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

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.

Asura: A member of a race of heavenly beings that—much like the Titans in Greek mythology—fought with the devas for control of heaven and lost.

Āsava: Fermentation; effluent. Four qualities—sensuality, views, becoming, and ignorance—that “flow out” of the mind and create the flood (ogha) of the round of death & rebirth.

Bhava: Becoming. A sense of identity within a particular world of experience. The three levels of becoming are on the level of sensuality, form, and formlessness.

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 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.

Deva (devatā): Literally, “shining one.” A being on the subtle level of form, 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.

Gotama: The Buddha’s clan name.

Indra: King of a deva realm. Sakka is the indra of the heaven of the Thirty-three, one of the sensual heavenly realms.

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.

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.

Nāga: A term commonly used to refer to strong, stately, and heroic animals, such as elephants and magical serpents. In Buddhism, it is also used to refer to those who have attained the goal.

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.

Pajāpati: A high-ranking deva, second in command to the indra of his particular deva realm.

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

Papañca: Objectification. Other possible translations for this term include complication, differentiaion, elaboration, and proliferation.

Pāṭimokkha: The basic code of monastic discipline, composed of 227 rules for monks and 311 for nuns.

Sakyan: An inhabitant of the Sakyan republic, the Buddha’s home territory.

Saṁyojana: Fetter. The ten fetters that bind the mind to the round of death and rebirth are (1) identity views, (2) uncertainty, (3) grasping at habits and practices, (4) sensual passion, (5) irritation, (6) passion for form, (7) passion for formlessness, (8) conceit, (9) restlessness, and (10) ignorance.

Saṅgha: 1) On the conventional (sammati) level, this term denotes the communities of Buddhist monks and nuns; 2) 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 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.

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. The Buddha’s own term for the religion he taught was, “This Dhamma-Vinaya.”

Yakkha: Spirit. A lower level of deva—sometimes friendly to human beings, sometimes not—often dwelling in trees or other wild places.