An Indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama, who renounced his wealth and social position. After becoming 'enlightened' (the meaning of Buddha) he enunciated the principles of Buddhism.


blowing out" - the ultimate goal of all Buddhists, the extinction of desire and any sense of individual selfhood, resulting in liberation from samsara and its limiting conditions.


(Hinduism and Buddhism) the endless cycle of birth and suffering and death and rebirth


to awaken

Siddhartha Gautama

founder of Buddhism, ca. 560 BCE

Four sights

1. an old man (age), 2. a very sick man (illness), 3. a corpse (death), 4. a wandering holy man without possessions (asceticism)


A person who renounces material comforts to live a self-disciplined live

bodhi tree

The tree under which Sidartha Gautama achieved enlightenment; at the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya, India.

middle way

A basic Buddhist teaching that rejects both the pleasures of sensual indulgence and the self-denial of asceticism, focusing instead on a practical approach to spiritual attainment.


assemblage" - the Buddhist community of monks and nuns; one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism.


items of religious devotion, especially a piece of the body or personal items of an important religious figure


In Buddhism, the teachings of the Buddha.

Mahayana Buddhism

Great Vehicle" (literally, "ox-cart") branch of Buddhism followed in China, Japan, and Central Asia. The focus is on reverence for Buddha and for bodhisattvas, enlightened persons who have postponed nirvana to help others attain enlightenment.

Theravada Buddhism

'Way of the Elders' branch of Buddhism followed in Sri Lanka and much of Southeast Asia. Therevada remains close to the original principles set forth by the Buddha; it downplays the importance of gods.

King Ashoka

Indian Emperor during the Maurya Dynasty (3rd century BCE). He spread Buddhism across Asia and established monuments to Gautama Buddha. Devoted to nonviolence, ahimsa, love truth, and tolerance.

Gupta dynasty

240 CE - 550 CE. Established by Chandra Gupta. During this period, Buddhist universities and monastic centers flourished. Declined due to the invasion of the Huns (470-528 CE).

Vajrayana Buddhism

The Vehicle of the Diamond" branch of Buddhism prevalent in Tibet, emphasizes the harnessing of sensual energies to attain nirvana (physical body)


a Bodhisattva is anyone who is motivated by compassion and seeks enlightenment not only for him/herself but also for everyone, who refrains from nirvana for the sake of others, and may be worshipped as a deity in Mahayana Buddhism.


In Tibetan Buddhism, teachers and heads of monasteries

Dalai Lama

The head lama of Tibetan Buddhism, the spiritual and political leader of Tibet until 1959, who also recently relinquished all political authority.


Three Baskets," the Pali Canon, Vinaya Pitaka, Sutra Pitaka and Abidharrna Pitaka.

Vinaya Pitaka

Code of monastic discipline for monks and nuns.

Sutra Pitaka

Discourses or teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama

Pali Canon

Authoritative scripture of Theravada Buddhists, written in the Pali language, the Tripitaka

Abidharma Pitaka

An in-depth analysis of Buddhist doctrine, especially its psycho-spiritual aspects.


Sayings of the Buddha

Lotus Sutra

A Mahayana Buddhist text, attributed to the Buddha, emphasizing a universal message of compassion.


Sacred circle": Buddhist diagram of the cosmos; sand painting; represents the impermanence of life and is used as a focus for meditation.


the repetition of sacred words or phrases to guide and focus meditation in Hinduism and Buddhism.

Four Noble Truths

1. Life is filled with suffering, 2. The cause of suffering is desire, 3. To cease suffering one must cease desiring, 4. The path to the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.


The Buddhist doctrine of "no soul" or "not self" that means a permanent, unchanging, independent self does not exist, though people act as if it does. Ignorance of anatma causes suffering.

The Noble Eight-fold Path

1. Right understanding, 2. Right thought, 3. Right speech, 4. Right conduct, 5. Right livelihood, 6. Right effort, 7. Right mindfulness, 8. Right concentration.

Right understanding

understanding the causes of suffering

Right thought

purify the mind of all thoughts that move one away from enlightenment

Right speech

speak truthfully and compassionately at all times

Right conduct

act truthfully and compassionately at all time (do not cheat, steal, murder, engage in sexual misconduct, e.g.)

Right livelihood

Do not earn a living through actions that harm other living things (e.g., slaying creatures, manufacturing weapons, making or selling intoxicants like drugs or liquor)

Right effort

Cultivate good, wholesome thoughts; exercising diligence in getting rid of bad or delusional thinking

Right mindfulness

Cultivate awareness of thoughts, feelings, and actions at all times.

Right concentration

A form of meditation in which a person concentrates on one object, dispelling all other distractions.

Five precepts

1. Do not take the life of any living creature, 2. Do not take anything not freely given, 3. Abstain from sexual misconduct and sexual overindulgence, 4. Refrain from untrue or deceitful speech., 5. Avoid intoxicants.