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. The lower three levels of disciples are, in descending order: non-returners, those whose minds are freed from sensuality and will be reborn in the highest levels of heaven, there to attain nibbana, never again to return to this world; once-returners, those who will be reborn in this world once more before attaining nibbana; and stream-winners, those who have had their first glimpse of nibbana, leading them to abandon three fetters that bind them to the round of rebirth—self-identity views, doubt, and attachment to habits and practices—and who are destined to be reborn at most only seven more times.
Asava: Effluent; fermentation. Four qualities—sensuality, views, becoming, and ignorance—that “flow out” of the mind and create the flood of the round of death and rebirth.
Bodhisatta (Bodhisattva): “A being (striving for) awakening.” The term used to describe the Buddha from his first aspiration to become a Buddha until the time of his full awakening.
Brahman: A member of the priestly caste, which claimed to be the highest caste in India, based on birth. In a specifically Buddhist usage, “brahman” can also mean an arahant, conveying the point that excellence is based not on birth or race, but on the qualities attained in the mind.
Deva: Literally, “shining one.” An inhabitant of the heavenly realms.
Dhamma (Dharma): Event; phenomenon; the way things are in and of themselves; their inherent qualities; the basic principles underlying their behavior. Also, principles of human behavior, qualities of mind, both in a neutral and in a positive sense. By extension, “Dhamma” is used also to denote any doctrine that teaches such things. Thus the Dhamma of the Buddha denotes both his teachings and the direct experience of the quality of nibbana at which those teachings are aimed.
Jhana: Mental absorption. A state of strong concentration focused in a single sensation or mental notion.
Kamma (Karma): Intentional acts that results in states of becoming and rebirth.
Nibbana (Nirvana): Literally, the “unbinding” of the mind from passion, aversion, and delusion, and from the entire round of death and rebirth. As this term also denotes the extinguishing of a fire, it carries connotations of stilling, cooling, and peace. “Total nibbana” in some contexts denotes the experience of awakening; in others, the final passing away of an arahant.
Pali: The canon of texts preserved by the Theravada school and, by extension, the language in which those texts are composed.
Patimokkha: Basic code of monastic discipline, composed of 227 rules for monks and 310 rules for nuns.
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 their first glimpse of nibbana.
Tathagata: Literally, “one who has become real (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 refers specifically to the Buddha, although occasionally it also refers to any of his disciples who have attained the Buddhist goal.
Vinaya: The monastic discipline, whose rules and traditions comprise six volumes in printed text. The Buddha’s own term for the religion he founded was “this Dhamma-Vinaya.”