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<The Path of Life with Buddhism>


Alphabetical order.

ANĀTMAN (Egolessness)

This is one of the most fundamental points in Buddhism. All existence and phenomena in this world do not, ultimately, have any substantial reality. It is very natural for Buddhism, which advocates the impermanence of all existence, to insist that such an impermanent existence could not therefore possess any perpetual substance in it.

Anātman may also be translated as Non-Soul.

ANITYA (Transitoriness or Impermanency)

Another fundamental point in Buddhism. All existence and phenomena in this world are changing constantly and do not remain the same for even a single moment. Everything has to die or end someday in its future, and such a prospect is the very cause of suffering. This concept should not, however, be interpreted only from a pessimistic or nihilistic viewpoint, because both advancement and reproduction are also manifestations of this constant change.

(The One Striving for Enlightenment)

Originally, this name was used to indicate Gautama Siddhārtha before he had attained the state of Enlightenment. After the rise of Mahāyāna Buddhism, all those who are striving for the Buddhahood have come to be called by this name. Finally, even those who are trying to lead others to the Buddhahood by means of their great compassion while striving themselves for the same goal, have been symbolically personified as Bodhisattvas; Avalokiteśvara (Kwannon), Kșitigarbha (Jizō), Mañjuśrī(Mon-ju) are only a few of the better known ones.

BUDDHA (The Enlightened One)

Originally, Gautama Siddhārtha (Śākyamuni), the founder of Buddhism, was called by this name, as he was the one who had attained the state of Enlightenment at 35 about 2,500 years ago in India. The final goal for all Buddhists is, irrespective of their school or stream, to become a Buddha. Because of the difference of means as to how to reach this state, Buddhism has divided into various sects and schools. In Mahāyāna Buddhism, besides the historical Buddha Śākyamuni, many Buddhas such as Amitābha (Amida), Mahāvairocana (Dainichi), Bhaișajyaguru (Yakushi), etc., are generally accepted as symbols of Buddhist teachings. Being influenced by the concept of the Pure Land type of Buddhism in Japan, (one becomes a Buddha after rebirth in the Pure Land), all those who have passed away are usually called“Buddhas,” or HOTOKE in Japanese.

DHARMA (True Teaching)

This is the Teaching taught by the Enlightened One, the Buddha. There are three types of canons in the teachings: Sūtras, (teachings taught by Buddha Himself), Vinayas, (disciplines provided by Buddha), and Abhidharmas, (commentaries and discussions on the Sūtras and Vinayas by scholars in later periods). These three are called the Tripiṭaka. Dharma is one of the Three Treasures of Buddhism.

KARMAN (Deeds)

Although the original meaning of this term simply meant “Deeds”, it has, in relation with the theory of causation, come to be regarded as a kind of potential power gained as a result of each deed done in one’s past. That is, each of our acts results in either good or bad, suffering or pleasure, depending upon the act, and it has an influencing power upon our future and this is regarded as one’s Karma. It is believed that if a good deed is repeated, good will be accumulated, and its potential power will function upon the future as a beneficial influence. There are three kinds of deeds; physical, oral, and mental, in this concept.

MAHĀYĀNA (Great Vehicle)

In the course of Buddhist history, there appeared two main streams of thought, Mahāyāna and Theravāda (or Hīnayāna). The Mahāyāna type of Buddhism spread to Tibet, China, Korea, Japan, etc., while Theravāda to Myanmar, Srı Lanka (Ceylon), Thailand, etc. The term means a “Great Vehicle” which can accept all beings suffering in this world of birth and death, and can lead all of them, without any discrimination, to the state of Enlightenment.

NIRVĀŅA (Perfect Tranquility)

Literally, it means “to blow off.” This is the state where all human defilement and passion have been completely extinguished through certain practices and meditation based upon Right Wisdom. Those who had attained this state are called Buddhas. Gautama Siddhārtha had attained this state and became a Buddha at 35. However, it is now believed that it was only after he had passed away that he reached such a state of perfect tranquility, because some residue of human defilement would continue to exist as long as his physical body existed.

PĀLI (―Language)

This is the language used in Theravāda Buddhism. The oldest type of Buddhist canons are believed to have been written in this language. As this is a kind of Prakrit, a dialect of Sanskrit, there is not a big difference between Pāli and Sanskrit; Dharma in Sanskrit, Dhamma in Pāli; Nirvāņa in Sanskrit, Nibbāna in Pāli. See-Sanskrit.

(To cross over to the Other Shore)

“To cross over to the Other Shore” means to reach the Buddha Land by means of practicing various Buddhist disciplines. Usually the following six practical disciplines are regarded as those which enable one to cross from this world of birth and death to the world of Enlightenment: Offerings, Morality, Patience, Endeavoring, Concentration, and Right Judgment (or Wisdom). The traditional Japanese HIGAN weeks in spring and autumn are derived from this Buddhist concept.

PRAJÑĀ (Wisdom)

One of the Six Pāramitās. The mental function which enables one to perceive life without error and to distinguish between what is true and what is false. One who had acquired this perfectly is called a Buddha. Therefore, this is the most refined and enlightened wisdom, distinct from ordinary human intelligence.

SAŃGHA (Buddhist Brotherhood)

It consists of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. In early times, it consisted of monks and nuns. Later, when the Mahāyāna movement arose, those who aimed at the state of Bodhisattva, regardless of being layman or monk, joined together in a Brotherhood. One of the Three Treasures of Buddhism.

SANSKRIT (―Language)

The classical literary language of ancient India; one of the Indo-European family of languages. It is divided into Vedic and Classical Sanskrit. The scriptures of the Mahāyāna tradition had been written in this language which style is called Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.

SAMSĀRA (Reincarnation)

Perpetual repetition of birth and death from the past through the present to the future through these six illusory realms: Hell, Hungry Spirits, Animals, A´sura or Fighting Spirits, Men, and Heaven. Unless enlightened, one cannot be freed from this wheel of transmigration. Those who are free from this can be called Buddhas.

ŚŪNYATĀ (Non-Substantiality)

This is the concept that everything has neither substance nor permanence and is one of the fundamental points in Buddhism. Since everything is dependent upon causation, there can be no permanent ego as a substance. But, one should neither adhere to the concept that everything has substance nor that it does not. Every being, human or non-human, is in relativity. Therefore, it is foolish to hold to a certain idea or concept or ideology as the only absolute. This is the fundamental undercurrent in the Wisdom (Prajñā) Scriptures of Mahāyāna Buddhism.

SŪTRA (Scriptures)

The records of the Buddha’s teachings. The term means originally “string”, which signifies compendium threading through the vast quantity of studies in religion or science. One of the Tripitka.

THERAVĀDA (Elders’ Advocators)

The southern tradition of Buddhism is represented generally by this appelation. “Thera” means elders. This is the school of elders which was historically a group of conservative senior monks who advocated a strict adherence to the precepts as opposed to another group of rather freer progressive monks (whose beliefs were to develop later into Maha¯ya¯na, that is the northern tradition). This kind of opposing trends in Buddhist Orders is said to have started in an early period, a few centuries after the decease of the Buddha, when Maha¯deva, a progressive monk, insisted upon the freer interpretation under the five categories of the Buddhist precepts. This provoked the split into Therava¯da and Maha¯sa¯.nghika which was the fountainhead of later Maha¯ya¯na.

TRIPITAKA (Three Baskets)

The three branches of the Buddhist scriptures, Dharma, are meant by this. They are Sūtras, which contain the Buddha’s teachings; Vinayas, which contain his disciplines; and Abhidharmas, which contain various commentaries and essays on Buddhist doctrines and precepts. Later, Buddhist writings by Chinese and Japanese high-priests were also included in the Buddhist canons. See-Dharma.