afflictions. Condition or cause of pain, distress, and suffering which disturbs the body and mind. They can be thoughts of gain or loss, of wanting to control others, of criticism or slander. They might be worries, doubts, regrets, and so much more.
Amitabha. The name of the Buddha of the Western Pure Land, primarily meaning "Infinite Life and Infinite Light." To help all beings attain Buddhahood, Amitabha Buddha created the Western Pure Land, an ideal place of cultivation.
attachments. These are desires, the emotional cravings for family, friends, possessions, sensuous pleasures, erroneous views, life, the idea of the self as an individual, and more.
bodhisattva. One who has vowed to attain Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment for themselves as well as for all beings. While Buddhas symbolize our virtuous nature, bodhisattvas represent the virtue of practice, without which, the innate virtuous nature cannot be revealed.
Buddha. Buddha is a Sanskrit word, meaning "wisdom and enlightenment." A Buddha is one who has reached supreme perfection both in self-realization and in helping others to attain realization. The innumerable Buddhas are not gods to be worshipped but compassionate and wise beings to be respected and emulated.
causality, or cause and effect. Everything that happens to us is the result of what we have thought, said, or done. In this lifetime, we are undergoing the consequences of what we had done primarily in our previous lifetimes and sometimes earlier in our current lifetime. What we do now will determine what we will undergo in our future lifetimes.
Dharma. When capitalized, Dharma means the teachings of the Buddhas. When lowercased, dharmas can either mean laws and doctrines, or things in general, phenomena, and events.
enlightenment. Generally means Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment, the enlightenment of the Buddhas. It is to see one’s true nature and to comprehend reality perfectly.
Five Practice Guidelines. (1) The Three Conditions, (2) the Six Harmonies, (3) the Threefold Learning, (4) the Six Paramitas, and (5) Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s Ten Great Vows.
Five Precepts. The Five Precepts are abstentions from (1) killing; (2) stealing; (3) committing sexual, or sensual, misconduct; (4) lying; and (5) taking intoxicants.
five Pure Land sutras and one treatise. (1) Buddha Speaks of the Infinite Life Sutra of Adornment, Purity, Equality, and Enlightenment of the Mahayana School (Infinite Life Sutra); (2) Amitabha Sutra; (3) Visualization Sutra; (4) the “Chapter on the Vows and Practices of Samantabhadra” from the Avatamsaka Sutra; (5) the “Chapter on the Perfect and Complete Realization of Mahasthamaprapta” from the Surangama Sutra; and (6) the Rebirth Treatise.
forty-eight vows. Different Bodhisattvas make different vows. Dharmakara Bodhisattva made forty-eight vows before he became Amitabha Buddha. He wished to create an ideal land for all those who wished to transcend rebirth within samsara. These beings would be born in the Pure Land as Bodhisattvas who would never regress in their practice. They would learn all the ways to help other beings transcend birth and death, and to attain Buddhahood.
Four Kindnesses. The Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha), parents, teachers, all sentient-beings.
good fortune. All the goodness in one’s life. It may manifest as happiness, friends, family, health, longevity, intelligence, prosperity, position, and more. Good fortune is the benefit of the human and heaven realms, and can be carried with us from one life to another but it cannot help us to transcend rebirth within samsara.
ignorance or delusion. In the Mahayana tradition, this term comprises two aspects: the first is wrong views and knowledge; the second is lack of correct knowledge. To eradicate ignorance of delusion, we need to eliminate our incorrect views and to uncover our innate, all-knowing wisdom.
Infinite Life Sutra. One of the three primary sutras of the Pure Land school, the Infinite Life Sutra is often called the longer Amitabha Sutra. The shorter version is called the Amitabha Sutra. The Amitabha sutras are unusual in that they were self-spoken. Shakyamuni Buddha, knowing that the time was right for this teaching, initiated the teaching himself. This was unusual because almost all of the teachings by the Buddha were the result of a question being raised by one of his students.
karma. A deed. Karma is divided into three types: good, bad, or pure—that which is neither good nor bad. Good karma leads to favorable results and rebirth in the higher realms of samsara. Bad karma leads to bad results and rebirth in the lower realms of samsara. Pure karma leads to enlightenment and enables one to transcend samsara.
Mahayana. One of the two major branches of Buddhism, it is the bodhisattva path of aspiring to help all sentient beings to attain enlightenment.
merits and virtues. Merits are accumulated by selflessly doing good deeds without wandering thoughts, discriminations, or attachments, as well as through the correction of our erroneous thoughts and behavior. Virtues arise from deep concentration and wisdom.
phenomena. Things, events, happenings: everything in the universe. Noumenon is the principle or essence and is perceived through intuition or thought while phenomena is the event or form and is perceived through the senses. Noumenon is the theory: Phenomena is the reality.
precepts. In Buddhism, precepts are rules that were laid down by the Buddha to guide his students from erroneous thoughts, speech, and behavior. However, one need not be a Buddhist to uphold these precepts. In the more general sense, precepts are rules or principles that prescribe a particular course of action or conduct.
pure mind. The mind without wandering thoughts, discriminations, or attachments. The pure mind has no thoughts of like or dislike, favorable or unfavorable. It has no greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, doubt, or wrong views. It is the calm mind that is no longer affected by the environment. It is the serene and natural state of all beings.
root of goodness. Good qualities or seeds sown in a good life to be reaped later. The ultimate benefit of deep roots of goodness for Pure Land practitioners is rebirth in the Western Pure Land.
samsara. The relentless cycle of rebirth in which ordinary beings are deeply entangled. The three upper realms are heavens, demi-gods, and humans. The three lower realms are animals, hungry ghosts, and hells.
Sangha. A group of four or more people who properly practice the Buddha’s teaching together, especially the Six Harmonies.
Sanskrit. A language of ancient India.
sentient-being. A living being that is self-aware and that can experience feeling or sensation.
Six Harmonies. The Six Harmonies, the second of our five practice guidelines, are the basis for harmonious interaction in the family, the Sangha, and in groups. Especially for practitioners, they harmony in (1) having the same viewpoints, (2) observing the same precepts, (3) living together, (4) speaking without conflict, (5) experiencing the Dharma bliss, and (6) sharing benefits.
Six Paramitas. The fourth of our Practice Guidelines. Bodhisattvas abide by six guidelines that are called the Six Paramitas, or Perfections. These teach us how to remedy our major afflictions. The six are (1) giving, (2) precept observation (moral self-discipline), (3) patience, (4) diligence, (5) meditative concentration, and (6) wisdom.
sutra. Teachings by the Buddha, initially given verbally, later compiled, and written down by the Buddha’s students; as well as teachings by bodhisattvas.
Ten Great Vows of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. Samantabhadra Bodhisattva personifies the vows and conduct of the Buddhas. He is usually depicted seated on an elephant with six tusks that represent the Six Paramitas, which are the fifth of our practice guidelines. The ten vows are to (1) Respect all Buddhas, (2) Praise Tathagata, (3) Make offerings extensively, (4) Repent karmic obstacles, (5) Rejoice at others’ meritorious deeds, (6) Request the turning of the Dharma wheel, (7) Request the Buddha to remain in this world, (8) Constantly follow the Buddha’s teachings, and (10) Accommodate all sentient beings.
Ten Virtuous Conducts. The Ten virtuous Conducts are basic to our practice of Buddhism. The ten can be categorized as physical, verbal, and mental conducts to protect the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind. Physically, we are prohibited from (1) killing, (2) stealing, and (3) engaging in sexual, or sensual, misconduct. Verbally, we are prohibited from (4) using false speech, (5) using harsh speech, (6) using divisive speech, or (7) using enticing speech. Mentally, we are prohibited from giving rise to thoughts of (8) greed, (9) anger, and (10) ignorance.
Three Conditions. The first of our Five Practice Guidelines.
The First Condition is be filial and care and provide for parents, be respectful to and serve teachers, be compassionate and do not kill, and cultivate the Ten Virtuous Karmas. The Second Condition is take the Three Refuges, abide by all precepts, and behave in a dignified and appropriate manner. The Third Condition is generate the Bodhi mind, believe deeply in the law of cause and effect, recite and uphold the Mahayana sutras, and encourage others to advance on the path to enlightenment
three karmas. Created by our body, mouth, and mind, they are our actions, speech, and thoughts.
Threefold Learning. The third of our Practice Guidelines. Moral self-discipline, or precepts keeping, leads to meditative concentration that gives rise to innate wisdom. The Threefold Learning is the fourth of our five practice guidelines. To practice according to the teachings is self-discipline. When our minds are settled and focused on one method of cultivation, we will have meditative concentration. With meditative concentration, we will uncover our innate wisdom.
true nature. Our original, true self that we still have, but is which is currently covered by deluded thoughts and evil karma. In essence, since we have the same true nature as Buddhas have, we are equal in nature to the Buddhas. Once we eliminate our delusion, we will uncover this true nature and attain Supreme Enlightenment.
virtues. See merits.
Visualization Sutra. The third of the primary sutras of the Pure Land School. In the Visualization Sutra, we learn that when Queen Vaidehi suffered from overwhelming family misfortune, she bitterly said to Shakyamuni Buddha: "Life is filled with suffering. Is there not a place without it? I wish to live in such a world." Shakyamuni Buddha displayed for her all the Buddha lands in the universe. After seeing all the worlds, she herself chose the Western Pure Land and vowed to be reborn into that world. Concerned about those who would come after her and, consequently, be unable to learn directly from the Buddha, she asked on their behalf how to achieve rebirth into the Pure Land.
wandering thoughts. Afflictions that cloud our true nature. To have no wandering thoughts means to have absolute proper and virtuous thoughts, not that our minds are empty of all thoughts. As ordinary beings, we use an illusory mind, the mind that arises and ceases, and that has innumerable wandering thoughts. Enlightened beings use the true mind that constantly dwells on truth. They do not have wandering thoughts but meditative concentration, the state without discriminatory, wandering thoughts or attachments.
Western Pure Land. The world created by Amitabha Buddha. It is an ideal place of cultivation, for those who are born there are no longer subject to rebirth.