Meditation and Buddhism glossary

Amitabha (Sanskrit) = The red Buddha of the West. His name means “Infinite Light.” He is particularly important in Far Eastern Buddhism.

Avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit) = The Bodhisattva of compassion.

Bhavana (Pali/Sanskrit) = Development, cultivation.

Bodhi (Pali/Sanskrit) = Spiritual awakening, Enlightenment.

Bodhicitta (Sanskrit) = “Mind set on Awakening.” The arising of the desire to seek Enlightenment for the sake of all beings.

Bodhisattva (Sanskrit. Pali, Bodhisatta) = One who aims to attain Awakening for the sake of all beings. See “What is a Bodhisattva.”

Brahmaviharas (Pali/Sanskrit) = “The Divine Abodes,” but could also be translated as “The Best Abidings.” The four practices of Metta Bhavana (development of lovingkindness), Karuna Bhavana (development of compassion), Mudita Bhavana (development of joyful appreciation), and Upekkha Bhavana (development of Equanimity).

Buddha (Pali/Sanskrit) = One who has attained full spiritual Awakening. More precisely, one who has attained this goal without the aid of a teacher. This is a title, not a name. The historical Buddha was known as Shakyamuni (another title) or Siddhartha Gautama (his personal name).

Dharma (Sanskrit. Pali, Dhamma) = The Truth. The way things are. Reality. The Buddhist teachings and practices that help us to see Reality.

Dhyana (Sanskrit. Pali, Jhana) = A state of meditative “flow” where meditation practice becomes effortless, pleasurable, and joyful, and where the mind is calm. There are four levels of dhyana, each of which brings a deeper level of absorption.

Elements (see Six Elements)

Four Brahmaviharas (see Brahmaviharas)

Jhana (see Dhyana)

Karma (Sanskrit. Pali, kamma) = Volitional action that shapes character. Not to be confused with vipaka, which is the result of actions.

Karuna (Pali/Sanskrit = Compassion.) One of the Brahmaviharas.

Manjushri (Sanskrit) = Bodhisattva of wisdom.

Mantra (Sanskrit. Pali, Manta) = Phrases that are repeated as objects of meditation. Generally these are connected with specific Buddhas or Bodhisattvas.

Meditation = The cultivation of awareness (mindfulness) and the application of methods to change ourselves in order that we become more fulfilled and more able to see reality.

Metta (Pali. Sanskrit, Maitri) = Lovingkindness, love, universal friendliness. One of the four Brahmaviharas.

Mindfulness = The quality of non-attached, non-judgmental observation of experience.

Mudita (Pali/Sanskrit) = Empathetic Joy, or Sympathetic Joy. Happiness that arises as we become aware of the happiness and positive qualities of ourselves and others.

Sampajañña (Pali. Sanskrit, samprajanya) = Mindfulness of purpose. Continuity of awareness over time.

Sati (Pali. Sanskrit, smriti) = Mindfulness of one’s present-moment experience.

Shakyamuni (Sanskrit. Pali, Sakyamuni) = A title of the Buddha, meaning “The Sage of the Shakyan clan.”

Six Elements = Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space, & Consciousness, used as an analytical framework in meditation in order to deconstruct the false sense of a separate and permanent self.

Tara (Sanskrit) = A bodhisattva in the form of a 16 year old goddess. The two most common forms are Green Tara and White Tara.

Upekkha (Pali. Sanskrit, upeksha) = Equanimity, in the sense of 1. Not being unduly swayed by emotions, and 2. Seeing the suffering and joys of living beings with an awareness that suffering and joy arise as natural processes.

Vajrapani (Sanskrit. Pali, Vajirapani) = “The Wielder of the Thunderbolt.” A Bodhisattva associated with the energy that destroys delusion.

7 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi there. I was wondering if you could give an explanation of the term ‘Maitreya’. It sounds like ‘three mothers’ and I’m wondering if that is an accurate interpretation. I’m interested in the concept of ‘shakti’ as mother energy and the relationship of that to the three gunas and their corresponding nadis. Best wishes.

    • Maitreya means “the loving one” or “the kindly one” and it’s the name, according to later Buddhist tradition, of the next Buddha.

  • Thank you. I’m interested in the original construction of words as I believe that relates to their intended purpose, but your definition is understandable given it describes the behaviour of one in whom all the autonomous processes of enlightenment, and evolution, are able to fulfil themselves. Would you say ‘the next Buddha’ is each and every person who achieves enlightenment, even though there may be many at one time, indeed, the whole of humanity at some time perhaps, rather than just the name given to one unique individual ? I understand ‘Buddha’ originates from ‘Bodha’ meaning intellect. In this case one with ‘atma-bodha’ who sees everything as it is and knows how to use the intellect for others to find peace. Kind regards.

    • Technically a Buddha is one who has rediscovered the path to Awakening after the path has been lost. So Gautama was a Buddha, and we’re presently living under his dispensation. And one strand of Buddhist teaching has it that Gautama’s Dharma will be lost, and the way will be discovered again by Maitreya, who becomes the next Buddha. So technically, even though we gain the same state of awakening as Gautama Buddha we ourselves will not be Buddhas because we are following his path.

      But in a more informal sense, Buddhists will often talk about you and I “becoming a Buddha” when we’re enlightened.

      Atma-bodha, as far as I’m aware, is a Hindu term and not one that Gautama Buddha would have applied to himself. He taught An-atman (non-self), and so there is no Atman for him to have had knowledge of.

  • That’s interesting. So is there nothing in Buddha’s teaching that relates to an aspect of the divine contained within the individual that is able to manifest only when we surrender ownership of our efforts, thus producing the correct state of being ? Sorry for taking up your time. I guess it’s a shortcut to doing all the reading myself, and I’ve read a lot of what you’ve had to say on other things. Kind regards and thanks.

  • I see there are several interpretations of the relevance of the term ‘atman’ amongst followers of Buddha. I guess it is the same as any other attempt at interpreting and organising the words of an enlightened being. I have no doubt thought that the enlightened one was trying to introduce people to the state of being beyond concepts though, knowing that compassion occurs spontaneously in those who have realised that there is no ‘other’, regardless of their intellectual ability. Take care. Best wishes always.


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