Nirvana.  The original meaning of this word is to become extinguished.  In Buddhism, it refers to the absolute extinction of individual existence, or of all afflictions and desires; it is the state of liberation, beyond birth and death.  Nirvana is also the ultimate goal of all Buddhist aspirations.  In the understanding of early Buddhism, it is departure from the cycle of rebirths (Samsara) and entry into an entirely different mode of existence.  It requires complete overcoming of the 3 unwholesome roots (greed, hatred, and delusion) and coming to rest of active volition.  It means freedom from the determining effect of Karma.  Nirvana is unconditioned; its characteristic marks are absense of arising, subsisting, changing, and passing away.

In early Buddhism, the 2 aspects of Nirvana are:  (1) The Full Extinction of Defilements, i.e. Nirvana with the 5 Groups of Existence (or 5 Skandhas, i.e. corporeality, feeling, perception, mental-formation, and consciousness) still remaining.  This takes place at the attainment of Arhatship or Perfect Holiness; and  (2) The Full Extinction of the 5 Groups of Existence, i.e. Nirvana without the groups remaining, in other words, the coming to rest.  This takes place at the death of the Arhat.

In Chan (Zen) Buddhism, Nirvana is also seen as not separate from this world; it is rather the realization of the true nature of the mind, which is identical with the true nautre of human beings — the buddha-nature.  This realization is only possible through wisdom, thus Nirvana is often equated with Prajna (great wisdom).   In the Chan (Zen) sense, Prajna and Nirvana are two aspects of the same state.  In the state of Nirvana, one’s mind is peaceful, concentrated and wise, possessing great inner resources and radiating a sense of freedom and bliss.  (See: Prajna)

Noble 8-fold Path is fundamental for the understanding and practice of the Buddha’s teaching.  The Noble 8-fold Path is the path leading to release from suffering, i.e. the last of the 4 Noble Truths.  These eight right ways can be categorized under the 3 higher trainings: (1) Morality:  Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood; (2) Wisdom:  Right View, Right Thought; and (3) Concentration:  Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

Another way to explain the Noble 8-fold Path is the 3 Principal Realizations:  (1) the determination to be free: (a) aspiration to have a peaceful death and a good rebirth, (b) aspiration to attain liberation;  (2) the altruistic intention; and (3) wisdom realizing emptiness.

Noble Friend refers to a senior monk, or meditation teacher, who is the mentor and friend of his student, wishing for his welfare and concerned with his progress, guiding his meditation.

Non-dual, a key Buddhist truth, can be understood as not two and not one — transcending two and one; equivalent to reality, emptiness….

Non-self  (Non-ego, Impersonality) is one of the central teachings of Buddhism.  The Buddha is known as the teacher  of Non-self.  Non-self is one of the three marks of everything existing.  It says that no self exists in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance within an individual existent.  All phenomena and beings in the world have no real, permanent and substantial self.  Everything arises, abides, changes, and extinguishes based on the Law of Dependent Origination.

The sermon on the characteristic of Non-self was the second sermon after Enlightenment, preached by the Buddha to his first five disciples, who after hearing it attained to Arhatship or Perfect Holiness.  The contemplation of “Non-self” leads to Emptiness Liberation.

OM, literally meaning “holy,” is usually put in the beginning of the prayer.  OM is the most comprehensive and venerable symbol of spiritual knowledge in Hinduism, it also appears in Buddhism as a mantric syllable.  OM is a symbol of form as well as sound, and a manifestation of spiritual power.

Oneness means equality and tolerance.  The essence of Buddhism lies in spirit of equality.  There is no distinction between sentient beings, i.e. sameness of all beings.  All beings possess buddha-nature, and the buddha-nature of all beings are equal.  We must respect all living things, whether sentient or non-sentient, and promote the spirit of “unconditional loving-kindness and the empathetic compassion of oneness”.

“Oneness and co-existence” are universal truths.  The modern Chan encourages the practice of compassion, equality, harmony and tolerance in our everyday life.  So, we will be sharing a peaceful and prosperous pure land here on earth.

Other Shore is a metaphor for Enlightenment and Buddhahood.

Perception, one of the 5 Skandhas, is exceptionally important to the development of views of the world and opinions.  There are two types of perception:  (1) Nameless Perception:  something that cannot be identified; and (2) Perception with a Name:  something that can be named and evaluated on a moral level.   (See:  5 Skandhas)

Prajna (Great Wisdom), the highest form of wisdom, is the wisdom of insight into the true nature of all phenomena.  Prajna is a central notion of the Mahayana referring to an immediately experienced intuitive wisdom that cannot be conveyed by concepts or in intellectual terms.  The definitive moment of prajna is insight into emptiness which is the true nature of reality.  The realization of prajna is often equated with the attainment of enlightenment and is one of the essential marks of Buddhahood.  Prajna is also one of the “perfections” actualized by a bodhisattva in the course of his development.

Progress of the Disciple.  Many sutras show the gradual development of the Noble 8-fold Path in the progress of the disciple:  (1) how the disciple watches over his 5 senses and his mind; (2) he is ever mindful and clearly conscious in all his actions; (3) he frees his mind from the 5 Hindrances; (4) he reaches full concentration; (5) he developes Insight with regards to the impermanence, suffering and non-self of all phenomena of existence; and (6) he finally realizes deliverance from all cankers and defilements.

Pure Land,  a generic term for the realms of the Buddhas, is a paradise realm of the spirit world. It is established by the vows and cultivation of one who has achieved enlightenment.   Pure Land Buddhism is a Mahayana tradition emphasizing methods to be reborn in a pure land.  When the Mind is pure and undefiled, any land or environment becomes a pure land.  Everything, the pure land included, is Mind-only, a product of the Mind.

Pure Land School , also known as the Lotus School, is one of schools of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism.  The school is characterized by its stress on the importance of profound faith in the power and active compassion of Amitabha Buddha . The way of the Pure Land School is often regarded as the “way of faith” or the “easy way.”  The practice of this school consists primarily in the recitation of Amitabha’s name and in visualizing his paradise.  These pure lands are transcendent in nature.  They are the hope of believers who wish to be reborn in them.  Fundamentally they stand for aspects of the awakened state of mind.

Realization (Seeing Nature) is a deep understanding that becomes a part of us and changes our outlook on the world.  In Buddhism, self-realization means seeing one’s own true nature, attaining the experience of awakening.  According to the teaching of the Buddha, every sentient being is fundamentally already a buddha, that is, endowed with immaculate buddha-nature.  One who is not enlightened is not aware of this identity with buddha-nature.  When one is in enlightenment, he realizes his true nature for the first time.

Refuge.  The 3 objects of refuge are:  (1) the Buddha, (2) His teaching (the Dharma), and (3) His spiritual community (the Sangha).  These grant protection to the spiritual seekers and are known as the 3 Gems (3 Precious Ones).  Refuge is the first step on the path to Buddhahood, and is the basis for all other precepts and vows.  By going for refuge, we have set ourselves on the path to developing those same virtuous qualities that the Buddhas and bodhisattvas have.  Knowing something of the Dharma and seeing that it is true and useful leads us to formally become Buddhist by going for refuge.

(Spring Liao, 06/20/2011)