English Glossary of Buddhist Terms
This glossary is only a partial list of technical terms found on the pages of the website. From time to time, as work progresses on the glossary project, new terms will be added to the list. Sanskrit equivalents for Tibetan terms have been provided only for select terms and all diacritical marks for transliterated Sanskrit have been omitted, for ease of display on all browsers.
Choose one of the letters below to see the glossary entries that start with this letter:
|English||Definition||Tibetan / Sanskrit / Pali|
Literally, a method of actualization, namely a meditation method for actualizing oneself as a Buddha-figure for which one has received empowerment. Performing a sadhana entails recitation of a ritual meditation text describing the self-visualization process and a complex series of further practices based on that self-generation, such as reciting mantras and making offerings. Synonymous with "self-generation" and "antecedent practice for realization."
A direction that one puts in one's life that will protect one from true suffering and its true causes, and, when one reaches the goal of this direction, allows one to avoid true suffering and its true causes forever. Some translators render this as "refuge."
|safe direction, provisional source of|
|safe direction, take|
See: take safe direction
|safe direction, ultimate source of|
One of the New Translation traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, deriving from the five masters who were descendants of Kon Konchog-gyelpo.
A follower of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
See: Corpus of Full Use
|same essential nature|
The relationship between two facts about the same attribute of a phenomenon. In a sense, the two facts are referring to the same phenomenon from two points of view. The two facts may be naturally inseparable, such as the two truths about the phenomenon, or they may constitute a joined inseparability arising from the power of meditation, such as a blissful awareness and an awareness of voidness. Some translators render the term as "one by nature."
|Tib: ngo-bo gcig|
The literal meaning of the Sanskrit term is a "community"; the literal meaning of the Tibetan translation is "those intent on a constructive goal." Four or more people from any of the four groups of the monastic community: full or novice monks or nuns - the four need not necessarily be all from one group or one from each group - and who have unlabored renunciation and are intent on ridding themselves of disturbing emotions and attitudes and thus attaining liberation.
|Sangha Gem, apparent|
See: apparent Sangha Gem
|Sangha Gem, deepest|
See: deepest Sangha Gem
|Sangha Gem, nominal|
See: nominal Sangha Gem
See: New Translation
|Sarvastivada||Tib: Thams-cad yod-pa smra-ba|
A Hinayana school of Indian Buddhism that asserts the true existence of both reflexive awareness and external phenomena; a subdivision of the Sarvastivada school of Hinayana. One of the four Indian Buddhist tenet systems studied by all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.
According to Gelug, a subdivision of the Svatantrika Madhyamaka tenet system that does not assert reflexive awareness, but does assert external phenomena as having existence established by their individual defining characteristic marks.
|Tib: mDo-sde spyod-pa'i dbu-ma rang-rgyud-pa|
|scriptural categories, twelve|
See: scriptural teaching
See: subtle discernment
|sealing points for labeling an outlook as being based on enlightening words, four|
|secondary bodhisattva vows|
See: faulty actions
|secondary tantric vows|
See: thick actions
|secret mandala||Tib: gsang-ba'i dkyil-'khor|
See: hidden offering
|seeing pathway mind|
The level of mind of arya sharavakas, arya pratyekabuddhas, and arya bodhisattvas with which they first attain a joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana focused nonconceptually on voidness -- or, in general, on the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths -- and with which they rid themselves of one or both sets of doctrinally based obscurations. Often translated as "path of seeing."
|self-arising deep awareness||Tib: rang-byung ye-shes|
An attitude focused on one's conventional "me" and that distinguishes and knows correctly the mental factors, such as the motivation, disturbing emotions, level of feeling of happiness, and so on, that are presently manifest on one's mental continuum.
|self-cherishing||Tib: rang bces-par 'dzin-pa|
Being so concerned about oneself and what others think of oneself and that one doesn't make any mistakes, that one becomes awkward and cannot act naturally. Often teenagers are like this. They have pimples on their faces and are so self-conscious about them that they think everyone is looking at them.
See: moral self-dignity
See: moral self-dignity
See: moral self-dignity
Something, the existence of which is established by its own power, independently of anything else, and which obscures the realization of Buddha-nature on one's mental continuum. This refers to an impossible manner of existence of the mind, and does not exist at all.
|Tib: rang-bzhin-gyi dri-ma|
A tantric meditation practice in which one visualizes receiving the entire empowerment (initiation) ritual for a Buddha-figure, performed in order to renew one's tantric vows. It may only be performed if one has done the serviceability retreat of that particular Buddha-figure and the fire-puja afterwards.
|selflessness of all phenomena|
|selflessness of a person|
Something on the side of an object or phenomenon that (1) establishes the existence, in general, of the object or phenomenon and (2) establishes, as well, what the object or phenomenon is. A self-nature may do this either by its own power alone, or by its own power in conjunction with mental labeling. The term may also be translated as "self-establishing nature."
An attitude of thinking only about oneself, as if one were the only one in the world, and not thinking about anyone else; narcissism.
|self-sufficiently knowable||Tib: rang-rkya thub-pa'i rdzas-yod|
|self-sufficiently knowable phenomenon||Tib: rang-rkya thub-pa'i rdzas-yod|
All levels of awareness (levels of mind) that are tainted with the fleeting stains of the emotional and cognitive obscurations. All levels of awareness other than rigpa. Translated as "limited awareness."
See: mental aspect
See: mind division
|sense of fitness||Tib: shin-sbyangs|
|sense of physical and mental fitness|
See: sense of fitness
Sense data; forms of physical phenomenon that, in one moment, occupy an extended location and are cognized by one of the five types of sense consciousness; the data or information concerning one moment of the sight, sound, smell, taste, or physical sensation of an object having physical qualities.
See: cognitive sensor
See: limited being
|serenely stilled and settled state of mind|
An intensive tantric meditation practice, done over many meditation sessions, during which one performs the sadhana and recites the mantra of a Buddha-figure ten thousand, one hundred thousand, or many hundreds of thousands of times, depending on the number of syllables in the mantra. When completed and finished off with the appropriate fire puja, this intensive practice makes the mind fit to be used (fit to be put into service) for more advanced tantric practices with that Buddha-figure.
Set theory has to do with the logical pervasions between two or more sets -- mutually exclusive, totally congruent, overlapping, etc. A set is a collection or a group of many items, like the set of all nonstatic phenomena.
|seven-part cause and effect method|
|seven-part cause and effect quintessence teaching for developing bodhichitta|
One of the two methods for developing a bodhichitta aim. Based on the development of equanimity, (1) mother-awareness, (2) remembering kindness, (3) repaying kindness, (4) love, (5) compassion, (6) exceptional resolve, (7) a bodhichitta aim. The first six, developed consecutively, function as the causes for the seventh as the result.
|Tib: rgyu-'bras man-ngag bdun|
|Shakyamuni||Tib: shakya'i thub-pa|
|shared meaning, teaching of|
See: teaching of shared meaning
|sharing five congruent factors|
Subsidiary awarenesses (mental factors) that share five things in common with the primary consciousness of the cognition in which they occur. (1) According to Vasubandhu: reliance, object, mental aspect, time, and natal source. (2) According to Asanga: natal source, focal aspect, essential nature, time, and plane and bhumi-level of mind.
|Tib: mtshungs-ldan lnga|
|short-lived all-excited renunciation||Tib: sna-thung spu-sud-kyi nges-'byung|
Literally, "listeners" to Buddha's teachings - practitioners of the Hinayana vehicle who, motivated by renunciation, strive to attain liberation from uncontrollably recurring rebirth (samsara) and to become an arhat (liberated being) of either the shravaka or pratyekabuddha class. They practice, based on having listened to Buddha's teachings. Some translators render the term as "hearer."
|shravaka arhat||Tib: nyan-thos dgra-bcom|
Skt: shravaka arhat
Nonstatic phenomena that can be explicitly cognized by eye consciousness -- namely, colors and shapes. Equivalent to "forms of physical phenomena that can become objects of experience of the eyes." One of the eleven types of forms of physical phenomena.
|similar family cause||Tib: rigs-'dra'I rgyu|
|simultaneously acting condition|
An item that must exist prior to the arising of something and which assists in making the arising happen, but which does not transform into what arises, for instance water for a sprout.
|Tib: lhan-cig byed-pa'i rkyen|
Two items simultaneously arise if, when one of them arises or happens, the other does also, at the same time. The two items may arise simultaneously either naturally or through the power of meditation. Also called: innate.
|simultaneously arising cause||Tib: lhan-cig 'byung-ba'i rgyu|
Sincerity has two factors included in it: (1) lack of hypocrisy (g.yo-med) – not hiding our own faults, (2) lack of pretension (sgyu-med) – not pretending to have qualities that we do not have.
|singular sufficient white panacea|
Also called: all-curing single white epanacea, single white remedy, self-sufficient white remedy
|Tib: dkar-po chig-thub|
|six realms of existence|
Literally, the six families of wandering beings. The six types of samsaric rebirth: (1) hell-beings (trapped beings in the joyless realms), (2) clutching ghosts (hungry ghosts), (3) animals (creeping creatures), (4) humans, (5) would-be divine beings (anti-gods), and (6) divine beings (gods).
|Tib: 'gro-ba rigs-drug|
In Gelug, a practice, recited six times daily, required of those who have received an anuttarayoga empowerment, through which they keep the nineteen closely bonding practices for the five Buddha-families.
|Tib: Thun-drug rnal-'byor|
|sixty-two wrong views|
A set of sixty-two incorrect positions regarding the past, present and future of the self, the universe, and so on, propounded by the eighteen non-Buddhist extremeists and refuted in Buddhism. Sometimes translated by others as the sixty-two bad views.
|Tib: lta-ba ngan-pa drug-cu re-gnyis|
See: skill in means
|skill in means|
The special discriminating awareness concerning the most effective and appropriate internal methods for actualizing the Buddha's teachings and the most effective and appropriate external methods for making limited beings ripe for attaining liberation and enlightenment. In Mahayana, when conjoined with a bodhichitta, the seventh of the ten far-reaching attitudes.
A "me" that exists as a concrete, autonomous entity, as if it had a line around it or were encapsulated in plastic. A general, nontechnical term for the false "me" (the "me" to be refuted), which has never existed at all.
|solidly existing "me"|
See: solid "me"
|something possessing the actual nature|
|something that is supported by something else||Tib: brten|
|something that supports something else||Tib: rten|
According to non-Buddhist Indian tenet systems, something findable, either with or without being a conscious phenomenon, inside the body of a person, and which is static, a partless monad, separable from the body, and self-sufficiently knowable.
See: impossible "soul"
See: audio category
See: natal source
|source of safe direction, provisional|
|source of safe direction, ultimate|
|special taking of safe direction|
Synonym for "resultant taking of safe direction."
|Tib: skyabs-'gro khyad-par-ba|
|special verses||Tib: ched-du brjod-pa|
In the Karma Kagyu system, the aspect of mental activity that is aware of the specific type of awareness of an object that has arisen and the specific object that it is aware of. In a looser sense, awareness of the details that have arisen and one is aware of in a cognition.
|specific-awareness alaya||Tib: kun-shes rnam-shes|
See: specific awareness
See: Buddha's enlightening speech
See: open sphere
|spiritual mentor||Tib: dge-ba'i bshes-gnyen|
|spontaneously establishing appearances||Tib: lhun-grub|
See: mental stability
A method for habituating oneself to an insight, understanding, or state of mind in which one focuses on an object with that desired insight, understanding, or state of mind and with full conviction in its validity, but without the mental factors of gross detection (investigation) or subtle discernment (scrutiny). Also translated sometimes as "fixating meditation."
|stable elder||Skt: sthavira|
|stable realization||Tib: rtogs-pa|
See: fleeting stain
The quality of something standing out sharply and dramatically in its appearance, without anything adorning it (like a rock mountain in a desert, totally devoid of any vegetation); the quality of being barren.
See: primordial state
|state parted from mental fabrication||Tib: spros-bral|
|state parted from taking to mind||Tib: yid-byed bral-ba|
See: static phenomenon
See: static phenomenon
Phenomena that are unaffected by causes and circumstances and, consequently, do not change from moment to moment and do not produce any effects. Somewhat similar to unchanging facts, they are imputed about some validly knowable phenomenon and only exist and can be validly known so long as the basis for their imputation lasts. Sometimes translated as "static abstractions." Some translators render the term as "permanent phenomena."
|sticky attachment||Tib: chags-pa|
|stilled and settled state of mind|
A state of mind, attained through meditation, in which the mind is stilled of all mental flightiness and mental dullness, is settled down on an object and remains there, and is accompanied by an exhilarating sense of fitness. Also called a "serenely stilled and settled state of mind," "shamatha." Some translators render the term as "calm abiding" or "mental quiescence."
|stimulating others' good qualities|
Also translated as "increase."
|stimulators of cognition|
The focal conditions and dominating conditions that give rise to the six types of cognition -- namely, the cognitive objects and cognitive sensors of each of the six cognitive faculties. In the case of the five sensory faculties, the objects and sensors are forms of physical phenomena, such as sights and photosensitive cells. In the case of the mental faculty, the objects may be any validly knowable phenomenon, while the sensors are the immediately preceding moments of mental cognition. Usually counted as the twelve stimulators of cognition, but in the list of the twelve links of dependent arising, referred to as the six stimulators of cognition, in which case the two cognitive stimulators of each cognitive faculty are counted as one.
|stimulators of cognition, link of|
|stimulators of cognition, twelve|
The total elimination of something such that it never recurs.
See: true stopping
In the Gelug Prasangika system, cognition of an object, which occurs without relying on a line of reasoning in the moment immediately prior to it. Straightforward cognition may be either conceptual or nonconceptual.
|stream of continuity|
A succession of moments of something.
The special discriminating awareness employed for expanding one's discriminating awareness and not letting it be crushed by countering factors, such as attachment to anything. One of the ten Mahayana far-reaching attitudes (ten perfections).
A monument within which are kept the relics of a great Buddhist master. Translated as a reliquary monument.
|subject clear light|
See: subliminal cognition
A cognition in which the consciousness gives rise to a mental hologram of a cognitive object and, in which, the cognitive object appears, through that hologram, only to the consciousness of the subliminal cognition and only that consciousness cognizes it. The cognitive object of the subliminal cognition does not appear to the person and is not cognized by the person. Nor does it appear to or is it cognized by the consciousness of the manifest cognition that is simultaneously occurring and overpowering the subliminal cognition.
|Tib: bag-la nyal-gyi shes-pa|
A state of mind having the joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana, and in which absorbed concentration is focused single-pointedly on a voidness that is like an illusion. It is attained only upon rising from total absorption on space-like voidness and may occur either while still in meditation or after arising from meditation. It may be either conceptual or nonconceptual. Sometimes translated as "subsequent realization." Other translators often render the term as "post-meditation."
One of the seven ways of knowing something: a nonfraudulent, but not fresh, cognition of an object. It is the second phase of a valid bare cognition or inferential cognition, and is asserted only by the Gelug Sautrantika, Chittamatra, and Svatantrika tenet systems.
A tantric ritual for a specific Buddha-figure, received in order to strengthen further the Buddha-nature factors that were previously activated with a full empowerment. Usually called by its Tibetan name, "jenang."
A way of cognizing an object that accompanies a primary consciousness, sharing five things in common with that consciousness, and which qualifies or helps with the cognition of the object. Also called "mental factor."
|subtle body||Tib: lus phra-mo|
|subtle creative energy-drops|
A subsidiary awareness (mental factor) that actively understands the fine details of the nature of something, having scrutinized them thoroughly. It does not imply verbal thinking, although it may be induced by verbally thinking. According to Asanga, one of the four changeable subsidiary awarenesses. Also translated as "scrutiny," "analysis." and "discerning analysis."
Subtle forms of energy that move within the subtle energy-channels of the subtle body and which are the "mount" (the physical basis) for consciousness, either in nonconceptual or conceptual cognition, transporting it through the subtle body. Through anuttarayoga complete stage practices, one can cause them to enter, abide, and dissolve in the central energy-channel and thereby make manifest the subtlest clear light mind.
|Tib: rlung phra-mo|
A nonstatic phenomenon's drawing closer each moment to its ultimate end, like a time bomb, based on the fact that the cause for the phenomenon's final disintegration or end is its coming into being, its arising.
|Tib: mi-rtag-pa phra-mo|
|subtle mind||Tib: sems phra-mo|
|subtlest body||Tib: lus shin-tu phra-mo|
|subtlest mind||Tib: sems shin-tu phra-mo|
See: subtle energy-winds
|suffering, all-pervasively affecting|
|suffering of change||Tib: 'gyur-ba'i sdug-bsngal|
|suffering of suffering|
The suffering of gross pain or unhappiness.
|Tib: sdug-bsngal-gyi sdug bsnal|
See: Blissfully Gone One
|superficial true phenomenon||Tib: kun-rdzob bden-pa|
In the Mahayana tenet systems, a true fact about a phenomenon that veils or conceals a deeper true fact about the same phenomenon. Also called: relative truth, conventional truth, apparent truth, surface truth.
|Tib: kun-rdzob bden-pa|
|supported mandala||Tib: brten-pa'i dkyil-'khor|
|supporting mandala||Tib: rten-pa'i dkyil-'khor|
Related to the mental continuum of an arya -- someone who has attained nonconceptual cognition of the four noble truths. Also translated as "with a base beyond perishing," "transworldly" or "transcendent."
|Tib: 'jig-rten-las 'das-pa|
See: superficial truth
(1) Texts by Shakyamuni Buddha, both Hinayana and Mahayana, that discuss themes of practice.(2) Within the context of the Three Baskets (Tripitaka), the texts of Buddha that especially concern the training in higher concentration. (3) Within the context of Buddha's teachings divided into sutra and tantra, the division that does not entail visualization of oneself as a Buddha-figure. (3) Within the context of the twelve scriptural categories, the texts that present what Buddha had to say in a brief and condensed format. Also called: expositions on themes of practice.
|sutra mahamudra||Tib: mdo'i phyag-chen|
A subdivision of the Madhyamaka school within the Indian Buddhist tenet systems that refutes truly established existence by relying on lines of reasoning the members of which have existence established from their own sides. Gelug adds to this definition that it also asserts that all phenomena lack existence established by an essential nature, but nevertheless conventionally have existence established by their individual defining characteristic marks.
|Tib: dbu-ma rang-rgyud-pa|
See: mental synthesis
|systems of tenets|
See: tenet system