Vihara, aka: Vihāra, Vīhāra; 13 Definition(s)

Introduction

Vihara means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, the history of ancient India. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Vastushastra (architecture)

Vihāra (विहार) refers to a “temple”, and in a broader sense represents “devotional place” or “residence of God”. It is one of commonly used names for a temple, as found in Vāstuśāstra literature such the Mayamata and the Mānasāra.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Vāstu-śāstra
Vastushastra book cover
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Vastushastra (वास्तुशास्त्र, vāstuśāstra) refers to the ancient Indian science (shastra) of architecture (vastu), dealing with topics such architecture, sculpture, town-building, fort building and various other constructions. Vastu also deals with the philosophy of the architectural relation with the cosmic universe.

Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar)

Vihāra (विहार).—Expansion of the position (स्थान (sthāna)) and the means of utterance (करण (karaṇa)) of a sound beyond the necessary extent, which produces a fault of pronunciation, called व्यास (vyāsa); cf. विहारसंहारयेर्व्यासपीडने । स्थानकरणयोर्विहारे विस्तारे व्यासो नाम दोषो जायते (vihārasaṃhārayervyāsapīḍane | sthānakaraṇayorvihāre vistāre vyāso nāma doṣo jāyate) Uvvaṭa on R. Pr. XIV 2.

(Source): Wikisource: A dictionary of Sanskrit grammar
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Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa) refers to Sanskrit grammar and represents one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas. Vyakarana concerns itself with the rules of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic analysis in order to establish the correct context of words and sentences.

Dharmashastra (religious law)

Vihāra (विहार, “monastary”) forms part of the ancient Indian education system, which aimed at both the inner and the outer dimension of a person. Education in India started in the village itself in the home and in the temples. From there the aspiring student moved to gurukulas, centres of learning around great teachers and from there the aspiring scholar went to vihāras and universities.

During the Buddhist period, vihāras (monasteries) emerged as the chief centres of learning. Buddha encouraged the setting up of vihāras, for monks and nuns to meditate and the learned to pursue their quest. Gradually the vihāras grew into centres of education that attracted students from far and wide. The great Indian universities of Nalanda, Vikramasila and Valabhi may have evolved around vihāras and the initiative of creating these came entirely from the society.

(Source): Knowledge Traditions & Practices of India: Education: Systems & Practices
Dharmashastra book cover
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Dharmashastra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharmaśāstra) contains the instructions (shastra) regarding religious conduct of livelihood (dharma), ceremonies, jurisprudence (study of law) and more. It is categorized as smriti, an important and authoritative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Vihāra is the Sanskrit and Pali term for a Buddhist monastery. It originally meant “a secluded place in which to walk”, and referred to “dwellings” or “refuges” used by wandering monks during the rainy season. The northern Indian state of Bihar derives its name from the word “vihara”, due to the abundance of Buddhist monasteries in that area.

In the second century BCE a standard plan for a vihara was established. It could be either structural, which was more common in the south of India, or rock-cut like the chaitya-grihas of the Deccan. It consisted of a walled quadrangular court, flanked by small cells. The front wall was pierced by a door, the side facing it in later periods often incorporated a shrine for the image of the Buddha.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

M Lodging, house (where bhikkhus live).

Usually, a vihara is constituted by a few lodgings, a sima, a great room where the laity can listen to some teachings, meditate, plan and accomplish some ceremonies, and sometimes with a kitchen and a dining room. A vihara can also appear into the shape of a small house or hut. In this case, we talk about a kuti.

vihara can possibly translate the word monastery.

(Source): Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

Vihāra ('abode'). There are 3 abodes:

  1. the heavenly abode (dibba-vihāra),
  2. the divine abode (brahma-vihāra, q.v.),
  3. the noble abode (ariya-vihāra).

See A.III.63; D.33.

(Source): Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
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Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Vihāra (विहार) refers to three “dwellings” according to the Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra chapter V.—There are three dwellings:

  1. divine abodes (divyavihāra),
  2. the abode of Brahma (brāhmavihāra),
  3. the abode of the saints (āryavihāra).

Of these three types of abodes, the Buddha chooses the āryavihāra. But here, out of compassion (anukampa) for beings (sattva), he abides in the city of Rājagṛha.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

General definition (in Buddhism)

a residence; often used as the name for a small monastery.

(Source): Amaravati: Glossary

India history and geogprahy

Vihāra (विहार) refers to a name-ending for place-names mentioned in the Gupta inscriptions (reigned from 3rd century CE). Vihāra literally means “a place of recreation or pleasure-ground”. With Buddhists or Jains it means a monastery or temple, originally a hall where the monks met or walked about. Afterwards, these halls were used as assembly halls or places of worship. The modern province of Bihar or Behar is so named on account of the large number of Buddhist monasteries in it.

(Source): archive.org: Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions

Vihāra (विहार) is a general denotation for “rock cut architecture”. In the case of Ajantā, vihāra is used to denote everything else, which is bereft of a stūpa shrine. It means residential caves (upāśrayas) that must be without the Buddha shrines as well as those caves that are with the Buddha shrines.

Vihāras or monasteries, not necessarily of the rock-cut types existed right from the times of the Buddha. Buddhist texts refer to the erection of many vihāras. A merchant of Vaiśālī had presented a vihāra to the Buddha in Jetavana for varṣāvāsa, which was adorned beautifully and painted too. Buddhist texts mentions that for this vihāra, the Buddha himself had provided various specifications on the architectural and artistic details.

(Source): Shodhganga: Ajanta’s antiquity
India history book cover
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The history of India traces the identification of countries, villages, towns and other regions of India, as well as royal dynasties, rulers, tribes, local festivities and traditions and regional languages. Ancient India enjoyed religious freedom and encourages the path of Dharma, a concept common to Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

vihāra : (m.) an abode; a dwelling place; mode of life; passing the time.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

Vihāra, (fr. viharati) 1. (as m. & adj.) spending one’s time (sojourning or walking about), staying in a place, living; place of living, stay, abode (in general) VvA. 50 (jala°); PvA. 22, 79; eka° living by oneself S. II, 282 sq.; jaṅghā° wandering on foot PvA. 73; divā° passing the time of day Sn. 679; PvA. 142. See also below 3 a.—2. (appld meaning) state of life, condition, mode of life (in this meaning almost identical with that of vāsa2), e.g. ariya° best condition S. V, 326; SnA 136; dibba° supreme condition (of heart) Miln. 225; brahma° divine state S. V, 326; SnA 136; Vism. 295 sq. (ch. IX.); phāsu° comfort A. III, 119, 132; sukha° happiness S. III, 8; V, 326; A. I, 43; II, 23; III, 131 sq.; IV, 111 sq. 230 sq.; V, 10 sq. See further D. I, 145, 196; III, 220 (dibba, brahma, ariya), 250 (cha satata°), 281; S. II, 273 (jhāna°); III, 235 (id.); A. III, 294 (°ṃ kappeti to live one’s life); Ps. II, 20; Nett 119 sq. ‹-› 3. (a) a habitation for a Buddhist mendicant, an abode in the forest (arañña°), or a hut; a dwelling, habitation, lodging (for a bhikkhu), a single room Vin. II, 207 sq.; D. II, 7; A. III, 51, 299 (yathāvihāraṃ each to his apartment); Sn. 220 (dūra° a remote shelter for a bhikkhu), 391; Vism. 118 (different kinds; may be taken as c.).—(b) place for convention of the bhikkhus, meeting place; place for rest & recreation (in garden or park) DA. I, 133.—(c) (later) a larger building for housing bhikkhus, an organized monastery, a Vihāra Vin. I, 58; III, 47; S. I, 185 (°pāla the guard of the monastery); J. I, 126; Miln. 212; Vism. 292; DhA. I, 19 (°cārikā visit to the monastery), 49 (°pokkharaṇī), 416; Mhvs 19, 77; PvA. 12, 20, 54, 67, 141. 151; and passim. See also Dictionary of Names. The modern province Behar bears its name from the vihāras. (Page 642)

(Source): Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

Sanskrit-English dictionary

Vihara (विहर).—

1) Taking away, removing.

2) Separation, disunion.

3) Changing.

4) Play, pastime; विहर उदीक्षया यदि परस्य विमुक्त ततः (vihara udīkṣayā yadi parasya vimukta tataḥ) Bhāg.1.87.29.

Derivable forms: viharaḥ (विहरः).

--- OR ---

Vihāra (विहार).—1 Removing, taking away.

2) Roaming or walking for pleasure, airing, a stroll, taking a walk.

3) Sport, play, pastime, recreation, diversion, pleasure; विहारशैलानुगतेव नार्गौः (vihāraśailānugateva nārgauḥ) R.16.26,67;5.41; 9.68;13.38;19.37.

4) Tread, stepping, movement (of hands, feet &c.); विकर्षणैः पाणिविहारहारिभिः (vikarṣaṇaiḥ pāṇivihārahāribhiḥ) Ki.4.15; दरमन्थरचरणविहारम् (daramantharacaraṇavihāram) Gīt.11.

5) A park, garden; especially a pleasure-garden; आरामैश्च विहारैश्च शोभमानं समन्ततः (ārāmaiśca vihāraiśca śobhamānaṃ samantataḥ) Rām.7.7.13.

6) The shoulder.

7) A Jaina or Buddhist temple, convent, monastery.

8) A temple in general.

9) Great expansion of the organs of speech.

1) Opening, expansion.

11) The palace or banner of Indra.

12) A palace in general.

13) A kind of bird.

14) (Mīmāṁsā) The triad of fires, viz. गार्हपत्य, आहवनीय (gārhapatya, āhavanīya) and दक्षिण (dakṣiṇa); विहारे लौकिकानामर्थं साधयेत् (vihāre laukikānāmarthaṃ sādhayet) etc. MS.12.2.1; (vihāra iti gārhapatyādi ragnitretā ucyate viharaṇāt ŚB. on MS.12.2.1.).

15) Name of the country मगध (magadha) (modern Bihar).

16) The sacrificer's house (yajamānagṛha); Bhāg.4.5.14.

Derivable forms: vihāraḥ (विहारः).

--- OR ---

Vīhāra (वीहार).—

1) A Buddhist or Jaina convent.

2) A sanctuary.

Derivable forms: vīhāraḥ (वीहारः).

(Source): DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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