Buddhism Keywords

Anatta (Anatman)
No self. The teaching that we have no permanent identity and are a stream of processes.
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Anicca (Anitya)
Impermanence. The teaching everything is constantly changing.
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Arhat (Arahat)
Theravada Buddhism defines arhatas "one who is worthy" or as a "perfected person" having attained nirvana.
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Race which invaded India in ancient times and established themselves as the dominant ('noble') class of society.
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A religious practice of self-denial and even inflicting pain on oneself.
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Bhikkhu (Bhikshu)
A Buddhist monk
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Bhikkhuni (Bhikshuni)
A Buddhist nun
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Bodhi (S)
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Bodhi Tree
The type of tree under which the Buddha was said to have become enlightened, otherwise known as the pipal tree. It has distinctively shaped leaves.
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Bodhisatta (Bodhisattva)
A person who will become a Buddha in the future, (2) One who puts off ultimate enlightenment until all other beings are saved
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Brahma (S)
The God of Hinduism, unifying all other gods and part of the structure of the universe.
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Brahmaviharas (S)
The 4 states of positive emotion cultivated by 4 related meditations: Maitri (S)/Metta (P) (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upeksha (equanimity).
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(1) Any person who has achieved enlightenment, (2) The Buddha, Gautama, sometimes referred to as 'The Historical Buddha', the founder of Buddhism. (3) A mythical or symbolic figure representing the ideal of enlightenment.
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Recognised body of religious texts
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The social group to which an Indian traditionally belongs, associated with a particular type of occupation, within which he is born and must marry.
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The practice of not marrying and abstaining from all sexual activity
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The process of cause and effect which affects all actions and events in the unenlightened universe.
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The religion established in China before Buddhism arrived there, which stressed social conformity and order.
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Dalai Lama
The reincarnating lama who is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, and was also the political ruler of Tibet until the Chinese invasion.
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Giving or generosity as a spiritual practice required in Buddhist ethics. Can also refer to a donation (eg. to a monastery).
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A mistaken understanding of the nature of the universe, causing suffering.
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Dependent Origination
The chain of causes and effects depicted around the edge of the Wheel of Life, which cause all phenomena to arise and bind us to continued unenlightened existence.
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Dhamma (Dharma)
The teaching of the Buddha
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Jhana (Dhyana)
A state of meditative absorption and concentration. Categorised into four dhyanas at varying levels of absorption, plus four further 'formless' dhyanas.
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Domestication of the Sangha
The process described by scholars as taking place during the early history of Buddhism, in which monks left their initial wandering life and settled down in monasteries.
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Philosophical view that there are two distinct realities: in Buddhism this means the realities of Nirvana and Samsara. Also used to describe the view that there are two distinct parts of the person: body and soul or body and mind.
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Dukkha (Duhkha)
Teaching of suffering. The world is full of suffering.
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Eightfold Path
Noble Formulation of Buddhist practice into 8 elements: Right View, Right Aspiration, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration.
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Idea, rejected by Buddhism, that the same soul or self survives through all our rebirths, and that this gives us absolute values.
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Five Hindrances
Formulation of the things which prevent successful meditation: Sense Desire, Anger, Doubt, Anxiety and Sloth.
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Five Precepts
Ethical vow taken by lay Buddhists to avoid harming living beings, taking the not-given, misusing the senses, telling lies, and intoxicating oneself.
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'Lesser Vehicle': word used by the Mahayana or 'Greater Vehicle' (q.v.) to describe the Theravada, sometimes regarded as derogatory.
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Name invented by Westerners for a wide range of Indian religious traditions which follow on from Vedic Religion. What we call Hinduism includes everything from the worship of local village gods to profound philosophy, but it is bound together monism
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The awareness and understanding of the true nature of the universe needed for enlightenment.
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Indian religion which began at about the same time as Buddhism, founded by Mahavira and still in existence today. It differs fundamentally from Buddhism in believing that the consequences of actions, not the motives behind them, produce karma.
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Story of one of the Buddha's former lives.
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Desire or Lust
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Kamma (Karma)
Literally 'Action' but usually used to mean Karma-Vipaka or 'The fruits of action': this basically means the effects that all our actions (or more strictly, the motives for them) have on our future by setting up habits or patterns of behavior.
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Belief in the complete truth of written scripture as it is stated.
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A plant which grows in water (like a water-lily) which became spiritual symbol of purity because, although its roots grow in the mud, its beautiful flowers grow clear of the water.
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Lotus Sutra
Important Mahayana text, showing the differences between Mahayana and Theravada approaches.
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'Great Vehicle' : Great new movement of re-interpretation of the Buddha's teachings which began in India about 500 years after the Buddha and spread to China, Tibet, Mongolia, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Sometimes called Northern Buddhism
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A sequence of powerful words, each having a deep meaning in itself but not usually forming a coherent sentence, which are recited as a meditation practice. The sound of the words is said to have spiritual qualities which purify the mind.
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Symbolic character representing the forces working against enlightenment, who is depicted as trying to scare and then lure the Buddha from his purpose as he came close to nirvana
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A person who thinks there is only a material type of existence.
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Practice found in Buddhism and other religions, consisting of some kind of systematic mental exercise to change and improve habitual mental states.
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Continual undistracted awareness: a quality to be developed in meditation and one’s whole life.
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Practice of having monks and/or nuns living in monasteries apart from the rest of society.
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Hand-position of the Buddha in different statues or pictures: each mudra has a different symbolic meaning.
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Legendary snake-people who live under the sea.
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A doctrine that there is no value in the universe beyond our immediate desires and conventions. Opposed to eternalism
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Nibbana (Nirvana)
'Blowing-out'.State first achieved by the Buddha,usually translated as 'enlightenment'.Nirvana is not a place or an after-death state but a fully awakened state of mind. As a principle, nirvana is distinguished from its opposite, Samsara.
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Noble Truths
Four The basic statement of the Buddha's teaching made in his first sermon after enlightenment. This is (1) Dukkha, (2) The Arising of Dukkha, (3) The Cessation of Dukkha (which is nirvana), (4) The Path leading to the Cessation of Dukkha.
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Someone in training to be a monk, who has taken a preliminary ordination but not the final one.
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The language in which the Theravada Buddhist texts were written. Pali is derived from Sanskrit, and is similar to the language spoken by ordinary people in the Buddha's time.
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Pali Canon
The accepted body of Theravada scriptures.
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Story which has a spiritual interpretation, used to convey a teaching.
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Statement which at first appears contradictory, but points towards a deeper truth.
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Belief in many gods.
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Agreement to follow a certain moral guideline (eg. not to harm living beings) as part of spiritual practice.
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Pure Land Buddhism
A branch of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, where the goal is rebirth in the Pure Land: this is not achieved by one's own efforts, but through the grace of Amitabha Buddha.
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Questions of King Milinda
A Pali text, written later than most of the Pali canon and only admitted to the Canon in the Burmese tradition. It is written in the form of a dialogue in which King Milinda questions the wise monk Nagasena about a wide range of teachings
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Traditional Buddhist belief that the process of karma associated with one individual goes on to be associated with a new individual after death.
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Three Jewels (the ideals of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha). The Buddhist declares, 'I go for refuge to the Buddha, I go for refuge to the Dharma, I go for refuge to the Sangha.' and then repeats this twice.
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Type of meditation which aims to calm and concentrate the mind in preparation for Vipassana practice
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The unenlightened state and the cyclic processes in the universe which perpetuate it. The opposite of nirvana.
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(1) The spiritual community, united in friendship and commitment to Buddhism. (2) The community of monks. (3) The ideal of spiritual friendship.
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Ancient Indian language, which continued to be spoken by the higher castes and used in literature until relatively recently. The language of Hindu and Indian Mahayana Buddhist scriptures.
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Sila (Shila)
The practice of morality.
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Khanda (Skandha)
One of the five 'aggregates' or 'heaps' which make up a person with an ego: matter, feeling, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.
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Skilful Means
The Mahayana teaching that the Dharma should be taught in a way appropriate to those receiving it, even if later they would understand it in a different way. This explained why the Buddha had not at first taught Mahayana doctrines.
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Concrete image which represents something abstract, especially an idea not easily described in words (eg. the Buddha is a symbol of Enlightenment).
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The combining of different religions into one.
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Tanha (Trishna)
Thirst': the greed or desire which, together with hatred and delusion, keeps us in unenlightened existence.
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Idea in Pure Land Buddhism that you cannot reach salvation by your own power (Jiriki), but only by the power of Amitabha Buddha, whom you should have absolute faith in.
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'Way of the Elders': The earliest school of Buddhism which has maintained a fixed body of doctrines since the time of the Buddha and is still the dominant form of Buddhism in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.
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Three Jewels
The three most important ideals of Buddism: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha
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Tibetan Book of the Dead
A text which should be recited into the ear of a dying or newly-dead person, containing instructions as to how to avoid further rebirth and take this opportunity to gain nirvana.
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Tipitaka (Tripitaka)
'Three Baskets' : collected scriptures of Theravada Buddhism, taking up many volumes and divided into three parts : the Sutta Pitaka (stories and teachings), Vinaya Pitaka (Monastic rules), and Abhidhamma Pitaka (Further Philosophy and Psychology).
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Layman who has committed himself to practising Buddhism and follows some monastic practices, without becoming a monk.
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Female equivalent of upasaka.
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'Discipline' The code of conduct for monks and its explanations and elaborations.
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Type of meditation intended to cultivate wisdom, usually based on the contemplation of a word, phrase or image and involving systematic thought about its implications.
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A type of meditation where an image, usually of a Buddha or Bodhisattva, is carefully reconstructed in the imagination.
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Wheel of Life
A Tibetan symbolic painting in which the whole teaching of karma and dependent origination is represented
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Sitting meditation practice in the Zen tradition.
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Sect of Buddhism which developed in China as Ch'an (a translation of S. dhyana) concentrating on meditation and stressing the spontaneous and non-conceptual nature of enlightenment
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


Impermanence. The teaching everything is constantly changing.


Anicca (Anitya)

Card 3


Theravada Buddhism defines arhatas "one who is worthy" or as a "perfected person" having attained nirvana.


Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4


Race which invaded India in ancient times and established themselves as the dominant ('noble') class of society.


Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5


A religious practice of self-denial and even inflicting pain on oneself.


Preview of the back of card 5
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