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Buddhists: Physical Examinations

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anatman : of Pali or Sanskrit origin, meaning 'no fixed self'; the belief that the self is impermanent and ever changing.

bardo : the time between death and rebirth; the phase between one life and the next. Literally meaning 'that which lies between' or 'intermediate state'.

bhikkhu : Buddhist monk or homeless wanderer.

body–mind : in Buddhism, the body and mind are treated as one, rather than separate entities. See also: consciousness (or mind).

the Buddha : the historical Buddha (meaning 'awakened or Enlightened one'), Siddhartha Gotama, who founded Buddhism approximately 2500 years ago in India. A Buddha is the term used for anyone who has attained Enlightenment to the same depth as the Buddha.

Buddhism : a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of the historical Buddha.

Buddhist : someone who practises Buddhism.

conditioned co-production : the idea central to Buddhism that all things occur in dependence on conditions, and when those conditions cease, things cease - their existence being relative.

consciousness (or mind) : this is a huge topic in Buddhism and cannot easily be described. For some Buddhist traditions, built on the mind-only understanding of existence, consciousness or mind refers to both the individual body–mind of any one person or being, and also the intrinsic, luminous, fully Enlightened mind that has transpersonal aspects. On a simple level, when Buddhists talk about mind they are including such things as feelings, emotions, volitions, perceptions and also bodily sensations; hence, the mind and body are not considered in Buddhism to be split as in western philosophy.

Dharma : Buddha's spiritual teachings collectively.

Enlightenment : in Buddhism, Enlightenment is the awakening experience attained by the Buddha, and the destiny that Buddhists aim for. It is often described as awareness of the true nature of the universe. On attaining Enlightenment, one is freed from the cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth (samsāra).

Eightfold Path : this path describes how a Buddhist can achieve a transformation of himself or herself in every area of life – emotions, speech and communication, action, energy, work and all aspects of the mind, thus gradually moving in the direction of Enlightenment.

essence : see consciousness.

the Five Precepts : these precepts, guidelines or training rules are undertaken voluntarily by a Buddhist along the path to Enlightenment.

  1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures.
  2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.
  3. I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.
  4. I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.
  5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants which lead to carelessness.

the Four Noble Truths : see section on 'introduction to Buddhism'.

karma : the Sanskrit term for 'action'. The effects of a Buddhist's actions (mentally, verbally and bodily) in this and previous existences determine their experience in this and future existences. Karma is based on the philosophy of conditioned co-production where volitional actions are seen as having an ethical dimension. Skilful actions (i.e. those based on love, generosity and contentment) lead to happiness, whereas unskilful actions (i.e. those based on hatred, greed and delusion) lead to suffering, both in the current life and future lives.

mantra : a syllable or word that is sometimes repeated in meditation or prayer.

meditation : 'the continual cultivation of a positive state of mind' is one of many definitions of meditation. At home, Buddhist often set aside an area as a shrine with an image of a Buddha and incense, where they can sit (standing, lying and walking are other postures) quietly and use various methods to focus their attention and calm the mind.

metta : loving kindness. A popular form of Buddhist meditation is metta bhavana, the idea being to cultivate loving kindness (good will, compassion) towards all sentient beings.

the middle way : the 'path' between two extremes that the Buddha chose to 'walk', where a lifestyle of moderation is most appropriate – neither self indulgence nor self denial.

monastery : the dwelling place of a community of, for example, monks or nuns who are dedicating their existence to Buddhism.

monks/nuns : a Buddhist monk or nun (a bhikkhu, meaning beggar) takes a vow to enter the monastic Sangha, and undertake to obey the rules of conduct and devote their existence to the practice of the Dharma. Both may shave their heads and often wear robes. See also: monastery.

niyama (the five) : five categories of natural law.

  1. Utuniyama: pertaining to physical objects and changes in the natural environment
  2. Bijaniyama: pertaining to heredity
  3. Cittaniyama: pertaining to the workings of the mind, the process of cognition of sense objects and the mental reactions to them.
  4. Kammaniyama: pertaining to human behavior, actions and their results.
  5. Dhammaniyama: pertaining to the relationship and interdependence of all things.

Nirvana : a word of Sanskrit origin and meaning extinction or extinguishing – it is the culmination of the pursuit of freedom from greed, aversion, delusion, ignorance, craving and an ego-centered consciousness. The Buddha explained that Buddhism was like a raft (vehicle) floating across a river (the path), ultimately reaching the state of Nirvana.

the Noble Eightfold path : see Eightfold Path.

Pali : the name given to the language of the original Buddhist texts.

Parinirvana : from the Sanskrit word pari, meaning total. The final Nirvana and ultimate goal of Buddhism that is reachable only on the death of one who attained the state of Nirvana with release from the cycle of deaths and rebirths.

priest : a holy man or woman who has an officiating role in some schools of Buddhism.

rebirth : part of the cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth (samsāra).

Sangha : the practising Buddhist community of spiritual aspirants.

Sanskrit : an ancient Indo-European language and an official language of India.

Siddhartha Gotama : the founder of the Buddhist faith, who – after Enlightenment – became the Buddha.

skill : a Buddhist's actions are said to be either skilful or unskilful. Skilful actions produce positive results (happiness) whereas unskilful ones produce negative results (suffering). See also: karma.

sky burial : in Tibetan Buddhism, sky burial is a traditional method for the disposal of a Buddhist's body; the body was taken to a specific place, broken up into pieces and then left exposed on a wooden platform for slow disposal by the elements and animals. See also: information on burial or cremation in the section on 'death and the dead'.

sutra : derived from the Pali word sutta, sutra is used to describe the written Buddhist scriptures of the Buddha's oral teachings.

temple : a building dedicated to Buddhist ceremonies. See also: monastery.

Theravada : in the century after the passing of the Buddha, some 20 schools of Buddhism developed in India; Theravada was one of these schools and is still the predominant religion in parts of Asia and Sri Lanka, with over a hundred million followers worldwide.

the Three Jewels : the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha are enjoined as the Three Jewels, and are the ideals and principles that are at the centre of a Buddhist's existence.

wheel of life : the wheel of life symbolises the continuous cycle of birth, life and death (samsāra). On achieving Enlightenment, a Buddhist is awakened and freed from the cycle and reaches Nirvana. See also: further information on the page about 'symbols used for ethnic groups'.

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