The Path of Dhamma
By Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
For free distribution only.
Aggregate (khandha): Any one of the five bases for clinging to a sense of self: form (physical phenomena, including the body), feelings, perceptions (mental labels), thought-fabrications, consciousness.
Arahant: A "worthy one" or "pure one;" a person whose mind is free of defilement and thus is not destined for further rebirth. A title for the Buddha and the highest level of his noble disciples.
Becoming (bhava): States of being that develop first in the mind and allow for birth on any of three levels: the level of sensuality, the level of form, and the level of formlessness.
Brahma: An inhabitant of the highest, non-sensual levels of heaven.
Brahman: The Brahmans of India have long maintained that they, by their birth, are worthy of the highest respect. Buddhists borrowed the term "brahman" to apply to arahants to show that respect is earned not by birth, race, or caste, but by spiritual attainment through following the right path of practice. Most of the verses in the Dhammapada use the word brahman in this special sense; those using the word in its ordinary sense are indicated in the notes.
Deva: Literally, "shining one." An inhabitant of the heavenly realms.
Dhamma: (1) Event; a phenomenon in and of itself; (2) mental quality; (3) doctrine, teaching; (4) Nibbāna. Sanskrit form: Dharma.
Effluent (asava): One of four qualities -- sensuality, views, becoming, and ignorance -- that "flow out" of the mind and create the flood of the round of death and rebirth.
Enlightened one (dhira): Throughout this translation I have rendered Buddha as "Awakened," and dhira as "enlightened." As Jan Gonda points out in his book, The Vision of the Vedic Poets, the word dhira was used in Vedic and Buddhist poetry to mean a person who has the heightened powers of mental vision needed to perceive the "light" of the underlying principles of the cosmos, together with the expertise to implement those principles in the affairs of life and to reveal them to others. A person enlightened in this sense may also be awakened, but is not necessarily so.
Fabrication (sankhara): Sankhara literally means "putting together," and carries connotations of jerry-rigged artificiality. It is applied to physical and to mental processes, as well as to the products of those processes. In some contexts it functions as the fourth of the five aggregates -- thought-fabrications; in others, it covers all five.
Gandhabba: Celestial musician, a member of one of the lower deva realms.
Heart (manas): The mind in its role as will and intention.
Indra: King of the devas in the Heaven of the Thirty-three.
Jhana: Meditative absorption. A state of strong concentration, devoid of sensuality or unskillful thoughts, focused on a single physical sensation or mental notion which is then expanded to fill the whole range of one's awareness. Jhana is synonymous with right concentration, the eighth factor in the noble eightfold path (see note 191).
Kamma: Intentional act, bearing fruit in terms of states of becoming and birth. Sanskrit form: karma.
Mara: The personification of evil, temptation, and death.
Patimokkha: Basic code of monastic discipline, composed of 227 rules for monks and 310 for nuns.
Samsara: Transmigration; the "wandering-on"; the round of death and rebirth.
Sangha: On the conventional (sammati) level, this term denotes the communities of Buddhist monks and nuns; on the ideal (ariya) level, it denotes those followers of the Buddha, lay or ordained, who have attained at least stream-entry (see note 22).
Stress (dukkha): Alternative translations for dukkha include suffering, burdensomeness, and pain. However -- despite the unfortunate connotations it has picked up from programs in "stress-management" and "stress-reduction" -- the English word stress, in its basic meaning as the reaction to strain on the body or mind, has the advantage of covering much the same range as the Pali word dukkha. It applies both to physical and mental phenomena, ranging from the intense stress of acute anguish or pain to the innate burdensomeness of even the most subtle mental or physical fabrications. It also has the advantage of being universally recognized as something directly experienced in all life, and is at the same time a useful tool for cutting through the spiritual pride that keeps people attached to especially refined or sophisticated forms of suffering: once all suffering, no matter how noble or refined, is recognized as being nothing more than stress, the mind can abandon the pride that keeps it attached to that suffering, and so gain release from it. Still, in some of the verses of the Dhammapada, stress seems too weak to convey the meaning, so in those verses I have rendered dukkha as pain, suffering, or suffering and stress.
Tathagata: Literally, "one who has become authentic (tatha-agata)," or "one who is really gone (tatha-gata)," an epithet used in ancient India for a person who has attained the highest religious goal. In Buddhism, it usually denotes the Buddha, although occasionally it also denotes any of his arahant disciples.
Unbinding (Nibbāna, nirvana): Because nibbana is used to denote not only the Buddhist goal, but also the extinguishing of a fire, it is usually rendered as "extinguishing" or, even worse, "extinction." However, a study of ancient Indian views of the workings of fire (see The Mind Like Fire Unbound) reveals that people of the Buddha's time felt that a fire, in going out, did not go out of existence but was simply freed from its agitation, entrapment, and attachment to its fuel. Thus, when applied to the Buddhist goal, the primary connotation of nibbana is one of release, along with cooling and peace. Sanskrit form: nirvana.