Abhidharma (Tibetan: choe ngon pa) The Buddhist teachings are often divided into the Tripitaka: the sutras (teachings of the Buddha), the vinaya (teachings on conduct,) and the abhidharma, which are the analyses of phenomena that exist primarily as a commentarial tradition to the Buddhist teachings. There is not, in fact, an abhidharma section within the Tibetan collection of the Buddhist teachings.
Absolute Truth (Sanskrit: paramartha satya; Tibetan: dondam) There are two truths or views of reality: relative truth which is seeing things as ordinary beings do with the dualism of “I” and “other” and absolute truth, also called ultimate truth, which is transcending duality and seeing things as they are.
Acharya (Tibetan: Lopon) A spiritual master. (Similar to a Geshe scholar). Also used as a degree equivalent to master’s degree.
Afflicted consciousness (Tibetan: nyon yid) The seventh consciousness. It has two aspects: the immediate consciousness, which monitors the other consciousnesses making them continuous, and the klesha consciousness, which is the continuous presence of self. See Eight Consciousnesses.
Aggregates (Sanskrit: skandha; Tibetan phung po nga) literally “heaps,” These are the five basic transformations that perceptions undergo when an object is perceived. First is form, which includes all sounds, smells, etc. everything that is not thought. The second and third are sensations (pleasant and unpleasant, etc.) and identification. Fourth is mental events, which actually include the second and third aggregates. The fifth is ordinary consciousness such as the sensory and mental consciousnesses.
Akshobhya (Tibetan: mi bskyod pa) The sambhogakaya buddha of the vajra family, which is associated with the East.
Alayavijnana (Tibetan: kun shi nam she) Alaya consciousness. According to the Chittamatra or Yogachara School this is the eighth consciousness and is often called the ground consciousness or storehouse consciousness.
Amida Butsu (Japanese) The term by which devotees call on Amitabha Buddha. They usually say “Praise to the Buddha Amitabha,” meaning “Namu Amida Butsu,” which can be shortened to “Nembutsu.”
Amitabha One of the five buddha family deities known as “buddha of boundless light” Usually depicted as red, which is associated with the direction west. Also known as the Buddha of the Western Pureland, or the Blissful Pureland.
Amrita (Tibetan: dut tsi) A blessed substance, which can cause spiritual and physical healing.
Analytical insight In the Sutra tradition one begins by listening to the teachings, studying the Dharma. Then one contemplates this Dharma, which is analytical insight, by placing the mind in shamatha and focussing purely on these concepts. Finally one meditates, free from concept.
Ananda Buddha’s friend, cousin, and favorite disciple, and the monk who remembered the Sutras.
Anatman (Pali: anatta) No-self, no-soul. The Buddhist understanding that there is no eternal soul. Each living person is an association of five skandhas, which literally dis-integrate at death.
Annitya (Pali: anicca; Tibetan: mitakpa) Impermanence of all phenomena, change.
Anuttarayoga tantra (Tibetan: nal jor la na me pay jue) There are four levels of the Vajrayana and Anuttarayoga tantra is the highest of these. It contains the Guhyasamaja, the Chakrasamvara, the Hevajra, and the Kalachakra tantras.
Arhat (Tibetan: drachompa) Literally, foe-destroyer, one who distroys the foe which is the kleshas. A term used primarily in Theravada Buddhism to signify a person who has fulfilled its ultimate goal, the attainment of nirvana; these are accomplished Hinayana practitioners who have eliminated the klesha obscurations by realizing the truth of selflessness or egolessness. These are the arhats of shravakas and pratyekabuddhas.
Arya (Tibetan: phakpa) A person who has achieved direct realization of the true nature of reality. This person has achieved the third (path of insight) of the five paths.
Aryadeva (Tibetan: Phakpa Lha) The main student of Nagarjuna who subsequently became his heir. He was a great Madhyamaka and also became one of the dzamling gyenduk “six ornaments of the world/India.” He wrote the catuhshataka-shastra, The Four Hundred Verse Treatise, which extensively elucidates the intention of Nagarjuna.
Asanga (Tibetan: Thokmay) A fourth century Indian philosopher who founded the Chittamatra or Yogachara school and wrote the five works of Maitreya, important Mahayana texts. He was also Vasubhandu’s brother.
Asita The astrologer who predicted Buddha’s fate
Asura (Tibetan: ihamayin) This term is often translated as “demigods” or “titans.” They are one of the six states of existence that are in samsara. Different types of Buddhism view them differently. Asura is usually seen as positive, resulting from good karma, beings like humans and gods who dwell in the lower heavens. Other views treat the asuras as resulting from bad karma and hence they are seen as the enemies of the gods. Some types of Buddhism ignore this category altogether and have only five states of existence.
Atisha (Tibetan: Jowoje) (982-1055 C.E.) A Buddhist teacher at Vikramashila University in India who came to Tibet at the invitation of the king to overcome the damage done by earlier unpopular King Langdarma. He helped found the Kadam tradition.
Atman (Sanskrit) The idea of a permanent “self” which exists after death
Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan: Chenrezig or Chenrezig Jigten wangchuk) Avalokiteshvara, he who sees or cares for all beings, is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The popular six syllable mantra associate with him is: Om mani padme hung. Many prominent teachers including the Karmapas and the Dalai Lamas are regarded as his eminations.
Avidya (Pali: avijja) Ignorance, lack of awareness
Ayatanas (Tibetan: kyeched) The eighteen constituents of perception include the six sensory objects (a sight, a sound, a smell, a taste, and bodily sensation); the six sense faculties (vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch) and the six sensory consciousnesses (visual consciousness, auditory consciousness, olafactory consciousness, taste consciousness, cutaneous consciousness).
Bardo (Tibetan) Literally, bardo means “in between.” There are six kinds of bardos, but generally the term refers to the time between death and rebirth in a new body.
Bhagavan (Tibetan: Chomdenday) The blessed one, an epithet of the Buddha
Bhikkhu See: bhikshu
Bhikshu (Sanskrit: Pali bikkhu; Tibetan: gelong) A fully ordained Buddhist monk
Bhikshuni (Sanskrit: Pali bikkhuni; Tibetan: gelongma) A fully ordained Buddhist nun
Bhrama A chief god in the form realm
Bhumi (Tibetan: sa) Also called the bodhisattva levels, these are the stages a bodhisattva goes through to reach enlightenment. These usually consist of ten levels in the sutra tradition and thirteen in the tantra tradition.
Bikkhuni See: bikshuni
Bindu (Tibetan: tigle) Drops or spheres of pure psychic energy, which are often visualized in Vajrayana practices.
Bodhgaya A small town near the city of Gaya in Bihar, India, it is the place where Buddha was enlightened.
Bodhi See: Enlightenment
Bodhi Tree (Sanskrit: Bodhivriksha; Tibetan: changchub shing) The tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment
Bodhicitta (Tibetan: chang chup chi sem) Literally, the mind for enlightenment. There are two kinds of bodhicitta: absolute bodhicitta, which is the completely awakened mind that sees the emptiness of phenomena, and relative bodhicitta which is the aspiration to practice the six paramitas and free all beings from the suffering of samsara.
Bodhidharma The popular Indian monk who brought Buddhism to China, establishing the Chan tradition.
Bodhisattva (Tibetan: changchup sempa) An individual who is committed to the Mahayana path of practicing compassion and the six paramitas in order to achieve Buddhahood, free all beings from suffering and guide them to enlightenment. More specifically, those with a motivation to achieve liberation from samsara and who are on one of the ten bodhisattva levels that culminates in Buddhahood. In Mahayana Buddhism, a person who has achieved enlightenment, but has who has chosen to remain in this world to help those who are suffering, instead of going on to nirvana. This is the highest ideal.
Bodhisattva levels (Sanskrit: bhumi; Tibetan: sa) The levels or stages bodhisattvas go through to reach enlightenment. These consist of ten levels in the sutra tradition and thirteen in the tantra tradition. Also called bhummis.
Bodhisattva vow A vow in which one promises to practice in order to bring all other sentient beings to Buddhahood.
Bodhisattvayana (Tibetan: Changsem thegpa) The vehicle of bodhisattvas; one of the three textually recorded yanas.
Bon (Tibetan) A Tibetan religious tradition claiming to have originated from the teachings of Toenpa Shenrab, whom the Bonpo believe achieved enlightenment many centuries before the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. This was the religion of Tibet before Buddhism was introduced. The orthodox Bonpo – the Black Bonpo (Bon nag) has ceased to exist in Tibet, but a reformed Bonpo or the White Bonpo (Bonkar) developed in the 10th century and remains today. It utilizes many elements and the framework of Buddhism, emphasizing Tantric practices similar to the Old Tantra tradition but with different deities.
Brahamin A Hindu of the highest caste who usually performs the priestly functions.
Brahma The supreme deva, who convinced Buddha to teach.
Brahma vihara The four “sublime states” of the bodhisattva: Maitri, Karuna, Mudita, Upeksha.
Buddha (Tibetan: Sangye) 1) The Buddha is Siddhartha who was the founder of Buddhism. He was the first to attain enlightenment, and then taught others how to attain it. His first name is Siddhartha, his family name was Gautama, therefore he is also known as Gautama Buddha—although Buddhists do not call him by that name. He was a member of the Shakya clan, and hence is called Shakyamuni, “the wise one of the Shakyas.” He is also known as Tathagata, “the Enlightened One.”He lived between 563 and 483 B.C.E. 2) Buddhism holds that there are a Thousand Buddhas who have/will manifest themselves in the earthly realm. Shakyamuni is the fourth one, and the fifth Buddha, who will come in the future, is known as Maitreya. 3) In Mahayana, a buddha is someone who has attained enlightenment.
Buddha Shakyamuni (Tibetan: sangye shakya tubpa) The Shakyamuni Buddha. See Buddha.
Buddhadharma The teachings of the Buddha.
Buddha-fields The Buddha-fields are the infinite number of paradises beyond the realm of samsara, which are populated by infinite buddhas and bodhisattvas. Those within them have reached enlightenment, but have not yet attained nirvana. This is where Amitabha has his Pure Land.
Buddha-nature (Sanskrit: tathagatagarbha; Tibetan: de shin shek pay nying po) The original nature present in all beings which, when realized, leads to enlightenment. It is often called the essence of Buddhahood or enlightened essence.
Caryatantra The second of the four tantras emphasizing meditation and external rituals.
Central channel (Sanskrit: avadhuti; Tibetan: u ma) This is a subtle vertical channel of the body, which is roughly located along the spine. The left, central, and right channels are the three principle channels within the body, which conduct the subtle airs.
Chakra (Tibetan: kor lo) Literally “wheels,” these are points along the central channel at the forehead, throat, heart, etc. where there is a broadening of channels.
Chakrasamvara (Tibetan: korlo dompa) Also commonly known as Khorlo Demchok, a yidam deity who belongs to the mother lineage of the anuttara teachings of the New Tantra.
Chakravartin (Tibetan: kor loe jur wa) Literally, the turner of the wheel, also called a universal monarch. This is a king who propagates the dharma and starts a new era.
Ch’an (Chinese) The name for Zen. See Zen.
Chandaka The main attendant of Buddha when he was a prince; he helped him leave his princely life.
Chandrakirti (Tibetan: Dawatakpa) A seventh century Indian Buddhist scholar of the Madhyamika school who is best known for founding the Prasangika subschool and writing two treatises on emptiness using logical reasoning.
Chang (Tibetan) A Tibetan beer made from barley.
Charvakas A philosophical school in India, which rejects the sacred scriptures and vedas and the belief in reincarnation and karma; it also advocates hedonism and doing whatever one wants in self-interest.
Chenrezig (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara) The Tibetan term for Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Chenrezig is viewed as the founding father of the Tibetan people, and has had several manifestations. The most famous are King Songtsen Gampo who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the seventh century, Karmapas and the Dalai Lamas. The mantra associated with him is Om mani padme hung.
Ching-T’u (Chinese) Pure Land
Chittamatra (Tibetan: semtsampa) A school founded by Asanga in the fourth century, it is usually translated as the Mind Only School, or Idealist. It is one of the four major schools in the Mahayana tradition; greatly simplified, its main tenet is that all phenomena are mental events.
Chod (Tibetan) Pronounced “choe,” this literally means “to cut off” and refers to a practice that is designed to cut off all ego involvement and defilements. The mo chod (female chod) practice was founded by the famous female saint Machig Labdron (1031 to 1129 C.E.).
Citta Basic mind or consciousness
Clarity (Tibetan: salwa) Also translated as luminosity. The nature of mind is that it is empty of inherent existence, but not just a void, because it has this clarity,an awareness or knowingness of mind. Clarity is a characteristic of emptiness (shunyata) of mind.
Coemergent wisdom (Sanskrit: sahajajnana; Tibetan: lhen chik kye pay yeshe) The advanced realization of the inseparability of samsara and nirvana and how these arise simultaneously and together.
Compassion (Sanskrit: karuna; Tibetan: nying je) In Buddhist terms this is the desire for the liberation of all sentient beings, regardless of who they are. This feeling can only be developed with extensive meditation and understanding of the Buddhist path.
Completion stage (Tibetan: dzog rim) In the Vajrayana there are two stages of meditation: the development stage and the completion stage. The completion stage is a method of tantric meditation in which one attains bliss, clarity, and non-thought by means of the subtle channels and energies within the body.
Conditioned existence (Sanskrit: samsara; Tibetan: khor wa) Ordinary existence that contains suffering due to attachment, aggression, and ignorance. It is contrasted to liberation or nirvana.
Consciousnesses, Eight See Eight Consciousnesses.
Conventional Truth (Tibetan: kundzop) There are two truths: relative and absolute. Conventional or relative truth is the perception of an ordinary (unenlightened) person who sees the world with all his or her projections based on the false belief in self.
Creation Stage See: Developmental stage.
Daka (Tibetan: pawo) The male counterpart to a dakini
Dakini (Tibetan: khandro) A yogini who has attained the high realizations of the fully enlightened mind. She may be a human being who has achieved such attainments or a non-human manifestation of the enlightened mind of a meditational deity.
Dalai Lama Reincarnated many times as teacher, since the fifth incarnation, the Dalai Lama has been a combination of religious and the political leader of Tibet. The present Dalai Lama is the 14th of his line; he lives in exile in India.
Deer Park The place where Buddha gave his first sermon to the five sadhus. It’s in Sarnath, near Varanasi, India.
Definitive teaching (Tibetan: ngedon) Teachings of the Buddha that give the direct meaning of dharma and are not changed or simplified for the capacity of the listener. This contrasts with the provisional meaning.
Deity (Sanskrit: devata Tib. yidam) Deities are the focus of meditation and means for attainment, through which one acheives ultimate awareness.
Demigods (Sanskrit: asura; Tibetan: lha ma yin) A type of being residing in the six realms of samsara; they are characterized as being very jealous.
Dependent origination (Sanskrit: pratityasamutpada; Tibetan: ten drel) The principal that nothing exists independently, but comes into existence only due to dependence on various previous causes and conditions. There are twelve successive phases of this process that begin with ignorance and end with old age and death.
Desire realm (Tibetan: doe kham) The realm where the six realms of samsara abide. It is called the desire realm because these beings are continually tempted by desire. See: Three Realms.
Deva (Tibetan: lha) Sanskrit for god. A more highly evolved being who is still part of samsara and therefore in need of Dharma teachings to reach enlightenment.
Devadatta Buddha’s “evil” cousin.
Development stage (Sanskrit: utpanna krama; Tibetan: kyerim) In the Vajrayana tradition there are two stages of meditation: the development and the completion stage. The development stage is a method of tantric meditation that involves visualization and contemplating deities—and thier retinues, palaces, mantras and such—for the purpose of realizing the purity of all phenomena.
Dhamma (Pali) See: Dharma
Dharani A short sutra containing mystical formulas of knowledge that are symbolic. They are usually longer than mantras.
Dharma “(Pali: Dhamma; Tibetan: choe) There are many meanings for dharma.

1. The teachings of the Buddha, also known as Buddhadharma. Traditionally, Dharma is capitalized in this usage.
2. phenomena, things, existence, (a truly real predicate, event, entity, element or ultimate constituent of existence) usually in plural as dharmas
3. Dharma (the Precious Dharma with eight qualities), religion.
4. quality, attribute, property, characteristic, ability
5. a teaching, doctrine, text, scripture, sacred text
6. right, virtue, duty, moral law, tenet, precept
7. truth, order, law
8. practice: dharma ~, religious ~
9. mental object
10. religion, religious system, way of belief

Dharma of realization (Tibetan: togpay choe) Teachings of the dharma that have been derived from the realization of their teachers. These contrast with the dharma of statements.
Dharma of statements (Tibetan: lunggi choe) Teachings based on the Buddhist scriptures. Also called scriptural dharma or the teachings of the Tripitaka.
Dharma protector (Sanskrit: dharmapala; Tibetan: choekyong) An emanation of Buddha or a bodhisattva whose main funtion is to avert or counter inner and outer obstacles that prevent practitioners from attainment.
Dharmachakra (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: choe chi khor lo) The “wheel of dharma.” The Buddha’s teachings correspond to three levels: the Hinayana, the Mahayana and the Vajrayana; each set corresonds to one turning of the wheel of dharma.
Dharmadhatu (Tibetan: choe ying) The all-encompassing space, unoriginated and without beginning, out of which all phenomena arises. The Sanskrit means “the essence of phenomena” and the Tibetan means “the expanse of phenomena” but usually dharmadhatu refers to the emptiness, which is the essence of all phenomena.
Dharmakaya (Tibetan: choe ku) One of the three bodies of Buddha. It is the the all-pervasive wisdom of Buddha; it is enlightenment, which is wisdom beyond reference. See: kayas, three.
Dharmata (Tibetan: choe nyi) Dharmata is often translated as “suchness” or “the true nature of things” or “things as they are.” It is phenomena as they really are or as seen by a completely enlightened being without any distortion or obscuration so one can say it is “reality.”
Dhatu (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: kham) There are five elements of everything in the world in Buddhism: earth, water, fire, wind, and space (or ether). The internal elements are the same but have a property associated with them: earth (solidity), water (fluidity), fire (heat), wind (movement), and space (the vacuities within the body).
Dhyana meditation (Tibetan: samten) Contemplation, meditation
Disturbing emotion (Sanskrit: klesha; Tibetan: nyoen mong) The emotional obscurations (in contrast to intellectual obscurations), which are also translated as “afflictions” or “poisons.” The three primary disturbing emotions are:passion or attachment; aggression or anger; and ignorance or delusion. Pride and envy or jealousy are also included.
Dogen (1200-1253) The monk who brought Soto Zen to Japan.
Doha (Tibetan: gur) A spiritual song spontaneously composed by a Vajrayana practitioner. It usually has nine syllables per line.
Dorje (Sanskrit: vajra) Usually translated as diamond like, indestructible, or thunderbolt. This may be an implement held in the hand during certain Vajrayana ceremonies or it can refer to a quality that is so pure and so enduring that it is like a diamond.
Dream practice (Tibetan: mi lam) One of the Six Yogas of Naropa this is an advanced vajrayana practice using the dream state. See: Six Yogas of Naropa.
Drikung Kagyu (Tibetan) A branch of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Lingje Repa and Tsangpa Gyare.
Duhkha (Pali: dukkha) The Buddhist understanding of the nature of life, especially human life. It is suffering, pain, misery, and death. This is the first noble truth.
Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193 C.E.) The First Karmapa was a student of Gampopa; he founded the Karma Kagyu lineage and the tulku system in Tibet.
Dvesha Also known as dosha. Hatred, anger, avoidance.
Dzogchen (Sanskrit: mahasampanna) The highest of the nine yanas according to the Nyingma tradition, this is known also as the great perfection, great completeness or atiyoga.
Eight Consciousnesses (Sanskrit: vijnana; Tibetan: namshey tsokgye) There are Eight Consciousnesses: The first five are the sensory consciousnesses: (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and bodily sensation). The sixth is mental consciousness; the seventh is afflicted consciousness; and the eighth is ground consciousness.
Eight Freedoms (Sanskrit: ashtakshana; Tibetan: talwa gyed). The Eight Freedoms are: not living in the hell realm, not living in the hungry ghost realm, not living in the animal realm, not being a long-living god, not having wrong views, not being born in a country without dharma, not being mute, and not being born in an age without buddha.
Eight Mental Fabrications or Complications Buddhists seek to not have the eight mental fabrications, and thus to be without a beginning, without cessation, without nihilism, without eternalism, without going, without coming, to not be separate, and to not be non-separate.
Eight Ornaments The Eight Ornaments are the six main Mahayana teachers (Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Gunaprabha and Sakyaprabha, known as the six ornaments) plus Dignaga, and Dharmakirti.
Eight Worldly Dharmas (Tibetan: jik ten choe gye) These keep one from the path. They are: attachment to gain, attachment to pleasure, attachment to praise, attachment to fame, aversion to loss, aversion to pain, aversion to blame, and aversion to a bad reputation.
Eighteen Constituents of Perception See: ayatanas.
Eightfold Path The Noble Eightfold Path consists of the eight steps by which a person can cease to desire and thereby cease to suffer (See: dukkha). This path leads to a form of meditation which, similar to Raja Yoga in Hinduism, enables a person to reach enlightenment. The eight stages are:Right views, Right intent, Right speech, Right conduct, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness, and Right concentration.
Empowerment (Tibetan: wang; Sanskrit: abhisheka) To practice in the Vajrayana tradition, one must receive an empowerment from a qualified lama. This ceremony, which may come in the form of a blessing or a teaching, introduces the practitioner to a certain aspect of Buddhist thought. One should also receive practice instruction (Tibetan: thri) and readings (Tibetan: lung).
Emptiness (Sanskrit: shunyata; Tibetan: tong pa nyi) The Buddha taught in the second turning of the wheel of dharma that both external and internal phenomena (the concept of self) have no real existence and therefore are “empty.” This emptiness can be understood as a way of saying that Ultimate Reality cannot be described. Thus emptiness and the phenomena of this world are the same, or as the Heart Sutra says, “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”
Enlightenment (Sanskrit: bodhi; Tibetan: sangye) Literally, awakening. It is achieved by following the Eight-fold Path and the Six Perfections. Enlightenment endows the wisdom of perceiving the ultimate reality, which entails the power and the ability to work to change that reality in certain ways—especially to help people in need. For example, Amitabha created the western land—the Pure Land—as a heaven for his followers.
Epistemology Fundamental themes that coordinate the theory of knowledge with developing scientific thought
Eternalism (Tibetan: takta) A belief that one’s self has concrete existence and is eternal.
Eye consciousness See: Eight Consciousnesses.
Factors of conditioned arising There are twelve factors of conditioned arising: death, birth, craving, ignorance, consciousness, becoming, contact, sensation, the six senses, grasping, the power of formation, and mind and body.
Father tantra (Tibetan: phagyued) There are three kinds of tantras. The father tantra is concerned with transforming aggression, the mother tantra with transforming passion and the non-dual tantra with transforming ignorance.
Five Actions of Immediate Result These are actions that, if committed, will lead to being immediately reborn in the lower realms. They are killing one’s father, killing one’s mother, killing an arhat, intentionally wounding a bodhisattva, and dividing the sangha.
Five Aggregates (Sanskrit: skandha) Literally heaps. The aggregates are the five basic stages that perceptions pass through when an object is perceived. These are form, feeling, identification, formation, and consciousness.
Five Buddhas (Tibetan: gyalwa riknga) These are the five aspects of the victorious one: Vairochana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi.
Five dhyani buddhas (Tibetan: gyalwa riknga) The sambhogakaya deities, Vairochana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi. Each one represents one of the five wisdoms.
Five Elements (Sanskrit: pancabhuta; Tibetan: jung wa nga) Earth, water, fire, wind, and space are both the constituents of external matter and the physical components of the body.
Five major sciences (Tibetan: rig gnas che ba lnga) These include the study of grammar, logic, arts, and medicine.
Five Noble Ones (Tibetan: ngade sangpo) The first five disciples of the Buddha. They were Kaundinya, Ashvajit, Vashpa, Mahanaman, and Bhadrika.
Five Paths (Tibetan: lamnga) Traditionally, a practitioner goes through five stages or paths to enlightenment. These are (1) The path of accumulation which emphasizes purifying one’s obscurations and accumulating merit. (2) The path of junction or application in which the meditator develops profound understanding of the four noble truths and cuts the root to the desire realm. (3) The path of insight or seeing in which the meditator develops greater insight and enters the first bodhisattva level. (4) The path of meditation in which the meditator cultivates insight in the second through tenth bodhisattva levels. (5) The path of fulfillment which is the complete attainment of Buddhahood.
Five Poisons (Tibetan: dugnga) These are passion, aggression, delusion, pride, and jealousy.
Five Precepts (Pancha Shila) The fundamental moral rules for Buddhism, practiced by both the lay people and the monks of the sangha. They forbid theft, improper sexual practices (adultery for lay people, sexual activity of any kind for monks), killing, lying and deceiving, and drinking alcohol.
Five sadhus The five ascetics who practiced self-mortification with the Buddha.
Five sensory consciousnesses The sensory consciousnesses include sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch or body sensation.
Five wisdoms (Tibetan: yeshe nga) Upon reaching enlightenment, the eight consciousnesses are transformed into the five wisdoms: the mirror-like wisdom, discriminating wisdom, the wisdom of equality, the all-accomplishing wisdom, and the dharmadhatu wisdom.
Flower Adornment School A sect which attempted to consolidate all forms of Buddhism. Also known as Hua-Yen or Kegon.
Form kayas (Sanskrit: rupakaya; Tibetan: zug ku) The sambhogakaya and the nirmanakaya. See: Kayas, three.
Form realm (Tibetan: zuk kham) There are seventeen heavenly realms in which beings have bodies of light. See: Three Realms
Formless realm (Tibetan: zuk may kham)The abode of an unenlightened being who has practiced the four absorptions. See: Three Realms
Four empowerments (Tibetan: wang shi) The vase, the secret, the wisdom-knowledge, and the name empowerment.
Four extremes (Sanskrit: catushkoti; Tibetan: mu shi) These are a belief in the existence of everything (also called “eternalism”), a belief that nothing exists (also called “nihilism”), a belief that things exist and don’t exist, and the belief that reality is something other than existence and non-existence.
Four fearlessnesses (Sanskrit: catvaravaisharadya; Tibetan: mi jig pa shi) Bodhisattvas must attain four stages: being fearless to abandon all faults, overcoming the fear of complete realization, being fearless in showing the path, and being fearless in pointing out obscurations on the path.
Four common foundations of meditation (Tibetan: tun mong gi ngon dro shi) Meditation on four key thoughts turn the mind towards dharma. They are: precious human birth; impermanence and the inevitability of death; karma and its effects; and the pervasiveness of suffering in samsara.
Four Immeasurables (Sanskrit: apramanani; Tibetan: tse may shi) Complete enlightenment brings four qualities—inconceivable to ordinary people—that help others. They are limitless loving-kindness, limitless compassion, limitless joy, and limitless equanimity.
Four Inconceivables See: Four Immeasurables.
Four Noble Truths (Tibetan: pakpay denpa shi) The Buddha began teaching with a talk in India at Saranath on the four noble truths. These are the truth of suffering (dukkha), the truth of the cause of suffering (samudaya), the truth of the cessation of suffering (nirodha), and the truth of the path (marga). These truths are the foundation of Buddhism. We must first recognize our problems, and then work with the causes of those problems. In doing so, using the right methods, it is totally possible that we can attain freedom from the problems.
Four particularities The characteristics of buddha nature when it manifests as complete enlightenment. These are lucid clarity, purity, possessing buddha characteristics of enlightenment, and the presence of nonconceptual and analytical judgment.
Four special foundations (Tibetan: ngoendro) Performing 100,000 of each of the following practices: taking of refuge with prostrations, doing Vajrasattva purification mantras, making mandala offerings, and practicing guru yoga supplications. See: ngoendro.
Four thoughts that turn the mind (Tibetan: lo dok nam shi) Realizing the preciousness of human birth, the impermanence of life, the faults of samsara, and that pleasure and suffering result from good and bad actions.
Four unfavorable obstacles The four obstacles that hinder one from complete enlightenment: hostility or dislike of dharma, strong belief in self, fear of suffering so one doesn’t enter the Mahayana, and lack of helping others.
Eight Freedoms (Tibetan: dal ba gyad) These are: not holding wrong views, not being born in a barbaric land, being born in a Buddhist country, having all one’s senses, not being born in the hell realm, not being born in the hungry ghost realm, not being born in the animal realm, and not being born in the god realm.
Gampopa (1079-1153 C.E.) One of the main lineage holders of the Kagyu lineage in Tibet. A student of Milarepa, he established the first Kagyu monastic monastery and is known for writing the Jewel Ornament of Liberation.
Ganachakra (Tibetan: tog kyi kor lo) This is a ritual feast offering which is part of a spiritual practice.
Gandharva (Tibetan: dri za) A class of deities who are celestial musicians and live on odors.
Garuda (Tibetan: khyung) A mythical bird which hatches fully grown.
Gati See: States of existence
Gautama A family in ancient india, associated with Buddha’s family line. Before attaining enlightenment, as a prince Buddha was known as Siddhartha Gautama. However, normally Buddhists simply call him Prince Siddhartha.
Gelug The most recently founded of the four main schools of Buddhism in Tibet. Founded by Tsongkhapa (1357-1419 C.E.) and headed by the Dalai Lama, it puts special stress on studying the scriptures and on the monastic tradition. It flourished in Tibet after it gained political power in Tibet in the 16th century. Also known as Gelugpa.
Generation stage See: Development stage
Gerab Dorje (Tibetan) Also called Pramoda Vajra. The forefather of the Dzogchen lineage who received the transmission from Vajrasattva
Geshe (Tibetan) A scholar who has attained a doctorate in Buddhist studies. This usually takes fifteen to twenty years.
Ground consciousness (Tibetan: kunshi namshe) The eighth consciousness which has the function of storing all the latent karmic imprints of experience. See Eight Consciousnesses.
Ground, path, and fruition This is a logical method for describing something. First one describes the beginning causal conditions (ground), then the coming together of these causes towards some goal (path), and finally the result (fruition).
Guhyasamaja tantra (Tibetan: sang pa dus pa) This is the “father tantra” of the anuttara yoga which is the highest of the four tantras. Guhyasamaja is the central deity of the vajra family.
Gunaprabha (Tibetan: yoenten woe) A scholar of the seventh century who was of the foremost students of Vasubandhu. He is known for his work called the Vinayasutra.
Guru (Tibetan: lama) A supreme spiritual teacher in the Tibetan tradition; a tantric, yogic teacher; highest one, spiritual master, preceptor.
Guru yoga (Tibetan: lamay naljor) A practice of devotion to the guru culminating in receiving his blessing and blending indivisibly with his mind. Also the fourth practice of the preliminary practices of ngoendro.
Hashang Mahayana (Tibetan: rgya nag gi hva shang) A Chinese meditation teacher whose view was repudiated by Kamalashila.
Healing nectar (Sanskrit: amrita; Tibetan: dud tsi) A blessed substance which can cause spiritual and physical healing.
Heart Sutra One of the central sutras in Mahayana Buddhism. It is particularly important in Zen because of its teaching about emptiness. The key idea of this teaching is: “Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is no other than form.”
Heruka (Tibetan: trak thung) A wrathful male deity
Hevajra tantra (Tibetan: gyepa dorje or kye dorje) This is the “mother tantra” of the anuttara yoga, the highest of the four yogas.
Hinayana (Tibetan: tekmen) Literally, the lesser vehicle. The term, relatively derogatory and mainly used by many Mahayanists, refers to the groups that assert that the first teachings of the Buddha emphasizing not doing harm, are the only true teachings of Buddha. Today, they are also known by one of their remaining schools: Theravada.
Ho-tei (Japanese) See: Pu-tai
Hungry ghost (Sanskrit: preta; Tibetan: yidak) A state of rebirth that is as lower than animals but higher than hell beings. They are called hungry because they always suffer from tremendious hunger and thirst, as a result of excessive greed in previous lifetimes. They are depicted as having an enormous stomachs and a thin throat. See: Six realms of samsara.
Illusory body (Tibetan: gyu lue) One of the Six yogas of Naropa. See: Six Yogas of Naropa.
Impermanence (Sanskrit: anitya; Pali: anicca; Tibetan: mitak) This term refers to the Buddhist understanding that all things in samsara are impermanent. Once created, they decay and pass away. Although this is particularly true for human illness and death, the idea refers to the nature of all things. It is one of the reasons for suffering and is considered one of the three marks of existence.
Indra (Tibetan: gyachin) The chief god of the realm of desire, said to reside on top of Mt. Meru. Indra is said to have thousand eyes on his body. He is one of the two gods (the other being Bhrama) who requested Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dharma after his enlightenment.
Indrabodhi (Tibetan: rgyalpo indra bodhi) The first Indrabodhi was an Indian king during the time of the Buddha who became an accomplished master. There are several Indrabodhis in Buddhist literature.
Initiation (Sanskrit: Abhisheka; Tibetan: wang) Literally sprinkling. This ceremony introduces the practitioner to the powerfield of a certain Buddha aspect. It may be given as a blessing or at the start of a practice. For practice, one also needs a reading of the text (lung), and the instructions on how to use it (thri). The effectiveness of these methods in developing one’s awareness cannot be overestimated. See: Empowerment.
Insight meditation (Sanskrit: vipashyana; Tibetan: lhak tong) A meditation that develops insight into the nature of phenomena. In the Theravada tradition this involves observing every thought in daily life. In the Vajrayana tradition it involves a close examination of the emptiness of phenomena.
Interdependent origination (Sanskrit: pratityasamutpada; Tibetan: tren drel) Also called dependent origination. The principal that nothing exists independently, but comes into existence only due to various previous causes and conditions. In samsaric life, there are twelve successive phases of this process that begin with ignorance and end with old age and death.
Jamgon Kongtrul (1813-1899 C.E.) Also known as Lodro Thaye. He was best known for founding the rimay movement, a non-sectarian, eclectic movement which preserved the various practice lineages that were on the verge of extinction. He also was a prolific writer of ninety volumes.
Jhana (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: ye she) Enlightened wisdom which is beyond dualistic thought and can be reached by the practice of samadhi. There are five types of jhanas in enlightenment.
Jodo, Jodoshin (Japanese) Pure Land.
Kadam (Tibetan) One of the major Buddhist schools in Tibet, which was incorporated into the Gelug school; some teachings also inform the Kagyu school. It was founded by Atisha (993-1054 C.E.) and his students. Their followers are known as Kadampa.
Kadampa (Tibetan) A person who sincerely practices lamrim, and who intrgrates all the teachings of Buddha that they know into their practice.
Kagyu (Tibetan) One of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It was brought to Tibet by Marpa Lotsawa around 1050 and flourished for two generations. Being heavily practice-oriented, it is called the oral or meditational school; it derives its power fromt eh close relationship between the teacher and student. It is known for holding the yogic teachings of the siddhas of the four directional transmissions of India. It became four major lineages and eight minor lineages. The best known are Karma Kagyu (major), Drukpa kagyu (minor) and Drigung Kagyu (minor). Also called Kagyupa.
Kalachakra (Tibetan: duekyi khorlo) One of the most well known meditational deities of the anuttarayoga tantra. This practice involves a complex system of cosmology and is related to the kingdom of Shambhala.
Kalpa (Tibetan) (Sanskrit: yuga) An aeon, age, period or cosmic period, it lasts millions of years.
Kamala Sutra A sutra is named after the people to whom the Buddha gave the teachings. Kalamas were inhabitants of Kesaputta, in the Kosala State, one of the four great states in ancient India. The Shakya tribe to which Shakyamuni belonged was under the power and influence of Kosala. The capital of Kosala was Savatthi where the famous monastery Jetavanna Grove was located.
Kamalashila An eighth century scholar in India who was a student of Shantarakshita and is best known for coming to Tibet, where he debated and defeated the Chinese scholar Hashang Mahayana at Samye monastery; he then wrote the Stages of Meditation.
Kamma (Pali) Karma
Kangyur (Tibetan) The Tibetan collection of 104 volumes of the words of the Buddha. The other great collection is the commentaries called the Tengyur.
Kanthaka Buddha’s horse
Kapilavastu Shakyan capital, where Buddha grew up.
Karma (Pali: kamma; Tibetan: lay) Literally action. An intentional or conscious act, karma is a universal law that when one acts wholesomely one’s circumstances will improve and when one acts unwholesomely negative results will eventually occur.
Karma Kagyu (Tibetan) One of the four major lineages of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, which was founded by Duesum Khyenpa the first Karmapa. He was one of the three important students of Gampopa, known as Khampa Misum (three men from Kham).
Karma Pakshi (1206-1283 C.E.) The Second Karmapa who was known for his miraculous activities.
Karmapa The title of seventeen successive incarnations, beginning with Dusum Khyenpa, who have headed the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. They are also known as the Black-hat lama of Tibet. Historically, the title was used for two teachers of the lineage, the Red-hat (Shamar) Karmapa, and the Black-hat (Shanak) Karmapa.
Karuna (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: Nyingje) Compassion or mercy, the special kindness shown to those who suffer. One of the four Brahma vihara.
Kashyapa Buddha (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: Sangye Oesung) The buddha who lived before the present Shakyamuni Buddha.
Kayas, three (Tibetan: kusum) There are three bodies of the Buddha: the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya. The dharmakaya, also called the truth body, is the complete enlightenment or the complete wisdom of the Buddha, unoriginated wisdom that manifests in the sambhogakaya and the nirmanakaya forms. The sambhogakaya, the enjoyment body, manifests only to bodhisattvas. The nirmanakaya, the emanation body, manifests in the world and in this context manifests as the Shakyamuni Buddha.
Key instructions (Tibetan: Mengak) the quintessential instructions. These are instructions given directly from guru to student concerning meditation on the nature of mind. While some of these are written down, there are many passed on orally.
Khenpo (Tibetan) (Sanskrit: Upadhyaya) Literally expert. 1) Preceptor, principal officiator at the ordination of a monk or nun, 2) the abbot of a monastery, and 3) now also used as title for one who has completed the ten-year study of the traditional branches of Buddhist philosophy, logic, Vinaya and so forth.
Khenchen (Tibetan) Great Khenpo
Kiang (Tibetan) A wild Tibetan horse
Klesha (Sanskrit)(Tibetan: nyoen mong) See: Disturbing emotions
Klesha consciousness (Tibetan: nyoen yid) The seventh of the eight consciousnesses. See Eight Consciousnesses.
Knowledge of how-it-is (Tibetan: jita khyenpa) Transcendent knowledge (jhana) of the true nature of reality, not “reality” as it appears to individuals in samsara.
knowledge of variety (Tibetan: jinye khyenpa) This is the transcendent knowledge (jhana) of the variety of phenomena.
Koan A riddle-like puzzle used for teaching in Zen Buddhism by demonstrating the paradoxical nature of dualistic thinking. It cannot be solved by reason, but instead forces the student to solve it through a flash of insight. A well-known example is the question, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”
Kriya tantra (Tibetan: ja way gyu) First of the four tantras which emphasizes personal purity.
Kuan Yin (Chinese) (Japanese: Kwannon) The Chinese manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Although originally depicted as male, gradually from Song dynasty onwards, the bodhisattva is represented as female. She appears to all who need her help, especially those threatened by water, demons, sword or fire. Childless women often turn to her for help.
Kuntuzangpo (Sanskrit) See: Samantabhadra.
Kusali (Tibetan) There are two approaches to practicing Buddhism; one is to study the Buddhist texts and the other is to meditate directly with little study which is the kusulu way. A meditator is known as a kusali.
Kushinagara A town near Lumbini, Nepal, where Buddha died in a grove of sala trees.
Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon (1143-1217 C.E.) The founder of the Drikung branch of the Kagyu lineage.
Lama (Sanskrit: guru) A spiritual teacher. (1) In Tibetan a tantric master, now often used to refer to any respected monk. (2) In Vajrayana, the term for a teacher or guru, usually the head of a monastery or perhaps several monasteries. Some important lamas, such as the Dalai Lama, are considered to be bodhisattvas.
Lamdre (Tibetan) (Sanskrit: margaphala) A set of instructions outlining the entire Mahayana path and emphasizing the deity Hevajra; these originated with the yogi Virupa and were passed on to the Sakya school.
Lamrim (Tibetan) Stages of the path, gradual path, graded path
Latent karmic imprints (Sanskrit: vasana; Tibetan: pakchak) A person’s every action leaves an imprint which is stored in the eighth consciousness. When they are stimulated by external experience, these imprints leave the eighth consciousness and enter the sixth consciousness.
Left channel (Sanskrit: lalana; Tibetan: kyangma) The left lateral subtle channel is parallel to the central channel and is usually visualized as white.
Life maintaining energy (Sanskrit: prana; Tibetan: lung) This subtle energy gives the inanimate body the energy to be a living system. It flows in channels called nadis.
Lopon (Sanskrit: Acarya) A spiritual master, similar to a Geshe scholar. Today used as a degree equivalent to a Masters Degree.
Lotsawa (From Sanskrit) Translator. Used by Tibetans.
Lotus Sutra The Lotus Sutra is probably the most important text of Mahayana Buddhism. It describes a lecture the Buddha gave and its ideas. He discussed all the things that differentiate Mahayana Buddhism from Theravada, such as the idea of a bodhisattva, in particular the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, the merit of the people who venerate the Lotus Sutra, and the key to nirvana and Buddhahood.
Lovingkindness (Sanskrit: maitri; Tibetan: jampa) This is compassion for oneself and is a prerequisite to compassion for others (Sanskrit: karuna).
Lumbini Grove A place in Nepal where Buddha was born, during his mother’s trip to her parents home.
Luminosity (Tibetan: selwa) In the third turning everything is a void, but it is not completely empty because it has luminosity. Luminosity or clarity allows all phenomena to appear and is a characteristic of emptiness (Sanskrit: shunyata).
Lung (Tibetan) Ritual reading. In order to perform a vajrayana practice, one must have a holder of the lineage read the text straight through, give an explanation of the practice (thri) and give the empowerment for the practice (wang).
Madhyamaka (Tibetan: umapa) Proponent of the Madhyamika or Middle Way School
Madhyamika (Tibetan: uma) The most influential of the four schools of Indian Buddhism founded by Nagarjuna in the second century C.E. The name comes from the Sanskrit word meaning the Middle-way; it means not holding extreme views, especially those of eternalism or nihilism. The main postulate of this school is that all phenomena—both internal mental events and external physical objects—is empty of any true nature, although phenomena do exist in conventional reality.
Maha ati (Tibetan: dzogchen) The highest of the tantras.
Mahadevi The Buddha’s mother, who died seven days after giving birth to him.
Mahakala (Tibetan: nagpo chenpo or goenpo) The wrathful form of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, offers protection from dangers and bad influences that might hinder a monk’s approach to enlightenment. Seen as the protector of the Dalai Lamas, he is also known as the “great black one”or Bernakchen.
Mahakashyapa The monk who understood the silent sermon and led the first council.
Mahamaya tantra (Tibetan: gyu ma chen mo) The mother tantra of the anuttarayoga which is one of the four main tantras in Tibet.
Mahamaya See: Mahadevi
Mahamudra (Tibetan: Chakgya chenpo) Literally, great seal. All phenomena are sealed by their primordially perfect true nature. This is one of the four mudras (gya shi), a system of teachings that are fundamental to Vajrayana practice, the most direct practice for realizing one’s buddha nature.
Mahapandita (Tibetan: pan di ta chen po) A very great Buddhist scholar (pandita).
Mahaprajapati Buddha’s aunt and stepmother, founder of Buddhist nuns.
Mahasiddha (Tibetan: drup thop chen po) A practitioner who has a great deal of realization. The term particularly refers to Vajrayana practitioners who lived in India between the eight and twelfth century and practiced tantra. The Eighty-four Mahasiddhas is a biography of some of the most famous.
Mahayana Buddhism (Tibetan: tekpa chenpo) Literally, the great vehicle. The largest and most influential of the three main forms of Buddhism, it is based on the teachings of the second and third turning of the wheel of dharma, emphasizing shunyata, compassion, and the universal buddha nature. It is practiced in the East Asia and is similar to Vajrayana practice. Mahayana emphasizes the idea of the bodhisattva over that of the arhat. The goal of an individual is therefore not to pass out of this world into nirvana, but to attain enlightenment—with the wisdom, understanding and power that goes with it—and then to show compassion by returning to this world to help those in need. In East Asia, Pureland and Zen are the two most popular schools of Mahayana. It is also refered as Northern Buddhism.
Maitreya (Tibetan: jampa) A bodhisattva who lived at the time of the Buddha, he represents all-encompassing love. Known to all schools of Buddhism, he is worshipped as a being who guides those who confess their wrongs, and teachers who become discouraged. He is sometimes depicted as the “Laughing Buddha” with his hands stretched over his head, a smile on his face, and a large, bare stomach. Maitreya is presently residing in the Tushita pure realm until he becomes the fifth buddha of this eon, in approximatley 30,000 years.
Maitri Caring, loving kindness displayed to all you meet. One of the four Brahma vihara.
Mala (Tibetan: trengwa) A rosary which usually has 108 beads.
Manas Consciousness, mind, intelligence
Mandala (Tibetan: chin kor) In general, an art form based on a complex circle, the symbol of eternal continuity. In Vajrayana, it is a painting or tapestry based on concentric circles. Within the circles, the Buddha usually appears with other deities, bodhisattvas, and other symbolic imagery. For the monk, a mandala serves as a focus of meditation, and a symbolic representation of the reality of the identity of samsara and nirvana. In popular religion, the Buddhas and deities depicted in a mandala become the object(s) of worship. Mandela also denotes a sacred location such as the mandala of the dharmakaya.
Mandala offering One of the four ngoendro practices. See: Ngoendro.
Manjushri (Tibetan: Jampalyang) The Bodhisattva of Wisdom, this meditational deity represents discriminative awareness (prajna). He is usually depicted as holding the sword of knowledge in his right hand and scripture, the Prajnaparamita Sutra, in his left. His wisdom casts away the darkness of ignorance.
Mantra (Tibetan: ngak) Literally, mind-guard, protecting the mind from ignorance. Often, a Sanskrit phrase or syllable is used to invoke various deities or represent various energies. Mantra can also refer to the teachings of Vajrayana as a whole.
Mantrayana (Tibetan: Ngakgi thegpa) Mantra Vehicle, another term for Vajrayana. The related scriptures are ascribed to the Shakyamuni Buddha and his different manifestations. They describe the Mandala and the practice connected with an enlightened being.
Mara (Tibetan: due) Difficulties encountered by the practitioner. There are four kinds of maras: skandha-mara which is an incorrect view of self, klesha-mara which is being overpowered by negative emotions, mrityu-mara which is death and interrupts spiritual practice, and devaputra-mara which is becoming stuck in the bliss that comes from meditation. Mara is also the name given to the personified force of evil which attempts to prevent Buddha from attaining enlightenment.
Marga The Eightfold Noble Path, which is the Fourth Noble Truth.
Marks of Existence There are three marks of existence: suffering (duhkha), impermanence (anitya), and “no-soul” (anatman).
Marpa (1012-1097 C.E.) Marpa founded the Kagyu lineage in Tibet. A Tibetan, he made three trips to India and brought back many tantric texts including the Six Yogas of Naropa, the Guhyasamaja, and the Chakrasamvara practices. His teacher was Naropa.
Maudgalaputra (Tibetan: Mougalgyi bu) One of the two foremost disciples of the Buddha.
Mayadevi See: Mahadevi
Meditation instructions (Tibetan: man ngag) Instruction given to a practitioner by a teacher or guru.
Meditative absorption (Sanskrit: samadhi; Tibetan: ting nge dzin) This is one-pointed meditation and is the highest form of meditation.
Mental consciousness (Tibetan: yid kyi namshe) The sixth consciousness responsible for analyzing the sensory perceptions of the five sensory consciousnesses. See: Eight Consciousnesses.
Mental factors (Tibetan: sem yung) Mental factors are long-term propensities of the mind. They include the eleven virtuous factors such as faith, detachment, and equanimity; the root defilements such as desire, anger, and pride; and the twenty secondary defilements such as resentment, dishonesty, harmfulness.
Merit (punya) Merit is essentially “good Karma.” It can be gained in a number of ways. Many of these involve interaction between the sangha and the laity. For example, when a lay person gives a monk food, they gain merit. Acting in a moral manner, teaching the proper belief, preaching, and chanting also gain an individual merit. Worship of the Buddha can also bring merit. The notion of merit plays the largest role in Theravada Buddhism.
Metta (Pali) Maitri
Middleway (Tibetan: u ma) See: Madhyamika School.
Milarepa (1040-1123 C.E.) A student of Marpa, Milarepa attained enlightenment in one lifetime. His student Gampopa founded the (Dagpo) Kagyu lineage.
Mind poisons (Tibetan: duk) Literally, poison, but usually translated as defilement. The three main poisons are passion or desire, aggression or anger, and ignorance. See: Five poisons.
Mind-Only school Also called Chittamatra school. This is one of the major schools in the Mahayana tradition. Founded in the fourth century by Asanga, it emphasizes that everything is mental.
Mipham Rinpoche (Tibetan) A great Nyingma master and writer of the last century.
Moon days Every lunar month has four moon days. The most important are the New Moon (which begins the month) and the Full Moon (which is the middle of the month). On these days the sangha gathers to read the rules of monk behavior and each monk examines himself to see if he has violated any of the rules. The other two moon days are halfway between these two. Thus, there is a moon day every seven days. Members of the laity often gather at the monastery on these days for religious activity.
Mother tantra (Tibetan: ma gyu) There are three kinds of tantras. The father tantra is concerned with transforming aggression; the mother tantra is concerned with transforming passion; and the non-dual tantra is concerned with transforming ignorance.
Mudita Sympathetic joy, being happy for others, without a trace of envy. One of the four Brahma vihara.
Mudra (Tibetan: chak gya) Symbolic hand gestures used in ritual or dance. The Buddha is often depicted with his hands in the meditation mudra or in the mudra symbolizing teaching. In Vajrayana, the gestures enlarge to involve the entire body, and they enable the gesturer to interact with Tantric deities. When performed in specific tantric ritual practices they symbolize certain aspects of the practice.
Nadi (Tibetan: tsa) Channels through which the subtle energies (prana) flow.
Nagarjuna (Tibetan: ludrup) An Indian Buddhist monk and scholar, probably of the second century who founded the Madhyamika philosophical school which emphasized emptiness. He systematized the teachings of the second and third turning of the wheel of Dharma; he also wrote extensive commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Sutra.
Naga (Tibetan: Lu) Water-deities or spirits, great serpents or dragons,which may have a human upper body with a serpent tail. Generally living in fountains, lakes and ocieans, they are often the custodians of underground treasures, including texts. The king of the Nagas protected Buddha from a storm.
Nalanda The greatest Buddhist University from the fifth to the tenth century, it was the seat of the Mahayana teachings, and many great Buddhist scholars studied there. Located near modern Rajgir, it is housed in the monasteries built by three merchants on the site of Shariputra’s tomb, where Ashoka had later built an altar.
Namo (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: chaktsal) Homage.
Narakas Demons, hell beings
Naropa (956-1040 C.E.) An Indian master who is best known for transmitting many Vajrayana teachings to Marpa, who in turn took them to Tibet before the Moslem invasion of India.
Nembutsu In Japanese, the term by which devotees call on the Amitabha Buddha. They usually say Namu Amida Butsu (Praise to the Buddha Amitabha), which can be shortened to Nembutsu.
Ngoendro (Tibetan) Preliminary practice. One usually begins the Vajrayana path by doing the four preliminary practices: 100,000 refuge prayers with prostrations, 100,000 vajrasattva mantras, 100,000 mandala offerings, and 100,000 guru yoga practices.
Nibbana (Pali) See: Nirvana.
Nichiren A Japanese school popular in the west, named for its founder, which emphasizes chanting.
Nihilism (Tibetan: ched ta) The extreme view of nothingness, the nonexistence of a mind after death.
Nine steps for settling the mind (Tibetan: semnegu) These are the ways to place the mind in meditation. They are: placing the mind, continuously placing, intermittent placing, taming the mind, pacifying the mind, complete pacification, single-mindedness, complete composure.
Nirmanakaya (Tibetan: tulku) One of the three bodies of the Buddha, the nirmanakaya or “emanation body” manifests in the world as the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. See: Kayas, three.
Nirodha Containment of suffering. This is the third noble truth.
Nirvana (Pali: nibbana; Tibetan: nyangde) Literally, extinguished, or cool. Passing beyond the fire-like sufferings of samsara. Individuals live in samsara and with spiritual practice can attain a state of liberation in which all false ideas and conflicting emotions have been extinguished. Nirvana is the cessation of suffering, the liberation from karma, and therefore the passing over into another reality.
Noble truths, four See: Four Noble Truths
Nyingma The oldest of the four main Tibetan Buddhist lineages, it dates to the eighth century when Buddhism first spread through Tibet. The formal structure and teachings were officially abolished by King Langdharma shortly after, but they remain today as an active lineage.
Obscurations (Tibetan: drippa) There are many obstructions on the path to enlightenment, but two are widely recognized: emotional obscurations (Tibetan: nyon sgrib) and cognitive obscurations (Tibetan: shes sgrib).
Ogre A translation of the word asura.
Ordained Formally becoming a Bhikshu (monk) or Bhikshuni (nun). This is seen both as the culmination of a period of intense preparatory cultivation and as the beginning of a new and fuller life in the Dharma.
Padmasambhava (Tibetan: Pema jungney) The Lotus Born Guru, also known as Guru Rinpoche, the master who established Buddhism in Tibet in the eighth century. Known as an emanation of the Amithaba Buddha, he spent more than fifty-five years in Tibet and is highly revered in Tibetan Buddhist traditions. His lineage is the Nyingma lineage. His special day is the tenth day after new moon.
Pali Pali is a dialect of Sanskrit and is thought to be the language the Buddha spoke, and in which the earliest scriptures were recorded in Sri Lanka. It is also the language of Theravada Buddhism.
Pali canon Sacred Buddhist texts written in Pali. See: Tripitaka.
Pancha shila See: Five precepts
Pandita (Tibetan: pan di ta) A great scholar.
Panna (Pali) Prajna
Paramitas, six (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: parol tu chinpa) Literally, perfection. These are the six virtues that a bodhisattva perfects during his development: Transcendent generosity (dana), transcendent discipline (shila), transcendent patience (kshanti), transcendent exertion (virya), transcendent meditation (dhyana), and transcendent knowledge (prajna). The ten paramitas are these plus aspirational prayer, power, and wisdom (yeshe).
Parinirvana (Tibetan: yongsu nyangan le depa) The end of all rebirths. When the Buddha died, he did not die an ordinary death to be followed by rebirth; his death was the end of all rebirths because he had achieved complete enlightenment.
Path of skillful means The skillful means used by enlightened beings to present the dharma, taking the student’s capabilities and propensities into account.
Path, Buddhist (Tibetan: lam) The process of attaining enlightenment. It may also refer to part of the threefold logic of ground, path, and fruition.
Paths, five (Tibetan: lam nga) Traditionally, a practitioner goes through five stages or paths to enlightenment. These are (1) The path of accumulation in which the meditator purifes his obscurations and accumulates merit. (2) The path of application in which the meditator develops profound understanding of the four noble truths and cuts the root to the desire realm. (3) The path of insight in which the meditator develops greater insight and enters the first bodhisattva level. (4) The path of meditation in which the meditator cultivates insight in the second through tenth bodhisattva levels. (5) The path of fulfillment in which the meditator attains Buddhahood.
Phagmotrupa (Tibetan: phagmo drubpa) A student of Gampopa who founded the eight lesser schools of the Kagyu lineage.
Phowa (Tibetan) An advanced tantric practice concerned with the ejection of consciousness at death to a favorable realm.
Pitaka Basket. See: Tripitaka.
Pointing-out instruction (Tibetan: ngotoed kyi dampa or ngotroe chi dampa) An instruction on the nature of the mind which a guru gives only when the student is ready. It takes many forms—slapping the student with a shoe, shouting at him—and is individual to each teacher and each student.
Poisons, three See: Three poisons.
Prajna (Sanskrit)(Pali: panna)(Tibetan: she rab) Literally, perfect knowledge. Discriminative awareness, the wisdom of seeing things from a non-dualistic point of view. Considered by Mahayana Buddhism to be outside human experience and expression, it is insight into Emptiness, the true nature of the cosmos, attained during enlightenment. Also, the goddess of knowledge, of whom Buddha’s mother was considered an incarnation.
Prajnaparamita (Tibetan: sherabkyi paroltu chinpa) Perfect or Transcendent Knowledge. The Buddhist literature outlining the Mahayana path and realization. See: Prajnaparamita Sutra.
Prajnaparamita Sutra A collection of 40 Mahayana sutras concerning prajna and its attainment. This was the focus of Nagarjuna’s writing and commentaries, and includes the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Sutra.
Pramana (Tibetan: Tsema) Logic; true, proven, genuine; valid proof of three kinds: direct perception (Ngon sum), inference (Je pak), trustworthy scripture or testimony (yid ches pa’i lung); the study of pramana.
Prana (Tibetan: lung) Life-supporting energy.
Pratimoksha vows (Tibetan: sosor tarpa) The vows of not killing, stealing, lying, drinking or engaging in sexual activity which are taken by monks and nuns.
Pratyekabuddha (Tibetan: rang sang gye) Literally, solitary realizer. A realized Theravada practitioner who has achieved the knowledge of reality, but who has not committed him or herself to the bodhisattva path of helping all others.
Pratyekabuddhayana (Tibetan: Rangsangye thegpa) The vehicle of solitary realizers; the Theravada practice.
Preliminary practices (Tibetan: ngoendro) The four preliminary practices which are done before yidam practice. See: Ngoendro.
Preta (Sanskrit) Usually translated as hungry ghost, one of the six states of existence.
Provisional teaching (Tibetan: drangdoen) The teachings of the Buddha which have been simplified or modified to the capabilities of the audience. This contrasts with the definitive meaning.
Puja (Sanskrit) A act of worship dedicated to a buddha or a bodhisattva, in which offerings and other acts of devotion are performed.
Punya (Sanskrit) Merit. An act that gains good karma.
Pure Land Buddhism Ching-T’u, Jodo and Jodoshin, forms of Buddhism focused on the Buddha Amitabha and the “Pure Land” he created. Appearing in China in the fourth century C.E. and later in Japan, Korea and other nations, this is the most prevalent form of Buddhism. Pure Land is aimed at the average person, recognizing that most people cannot achieve enlightenment and so are doomed forever to stay in samsara. Amitabha set up a Pure Land in the west—a paradise—to which people can go when they die. To gain entrance, people simply have to call on the power of Amitabha, by uttering Namu Amidha Butsu, Japanese for “Praise to Amitabha Buddha.”
Pure realm (Tibetan: dagpay shing) Realms created by buddhas which are totally free from suffering, where dharma can be received directly. These realms are presided over by various buddhas such as Amitabha, Avalokiteshvara, and Maitreya who presides over Tushita.
Pu-tai The laughing buddha, chinese monk, incarnation of Maitreya
Rahula Buddha’s son.
Rain Retreat In the earliest centuries of Buddhism, monks were itinerant, wandering for nine months of the year. Then in July, when the monsoons began, they gathered for instruction, meditation and encouragement. Theravada Buddhism, which flourishes in the area of the monsoons, still keeps the rain retreats, even though its monks have long ago ceased to wander.
Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339 C.E.) The Third Karmapa, known for writing a series of texts widely used in the Kagyu school.
Rongton (Tibetan) The Madhyamika or Middle-way school divided into two major schools: Rongton, which maintains that emptiness is devoid of inherent existence; and Shentong, which maintains that emptiness is indivisible from luminosity.
Ratna (Tibetan: rinchen) Literally a jewel. The three jewels: the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha.
Ratnasambhava (Tibetan: rinchen jungne) The sambhogakaya buddha of the ratna family.
Refuge (Tibetan: kyab; Sanskrit: sharana) In the Buddhist context, to take refuge means to accept the Buddha and the Buddhist teachings as the path one wants to takes. One vows to take refuge in the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha.
Reincarnate Distinguished Dharma practitioners intentionally take rebirth to help others. See: Tulkus.
Relative Truth (Tibetan: kun sop) There are two truths or views of reality: relative and absolute. Relative truth is the perception of an ordinary unenlightened person who sees the world with all his or her projections, based on the false belief in self and the dualism of “I” and “other.” Absolute truth, also called ultimate truth, transcends duality to see things as they are.
Remay movement A non-sectarian movement which promotes respect for all traditions without bias. The movement came to its height in 19th century Tibet, with the intention of minimizing sectarian rivalry and revitalizing spiritual practice by making use of the texts, commentaries and procedures from many different Tibetan Buddhist traditions
Right channel (Sanskrit: rasana; Tibetan: roma) The right lateral subtle channel is parallel to the central channel and is usually visualized as red.
Ringsel (Tibetan) (Sanskrit: shariram) Tiny round rocks of sacred substances found in cremation ashes; relics.
Rinpoche (Tibetan) Literally, precious one. It is generally used as honorific term for masters or lamas in Tibetan Buddhism, who are highly valued for their spiritual knowledge. It is particularly used for someone identified as the rebirth of an earlier distinguished Dharma practitioner, also called tulku or incarnate lama.
Rinzai Zen A Zen sect that makes extensive use of koans.
Rishi A holy Hindu sage or saint.
Rolang (Tibetan) A Tibetan zombie.
Root lama (Tibetan: tsaway lama) A teacher from whom one has received the instructions and empowerments that form the core of one’s practice.
Rupa Form, the physical body and senses.
Rupakaya (Tibetan: zukkyi ku) The form bodies which encompass the sambhogakaya and the nirmanakaya.
Sadhana (Tibetan: Dupthab) Method of accomplishment. Tantric liturgy and practice usually emphasize the development stage. The typical sadhana structure involves a preliminary part, including the taking of refuge and arousing bodhichitta, a main part involving visualization of a Buddha and recitation of mantras, and a concluding part with a dedication of merit to all sentient beings.
Sakya Pandita A great scholar (1181-1251 C.E.) who was an outspoken opponent of the Kagyu teachings. The hereditary head of the Sakya lineage, he also became head of the Tibetan state under the authority of the Mongol emperors.
Sakya One of the four main schools of Buddhism in Tibet, the tradition derived from the Path & Fruit teachings of Virupa through Drogmi Lotsawa in 11th century. There are both hereditary and incarnate successions. This school has contributed some of the most important philosophical commentaries.
Salwa (Tibetan) Luminosity. In the Vajrayana teaching, everything is empty, yet has luminosity. This luminosity or clarity allows all phenomena to appear.
Samadhi (Tibetan: tingnge zin) Also called meditative absorption or one-pointed meditation, this is the highest form of meditation, and is widely practiced in Theravada Buddhism. The mind is concentrated on a single object and gradually calmed until only the object is known; the ultimate goal is for the distinction between the object and the meditator to disappear, which is the realization of non-dualism. This state is a prerequisite to entering the four levels of jhana and enlightenment.
Samantabhadra (Sanskrit)(Tibetan: Kuntuzangpo) The primordial dharmakaya buddha. It is said that at the beginning Samantabhadra saw the separation of “I” and “other” and was not fooled by it, like everyone else. Also, the last of the Eight bodhisattvas is known as Samantabhadra.
Samatha (Pali) See: Shamatha.
Samaya (Tibetan: damtsig) The vows or commitments made in the Vajrayana, either to a teacher or to a practice.
Sambhogakaya (Tibetan: longjoe dzokku) Also called the enjoyment body. A realm of the dharmakaya which only manifests to bodhisattvas. See: Kayas.
Samgha See: Sangha.
Samjna Perception
Samkhya (Tibetan: drangchenpa) A Buddhist school which holds the non-Buddhist view that all objects of knowledge can be enumerated into 25 categories of phenomena. They believe in the “fundamental principle” which is indivisible, permanent, and pervades all phenomena.
Sampannakrama (Tibetan: dzogrim) In the vajrayana there are two stages of meditation: the development and the completion stage. This is the completion stage, a method of tantric meditation in which one attains bliss, clarity, and non-thought by means of the subtle channels and energies within the body.
Samsara (Tibetan: khorwa) Cyclic existence. The circle of birth, death and rebirth within the six realms of existence, characterized by ignorance and dualistic perception, karma and disturbing emotions; the state of ordinary sentient beings. It is contrasted to nirvana.
Samskara Mental formations (emotions and impulses)
Samudaya Arising, the root of suffering. This is the Second noble truth.
Samye temple The first monastery build in Tibet, probably in 750-770 C.E.
Sangha (Tibetan: gendun) A general term that refers to a community of four or more practitioners who are followers of Buddha; these are the companions on the path. Noble Sangha refers to realized practitioners.
Sanskrit An early language of ancient India, one of the Indo-European languages. It is used in both Hinduism and Buddhism.
Sanzen This is the twice-daily meeting between the student and the master in Zen Buddhism to discuss the student’s progress in meditation. The main purpose is to determine whether the student has solved their Koan. If not, the incorrect answer is rejected, and the master must then spur the student on to find a correct solution.
Saraha One of the eighty-four mahasiddhas of India; he was known for his spiritual songs about mahamudra.
Sastra Treatise. A type of Buddhist text; generall a philospohical treatise or commentary; scriptures composed by accomplished or learned masters.
Sati (Pali) See: Smrti.
Satori Zen Buddhism’s term for enlightenment.
Sautrantika school (Tibetan: dodepa) One of the four major schools of Indian Buddhism. It is a Hinayana school.
Secret mantra (Tibetan: sang ngak) A name for the Vajrayana.
Self-knowledge (Tibetan: rang rig) A high meditation in which one looks directly at the mind itself, eliminating all concepts, to determine the characteristics of reality.
Selflessness (Tibetan: dagme) (Sanskrit: Selflessness of person: pudgalanairatmya; Selflessness of phenomena: dharma-nairatmya) Egolessness. In two of the Hinayana schools (Vaibhashika and Sautrantika) this refers exclusively to the fact that a person is not a real permanent self, but simply a collection of transitory thoughts and feelings. In two of the Mahayana schools (Chittamatra and Madhyamika) this extends to external phenomena, which also have no inherent existence.
Sending and taking practice (Tibetan: tonglen) A meditation practice promoted by Atisha in which the practitioner takes on the negative conditions of others and gives out all that is positive.
Sensory consciousnesses (Tibetan: Wang shey) These are the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch), plus bodily sensation. See Eight Consciousnesses.
Sentient being (Sanskrit: Sattva) A sentient being is generally defined as any living creature which has developed enough consciousness and awareness to experience feelings, particularly suffering. This includes all animal life and excludes botanical life forms. These are the object of Buddhist ethics and compassion; Buddhism’s goal is not simply to aid its membership in their own personal liberation, but also to function within the world to improve the conditions of life for all sentient beings.
Seven patriarchs (Tibetan: terab dun) The seven great teachers and major holders of Buddhism: Mahakashyapa, Ananda, Sanavastri, Upagupta, Dhitika, Krisna, and Sudarshana.
Shakyamuni Sage of the Shakyas, a name for the Buddha. The Shakya is the clan into which the Buddha was born.
Shakyamuni Buddha (Tibetan: shakya tubpa) The Shakyamuni Buddha, often called the Gautama Buddha, refers to the latest Buddha who lived between 563 and 483 B.C.E.
Shakyas A noble clan, which ruled an area of southern Nepal.
Shamatha (Pali: samatha; Tibetan: shiney) Tranqulity meditation; the meditative practice of calming the mind in order to rest free from the disturbance of thought. This is a basic sitting meditation in which one usually follows the breath while observing the workings of the mind while sitting in the cross-legged posture.
Shantarakshita An abbot of Nalanda University in the 8th century C.E. Invited to Tibet by King Trisong Detsen, he established Samye Monastery and thus helped introduce Buddhism in Tibet.
Shantideva (675- 725 C.E.) A great Indian bodhisattva known for his two works on the conduct of a bodhisattva.
Shariputra (Tibetan: shariepu) One of the two foremost disciples of the Buddha. He is known for his intelligence.
Shastra (Tibetan: tenchoe) Treatise, a type of Buddhist text; generally a philosophical treatise or a commentary on Buddha’s teachings; scriptures composed by accomplished or learned masters.
Shastri (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: tenchoepa) One who has a perfect understanding of shastras or treatses; also used as a degree equivalent to bachelor’s degree.
Shentong (Tibetan) The Madhyamika or middle way school divided into two major schools: the Rongton which maintains that emptiness is devoid of inherent existence and Shentong which maintains that emptiness is indivisible from luminosity.
Shikantaza Mindfulness meditation in Zen Buddhism.
Shila (Sanskrit)(Pali: sila) Morality, precept or rule. It usually refers to the Five or Ten Precepts which form the basic guidelines for the sangha’s behavior.
Shinay See: Shamatha.
Shramana (Tibetan: gejong) Literally virtuous endeavor. A spiritual practitioner. Often has the connotation of an ascetic or mendicant.
Shravaka (Tibetan: nyenthoe) Literally, those who hear, meaning disciples. One who needs the help of others to become enlightened. A type of realized hinayana practitioner who has achieved the realization of the nonexistence of personal self. See: Arhat.
Shravakayana (Tibetan: Nyenthoe thegpa) The vehicle of the listeners. One of the Theravada.
Shuddodana Buddha’s father.
Shunyata (Tibetan: tong pa nyi) See: Emptiness.
Siddha (Tibetan: druptop) An accomplished Buddhist practitioner.
Siddhartha The Buddha’s given name, or first name. His surname was Gautama.
Siddhartha Gautama He who has reached his goal.
Siddhi (Tibetan: ngodrup) Spiritual accomplishments of accomplished practitioners.
Sila (Pali) See: Shila.
Six ornaments Major historical teachers and followers of Buddha: Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga, and Dharmakirti.
Six realms of samsara (Tibetan: rikdruk) The possible rebirths for beings in samsara: The god realm, characterized by great pride; the asura realm, in which the jealous gods try to maintain what they have; the human realm, the best because one has the possibility of achieving enlightenment; the animal realm (naraka), characterized by stupidity; the hungry ghost realm (preta), characterized by great craving; and the hell realm, characterized by aggression.
Six yogas of Naropa (Tibetan: Naro choedruk) These six special yogic practices were transmitted from Naropa to Marpa and consist of the subtle heat practice, the illusory body practice, the dream yoga practice, the luminosity practice, the ejection of consciousness practice, and the bardo practice.
Skandha (Tibetan: pungpo) Literally, heaps. These are the five basic transformations that perceptions undergo when an object is perceived: form (visual, acoustic, olafactory), feeling (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral), perception, formation, and consciousness. Also, the five elements of a human which come together at birth and separate at death, forming the sense of self: body, feelings/senses, perceptions, habits and inclinations, and consciousness.
Skillful means (Sanskrit: upaya; Tibetan: thab) In Mahayana practice this refers to dedicating the merits of all one’s deeds to the benefit of all sentient beings. In Vajrayana practice it refers to practices of the internal yogas, which manipulate the internal energies and channels.
Smriti (Pali: sati; Tibetan: drenpa) Mindfulness, remembrance, recollection; to think; to be mindful; to recall.
Son (Korean) Zen Buddhism.
Soto Zen A Zen sect emphasizing Shikantaza meditation
Space (Sanskrit: dhatu; Tibetan: ying)
Spiritual song (Sanskrit: doha; Tibetan: gur) A religious song spontaneously composed by a vajrayana practitioner. It usually has nine syllables per line.
Sramanera (Tibetan: Getshul) Novice monk, novitiate. They are bound by a somewhat less severe version of the bhiksu’s discipline. The vow includes the five basic vows, plus refraining from afternoon food, singing and the wearing of ornaments.
States of Existence (Sanskrit: gati) There are six states of existence. The highest three are the gods, the asuras, and human beings; they result from good karma. The lowest three are animals, hungry ghosts, and demons (hell-dwellers); they result from bad karma. Some forms of Buddhism view the asuras as stemming from bad karma and others ignore them completely, having only five states of existence.
Sthaviravada (Sanskrit) (Pali: Theravada) Way of the Elders. It is one of the 18 Shravaka schools.
Stupa (Tibetan: choe ten) A shrine which often contains relics and remains of the Buddha or great bodhisattvas. The center is a raised temple which is usually surrounded by a series of terraces.
Subtle channels (Sanskrit: nadi; Tibetan: tsa) The internal paths through which psychic energies or “winds” (Sanskrit: prana; Tibetan: lung) travel.
Subtle heat (Tibetan: tummo) An advanced Vajrayana practice for combining bliss and emptiness which produces heat as a byproduct.
Suchness (Sanskrit: tathata/tattva; Tibetan: deshinnyi/dekhonanyi) Things as they really are, not as they appear.
Suffering See: Dukkha.
Sugatagarbha (Tibetan: desheg nyingpo) Buddha nature or that enlightened essence present in all beings that allows them to have the capacity to achieve enlightenment. It is closely related to tathagatagarbha.
Sujata The village girl who gave Buddha milk-rice.
Sukhavati (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: Dewachen) Blissful Land, the Pure Land of Amitabha.
Supreme yogi An epithet for the Buddha.
Sutra (Pali: sutta; Tibetan: dodey) Literally, thread or a concise sentence. Sacred text, a discourse by or inspired by the Buddha; the Sutra Pitaka, one of the three divisions of the tripitaka; the foundational texts for Mahayana Buddhism, which differentiate Mahayana from Theravada Buddhism, often contrasted with the tantras which are the Buddha’s vajrayana teachings and the shastras which are commentaries on the words of the Buddha.
Sutrayana (Tibetan: Doyi thegpa) Sutra Vehicle. The sutra approach to achieving enlightenment, which includes the Hinayana and the Mahayana.
Svabhavikakaya (Tibetan: ngowonyi kyi ku) The essence body; the dharmakaya of the Buddha.
Tantra (Tibetan: gyue) Primarily the texts of the Vajrayana practices. One can divide Tibetan Buddhism into the sutra tradition (the academic study of the mahayana sutras) and the tantra tradition (practicing the vajrayana practices). See: Tantrism.
Tantrayana See: Vajrayana.
Tantrism Tantrism and tantric ideas begin with the fundamental Buddhist premise that Ultimate Reality is a singular Unity. It is not the apparent multiplicity of the present world around us (maya). Tantrism is a key component of Vajrayana, then goes beyond these notions to their representation in the symbol of the sexual union between male and female (See: Yabyum). In some schools, the symbol of intercourse is reenacted as part of meditation.
Tara A female manifestation in Tibet of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, whose Tibetan form is Chenrezig. She can appear in 21 different forms, which differ in attributes and are known by their color; Green Tara and White Tara are the best known. She appears in both peaceful and wrathful manifestations. She is often revered as a yidam, guiding Vajrayana monks towards enlightenment. Included in her earthly manifestations are the two consorts of King Songtsen Gampo who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the seventh century, who is himself considered an manifestation of Chenrezig.
Tashi Namgyal (1512-1587 C.E.) A famous teacher who wrote many texts and acted as Gampopa’s regent and presided over Gampopa’s Dakla Gampo monastery in later years.
Tathagatagarba (Tibetan: deshin shekpai nyingpo) Literally, the seed or essence of tathagatas, usually translated as Buddha-nature or buddha essence. It is the seed or essence of enlightenment possessed by all sentient beings and which allows them to have the potential to attain Buddhahood.
Tathagatas (Tibetan: dezhin shekpa) Literally, thus gone or those who have gone to thusness. A title of the Buddha and bodhisattvas.
Ten directions The four cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), their mid-directions (northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest), plus up and down.
Ten powers of the Buddha Special miraculous powers of the Buddha.
Ten Precepts This is the code of monastic discipline for the monks. It consists of the Five Precepts (no stealing, inappropriate sexual activity, killing, lying, or alcohol) which apply to all Buddhists, and five further restrictions designed specifically for members of the sangha. These are: Not to take food from noon to the next morning; not to adorn the body with anything other than the monk’s robe; not to participate in or watch public entertainments; not to use high or comfortable beds; not to use money.
Ten Riches (Sanskrit: dashasashpada; Tibetan: jorpa chu) Also known as the ten endowments, these are part of “the eight freedoms and ten riches,” the factors conducive to practicing the dharma. There are personal endowments: being human, being born in a Buddhist place, having sound senses, being free from extreme evil, having faith in the dharma, having compassion towards others; and historical endowments: Buddha having appeared, Buddha having taught, the flourishing of Buddha’s teachings, people following the teachings.
Tendai See: White Lotus School.
Tengyur (Tibetan) The great Tibetan collection of over 100 works of the commentaries (shastras) on the Buddhist works. See: Kangyur.
Terma Literally, hidden treasure. Works which were hidden by great bodhisattvas and later rediscovered. They might be actual physical texts or they may come from “the sky” as transmissions from the sambhogakaya.
Terton (Tibetan) Treasure-revealer, revealer of texts concealed mainly by Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal in the 9th century
Thangka (Tibetan) A Tibetan religious scroll; a traditional Tibetan painting of a holy being.
Theravada (Pali) (Sanskrit: Sthiravada; Tibetan: Neten depa) Literally, the path of the Elders. The division of elders (sthavira) of the Shravakas, sometimes derogatively called the Hinayanas by Mahayanists, it is the only surviving form of what is called Southern Buddhism. The Sravaka school branched into 18 divisions, though only a few remain. In contrast to Mahayana and Vajrayana, Theravada emphasizes the individual liberation, holding that the individual must reach nirvana on their own. The main social group is therefore the sangha, the monks and nuns who support and teach each other as each one strives to achieve enlightenment.
Three bodies See: Kayas
Three immutables The Hinayana, the Mahayana, and the Vajrayana.
Three jewels (Tibetan: koenchok sum) These are the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha.
Three kayas See: Kayas
Three marks of existence Literally birth, present life, and death. These are the characteristics of impermanent objects and metaphorically, means the object has a beginning, it has a solid existence in the present, and it decays or disintegrates into smaller constituents in the future.
Three poisons (Tibetan: duksum) The causes of suffering, also known as the three major defilements: desire or attachment, anger or aggression, and ignorance or bewilderment.
Three realms Existence in samsara is in one of three realms: the desire realm, in which beings are reborn into bodies based on their karma (described as the six desire realms or the six realms of samsara); the form realm in which beings, due to the power of their meditations, are born with immaterial bodies; and the formless realm in which beings have entered a state of meditation after death, where the processes of thoughts and perception have ceased, and there are thus no bodies and no environments.
Three roots (Tibetan: tsawa sum) The lamas, the yidams, and the dharma protectors.
Thrisong Deutsen (790-858 C.E.) The king of Tibet who invited great Indian saints and yogis to Tibet. He also directed the construction of Tibet’s first monastery (Samye Ling).
Thunderbolt (Sanskrit: vajra; Tibetan: dorje) Literally, Diamond Thunderbolt. The key symbol for Vajrayana Buddhism, it symbolizes the indestructible character of emptiness, the true nature of all things. Tibetan Buddhists use a crafted metal image of a thunderbolt in their rituals.
Tilopa (928-1009 C.E.) One of the eighty-four mahasiddhas, he was the guru to Naropa, who in turn transmitted his teachings to the Kagyu lineage in Tibet.
Tirthika (Tibetan: mutegpa) A religious person who believes in a personal self. Also referred to as icchantikas.
Titan See: Asura.
Torma (Tibetan) (Sanskrit: bali) A ritual object made of dried barley and butter and put on the shrine as a symbolic offering to the deities. See: Tsampa.
Tranquility meditation (Sanskrit: shamatha; Tibetan: shinay) A basic meditation practice aimed at taming and sharpening the mind. It is also called basic sitting meditation.
Tripitaka (Sanskrit)(Pali: tipitaka; Tibetan: denoed sum) The primary texts. Literally, Three Baskets: Vinaya pitaka, Sutra pitaka, and Abhidharma pitaka, one for each of the three main sacred scriptures of Buddhism. It is believed that during the first council to compile the teachings of the Buddha, the scriptures were stored in three baskets, dividing Buddha’s teachings into the code of discipline (vinaya) for monks, his sermons and discourses (sutra), and the higher doctrines of Buddhist philosophy and psychology (abhidharma).
Triplistic thought The belief in the solidity of relative reality by dividing all actions into subject and object and the exchange between the two. For example, on the relative level, one (subject) does a prostration (the action between) to a buddha statue (object).
Trishna (Pali: tanha; Tibetan: sedpa) Thirst, craving, desire.
Tsampa (Tibetan) Dried barley flour that Tibetans eat by mixing with butter. See: Torma.
Tulku (Tibetan) (Sanskrit: nirmanakaya) A manifestation of a buddha that is perceived by an ordinary person. The term has commonly been used for a discovered rebirth of any teacher, especially a reincarnated bodhisattva.
Tummo (Tibetan) An advanced Vajrayana practice for combining bliss and emptiness which produces heat as a byproduct. This is one of the Six Yogas of Naropa
Tushita (Tibetan: gadan) One of the Buddha’s heaven fields. Tushita is in the sambhogakaya and therefore is not located in any place or time.
Twelve deeds of the Buddha Traditionally, the Buddha performed 12 major deeds in his life.
Two truths (Sanskrit: dvisatya; Tibetan: denpa nyi) There is the conventional or relative truth: life as we normally experience it, filled with solid objects. The other truth is ultimate or absolute truth: ultimately all phenomena are empty.
Ultimate level (Tibetan: dondam) This ultimate truth, which can only be perceived by an enlightened individual, is that all phenomena both internal (thoughts and feelings) and external (the outside physical world) does not have any inherent existence.
Upali A barber, the first person ordained as a monk by the Buddha; he remembered the Vinaya or code of the monks.
Upanishads Hindu religious texts dating from the seventh century B.C.E.
Upaya (Tibetan: tap) Literally, skillful means. This is used by enlightened beings to present the dharma while taking the person’s capabilities and propensities into account.
Upeksha (Pali: upekkha) Equanimity, levelness, or grace. One of the four brahma vihara.
Ushnisha Prominence above the crown of the head; this is one of the thirty-two major marks of a Buddha.
Vaibashika school (Tibetan: jetrak mawa) One of the main Hinayana schools. One of their sub-schools is called Sarvastivadins.
Vairochana (Tibetan: nampar nangdze) The Sambhogakaya Buddha of the buddha family.
Vajra (Tibetan: dorje) Diamond like. An implement held in the hand during certain Vajrayana ceremonies; also, a quality which is so pure and so enduring that it is like a diamond.
Vajra posture The full-lotus posture in which the legs are interlocked. When one leg is placed before the other, as many Westerners sit, it is called the half-lotus posture.
Vajradhara (Tibetan: Dorje Chang) The Dharmakaya Buddha, source of many of the teachings of the Kagyu lineage.
Vajrapani (Tibetan: Chakna Dorje) A major bodhisattva said to be lord of the mantra and a major protector of Tibetan Buddhism.
Vajrasattva (Tibetan: Dorje Sempa) The Buddha of purification. Vajrasattva practice is part of four preliminary practices.
Vajravarahi (Sanskrit)(Tibetan: Dorje Pamo) The dakini who is the consort of Chakrasamvara. She is the main yidam of the Kagyu lineage and the embodiment of the highest wisdom of the Buddhas. The pig on the crown represents the transformation of basic ignorance into the highest wisdom.
Vajrayana (Tibetan: Doje thekpa) Vehicle of indestructible reality. The indestructible approach to the teaching; the practices of taking the result as the path. The vajrayana is based on the tantras and emphasizes the clarity and blissful aspects of phenomena and is widely practiced in Tibet. Through it, one can achieve enlightenment within one life-time.
Vajrayogini (Tibetan: Dorje Naljorma) A semi-wrathful yidam, one of mother tantra deity.
Vase breathing An advanced breathing practice which has to be learned under the supervision of an experienced teacher; it involves retaining the breath in the abdomen, like an air-filled vase.
Vasubandu (Tibetan: yiknyen) A great fourth century Indian scholar who was brother of Asanga and wrote the Hinayana work the Abhidharmakosha explaining the Abhidharma.
Vatsiputriya (Tibetan: gnas mabupa) One of the 18 Shravaka schools, which claims existence of an inexpressible self. This school is named after its leader Vatsiputra.
Vayu (Tibetan: lung) In Sanskrit and Tibetan can mean wind or the air that is breathed, as well as the subtle airs of the body. Different kinds of vayu regulate different functions to maintain life.
Vedana Sensation, feeling.
Victorious one One of the epithets given to the Buddha.
Vijjnanavada School that emphasizes the primacy of consciousness. Also known as the Chittamatra School or Yogichara.
Vijnana Consciousness or mind.
Vinaya Discipline, one of the three parts of the Tripitaka: the Buddha’s teachings concerning ethics; the moral conduct that is the foundation for all Dharma practice, both for lay and ordained people.
Vipaka The consequences of a deliberate act.
Vipashyana (Sanskrit)(Pali: vipassana; Tibetan: lakthong) Superior seeing, usually referring to insight into emptiness. This form of meditation, widely practiced in Theravada Buddhism, develops insight into the nature of reality. Its goal is the realization of the three marks of existence: suffering, impermanence, and “no-soul.” It leads to the realization of the true character of Emptiness.
Wangchuk Dorje (1556-1603 C.E.) The ninth Karmapa.
Wheel of dharma (Sanskrit: dharmacakra) The Buddha’s teachings correspond to three levels: the Hinayana, the Mahayana and the Vajrayana with each set being one turning of the wheel.
Wheel of Life (Sanskrit: Bavachakra; Tibetan: sipa khorlo) The wheel of existence. In Tibetan Buddhism especially, the Wheel of Life is a symbol consisting of three concentric circles held by Yama, the lord of the underworld. It signifies samsara. The innermost circle contains symbols of the three sources of suffering: the pig (ignorance), the snake (hate), and the cock (desire). The next circle is divided into six sections, each depicting one of the six states of being. The outside ring is divided into twelve sections, each representing a symbol of one of the twelve factors of conditioned arising (death, birth, craving, ignorance, consciousness, etc.).
White Lotus School T’ien T’ai or Tendai. The sect focusing on the Lotus Sutra.
Wisdom Prajna.
Wisdom of nature of phenomena (Tibetan: ji ta ba or ji nye pa) Also known as Wisdom of multiplicity or variety. This is the transcendent knowledge of of the true nature of reality, not reality as it appears to individuals in samsara.
Wish-fulfilling jewel (Tibetan: yidshin norbu) A jewel said to exist in the naga or deva realms which gave the owner whatever he or she wanted. Now used mostly metaphorically.
Worldly dharmas, eight (Tibetan: jigten choegyed) Eight emotions that keep one from the path: attachment to gain, attachment to pleasure, attachment to praise, attachment to fame, aversion to loss, aversion to pain, aversion to blame, and aversion to a bad reputation.
Yabyum In Tibetan Buddhism, or Vajrayana Buddhism, this is the symbol of the male and female sexual union–usually a union of a god or a bodhisattva and his consort–which represents the completeness of the cosmos. The male represents action, usually that of compassion, in this multi-partite, finite world, and the female represents wisdom, the unity of the infinite cosmos.
Yama The lord of death, the king of the 18 hells.
Yana (Tibetan: thekpa) Literally, vehicle. Often refers to the level of teaching. There are three main yanas: Shravakayana, Pratyekabuddhayana, and Bodhisattvayana, also known as Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.
Yashodhara Buddha’s wife.
Yidam (Sanskrit: ishtadevata) A bodhisattva or other deity assigned to a Vajrayana monk by his guru as his personal guide and protector. Once established, this link will last the monk’s lifetime, and will help him work towards attaining enlightenment. Mental image of a deity or other entity used for meditation.
Yoga (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: naljor) Literally, union. Esoteric practices of tantra.
Yogacara See: Vijnanavada.
Yogi (Sanskrit) (Tibetan: naljorpa) A Buddhist practitioner who has chosen an unconventional path of practicing; one who attained the realization of the happy state of meditation through esoteric practices of tantra.
Zazen In Zen Buddhism, the practice of extended periods of mediation, usually in a group in a meeting hall. The monks sit quietly for long periods of time in the cross-legged Lotus position. Although each individual meditates with a different goal, often meditation focuses on solving a Koan.
Zen Buddhism (Japanese)(Chinese: Ch’en; Sanskrit: Dhyan). Literally, Meditation. A branch of Mahayana Buddhism, it is probably the most common form of Buddhism in the West. It has its origin in the esoteric teachings of the Buddha, when the Buddha stood on Vulture Peak holding a lotus and remained silent before his disciples. Through the silence, the disciple Mahakasyapa achieved nirvana, or enlightenment, and from him the “lamp of enlightenment” was passed on to the twenty-eighth patriarch, Bodhidharma, who carried the “lamp” to China in 520 CE; it arrived in Japan in the 12th century. Zen concentrates on making clear that reality is beyond words and language and logic. To accomplish this, it makes use of the koan, zazen, and sanzen.