Specifications that use this resource:

Subject specific vocabulary: Buddhism

The following subject specific vocabulary provides definitions of key terms used in our A-level Religious Studies 7062/2A specification. Your students should be familiar with and gain understanding of all these terms.

Aggregates, the Five

What a human being is made up of; the five categories affected by clinging. The five categories are; form, sensations, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.


The Buddhist belief in no-force/non-violence, the aim to minimise harmful impact upon all living things.


Actions which are considered to be unskilful, immoral, that will attract negative karma (eg greed, hate and violence).


A Theravadan Buddhist monastic tradition with its roots in the Thai Forest tradition.


The Buddhist belief in ‘not self’, that there is no permanent self/soul or essence to a person.


The Buddhist belief in impermanence, all things are in a constant state of flux and change.


An enlightened person.


The bodhisattva of compassion.


An enlightened being who dedicates themselves to achieving nirvana not for themselves but in order to help others to achieve it.


‘The enlightened one’, the title used to refer to Siddhartha Gautama to indicate the impact of his enlightenment experience.


The practice of commemoration of, and commitment to, the Buddha and his teachings.


Translated as suffering, a dissatisfactory state of all things.

Eightfold path

Also known as the Middle way, a way of life made up of 8 elements that all Buddhists should cultivate in life. A way of overcoming craving and ignorance.

Engaged Buddhism

A Buddhist movement which believes that Buddha’s teachings should be applied to situations of social and environmental justice.


Translated as action or deed. The law of cause and effect—all actions have consequences that will influence the future of the person.


Actions which are considered to be skilful, moral and will attract good karma (eg kindness, love and alleviating suffering).

Mahayana Buddhism

‘The great vehicle’, is an overall term for the many varieties of Buddhism practised in Tibet, China, Japan, Vietnam and Korea. This form of Buddhism reflects the practical orientation of Buddhism as it moves throughout countries adapting practices.


Deliberate training of the mind practised by Buddhist’s to purify the mind and work towards achieving enlightenment.

Merit Making

Performing actions which will result in good outcomes/results (eg showing kindness to someone, learning the Buddha’s teachings).


The state where all greed, hatred and delusion are ended. Extinguishment—an escape from Samsara.

Pali canon

The scriptures written in the language Pali. Known as the ‘three baskets’ covering the life and teachings of the Buddha and Buddhist philosophy.

Precepts, ‘The Five’

Five training rules followed by Theravadan Buddhists to cultivate the middle way (eg Ahimsa).

Perfections, ‘The Six’

Six guiding rules followed by Mahayanan Buddhists to cultivate the virtues needed to achieve enlightenment (eg generosity).

Sakyadhita Organisation

Translated as ‘daughters of the Buddha’ the organisation is an international association of Buddhist women working to improve the lives of Buddhist women in developing countries.


The cycle of rebirths, the unenlightened cycle of life, ordinary existence.


The community of Buddhist believers, often used to refer to the monastic community.

Secular Buddhism

A form of Buddhism which focusses on the practical elements of Buddha’s teaching and takes a rationalist approach to Buddhism.

Skilful means

The ability to know exactly what to do for the best in each situation. An enhanced ability to respond to the needs of others, even if that means breaking the rules or tradition.

Theravada Buddhism

‘The way of the Elders’, is a form of Buddhism followed mainly in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. This form of Buddhism purports to maintain the tradition of the early Buddhist disciples.


Mahayanan belief in the three body doctrine of the Buddha. The human, glorious and absolute bodies; nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya and dharmakaya.


Translated as the three jewels. The Triratna movement is an international movement committed to living a Buddhist life in the 21st century context.

Wat Phra Dharmakaya movement

A Thai temple which promotes the teachings of Buddha using modern methods and technology. One of the fastest growing temples in Thailand.