Buddhist Dictionaries and Glossaries

Tripitaka Index






Some frequently seen Buddhist terms
Sanskrit Translated to Explanation
Abhiseka Summit-Infusion;
Pouring holy energy into one's body through his head;

Sprinkling water on one's head;

Giving holy power to a person through his head;

A ceremony in esoteric Buddhism for conferring the precepts, a certain mystic teaching, etc., on a person.
Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi Supreme Perfect Enlightenment;
Supreme Correct Awakening
Anuttara means "unsurpassed;" samyak means "correct," and sambodhi means "enlightenment/awakening"
Arhat worthy of offerings;
deserves offerings
One of the fruitions of the path of cultivation. Arhats have attained the cessation of involuntary physical birth and death. The word has three meanings:
(1) worthy of offerings, One of the ten epithets of Buddha
(2) killer of thieves--arhats have killed the thieves of afflictions and outflows
(3) free of birth.
Arya sage;
One who is out of transmigration.
incalculable A transliteration of the Sanskrit term, which means incalculable, a great number.
World honored one;
Blessed One;
Translation of the Sanskrit and Pali "bhagavat" and the Sanskrit "lokanatha", meaning "world-honored one." One of the ten epithets of Buddha.
Buddhist monk
monk, male member of the Buddhist sangha, who has left home, been fully ordained, and depends on alms for a living.
Buddhist nun
fully ordained Buddhist nun, female member of the Buddhist sangha.
Bhumi stage Stage of Bodhisattva practice.

There are ten Bhumis:
1) Joyance Stage
2) Free from defilement Stage
3) Emitting light Stage
4) Glowing wisdom Stage
5) Overcoming difficulties Stage
6) Facing reality Stage
7) Far-reaching Stage
8) Immovable Stage
9) Wondrous wisdom Stage
10) Dharma-cloud Stage
Bodhi enlightenment; awakening (1) The wisdom of the true awakening of the Buddha. Enlightenment. The function of correct wisdom. The situation of the disappearance of ignorance due to the functioning of awakened wisdom.
(2) The wisdom of perceiving the reality-nature.
(3) Sublime enlightenment. The expression of enlightened wisdom.
(4) An abbreviation of "Bodhi-Way-Place"(bodhi-manda), The place where the Buddha attained his enlightenment.
Resolve for Bodhi;
Resolve for enlightenment;
This is the doorstep of Mahayana, the key of becoming a Bodhisattva. It should never be forgotten in the entire process of Mahayana practices. The term "Bodhi-Heart" has three meanings:

1)The will to save and enlighten all living beings, inculding self;

2)By practising with the above will, one can understand the Bodhi-Heart of Absolute-Truth, that is, "I must liberate all living beings, but there is actually no living being at all", which is discussed in the famous "Diamond Sutra" and some other sutras.

3)Bodhi-Heart Samadhi. One muct enter this Samadhi to apperceive the Bodhi-Heart of Absolute-Truth.
Bodhi-manda Way-place;
site of enlightenment
(1) Literally, "site of enlightenment;" the place where enlightenment is achieved. This refers initially to the ground under the bodhi tree, where the Buddha was seated at the time of achieving his full enlightenment (bodhi-manda).
(2) A place where religious practice is carried out, or where the Buddha is worshipped. A place where the precepts are given.กก
Bodhisattva Bodhisattva A Future Buddha who is a being destined to Buddhahood. "Bodhi" means Enlightenment and "Sattva" means Sentient and Conscious. Therefore Bodhisattva refers to the sentient being of or for the great wisdom and enlightenment.

Bodhisattva's vow/aim is the pursuit of Buddhahood and the salvation of others and of all. He seeks enlightenment to enlighten others. He will sacrifice himself to save the others. He is devoid of egoism and devoted to help the others. The way and discipline of Bodhisattva is to benefit the self and the others, leading to Buddhahood.

The great Bodhisattvas are called "Bodhisattva-Mahasattva".
Brahma-carya Brahma-lifestyle;
Pure practices;
Pure practices; The practices that involve the cutting off of desire, especially sexual desire.

People who keep a Brahma-lifestyle have no sexual behavior, just like the people in Brahma-Heaven.

Strictly speaking, "Brahma-practice" means no leak of sexual energy, that is, no sexual intercourse, no ejaculation, no spermatorrhea, no emmenia, etc.
Brahma-loka Brahma-Heaven;
Brahma God;
(1)Brahma-Heaven: The heaven in the realm of form(material), which is above the heavens of desire realm.
(2)Brahman: who lives in the Brahma-Heaven

People in Brahma-Heaven have overcome physical desires, especially, they have neither sexual desire nor sexual behavior.

The God of Brahman heaven is the ruler of our world.
Buddha-karya Buddha-work;
(1) The work that a Buddha does. To deliver the Buddha's teachings. The activity of saving living beings.
(2) Anything done after attaining enlightenment would be "Buddha-work."
"Heart" in Sutras means not only the heart organ in everyone's body, but also the nine consciousnesses that, as a whole, contains the whole universe.

"Heart" is like an eight-petaled lotus flower, when it opens, one can experience the greatest joy (Dharma-Joy), brilliant light, refreshing energy, etc.

The way to open our hearts is to arouse Bodhi-Heart.

For more detailed information, see this article.
Deva God;
heavenly being;
Literally, "A shining one".
An inhabitant of the heavenly realms, which is characterized by long life, joyous surroundings and blissful states of mind. However, these states are impermanent, not eternal. Devas are still unenlightened, bound to Samsara and subject to Birth and Death. Many such beings have already been converted to Buddhism and become its protectors.
dharani total retention The mantra that completely retains the Buddhist teachings
Dharma Law When spelled this way (capitalized), refers to the Teachings of the Buddha. The Second Refuge of the Triple-Gem/Three Treasures/Triple Jewel Some translators may not follow this rule
dharma thing;
When spelled this way (not capitalized), means roughly "phenomenon."
Dharma-cakra Dharma wheel;
Wheel of Law;
wheel of Dharma
The teachings of Buddhas.

The term translated as "wheel"--cakra, was a kind of weapon in ancient India. Therefore, the Dharma-cakra is a weapon that overcomes the mistaken belief of non-Buddhists
Dharma-dhatu Dharma-Realm;
realm of thought;
(1) The origin of all things.
The whole universe -- all phenomena are the manifestation of True-Thusness. This reality-realm, being true existence as-it-is, is equated to the reality-body (Dharma-Body) of the Buddha

(2) One of the 'eighteen realms', the objects of the Mind-Consciousness. Where things are thought of, therefore the meaning is equivalent to that of 'locus of mental objects'

(3) According to Avatamsaka school, there are four Dharma-Realms:
1 -- the realm of phenomena (universe/cosmos)
2 -- the realm of principle
3 -- the realm of non-obstruction between principle and phenomena
4 -- the realm of non-obstruction between phenomena
The Buddha's teaching. The gate of truth. The gate that enters into the truth. The gate to the enlightened state
durgati; evil path;
evil rebirth;
evil destiny;
The existence a living being experiences as a result of evil activity in the present lifetime, which is characterized by delusion and suffering.
Refers to the three evil destinies of hell-being, hungry ghost, and animal.
Ganga-nad-valuka Ganges river sands as numerous as the sands of the Ganges; Numberless, uncountable
Jambudvipa Southern continent;
the human world;
the earth;
this planet
The human world. The world in which we are living.
Jambudvipa is a small part of the Saha World, the Buddha-Realm of Sakyamuni Buddha
kalpa eon/aeon An inconceivably long period of time. 

A Great Kalpa (maha-kalpa) is divided into four parts:
period of world-dissolution;
period of chaos; 
period of world-formation;
period of world-continuation

A simile, used in a discourse of Buddha, is as follows:
'Suppose, O monks, there was a huge rock of one solid mass, one mile long, one mile wide, one mile high, without split or flaw. And at the end of every 100 years a man should come and rub against it with a silken cloth. Then that huge rock would wear off and disappear quicker than a Kalpa.'
Of such world-periods, according to Buddha, there have been many hundred thousands. In the Buddhist view of things, there is no limitation to the process of world-dissolution, chaos, world-formation and world-continuation, nor to the number of Buddhas who will appear in the course of this process."

"The period required for a celestial woman to wear away a stone of ten cubic miles if she touched it with her garments once every three years." Of the three kinds of kalpa, that period is a small kalpa; Twenty small kalpas make a medium kalpa, and four medium kalpas make a large kalpa."

A kalpa generally indicates the length of time between the creation and recreation of a world or universe, spanning the period of a world's formation, existence, destruction, and non-existence. There are different interpretations of measurement of a kalpa in Buddhism. It often simply denotes a very long period of time, similar to an aeon. There are small, medium, great, and incalculable kalpas.

According to conventional reckoning, a small kalpa would be equivalent to 16.8 million years and a large or great kalpa 1,347 million.
karma action;
cause and effect
Deeds, activity. Karma does not mean fate. It means the deeds which we create ourselves and the retributions which those deeds bring upon us.

Action leading to future retribution or reward or future lifetimes.

karma is action; it refers also to the fruits of action. It may be seen as the law of causation on a personal level, a combination of primary and secondary causes... every thought, utterance, and deed is a seed that ripens over time until, under suitable conditions, it comes to fruition as an event or circumstance. It is, moreover, a continuous process, for the way in which one responds to these circumstances determines the quality of his present life as well as future ones. Thus, the doctrine of karma repudiates any notion of 'fate' or 'fixed destiny,' inasmuch as these circumstances and our response to them are constantly changing... The Buddha said, "If you want to know the past (cause), look at your present (effect). If you want to know the future (effect), look at your present (cause)."

Poverty and want, for example, are the results of miserly thoughts and actions in past lives. For a destitute person to cheat and steal in order to escape poverty and become wealthy is a classic case of creating more evil karma in the hope of escaping retribution.
How do we reconcile bad happenings occuring to good people with the law of karma? The general answer is that karma extends over many lifetimes, and therefore our present good deeds may attenuate the bad results of past misdeeds but not necessarily eliminate them completely
The monk's robe, or cassock
Koti ten million;
ten billion;
This word's pronunciation is Kaw-Tzee
split second
a measure of time. Equal to one seventy-fifth of a second.

The shortest measure of time; sixty ksana equal one finger-snap, ninety a thought, 4,500 a minute.
Maha great;
great, mighty, strong, abundant
Mahayana Great Vehicle;
Supreme Vehicle
Bodhisattva Vehicle
One of the two main traditions of Buddhism, the other being Theravada (Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana is a branch of Mahayana).

Mahayana expounds Bodhisattva practice as the means towards enlightenment of both oneself and others.

Arousing Bodhi-Heart, which means having the resolve to save and enlighten all living beings, is the doorstep of Mahayana,
Mahasattva great Bodhisattva;
great being
great Bodhisattva, who attain higher stages of fruition and enlightenment.
The great unhindered God The God who dwells in the highest heaven of Material / Form Realm, and is the ruler of the Triple-Realms.

The heavens of Material Realm, from low to high, are:

  • Primary Dhyana Heavens:

  • 1)Brahma-parisadhya, the Heaven of Brahma's people;
    2)Brahma-purohita, the Heaven of Brahma's high priests;
    3)Maha-Brahman, Brahma's heaven. The Great Brahma King's dwelling;

  • Secondary Dhyana Heavens:

  • 4)Paritta-abha, the Heaven of Lesser Light;
    5)Apramana-abha, the Heaven of Infinite Light;
    6)abhas-vara, the Heaven of the Most Brilliant Purity;

  • The Third Dhyana Heavens:

  • 7)Paritta-subha, the Heaven of Lesser Purity;
    8)Apramana-subha, the Heaven of Infinite Purity;
    9)Subha-kritsna, the Heaven of Universal Purity;

  • The Fourth Dhyana Heavens:

  • 10)Anabhraka, the Cloudless Heaven;
    11)Punya-prasava, the Heaven of Merit Production;
    12)Brihat-phala, the Heaven of Extensive Rewards;
    13)Abriha, the heaven of no anxieties;
    14)Atapa, the heaven without afflictions;
    15)Sudrisa, the Heaven of Good Appearances;
    16)Sudarsana, the Heaven of Good Sight;
    17)Akanistha, the Heaven of Ultimate Form.
    18)Aghanistham, the Heaven of harmonious tone
    19)Maha-Mahesvara, Mahesvara's dwelling.

    Brahma God is the ruler of our world, and Mahesvara is the ruler of the whole triple-realms. Their lifetimes are unimaginable long, thus many living beings believe that they are the creator, dominator, and terminator of the universe, and exist forever.
    Mantra incantation Esoteric incantation;

    It is a treatise with mystical meaning, and is regarded as every word and deed of a Bodhisattva.

    It is one of the most popular method of cultivation in Buddhism, especially in Shingon or "True Word" sect.
    mara demon
    Literally: "murder, destruction", the Devil of the Sixth Heaven. Although the embodiment of death, Mara symbolizes in Buddhism the passions that overwhelm human beings as well as everything that hinders the development of wholesome roots and progress on the path of enlightenment."
    Literally: "death. The tempter". The personification of evil in Buddhist mythology."
    nayuta billion
    A measurement that means a vast number
    nirvana perfect stillness;
    Nirvana is a Sanskrit word which is originally translated as "perfect stillness". It has many other meanings, such as liberation, eternal bliss, tranquil extinction, extinction of individual existence, unconditioned, no rebirth, calm joy, etc. It is usually described as transmigration to "extinction", but the meaning given to "extinction" varies.

    There are four kinds of Nirvana:
    1.Nirvana of pure, clear self-nature
    2.Nirvana with residue
    3.Nirvana without residue
    4.Nirvana of no dwelling
    paramita perfection literally, means crossing over to the other shore, but is also translated into English as "perfection".

    It means to cross over from this shore of births and deaths to the other shore which is the liberation.

    The Six Paramita or means of so doings are 
    (1) dana - charity/giving 
    (2) sila - moral/conduct/taking precepts 
    (3) ksanti - patience 
    (4) virya - diligence/effort/devotion/vigor
    (5) dhyana - contemplation/meditation 
    (6) prajna - wisdom.

    The Ten Paramita are the above plus 
    (7) upaya - use of expedient or proper means 
    (8) pranidhana - vow of bodhi and helpfulness 
    (9) bala - strength 
    (10) intelligence
    Parinirvana Perfect Nirvana;
    Perfect Awakening
    The Great Perfect Nirvana which surpasses all other Nirvanas. For more information about Parinirvana, please read Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra
    prajna great wisdom; True or transcendental wisdom. Last of the paramitas. One of the highest attainments of Buddhist practice.

    There are three kinds of Prajna:
    (1) Prajna of languages
    (2) Prajna of contemplative illumination
    (3) prajna of the characteristics of actuality
    The last one is the ultimate wisdom, which is the wisdom of Buddha.
    pratyeka-buddha Conditional Awakener;
    Solitary Realizer;
    One Enlightened to Conditions
    One who is awakened by contemplating the twelve interconnected causes.
    The saha world;
    World of Endurance
    The secular world; this world that we live. The corrupt world. The world in which Sakyamuni Buddha teaches. The Sanskrit word "Saha" means endurance.

    Although "Saha World" and "Jambudvipa" are sometimes used interchangeably to mean our world or galaxy, Jambudvipa (as the specific human world) is but a small part of the Saha World.
    samadhi concentration A state in which the mind, free from distraction, is absorbed in intense, "purposeless" concentration, thereby entering a state of inner serenity. With the mind thus completely absorbed in itself, the essential nature of Self can be experienced directly.

    Meditative absorption. Usually denotes the particular final stage of pure concentration. There are many levels and types of samadhi
    samsara transmigration;
    cycle existence;
    The original meaning of samsara is "flow together." This is the expression of the ancient Indian idea that all living things repeatedly pass through life and death. Like a continually spinning wheel, sentient beings are reincarnated and die without end.

    In Buddhism, one is said to transmigrate through the triple realm (desire, form and formless realms) and the six destinies (god, demigod, human, animal, hungry ghost, hell-being).

    However, this original word samsara in modern Sanskrit and Hindi usage means "world" or "within the world."
    supereme assembly;
    A word with several associations:
    1) refers specifically to the Arya-sangha (Pali Ariya-sangha -- those who have attained to the supramundane Path).
    2) the patimokkha sangha -- the community of monks and nuns.
    3) Western Mahayanists sometimes use the word in yet a third sense, to refer to the "mahasangha" -- the community of all believers.

    The Sangha that is referred to in the Triple Gem is the Ariya-sangha; from an orthodox viewpoint (whether Theravada or Mahayana), beings who have not cut off the defilements are not a satisfactory object of refuge.
    skandha aggregate;
    Something accumulated; or, something differentiated. The constitutional element (aggregates) of all existence.

    There are five skandhas:
    (1) Form/material(rupa): matter in general, the body or materiality.
    (2) Feeling(vedana): receptive or sensory function.
    (3) Perception (samjna): images that surface in the mind. Symbolic function.
    (4) Impulse(samskara): will, intention, or the mental function that accounts for craving. The power of formation potential. It is also understood as all of the general mental functions not included in the skandhas of feeling or perception.
    (5) Consciousness(vijnana): the cognitive, or discriminating function. Knowing through discrimination.
    Literally: 'voice-hearer'; A disciple of the Buddha (who heard his voice); A follower of Hinayana/Theravada(the Small/Lesser Vehicle).
    sutra scripture;
    holy text
    scripture/holy-text/law-books of Buddhism
    Tathagata Thus Come One This is one of the ten epithets of Buddha, with the implication that the Buddha's achievement of enlightenment has come through a path of practice that other sentient beings can follow.
    Three Treasures;
    Triple Jewel;
    Three jewels of refuge
    the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha
    tridhatu three realms;
    The three realms of samsara:
    (1) The desire realm, where one is preoccupied by desires for physical gratification.
    (2) The form/material realm, where one is free from the desires for physical gratification and experiences subtle form. This is the locus of the four dhyana heavens
    (3) The formless realm, the highest realm of samsara, where one is free from material existence. This is the locus of the practice of the Four Formless Concentrations.

    The three realms are broken down into various realms and heavens:
    The Desire Realm consists of twenty places. They are the four continents, the eight burning hells, and the six heavens of the desire realm. Beyond the sixth desire realm heaven are the seventeen dhyana heavens of the form realm. Above the form realm heavens is the formless realm, where there is no material existence. There are four abodes (awarenesses, meditations, states) in the formless realm
    tripitaka Three Store;
    Three Baskets
    The earliest Buddhist canonical text consisting of three sections:
    1.Buddha's discourses (sutras),
    2.Rules of Discipline (Vinaya),
    3.Analytical and explanatory texts or commentaries (sastras)
    upasaka layman Buddhist lay disciple, who formally received some or all of the five precepts.
    upasika laywoman female lay disciple, who puts her faith in the Three Treasures, and observes some or all of the five precepts.
    corrective and extensive;
    Literally, "vaipulya" means "corrective and extensive", one of the twelve traditional genre divisions of the Buddhist canon
    vijnana consciousness Conscious mental function

    Sentient beings possess eight/nine distinct layers of consciousness, which are:
    (1) Eye consciousness;
    (2) Ear consciousness;
    (3) Nose consciousness;
    (4) Tongue/lingua/glossal consciousness;
    (5) Body consciousness;
    (6) Mind/thought (mano) consciousness;
    (7)Manas consciousness:
    One of its primary functions is to perceive the subjective position of the eighth consciousness (Alaya) and mistakenly regard it as one's own ego, thereby creating ego attachment. Its basic nature is that of thought, but there is a difference between it and the sixth consciousness. Not consciously controllable, it is said to be a mind of a realm that gives rise to contradiction of conscious decisions, and to incessant self-love.

    (8)Alaya/adana consciousness:
    Alaya is a sort of eternal substance or matter, creative and containing all forms; when considered as a whole, it is non-existent, or contains nothing; when considered phenomenal, it fills the universe. It seems to be of the nature of materialism. It is the store or totality of consciousness both absolute and relative. It is described as the fundamental mind-consciousness of conscious beings, which lays hold of all the experience of the individual life, and which stores and holds the germs of all affairs. It is the last of Eighth Consciousness from which them Wisdom of Great Round Mirror is derived.

    (9) Amala consciousness.
    The undefiled Alaya, an immaculate consciousness.
    vajra diamond
    (1) An extremely hard material, which is identified with the diamond or the essential substance of gold; often used as an trope for something hard and indestructible. 'Adamantine.'
    (2) The vajra, or thunderbolt; it is generally shaped as such, but has other forms. Also, any one of the beings represented with the vajra is called a vajra.
    (3) An abbreviation of "jingangchu", diamond pestle, a ritual object in esoteric Buddhism made mainly of iron and copper.
    (4) An abbreviation for vajra-secret-trace-divinity, one who handles a diamond pestle.
    (5) The thunderbolt of Indra, often called The 'diamond club.' Usually considered as one of the sapta-ratna.
    (6) An abbreviation of "adamantine absorption", eg: Vajra-Samadhi

    In Sanskrit, "Vajra" had the meaning of "durable," "luminous," and "able to cut". It is indestructible and is usually represented by diamond.

    Vajra is identical with the self-nature, the essential life force of all living beings, because both are indestructible and adamantine. Furthermore, the eternally dwelling heart all beings have in common is the same as the vajra nature, since it too cannot be destroyed. Prajna, as the highest form of wisdom living beings can attain, is real mark prajna, eternally indestructible. It is therefore referred to as vajra prajna.
    yojana   A unit of measurement in ancient India, equal to the distance which the royal army would march in a day. Approximations vary as widely as 9.6, 18 and 24 kilometers.

    Haven't found the words you are looking for? These Dictionaries and Glossaries may help you:

    Sanskrit, Tamil and Pahlavi Dictionaries
  • A Sanskrit-English dictionary, very useful.

  • Buddhist Door Glossary
  • A very helpful online Buddhist dictionary.

  • Buddhist Dictionary Online
  • The interface language is Chinese, however, we can input English/Sanskrit words and find out their English explanations

  • Buddhist Sanskrit Terms Index
  • Sanskrit -- Chinese cross-reference.

  • English Terms Index
  • English -- Chinese cross-reference.

  • A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms
  • Chinese -- English cross-reference.

  • Apte Sanskrit Dictionary

    A Glossary of Buddhist Terms

    Glossary of Buddhist Terms by Simhanada

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