When we read the Buddha’s teachings, we may need to learn some new words. Here is the meaning of some of the words that may be new to you. If you are still unsure about a lot of words, you may want to install some dictionary software.
If you are looking for suttas on a certain topic, check out the subject index.
alms foodAlms food is food that monks and nuns collect from lay people. Without it, they cannot eat.
Anāthapiṇḍika’s monasteryThis is one of the two major monasteries in Sāvatthi where the Supreme Buddha often stayed. It was donated by the householder Anāthapiṇḍika. Jeta's Grove was the location of the Supreme Buddha's dwelling.
asceticAn ascetic, or recluse, is someone who gives up the ordinary life and lives without the comforts and pleasures of a home. We can call Buddhist monks and nuns ascetics. There were also people who are not followers of the Supreme Buddha who are ascetics.
AssaññasattaA heaven with gods without perception.
asurasAsuras, or titans, are a bad type of non-human beings who are constantly fighting with devas. Birth as an asura is considered a bad rebirth.
attendantAn attendant is someone who takes care of someone else. Over his life our Supreme Buddha had many attendants but the most famous is Venerable Ānanda.
bad destinationsThere are four bad destinations: the animal world, the asura world, the ghost world, and hell.
BodhisattaSomeone is a bodhisatta when they have decided in a previous life to become a fully enlightened Buddha in the future.
bodily misconduct1) killing 2) stealing 3) sexual misconduct
brahmāBrahmās are the highest kind of gods that experience pure happiness and have very subtle bodies. They live for an extremely long time.
BrahminIn the time of the Supreme Buddha brahmins were a group of people who focused on studying and practicing the Vedas, ancient texts. Many times, however, the Buddha referred to any one who had practiced his teachings fully and become liberated (Arahant) as a Brahmin.
cat’s-eyesCat's eye is a type of gemstone.
celibateWhen a person is celibate, they don’t do any kind of sexual activity.
chief discipleEvery Supreme Buddha has two male chief disciples and two female chief disciples. Our Gautama Supreme Buddha’s two chief male disciples were Arahant Sāriputta and Arahant Mahamoggallāna. His two chief female disciples were Arahant Uppalavannā and Arahant Khemā.
clothes from KāsiIn the time of the Supreme Buddha, the city of Kāsi was famous for the most beautiful clothes, like Paris is today.
conceitWhen you are conceited, you think you are better than other people. Conceit also has a special meaning in the Dhamma.
conchA conch is a type of seashell that can be played as a musical instrument.
cowherdA cowherd is someone who looks after cows.
cycle of rebirthThe Supreme Buddha understood that as long as we still have greed, hatred, and delusion when we die, we have to be reborn again. He called this saṁsāra, or the cycle of birth and death.
defilementDefilements are negative, evil, unwholesome thoughts in the mind.
deityA deity is a god, either a deva or a brahmā. They live in the heavenly realms.
delusionWhen someone is deluded they don’t know right from wrong. They think that things that will not last forever will last forever.
dependent originationDependent origination (paṭicca samuppāda) is the process that causes the arising and passing away of all conditioned things. By breaking the chain of dependent origination we can put an end to rebirth in saṁsara.
diligenceDiligence means that we work hard to follow the Buddha's teachings. Pāli: appamāda
divine ear(Pāli: dibba sota) The divine ear is an ability to hear sounds both near and far away, even as far as the heavenly worlds. It is a psychic power usually gained by humans through meditation.
divine eyeWhen someone has the power of the divine eye, they are able to see things far away, even into the heavenly worlds. Some people with the divine eye also have the ability to see how beings die and take rebirth according to their kamma. Pāli: dibba cakkhu
double-layered robeMonks and nuns have three robes. One is a single layer of cloth, one is the same but made of two layers, and one that is smaller for wearing around the waist.
eating in moderationWhen we eat in moderation, we eat understanding the correct we eat just to maintain and nourish the body, not for fun, pleasure, or to make ourselves beautiful.
eight precepts1) Not killing 2) not stealing 3) not engaging in sexual activity 4) not lying 5) not using drugs or alcohol 6) not using entertainment or cosmetics 7) not eating after 12 noon 8) not using luxurious seats and beds. The Buddha asked his lay disciples to keep these on the full moon days.
enyBlackbuck (Pāli: eṇeyyaka)
eonAn eon is an extremely long period of time. More than millions and millions of years. Pāli: kalpa
existenceRepeated birth from one life to another.
factors of enlightenmentThere are seven enlightenment factors(bojjhaṅga): mindfulness (satisambojjhaṅga), investigation of phenomenon (dhammavicayasambojjhaṅga), energy (vīriyasambojjhaṅga), rapture (pītisambojjhaṅga), tranquility (passaddhisambojjhaṅga), concentration (samādhisambojjhaṅga), equanimity (upekkhāsambojjhaṅga)
far shoreThe Supreme Buddha often called Nibbāna "the far shore" and saṁsara "the near shore."
fettersA fetter is a chain that ties up a prisoner. There are ten fetters (saṁyojana) that bind us to saṁsara. As we remove them, we attain the stages of enlightenment. The fetters are 1. identity view 2. doubt 3. distorted grasp of rules and vows 4. sensual desire 5. ill will 6. lust for form 7. lust for the formless 8. conceit 9. restlessness and 10. ignorance.
five groups of clingingThe five (pañca) groups of clinging (upādanakkhandha) are form (rūpa), feeling (vedanā), perception (saññā), formations (sankhāra), and consciousness (viññāṇa).
five kinds of worldly pleasuresGood things to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.
five precepts1) Not killing 2) not stealing 3) not committing sexual misconduct 4) not lying 5) not using drugs or alcohol. The Buddha asked his lay disciples to keep these at all times.
formationsForm, feelings, perceptions, thoughts and consciousness.
Four Divine AbidingsThe Supreme Buddha taught us four special ways to think that give us happiness and train the mind for attaining Nibbāna. Mettā: Loving-kindness Karunā: Compassion Muditā: Rejoicing or Appreciative Joy Upekhā: Equanimity
fully enlightenedWhen we say that someone is fully, supremely, or perfectly enlightened, it means that the became enlightened on their own without a teacher and they are able to teach others to become enlightened. This is the quality of a Buddha. Pāli: sammāsambuddho
gandhabbasGandhabbas are a type of heavenly musician.
gheeGhee (ghata) is the oil part of milk, also called clarified butter.
goadA goad is a kind of stick used to control an animal. An ankus is a special goad for elephants.
going forthWhen someone goes forth, they become a monk or a nun.
good destinationThe Buddha explained there are three good destinations: 1) human world 2) deva world, and brahma world.
Great SageThe Supreme Buddha
Great SeerThe Supreme Buddha
guarding the doors of the sense facultiesWhen we are careful about the way we use our eyes, ears nose, tongue, body, and mind, then we will be safe and happy. We do not allow defilements to enter our mind through our six senses.
hindrancesThe five hindrances (pañca nīvarana) are lust, hatred, sleepiness, restlessness & remorse, and doubt. The hindrances block our concentration and our wisdom.
homelessnessWhen we talk about someone "going forth from the lay life to homelessness" it means they become a monk or nun.
household lifeWhen a person lives an ordinary life, not being a monk or nun, we call this the household life.
ignoranceNot knowing the Four Noble Truths Pāli: avijjā
immoderate in eatingWhen we are immoderate in eating, we eat for fun, pleasure, and to make ourselves beautiful, not just to maintain and nourish the body.
IsipatanaIsipatana is where the first sermon was preached.
jhānaJhānas are deep states of meditation.
jīvañjīvakaIts name means "live! live!" That is the sound of its call.
kammaKamma (or karma) is action that we do on purpose. Good actions give good results and bad actions give bad results.
KapilavatthuThis is the Supreme Buddha’s home town from where the Sākyas ruled.
Kassapa BuddhaKassapa Buddha was the Supreme Buddha prior to our Gotama Supreme Buddha.
kumbhandasKumbhandas are a type of non-human being. They are usually short.
lay followerA lay follower (upāsaka/upāsīkā) is a disciple of the Supreme Buddha who is not a monk or nun. If they are very devoted, they may wear white clothes some or all of the time.
lay lifeWhen someone leads the lay life, it means that person is not a monk or a nun.
leagueA league (yojanā) is about 10 kilometers.
liberated onesThe disciples of the Buddha who have gotten free from all defilements and stopped the cycle of rebirth. This is their final life and will have no more rebirth.
MāraMāra is an evil spirit who tries to keep people from attaining enlightenment.
mental misconductthoughts of 1) greed 2) hatred 3) delusion
meritThe Supreme Buddha called all the good actions we do merit (puñña). The three main ways of collecting this kind of good karma are giving (dāna), ethical behaviour (sīla), and developing the mind (bhāvana).
monastic codeThe monastic code is a set of rules a Buddha gives for monks and nuns to follow.
nāgasNāgas are a type of non-human beings, like giant snakes. Sometimes humans who are very powerful are called nāgas. Sometimes elephants are called nāgas. Here is a five-headed nāga protecting the Supreme Buddha:
naked asceticNaked ascetics (acela) believe that not wearing clothes increases spiritual power. They hold this and many other wrong views.
Noble Eightfold PathThe Noble Eightfold Path is the Buddha's instructions on attaining enlightenment. It is 1. Right View 2. Right Intention 3. Right Speech 4. Right Action 5. Right Livelihood 6. Right Effort 7. Right Mindfulness 8. Right Concentration
noble onesThe noble ones (ariya) are humans or gods who have attained some stage of enlightenment. Specifically they are 1. stream entrant (sotāpanna), 2. once returner (sakadāgāmi), 3. non-returner (anāgāmi), and 4. arahant.
non-humanNon-humans are beings like nāgās, gandhabbās, and kumbhandhās.
non-returnerA non-returner (anāgāmi) is a human or god who has completely removed the five lower fetters and will not return to the human world again before they attain Nibbāna.
Once-ReturnerA Once-returner (sakadāgāmi) has removed the three lower fetters of 1) identity view 2) doubt 3) distorted grasp of rules and vows and has weakened the next two: 4) sensual desire 5) ill will.
Pacceka BuddhaA Pacceka Buddha attains enlightenment on their own without a teacher, however they do not spread the teachings they have learned.
Palol(Pāli: pāṭaliyā) Trumpet flower tree.
plowA plow is a machine that helps dig up soil for planting.
plowshareA plowshare is the sharp metal part of the plow that digs in the soil like a shovel.
psychic powersPsychic powers are skills that a developed mind can have that allow the person to see or hear things far away, read minds, fly through the air, etc.
RājagahaRājagaha was the home of King Bimbisāra and is the location of the Bamboo Grove monastery. Mt. Vulture's Peak is outside of the city.
renounceWhen we renounce something, we give it up and don’t use it again. Renunciation is an important part of the Buddha’s teachings.
righteousWhen someone is righteous, they always follow good actions and avoid bad actions. Pāli: dhammika
rims and hubs
sageA sage is a very wise person. Sometimes it is used to talk about the Supreme Buddha or an Arahant.
SakyanThe Sakyans were a clan of people who lived in and around Kapilavatthu. This was the clan of the Supreme Buddha’s father.
SāvatthiThe Buddha spent much of his time in Sāvatthi, either in Jeta's Grove or the Eastern Park.
sense faculties unguardedWhen we are not careful in the way that we look, listen, smell taste, touch, and think, then we are not protecting our minds.
seven treasuresThe seven treasures of a Wheel Turning Monarch are 1) the wheel treasure 2) the elephant treasure 3) the horse treasure 4) the jewel treasure 5) the woman treasure 6) the householder treasure 7) and the counselor treasure.
special knowledgeDirectly knowing the Supreme Buddha's teachings for oneself, not just understanding the words. Pāli: abhiñña
spiritual lifeThis can mean specifically the practice of celibacy for monastics, or in general following the Buddha's teachings. (Pāli: brahmacariya)
stream-entererA stream-enterer (sotāpanna) is someone who has removed the first three fetters. They will never be reborn in a bad destination. They will attain enlightenment within seven lives.
stūpaStūpas (chaityas, tūpas, etc) are shrines built to hold relics of the Supreme Buddhas or disciples of the Supreme Buddha. This is Mirisawetiya Stupa in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.
SuddāvāsaSuddāvāsa means these five Brahmā worlds: Aviha, Atappa, Sudassa, Sudassi, and Akanitta
supreme goal of the spiritual pathThe supreme goal of the spiritual path is Nibbāna, the ending of the cycle of rebirths.
taintThe taint of sensual pleasures (kāmāsava), the taint of desire for existence (bhavāsava), and the taint of ignorance (avijjāsava).
TāvatiṁsaThe Tāvatiṁsa heavenly realm is ruled over by the god Sakka. The beings in the Tāvatiṁsa heaven are often fighting with the asuras.
the Four Great GodsThe Four Great Gods (Chaturmahārāja) rule over a variety of non-human beings. They are ruled over by the god Sakka. They are Dhataraṭṭha of the East, Virūlhaka of the South, Virūpakkha of the West, and Vessavana of the North.
three roots of evilGreed (lobha), hatred (dosa) and delusion (moha) are the root cause of our existence in saṁsara.
traineeWhen the Supreme Buddha says someone is "in training", that means they are a non-returner, once returner, stream enterer, dhamma follower, or a faith follower. Arahants have completed the Buddha's training, so they are no longer a trainee. Pāli: sekha
Triple GemThe Buddha, the Dhamma (his teachings), and the Saṅgha (enlightened disciples)
Triple KnowledgeThe Triple Knowledges are part of the Supreme Buddha's and many Arahants enlightenment. They are 1) knowledge of previous lives, 2) knowledge of the passing away and 3) rebirth of living beings according to their kamma, and knowledge of the destruction of the taints. In Pali: 1) pubbenivāsānussati ñāṇa 2) cutūpapāta ñāṇa 3) āsavakkhaya ñāṇa
TusitaThe Tusita heaven is a very happy place for the gods who live there. No fighting like in the lower heavens. Bodhisattas are always born in the Tusita heaven before they are reborn as a human who will become a Buddha.
universal kingA universal king (cakkavatti rāja)is a person who has become the leader of the entire world only by the power of their previously done good karma. It is a similar good karma as someone who can become a Supreme Buddha.
unshakable confidenceWhen someone has unshakable confidence or faith, their faith cannot be damaged, but it can continue to grow.
UruvelāUruvelā is the ancient name of the place we now call Bodh Gaya. It is where the Buddha attained enlightenment.
verbal misconduct1) lying 2) malicious speech 3) harsh speech 4) useless speech
virtuousA person who is virtuous keeps the precepts and always tries to do good things and give up doing bad things.
Vulture’s PeakVultures's Peak (Gijjhakuta) is a mountain located outside of the city of Rajagaha. The Buddha spent a lot of time living there.
wise considerationWhen we consider wisely, we examine life and the world according to the Supreme Buddha's teachings. Pāli: yonisomanasikāra
yakkhasA yakkha is a type of non-human being. Some yakkhas are disciples of the Supreme Buddha, like Ālavaka. But most are not. Yakkhas are very powerful and cannot usually be seen by humans. Below is a statue of a yakkha
yokeA yoke helps connect an animal to a machine like a plow. It has a place for the animal to put its head through.