The Noble Eightfold Blog

Appendix A - Glossary of Terms

Abhidhamma (Pāli, Sanskrit: Abhidharma)

The Abhidhamma is the third of the "three baskets" in the Pāli canon, although scholars date it to 100 to 200 years after the time of the Buddha. It has been variously described as philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. The Abhidhamma is highly revered in the Theravada tradition, and highly criticized in the others (!).

Aṅguttara Nikāya

Literally Increased by One Collection, but usually translated as Numerical Discourses. It is the second of the five nikāyas, or collections, in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pāli Canon. The Aṅguttara Nikāya is organized in eleven books according to the number of items referenced in them (i.e., the Four Noble Truths is in the Book of Fours).

Arahant (Pāli, Sanskrit: arahat)

Literally "one who is worthy", a perfected person, i.e., one who has attained nirvāṇa.

Bhante (Pāli)

Literally "Venerable Sir." Although it is a masculine term, it is gender neutral and is used for both monks and nuns.

bhikkhu (Pāli, Sanskrit: भिक्षु bhikṣu)

Literally "beggar". An ordained Buddhist monk. However the term can also refer to anyone following the Buddhist path. When the Buddha gave a talk he would address it to the highest ranking persons there. The rank order was 1) monks, 2) nuns, 3) lay men, and 4) lay women. Thus if even one monk were present, he would address the talk to "bhikkhus."

Dhamma (Pāli, Sanskrit: धर्म dharma)

In Buddhism, the word "dharma" can have three different meanings. The first meaning is the universal nature of how things are. At the time of the Buddha, each religious school had its own Dharma, or understanding of how things are. The second meaning of Dharma is the teachings of the Buddha. The third meaning is phenomena. Buddhism sees everything in terms of causes and affects. Mental activities, for example, are dharmas. When referring to the teachings of the Buddha, the word Dharma is capitalized. When referring to phenomena, it is not capitalized.

Dhammapada-aṭṭhakath (Aṭṭhakathā is Pāli for explanation, commentary)

Commentary to the Dhammapada.

Digha Nikāya

The Long Discourses (Pali digha = "long"). It is the first of the five nikāyas, or collections, in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pāli Canon. Pali scholar Joy Manné makes the argument that the Digha Nikāya was particularly intended to make converts (Bhikkhu Bodhi pointedly refers to this as “for the purpose of propaganda”!), with its high proportion of debates and devotional material.

Four Foundations of Mindfulness

Also called the Four Establishings of Mindfulness, and the Four Frames of Reference. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness are 1) the body, 2) feelings, or "feeling tones", 3) mental formations, and 4) mental phenomena. They are categories of practices.

Majjhima Nikāya

The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha. It is the second of the five nikāyas, or collections, in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pāli Canon. It is generally believed to be the most important collection of discourses in the canon. The Majjhima Nikaya corresponds to the Madhyama Āgama which survives in two Chinese translations. Fragments also exist in Sanskrit and Tibetan.

Nibbana (Pāli, Sanskrit: nirvāṇa)

Nibbana is one of the terms that is used to define the goal of the Buddhist path. It literally means "to extinguish," and means to extinguish the three flames of greed, hatred and delusion.

Pāli Canon

The Pāli Canon is the collection of Buddhist texts preserved in the Pāli language. It consists of three Pitakas, or "baskets". These are the Vinaya Pitaka (the monastic code), the Sutta Pitaka (the discourses of the Buddha and his senior disciples), and the Abhidhamma Pitaka, a later work that is variously described as Buddhist philosophy, psychology and metaphysics. The Abhidhamma Pitaka is unique to Theravada, or southern, Buddhism; the other collections have versions in the Chinese and Tibetan canons.

Satipaṭṭhāna (Pāli)

The "Four Foundations of Mindfulness": (1) the body, (2), feelings/sensations, (3) mental formations (thoughts and emotions), and (4) dharmas, or phenomena.

Samaṇa (Pāli, Sanskrit: Śramaṇa)

A wandering ascetic.

Saṃyutta Nikāya

The Connected Discourses. It is the third of the five nikāyas, or collections, in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pāli Canon. The Saṃyutta Nikāya consists of fifty-six chapters, each governed by a unifying theme that binds together the Buddha's suttas or discourses.

Seven Factors of Awakening (Enlightenment)

(1) Mindfulness, (2) investigation, (3) energy, (4) joy/rapture, (5) tranquility, (6) concentration, and (7) equanimity.

sutta (Pāli, Sanskrit: सूत्र, : sutra)

A discourse of the Buddha or one of his disciples. The Pāli word "sutta" refers specifically to the Pali Canon. The words "sutta" and the Sanskrit form "sutra" literally mean "thread", and are related to the English word "suture."

Tathāgata (Pāli, Sanskrit)

A word the Buddha used when referring to himself. It's literal meaning is ambiguous. It can mean either "thus gone" (tathā-gata) or "thus come" (tathā-āgata). It is probably intentionally ambiguous, meaning that the Buddha, having attained a final Awakening, was beyond all comings and goings.

Visuddhimagga (Pāli)

Literally, The Path of Purification. The Visuddhimagga is a Theravada commentarial work attributed to the monk Buddhaghosa, who formulated it in Sri Lanka in the 5th century CE.