Eightfold Noble Path

The Eightfold Noble Path is the Buddhist path of practice which includes the cultivation of ethical conduct, right understanding, and meditation that allows one to be free of the suffering inherent in ego-centered life. The eight aspects of the path are: right understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.


Lama, the Tibetan term meaning “superior” refers especially to those of superior spiritual attainment. It is a translation of the Sanskrit word “guru” and is used for any venerable monk or qualified spiritual teacher.

Pure Land Buddhism

Pure Land Buddhism is the school of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism which emphasizes devotion to Amitabha Buddha and which believes that through the chanting of his name and by purifying and finally ridding oneself of desire, one can be reborn in Sukhavati, the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss.

Theravada Forest Tradition

In Theravada Buddhism there are two types of dwelling places for monks: village dwelling and forest dwelling. The Theravada tradition of forest dwelling monk. is preserved in Burma and Thailand where forest monks have today become the teachers of serious Western students of meditation.

Bodhi Tree

The Bodhi Tree is the tree under which the Buddha sat in meditation when he reached enlightenment at Bodhgaya. The term is also used to refer to trees that were originally saplings of the Bodhi Tree.


Walking meditation is a practice through which mindfulness is directed explicitly toward the movements of walking. As with breath-centered and sitting meditation, it involves developing conscious awareness of what, for most people, is done on “automatic pilot.”


(also: Buddha's Parinirvana Day) Parinirvana means literally “fully blowing out” and refers to the physical death and final liberation of a Buddha or arhat. In the Theravada tradition, the parinirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha is observed in the month of May, on the same day that his birthday and enlightenment are also celebrated. Mahayana Buddhists observe the three events on separate dates.


Tantra is a term used in both Hindu and Buddhist traditions to refer to esoteric systems of knowledge and practice which emphasize the paradoxical non-duality of all things, often symbolized by the union of male and female elements. In the Buddhist tradition, Tantra refers to texts and practices of the esoteric Vajrayana teachings.


The Buddhist Churches of America employs this term to refer to the organization’s major temples, such as those in San Jose, Sacramento, and Los Angeles.

Dharma talk

Dharma talks are daily or weekly lectures on the Buddha’s teachings (Dharma) held at Buddhist temples or meditation centers. These lectures on Buddhist epistemology, values, or practice have become a staple of the life of Euro-American Buddhist centers.

oracle sticks

In Chinese temples, there will frequently be a set of oracle sticks by which one may ask a Buddha or Daoist god for guidance concerning an upcoming event. One will randomly pick one of the sticks, check the number at the bottom of the chosen stick, then extract the fortune from the corresponding box nearby.


A stupa is a dome-shaped structure that serves as a reliquary and memorial to the Buddha and other Buddhist worthies. Originally these structures were hemispherical mounds of stone or brick, surrounded by a low fence. In East Asia, the superstructure above the dome became taller and more ornate, eventually evolving into the pagoda form. Among Tibetans, circumambulation of stupas is a popular practice for both monastics and laity.


Ashvaghosha (?80-?150 CE) was an Indian philosopher and poet who recorded one of the most well-known literary renditions of the Buddha’s life story in addition to many other works.

Dalai Lama

Dalai is Mongolian for “ocean” and lama is the Tibetan word for “superior,” especially referring to those of superior spiritual attainment. Together the two terms constitute the title conferred upon the head monk of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Since the 15th century, the Gelug order has followed a system in which, upon the death of each Dalai Lama, his successor has been located while still a young child by a special council of monks. The council recognizes the child to be the new incarnation of Chenrezig, the bodhisattva of compassion. Tenzin Gyatso was... Read more about Dalai Lama

Kagyu School

The Kagyu School is one of four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug. During the 11th century, the Kagyu school emerged, founded by the great Indian tantric master Naropa, brought to Tibet by the translator Marpa, and solidified as an established school by his disciple, Milarepa. Subsequently, the school subdivided into several branches, the largest of which is the Karma Kagyu sect. The Kagyu school tends to emphasize the dangers of intellectual abstractions, and therefore advises its followers to rely primarily on tantric practice.