Bodhisattva in Training

June 15, 2007 Self Improvement

Some Buddhist Words and Concepts

These are some of the words and concepts that I have learned from Pema Chodron lately.


Noble Heart: A Self-Guided Retreat on Befriending Your ObstaclesPrajna – From Judy Lief: Prajna is a Sanskrit word literally meaning “best knowledge,” or “best knowing.” Prajna is a natural bubbling up of curiosity, doubt and inquisitiveness. It is precise, but at the same time it is playful. The awakening of prajna applies to all aspects of life, down to the tiniest details. Our inquisitive interest encompasses all levels, from the most mundane, such as how do I turn on this computer, up to such profound levels as, what is the nature of reality?

iStock_000002837565XSmall Shenpa – From Pema Chodron: The Tibetan word for this is shenpa. It is usually translated “attachment,” but a more descriptive translation might be “hooked.”

Shunyata – From Wikipedia: generally translated into English as “Emptiness” or “Voidness” … Widely misconceived as a doctrine of nihilism, the teaching on the emptiness of persons and phenomena is unique to Buddhism … Śūnyatā signifies that everything one encounters in life is empty of absolute identity, permanence, or ‘self’. This is because everything is inter-related and mutually dependent – never wholly self-sufficient or independent. All things are in a state of constant flux where energy and information are forever flowing throughout the natural world giving rise to and themselves undergoing major transformations with the passage of time. This teaching never connotes nihilism – nihilism is, in fact, a belief or point of view that the Buddha explicitly taught was incorrect – a delusion, just as the view of materialism is a delusion (see below). In the English language the word emptiness suggests the absence of spiritual meaning or a personal feeling of alienation, but in Buddhism the emptiness of phenomena enables liberation from the limitations of form in the cycle of uncontrolled rebirth.

Samsara – From Wikipedia: Saṃsāra, the Sanskrit and Pāli term for “continuous movement” or “continuous flowing” refers in Buddhism to the concept of a cycle of birth (jāti) and consequent decay and death (jarāmaraṇa), in which all beings in the universe participate and which can only be escaped through enlightenment. Saṃsāra is associated with suffering and is generally considered the antithesis of nirvāṇa or nibbāna.

Rigpa – From Wikipedia: Rigpa is a Tibetan word, which in general means ‘intelligence’ or ‘awareness’.  In Dzogchen, however, the highest teachings in the Buddhist tradition of Tibet, rigpa has a deeper connotation, ‘the innermost nature of the mind’. The whole of the teaching of Buddha is directed towards realizing this, our ultimate nature, the state of omniscience or enlightenment – a truth so universal, so primordial that it goes beyond all limits, and beyond even religion itself. —Sogyal Rinpoche

Sems – From ???: the Tibetan words, sem and Rigpa. These are the two levels of mind, discursive, self-other mind (sem) and the mind that rests beyond thought or separation (Rigpa). We don’t need these terms just to use fancy words. They do provide a precise language which we otherwise seem to lack. I mention it only because I found it interesting that Tibetan Buddhist teaching does state this in its own terminology. He said the teaching is that we may “rest in Rigpa.

The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times Bodhicitta – From Wikipedia: In Buddhism, bodhicitta (Ch. 菩提心, pudixin, Jp. bodaishin) is the wish to attain full enlightenment (or Buddhahood) in order to be of benefit to all sentient beings. One whose primary motivation for all of their activities is Bodhicitta is called a bodhisattva. Bodhicitta can also refer to the actual Awakened Mind of a Buddha itself, as in certain tantras (e.g. the Kunjed Gyalpo Tantra).

Etymologically, the word is a combination of the Sanskrit words Bodhi and Citta. Bodhi means ‘awakening’, or ‘enlightenment’. Citta may be translated as ‘mind’ or ‘spirit’. Bodhicitta can therefore be translated as ‘mind of enlightenment’ or ‘spirit of awakening’.

2 to “Some Buddhist Words and Concepts”

  1. Teresa says...

    Hello, I was wondering if you would help me?
    I heard a Buddist word several months ago that I woul dlike to incorporate into the toast Iw ill be giving to my daughters wedding and have misplaced it. It means, and this is a loose translation for I cannot remember how it was worded…..but it meant to relish and find joy in anothers good fortune or happiness…..Does this sound familiar to you? Thank you very much for your time and attention.

    Take Care,

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