Buddhist Dictionary
Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines,

Fourth Revised Edition,
edited by Nyanaponika Mahathera
Buddhist Publication Society
P. O. Box 61
54, Sangharaja Mawatha
Kandy, Sri Lanka
First Edition 1952
Second Revised Edition 1956
Third Revised & Enlarged Edition 1972
(Pub. by Frewin & Co., Ltd., Colombo)
Fourth Revised Edition 1980
(Buddhist Publication Society)
Reprinted 1988
©1980 by Buddhist
Publication Society
ISBN - 955 - 24 - 0019 - 8

From The Preface To The First Edition

As 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 of Buddhism.

As 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.

In 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.

In 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.

The 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.

On 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.

May 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!

Should 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.

Central Internment Camp
Dehra-Dun, India

Editor's Preface To The Third Edition

The 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.

It 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.

Over 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.

This 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.

Such 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.

As 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 understanding'.

This 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).

Kandy, Ceylon
February 1970

Only few and minor revisions have been made to the text of the Fourth Edition which is now issued by the Buddhist Publication Society.

Kandy, Sri Lanka
March 1980