Abhidhamma: The third division of the Pāli Canon, composed of texts that elaborate on lists of terms and categories drawn from the discourses.

Āmisa: Literally, “flesh”; “bait”; “lure.” Used to describe objects of sensual enjoyment and the feelings of pleasure, pain, and neither pleasure nor pain that arise in the quest for sensual enjoyment. Its opposite is nirāmisa—not of the flesh—which describes the feelings developed around jhāna and the pursuit of release from suffering and stress.

Arahant: A “worthy one” or “pure one.” A person whose mind is free of defilement and thus 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 (ogha) of the round of death & rebirth.

Brahmā: A deva inhabiting the higher heavenly realms of form or formlessness.

Brahman: 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: Literally, “brahmā-dwelling.” Attitudes of unlimited good will, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity.

Deva (devatā): Literally, “shining one.” A being on the subtle levels of sensuality, form, or formlessness, living either in terrestrial or heavenly realms.

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.

Gandhabba: A member of the lowest level of celestial devas.

Gotama: The Buddha’s clan name.

Iddhipāda: Base of success, base of (meditative) power. One of the sets of Dhammas the Buddha included in the list of his most basic teachings. There are four in all, and the standard formula describing them is this: “There is the case where a monk develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on desire & the fabrications of exertion. He develops the base of power endowed with concentration founded on persistence… concentration founded on intent… concentration founded on discrimination & the fabrications of exertion.” (SN 51:15)

Jhāna: Mental absorption. A state of strong concentration focused on a single sensation or mental notion.

Kamma: (1) Intentional action; (2) the results of intentional actions. Sanskrit form: Karma.

Kasiṇa: Totality. A meditative practice in which one stares at an object with the purpose of fixing a one-pointed image of it in one’s consciousness and then manipulating the image to make it fill the totality of one’s awareness.

Khandha: Aggregate; physical and mental phenomena as they are directly experienced; the raw material for a sense of self: rūpa—physical form; vedanā—feelings of pleasure, pain, or neither pleasure nor pain; saññā—perception, mental label; saṅkhāra—fabrication, thought construct; and viññāṇa—sensory consciousness, the act of taking note of sense data and ideas as they occur. Sanskrit form: Skandha.

Māra: The personification of temptation and all forces, within and without, that create obstacles to release from the round of death and rebirth.

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. Sanskrit form: Nirvāṇa.

Nimitta: Theme; sign. According to MN 44, the four establishings of mindfulness are the themes of right concentration.

Pāli: The language of the oldest extant Canon of the Buddha’s teachings.

Pavāraṇā: Invitation. A monastic ceremony marking the end of the rains retreat on the full moon in October. During the ceremony, each monk invites his fellow monks to accuse him of any offenses they may have suspected him of having committed. As happens in MN 118, this ceremony can be delayed for up to one lunar month.

Saṁvega: Dismay over the pointlessness of the sufferings of life as ordinarily lived.

Saṅgha: On the conventional (sammāti) 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.

Sutta: Discourse. Sanskrit form: Sūtra.

Tathāgata: Literally, one who has “become authentic (tatha-āgata)” or who 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.

Upādāna: The act of clinging to something to take sustenance from it. The activities that, when clung to, constitute suffering are the five khandhas. The clinging itself takes four forms: to sensuality, to habits & practices, to views, and to theories about the self.

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, the monastic code, on the full moon and new moon uposathas.

Vinaya: The monastic discipline, whose rules and traditions comprise six volumes in printed text.