4th wheel, 4th wheel buddhism, absorption, articles on ecstatic meditation, bliss, catutthayana, di.t.thadhammasukhavihaaraa, ecstatic buddhism, ecstasy, ecstatic, ecstatic case histories, ecstatic contemplative, ecstatic meditation, ecstatic poetry, field meditation, fragrance of enlightenment, fruits of the contemplative life, fourth wheel, great western vehicle, gwv, gwv pali dictionary project, jeff brooks, jeffrey s. brooks, jhana, jhana archive, jhana resource guide, jhana support group, jhanananda, jhanananda's journal, jhananda, jhana-nimitta, joy, joy of meditation, joyful home of the way, jsg, kriya, kriyas, kundalini, kundaliniheat, language of ecstasy, language of gnosis, mahaparacakkayana, mahasatipatthana, maha-satipatthana, manomaya, meet the needs of the people, meditation, meditation case histories, meditation induced neurosis, meditation induced physical ailment, meditation induced psychosis, meditation induced tinnitus, meditative absorption, meditation teacher, mind-made body, mystic, mysticism, nikayan buddhism, nimitta, oob, oobe, ordination program, out-of-body experience, pali, pali & buddhist studies, pali canon, pali dictionary project, pali language resource guide, past life, past lifetimes, patanjali, peer-level support, personal case histories, personal case histories with meditative absorption, phala, phala nikaya, phenomena of absorption, piiti, pleasure not of the senses, psychology of buddhism, psychology of ecstasy, psychology of kundalini, psychology of yoga, recognizing the absorption states, e'letter, remaining conscious during sleep, retreat, retreats, right livelihood, right meditation, saint vitus' dance, samadhi, sama-samadhi, satipatthana, shaman, shamanic, shamanism, solo wilderness retreat, sotapanna, southwest insight e'letter, spiritual awakening, spontaneous movement, stone worn to sand, stream winner, succor, sukha, three year retreat, tinnitus, tipitaka, translator bias, understanding meditation states, understanding meditative absorption, unifying theory of gnosis, western buddhism, western buddhist teachers, western vehicle, wholesome states, wilderness, wilderness retreat, yoga psychology, yoga sutras of patanjali, advaita, advaita vedanta, anagami, anapanasati, arahant, arahanta, arahat, astral projection, aura, bodhichitta, boundless states, brahma viharas, buddha, buddhism, buddhism as a religion, buddhist, buddhist criticism, buddhist philosophy, buddhist psychology, buddhist tradition, burying the shaman, chakra, characteristic manifestations of absorption, characteristics of absorption, charism, charisma, charismatic, charismatic movement, charismatic buddhism, christian contemplative, christian meditation, christian mystic, christian mysticism, clairaudience, clairvoyance, compassion, concentration, contemplation, contemplative, contemplative arts, contemplative poetry, cultivating wholesome states, dark night of the soul, dependent origination, descent into hell, dhamma, dhamma teacher, dharma, dhyana, discourses of the buddha, divine abodes, divine ear, dzikr, dzogchen, ecumenical, ecumenical buddhism, eighth fold path, engaged, enlightened, enlightenment, enlightenment in this lifetime, equanimity, ethics, ethics in buddhism, fana, former lives, forms of buddhism, four noble truths, gnosis, gnostic, hollow reed, houses of god, insight, kabbalah, karuna, kasina, kayagata-sati, loving kindness, lucid, lucid dreaming, mahamudra, meditation object, meditative, metta, mind of buddha, monastic, mudita, nama-rupa, nibbana, nirvana, non-returner, once returner, psycho-soma, rapture, reincarnation, revelation, rigpa, sakadagami, salmon-boy, sanskrit, sanskrit & vedic studies, seven factors of enlightenment, shunyata, siddhartha gotama, siddhi, signless, signlessness, sufi, sufism, supernatural powers, supranormal powers, sutra, sutra pitaka, sutta, sutta pitaka, sympathetic joy, trance, tranquility, tripitaka, tucson dharma news, two-worlds, upekkha, vedanta, vertigo, vipassana, yoga, yoga sutras,

[Great Western Vehicle] [Events] [Supporting the GWV]

[Pali & Buddhist Studies] [Tipitaka Index]  [Buddhist Timeline] [Pali-English Dictionary] [Sanskrit & Vedic Studies] [Ecstatic Meditation Archive]

 Oben Zum IndexZurueck Voraus

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

A Contemplative's Pali-English, English-Pali Dictionary

containing 1434 Pali terms defined in English and 1150 English terms defined in Pali

(last updated 11-02-05)

(a work in progress)

Edited by Jhanananda

First Edition, Rev 1

Great Western Vehcile
P. O. Box 41795,
Tucson, AZ. USA

First Edition 2005

©2005 the Great Western Vehcile

The Preface To The First Edition

Every culture that has embraced Buddhism has spent the first few centuries of that endeavor in acquiring and translating the Three Baskets, which includes the Discourses of the Buddha (sutta/sutra pitaka). It is a matter of history that the Buddha spoke in the common language of the people of his region. The people of his region were Magada. The Pali language is a liturgical language that is based upon that language. Once the Buddha's teachings were written down in the first century BC they were almost immediately translated into Sinhala and Sanskrit. When Buddhism arrived in China, then Korea, then Japan then Tibet, the Three Baskets were acquired in Sanskrit then translated into Chinese then translated into the languages of the above regions.

As the English speaking peoples embrace Buddhism we have the choice to acquire the teachings of the Buddha in the above mentioned languages, however, why go through three layers of translation, which are only going to increase the likelihood of translator bias and religious dogma that was not a part of the Buddha's teaching, when we can go back to the original language of the Buddha, which was closest related to the Pali language?

For scholarly purposes we believe serious students of Buddhism are going to want to penetrate through the fog of translator bias and religious dogma to get as close to the original teachings of the Buddha as one can. One cannot hope to penetrate the language of the dhamma without a Pali-to-English dictionary that reflects a clear understanding of the Pali language and the Buddha's teachings.

Previous efforts in constructing Pali-to-English dictionaries have functioned under the erroneous premise that translation is a science and that abstract concepts, such as the philosophical principles of the Buddha can be translated from one language and culture to the next with a single word under all circumstances.  Translation is not a science but an art for which there is a range of expression, because abstract concepts rarely have the same range of meaning from one language and culture to the next.

It is our premise that getting at Sidharta Gotama's philosophy requires, in part, realizing that the Buddha and his people were working from a different world-view than that of the contemporary Western world-view, thus it is often rather difficult to simply translate the words of the Buddha literally and end up with something cogent at the other end.

Often translations depend upon literal translations of abstract concepts, such as the concepts of Dependent Origination.  The problem is a literal translation in the hands of someone who does not either understand Dependent Origination or the Western world-view typically produces unsuccessful compound terms, such as 'mentality materiality,' 'sense contact' and 'eye consciousness.' These terms are nothing more than a lot of Dependent Origination double-talk and Pali-speak that seems to pervade the Buddha's discourse in English translation, and we believe only serves to make the Buddha's discourses opaque to the common Western reader.

When one reads clumsy compound English terms, such as mentioned above, we can conclude the translator or commentator is either not familiar with the Western language of cognition and/or does not understand the Buddha's philosophy of Dependent Origination.  It is clear to this contemplative that one must understand both to be able to clearly articulate Dependent Origination, and the Buddha dhamma to the Western people.

In Western psychology and neurology we use terminology like: 'neurophysiology' and 'psycho soma' to express the same concept the Buddha referred to when he used the compound term 'nama-rupa,' which is rather clumsily rendered as "mentality materiality." We use 'sensory stimuli' for the clumsy '(sense organ) contact.' We use 'originates in sensory stimuli' for the clumsy 'born of sense contact.' And, we use 'cognition' for the incorrect translation of viññána as 'consciousness.'

It is very possible that some dharma teachers think if they can make their explanation of Dependent Origination really opaque, then (s)he will appear very intelligent instead of too dull to understand the rather elegant principle it is. It is this editor's belief that a well-executed translation of the Buddha's Discourses (Sutta Pitaka) hardly needs commentary, so one may use that premise as a guide for determining the skillfulness of any translation.

This work initially grew out of having sat through many instances where an Asian interpreter, who is translating for an Asian monk, is engaged in an argument with some native speakers of English in the audience who are questioning his use of the term 'consciousness.' The Asian interpreters are frequently caught in the unfortunate error of attempting to teach a native speaker of English his or her own language.

The typical interpreter's error originates in the erroneous translation of the Sanskrit term 'citta' or the Pali term 'viññána' as 'consciousness.'  If translators of Asian contemplative literature were a bit more skilful in their understanding of cognition and gnosis they would never have translated these terms in that way.  While it is understandable how difficult it can be to render an abstract concept, such as 'consciousness' or 'cognition,' into another language, still cognition is a much better rendering of the terms 'citta' or 'viññána.'

Wherever possible we have also endeavored to extract the influence of dogma prevalent in the three Asian vehicles of Buddhism that does not stand up against the original Discourses of the Buddha.  For instance the concept of Access Concentration (s. javana-samádhi) is religious dogma without canonical support. While this term appears in the Abhidhamma and the Visuddhimagga, as well as the Pali-to-English dictionaries, there is no canonical support for that term, so this editor has determined it is most probably apocryphal. 

Further, if we examine how the term is used, then we find the concept of Access Concentration is typically used to describe a subjective state or condition that arises prior to the subjective states of jhana, which were described by the Buddha.  The problem with recognizing a state of meditation induced absorption prior to jhana, is the Buddha did not seem to think it was important to acknowledge such a subjective state.  In fact it is the premise of this editor that there is no subjective state that precedes the first jhana, other than a state of non-absorption.  Thus we have concluded that Access Concentration (s. javana-samádhi) is either a clear misunderstanding of the Buddha dhamma or very possibly intentional subversion and obfuscation.

This issue brings up another example of erroneous translations of Pali and Sanskrit terminology in the translation of the Pali term 'jhana' and the Sanskrit term 'samadhi' as concentration.  The English term 'concentration' is the act of applying and sustaining one's attention upon a subject, such as one's schoolwork or attending to a meditation object.  The problem with translating the Pali term 'jhana' and the Sanskrit term 'samadhi' as concentration is Siddhartha Gotama had defined the terms 'jhana' and 'samadhi' in terms of bliss (piiti) and joy (sukha) in numerous suttas, such as the Maha-satipatthana sutta (DN 22).  Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, did not use the term 'jhana' however he did use the term 'samadhi' and he defined it in ecstatic terms in much the same way the Buddha did. 

We need only recall that when our schoolteachers asked us to concentrate on our schoolwork that they were not asking us to experience bliss and joy.  Thus we can conclude that defining the Pali term 'jhana' and the Sanskrit term 'samadhi' as merely 'concentration' is most clearly erroneous, and could very possibly be another example of intentional appropriation, subversion and obfuscation of the Buddha dhamma.

One of the goals of the Great Western Vehicle is to bring the Buddha's teachings to the broadest audience. However, when the translation of the Buddha dhamma is executed without a clear understanding of English language of cognition and gnosis, then we have confusion, misunderstandings and half-truths as translations of the Buddha dhamma. Thus to meet our goals of providing translations that have a clear understanding of the Buddha dhamma that are rendered skillfully in the English language then we felt there was a profound need for new translations of the Discourses of the Buddha (Sutta Pitaka) as well as a new Pali-to-English Dictionary.

After finding the four published Pali to English Dictionaries do not represent the direct experience of gnosis (jhana/samadhi) adequately, and clearly misunderstand the English language of cognition as well, it was decided to simply edit a new dictionary that both reflected the direct insight and attainment of gnosis, as well as an understanding of the preexisting English language of gnosis and cognition. It is most unfortunate that previous translations of the Buddha dhamma and Pali-to-English dictionaries were unable to bring an understanding of the larger view of European contemplative traditions, but then the previous editors were only scholars apparently without attainment, and not much understanding of European contemplative traditions.

While the western people are quite familiar with the attempts of the orthodoxy of Christianity attempting to appropriate, subvert and obfuscate the teaching of Jesus, few western people, who have embraced Buddhism or Hinduism or the Yogas, are familiar with the same phenomena in Buddhism and Hinduism.  We must just accept that orthodoxies of religions are the same the world around.


Commentaries, such as the Abhidhamma and Visuddhimagga:
The editors of this dictionary consider the Abhidhamma a non-canonical document of early commentary, thus it is considered a secondary resource of dhamma, as is the Visuddhimagga. We believe one should be very careful to avoid embracing concepts that are non-canonical, especially those that come into direct conflict with the Buddha’s discourses. We have found a number of commentarial positions, such as the emphasis upon insight (vipassana) and a rejection of absorption (jhana), that we believe are clear examples of commentarial positions that are in direct conflict with the canon (suttas), thus we reject those points of view.

Insight & Vipassana:
Many translators have slanted their translations and interpretations based upon a belief that the Buddha preferentially directed his dialog toward insight as his primary goal. We do not believe that this position can stand up to a thorough investigation of the suttas. Thus, the editors have worked to expunge this dogma from this dictionary, except in the case of terms that originate from the commentaries.

Where this confusion manifests is revealed in a belief in two kinds of absorption, one that is mundane (lokiya) and one that is supramundane (lokuttara). There is however, no canonical support for these beliefs. This mythology is also revealed in a belief in many kinds of insight (s. vipassana) such as in mahá-vipassaná. Insight (s. vipassana) is an attainment (phala) that is not exclusive of the other attainments, such as absorption (samádhi, jhana) (please see D 2).

In most Pali-English dictionaries and commentaries there is a most unfortunate lack of suttic references and a preponderance of commentarial references. You will find in this dictionary, wherever possible, we have endeavored to direct the reader and scholar to the suttas first and foremost as the final authoritative source on the dhamma. In addition, wherever possible, we have endeavored to add a hot link to the GWV archive of the Tipitaka.

Key Terms in this Dictionary:

Concentration (Sati):
As mentioned above in the text we believe it is erroneous to translate the Pali term ‘jhana’ and the Sanskrit term ‘samadhi’ as ‘concentration.’ The English term ‘concentration’ is the act of applying and sustaining one’s attention upon a subject, such as one’s schoolwork or attending to a meditation object. Thus in this dictionary we will translate the term Pali term ‘Sati’ as ‘concentration.’

Consciousness ‘viññana’:
The Pali term that is most often interpreted by the English term ‘consciousness’ is ‘viññana.’ The problem with defining Pali term ‘viññana’ as ‘consciousness’ is ‘consciousness’ is a synonym for ‘awareness,’ and ‘viññana’ is one of the five “clinging aggregates” (Skhandas), which “cause the arising and passing away of mental structures” (pancha-upadana-skhanda). If we are to assume consciousness is a clinging aggregate (skhandas), which “cause the arising and passing away of mental structures” (pancha-upadana-skhanda), then we are to assume that our goal as Buddhist contemplatives is to arrive at an unconscious state, which has been the unfortunate conclusion by some misdirected Buddhist scholars. This of course cannot be true, because all of the contemplative practices of Buddhism, as well as any other contemplative tradition, is directed toward cultivating and expanding awareness beyond the normal domain. Thus we have concluded that to translate or interpret the Pali term ‘viññana’ as ‘consciousness’ is a grave error. You will find in most cases in this dictionary we have chosen ‘cognition’ as a more skilful interpretation of what the Buddha must have meant when he used the Pali term ‘viññana.’

Deva, Gods or angels:
While it is common to translate the Sanskrit and Pali term ‘Deva’ as ‘God’ the editors of this dictionary believe doing so unnecessarily presents the Pagan and Polytheistic aspect of Hinduism, which is really not quite accurate. Most Hindu religious communities believe in a Godhead, typically represent by Brahma, and refer to the pantheon of devas in much the same way Christians view the pantheon of saints and angels. Thus, we have chosen to translate the term ‘deva’ as angle, which we believe is closer to how Europeans would view the term ‘deva’ when given a non-cultural bias.

Ecstasy, jhana samadhi:
The problem with translating the Pali term ‘jhana’ and the Sanskrit term ‘samadhi’ as ‘concentration’ is Siddhartha Gotama had defined the terms ‘jhana’ and ‘samadhi’ in terms of bliss (piiti) and joy (sukha) in numerous suttas, such as the Maha-satipatthana sutta (D 22). Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, did not use the term ‘jhana’ however he did use the term ‘samadhi’ and he defined it in ecstatic terms in much the same way as the Buddha. Thus in this dictionary we will translate the Pali term ‘jhana’ and the Sanskrit term ‘samadhi’ as ‘ ‘ecstasy’ or ‘meditative absorption.’

fine-material (rupa-jhana, loca)
The editors of this dictionary do not feel making the Pali term ‘rupa’ into ‘fine material’ or ‘subtle’ is warranted by how the term is used in the suttas.

Indifferent feeling upekkhá = adukkha-m-asukhá vedana
We believe this is in error. When the Buddha used the phrase ‘adukkha-m-asukhá’ the editors believe he was not speaking of ‘indifferent’ or ‘neutral’ feelings, but he was speaking of charismatic phenomena that does not originate from sensory stimulation, which he called “jhana-nimitta.”

Mental formations (sañkhara):
The term “mental formations” is a classic example of Pali-waffle that has been passed off as English. In this dictionary we have chosen to translate ‘sañkhara’ as ‘mental structures,’ ‘state,’ ‘set,’ or ‘spin;’ ‘emotions,’ ‘associations’ ‘mental connections’ or ‘relationship’ between thoughts, feelings, ideas, or sensations.

Mental torpor (thína):
By examining how the Pali term ‘thína’ is used in the Discourse of the Buddha as well as the related Sanskrit term ‘nidra’ is used in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, we determined it is more accurate to translate these terms as ‘unconsciousness’, as in sleep, instead of ‘torpor’ as it is more commonly translated.

In Buddhist commentaries there is very often an over emphasis upon the monk, which tends to disadvantage the nun, so, In every instance where there is a reference to the term ‘monk’ we have changed it either to ‘monastic’ as a non-sexist term, or we have changed it to ‘contemplative’ because in most cases the Buddha was simply addressing people who were contemplatives because his audience was often mixed. Thus we need not emphasize the male monastic in a society that is gender sensitive and is predominantly lay.

náma-rúpa (lit. 'name and form'):
'mind-and-body', psycho-soma, psychophysiology, neurophysiology, not ‘mentality and corporeality’.

Psyche n.
In Psychiatry the mind functioning as the center of thought, emotion, and behavior and consciously or unconsciously adjusting or mediating the body's responses to the social and physical environment. [Latin psùché, from Greek psukhé, soul.]

Rupa, corporeality:
In many cases translators have not been successful in producing a clear understanding of the Buddha’s use of the Pali term ‘Rupa.’ Like many abstract concepts it is very difficult to offer a single translation that covers all uses of a term. However, in many cases we feel the use of terms such as ‘bodily’ and ‘corporeality’ err in lack of reference to common usage. Thus we have chosen in most cases to us ‘soma’ or ‘somatic’ because we feel this term from psychology is closest to the way the Buddha most often used rupa. In some case we used 'anatomical' and in some case we retained ‘corporeality.’

Sensation, Feeling (vedana):
For the aggregates (khandas) of cognition of sensation or feeling (vedana) we have chosen to primarily use ‘sensation’ instead of ‘feeling.’

Unconscious beings:
incorrectly assigned to the entry for 'asaññá-satta' (q.v.). It should be 'non-percipient,' meaning those who have ascended beyond the perception of the material world by way of the 8th stage of absorption (jhana). We should not assume beings, who have risen to the level of the 8th stage of absorption are "unconscious." To conclude thus is an excellent example of how unsuccessful it is to translate ‘viññana’ as 'consciousness', when it was really 'cognition' that the Buddha was speaking of.

'neighborhood or access-concentration', is the non-canonical belief that there is a degree of concentration just before entering any of the absorptions, or jhánas. The Buddha however, did not apparently feel it necessary to recognize such a state. Thus, the editors of this dictionary consider this term an example of later obfuscation by the priestly community who apparently wished to distance the experience of attainment (phala) from the people.


The GWV Contemplative's Pali-English, English-Pali Dictionary contains 1412 Pali terms defined in English and 1148 English terms defined in Pali. It is based upon edited material acquired from the following dictionary sources:

826 Pali terms defined in English and 581 English terms defined in Pali from the Buddhist Dictionary, Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines by NYANATILOKA MAHATHERA.

A Pali-English, English-Pali Hypertext Dictionary of 603 Pali terms defined in English and 621 English terms defined in Pali from the Sacred Texts archive.


"The growth of the bhikkhus is to be expected, not their decline, so long as they ...(remain) favorable to meditative absorption (samadhi)...'

Dhammaccariya Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
172nd day of a solo wilderness retreat
Inyo National Forest
October 19, 2005

the Great Western Vehicle

 Oben Zum IndexZurueck Voraus

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

[Great Western Vehicle] [Events] [Supporting the GWV]

[Pali & Buddhist Studies] [Tipitaka Index]  [Buddhist Timeline] [Pali-English Dictionary] [Sanskrit & Vedic Studies] [Ecstatic Meditation Archive]