GLOSSARY & CONCEPTS

Theravada vs. Early Buddhism
During the time after the Buddha’s death, there were a number of “schools” of Buddhism that had coalesced, Theravada being one of them. From IMS:
 

Theravada” or “Early Buddhism”? Why “Early Buddhism” More Accurately Reflects IMS’s Roots
Early Buddhism is a living spiritual tradition based on the original teachings of the historical figure known as the Buddha, or Awakened One, who lived in northern India in the fifth century BCE. The term can also refer to the doctrines and practices taught by the Buddha, including understandings such as the Four Noble Truths, guidance on conduct such as the Five Precepts, and meditation practices like insight (vipassana), mindfulness, and loving kindness. Today in Asia the followers of Early Buddhism are found primarily in Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. Many IMS teachers trained in these countries before bringing the teachings to the West.

 

Until recently the tradition of Early Buddhism was more commonly known as Theravada, or Way of the Elders. In fact IMS originally considered itself to be a Theravadan center. However, modern scholarship has revealed that Theravada is just one of some eighteen schools of Early Buddhism, each with its own views and foundational texts. Early Buddhists today agree that the discourses of the Buddha (collectively, the Dhamma) and his monastic code (the Vinaya) are authoritative. The Theravadan school also considers the Pali Abhidhamma and commentaries such as the Visuddhimagga to be authoritative, while other Early Buddhists may not. Hence Early Buddhism and Theravada are not synonymous, although there is much overlap.
 

Samatha

Refers to the type of meditative practices that develop calm and collectedness of mind and include Metta meditation, Mindfulness of breathing (Anapanasatti), Kasina practice (staring at colored discs, focusing on a candle flame, etc).  

 

Vipassana

Also known as insight meditation or six sense door awareness. “Being aware of one’s moment to moment experience (of mind and body) with non-judgmental attention” is the definition of Vipassana meditation.

 

There are two main things that separate Samatha from Vipassana meditation. One is the intention. The intention of Samatha practice is to collect and calm the mind. The intention of Vipassana meditation is insight into the three characteristics of conditioned phenomena (impermanence, unsatisfactory, not self). The other difference is Samatha meditation takes one thing and one thing only as it’s object, while Vipassana meditation takes multiple or changing objects as it’s object.

 

In practice, Samatha and Vipassana are mixed. One uses a primary object (body, breath, sounds) as a way to help calm and stabilize the mind in the present moment. All the while, noticing other objects that arise, and one’s relationship to them. The fullness of the mediation practice that the Buddha taught in the Satipatthana Sutta is called Samatha/Vipassana.

Samadhi

Is both a Pali and Sanskrit word that gets translated to the English with the word Concentration. I will not be using concentration in my teachings, but will stick to the Pali, Samadhi. There are two reasons for this. The first is that when we hear concentration, what normally comes up in the mind is something that takes a lot of effort and a sense of bearing down on what we are supposed to be concentrated on. Samadhi, and how to cultivate it, could not be further from this misperception.

 

Samadhi is when the mind is settled, resting on and collected around a particular object. The range of Samadhi is huge and runs the gamut from being able to stay connected to an in breath from the beginning to the end, all the way to  very deep absorption and stillness with/in an object.

Pali

The language that the Buddha’s teachings were first recorded in the first century BCD about 400 years after his parinibbana (death). It is not the language that the Buddha spoke. Pali is to Buddhism as Latin is to Christianity.

 

Sometimes teachers will use the Pali word (like with Samadhi) rather than its English translation to give a fuller meaning to what is being referred to. Dukkha is another example of a Pali word that offers a better understanding of what the Buddha was pointing to than its English translation, suffering.

 

Tipitika

Translated as “three baskets”, and refers to the Suttas (words of the Buddha and other monastics), Vinaya (code of conduct for the monastics) and the Abidhamma (higher teachings). These three “baskets” make up what is known as the Pali Cannon.

 

The Suttas and Vinaya are considered “original” and the Abidhamma is considered a later commentary.

 

Somatic

Is a word that I will be using often. It means referring to the body as opposed to the mind. A somatic experience of the body isn’t about judging the body as one way or another, or any type of thought process about the body. It’s the direct, in the moment, feeling of the body.

 

Learning how to cultivate an increasingly more intimate somatic experience with the body will be an important part of the formal practice that we do together.

 

Dana

A Pali word that is translated to the English as generosity. It is the very first thing the Buddha would teach to people, as cultivation of the Noble Eightfold Path is greatly hindered without it.

 

It also begins to loosed the tight grasp of the self and what it wants because in the act of giving, the attention is on the other.

 

Sila

A Pali word that is translated to the English as ethical or moral conduct. It is the second thing the Buddha would teach to people, as cultivation of the Noble Eightfold path is greatly hindered without it.

 

Sila occupies no less than three eights of the eightfold path. It’s cultivation extends from the very first moments of the intention to do no harm, all the way to the final unbinding of the mind.

 

Mind

Is the English translation of the Pali word Citta. The fuller, and much more helpful, translation of Citta is heart/mind. In the Pali, and other eastern languages, there is no distinction between heart and mind. This underscores the invaluable place that cultivation of the “heart” plays in Dhamma practice.