The following words are mostly in Pali, the language of the Theravada Buddhist scriptures and chants (if not Pali, the language of the word is noted). They are brief translations for quick reference these are not exhaustive or refined definitions. Not all of the foreign words found in the talks are listed below, as many are defined at the point of use. Note most Pali diacritics have been omitted here and within the book, as few people are familiar with the specialised pronunciation conventions

ajahn: (Thai) ‘teacher’. Often used as the title of the senior monk or monks at a monastery.

anagarika: ‘homeless one’. An anagarika, still technically a lay person, lives in a monastery and follows the Eight Precepts.

anatta: ‘not-self’, i.e. impersonal, without individual essence.

anicca: impermanent, transient (and by implication, ephemeral), having the nature to arise and pass away.

arahant: an enlightened being, free from all delusion.

bhavana: practice, cultivation. Used in a specific way (e.g., metta bhavana), or more generally (as in the bhavana which the spiritual life itself entails).

bhikkhu: alms mendicant. In Buddhism, it is the term for a monk, who lives on alms and abides by training precepts which define a life of renunciation and simplicity.

bodhisatta: As used in the Theravada school, this refers to a being destined for enlightenment, and sometimes specifically to Gotama Buddha before his enlightenment.

bodhisattva: (Sanskrit) A term from Mahayana Buddhism, referring to one who ‘delays complete enlightenment’ for the sake of helping other beings reach enlightenment first.

Buddha: The Understanding One, the One who is awake, who knows things as they are; a potential in every human being. The historical Buddha, Siddhattha Gotama, lived and taught between 563 and 483 BC.

Chao Khun: (Thai) title of honour for a monk, which confers responsibility for the Sangha of a district.

dana: generosity. Hence, often used to refer to an offering, especially of food, to a monastic community.

dhamma: This word is used in several ways. It can refer to the Buddha’s Teaching, as contained in the scriptures; to the Ultimate Truth, towards which the teaching points; and to a discrete ‘moment’ of life, seen as it really is. (Sanskrit ‘dharma’.)

dhutanga (Thai tudong): special strict monastic observances. Dhutanga bhikkhus are noted for their diligence and impeccability. In Thailand, such monks often undertake the mendicant’s wandering practice of the Buddha’s time – hence the phrase, ‘to wander (or ‘go’) tudong’.

dukkha: ‘hard to bear’; dis-ease, restlessness of mind, discontent or suffering, anguish, conflict, unsatisfactoriness.

jhana: meditative absorption or trance.

kamma: action or cause (and by extension, the result or effect) which is created or recreated by habitual impulse, volitions, natural energies. (Sanskrit ‘karma’.)

karuna: compassion.

khandha: ‘heap’; the term the Buddha used to refer to each of the five components of human psycho-physical existence.

koan: (Japanese) meditation riddle, often used in the Zen form of Buddhism.

kuti: (Thai) hut; typical abode of a forest monastery bhikkhu.

Luang Por: (Thai) difficult to translate; literally, ‘Venerable Father’, but very much conveying a sense of affection as well as respect.

Mara: a being of Buddhist mythology who is the adversary of the Buddha; hence, the one who tempts, deludes or destroys. Mara is also the Pali word for ‘death’.

metta: goodwill, ‘loving-kindness’.

mudita: ‘sympathetic’ joy (the opposite of jealousy).

Nibbana: freedom from attachments. The basis for the enlightened vision of things as they are. (Sanskrit ‘Nirvana’.)

pañña: discriminative wisdom.

paramita (Thai parami): ‘Perfections’ or ‘superlative virtues’, qualities especially recommended by the Buddha for those seeking enlightenment.

Phra Khru: (Thai) title of honour for a monk, recognizing his service as a teacher.

Precepts (Five/Eight/Ten): The basic codes of conduct recommended by the Buddha for his followers. The Five Precepts pertain to the ordinary ‘household’ life, and the Eight or Ten Precepts form the foundation for the renunciant life (which is then further elaborated in the vinaya). A list of the Precepts is given at the end of this glossary.

samadhi: concentration or one-pointedness of mind.

samana: one who has entered the Holy Life; a religious.

samanera (Thai samanen): The novice stage for a bhikkhu. A samanera lives within the Ten Precepts, but does not yet follow the complete bhikkhu-vinaya.

samsara: the unenlightened, unsatisfactory experience of life.

sila: moral virtue.

sangha: the community of those who practise the Buddha’s Way. Often, more specifically, those who have formally committed themselves to the lifestyle of a mendicant monk or nun.

sati: mindfulness, recollection.

sukha: happiness.

sutta: a Buddhist scripture.

tudong: see ‘dhutanga’ above.

upajjhaya: ‘preceptor’, a bhikkhu who may admit others into the monastic order.

upasampada: ceremony of entering the bhikkhu-sangha; bhikkhu ‘ordination’.

upekkha: equanimity, serenity.

uposatha: the Buddhist ‘Sabbath’, a day which lay people often spend at a monastery, observing the Eight Precepts. The uposatha days occur according to the lunar phases.

vassa: the ‘Rains’ retreat period. As established by the Buddha, it occurs during the Asian monsoon season.

vihara: a residence; often used as the name for a small monastery.

vinaya: the monastic discipline, or the scriptural collection of its rules and commentaries.

vipassana: the penetrative insight of meditation, as distinguished from simple mental tranquillity.

wat pah: (Thai) forest monastery (typically, a place of dhutanga observance).


The Five, Eight or Ten Precepts are guidelines which encourage mindfulness and selfless action. They are best understood as the proper standards of behaviour for a human being, to be respected and cultivated. Shortcomings with regard to the precepts do not necessarily constitute sin or evil, but rather they point out where greater effort and awareness are needed. The practice of the precepts is beneficial both to the one who uses them and to those who encounter such a person.

The first five are recommended for all people:
1: Not intentionally taking the life of any living creature.
2: Not taking anything which is not given.
3: Refraining from irresponsible sexual conduct. (As part of the Eight or Ten Precepts, this is observed as complete chastity, i.e. refraining from any sexual behaviour.)
4: Not speaking falsely, abusively or maliciously.
5: Not taking any intoxicating drink or drug.

The next three are the traditional renunciations helpful to those engaged in serious spiritual practice:
6: Not taking solid food after mid-day.
7: Not singing, playing music, dancing, or attending games and shows; not beautifying or adorning one’s body.
8: Not using a high or luxurious sleeping place.

To arrive at ten precepts (which form the basis of mendicancy), one divides the seventh into two precepts, and then adds the following:
10: Not handling or controlling money.