Glossary of Buddhist terms from the Kadampa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism

Green Facts Glossary and Digest on Environment and Health


Glossary of terms used on this website

Anima mundi: Plato in his 'Timeus' (4th century BC), was the first to provide a complete description of the anima mundi concept, passed down from ancient mythology: "...Therefore, we may consequently state that: this world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence ... a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related." See Gaia.

Animism: recognition of a living soul within plants, animals, and natural phenomena, including the Earth; relating with living beings as subjective agents, rather than objects. See Ecopsychology and Animistic Soul.

Anthropocentric: human-centered.  Anthropocentism is also known as spieciesism, the attitude or assumption that humans are more important than, superior to, and separate from other species, that humans are the only beings with a soul, which justifies treating other living beings as dispensable objects, and the exploitation of the Earth as a mere ‘resource.’  See Ecocentric for the preferred alternative advocated on this website.

Bodhisattva: a human being or archetype who puts others before him/ herself, someone who has transcended self-cherishing and developed the skillful means to help others in kind, wise, generous, patient, fearless, insightful, and skillful ways.  Two of the great Bodhisattva archetypes in Tibetan Buddhism are Manjusri, bestower of knowledge and wisdom, and Avaloketeshvara, the great compassionate one.  Kuan-Yin, the guardian Bodhisattva of Dharmagaians, is the feminine aspect of Avaloketeshvara.

Buddhadharma: Buddhism, or Buddhadharma, is the Buddha’s dharma teachings and the inner experiences or realizations of these teachings and methods. Buddha gave eighty-four thousand teachings. These and their inner realizations constitute Buddhadharma. See Buddhadharma.

Catabolic collapse:  a self-reinforcing cycle of contraction that converts most capital to waste

Cessation: in Buddhadharma, cessation signifies the end of needless suffering that is generated by the struggles of confused mind. Cessation is the third of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths.

Conscience of the whole: according to psychotherapist Bert Hellinger, there are three levels of conscience,: the conscience of the family, the conscience of society (your social group, nation, or religion) and the conscience of the larger whole, which can be as big as the Earth or the Universe.  We feel guilt when we violate the conscience of any of the levels, but when we align with the conscience of the whole, we may receive criticism or condemnation from the guardians of the conscience of the family and society.  See also Paradigm Police.

Deep ecologists: people who subscribe to the platform principles of Deep Ecology.  Deep ecologists do not call themselves deep ecologists, but I occasionally use the term as shorthand, rather than saying, “so-and-so subscribes to the philosophy of deep ecology” every time I refer to someone who does.  Deep ecologists tend to be Dharmagaians, though not all Dharmagaians are deep ecologists.

Deep time: the long view of the evolution of the universe (13.7 billion years) and of the Earth (3.5 billion years), and of the likely prospects for future generations.  It is a consciousness of ancestral life on Earth, and of life yet to be born - the conditions for which current generations are responsible.

Dharma: the underlying order in nature, and a way of life that is considered to be in accord with that order. The word dharma is generally translated into English as ‘truth’ or 'law' and literally translates as 'that which upholds or supports,' referring to the order that makes the harmonious complexity of the cosmos possible. Each of the various Indian religions emphasizes Dharma as the correct understanding of Nature.  See Dharma, and Buddhadharma for Buddhist dharma.

Dharmagaians: people who love, respect, or are loyal to the truth (dharma) and the Earth (Gaia, ecology), and who feel responsible to future generations.  Dharmagaians hold the truth, the natural world, and the wellbeing of future generations of all species to be a sacred trust.

Ecocentric:  a term for deep ecological consciousness, a systemic, holistic mode of perception in which Earth’s ecological integrity is the primary value and reference point for human actions.  Ecocentrism is the healthy alternative to destructive anthropocentrism.

Ecozoic era: Thomas Berry's term for the era in which the human species will mature into being a viable partner with planet Earth, capable of maintaining ‘mutually enhancing relationships’ with the rest of the community of life on this planet. This is the alternative he saw to the "Technozoic Era."

Ecology: is the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of living organisms, and the interactions among organisms and between organisms and their environment. The environment of an organism includes both physical properties and biotic factors, which are other organisms that share its habitat.

Ecological unconscious: a term coined by Theodore Roszak in The Voice of the Earth, which initiated the ecopsychology movement.  The ecological unconscious is our primal, animistic soul that has been repressed in industrial society.  (See Ecopsychology)

God Realm:  in Buddhism, the highest of the six realms of samsara (confusion); a state of mind or place where everything seems beautiful and pleasant, with minimal suffering.  It’s a state in which one feels protected and on top of the world, which fosters the illusions that it will last forever and that one is entitled to enjoy it forever.  This tips easily into the Jealous God realm in which one tries to protect one’s sense of ease and entitlement from others who appear to threaten it.

Great Turning: the turning within ourselves and among each other from allegiance with the destructive industrial growth society towards the co-creation of a life-sustaining, ecocentric culture.

Juggernaut*:  a force that is relentlessly destructive, crushing, and insensitive

Karma: action and the result of action.  The law of karma is a special instance of the law of cause and effect, according to which all our actions of body, speech, and mind are causes and all our experiences are their effects.

Living Systems Theory: a general theory about the existence of all living systems, their structure, interaction, behavior and development. Living systems are by definition open, self-organizing systems that have the special characteristics of life and interact with their environment. This takes place by means of information and material-energy exchanges. Living systems can be as simple as a single cell or a multicellular organism, or as complex as a nation state or a supranational organization such as the European Economic Community.

Mahayana: literally, the “great vehicle” of the Bodhisattva path of compassion for all sentient beings in Buddhism.

Morphic field: a term introduced by British biologist Rupert Sheldrake, the major proponent of this concept, who proposes that there is a non-linear field within and around a morphic unit which organizes its characteristic structure and pattern of activity.  According to this concept, the morphic field underlies the formation and behavior of holons and morphic units, and can be set up by the repetition of similar acts and/or thoughts. The hypothesis says that a particular form belonging to a certain group that has already established its (collective) morphic field, will tune into that morphic field. The particular form will read the collective information through the process of morphic resonance, using it to guide its own development. This development of the particular form will then provide, again through morphic resonance, a feedback to the morphic field of that group, thus strengthening it with its own experience resulting in new information being added.  The morphic field theory is best understood within Living Systems Theory.

Paradigm:  a worldview or mental model that structures perceptions, sometimes referred to as an inherited ‘picture of the world,’ rather than a worldview arrived at by critical thinking, investigation, and experience.

Paradigm change: a change in consciousness and the structures of consciousness, also referred to as the Great Turning and Positive Disintegration on this website.  The change is described as shifting allegiance and values from anthropocentrism to ecocentrism, from mechanics to organics, from domination to partnership, from separation to interdependence, etc. See also Paradigm Change.

Paradigm police: those who take it upon themselves to defend the tenets of any form of dogmatic belief, secular or religious.  The term has been used to refer to defenders of the scientific-materialistic-mechanistic paradigm of the industrial growth society and of the free-market fundamentalism of global capitalism. It can also apply to defenders of religious fundamentalism, cultural tradition, or the dominant Western worldview in general.

Positive disintegration:  a term from Living Systems Theory that denotes the disintegration of a system that has outlived its evolutionary usefulness, and whose death makes way for new life to emerge. See Positive Disintegration for the use of this term on this site.

Predator archetype: this archetype - or autonomous complex - of the collective unconscious seeks dominance and superiority. It is the most pernicious form of ego, and works through seduction, stealth, deception and manipulation. Since it cannot generate its own energy and creativity, it captures and lives off others' energy and creativity, disempowering, enslaving and draining its victims. This archetype has the power to cast spells and put people into a trance while it wreaks overt and covert destruction to increase its power. See Demons in Our Midst for a fuller description.

Predator culture: a culture that is ruled by the predator archetype.  When it operates through a culture, the predator archetype centralizes power into itself and creates hierarchies that disempower those relegated to the 'bottom.' Even when it maintains a pretense of democracy, it can manifest as a dictatorship or empire that divides, conquers, and expropriates what is not willingly given - especially human and natural resources. The predator archetype often gains sovereignty in a culture through illusion and mesmerism. While the population is in a cultural trance, the culture is drained of its wealth and creativity, and the natural world is drained of its health, fertility and vitality. Exposing it by seeking and telling the truth of its dishonest and unjust activities is the only way to break its spell and disempower it.  The alternative is to wait until it destroys the culture. See Psycho-Spiritual Evolution and Animistic Soul for the development of this concept.

Samsara: sometimes known as cyclic existence (ie, repeated patterns), samsara is characterized by confusion, suffering and dissatisfaction.

Sangha:  in general, a community of practitioners who share the same philosophical and spiritual orientation and discipline, and provide guidance and support for each other.  The strict Buddhist definition of sangha refers only to the monks and nuns in a certain sect, or only to the students of a particular teacher, whether lay or monastic.  The Dharmagaian sangha is looser: those who love the truth (dharma), love the Earth, and care about future generations.

Satyagraha: soul force or truth force.  Satya is the Sanskrit word for “truth,” and Agraha for "enforce." Gandhi coined the term Satyagraha to describe his philosophy of nonviolent resistance.  Gandhi described it as follows: “Its root meaning is holding onto truth, hence truth-force. I have also called it love-force or soul-force.”

Technozoic era: Thomas Berry's term for the era in which humans would push the mechanistic paradigm to its logical conclusion, which is ecocide and human extinction.


* Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.