledge of past lives, the ability to directly perceive one’s past lives and the karmic causes and effects; heavenly eyes, the knowledge of future rebirth destinies of all beings; and the knowledge of the extinction of one’s outflows, ensuring that this is one’s final rebirth.
three thousandfold world system. Chinese: 三千大千世界 sanqian daqian shijie. Skt. trisāhasracūḍikaloka–dhātu.
According to Buddhist cosmology, there are an infinite number of worlds. Each world has at its center a Mount Sumeru surrounded by seven oceans with seven rings of golden mountains separating each ocean. Surrounding these are four continents and eight subcontinents. Humans reside on the southern continent of Jambudvipa. A group of one thousand such worlds is called a “small world system,” one thousand small world systems equal a “medium world system,” and one thousand medium world systems equal a “large world system.” A “three thousandfold world system” is a combination of these three types of world systems; the term does not literally mean 3,000 large world systems.
three vehicles. Chinese: 三乘 sansheng.
The śrāvaka vehicle, pratyekabuddha vehicle, and bodhisattva or Buddha vehicle.
threefold path. Chinese: 三種道 sanzhong dao.
This is a common system explaining the process of enlightenment: the path of seeing the truth, the path of practicing the truth, and the path of those who have attained arhatship. Each of these paths is a step moving the practitioner further away from the suffering of the cycle of birth and death, and toward enlightenment.
Trāyastriṃśat Heaven / Trayastrimsat Heaven. Chinese: 忉利天 daoli tian.
In Buddhist cosmology, a heaven of the desire realm; also known as the Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods.
Triple Gem. Chinese: 三寶 sanbao.
Also called the Three Jewels. The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha.
Tuṣita Heaven / Tusita Heaven. Chinese: 兜率天上 doushuai tianshang.
This is the heaven of contentedness, where the bodhisattvas reside before descending to take their final rebirth and become Buddhas. As Śākyamuni resided there before entering Queen Maya’s womb, Maitreya Bodhisattva is now there awaiting the time to descend in the human realm and attain Buddhahood.
twelve elements. Chinese: 十二入 shi’er ru. Skt. āyatana.
The combination of the six sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) and the six sense objects (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and dharmas, i.e., mental sensory data). The contact between the sense organs and their objects are the conditions that produce specific sensory consciousness. Because of this, these twelve elements are considered as the access to the mind and mental states.
twelve links of dependent origination. Chinese: 十二因緣 shi’er yinyuan.
These are ignorance, mental formations, consciousness, name and form, the six sense organs, contact, feeling, craving, clinging, becoming, birth, and aging and death.
twenty-eight afflictive compulsions. Chinese: 二十八使 ershiba shi.
These are to be abandoned by seeing the truth: Nine are to be eliminated by seeing the truth of suffering: (1) greed, (2) ignorance, (3) pride, (4) doubt, (5) views of the body, (6) extreme views, (7) deviant views, (8) views clinging to the wrong views, and (9) views clinging to immorality. Six are to be eliminated by seeing the truth of the cause of suffering: (1) greed, (2) ignorance, (3) pride, (4) doubt, (5) deviant views, and (6) views clinging to the wrong views. Six are to be eliminated by seeing the truth of the cessation of suffering: (1) greed, (2) ignorance, (3) pride, (4) doubt, (5) deviant views, and (6) views clinging to the wrong views. Seven are to be eliminated by seeing the truth of the path leading to the cessation of suffering: (1) greed, (2) ignorance, (3) pride, (4) doubt, (5) deviant views, (6) views clinging to the wrong views, and (7) views clinging to immorality.
Udraka. Chinese: 鬱特伽 youteqie.
Along with Ārāḍa, one of Siddhārtha Bodhisattva’s two teachers in meditation before his enlightenment. Also known by his full name, Udraka Rāmaputra.
upādhyāya / upadhyaya. Chinese: 和上 heshang.
This refers to a senior, most virtuous and respected monastic; they can be an instructor or a preceptor.
Upāli / Upali. Chinese: 憂婆離 youpoli.
An eminent arhat who was foremost in the monastic code of discipline (vinaya) among the Buddha’s disciples. He was a barber for the royal princes, but he was ordained earlier than they were. After the Buddha entered final nirvāṇa, Upāli recited the vinaya in a cave at Rājagṛha during the first council.
upāsaka / upasaka. Chinese: 優婆塞 youpose.
A male lay follower of the Buddha who lives a spiritually cultivated life and upholds the teachings and the precepts.
upāsikā / upasika. Chinese: 優婆夷 youpoyi.
A female lay follower of the Buddha who lives a spiritually cultivated life and upholds the teachings and precepts.
Uruvilvā / Uruvilva. Chinese: 漚樓頻螺 ouloupinluo.
In Sanskrit, “great banks of sand.” The name of the area around the Nairañjanā River, where many important moments in the life of the Buddha took place. It was here the Bodhisattva practiced asceticism for six years.
Uttarakuru. Chinese: 鬱怛羅. See four continents.
uttarāsaṅga / uttarasanga. Chinese: 漚多羅僧 ouduoluo seng or 上衣 shangyi. See saṃghātī.
Vaiśālī / Vaisali. Chinese: 毘舍離 pisheli.
The Buddha taught several important sūtras and disciplinary rules here. He also spent his last summer retreat in the area of Vaiśālī. It is located near the modern-day city of Patna in the state of Bihar, India.
Vaiśravaṇa / Vaisravana. Chinese: 毘沙門王 pishamen wang. See Four Heavenly Kings.
vajra-samādhi / vajra-samadhi. Chinese: 金剛定 jin’gang ding.
In Sanskrit, “diamond-like concentration.” Vajra-samādhi is a state of meditative concentration.
Vārāṇasī / Varanasi. Chinese: 波羅捺 boluonai.
This was an ancient city-state on the banks of the Ganges River, located in modern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It played an important part in the development of Buddhism. Deer Park, located in Vārāṇasī, was where the Buddha delivered his first teaching, “Turning the Wheel of Dharma,” after his enlightenment.
Vasumitra. Chinese: 婆須蜜 poxumi.
An important Buddhist scholar in second century Kashmir. According to The Great Perfection of Wisdom Treatise, he compiled four of the eight chapters in the first part of The Six-Part Abhidharma.
Vatsagotra. Chinese: 婆蹉衢多羅 pocuoquduoluo.
A gifted debater outside of the Way, Śreṇika Vatsagotra believed that though the body is impermanent, the self is eternal.
Vātsīputrīya / Vatsiputriya. Chinese: 犢子 duzi.
A non-Mahāyāna Buddhist school of ancient India named after its founder, Vātsīputra.
Videha. Chinese: 弗婆提 fupoti. See four continents.
views. Chinese: 見 jian. Skt. dṛṣṭi.
There are five views that constitute wrong understandings: views of the body, extreme views, evil views, views attached to the wrong views of truth, and views attached to immorality.
vihāra / vihara.
Translated from Sanskrit as “abode”; this refers to various dwelling places of monastics and is commonly translated as “monastery.”
Vimalakīrti / Vimalakirti. Chinese: 毘摩羅詰 pimo luojie or 維摩詰 weimojie.
He was one of the Buddha’s lay disciples and an elder who lived in Vaiśālī. It was said of him that, “Though a layman, he is not attached to the three realms. Though married, he always cultivates purity.” He was the very model of a lay Buddhist follower of his day.
vinaya. Chinese: 毘尼 bini.
The precepts and rules for Buddhist monastics. See also Buddhist canon.
Vipaśyin Buddha / Vipasyin Buddha. Chinese: 毘婆尸佛 piposhi fo.
In Sanskrit, “Clear-Seeing Buddha.” He is the first of the Seven Ancient Buddhas.
Viśākhā / Visakha. Chinese: 毘舍佉 pishequ.
Also referred to as Mṛgāra-mātṛ; in Sanskrit, it literally means “Mṛgāra’s Mother”; she was one of the chief female lay disciples of the Buddha and the female lay disciple foremost in giving. After hearing the Buddha teach, she asked him to grant her eight wishes so that she could offer food and drink, clothing, bedding, and medicine to his disciples when needed. She donated to build a monastery known as Mṛgāra’s Mother’s Hall (Skt. Mṛgāramātṛprāsāda). Afterward, the Buddha would alternate between this and Jeta Grove Monastery whenever he stayed in Śrāvastī.
Vulture Peak. Chinese: 鷲頭山 jiutou shan or 耆闍崛山 qishejue shan. Skt. Gṛdhrakūṭa.
This is a mountain located northwest of the ancient city of Rājagṛha in the ancient Kingdom of Magadha. Śākyamuni Buddha taught several major sūtras here, including The Lotus Sūtra.
Way. Chinese: 道 dao.
“The Way” has long been a part of Chinese philosophy. In Buddhism, the Way refers both to the way we should live, as well as the way things are. The Way is the truth of Buddhism, as it exists in the world around us and within ourselves.
wheel-turning monarch. Chinese: 轉輪聖王 zhuanlun shengwang. Skt. cakravartī-rāja, alt. cakravartin.
A leader who rules over the entire world. Only one wheel-turning monarch can appear in the world at a time, and he is endowed with the thirty-two marks of excellence.
wisdom eyes. Chinese: 智慧眼 zhihui yan.
The wisdom eyes know the true characteristics of all phenomena. They are one of the five different states of vision that can be achieved with the five eyes: (1) eyes of flesh, (2) heavenly eyes, also known as heavenly vison, (3) wisdom eyes, (4) Dharma eyes, and (5) Buddha eyes.
World-Honored One. Chinese: 世尊.
One of the ten epithets of the Buddha.
yakṣa / yaksa. Chinese: 夜叉 yecha.
One of the eight classes of celestial beings. These are powerful beings who can be benevolent protectors of the Dharma.
yojana. Chinese: 由旬 youxun.
This is a measure of distance in ancient India: the distance that a yoked ox can travel in a day. The modern approximation is eight miles (thirteen kilometers), though estimates range from four to ten miles (six to sixteen kilometers).