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Glossary of Buddhism

Definitions of terms related to Buddhism.

This glossary of Buddhism provides definitions of terms related to Buddhism, with links to full articles where available.

abhaya mudra
Buddhist hand gesture representing fearlessness.
Amida Buddha
(Japanese; Sanskrit Amitabha; "infinite light"). Celestial buddha who, while a bodhisattva, vowed to lead all beings to the Pure Land. Amida is the focus of devotion in Pure Land Buddhism and one of several revered buddhas of the Mahayana tradition.
(Sanskrit, "foe-destroyer"). One who has attained nirvana; the goal of Theravada Buddhism.
(Sanskrit, "ignorance"). Ignorance, which is the root of all suffering.
Basic Points of Buddhism
In 1966, leading monks from the Theravada and Mahayana traditions met in Sri Lanka with the goal of bridging the differences between the two groups and identifying the essential points of agreement.
begging bowl
Bowl used by Buddhist monks to collect alms from laypeople; also has symbolic significance.
bhumisparsha mudra
Buddhist hand gesture representing calling the earth to witness.
(Sanskrit, Pali, "Awakened One") A fully enlightened being.
Teaching of the Buddha. Another name for Buddhism.
Buddha-discipline; another name for Buddhism.
conch shell
Symbol of the fame of the Buddha's teachings.
Dalai Lama
Head of the dominant school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Gelugpa (or Yellow Hats), and from 1642 to 1959, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet.
dharma wheel
(Sanskrit dharmachakra). Buddhist symbol representing the Buddha's teachings. Often used as a symbol of Buddhism.
dharmachakra mudra
Buddhist hand gesture representing the turning of the wheel (of dharma).
(Sanskrit; Pali jhana, Chinese ch'an, Japenese zen). Meditative concentration.
dhyana mudra
Buddhist hand gesture representing meditation.
First and most popular of the many Buddhas who preceded Gautama.
(Sanskrit; Pali dukkha). Suffering - the first of the Four Noble Truths.
endless knot
Buddhist symbol representing the Buddha's endless wisdom and compassion.
Five Aggregates
(Sanskrit skandha; Pali khandha, "group"). The five aspects that make up human appearance: material composition; sensations; perceptions; mental formations; and consciousness. These are impermanent, constantly changing, and do not constitute a "self."
Five Deadly Sins
In Buddhism, five offenses that cause rebirth in hell: patricide; matricide; killing an arhat; injuring a buddha; and creating schism in the sangha.
five hindrances
Sanskrit, nivaranas. Mental and emotional obstacles that must be removed in order to attain knowledge and enlightenment: desire; anger; sloth; worry; and doubt.
Five Precepts
Sanskrit, sila. Obligations that both monks and laypersons undertake. They are to abstain from: harming any living being; taking anything not given; sensual misconduct; false speech; and losing control through intoxication.
golden fishes
(Sanskrit suvarnamatsya). Buddhist symbol of good fortune, fertility and salvation.
Beings in the lowest of the six realms of existence, who have accumulated massive amounts of bad karma due to extremely harmful actions such as murder. Hell-beings experience the most suffering of any of the realms.
Buddhist symbol of royalty and spiritual power.
Hungry ghosts, who populate the second to the lowest of the six realms of existence in Mahayana Buddhism. Usually depicted as having small mouths or necks and giant stomachs, hungry ghosts experience continual frustration and unsatisfied craving.
rainbow body
The penultimate transitional state of meditation in which matter begins to be transformed into pure light. It is said to be the highest state attainable in the realm of samsara before the "clear light" of Nirvana.
(Sanskrit, Pali "wandering"). The cycle of death and rebirth.
Second of the Four Noble Truths: Suffering is caused by desire.
(Sanskrit, Pali, "precepts"). Basic obligations that Buddhists undertake. Monks and nuns adhere to all ten; laypersons to the first five sila. The ten precepts are to abstain from: harming a living being; taking anything not given; sensual misconduct; false speech; intoxication; solid food after midday; frivolous entertainments; perfumes and jewelry; raised beds; and involvement with money.
(Sanskrit; Pali, khandha, "group"). The five aggregates that make up human appearance: material composition; sensations; perceptions; mental formations; and consciousness. These are impermanent, constantly changing, and do not constitute a "self."
(Sanskrit) Monument containing relics, usually of the Buddha.
Buddhist savior-goddess especially popular in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia
Thirty-Five Buddhas of Confession
Shakyamuni, Vajragarbhapramardin, Ratnarchis, Nageshvararaja, Viresena, Viranandin, Ratnagni, Ratnachandraprabha, Amoghadarshin, Ratnachandra, Vimala, Shuradatta, Brahman, Brahmadatta, Varuna, Varunadeva, Bharadrashri, Chandashri, Anantaujas, Prabhasashri Ashokashri, Narayana, Kusumashri Brahmajyotirvikriditabhijna, Padmamajyotirvikriditabhijna, Dhanashri, Smritishri, Suparikirtitanamashri, Indraketudhvajaraja, Suvikrantashri, Yuddhajaya, Vikrantagamishri, Samantavabhasavyuhashri, Ratnapadmavikramin, Shailendraraja
Three Jewels
1. I take refuge in the Buddha 2. I take refuge in the dharma (truth or teachings) 3. I take refuge in the sangha (monastic community)
Tibetan Book of the Dead
A text that describes in detail the stages of death from the Tibetan point of view.
treasure vase
Buddhist symbol of spiritual and material wealth, abundance, and good fortune.
(Sanskrit; Pali Tipitaka, "three baskets"). The collection of Buddha's teachings, in three sections: sutra, vinaya, and Abhidharma. They are the oldest collection of Buddhist teachings, written around the 3rd century BCE.
Symbol representing the Triple Gem or Three Jewels of Buddhism
(Sanskrit; Tibetan rdo-rje, "diamond" or "thunderbolt). Double-headed ritual instrument in Tibetan Buddhism used along with a ritual bell. The vajra is held in the right hand and represents skillful means, compassion, samsara, and the masculine principle.
Vajrayana Buddhism
(Sanskrit, "Diamond Vehicle" or "Thunderbolt Vehicle") The Tantric branch of Buddhism, which includes Tibetan Buddhism.
varada mudra
Buddhist hand gesture representing "boon-granting."
The birthday of the Buddha and the most important festival in Buddhism, celebrated in May.
victory banner
Buddhist symbol of the victory of wisdom over ignorance.
(Sanskrit, Pali) The Buddha's teachings about monastic rules, ethics and karma.
Large hall in Zen monasteries, in which zazen is practiced.

Article Info

Title Glossary of Buddhism
Last UpdatedNovember 18, 2016
URL www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/glossary
Short URLrlft.co/3102
MLA Citation “Glossary of Buddhism.” ReligionFacts.com. 18 Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 24 Feb. 2017. <www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/glossary>

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