BUDDHIST WHEEL OF EXISTENCE
The Psychology of Confusion and the Path of Liberation

Glossary

Abhidharma – Buddhist compendia on knowledge.
Action – the implementation of view and meditation in ordinary action.
Art – in Buddhism art serves to express the symbols of enlightenment.
Bhikshu – a fully ordained Buddhist monk.
Bhikshuni – a fully ordained Buddhist nun.
Bodhicitta – the wish to free all sentient beings from samsara, and bring them to perfect awakening.
Bodhisattva – literally ‘courageous and awake’. Also referred to as ‘the children of the Buddhas’, these are great beings who dedicate themselves to the enlightenment of others. They postpone their own enlightenment until samsara is empty.
Bodhisattva Vow – the commitment to establish all sentient beings on the level of enlightenment, before attaining enlightenment for oneself.
Buddha – a fully purified and awakened being. The first of the Three Jewels.
Circumambulation – a universal Buddhist practice of paying homage to a sacred object or location.
Compassion – the wish that others be free from suffering.
Deity – an embodiment of enlightened principles, in Vajrayana it is represented as a divine form, peaceful or wrathful, with various symbolic attributes.
Dependent origination – the twelve links that create samsara, as well as the reasoning that, in originating interdependently, no entity exists independently.
Dharma – the teaching and path which the Buddha taught. The second of the third Jewels. There are two kinds - the Dharma of scriptural transmission, and the Dharma of realisation.
Duality - the belief in a solidly existing self and other.
Empowerment – ordination as a Vajrayana practitioner.
Enlightenment – the absence of confusion, and full manifestation of innate enlightened qualities.
Eternalism – the belief in an absolute divine entity.
Giving – the act of generosity to those in need.
Guru – a Sanskrit term for a spiritual master, meaning ‘heavy’ i.e. heavily laden with profound enlightened qualities.
Hinayana – A Mahayana term for the basic Buddhist tenets, which is the common foundation for all Buddhist vehicles.
Karma – the law that action, mental, verbal, or physical, has an effect.
Kindness – the unreserved wish that others have happiness.
Lama – Tibetan for ‘guru’, or master, someone who is a spiritual authority.
Lineage – the line of enlightened persons that have held, maintained, and transmitted the teachings.
Mahayana – the path of the Bodhisattvas. This tradition spread primarily in Northern India, China, Tibet, Vietnam, and Japan.
Mandala – a sacred environment, with a centre and circle.
Mantra – literally ‘protection of the mind’, it is the practice of maintaining a pure outlook that is not under the sway of habitual perceptions.
Meditation – integration or familiarisation with the View.
Middle Way – depending on the context, it is the path that avoids extremes, such as eternalism and nihilism.
Nihilism – the ignoring of cause and effect.
Mindfulness – fourfold practice of awareness of body, feeling, mind, thoughts.
Nirvana – release from suffering, and ultimately enlightenment.
Offering – the act of generosity, specifically to a worthy object which embodies the principle of enlightenment.
Paramita – six categories of actions which transcend the causes of samsara. These are generosity, discipline, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom.
Prostrations – physical gesture of respect to a sacred object or person.
Protectors – powerful spirits that have vowed to protect the Buddhist teaching.
Refuge – the entry into Buddhism, where an individual ‘takes refuge’. The object which grants refuge from the fearsome sufferings of samsara is the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.
Reincarnation – rebirth in samsara, as long as there is not liberation, will not cease. The death of the physical body is just the end of one lifetime.
Retreat – the practice of retiring to a hermitage. Practitioners may meditate in retreat for days, months, and years.
Sacred outlook – The Vajrayana practice that recognises great purity, beyond the constructs of confusion.
Sadhana – Vajrayana practice, specifically the various yogas of sustaining sacred outlook and primordial wisdom.
Samaya – the sacred commitment of a Vajrayana practitioner.
Samsara – the cycle of suffering , perpetuated life after life, due to ignorance.
Sangha – the community of practitioners. The third of the Three Jewels.
Shunyata – the emptiness of any imputed reality, and one aspect of dependent origination. A central theme in Buddhist philosophy.
Shamata – the practice of calm abiding meditation.
Shrine – sacred structures that generally celebrate the body, speech and mind representations of enlightenment. This will generally mean statues, scriptures, and sacred symbols such as stupas.
Sramanera – a Buddhist novice.
Stupa – a multi-level structure that symbolises awakening. It is mostly filled and consecrated with sacred objects, scriptures, and relics.
Sutra – in some contexts, this refers to the spiritual instruction section in the Tripitaka. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it may also designate the gradual approach as outlined in the Mahayana instruction of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.
Tantra – in some contexts, this will refer to scriptures, while it also may refer to the Vajrayana.
Theravada – the path of the Elders. The Buddhist traditions of Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand. Primarily these traditions follow the Pali versions of the Tripitaka.
Three poisons – attachment, aversion, ignorance, the three strategies with which confusion maintains itself.
Transmission – communication of lineage teachings.
Tripitaka – the three sections of Buddhist scriptures, Vinaya – scriptures in discipline; Sutra – scriptures on spiritual instruction; and Abhidharma – scriptures discussing the nature of reality.
Tripitika – the three groupings of scriptures containing the Buddha’s teachings. These are Abhidharma, Vinaya, and Sutra.
Tulku – Tibetan term for a person whose rebirth is motivated by compassion.
Two truths – absolute truth and relative truth; a philosophical classification into the two aspects of our perceived reality. Relative truth is the face value of our ordinary everyday experience, where the world functions according to causes and conditions. Absolute truth is the understanding, gained through analysis, of the absence of any basis for notions of solid entities.
Upasika – an ordained layperson.
Vajrayana – a.k.a. the ‘resultant’ vehicle, it is the scope of advanced practitioners in that it takes the vision of enlightenment as the path. Its practice requires the empowerment and guidance of a realised master.
View – the philosophical or experiential perspective that is the basis of the spiritual path.
Vihara – a Buddhist monastery.
Vinaya – guidelines on living, and specifically the monastic rules.
Vipasyana – the practice of insight meditation.
Vow – the commitment to a particular vision.
Wheel of Existence – same as samsara.
Wisdom – the innate brilliance that is unmoved by confusion.
Yoga – the practice of cultivating & sustaining experience of the natural state.
Yogi – also ‘yogin’ - a male practitioner of yoga.
Yogini – a female practitioner of yoga.