- through Francois Leclercq

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ABHIDHARMA (in Sanskrit, abhidhamma in Pali)

It is the set of commentaries on the teaching, the psychological, philosophical and metaphysical analysis of the teaching (the dharma) of the Buddha. It includes seven treatises.

ANATTA (in Pali)

It is the absence of an unchanging self, an eternal soul, in living beings. But in fact, like impermanence, it applies to all phenomena, objects, etc. which constitute our habitual experience of life. So for inanimate objects we can speak of the absence of an “essence”, of an existence in itself. The practice of meditation, or more broadly of the way of the Buddha, consists in realizing, beyond a purely intellectual understanding, these three fundamental characteristics of all phenomena: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and the absence of self. When we realize this, we are freed from all our habitual attachments to these phenomena.

ANICCA (in Pali)

impermanence. Together with the absence of self (anatta, see below) and the unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), these are, according to the teaching of the Buddha, the three fundamental characteristics of all the phenomena which one can perceive, which constitute our experience (only nirvana escapes this). Impermanence comes from the conditioned nature of phenomena: since they depend on causes, when the causes of their appearance are united, they appear, and as soon as they are no longer united, they disappear (they have also evolved in the meantime) . Impermanence is the opposite of permanence, it does not necessarily mean that everything changes continuously, but rather that nothing is permanent: even if a phenomenon lasts a long time and may seem immutable to us, sooner or later it will come to an end. . In other words: “everything that is likely to appear is likely to disappear…” (“…and when that disappears, it is happiness”, according to the formula traditionally recited at funerals in Buddhist countries). It is this impermanence which is at the origin of the unsatisfactory character of all phenomena: how indeed could one be satisfied with something which risks disappearing from one moment to the next?

CONDITIONED COPRODUCTION (Prattyasamutpâda, in Sanskrit)

System of co-appearance of phenomena, another name for vacancy. The expression pratityasamutpada appears very early in Buddhism, from the second teaching of the Buddha. It then designated the concatenation of the twelve links or links (nidAna) which chain beings to this pathological regime of existence that is samsara. Pratityasamutpada represents in the circumstances a specific mode of appearance by reciprocal causation where the manifestation of each factor conditions that of the next one which in turn reinforces retroactively the existence or the significance of its predecessor. This is therefore what is now called an “interacting system”.


Stanzas of Buddha or a collection of words spoken by the Buddha. It is one of the oldest texts in the Pali Canon.


A religion that developed in India around the same time as Buddhism (around the XNUMXth century BC), under the influence of the master Mahavira. Like the Buddhists, the Jains seek to attain liberation, nirvana. Great importance is given to non-violence and asceticism, in order to purify karma so that it can be released. Jainism today has about ten million followers in the world, mostly in India.


Sanskrit term meaning "skull". Cup made from a human skull, once used in rituals.

KÔAN (in Japanese, gong-an in Chinese)

It is an anecdote, a situation or a riddle most often involving Chinese Buddhist masters of the past, and which presents an absurd character, a situation or a line that does not make sense reasonable. Koans are used as a means of teaching, particularly in the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism (derived from Chinese Chan Buddhism): the masters give kôans to their disciples to "solve" through meditation, so that they can go beyond the reasonable mind and understand the hidden meaning, the reality beyond the conventional world that is evoked in these anecdotes. There are several famous collections of koans, such as The pass without a door ou The Green Cliff Compendium, dating from the twelfth century. Two brief koans out of hundreds: “What is the sound of one hand clapping? », « What was your face before the birth of your parents? ".


It is a way of designating nirvana. This expression comes from the metaphor of fire used by the Buddha. In the third sermon he gave after his Awakening, called the Fire Sutta, the Buddha says that everything that constitutes us is on fire: our body, our sensations, our perceptions, etc., up to our consciousness, are compared to burning fuel, under the effect of the fire of desire, of fire of aversion and the fire of ignorance. Extinguishing, extinguishing this fire, is reaching nirvana, which is beyond anything that one can perceive or feel. And like fire, everything that constitutes us, including our dear "me", can be extinguished without anyone to extinguish it, simply by exhaustion of the fuel. Likewise, we can achieve nirvana without anyone “doing” it, simply by ceasing to add desires and other fuels to our fire, and letting it burn itself out…

HATE (dosa in Pali)

It is one of the “three poisons”, of the three roots of suffering. It is a negative desire, which brings together all the types and degrees of aversion: ill will, anger, irritation, embarrassment, antipathy and animosity. Hatred enjoins us to suppress or remove its object. Because ignorance means that we always attribute this feeling to an object, a person, an event, which are external to us, and on which we project this hatred. In fact, it is not exterior, but an interior phenomenon, which is the mechanical result of all our conditioning, of our experiences since birth, even before.

IGNORANCE (avijja or moha in Pali)

Ignorance (or bewilderment, blindness) is the first source of all evils and of our perpetual rebirths in samsara, the cycle of existences. She's the opposite of knowledge, girl. Ignorance veils the true nature of phenomena, making them appear as permanent, pleasant or having an existence in itself, causing in us an attraction or a repulsion for these phenomena. When we get rid of this ignorance, we realize that they are all impermanent, sources of suffering and devoid of self, of self-existence. Ignorance therefore figures at the head of what is called the chain of conditioned origination, which explains the mechanism by which this ignorance ultimately causes birth, old age, disease and death. Ignorance is one of the “three poisons”, and it is the origin of the other two (hate and desire). It is thus the most solid of the ten bonds which hold us back in the cycle of existences, the last from which we must free ourselves in order to reach the state of awakened being.


It results from the conditioned nature of all phenomena (including our small existences…) Since all objects, beings, phenomena are conditioned, this means that they depend on a large number of causes and conditions. The world can therefore be seen as a great network of objects and phenomena linked together by this interdependence, each being both the cause and the consequence of many others. Even if ignorance can hide this reality, and make us believe that certain phenomena are autonomous or independent, it is not so: if we examine with wisdom the slightest object which is before our eyes, we realize the incredible number of circumstances, of living beings, of actions, of components, all over the world, which have intervened at the right time and in the right place so that this object finds itself at this instant before our eyes (not to mention all the conditions which have been brought together so that we ourselves are here at this moment contemplating it…). You can try this simple exercise to glimpse the richness of these bonds of interdependence, which bind us with all the things of this world.


It is the fourth of the Noble Truths stated by the Buddha during his very first teaching: it is the means to put an end to suffering, the path which leads to peace, to wisdom, to Enlightenment, to nirvana. . It is the "middle way", which avoids indulging in the pleasures of the senses or indulging in suffering. This path is said to be eightfold because it has eight components: they are right vision, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right attention and concentration. just. Right vision and right thought constitute wisdom; speech, action and means of existence constitute ethics, morality; effort, attention and concentration constitute meditation. The Buddha presents this way as a training, something to practice: we must cultivate, develop these eight aspects in our life. The eight spokes of the Wheel of Dharma, which is often depicted in Buddhist temples, symbolize the eight branches of the Noble Eightfold Path.


They are one of the components of the phenomena according to theAbhidhamma, the treatise on Buddhist philosophy. In the sutras, accounts of the life of the Buddha, phenomena are considered to be composed of five aggregates (form, sensations, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness). In L'Abhidhamma, a later text, phenomena consist of three aspects: consciousness, mental factors (cetasika in Pali, sems byung in Tibetan) and form. These mental factors are 52 in number according to theAbhidhamma of Theravada, classified as beneficial, harmful or neutral (the effect of which depends on the state of consciousness), while Abhidhammas of the Mahayana lists 51 of them, classified into six groups which overlap with the three preceding categories. Some are neutral and always present, such as contact, sensation, volition etc. Beneficial factors include confidence, effort, absence of hatred; and in the harmful, pride, ignorance, doubt, etc.


This is a traditional, fairly technical way of representing the chain of causes (the way certain phenomena cause or condition the appearance of other phenomena). It can be started with ignorance, which causes volitions etc., and which, by twelve stages, arrives at decay, death and all our pains and lamentations. The twelve links are: ignorance > volitions > consciousness > name and form > six sense bases > contact > feeling > thirst > attachment > becoming > birth > decay and death, and all our sufferings. Or, to put it another way, if we ask ourselves the question of the origin of all our suffering, we can go back step by step to ignorance. And, conversely, the liberation from suffering passes through the negation of this whole chain, the successive elimination of all the links: by suppressing ignorance, one suppresses volitions, etc. until the sufferings of decay and death are suppressed. An entire program !


Also called the Four Immeasurables, these are four qualities or feelings, which must be developed in oneself and towards others in human relationships. These are benevolence (metta in Pali, maitri in Sanskrit), compassion (karuna), altruistic joy (mudita) and equanimity (Pali upekkha, Sk. upeksa). These qualities can be developed during particular meditations, where the practitioner sends benevolent thoughts to himself, then to those he loves, to strangers and even to "enemies", or people with whom relations are difficult, until to encompass all beings. The development of these qualities decreases self-criticism and attachment to the self, and promotes openness and acceptance of the world and of others as they are.


In Buddhism, these are the six worlds where one can be reborn as long as one has not attained Enlightenment and is wandering in samsara. Three are lower worlds: the underworld, where anger and hatred reign; the world of hungry spirits, unable to be satisfied, where avarice reigns; and the animal world, where ignorance reigns. The other three worlds are superior, but are still part of samsara: the world of men, where desire reigns (but it is the only one where enlightenment can be achieved); the world of the jealous gods, where envy reigns; the world of the gods, or devas, where pride reigns. These six worlds can be seen literally as worlds of rebirth, or allegorically as the places where we humans stay as soon as we are under the influence of the emotion corresponding to each of these worlds. We can therefore travel through the six worlds in a single day, or remain stuck in the same one…


These are ignorance (or delusion, confusion), attachment (or greed, desire) and aversion (or hatred, anger), the three main "defilements" of the mind. , which, according to the teaching of the Buddha, are the origin of suffering and all other negative states of mind. Ignorance, our blindness to the reality of things, would be at the origin of the other two. The Way consists in eliminating these defilements and developing the opposite qualities, namely wisdom, non-attachment and benevolence.


Mahakala is the wrathful emanation of Chenrezi, the bodhisattva of compassion. It protects the dharma and the centers where teachings and rituals take place, against negative influences and hostile forces. It is invoked in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, as one of the most powerful forces in the annihilation of all our negativity.


School also known as the “Great Vehicle”. It is one of the main schools of Buddhism. It is found in particular in Japan, Korea, Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, Vietnam and China.


It is a syllable, or a phrase, that is repeated in order to pacify the mind, while paying homage to a deity. Mantras are mainly used in Hinduism and Buddhism. They are sometimes associated with a rosary which makes it possible to count the number of repetitions. The best known, from Tibetan Buddhism, is the mantra of Chenrezig (the bodhisattva of compassion), “Om mani padmé houng”, which can be translated as “The jewel in the lotus”.

MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction)

Mindfulness based stress reduction method. It was Jon Kabat-Zinn, professor of medicine, teacher and doctor in molecular biology, who, after having discovered and practiced mindfulness following the teachings of a Korean master, Seung Sahn, in the 70s, developed the first, in 1979, the MBSR.


State of serenity and plenitude, free from passions and suffering, which marks the end of rebirths and the extinction of the phenomenon. It is the realization of the Buddhist Way. This is achieved after having renounced in particular human desire, attachment.


It is arguably the best known Buddhist mantra. This is the bodhisatta mantra of compassion (1). Its influence is universal. The six syllables are sometimes followed by a seventh, optional, HRIH, an “essence-syllable” which actualizes the compassion of Avalokitésvara or of Tchenrezy.

The OM symbolizes the body, speech and mind of the practitioner. And the body, speech and mind of the Buddha.

The way is indicated by the following four syllables.

MANI, “the jewel”, symbolizes the means of the method – compassion and wisdom.

PADMÉ, "the lotus", symbolizes wisdom. Purity must be acquired by indivisible unity. The HOUNG symbolizes the union of method and wisdom.

The mantra means that by practicing the Buddhist path and developing wisdom and compassion, it is possible to achieve Buddhahood. And to transform his body, speech and mind into the pure and glorious body, speech and mind of a Buddha.

(1) The Dalai Lama is considered as a manifestation of the Buddha of compassion: Tchenrezi, in Tibetan, and Avalokitésvara in Sanskrit. Om mani padmé houng is his mantra.


At the time of his death, at the age of 80, the Buddha realized the Parinirvana. Before entering it, he asked his disciples three times if they still had any questions for him. No one answering, he spoke to them one last time: "Be your own torches, take the Doctrine as your torch, take no other torch, take refuge in yourself, take refuge in the Doctrine, take no other refuge ". This is his ultimate message. Then, he entered the Parinirvana: this complete Awakening which manifests the end of his rebirths in the cycle of existences, the nirvaṇa being realized, as for him, during the life.


It is a syllable, or a phrase, that is repeated in order to pacify the mind, while paying homage to a deity. Mantras are mainly used in Hinduism and Buddhism. They are sometimes associated with a rosary which makes it possible to count the number of repetitions. The best known, from Tibetan Buddhism, is the mantra of Chenrezig (the bodhisattva of compassion), “Om mani padmé houng”, which can be translated as “The jewel in the lotus”.


Pitaka means "Baskets", Tipitaka "the Three Baskets", including:

  1. Sutta-Pitaka: Basket of the Discourses of the Buddha, i.e. the five nikaya
  2. Vinaya-Pitaka: Basket of the Law (of the Precepts), for monks and nuns only
  3. Abhidharma-Pitaka: Basket of Commentaries (by the disciples of the Buddha).


To "take refuge" means to develop the altruistic intention of continuous practice when a person decides to enter the path of dharma. The taking of refuge is done during a ceremony where the new followers decide to follow the teaching of the Buddha and to enter the community of disciples. The Buddhist aspirant then takes refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha. Going for refuge is a commitment to practice and study!


The metaphor of the doctor is often proposed to explain the role of the Buddha in the liberation of beings with regard to suffering. First of all, with the first Noble Truth, he makes the diagnosis by noting the suffering. Then he shows the origin, this is the second Noble Truth: we suffer because we are constantly feeding on "three poisons". The first poison is passion or rather this inextinguishable thirst, this desire which is never satisfied, because it is always replaced by another. The second poison is “aversion”. It refers to the movement of rejecting away from oneself all that displeases, disturbs and irritates. Finally, the third poison is ignorance, this blindness that prevents us from looking in the right direction. It keeps us from being open to who we are, to the world and to others. With the Third Noble Truth, the Buddha says that it is possible for this chronic suffering to end. There is a state of health which is that of every human being primordially. And, finally, as this cessation is progressive, the fourth Noble Truth will trace the path that leads to this cessation.

SAMSARA (k'orwa)

Endless cycle of rebirths. It lasts until the realization of the state of Buddha which also marks the end of karma.


This term designates the weft thread of a fabric, and also the rule, the doctrine. These are texts (about 500 in Tibetan Buddhism) appeared in northern India, which expose practices, rituals, mantras, and depict different deities. These texts are the basis of the practices of Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana, aimed at freeing beings from suffering and leading them to enlightenment.


Doctrine of the "elders", the only one of the eighteen schools born in India before the appearance of Mahayana remaining today. Of Pali tradition, heiress of primitive Buddhism, it is found especially today in Sri Lanka, which is also called the "second cradle of Buddhism". It transmits the sutras, the teachings of the historical Buddha.


Tibetan term that designates a yoga technique intended to increase the body's heat production. This technique is one of the six yogas of Naropa, of which we see the usefulness for Tibetan monks, in order to resist the cold for long periods in isolation in caves or precarious shelters. Tumo combines techniques of breathing, visualization and recitation of mantras. It is said that at the end of their training, the monks had to demonstrate their mastery by being able, in the middle of winter, to increase the heat of their bodies to the point of drying linen soaked in icy water that we put on their shoulders.


In Tibetan Buddhism, or Vajrayana, Tulku is called the religious personality, the master, who is recognized as the reincarnation of a great lama. The Tulku chooses to be reborn to help beings break free from the cycle of rebirths.


They are philosophical commentaries on the Vedas, which are said to have been written in northern India, for the oldest around 800 BC (although their dating is very approximate). There are 108 upanishads united in the canon of the Muktika, including ten major ones, but there are said to be more than 200 in all. They contain the philosophical principles which are at the base of the Hindu religion, for example the notions of brahman ( ultimate reality) and atman (the soul or true self), or the explanation of the divine syllable "Aum".


Skillful means. It is a notion particularly developed in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, where the masters must have the ability to determine the method, the "skillful means" adapted to each disciple, which will allow him to reach nirvana as quickly as possible, by according to its own characteristics. The criterion is efficiency, and the meaning can sometimes evolve towards the search for a technique representing a kind of shortcut to avoid a "normal" path deemed too long or too arduous, with the risk that the skilful means, like any object , ends up becoming an object of attachment and an obstacle on the Way.


Buddhist school known as "Tibetan Buddhism", or more broadly "Himalayan Buddhism". It is mainly found in Tibet, Nepal, Ladakh, Bhutan, Zanskar, Mongolia, Kalmoukia and Japan. It is also found in the West, in all countries where this tradition is taught as in France.


Set of sacred texts, composed in Sanskrit, which would have been received by revelation (through hearing) by Indian sages of antiquity. The oldest date from the XNUMXth century BC They are the basis of Indian literature, Vedanta philosophy and Vedic religion, which is the ancestor of Brahmanism and Hinduism.


These are the texts of monastic formation, mainly the codes of discipline for monks and nuns. Among other things, it presents the different monastic rules (227 for monks), with for each the anecdote which led the Buddha to enact this rule: the Vinaya was constituted during the development of the monastic community, according to the different problems or offenses that came to the knowledge of the Buddha.

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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