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24 Most Commonly Used Meditation Terms

Updated: Feb 22, 2022

With thousands of diverse traditions, doctrines, and approaches, meditation is a complex subject. Studying meditation can be intimidating, but the good news is that it's easier than ever to learn how to use its potent skills.

With thousands of diverse traditions, doctrines, and approaches, meditation is a complex subject. Studying meditation can be intimidating, but the good news is that it's easier than ever to learn how to use its potent skills.

Here's a list of some of the most commonly used meditation terms.

Most Commonly Used Meditation Terms

  • Ashram: the residence of a spiritual community of swamis and yogis where spiritual living and meditation are emphasized.
  • Buddha: A Buddha is someone who has attained enlightenment; "the Buddha" refers to Siddhartha Gautama, a spiritual teacher who lived, became enlightened, and taught in ancient India.
  • Chakra: energy center; the fundamental system consists of seven chakras (root, sacrum, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, and crown), each of which is associated with a particular color, element, syllable, or symbol.
  • Dharma: truth; Buddha's teachings; the road of truth
  • Enlightenment: full waking; becoming a Buddha; also see nirvana.
  • Kundalini: the coiled energy at the base of the spine that is awakened through particular meditation practices; the term is most frequently used in the tantra yoga tradition.
  • Lama: Tibetan name for a highly regarded Dharma teacher; comparable to the Sanskrit term "guru," historically applied to revered spiritual leaders (example: the Dalai Lama)
  • Maitri: loving compassion; sometimes spelled metta.
  • Mala: A chain of 108 beads used in some types of meditation; comparable to a Catholic rosary, but exclusively for Buddhists.
  • Mantra: a chanting or meditation technique that utilizes a repeating sound, syllable, word, or phrase (example: Om mani padme hum)
  • Metta: loving compassion; sometimes spelled maitri.
  • Mindfulness: the discipline of being present in the moment; mindfulness is a technique of incorporating meditation into daily activity.
  • Mudra: a meditative hand position
  • Nirvana: the state of ultimate enlightenment; though it is beyond description or language, it is best described as mental calm and stillness following the extinguishing of the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion.
  • Rinpoche: "precious one," an honorific title given to senior and revered Tibetan Buddhist instructors.
  • Sangha: a Buddhist spiritual community
  • Shamatha: the Buddhist discipline of "calm abiding" meditation, typically introduced through attentive breathing.
  • Sutra: a classic work; the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra are the two most popular in Buddhism.
  • Tonglen: "receiving and sending"; a Tibetan Buddhist compassion meditation technique in which the practitioner breaths in another's pain and exhales the positive antidote to that suffering.
  • Transcendental Meditation (TM): a type of mantra meditation made popular in the 1960s by the Beatles' guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
  • Zafu: a seated meditation pillow in the shape of a circle
  • Zazen: the Zen meditation technique; "just sitting"; letting go of all judgmental notions and allowing words, ideas, images, and thoughts to pass by without being entangled in them.
  • Zen is a Mahayana Buddhist school that emphasizes enlightenment and the personal expression of direct insight through zazen meditation and interaction with a qualified teacher.
  • Zendo: Zen monks, nuns, and other practitioners' meditation hall

Meditation has been challenging to describe due to the fact that it encompasses a diverse variety of activities in various traditions. The terms "meditation" and "meditative practice" are frequently used imprecisely in general language to refer to techniques found in a variety of civilizations. These can include virtually anything that purports to train the mind's attention or to instill tranquility or compassion. There is still no universally accepted or widely accepted definition of essential and sufficient requirements for meditation in the modern scientific community. Claudio Naranjo stated in 1971 that "the term "meditation" has been used to refer to a number of techniques that are sufficiently dissimilar to one another that we may have difficulty defining what meditation is."

Hopefully, you will be able to utilize the meditation-related terms stated above in the future.