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Glossary of Selected Terms

Source: World Archaeology, Vol. 27, No. 2, Buddhist Archaeology (Oct., 1995), pp. 183-184
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
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Glossary of selected terms


The earliest Buddhist terminology is recorded in two principal languages: Pali, in which
the texts of Theravada Buddhism have been transmitted in Sri Lanka; and Sanskrit

(abbreviated here as Skt), the scholarly language of Brahman priests of the Hindu
tradition in which many of the Mahayana texts are written. Other languages that have

contributed to the Buddhist vocabulary are Chinese (C.) and Japanese (J.). For a fuller
discussion of terms, see Ling's A Dictionary of Buddhism: Indian and South-East Asian
(1981). Diacritics have been presented here but are omitted from other articles in the
volume.

apsara a flying deity prominent in Buddhist mural paintings.

bhikkhu (Pali) monk.


bhikkhuni (Pali) nun.
bodhi (Skt) enlightenment.
bodhisattva (Skt) a being on the verge of enlightenment who turns back to help others on

the path to enlightenment rather than enter nirvana. Avalokitesvara (C. Guanyin
[Kwan-yin], J. Kannon) is one of the most prominent in Mahayana Buddhism, often
represented as a female in China and Japan.
bodhi-tree the tree (Ficus religiosus) under which the historic Buddha gained enlightenment.

brahman (Skt) priestly caste of India; in particular, priests who subscribed to beliefs in
Brahma, a god-entity present in every human being. Brahmanism eventually became
know as Hinduism.

buddha(Skt) the 'enlightened one'; in addition to the historic Buddha (Sakyamuni), there
are also Maitreya (buddha of the future), Amitabha [J. Amida] (in the Mahayana
school, a buddha presiding over paradise) and Vairocana. The buddha state is
theoretically available to anyone who follows the Buddhist dharma, but in reality, true
buddhas are very rare.
chaitya a hall of worship, originally containing a sttpa; a stutpa shrine.

cakravartin the Buddhist ideal of a righteous king presiding over this world.

chedi (Thai) a stupa.


deva demi-god.

dharma (Skt) Buddhist doctrine, Buddhist law; 'a scheme of mental training and
discipline leading to salvation' (Ziircher 1962: 17).
dhyana (Skt; C. chan, J. zen) trance or meditation; particularly the progression through
four mental stages.

Hinaydna 'lesser vehicle' or means towards enlightenment through the 'eradication of


desire'.

jftaka stories of the historic Buddha's previous lives, often represented pictorially.
karma (Skt 'action, deed') a Brahman concept incorporated into Buddhism, entailing
the idea that one's actions in this life determine how one will be born in the next; a

system of spiritual credit, which can be enhanced by good deeds.

World Archaeology Vol. 27(2): 183-4 Buddhist Archaeology


? Routledge 1995 0043-8243

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184 Gina L. Barnes

Mahdydna 'greater vehicle' or means towards enlightenment through 'universal


compassion'.
mandala a circular form, here applied in two senses: 1) a geographically concentric
system of political organization; 2) a circular motif in Buddhist art, often incorporating
many buddha figures.

mudrd (Skt) meaningful hand gestures of buddha figures.


nigantha naked ascetic.
nirvana (Skt) release from the cycle of rebirth; emancipation from 'desire', which causes
one to keep being reborn into this world. Nirvana can be entered while still alive; upon

death, the enlightened one enters parinirvdna ('total emancipation').


pagoda an English rendition of a Portuguese transliteration of a South Asian word for
stupa; Sanskrit or Sinhalese source words have been suggested (cf. Ling 1981: 154).
sangha (Skt) community of monks, Buddhist order.
stupa (Skt) a monument to house the personal possessions or cremated remains of the
historic Buddha, built on the model of an Indian burial mound.

sutra (Skt 'thread') a Buddhist discourse or scripture; derived from the sermons of
Sakyamuni. Sutra often have at the beginning a formulaic description of where and
when the sermon was first delivered.

thera (Pali) Buddhist elder, senior monk.

Theravada (Pali) a school of Buddhism relying on the 'lesser vehicle' (Hinayana);


survives today in its Sinhalese form, which spread to continental Southeast Asia.

theri (Pali) senior nun.


vajrapdni (Skt) a figure from tantric Buddhism.

vihara (Pali) monastery.


wat (Thai) monastery.
yakkha (Pali) spirits or supernatural beings, sometimes represented in Pali texts as
morally neutral, other times as hostile.

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