Literally, the’ special teaching,’ the abhidharma is the earliest compilation of Buddhist philosophy and psychology. It constitutes the philosophyical basis of the Hinayana and Mahayana, and its primary use is in the study of the teaching. The abhidharma is the third part of the tripitaka.

Active Dharma

In doctrines of the Consciousness-only school, a conditioned dharma whose properties are in operation, as opposed to a seed, from which an active dharma arises.


The collections of early Buddhist teachings. The Agamas are distinguished as: Dirghagama (long discourses), Madhyamagama (medium discourses), Samyuktagama (miscellaneous discourses), and Ekottaragama (numerical discourses).

Amitabha Sutra:

The principle scripture on which the Pure Land sect is based. See "Pure Land."

Amitabha Buddha:

The Buddha of the Western Paradise of the Pure Land sect. See "PURE LAND."


("noble one") In Buddhist tradition, especially Theravadin, the arhat has completed the course of Buddhist practice, and has attained full liberation, or nirvana. As such the arhat is no longer subject to rebirth and death. The Mahayana tradition regards the arhat as a less than perfect ideal, in comparison to that of the bodhisattva who vows to postpone his own liberation until all sentient beings are delivered. See "BODHISATTVA"


The great bodhisattva of unconditional compassion.

Avatamsaka Sutra:

A massive Mahayana Buddhist sutra translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the fifth century, seventh century, and early ninth century. The sutra became quite popular among Chinese Buddhists and eventually became the basis of the Hua-yen philosophical school. The Ch'an school has always held it in especially high regard.


The last of the eighteen hells in which suffering continues without termination.