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A note on language and scriptures.

Buddhist scriptures have been recorded in, or translated into, many languages. Some words have different spellings because of the different languages they come from, but they refer to the same thing. The two languages most important to the Buddhist scriptures are most notably Pali and Sanskrit [in brackets after the Pali].

The teaching of Theravada Buddhism in Sri Lanka was in Pali, a language from Western India. Pali is a spoken language with no script of its own, so it can be written in any script phonetically.

In India Buddhist teaching was first written down in the lst century CE. (Christian Era) It was written in Sanskrit and is known as the Sanskrit scriptures or canon, the Tripitaka (three baskets).

Buddhism also has scriptures in other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Tibetan and Mongolian. The whole of the Pali scriptures have been translated into English

Ananda Buddha's cousin and follower.
Abhidharma Abhidhamma Further or higher teaching. The philosophy and psychology of Buddhism in abstract, systematic form.
Abhidharm Abhidhamma This is the third of the three principal Pitaka Pitaka sections of the canon of basic scripture. Is is systematic, philosophical and psychological treatment of the teachings given in the Sutta Pitaka.
Amitabha Amitayus Also, Amida (Japanese). Buddhas having unlimited light and life respectively.
Anapanasmrti Anapanasati Mindfulness of the breath. The practice most usually associated with the development of concentration and calm, but also used in the training of Vipassana (insight).
Anatta No self:; no sour. Insubstantiality: denial of a real or permanent self.
Anicca [Anitya] Impermanence; transience. Instability of all things, including the self.
Arhat  Enlightened disciple. The fourth and highest stage of Realisation recognised by the Theravada tradition. One whose mind is free from all greed hatred and ignorance.
Asoka Emperor of India in the 3rd century BCE.
Atta Self; soul.

Bhikkhu [Bhikshu] Fully ordained Buddhist monk.
Bhikkhuni [Bhikshuni] Fully ordained Buddhist nun.
Bodhi Tree The tree (ficus religiosa) under which the Buddha realised Enlightenment. It is known as the Tree of Wisdom.
Bodhisattva [Bodhisatta] A Wisdom Being. One intent on becoming, or destined to become enlightened, a Buddha. Gotama, before his Enlightenment as the historical Buddha.
Brahma Viharas The four sublime states: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and evenness of mind.
Buddha Founder of Buddhism, known as Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautama. Any person awakened or enlightened to the essential truth of the universe.
Butsudan (Japanese) Lit. "seat of the Buddha" - Buddhist altar
Bodhi tree The type of tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment.
Buddhism religion begun by Siddhartha Gotama.

Canon a collection of sacred holy books.

Dana [Daan] Generosity; giving; gift. Giving of alms (food, money, time, goods etc) to the Sangha (Buddhist monks).
Dalai Lama (Tibetan) Great Ocean. Spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people.
Daimoku (Japanese) The chant of 'Nam-myoho-renge-kyo'; the central practice of Nichiren Buddhism.
Dhamma [Dharma] Universal law; ultimate truth. The teaching of the Buddha. A key Buddhist term.
Dharmapada Dhammapada Famous scripture of 423 verses.
Duhkha [Dukkha] Suffering; ill; unsatisfactoriness; imperfection. The nature of existence according to the first Noble Truth.

Emperor ruler of several countries.
Enlightenment realization of the truth of the way things are this is the end of rebirth.

Four Noble Truths four of the most important elements of the Buddhist teaching.

Gompa (Tibetan) Monastery; place of meditation.
Gautama Family name of the Buddha.
Gohonzon (Japanese) Lit. 'object of worship worthy of respect' written manadala bases on the invocation of 'Nam-myoho-renge-kyo'.
Gongyo (Japanese) Ceremony of worship in the Nichiren (Soka Gakkai).

Hinduism main religion of India.

Jataka Birth story. Accounts of the previous lives of the Buddha.
Jhana [Dhyana] also Ch'an (Chinese) and Zen (Japanese).

Karma: Action. Intentional actions that affects one's circumstances in this and future lives. The Buddha's insistence that the effect depends on volition marks the Buddhist treatment of Kamma as different from the Hindu understanding of Karma. The fundamental law of cause and effect.
Karuna Compassion.
Kathina Buddhist festival and ceremony of presenting new robes to monks.
Kesa (Japanese) The robe of a Buddhist monk, nun, or priest.
Khandha [Skandha ] Heap; aggregate. The Five Khandhas together make up the 'person' (form, feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness).
Khanti [Kshanti] Patience; forbearance.
Kilesa [Klesa] Mental defilement or fire, such as greed, hatred or ignorance.
Koan (Japanese) A technical term used in Zen Buddhism referring to enigmatic or paradoxical questions used to develop intuition. Also refers to religious problems encountered in daily life.
Kwan-yin (Chinese) Also, Kannon (Japanese). Bodhisattva of compassion, depicted in female form. Identified with Bodhisattva: Avalokitesvara.

Lama (Tibetan) Teacher, or one who is revered.
Lotus Sutra A scripture of major importance to various schools within the Mahayana tradition. It describes the virtues of the Bodhisattva, and emphasises that all sentient beings posses Buddha-nature and can attain Enlightenment (Nirvana).

Meditation mental control and the development of concentration, leading to calmness.
Magga [Marga] Path, leading to cessation of suffering. The fourth Noble Truth.
Mahayana Great Way or Vehicle. Teachings that spread from India into Tibet, parts of Asia and the Far East, characterised by the Bodhisattva ideal and the prominence given to the development of both compassion and wisdom.
Mala Also, Juzu (Japanese). String of 108 beads used in Buddhist practice (like a rosary).
Metta [Maitri ] Loving kindness. A pure love which is neither grasping nor possessive.
Metta Sutta Buddhist scripture which describes the nature of loving kindness.
Maitreya One who has the nature of living kindness. Name of the future Buddha.
Mandala Lit. 'circle' - pictorial or written presentation of the Buddha, the Mystic Law or Buddhist cosmology.
Mantra Sacred words usually in the form of a vocalised chant.
Mudra Ritual gesture, as illustrated by the hands of Buddha images.
Mudita Sympathetic joy. Welcoming the good fortune of others.
Monastery place where monks live.
Monk man who dedicates his life to his religion

Nibbana [Nirvana] Blowing out of the fires of greed, hatred and ignorance, and the state of secure perfect peace that follows. A key Buddhist term.
Nirodha Cessation (of suffering). The Third Noble Truth.
Nibbana [Nirvana] realization of the truth of the way things and the end of rebirth.
Noble Eightfold Path a list of eight 'steps' which are a way of living. The fourth noble truth.
Non-attachment not being attached to anything; persons, things, ideas, opinions etc.
Nun woman who dedicates her life to her religion.

Panna [Prajna] Wisdom. Understanding the true nature of things.
Parami [Paramita] A perfection or virtue. One of the six or ten perfection necessary for the attainment of Buddhahood.
Parinibbana Final and complete nirvana reached at the passing away of a Buddha.
Patimokkha The training rules of a monk or nun - 227 in the case of a Theravada monk.
Pitaka Basket. Collection of scriptures (see Tripitaka).
Pali Canon the earliest known scriptures of Buddhism written in the 'Pali' language around the 1st century BC.
Poson festival remembering the bringing of Buddhism to Sri Lanka.
Purowa special platform for marriage.

Refuge place or feeling of safety
Rahula Siddhartha Gautama's son.
Relic something important kept from the past.
Retreat special time of meditation away from your normal life
Rupa Form. Used of an image of the Buddha; also, the first of the five Khandas.

Sakyamuni Sage of the Shakyas (the tribe of the Buddha). Title of the historical Buddha.
Samadhi Samadhi Meditative absorption. A state of deep meditation.
Samatha A state of concentrated calmness; meditation (see Vipassana).
Samsara Everyday life. The continual round of birth, sickness, old age and death which can be transcended by following the Eightfold Path and Buddhist teaching.
Samudaya Arising, origin (of suffering). The second Nobel Truth.
Sangha Community; assembly. Often used for the order of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis in Theravadin countries. In the Mahayana countries, the Sangha includes lay devotees and priest, e.g. in Japan.
Sankhara Mental/Karmic formation. The four of the five Khandhas.
Sanna Perception. Third of the five Khandhas.
Satori (Japanese) Awakening. A term used in Zen  Buddhism.
Siddattha [Siddhartha] Wish-fulfilled. The personal name of the historical Buddha.
Sila Sila Morality.
Soka Gakkai (Japanese) "Society for the creation of value" - lay Buddhist movement inspired by the teachings of Nichiren.
Sutta Text. The word of the Buddha.
Sutta Pitaka The second of the three collection - principally of teachings - that comprise the cannon of basic scripture.
Stupa (thupa, cetiya, dagoba, pagoda, chorten) Reliquary. Originally a large mound built over cremated remains of the Buddha, but later one containing relics of revered Buddhist teachers or sacred books. The shape of the stupa is a symbol i.e. wisdom, water, fire, air and earth. See shrines and temples.
Songkran New Year Festival (Thailand)
Sanskrit the classical language of India and Hinduism
Shrine holy place

Tipitaka [Tripitaka] A threefold collection of texts (Vinaya, Sutta, Abhidamma). The Buddha's teaching, which were divided into these three 'baskets'.
Triple Gem the Buddha, Dhamma (Dharma) and Sangha.
Tanha Thirst; craving; desire (rooted in ignorance). Desire as the cause of   suffering. The second Noble Truth.
Tathagate Another epithet for the Buddha.
The Middle Way The significant Buddhist teaching that liberation lies neither in indulgence (materialism) nor in rejection (ascetism).
Tiratana The Three Treasures (or Three Jewels). The Buddha, The Dharma (Law or teaching) and the Sangha (community of believers).
Theravada Way of the elders. A principal school of Buddhism, established in Sri Lanka and South East Asia. Also found in the West.
Tulku (Tibetan) Reincarnated Lama.

Upaya Any skilful means, e.g. meditation on loving kindness, to overcome anger.
Upekkha [Upeksa] Equanimity; evenness of mind.

Vihara Dwelling place, Buddhist temple, monastery or nunnery.
Vajrayana Thunderbolt; Diamond Way. Teaching promulgated later, mainly in India and Tibet. Another term for esoteric Buddhism.
Vedana Feeling. The second of the five Khandhas.
Vinaya The rules of discipline of monastic life.
Vinaya Pitaka The first of the three collections of the cannon of basic scripture, containing mostly the discipline for monks and nuns, with many stories and some teachings.
Vinnana Consciousness. The fifth of the five Khandhas.
Vipassana Insight into the true nature of things. A particular form of meditation (see Samatha).
Virya Energy; exertion.

Wesak or Vesak Buddha day. Name of a festival and a   (Sinhalese) month. On the full moon of Wesak in May, the birth, Enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha took place, although some schools celebrate only the birth at this time, e.g. Zen.

Yasodhara Siddharth Gautama's wife.

Zazen (Japanese) Meditation while seated, as in Zen Buddhism.

Zen name given to the Japanese branch of Mahayana Buddhism.
Zen (Japanese) Meditation. Derived from the Sanskrit 'dhyana'. A school of Mahayana Buddhism that developed in China and Japan.

Early life | Four signs | Bodhi tree | Enlightenment | Noble Truths | Life & Death | Asoka | Books | Buildings | Festivals | Practices | Rites | Glossary