A list of several recurring terms and concepts in the texts. These are explained in a succinct manner so as to give the reader a basic understanding of these concepts.
Arhat: ‘One who has overcome the foe’ – namely one who has overcome the foe of disturbing conceptions and attained liberation from a cyclic existence.
Avalokiteshvara: The ‘lord of the word’, the name of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Bodhisattva: A being, who having developed the Awakening mind, devotes their life to the task of achieving Buddhahood for all sentient beings.
Buddha: One who is totally purified from all defilements and has realised all that can be known.
Conditioned Existence (Samsara): Existence conditioned by disturbing conceptions and tainted actions; the same as cyclic existence.
Dakini: A form of being somewhat similar to a fairy or nymph. Some exist within this cyclic existence and others are free from it.
Deceptive Truth: This term refers to all existent phenomena other than emptiness – everything apprehended by the valid cognitions of ordinary beings. They are deceptive because the way in which they appear and the way in which they exist do not correspond: they appear as truly existent whereas in reality they are found to be empty of true existence.
Dharma: Generally religion, but in particular, the doctrine of the Buddha.
Dharmakaya: The fully realized and awakened mind of the Buddha.
Emptiness: The ultimate nature of all phenomena, the lack of an absolute existence. (shunyata)
Hinayana: The ‘lesser’ spiritual pursuit of the Shravaka and the Pratyekabuddha aimed at one’s personal liberation alone.
Identitylessness: In the Madhyamika system, it refers to the emptiness of true existence of either the person or other phenomena.
Madhyamika: The follower of the Madhyamika philosophical school founded by Arya Nagarjuna.
Mahayana: The ‘great spiritual pursuit’ of the Bodhisattva.
Manjughosha: The ‘smooth, melodious one’ referring to the Bodhisattva of Wisdom.
Merit: The wholesome forces and tendencies accumulated from virtuous actions of body, speech and mind.
Nagarjuna: A Buddhist sage, who, with Asanga, helped revive the Mahayana; noted for his elucidation of the Madhyamika philosophy of emptiness.
Nirvana: The state of liberation from the sorrowful condition of a cyclic existence. Sometimes this is used as the synonym for emptiness.
Samantabhadra: ‘The all-good one’ – the name of a Bodhisattva.
Samkhya: The follower of a Hindu school of philosophy.
Sangha: ‘Those who aspire for virtue’, the realised beings who assist in one’s spiritual development.
Shravaka: ‘A hearer’, or a follower of the Hinayana tradition noted for living in communities.
Special Insight (Vipasyana): The heightened analytical faculty of the mind that cognizes subtle impermanence and emptiness.
Sutra: A discourse preached by the Buddha.
Tatagatha: An epithet for the Buddha.
True Existence: The object to be negated in the investigation of emptiness.
Ultimate Truth: The true nature of all phenomena, that is, their emptiness and identity-less-ness.
Veda: Ancient Indian hymns believed to be of divine origin.
Yama: The lord of Death.
Yogi: A being who has developed calm abiding and special insight.