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A Manual of Key Buddhist Terms (Categorization of Buddhist Terminology with Commentary)

A Manual of Key Buddhist Terms (Categorization of Buddhist Terminology with Commentary)
Item Code: NAD692
Author: Lotsawa Kawa Paltseg
Publisher: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala
Language: English
Edition: 20015
ISBN: 9789383441358
Pages: 93
Cover: Paperback
Other Details: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 130 gms
About the Book

In order to understand Buddhism clearly, we need to have a good knowledge of Buddhist terminology. This text, written by an 8th-century Tibetan translator named Kaba Paltseg, introduces us to a world of definitive Buddhist terminology. In addition to clearly categorizing many key Buddhist terms, the author provides comprehensive lists with commentaries of the terms through which the reader can learn about the world of Buddhism: its psychology, cosmology, philosophical outlook and other aspects



According to Buddhism, the universe is the co-creation of all beings. Furthermore, it is said that every living being inevitably arises out of a multitude of causes and conditions, and it is one's own actions that determine one's future. To have proper control over one's actions so as to make them result in a positive outcome, one needs to know how an action causes results according to karmic laws. In order to help sentient beings attain these positive, or virtuous, outcomes, which are antithetical to negative outcomes, or suffering, the Buddha gave his teachings. The author of the present text apparently had the same goal in mind when writing this enumeration. By clearly categorizing many key Buddhist terms, the author provides the reader with lists that are easy to memorize. With this knowledge one can develop one's practice, which makes the individual focus on the accumulation of virtue instead of negativity. Of course, many present-day practitioners do not feel it necessary to go so far as to memorize all the relevant terminology. However, since the author also supplies a commentary on the terms, the reader learns a lot about the world of Buddhism, its psychology and its philosophical outlook by studying the terms and their definitions.

Structure of the Text
The text can be roughly divided into eight topics. Parts 1 to 4 deal mostly with the nature, identity and mind of the person. The way these personal factors, or" dharmas", are categorized in the present work is similar to the system laid out by Arya Asanga in the Abhidharntastnnuccnvn' in the 5th century. This text later became the basis of the Mind Only school.

In the next section of the text, parts 5 to 8, the author discusses the method through which the individual relates to his or her world, and the ensuing consequences. Central to this are the 12 links of dependent arising, which cause suffering and bondage to cyclic existence.

The only way to free oneself from cyclic existence is to cut through the afflictive emotions, especially ignorance. Since ignorance creates all the other afflictive emotions, it is crucial to remove it by directly perceiving emptiness, which is ultimate truth.

Parts 9 to 12 are related to the nature of emptiness in contrast to relative truth.

Although directly perceiving emptiness is part of attaining Buddhahood, it is certainly not all that is necessary. Parts 15 to 18 illustrate the path to Buddhahood from two different angles. One approach is through the 37 practices which are methods of achieving enlightenment, and the other through the five paths of the Mahayana vehicle, along with the 10 perfections which are the practice, and the 10 Bodhisattva grounds which are their results, along with the ultimate result of Buddhahood.

It is far easier to attain a goal if one has a clear idea of the end result. With this in mind, parts 19 to 26 deal mostly with the surpassing characteristics of a Buddha. Not only do they help explain why one should have conviction in the Buddha and his teachings, they also show what every being can achieve, if he or she follows the Mahayana path to its conclusion.

Since Buddha was perfect, his teachings are invaluable. Yet, because they are so copious, they are hard to organize and understand. Therefore, parts 27 to 31 help to clarify points related to his teachings.

Although Buddha himself followed the Mahayana path, his teachings are often more in line with the Theravadin path. Parts 32 to 38 categorize various aspects of the paths of Hearers and Solitary Realizers. Whereas a Buddha has removed all obstructions to wisdom as well as all afflictive emotions, the Hearers and Solitary Realizers have only abandoned afflictive emotions. Thus they do not share many of the surpassing characteristics of a Buddha. Yet they are released from bondage to cyclic existence.

Part 39 to 44 enumerate various qualities of beings not yet freed from cyclic existence. Even birth in the form realm or formless realm does not guarantee that one will not fall back into the lower three realms again. The author briefly explains these states of mind stability meditation, which can be attained by practices common to Hinduism as well. This translation includes two works of an 8th-century scholar translator Kaba Paltseg.'

The Author
As a translator, Kaba Paltseg was a genius and a recognised literary figure of his time. His outstanding translation ability and his good command of other literary skills as reflected in his works won him great admiration through the centuries. The 12th-century translator Ngog Loden Sherab recalled him in the following words:

Variocana is like the sky
Ka[ba Paltseg] and Chog are like the sun and moon.
Rinchen Zangpo is like the morning star.
Compared to them, I am simply a glow-worm."

His contribution to the literary field consists of a number of translations and his own compositions-all to be found in the collections of Tibetan Buddhist canon. One of his most esteemed contributions is his catalogue of the translated scriptures, preserved in Tongthang Dhenkar Library in central Tibet.' No biography of him has so far come to light, and it is not known if one ever existed. However, an early 16th-century literary sources mentions .him in the chapter on Padmasambhava's activities in Tibet, describing the role he played in promoting Buddhism in Tibet under the rule of King Trisong Detsen and his immediate successors, and connecting him with some of his period's historic events such as: the establishment of translating Buddhism into Tibetan at Samye; the invitation of Vimalamitra to Tibet; the reinstatement of Vairocana at Samye following his exile in Tshaba Rong; the contest of occult powers between Buddhists and Bonpos, and so forth. The authors of earlier sources, such as sBa bzhad and other annals, had made similar mention of these facts.

According to the present source, Kaba Paltseg was born to Kaba Loden and Drongza Dhocham of Kaba clan in Phan region in central Tibet. He and several other young Tibetans, including Vairocana and Chogro Luyi Gyaltshan, were summoned to Trisong Detsen's court, and were commanded to study translating skills at Samye under Shantirakshita. He soon gained mastery over Sanskrit as well" as Tibetan and became an extraordinarily talented translator of Buddhist scriptures. Padmasambhava predicted that he would be the reincarnation of an Indian siddha who had a karmic link to become a genius at translation. Before being appointed as the principal translator at Samye, he was given ordination and initiated into the teachings of the outer, inner and secret tantras. From then on he took an active part in all the phases of the translation activities at Samye, in which over 100 translators were engaged. Because of his reputation for masterly translations, Tri song Detsen appointed him as assistant to Shantirakshita in the task of editing all the translations of the first phase of translation activities at Sarnye.

Following this, Trisong Detsen deputed him, assisted by three others, to invite from Kashmir a pandit who could check all those scriptures which were then translated into Tibetan. He returned from Kashmir with Vimalamitra, the most prominent pandit in Kashmir of that time, selecting him from among 500 others. He also acted as the principal mediator between Trisong Detsen and his anti-Buddhist ministers, who falsely accused Vairocana of having received impure teachings from India and exiled him to Tshaba Rong. After convincing the king to reinstate Vairocana at Samye, he and three others went to Tshaba Rong and brought Vairocana back to commence the second phase of translation activities. In the later part of his life, he did tantric practices and accordingly trained himself in numerous rites. At the time when the 25 Tibetan siddhas (rje 'bangs nyer 11lga) held a contest of powers with Bonpo priests, he challenged and defeated his Bonpo counterpart, Tsemi Yungdrung. He was also among the leading figures who officiated at the funeralrites of Trisong Detsen.

The present source makes no mention of his date of death, but it is certain that he lived for a long time after the passing away of Trisong Detsen, since it was in the reign of Tride Songtsan-the next-to-immediate successor of Tri Songtsan-that he composed the catalogue.

Since English does not seem to be as perfect a vessel for the Dharma as TIbetan, there are many places within the text where the true meaning of the original does not exactly shine through. Fortunately, there have been many pioneers in the translation of Tibetan into English. We have therefore made extensive use of terms already created by others. By using somewhat standardized terms, we hope to avoid confusion. The main texts we used are A Tibetan-English. Dictionary of Buddhist Terminology and Meditation on Emptiness? We also used Meditative States for some terms related to the form and formless realms. When there was a conflict in translation, we chose the one that corresponded most closely with the commentary. Sometimes we had to use an entirely new term in order to make it consistent with the commentary. Also, there were a couple of occasions when we could not find any previous translation. In those cases, with the assistance of Geshe Sonam Rinchen, we devised our own terms. We greatly appreciate Geshe Sonam Rinchen's help, and we hope that the understanding he sought to convey to us comes through in the translation. Also, we thank Mr. Richard Guard for editing the English translation.

Although the Tibetan scholars translated the Sanskrit texts so perfectly that the original can often be reconstructed from the Tibetan, there has been no such standardization of terms translated from Tibetan into English. Thus the reader should not be surprised to see the same Tibetan word with two or more English correlates in various sections of the text. However, we felt that different English terms were better suited to convey the meanings in different contexts. We apologize for any confusion that this might create.

After arriving at a suitable wording for the root text, we proceeded to translate the commentary. In translating the commentary, we used only the parts related directly to the root text. Many sections of the commentary remain untranslated. Furthermore, we remained faithful to the commentary's explanation of the terminology even when it conflicted with other definitions. Again, we hope this will enrich the reader's understandings of the terms and their range of meaning. For those who want to check the Tibetan terms against a different English translation, we have included the Tibetan text next to the English in the outline section. Since some students may use this text to improve their knowledge of Tibetan, we have decided to leave out the numbers in the Tibetan text, so as to avoid confusion with the terms themselves.




  Publisher's Note V
  Introduction VI
1 The Five Aggregates 1
2 The Eight Objects 15
3 The 12 Sources 15
4 The 18 Constituents 16
5 Dependent Arising 17
6 The Six Causes 21
7 The Four Conditions 22
8 The Five Types of Results 22
9 The Two Truths 23
10 The Three Natures 23
11 The Five Phenomena 24
12 The Two Selflessnesses 24
13 The Three Vehicles 25
14 The Three Jewels 25
15 The 37 Limbs of Enlightenment 25
16 The Five Paths 34
17 The 10 Perfections 35
18 The 10 Bodhisattva Grounds 36
19 The Four Types of Wisdom of the Buddha 37
20 The Three Bodies of Buddha 38
21 The Four Specific Perfect Understandings of Those Who Have Gone Beyond 38
22 The Four Fearlessnesses of Those Who Have Gone Beyond 39
23 The Six Extraordinary Knowledges of Those Who Have Gone Beyond 41
24 The 10 Powers of Those Who Have Gone Beyond 42
25 The 10 Capabilities (of Those Who Have Gone Beyond) 44
26 The 18 Unshared Attributes of Buddhas 46
27 The Three Sets of Teachings 49
28 The 12 Scriptural Categories 49
29 The Four Basic Intentions of Buddha Found Within the Interpretive Sutras 50
30 The Four Types of Buddha's Teachings Which Require Interpretation 51
31 The Four Truths 52
32 The Five Aspects of The Path of Accumulation of The Hearers 55
33 The Four Levels of The Path of Preparation 55
34 The 16 Moments of Consciousness of The Path of Seeing 55
35 The Path of Meditation 57
36 The Path of No More Learning 57
37 The Eight Levels of Ultimate Freedom of a Hearer 57
38 The Two Solitary Realizers 59
39 The Eight Mundane Paths 59
40 The Eight Emancipations 62
41 The Eight Surpassing Concentrations 64
42 The Nine Meditative Absorptions Existing in Series 65
43 The 10 Perceptions of Exhaustion 65
44 The Three Realms of Sentient Beings 66

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