of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines,
by NYANATILOKA MAHATHERA
edited by Nyanaponika Mahathera
O. Box 61
- 54, Sangharaja
- Kandy, Sri
Revised Edition 1956
Revised & Enlarged Edition 1972
by Frewin & Co., Ltd., Colombo)
Revised Edition 1980
- 955 - 24 - 0019 - 8
The Preface To The First Edition
a first attempt of an authentic dictionary of Buddhist doctrinal
terms, used in the Páli Canon and its Commentaries, this present
manual will fill a real gap felt by many students of Buddhism.
It provides the reader not with a mere superficial enumeration
of important Páli terms and their English equivalents, but offers
him precise and authentic definitions and explanations of canonical
and post-canonical terms and doctrines, based on Sutta, Abhidhamma
and Commentaries, and illustrated by numerous quotations taken
from these sources, so that, if anyone wishes, he could, by
intelligently joining together the different articles, produce
without difficulty a complete exposition of the entire teachings
already pointed out by the author in the preface to his Guide
through the Abhidhamma-Pitaka (Colombo 1938), there are found
in the Abhidhamma Canon numerous technical terms not met with
in the Sutta Canon; and again other terms are found only in
the Commentaries and not in Sutta and Abhidhamma. The author
therefore has made a first attempt - without, however, laying
any claim to absolute reliability or completeness in this by
no means easy undertaking - to indicate in the Appendix all
the terms that in the oldest Sutta texts are either not found
at all, or at least not in the same form or meaning, and to
set forth how far these are deviations from the older texts,
or further developments.
this connection, the author wishes to state that the often quoted
Patisambhidá-Magga, as well as Niddesa, Buddhavamsa and Cariyapitaka,
though included in the Khuddaka Nikáya of the Sutta Pitaka,
nevertheless bear throughout the character of Commentaries,
and though apparently older than the Sutta Commentaries handed
down to us in Buddhaghosa's version, must doubtless belong to
a later period of origin than the Abhidhamma Canon.
rendering the terms into English, I often had to differ considerably
from the interpretation of Western scholars, and to introduce
quite new words. A great number of such earlier translations
must be considered partly as totally incorrect, partly as misleading,
or at the very least ambiguous. Incorrect are, for instance,
the English renderings of náma-rúpa by 'name and form';
javana (impulsion, i.e. the karmic impulsive moments)
by 'apperception', etc.
expositions concerning the true nature of the 8-fold Path, the
4 Noble Truths, the paticca-samuppáda and the 5 groups
of existence - doctrines which, with regard to their true nature,
have been often misunderstood by Western authors - are sure
to come to many as a revelation.
the doctrine of anattá, or 'egolessness', i.e. the impersonality
and emptiness of all phenomena of existence, the author repeatedly
felt the necessity of throwing light from every possible point
of view, for it is exactly this doctrine which, together with
the doctrine of the conditionality of all phenomena of existence,
constitutes the very essence of the whole Teaching of the Buddha
without which it will be by no means possible to understand
it in its true light. Thus the doctrine of impersonality runs
like a red thread right through the whole book.
this little manual provide an ever-helpful companion and vade
mecum to all earnest students in their study of the original
Buddhist scriptures, and also give to Buddhist authors and lecturers
the opportunity of supplementing and deepening their knowledge
of the profound teachings of the Buddha!
it, for a better understanding, prove necessary to give to certain
subjects a more detailed treatment, the carrying out of this
task may be reserved for a later edition of this work.
Preface To The Third Edition
present revised and enlarged Third Edition was intended to be
issued in commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the venerable
author's passing away on 28th May 1957. But due to unavoidable
circumstances the publication had to be delayed.
was the venerable author's wish to enlarge the first edition
of this work, but when a second edition became necessary, he
was prevented from expanding it by the illness to which he later
succumbed. It rested, therefore, with his pupil, the present
editor, to make, within the original scope and character of
the work, such additions and revisions as seemed useful.
seventy articles have been expanded and partly rewritten; others
were slightly revised; more source references were included,
and information on literature for further study of the respective
subjects was added to some of the articles. But only very few
new words have been added (e.g. anupassaná, ánupubbi-kathá,
etc.). This restriction was observed because the venerable author
himself thought only of 'a more detailed treatment' of existing
articles (see Preface to the 1st ed.) as he obviously wished
to preserve the original form and character of the book. It
was also considered that the adding of more words such as those
coined in later commentarial and abhidhammic literature, would
be superfluous as in the English language such terms will generally
be found only in a few scholarly books and translations which
themselves give the explanations needed.
book is chiefly intended for those who study the Buddhist teachings
through the medium of the English language, but wish to familiarize
themselves with some of the original Páli terms of doctrinal
import. They are in the same position as a student of philosophy
or science who has to know the terminology of his field, which
for common parlance is mostly not less 'unfamiliar' than are
the words of the Páli language found in the Dictionary.
acquaintance with the Páli terms of the original texts will
also be useful to the student for the purpose of identifying
the various renderings of them favored by different translators.
It is deplorable that there is a considerable multiplication
of new English coining for the same doctrinal term. This great
variety of renderings has proved to be confusing to those students
of Buddhism who are not familiar with the Páli language. Even
at this late stage when many translations of Páli texts are
in print, it will be desirable if, for the sake of uniformity,
translators forgo their preference for their own coining, even
if they think them better than others. In any case, doctrinal
terms have to be known by definition, just as in the case of
philosophical and technical terms in a Western language.
a small help in the situation described, a number of alternative
renderings used by other translators have been included in some
articles of this edition. In a very few cases, unacceptable
though familiar renderings have been bracketed. The Venerable
Nyanatiloka's own preferences have been placed in inverted commas.
Generally it may be said that his renderings, based on his comprehensive
knowledge of texts and doctrine, are very sound and adequate.
Only in a very few cases has the editor changed the author's
preferred rendering e.g. 'canker' for ásava (instead
of 'bias'), 'right view' for sammá-ditthi (instead of
'right understanding'). The latter change was made for the sake
of economizing with the few English equivalents for the numerous
Páli synonyms for 'knowing', etc.; and also to avoid having
to render the opposite term, micchá-ditthi, by 'wrong
Dictionary appeared also in the author's own German version
(published by Verlag Christiani, Konstanz, Germany) and in a
French translation made by the late Mme Suzanne Karpeles (published
by 'Adyar', Paris, 1961).
few and minor revisions have been made to the text of the Fourth
Edition which is now issued by the Buddhist Publication Society.