The Breath of Love
Most Venerable Bhante Vimalaramsi Mahàthera
Glossary of Study Terminology
Appearing in the order of training
This glossary offers assistance with a working terminology for
the TWIM practices.
This chapter has been put in the back of the book to assist the
beginner and for solving any mix-up in understanding for the
experienced practitioner. The definitions for terminology used
in this book for training appear more or less in the order that
you will have to deal with them as you learn the practice of
Buddhist Meditation shows us how mind’s movements
actually work. It reveals the true nature of things by uncovering
the impersonal moment-to-moment process of Dependent
Origination and the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha-Dhamma
specifically shows us where we get caught by suffering, how this
manifests first, the exact cause of it and the way out.
This journey can sometimes be difficult but it also can be magical
and fun as the changes become apparent in your life and people
begin to notice the change for the good in you.
As we study this, we need to understand clearly some working
definitions of certain training terminology. From the beginning
one learns to do this practice ALL THE TIME. So the precise
definitions of terminology are very important if we are going
to use this practice as our key to opening this doorway to Peace.
Some of these definitions may be slightly different from what
you have heard in other places. As you read further in this book,
make sure the author and you are on the same page with key
words, because this training is pretty important.
Meditation (bhàvanà) – observing the movements of mind’s
attention moment-to-moment, object-to-object for the purpose of
seeing clearly the impersonal process of Dependent Origination
and the Four Noble Truths.
Mindfulness (Sati) – ‘Remembering’ to observe the movements
of mind’s attention all the time.
Awareness (sampaja¤¤a) – Understanding what mind is doing;
meaning whether its releasing what is arising, or getting involved
with it? Is it Recognizing the movements of mind’s attention, or
is it moving into craving and clinging? Is it Releasing, Relaxing,
Re-smiling and then Returning to the object of meditation to
Object of Meditation – Any object of meditation we choose
is to become the home-base for re-centering during our
meditation. The information we seek will not be found in the
object of meditation we observe but rather it is our recognition
of the impersonal Process of Dependent Origination that leads
to our knowledge and vision. This occurs around the object of
Hindrances (nivarana) – unwholesome tendencies that begin
with an arising feeling that is the same as any other feeling
and therefore, it should be treated in the same way during the
meditation by Releasing them and not placing mind’s attention
on them in any way. By denying them mind’s attention they will
become weak and fade away.
Jhàna – The definition here for ‘Jhàna’ in Buddhist terms is a “stage
of meditation through understanding” (the interconnectedness of
the ‘Four Noble Truths and Dependent Origination’) and seeing
how mind actually works”. A Jhàna is a level of understanding;
stage of the meditation path.
Craving (tanhà) – the weak link in the process of Dependent
Origination which manifests as tension and tightness in mind
and body as it is first appearing.
The common definition for the word “Craving” is ‘to want or
desire’, but there is much more to this word. According to the
Buddha there is a definite pattern with everything that arises.
For instance, in order “to see” there is a set way things happen.
First, there must be a functioning sense door such as the eye. Next
there must be color and form. When the eye hits color and form
then eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of these three things
is called eye-contact. With eye-contact as condition eye-feeling
arises. (Feeling [Vedanà] is pleasant, painful or neither painful
nor pleasant and this is either physical or mental feeling.) With
eye feeling as condition, then eye-craving arises.
Now ‘Craving’ (tanhà), in all of its many different forms of seeing,
hearing, tasting, smelling, bodily sensations, and thoughts,
always arises as being a tension and tightness in both mind and
body. ‘Craving’ (tanhà) always manifests as the “I like it or I don’t
like it” mind and can be recognized as tension or tightness in
both one’s mind and body. This is where we come to understand
the importance of the Buddha’s instructions about consciously
tranquilizing one’s mind and body.
When the meditator has any kind of distraction arising, that
pulls their attention away from their object of meditation, then
a feeling immediately arises, and next, right after that the “I
like it.... I don’t like it” [craving-tanhà] mind arising. This is
sometimes seen as a big gross tightness and sometimes as a very
subtle tightness or tension in mind and body.
As ‘Craving’ (tanhà) is the cause of suffering (the Second
Noble Truth) what the meditator must do is softly let go of
that tension or tightness (i.e. relax) and this must consciously
be done. It doesn’t happen automatically as is demonstrated in
the meditation instruction given to us by the Buddha. We then
gently redirect mind’s attention back to the object of meditation
(this step is the Third Noble Truth or the cessation of craving or
suffering). In practical terms this relaxing is the most important
and major step that the Buddha discovered, revealing clearly the
Fourth Noble Truth- that is ‘the way’ leading to the Cessation of
The Buddha saw that when ‘Craving’ (tanhà) was let go of; mind
became clear, open, and very observant. He saw that the thinking
mind did not arise. The thinking mind in Buddhism is called
So, when a teacher says something like “Cling to Nothing”
they are actually saying to ‘stop thinking about things and just
observe’. This is good advice as far as it goes. Actually it would be
better to say “Crave Nothing” but that would be misunderstood
because the question would arise of ‘how are we supposed to do
“Crave Nothing” means ‘to notice and let go of the tightness or
tension in one’s mind and body before it arises’.
How does one do this? When one sees a ‘Feeling’ arise, if they
relax at that very moment, then the ‘Craving’ (tanhà) won’t
arise. ‘Craving’ (tanhà) is the weak link in the cycle or process of
Dependent Origination. It CAN be recognized and let go of, and
when it is released then the ‘Clinging’ (Upàdàna) won’t arise.
One thing that has become popular today is the putting together
of these two words, ‘Craving/Clinging’ and I think it helps to
cause even more confusion. Craving’ is the “I like it ... I don’t like
it” mind and ‘Clinging’ is all of the thoughts, ideas, opinions,
and concepts why mind likes or dislikes a feeling when it arises.
These are two very different and separate parts to the process
of how things work. Putting them together just makes one’s
understanding of this process, even cloudier.
Some teachers today define ‘Craving and Clinging’ as ‘Grasping’.
And as I just explained that moves away from the more precise
definitions that the Buddha showed us within his teaching. To
eliminate clinging is not to eliminate suffering if craving is the
No-self (anattà) – Impersonal Nature; Impersonal perspective.
An absence of taking anything personally which occurs during
life. Seeing things purely as they are.
To do this in life, you don’t have to stop using the pronouns in your
language! And you don’t have to try to disappear. Promise!
Delusion (moha) – In some Buddhist traditions the word
“delusion” (Moha) is linked up with two other words which are
‘Lust’ (lobha) and ‘Hatred’ (dosa). Together these three words
are sometimes called “the three poisons” and this actually is a
reasonable way to look at them.
But there can be some confusion about what “delusion” (Moha)
actually means. The Buddha meant something a little bit different
every time he used this word.
According to the suttas the word ‘delusion’ (Moha) most often
means ‘to see whatever arises as being a personal self’ (atta). Or
we can say that ‘Delusion’ (Moha) is seeing things through the
false (deluded) idea of a self (atta). In other words, one takes all
feelings or sensations to be a part of the “I”, “Me”, “My”, “Mine”
(atta) identification. In Buddhism, that is delusion.
Serenity (samatha) – Here again is another word to look at. In Pàli
the word is ‘Samatha’. The meaning of ‘Samatha’ is tranquility,
serenity, peacefulness, or stillness.
Often the common popular definition is a strongly one-pointed
type of concentration, absorption concentration, or ecstatic
concentration. This specific definition of serenity or tranquility
certainly implies a different type of “collectedness” than the
deeper types of absorption or ecstatic ‘concentration’.
The goal of absorption or ecstatic concentration is to have mind
stay on only one thing as if it were glued to it (to the exclusion of
anything else), By comparison, ‘Samatha Collectedness’ implies
to have a mind that is still, serene, and calm, but alert to whatever
the shifting or moving mind does moment-to-moment. Of course
Samatha/Vipassanà (which is the standard way it is described in
the suttas (see MN 149:10 where they are always linked together)
leads to the total liberation of mind by seeing and recognizing
how the Four Noble Truths interact with Dependent Origination.
The Bodhisatta experienced firsthand, Samatha/Vipassanà leads
directly to the end-result of Nibbàna and absorption or ecstatic
concentration does not.
Insight (Vipassanà) – This word has a surface meaning which is
‘seeing things as they truly are’.
According to the Buddha’s the definition goes much deeper than
that. It means ‘Insight’ or understanding. But understanding into
what? Realizing the impersonal nature and deep understanding
of the Four Noble Truths and ‘HOW’ Dependent Origination
actually occurs with everything that arises and passes away
(anicca) in one’s mind and body. This is Buddhist Insight. In other
words, one gains a deeper and deeper understanding (in each
stage of Jhàna) of the impersonal process of ‘HOW’ mind and
body arises through truly seeing and understanding (knowledge
and vision) of the Four Noble Truths interconnection with the
ongoing process of Dependent Origination.
When one can see clearly this process in all of existence, they will
experience an unshakable knowledge that this is the right path
to follow. Mind begins to see clearly that whatever arises and
passes away (anicca) and that this is a part of a definite process
leading us to a deep understanding that everything going on is a
part of an impersonal pattern (anattà).
These ‘Insights’ can occur at any time whether one is sitting
in meditation or doing their daily activities. They are quite
profound when they occur.
‘Insights’ are like finding a lost part to a puzzle and this is where
the true “aha!” experiences happen.
Wisdom (pa¤¤à) – there are many phrases within the suttas using
the word ‘wisdom’ and they usually turn out to be concerning
in some context ‘the impersonal process of Dependent
Anytime the words ‘Wise Attention’ or ‘Wisdom’ is seen in
the suttas they are referring to the understanding of the Four
Noble Truths and the process of Dependent Origination. Other
such phrases appear as: “He sees with Wisdom”, “Seeing with
Wisdom”, “… and his taints were destroyed by his seeing with
Wisdom…”, ”Wisdom”, or “He is Wise”.
If we can remember such instances are referring to understanding
the Four Noble Truths and the process of D.O. as we read
the various suttas, then our minds will open up to a new
understanding of how this process and the Four Noble Truths
are at the core of the teaching of the Buddha.
Concentration (samàdhi) – The Pàli word actually means
the unification or bringing together of mind. The word
‘Collectedness’ appears to be more functional for success in the
meditation rather than the word ‘Concentration’. In the West
people take the word ‘Concentration’ to mean a kind of deep
one-pointedness of mind or an absorbed mind and this is not
what the Buddha was trying to get across. Before the time of the
Buddha there were many words that described deep absorption
or one-pointedness of mind. But the Buddha made up a new
word. “Samàdhi”. Samàdhi describe a completely different way of
seeing and experiencing Jhàna. After the Buddha’s Parinibbàna,
because this word was very popular, the Brahmins of that time
changed the definition of ‘samàdhi’ back to mean—‘strong
one-pointedness’. But, the Buddha was showing that there is a
difference between a ‘Collected Mind’ and a strongly absorbed
or ‘Concentrated Mind’.
The words ‘Collected Mind’’ (Samàdhi) give us the idea of a
mind that is composed, calm, still, and very alert. This kind of
mind observes whenever mind’s attention shifts from one thing
to another. A ‘Concentrated’ mind, on the other hand, means
that mind is stuck on one thing to the exclusion of anything
else that may try to arise. So a ‘Concentrated’ Mind’ by this
definition loses full awareness and mindfulness (Sati) of what is
happening in the present moment because it is only seeing the
one thing it is pointing at. This statement also refers to “access or
neighborhood concentration” (upacàra samàdhi) and “moment-
to-moment concentration” (khanika samàdhi). Why?
The simple answer is there is no tranquilizing of mind and body
before the meditator brings their attention back to the object
of meditation. Because of this, there is no lowering of tension
in mind or body or seeing of how the Four Noble Truths and
Dependent Origination actually work. One does not realize how
craving (tightness and tension) is brought back to the meditation
This is why when the teachers of straight ‘Vipassanà’ tell their
students that ‘Absorption Concentration’ won’t ever lead to
Nibbàna, they are 100% correct. Any kind of practice which
divides ‘Samatha Meditation’ and ‘Vipassanà Meditation’ into two
different practices, can’t possibly lead one to Nibbàna. Why?
Because mind has the need to be calm, composed, and clear, while
it is in a Jhàna, in order to see clearly the interconnectedness of
the Four Noble Truths and Dependent Origination. This is why
the practice of straight Vipassanà has some serious students. The
Buddha taught us to practice ‘Samatha/Vipassanà’ together and
this is the difference between commentary based meditation
practice and the sutta approach to meditation.
The results of these two practices are different. One-pointed
‘Concentration’ is not the same kind of mental development that
the Buddha shows us. The Buddha taught us to tranquilize our
mind and body every time mind’s attention shifts from one thing
to another. The ‘Collected Mind’’ is not so deeply one-pointed
that the force of one’s ‘Concentration’ causes mind to stay on
one object of meditation, even if that attention ‘Concentrates’ on
The ‘Collected Mind’ is able to observe how mind’s attention
goes from one thing to another, very precisely. There is much
more full awareness of both mind and body here than with a
deeply ‘Concentrated’ one-pointed mind or absorbed mind’.
This is why I choose to use the word ‘Collected’ rather than
‘Concentrated’’ mind. By using the word “Collected” there is
less confusion about the kind of meditation that the Buddha is
referring to and it is easier to understand the descriptions given
in the suttas.
The words listed here are a good start for you with which to
work on this approach to the meditation.