Glossary of Selected Pāli Terms


Tejaniya Sayadaw frequently uses key Pāli terms in Dhamma discussions and discourses.
Below you will find some of the frequently used terms. This glossary is far from comprehensive, but the explanations given should be sufficient for our purposes. Please consult Buddhist texts and dictionaries for more complete definitions.


● adhiṭṭhāna
determination, resolution

● adosa

● akusala (also see kusala)
kammically unwholesome, unskillful, unprofitable

● anatta (also see atta)
a) not-self, non-ego, impersonality, there is no abiding substance (or an ego, a self, or a soul), there is no self existing entity
b) nothing can arise on its own or from a single cause and nothing can exist or move on its own
c) one of the three universal characteristics of existence (see dukkha and anicca), understanding anatta is a liberating insight (paññā)

● anicca
a) impermanence, all conditioned phenomena are impermanent, everything that comes into existence changes and passes away
b) one of the three universal characteristics of existence (see dukkha and anatta), understanding anicca is a liberating insight (paññā)

● anusaya
potential or latent defilements

● appamāda
heedfulness, non-laxity, diligence, presence of selfawareness (literally: non-forgetfulness)

● asammoha-sampajañña
clear knowledge of non-delusion; understanding anicca, dukkha, and anatta

● atta
self, ego, personality

● avijjā
synonym for moha

● ayoniso manasikāra
a) wrong attitude, wrong frame of mind, wrong attention
b) unwise consideration (opposite of yoniso manasikāra)

● bhāvanā
mental development, meditation

● bhāvanāmayā pāññā
wisdom or knowledge acquired through direct experience, through mental development

● bhava-taṇhā
craving for existence

● bhikkhu
fully ordained monk, member of the Saṅgha

● bojjhaṅga
the seven factors of enlightenment, also referred to as sambojjhaṅga

● cetasika
mental factor (This refers to the 52 mental factors listed in the abhidhamma. Some are kammically neutral, some kammically wholesome and some kammically unwholesome.)

● chanda
wholesome intention, aspiration, zeal, wholesome desire

● cintāmayā paññā
wisdom or knowledge acquired by thinking and reasoning, by intellectual analysis

● citta

● cittānupassanā
ontemplation of the mind

● dāna
giving, offering, generosity

● dhamma
conditioned object, thing, phenomena, “natural law,” “nature”

● Dhamma
Teachings of the Buddha, practice of meditation

● dhammānupassanā
contemplation of dhamma

● dhamma-vicaya
investigation of phenomena, investigation of dhamma

● diṭṭhi
view, belief, speculative opinion micchā-diṭṭhi (wrong view) / sammā-diṭṭhi (right view)

● domanassa
any kind of unpleasant mental feeling, mentally painful feeling

● dosa
hatred, anger, any kind of aversion or disliking (including sadness, fear, resistance, etc.)

● dukkha
one of the three universal characteristics of existence (see anicca and anatta). Understanding dukkha is a liberating insight (paññā).

3 levels of dukkha
a) dukkha-dukkha unsatisfactoriness, pain, suffering
b) vipariṇāma-dukkha the suffering in change
c) saṅkhāra-dukkha the unsatisfactory nature of all existence, of all conditioned phenomena

● dukkha-dukkha
unsatisfactoriness, pain, suffering

● gocara-sampajañña
clear knowledge or understanding that there are just mental and physical processes

● indriya
the five spiritual faculties: sati, samādhi, viriya, saddhā, and paññā

● jhāna
meditative absorption

● kāmacchanda
sensual desire

● kamma
volitional action (of body, speech, and mind)

● kāyānupassanā
contemplation of the body

● khandha
five aggregates or categories: rūpa, vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra, viññāṇa

● kilesa
defilements, unwholesome qualities of the mind, any manifestation of greed, anger, and delusion (see lobha, dosa, and moha)

● kusala
(also see akusala) kammically wholesome, skillful, profitable

● lobha
greed, any kind of craving or liking (synonym for taṇhā)

● magga-ñāṇa
path knowledge (leading to Enlightenment)

● magga-phala
literally “path and fruit”; synonym for Enlightenment

● mettā
loving-kindness, selfless love, unconditional love

● mettā-bhāvanā
cultivation of loving kindness

● micchā-diṭṭhi
wrong view

● moha
delusion, ignorance, not understanding, not seeing reality (synonym for avijjā)

● muditā
altruistic or sympathetic joy

● nāma
mental processes, mind (collective term for vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra, and viññāṇa)

● nāma-rūpa
mental and physical processes

● ñāṇa
synonym for paññā

● nekkhamma
renunciation, “freedom from defilements”

● nirodha

● Pāli
name of the language in which the Buddhist scriptures (Pāli Canon) were first recorded

● paññā
wisdom, understanding, knowledge, insight (synonym for ñāṇa)

● paññatti
relative (conceptual) reality, concepts

● paramattha
ultimate reality

● pāramī
perfections, potential “talents”: Perfection in giving, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, resolution, loving-kindness, and equanimity

● pariyutthāna
used to describe kilesas which arise in the mind

● passaddhi

● pīti
joyful interest, enthusiasm, rapture


● putthujjana
literally “one of the man folk,” a worldling, someone who has not yet experienced Enlightenment

● rūpa
physical processes, corporeality

● sacca
truth (many meanings)

● saddhā
faith, confidence, trust

● samādhi
calmness, stillness or stability of mind

● samatha
tranquility meditation, concentration meditation

● saṃsāra
cycle of suffering, round of rebirths

● sammā-samādhi
Right Samādhi

● sammā-saṅkappa
Right Thought

● sammā-sati
Right Awareness

● sammā-vāyāma
Right Effort

● samudaya-sacca
truth of the origin

● saṅkhāra
mental formations

● saṅkhāra-dukkha
the unsatisfactory nature of all existence, of all conditioned phenomena

● saññā
recognition, memory, perception

● sappāya-sampajañña
clear knowledge of suitability

● sati
mindfulness or awareness

● Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta
the four foundations of mindfulness, see kāyanupassanā, vedanānupassanā, cittānupassanā, and dhammānupassanā

● sati-sambojjhaṅga
the enlightenment factor of mindfulness

● sati-sampajjañña
mindfulness and clear comprehension

● sātthaka-sampajañña
clear knowledge of whether a mental, verbal, or physical action is beneficial or not

● sīla
morality, ethical conduct, virtue

● somanassa
any kind of pleasant mental feeling, mental agreeable feeling, mentally pleasurable feeling

● sukha

● sutamayā paññā
wisdom or knowledge acquired through reading or hearing

● sutta
discourse of the Buddha

● taṇhā
synonym for lobha

● upekkhā
a) neutral feelings and sensations (vedanā)
b) equanimity, a wholesome mental state (saṅkhāra, cetasika)

● vedanā
pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral feelings or sensations

● vedanānupassanā
contemplation of feeling

● viññāṇa
consciousness, cognition, the knowing mind

● vipariṇāma-dukkha
the suffering in change

● vipassanā
insight, insight meditation

● viriya
effort, energy, “wisdom” energy, “remindfulness”

● vītikkama
used to describe kilesas which are expressed verbally or physically

● yoniso manasikāra
a) right attitude, right frame of mind, right attention
b) wise consideration