Special doctrine [Pali]; the body of Buddhist teachings devoted to human psychology.

About to moment

The moment immediately before we act, in which we recognize the intention to act.

Afflictive Emotions

The mental mechanisms that cause suffering for beings immersed in them. Buddhist psychology aims primarily at developing understanding, control of, and eventually freedom from all afflictions.


Selflessness [Pali]; insubstantiality.


Demons [Sanskrit]; the jealous deities who dwell in a realm characterized by envy and conflict.


Hatred; anger; the tendency to push away unpleasant people and experiences. Aversion typically manifests in two primary forms: outward anger or introverted fear, depression and guilt.



Beginner’s Mind

A mind that is open to the experience of the moment and free of conceptual overlays, first made popular by the Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi.


Someone who has treated you with kindness and generosity; a person who has enriched your life or inspired you.

Bodh Gaya

One of the four Holy Places of Buddhism; the place where Buddha attained Enlightenment. This spot is marked by the Bodhi tree and Temple near Gaya, Bihar, India.


Awake [Pali, Sanskrit].

Bodhi Tree

The tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. A fig tree popularly called Pipal (scientific name Ficus Religiosa).


Wisdom-heart or the awakened heart [Sanskrit]; the aspiration of a Bodhisattva for supreme enlightenment for the welfare of all sentient beings.


Enlightenment being [Sanskrit]; someone known for an unbounded readiness and availability to help all sentient beings; the Buddha’s title before he became enlightened.


Best, highest [Sanskrit, Pali].


Best abode [Sanskrit, Pali]; the four mind states said to create an ideal quality of existence: lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.


Awakened One [Sanskrit]; specifically the historical Buddha, Sakyamuni, who lived and taught in India 2,500 years ago. A perfectly enlightened being, believed to have attained complete wisdom and universal compassion.

[Pali]; The teaching of the Buddha. The phrase most often used in Theravada countries for what in the West is called Buddhism.




The practice of giving, one of the three acts of merit that includes moral conduct and meditation. Dana is also the act of making gifts to teachers and dedicated practitioners of the Dharma in support of their efforts.


Greed; addiction; the tendency to grasp at and try to prolong pleasurable experiences. Desire involves a quality of attachment or holding on in the mind.


The best known of all the Buddhist scriptures. This collection of 423 verses outlines the key ideas of the Buddhist understanding of the human condition.


Carrying, holding; that which supports [Sanskrit]; the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha. Dharma denotes the teachings of the Buddha, the “truth” or the “way,” and the practice of those teachings.


One of the five hindrances that manifests as chronic indecision and avoidance of commitment and the accompanying risk. Skeptical doubt undermines wholehearted involvement and robs us of in-depth experience.


Suffering [Pali]; a law of nature related to the pain that arises out of the ungovernable nature of events. A sense of the fleetingness of things; sorrow, discontent, dis-ease, unsatisfactoriness, that which is difficult to bear. It also means hollowness and insecurity.




The pattern of conditioned habits that we mistake for a solid self.


A state of clear understanding about the nature of reality.
The state of complete spiritual awakening of an individual.


The ability to maintain a spacious impartiality of mind in the midst of life’s changing conditions. A state of balance or poise; a radiant calm of mind or spacious stillness of heart.



Feeling tone

The pleasant, unpleasant or neutral tone that colors every experience.



Kalyana mitta

Spiritual friend [Pali]; In Buddhist meditation tradition, teachers are referred to with this term, in that they, like the Buddha, point the way to liberation.


Action, deed [Sanskrit]; the law of cause and effect. Intentional action that impacts the doer’s development and evolution.


Trouble, defilement [Pali]; a factor of mind that obscures clear seeing; a hindrance to meditation.



Mental noting

A technique used in meditation to help direct the mind to the object of meditation.


The spiritual benefits we derive form practicing generosity, ethical conduct, and meditation.


Kindness, gentle friendship [Pali]; A practice for generating lovingkindness first taught by the Buddha as an antidote to fear. The nature of metta is to dissolve all states associated with the fundamental error of separateness: fear, alienation, loneliness, despair, and feelings of fragmentation. Metta is one of the four Brahma-Viharas likened to a gentle rain that falls impartially upon the entire earth, neither selecting nor excluding where it will land.

Middle Way

A spiritual path that avoids extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence, as taught by the Buddha.


The state of being fully present, without habitual reactions.



Neutral person

In the context of metta practice, someone for whom you feel no particular liking or disliking.


Extinction of suffering [Sanskrit]; a state of freedom that is attained through fully apprehending the nature of reality.


Meditation; the practice of refraining from reacting to internal and external events and situations.



Object of meditation

The activity (like the breath) or event (like sound) to which one directs attention during meditation.




A term widely used in Buddhism to signify a process of development and transformation over time.


A principle that defines a certain standard of conduct.




One of the five hindrances to meditation. An energy imbalance from an overemphasis on alertness at the expense of relaxation. Common forms include physical agitation, obsessive mental planning and guilt.


An extended period of meditation.

Right aim

Mindful modulation of concentration, so that meditation is neither rigid nor sloppy; an aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Right effort

The energy to undertake the spiritual journey; an aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path.

Right understanding

A view of reality that is unclouded by attachment to concepts, particularly the concept of self; an understanding of the law of karma; an aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path.




Journeying [Sanskrit]; the ocean of worldly suffering; the state of being governed by the five hindrances.


The term sangha refers alternatively to the community of practitioners of the Buddhist path; and those beings who have attained direct realization of the nature of reality, one of the three jewels of refuge.

Sense doors

The six perceptual gates through which we experience the world.


Precepts [Pali]; moral conduct.

Sinking mind

A dreamlike state in which energy is not in balance with concentration.

Skeptical doubt

A doubt whose function is to undermine faith.

Skillful means

Action based on kindness, respect, truthfulness and timeliness.


One of the five hindrances to meditation caused by energy imbalance, resistance to painful experience or physical exhaustion.

Sustaining attention

A gentle concentration of the mind on a single, present object; antidote to the hindrance of doubt.

Sympathetic joy

One of the four Brahma-Viharas, which is the cultivation of happiness when seeing someone else’s good fortune or happy circumstances.




Path of the elders [Pali]; the form of Buddhism found through most of Southeast Asia. Vipassana meditation is a central part of this tradition.

Three Jewels

The three jewels of refuge in Buddhism are the Buddha, the Dharma (doctrine) and the Sangha (spiritual community). Practitioners accept that the Buddha found a way to freedom, taught the Dharma as the path to that freedom, and founded the Sangha as the supportive community that follows the way.




To see clearly [Pali]; insight; the style of meditation characterized by concentration and mindfulness. A practice designed to quiet the mind, refine awareness and generate a direct experience of life with a minimum of distraction and obscuration.


Exertion [Pali]; the strong, courageous heart of energy.



Wise attention

A way of seeing that relies on awareness; the opposite of delusion.

Wrong view

The tendency of the mind to cling to concepts at the expense of reality; taking what is impermanent to be permanent, what is dissatisfying to be satisfying, what is selfless to be self.