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Common Terms and Phrases In Tibetan Buddhism

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #

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- A -

Absolute bodhicitta
The experiential realization that all beings and objects are naturally void of inherent, independent existence. See Bodhichitta.

Arhat (skt.)
One who has reached beyond rebirth in cyclic existence.

Arya (Skt.)
Noble being or saint; one who has realized the path of direct insight in the way phenomena truly exists.

Asanga (5th C)
Indian scholar who founded the Chittamatra or Mind-Only school.

Atisha (982-1054)
Indian mahasiddha who revitalized Buddhism in Tibet and founded the Kadam tradition. Author of the Lamp of the Path to Enlightenment (Lam Dron)

Avalokiteshvara (skt.)
Male meditational deity embodying fully enlightened compassion.

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- B -

Bhikshu (skt.)

Bhikshuni (skt.)

Bhumi (skt.)
Literally, ground; level on the the Bodhisattva path.

Bodhichitta (skt.)
The "thought of enlightenment"; the determination to attain enlightenment for the benefit of sentient beings. There are two types: relative or absolute.

Bodhisattva (skt.)
One who truly generates bodhichitta.

Buddha (skt.)
Enlightened or awakened one; a being who has completely abandoned all obscurations and has perfected every good quality.

Buddhas' Sons
Heirs of the Buddhas; those who will inherit Buddhahood; Bodhisattvas.

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Cause and effect
See karma.

A type of being who enjoys the highest pleasures to be found in cyclic existence.

Chenrezig (tib.)
See Avalokiteshvara.

Cyclic existence - See Samsara.

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Dakas and dakinis (skt.) - Male and female Buddhist yogi who has achieved high realizations on the tantric path.

Dalai Lama - The temporal and spiritual leader of Tibet, recognized as the human embodiment of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of compassion; "Ocean of Wisdom."

First Dalai Lama = Gendun Drub

Seventh Dalai Lama = Kelsang Gyatso

Fourteenth Dalai Lama = Tenzin Gyatso

Demigod - A type of being who enjoys great comfort and pleasure, but still suffers from jealousy and quarreling.

Desire realm -Lowest of the three main divisions of samsara which is further subdivided into six realms.

Deva (skt.) - See celesti.ll god.

Dharma (skt.) - The teachings of the Buddha; that which hich holds one back from suffering.

Dharmapalas (skt.) -Dharma protectors; non-samsaric beings who have vowed to protect the Dharma and its practitioners.

Drom Tonpa - Tibetan scholar and main student of Atisha.

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Emptiness - See shunyata.

Endowments - There are ten endowments which enable us to practice dharma: (1) birth as a human being, (2) birth in a country where the opportunity to practice dharma exists, (3) sound body and mind, (4) birth into a life free from serious crime, (5) faith in Buddha's teaching, (6) presence of a spiritual master, (7) availability of the Dharma, (8) the flourishing of the Dharma, (9) fellowship of others that are following the teachings, and (10) existence of favorable conditions.

Enlightenment - Full awakening; Buddhahood; the ultimate goal of Buddhist practice, attained when all limitations have been removed from the mind and all one's positive potential has been realized; a state characterized by unlimited compassion, skill and wisdom.

Exceptional thought - The sixth step of the Seven step method to cultivate bodhichitta; as taught by Maitreya and Arya Asanga; a special sympathy and enhanced desire for helping sentient beings.

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Far Reaching Attitudes, The - or the Six Perfections.  The six "transcending'' practices of the Mahayana path, which define the Bodhisattva's way of life: (1) generosity, (2) ethics, (3) patience, (4) enthusiastic perseverance, (5) concen- tration, and (6) wisdom.

Form realm - Second of the three main divisions of samsara.

Formless realm - Highest of the three main divisions of samsara.

Freedoms - There are eight freedoms conducive to the practice of Dharma. These freedoms are (1) not born as a hell-being, (2) not born as a hungry ghost, (3) not born as an animal, (4) not born as a god, (5) not born in a place of no dharma, (6) to be free from perverted views, (7) to be free from deluded practices, and (8) to be free from stupidity.

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Geshe (Tib.) - One who is qualified as a spiritual friend. In the Geluk tradition it is used as a title for one who has mastered the Buddhist philosophy and meditation practices.

Geshe Chekawa - Tibetan scholar of the Kadam Tradition who wrote the Seven Point Thought Training.

Geshe Langri Tangpa - Tibetan scholar of the Kadam Tradition who wrote the Eight Verses of Thought Training.

Great Compassion -The firm and spontaneous resolve to separate all sentient beings without exception from the suffering of cyclic existence.

Great Love - The firm end spontaneous resolve to endow all sentient beings without exception with the real, lasting happiness that knows no suffering.

Guru (skt.) - Spiritual guide or teacher.

Guru Puja (skt.)- Offering ritual performed in honor of the spiritual masters; Tibetan text written by Panchen Lama Chokyi Gyeltsen.

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- H -

Hevajra (skt.) - One of the Maha Anutara Yoga Tantras.

Higher realms - See six realms.

Hinayana - `'Lesser Vehicle".

Hungry ghost - A type of being who suffers from thirst and starvation; inhabitant of one of the lowers realms.

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Impermanence - Concept that everything that has a cause is subject to change.

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Jneyavarana (skt.) - The obstruction of the imprint of the afflictions.

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Kadam - Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism founded by Atisha.

Karma (skt.) - Action; the working of cause and effect whereby positive actions produce happiness and negative actions produce suffering; the impression or seed that an action leaves on one's mental continuum, which must eventually ripen and produce a result.

Kleshavarana (skt.) - The obstructions of the afflictions.

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Lam Rim (tib.) - Stages of the Path to Enlightenment; a reformulation of Shakyamuni Buddha's words into a complete and integrated system of practice, which outline the practices leading to Great Enlightenment.

Lam Rim Chenmo - (The Great Stages of the Path) Lama Tsong Khapa's most extensive and in-depth Lam Rim text (See Lam Rim).

Lama (tib.) - Guru; spiritual teacher.

Lama Chopa (tib.) - See Guru Puja.

Lo-jong (tib.) - Thought training.

Lokeshvara (skt.) - See Avalokiteshvara.

Lower realms - See Six realms.

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Mahaparinirvana (skt.) - Great passing away from samsara.

Mahasiddha (skt.) - A greatly accomplished tantric practitioner.

Mahayana (skt.) - The "Great Vehicle"; the path of those seeking Great Enlightenment for the sake of benefiting others.

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- N -

Naga (skt.) - A half-human, half-dragon sentient being.

Nagarjuna - Indian mahasiddha who elucidated the Perfection of Wisdom sutras of Shakyamuni Buddha and founded the Madhyamika school of philosophy.

Nalanda - A Buddhist university in ancient India.

Naropa (11th C) - A great Indian scholar-yogi, chief disciple of Tilopa and guru of Marpa.

Negative acts - Actions motivated by delusion which lead to suffering.

Nirvana (skt.) - The state of complete liberation from samsara the goal of the practitioner seeking his or her own from suffering.

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- O -

Om mani padme hung (skt ) "Om jewel lotus hung"; mantra of Avalokiteshvara.

Omniscience - The quality of Buddha's mind which has complete knowledge of all reality.

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- P -

Paramita (skt.) See Perfections.

Penetrating insight - Insight into voidness (shunyata).

Perfections - The six "transcending'' practices of the Mahayana path, which define the Bodhisattva's way of life: (1) generosity, (2) ethics, (3) patience, (4) enthusiastic perseverance, (5) concen- tration, and (6) wisdom.

Prajna Paramita (skt.) - Perfection of wisdom.

Pratimoksha (skt.) - "The obligations"; the code of precepts for Buddhist monks and nuns in the Discipline section of the scriptures.

Pratyekabuddha (skt.) - "Solitary realizer" higher of the two types of Hinayana arhats who attains nirvana without needing teachings in that lifetime, but lacks the complete realization of a Buddha and thus cannot help other sentient beings as much as a Buddha can.

Preta (skt.) - See Hungry ghost.

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- R -

Rebirth - The entrance of consciousness into a new state of existence after death; a process over which deluded sentient beings have no control.

Refuge - The attitude of relying upon someone or something for guidance and help; in Buddhism one takes refuge in the three sublime ones: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Relative bodhichitta - The altruistic aspiration to attain Great Enlightenment based on boundless compassion for all living beings and actual engaging in meditation practice in order to attain this state and to have the means to fully benefit others. See Bodhichitta.

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Sakya Pandita (1187-1251) - Great meditator/scholar who brought from India the lineage that evolved into the Sakya Order. Considered to be an emanation of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom.

Samadhi (skt.) - Concentration of the mind on a single object.

Samsara (skt.) - Cyclic existence; the recurring cycle of death and rebirth under the control of ignorance.

Sangha (skt.) - Monastic community following the teachings of the Buddha; the assembly of noble beings on the path to liberation and Enlightenment; spiritual friends who help us in our practice of the Dharma.

Self-cherishing - The self-centered attitude of considering one's own happiness to be more important that everyone else's; the main obstacle to be overcome in the development of bodhichitta.

Sentient beings - Any being having a consciousness who has not yet attained Buddhahood.

Shakyamuni Buddha (563-483 BC) - Fourth of the one thousand founding Buddhas of this present world age; born a prince of the Shakya clan in North India; founder of what came to be known as Buddhism.

Shamatha (skt.)- See Calm-abiding.

Shantideva - Indian scholar and yogi; author of the classic text, Bodhicharyavatara.

Shravaka (skt.) - "Hearer''; one who has achieved liberation from

cyclic existence on the Hinayana Path mainly with the help of a spiritual guide.

Shunyata (skt.) - Voidness or emptiness; the absence of all false ideas about how things exist; the lack of the apparent independent, self-existence of phenomena.

Six realms - States of existence within samsara. Consisting of the three lower realms and the three higher realms. Three lower realms are hell, hungry ghost, and an animal Three higher realms are: human, demi-god, and celestial-god.

Spiritual master - See guru.

Supreme community - See Sangha.

Sutra (skt ) - A discourse of Shakyamuni Buddha the pre-tantric division of Buddhist teachings stressing the scriptural texts and the teachings they contain.

Sutrayana - Vehicle of the Sutra teachings.

Serlingpa (10th C) - Atisha’s guru; authority on bodhichitta who lived on the golden island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

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Tantra (skt ) - "Thread" or "continuity;" practices involving iden- tification of oneself with a fully enlightened deity; esoteric practices not taught in the sutras.

Tara or Arya Mara (skt.) - Female meditational deity embodying virtuous conduct of enlightened beings.

Tathagata (skt.) - A Buddha; a perfectly realized one.

Three doors - Body, speech, and mind.

Three times - Past, present, and future.

Tong-len (tib.) - "Receiving-Giving" the meditation on receiving the suffering of others and giving them happiness.

Tsong Khapa Lama (1357-1417) - Founder of the Geluk tradition of Tibetan Buddhism; revitalizer of many Sutra and tantra lineages as well as the monastic tradition in Tibet. He wrote The Great Stages of the Path using Atisha's Lam Dron as his root text.

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- V -

Vajrapani (skt.) - Wrathful male meditational deity embodying the Buddha's power.

Vasubbandu - Author of Abhidharmakosha.

Vikramalashila - A Buddhist university in ancient India.

Vippasyana (skt.) - See Penetrating insight.

Virtuous acts - Positive actions which result in happiness.

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- W -

Wish-granting gem - A mythical jewel which will grant any wish for the owner.


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- Y -

Yana (skt.) - Vehicle

Yoga (skt ) - "Yoke": the spiritual discipline to which one adheres.

Yogi (skt.) - A male practitioner of yoga; a tantric adept.

Yogini (skt.) - A female practitioner of yoga; a tantric adept.

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- Z -

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- # -

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