Glossary of Buddhist Terms

Bhikkhu - A Buddhist monk

Bhikkhuni - A Buddhist nun

Bodhisattva - One who has taken a vow to become a fully enlightened Buddha

Buddha - Fully awakened one; specifically the historical Buddha, Sakyamuni, who lived and taught in India 2,500 years ago.

Dana - The practice of giving; generosity.

Dependent Origination - The doctrine that all mental and physical phenomena arise and pass away depending on causes and conditions

Dhammapada - The best known of all the Buddhist scriptures; a collection of 423 verses, spoken by the Buddha, that focuses on the value of ethical conduct and mental training

Dharma - The Buddha’s teachings, truth, the basic building blocks of reality

Dukka - Suffering or unsatisfactoriness; of pain, both mental and physical, of change, and endemic to cyclic existance; the first Noble Truth that acknowledges the reality of suffering

Metta - Loving kindness, gentle friendship; a practice for generating lovingkindness said to be first taught by the Buddha as an antidote to fear. It helps cultivate our natural capacity for an open and loving heart and is traditionally offered along with other Brahma-vihara meditations that enrich compassion, joy in the happiness of others and equanimity. These practices lead to the development of concentration, fearlessness, happiness and a greater ability to love.

Mindfulness - Careful attention to mental and physical processes; a key ingredient of meditation; one of the five spiritual faculties; one of the seven factors of enlightenment; an aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path

Pali - The ancient language of the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism

Sila - Moral or ethical conduct, virtue, the foundation of Buddhist practice

Theravada - Path of the Elders; the form of Buddhism found throughout many parts of Southeast Asia. Vipassana meditation is a central part of this tradition.

Three Refuges - the three jewels of refuge are the Buddha, the Dharma (doctrine) and the Sangha. Practitioners take refuge in the fact 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.

VipassanaTo see clearly; insight meditation; the simple and direct practice of moment-to-moment mindfulness. Through careful and sustained observation, we experience for ourselves the ever-changing flow of the mind/body process. This awareness leads us to accept more fully the pleasure and pain, fear and joy, sadness and happiness that life inevitably brings. As insight deepens, we develop greater equanimity and peace in the face of change, and wisdom and compassion increasingly become the guiding principles of our lives.

The Buddha first taught vipassana over 2,500 years ago. The various methods of this practice have been well preserved in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism. IMS retreats are all rooted in this ancient and well-mapped path to awakening and draw on the full spectrum of this tradition’s lineages.