Glossary of Study Terminology
Appearing in the order of training.
This glossary offers assistance with a working terminology for the Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation (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 meditation.
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 (bhāvanā) – 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 (sampajañña) – Understanding what mind is doing; is it 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 continue mindfulness?
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 meditation.
Feeling (vedanā) – Feeling in the context of this TWIM practice refers to feeling arising at any one of the six sense doors, and it is either pleasant, painful, or neither-pleasant-nor-painful (neutral). It does not refer to feeling/emotion as it is commonly understood and interpreted by Western culture.
Hindrances (nīvarana) – 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.
Jhāna – The definition here for jhāna 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 jhāna is a level of understanding; a stage of the meditation path.
Craving (taṇhā) – 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 “to 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 (vedanā) 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” (taṇhā), 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” (taṇhā) 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” or “I don’t like it” mind, i.e. “Craving” (taṇhā) arises. This is sometimes seen as a big gross tightness and sometimes as a very subtle tightness or tension in mind and body.
As “Craving” (taṇhā) 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 Suffering.
The Buddha saw that when “Craving” (taṇhā) 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 “Clinging” (upādāna).
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 that?”
“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” (taṇhā) won’t arise. “Craving” (taṇhā) 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” (upādāna) 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” or “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 root cause.
No-self (anattā) – 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 Pāli 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/Vipassanā (which is the standard way it is described in the suttas (see the Majjhima Nikāya, sutta MN-149:10, the Mahāsaḷāyatanika Sutta, 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/Vipassanā leads directly to the end-result of Nibbāna and absorption or ecstatic concentration does not.
Insight (vipassanā) – This word has a surface meaning which is “seeing things as they truly are”.
According to the Buddha 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 jhāna) of the impersonal process of “how” mind and body arises through truly seeing and understanding (knowledge and vision) 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 (anattā).
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 (paññā) – 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 Origination”.
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 Dependent Origination 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 (samādhi) – The Pāli 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, “samādhi”. Samādhi describes a completely different way of seeing and experiencing jhāna. After the Buddha’s parinibbāna (his final passing away), because this word was very popular, the Brahmins of that time changed the definition of “samādhi” 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” (samādhi) 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” (upacāra samādhi) and “moment-to-moment concentration” (khanika samādhi). 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 object.
This is why when the teachers of straight “vipassanā” tell their students that “Absorption Concentration” won’t ever lead toNibbāna, they are 100% correct. Any kind of practice which divides “Samatha Meditation” and Vipassanā Meditation” into two different practices, can’t possibly lead one to Nibbāna. Why?
Because mind has the need to be calm, composed, and clear, while it is in a jhāna, in order to see clearly the interconnectedness of the Four Noble Truths and Dependent Origination. This is why the practice of straight vipassanā has some serious students. The Buddha taught us to practice “Samatha/Vipassanā” 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 something momentarily.
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.