Arahant: A “worthy one” or “pure one;” a person whose mind is free of defilement and thus is not destined for further rebirth. A title for the Buddha and the highest level of his noble disciples.
Āsava: Effluent; fermentation. Four qualities—sensuality, views, becoming, and ignorance—that “flow out” of the mind and create the flood of the round of death and rebirth.
Asura: A member of a race of beings who, like the Titans in Greek mythology, battled the devas for sovereignty in heaven and lost.
Bodhisatta: “A being (striving) for awakening;” the term used to describe the Buddha before he actually became Buddha, from his first aspiration to Buddhahood until the time of his full awakening. Sanskrit form: Bodhisattva.
Brahmā: An inhabitant of the heavenly realms of form or formlessness. Sometimes used metaphorically to refer to the Buddha as well.
Brahman: In common usage, a brahman is a member of the priestly caste, which claimed to be the highest caste in India, based on birth. In a specifically Buddhist usage, “brahman” can also mean an arahant, conveying the point that excellence is based, not on birth or race, but on the qualities attained in the mind.
Brahmavihāra: Sublime abiding. The development of four attitudes toward the beings of the cosmos, oneself included: unlimited goodwill, unlimited compassion, unlimited empathetic joy, and unlimited equanimity. Also called the four immeasurables.
Deva (–tā): Literally, “shining one.” An inhabitant of the terrestrial or heavenly realms higher than the human.
Dhamma: (1) Event; action; (2) a phenomenon in and of itself; (3) mental quality; (4) doctrine, teaching; (5) nibbāna (although there are passages describing nibbāna as the abandoning of all dhammas). Sanskrit form: Dharma.
Jhāna: Mental absorption. A state of strong concentration focused on a single sensation or mental notion. This term is derived from the verb jhāyati, which means to burn with a steady, still flame.
Kamma: Intentional act. Sanskrit form: Karma.
Māra: The personification of temptation and all forces, within and without, that create obstacles to release from saṁsāra.
Nibbāna: Literally, the “unbinding” of the mind from passion, aversion, and delusion, and from the entire round of death and rebirth. As this term also denotes the extinguishing of a fire, it carries connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. “Total nibbāna” in some contexts denotes the experience of awakening; in others, the final passing away of an arahant. Sanskrit form: Nirvāṇa.
Nigaṇṭha: Literally, one without ties. An ascetic in the Jain religion.
Pāli: The name of the early extant canon of the Buddha’s teachings and, by extension, of the language in which it was recorded.
Saṁvega: A sense of dismay over the meaninglessness and futility of life as it is ordinarily lived, combined with a strong sense of urgency in looking for a way out.
Saṅgha: On the conventional (sammati) level, this term denotes the communities of Buddhist monks and nuns. On the ideal (ariya) level, it denotes those followers of the Buddha, lay or ordained, who have attained at least stream-entry.
Tathāgata: Literally, “one who has become authentic (tatha-āgata) or is truly gone (tathā-gata)”: an epithet used in ancient India for a person who has attained the highest religious goal. In Buddhism, it usually denotes the Buddha, although occasionally it also denotes any of his arahant disciples.
Uposatha: Observance day, coinciding with the full moon, new moon, and half moons. Lay Buddhists often observe the eight precepts on this day. Monks recite the Pāṭimokkha on the full moon and new moon uposathas.
Vinaya: The monastic discipline, whose rules and traditions comprise six volumes in printed text.