Buddhist Vocabulary

Buddhist Vocabulary


Buddhist Vocabulary: Dharma

Sanskrit: dharma
Pali: dhamma
Tibetan: Wylie transliteration: chos, phonetic: chö

The term dharma has multiple meanings. It is derived from the Sanskrit root dhri, which means “to hold” or “to maintain.”
The three basic definitions are 1) Teachings or Doctrines, 2) Phenomena, 3) Qualities

1. Teachings or Doctrines:
– Refers to all teachings or doctrines, whether they are Buddhist or not.
– In this sense, dharma is something which holds us from falling into suffering.
– In this definition there are 2 subcategories:

o Dharma of Scripture: a teaching that is read or heard
o Dharma of Realization: a teaching that has been integrated and subse-quently manifests in our experience

2. Phenomena:
– Anything that we experience
– From a Buddhist point of view, all that we experience is dependently exist-ent, meaning that what we perceive are appearances that depend on many conditions or constituent parts coming together. These constituent parts are phenomena or dharmas.

3. Qualities or Characteristics:
– Any quality or characteristic of an awakened being’s body, speech, or mind



Sangha literally means that which is struck together well. In common usage, it generally refers to a community. It has been adopted by multiple religions. In Buddhism, it is generally used to indicate a group of Buddhist practitioners. Sangha is also used to refer to specific categories of Buddhist practitioners: Enlightened beings, ordained practitioners, lay practitioners, or a combination of ordained and lay practitioners.

Complete Definition:
Pali: saṅgha
Sanskrit: saṃgha
Tibetan: phonetics: gendun; Wylie transliteration: dge ‘dun

The word sangha generally refers to a community. It has been adopted by Buddhists and is used to indicate a group of Buddhist practitioners. Within Buddhism it can be used to refer to different categories of Buddhist practitioners.

  1. Noble Sangha: In the context of the 3 Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), sangha refers to those who have achieved a high level of realization (having attained at least the first of the 10 levels of a bodhisattva) and have an unwavering commitment to benefit all sentient beings.
  2. It refers to the ordained community; ordained men, women, and non-binary. It was first used to identify the first 5 ordained disciples of Buddha Shakyamuni; the 5 who were present for the Buddha’s first teaching.
  3. In the West, it is commonly used to refer to a community of lay practitioners.
  4. Fourfold Sangha: Refers ordained and lay practitioners collectively.