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The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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Home > Glossary > Glossary English Terms

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:

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

EnglishDefinitionTibetan / Sanskrit
pair, joined

See: joined pair

pair, unified

See: unified pair


See: far-reaching attitude

parted from mental fabrication

See: state parted from mental fabrication

parted from taking to mind

See: state parted from taking to mind


Also translated as: separation

J. Hopkins' translation: "separation; free from; lack; devoid."

Tib: bral-ba
Skt: visamyoga
partner, pure awareness

See: pure awareness partner

partner, sealing

See: sealing partner


See: no-longer-happening

past life accounts

Accounts of the difficult ascetic practices that Buddha performed in his previous lives while engaging in the conduct of the bodhisattvas. One of the twelve scriptural categories.

J. Hopkins' translation: "life stories; discourses on [Buddha's previous] births."

Tib: skyes-pa'i rabs
Skt: jataka

See: pathway mind

path of accumulation

See: building-up pathway mind

path of accustoming

See: accustoming pathway mind

path of application

See: applying pathway mind

path of building up

See: building-up pathway mind

path of meditation

See: accustoming pathway mind

path of no further training

See: pathway mind needing no further training

path of preparation

See: applying pathway mind

path of seeing

See: seeing pathway mind

pathway level

In the context of basis, pathway, and resultant levels of something being specified, the level of it in the context of someone engaged in the practices for attaining enlightenment. In some usages, the level of a Mahayana arya with a seeing or accustoming pathway mind.

J. Hopkins' translation: "path."

Tib: lam
Skt: marga
pathway mind

A level or state of mind that acts or functions as a pathway toward liberation or enlightenment. Some translators render this term as "path," but it refers to mental states, not to a series of spiritual practices. Also called: pathway of mind.

J. Hopkins' translation: "path."

Tib: lam
Skt: marga
pathway mind, accustoming

See: accustoming pathway mind

pathway mind, applying

See: applying pathway mind

pathway mind, building up

See: building-up pathway mind

pathway mind, seeing

See: seeing pathway mind

pathway mind, true

See: true pathway mind

pathway mind needing no further training

The level of mind of shravaka arhats, pratyekabuddha arhats, and Buddhas, with which they have attained their respective purified states (bodhi) of liberation or enlightenment, and which require no further training in order to attain that purified state. Other translators sometimes render this term as "path of no learning."

J. Hopkins' translation: "path of no more learning."

Tib: mi-slob lam
Skt: ashaiksha-marga
pathway of mind

See: pathway mind


(1) In Theravada, the mental factor of not becoming angry at others' shortcomings, mistakes, or cruel deeds. (2) In Mahayana, the mental urge that leads one to be unperturbed by those who do harm and by suffering, so that one never becomes angry. When conjoined with a bodhichitta aim, patience becomes a far-reaching attitude.

J. Hopkins' translation: "forbearance."

Tib: bzod-pa
Skt: kshanti
paying attention

See: attention

paying attention in a concordant manner

The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) that engages mental activity with a specific cognitive object and considers it in a way that accords with its actuality. Also called "correct consideration."

Tib: tshul-bcas yid-byed
paying attention in a discordant manner

The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) that engages mental activity with a specific cognitive object and considers it in a way that does not accord with its actuality, such as considering something nonstatic to be static. Also called "incorrect consideration."

Tib: tshul-min yid-byed

A general, nontechnical term used for valid sensory cognition.


See: far-reaching attitude

perfection of wisdom

See: far-reaching discriminating awareness

Perfection Vehicle

See: Paramitayana

perishably based

See: mundane


The nonstatic, affected phenomenon of the ceasing of the present-happening of something.

J. Hopkins' translation: "disintegrating; disintegration."

Tib: 'jig-pa

See: staticness


See: static phenomenon

permanent phenomena

See: static phenomenon

permission, subsequent

See: subsequent attainment


(1) In Theravada, the mental factor to exert effort, constantly and courageously, in helping others and in being able to help. When conjoined with a bodhichitta aim, it becomes a far-reaching attitude. (2) For Mahayana, see "joyful perseverance."

J. Hopkins' translation: "effort."

Tib: brtson-'grus
Skt: virya
perseverance, joyful

See: joyful perseverance


An individual being, including those from any of the six realms of samsaric existence, as well as arhats and Buddhas. A noncongruent affecting variable, synonymous with a conventional "me."

Tib: gang-zag
Skt: pudgala
personal instructions

Advice on how to practice meditation, emphasizing the quintessential points.

Tib: zhal-lung

The intersection of two sets of phenomena.

J. Hopkins' translation: "pervasion; entailment; fill; pervade; penetrate; cover over."

Tib: khyab-pa

"x" is pervasive with "y" if, whenever "x" is the case, so is "y". Used in such formulations as "If "x" is the case, then it is pervasive that "y" is the case."

J. Hopkins' translation: "entail; pervade; fill; embrace; cover over."

Tib: khyab

The first part of a process, especially one in meditation, which may last a variable length of time.

J. Hopkins' translation: "moment; instant; period."

Tib: skad-cig
phenomena, comprehensible

See: comprehensible phenomena

phenomena, comprehensible, three types of

See: three types of comprehensible phenomena

phenomena, validly knowable

See: validly knowable phenomena


A validly knowable object that holds its own individual self-nature.

J. Hopkins' translation: "Phenomenon, attribute/quality, religion/practice."

Tib: chos
Skt: dharma
phenomenon, affected

See: affected phenomenon

phenomenon, affirmation

See: affirmation phenomenon

phenomenon, apparent true

See: superficial true phenomenon

phenomenon, conventional true

See: superficial true phenomenon

phenomenon, deepest true

See: deepest true phenomenon

phenomenon, dependent

See: dependent phenomenon

phenomenon, extremely obscure

See: extremely obscure phenomenon

phenomenon, functional

See: functional phenomenon

phenomenon, generally characterized

See: metaphysical entities

phenomenon, imputedly existent

See: imputably knowable phenomenon

phenomenon, imputedly knowable

See: imputably knowable phenomenon

phenomenon, invalid

See: invalid phenomenon

phenomenon, negation

See: negation phenomenon

phenomenon, nonfunctional

See: nonfunctional phenomenon

phenomenon, obscure

See: obscure phenomenon

phenomenon, obvious

See: obvious phenomenon

phenomenon, other-powered

See: dependent phenomenon

phenomenon, relative true

See: superficial true phenomenon

phenomenon, self-sufficiently knowable

See: self-sufficiently knowable phenomenon

phenomenon, specifically characterized

See: objective entities

phenomenon, superficial true

See: superficial true phenomenon

phenomenon, thoroughly established

See: thoroughly established phenomena

phenomenon, totally conceptional

See: totally conceptional phenomena

phenomenon, ultimate true

See: deepest true phenomenon

phenomenon, unaffected

See: unaffected phenomenon

phenomenon, valid

See: valid phenomenon

phenomenon with a basis beyond perishing

See: supramundane


Also called: transference of consciousness.

Tib: pho-ba
physical cognitive sensors

Out of the six cognitive sensors, the five that are forms of physical phenomena -- namely, (1) the photosensitive cells of the eyes, (2) the sound-sensitive cells of the ears, (3) the smell-sensitive cells of the nose, (4) the taste-sensitive cells of the tongue, and (5) the physical sensation-sensitive cells of the body.

placement, mental

See: mental abiding


See: three planes of samsaric existence

J. Hopkins' translation: "basic constituent/constituent."

Tib: khams
plane of ethereal forms

Samsaric rebirth states in which the limited beings have desire for subtle forms of physical phenomena. Usually translated by others as "form realm."

J. Hopkins' translation: "Form Realm."

Tib: gzugs-khams
Skt: rupadhatu
plane of formless beings

Samsaric rebirth states in which the limited beings lack any gross body. Usually translated by others as "formless realm."

J. Hopkins' translation: "Formless Realm."

Tib: gzugs-med khams
Skt: arupadhatu
plane of sensory desires

Samsaric rebirth states in which the limited beings have desire for sensory objects. Usually translated by others as "desire realm."

J. Hopkins' translation: "Desire Realm."

Tib: 'dod-khams
Skt: kamadhatu
planes of samsaric existence, three

See: three planes of samsaric existence

pledged aspiring bodhichitta

See: pledged state of aspiring bodhichitta

pledged state of aspiring bodhichitta

The advanced level of aspiring bodhichitta, with which one focuses on one's own not-yet-happening enlightenment, imputable on the bais of the Buddha-nature factors oon one's mental continuum, with the intention to attain that enlightenment and to benefit all beings by means of it, and then pledges never to give up this bodhichitta aim until one reaches that enlightenment. Abbreviated as: pledged aspiring bodhichitta.

Tib: smon-sems dam-bca'-can
positive force

See: positive karmic force

positive karmic force

The type of karmic force associated with a constructive action and which ripens intermittently into transitory happiness. Some translators render it as "merit." See: karmic force.

J. Hopkins' translation: "merit."

Tib: bsod-nams
Skt: punya
positive potential

See: positive karmic force

post-meditation period

See: subsequent attainment

potential, karmic

See: karmic potential

powdered sand mandala

A two-dimensional representation, made of powdered colored minerals, which is like an architectural blueprint of the three-dimensional palace, environment, and Buddha-figures of a symbolic world system, and used for conferring a tantric empowerment.

Tib: rdul-phran-gyi dkyil-'khor
powers, extraphysical

See: extraphysical emanations

powers, extrasensory

See: advanced awareness

practice, preliminary

See: preliminary practices

practitioner, highly realized

See: arya


See: far-reaching discriminating awareness


A subdivision of the Madhyamaka school within the Indian Buddhist tenet systems that uses absurd conclusions to bring about valid inferential cognition of something to be proven or established. Gelug adds to this definition that it also asserts that all phenomena lack existence established by an essential nature and even conventionally lack existence established by their individual defining characteristic marks.

J. Hopkins' translation: "PrAsaGgika; Consequentialist."

Tib: thal-'gyur-ba
Prasangika Madhyamaka

See: Prasangika

Tib: dbu-ma thal-'gyur-ba
pratimoksha vows

The vows of either a layman or laywoman, a novice or full monk, or a provisional, novice, or full nun. The ethical self-discipline of keeping them purely provides the basis for the individual being keeping them to attain liberation from samsara.

Tib: so-thar sdom-pa
Skt: pratimokshasamvara

Literally, "self-realizers" or "self-evolvers" - 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). They live during dark ages when the teachings of a Buddha are no longer available. They do not study with Buddhist spiritual teachers, because there are none at such times, and they teach others only subtly, through gestures, since people are not receptive. Living either singly ("like a rhinoceros") or in small groups, they must rely on their instincts from previous lives to recall and master the Dharma. Some translators render the term as "solitary Buddhas."

J. Hopkins' translation: "Solitary Realizer."

Tib: rang-rgyal
Skt: pratyekabuddha
pratyekabuddha arhat

A pratyekabuddha that has attained liberation. See also: pratyekabuddha.

Tib: rang-rgyal dgra-bcom
Skt: pratyekabuddha arhat

To cut off, dismiss, or reject something. To logically cut off or eliminate the possibility that something is something else

J. Hopkins' translation: "cut; decided; eliminated; judged; condemned."

Tib: bcad-pa
preclude, explicitly

See: explicitly preclude


The conceptual process through which sets and countersets are formulated. It implies previous apprehension of an object to be negated, in which the apprehension itself logically and automatically excludes the object to be negated from the set of either all validly knowable phenomena other than itself or all validly knowable phenomena in total. It is not a deliberate, conscious mental act.

J. Hopkins' translation: "cut; decided; eliminated; judged; condemned."

Tib: bcad-pa
predeath existence

The period of time in the mental continuum of an individual limited being starting from the moment immediately after conception until the moment immediately before death.

J. Hopkins' translation: "prior state [from the second moment until death; usually the longest of the four states]."

Tib: sngon-dus-kyi srid-pa

See: preliminary practices

preliminary practices

Practices, such as prostration, usually repeated 100,000 times, done as a method to build up positive force and cleanse negative force so as to have more success in tantra practice. Also called "ngondro."

Tib: sngon-'gro
presentations, epic

See: epic presentations


The affirmation phenomenon of the occurrence of something.

J. Hopkins' translation: "now; present; nowadays."

Tib: da-lta-ba

See: presumptive cognition


The past occurrence of something, equivalent to the no-longer-happening of something. According to Gelug Sautrantika, Chittamatra, and Svatantrika-Madhyamaka, a static nonimplicative negation phenomenon; according to Gelug Prasangika, a nonstatic implicative negation phenomenon. Also translated as "passed-happening."

J. Hopkins' translation: "destroy; disintegrate; perish; disintegratedness."

Tib: zhig-pa
primally pure

See: primal purity

primally pure awareness

See: primal purity

primal purity

The essential nature of rigpa (pure awareness), which refers to its being pure of all stains, without a beginning.

J. Hopkins' translation: "essential purity."

Tib: ka-dag
primary consciousness

Within a cognition of an object, the awareness of merely the essential nature of the object that the cognition focuses on. Primary consciousness has the identity-nature of being an individualizing awareness.

J. Hopkins' translation: "consciousness."

Tib: rnam-shes
Skt: vijnana
primordial deepest alaya

In the dzogchen system, a synonym for basis rigpa. The source of all appearances of samsara and nirvana.

Tib: ye-don kun-gzhi
primordial mind

Awareness that, with no beginning, has been untainted by the fleeting stains of either the emotional or cognitive obscurations. A synonym for "clear light mind."

J. Hopkins' translation: "fundamental mind."

Tib: gnyug-sems
primordial state

The state of having, with no beginning, been untainted by the fleeting stains of either the emotional or cognitive obscurations. Descriptive of the clear light mind.

J. Hopkins' translation: "fundamental."

Tib: gnyug-ma
principal awareness

Within a cognition, an awareness that consists of the composite of a primary consciousness and its accompanying set of subsidiary awarenesses (mental factors). The principal awareness is the way of being aware of the object of the cognition that is prominent and which characterizes the type of cognition that it is occurring -- for example, relative bodhichitta and the deep awareness of total absorption on voidness.

J. Hopkins' translation: "main mind."

Tib: gtso-sems
prohibited uncommendable action

Ethically neutral (unspecified) actions that Buddha prohibited for certain types of practitioners, for instance monks or nuns, as detrimental to their spiritual practice.

Tib: bcas-pa'i kha-na ma-tho-ba

A member of the set of phenomena possessing a certain property, such as voidness as its actual nature.

J. Hopkins' translation: "subject/ substrata."

Tib: chos-can
protector, Dharma

See: Dharma-protector

provisional source of safe direction

The aryas with incomplete sets of true stoppings and true pathway minds on their mental continuums.

Tib: gnas-skabs-kyi skyabs-gnas

See: offering ritual

pure, primally

See: primal purity

pure appearance

An appearance of something as an enlightened mind makes it appear, namely in the form of a Buddha-figure or mandala and devoid of any of the four extremes of impossible existence.

Tib: dag-pa'i snang-ba
pure awareness

In the dozgchen system, the subtlest level of awareness, which is totally untainted by any of the fleeting stains of mental obscurations. It is devoid of all grosser levels of awareness and yet permeates all of them, and it spontaneously establishes pure appearances. Often left untranslated as "rigpa."

J. Hopkins' translation: "intrinsic awareness; knower."

Tib: rig-pa
pure wish

See: exceptional resolve

purified state

The state of a shravaka arhat, pratyekabuddha arhat, or a Buddha, in which the mental continuum of the person attaining this state has been purified of either the emotional obscurations or both the emotional and the cognitive obscurations.

J. Hopkins' translation: "[purified-realized]; enlightenment."

Tib: byang-chub
Skt: bodhi
purity, primal

See: primal purity

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