Glossary of Terms: Buddhism

Anatman, Anatta: "No-self". The doctrine that there is no central, eternal self.

Anicca: Impermanence. The impermanence of all existence.

Arhat, Arhant: One who has followed the Buddha's Eightfold Path to liberation. The Theravadin ideal.

Boddhisattva: In Mahayana Buddhism, one who has attained enlightenment but holds back from final nirvana in order to help other sentient beings attain liberation.

Buddha: "One who is awake"; "the enlightened one". Term for the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautima (ca. 500 BCE).

Buddha-nature: Fully awakened consciousness.

Dharma: Teachings of the Buddha; the correct conduct for each person according to her/his level of awareness.

Dukkha: Suffering, frustration, anxiety, lack of harmony. A central fact of human life.

Four Noble Truths: The Buddha's awareness of the four truths that must be recognized: 1) The Truth of Suffering (all life consists of suffering; 2) The Truth of the Origin of Suffering (suffering arises from desire); 3) The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering (desire and thus suffering can be extinguished); 4) The Way out of Suffering (the eightfold path).

The Eightfold Path: The path which leads from suffering to nirvana, consisting in

Karma: Actions which have effects on this life and lives to come.

Lotus Sutra: An early Mahayana scripture, ca. 200 CE, defending innovation by claiming that the earlier teachings were "skillful means" for those with lower capacities.

Mahayana: "The Great Vehicle". School of Buddhism in the North which stresses the virtue of altruism as well as intellectual efforts for individual liberation.

Nirvana: "The extinguishing of the flame". The ultimate state of awareness which stops karma and rebirth.

Pali Canon: Also known as the "Three Baskets". Buddhist scriptures attributed to the founder, written down (in the Pali dialect) ca. 80 -100 CE in Sri Lanka.

Sangha: In Theravada monasticism, the monastic community founded by the Buddha.

Skandhas: "Bundles". The five shifting components of human nature: physical form, sensations, cognitions, character dispositions, and consciousness. "The five factors of human nature are suffering", providing no basis for stability.

Skillful Means: " Upaya". Methods that work. In Mahayana Buddhism, any method, however unusual, that will help raise awareness of one's Buddha-nature. The practitioner must be someone of great wisdom and compassion. A Tibetan Buddhist description is "crazy wisdom".

Theravada: "Doctrine of the Elders". The conservative school of Buddhism, emphasizing individual efforts toward liberation.

Three Jewels (Refuges): Buddha, dharma, sangha.