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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
object, appearing

See: appearing object

object, conceptualized

See: conceptualized object

object, focal

See: focal object

object, involved

See: involved object

object, specific

See: specific object

object category

The conceptual category into which fit all items to which an audio category refer.

J. Hopkins' translation: "generic image, meaning-generality, mental image."

Tib: don-spyi
object clear light

Voidness as the object cognized by clear light awareness.

Tib: yul-gyi 'od-gsal
object exclusions

See: individually characterized object exclusions of something else

objective condition

See: focal condition

objective entities

In the Sautrantika and Chittamatra tenet systems, those phenomena, the existence of which is established by their not being merely imputed by conceptual cognition. They include all nonstatic phenomena. According to Sautrantika, they include all nonstatic phenomena and are deepest true phenomena; according to Chittamatra, they include not only all nonstatic superficial true phenomena, but also the static deepest true phenomena of voidnesses, true stoppings, and nirvanas. (1) In the Gelug tradition, the appearing objects of only valid nonconceptual cognitions, although they are what actually appears and can be validly cognized in both valid nonconceptual and conceptual cognition. (2) In the non-Gelug systems, they can only be validly cognized by valid nonconceptual cognition. Also translated as "individually characterized phenomena."

J. Hopkins' translation: "specifically characterized phenomenon."

Tib: rang-mtshan
Skt: svalakshana
object mental synthesis

(1) The conceptual category of a commonsense object, such as a table, used when thinking of, verbalizing, imagining (visualizing), or remembering a commonsense object. (2) A specific commonsense object as a conceptual category into which fit all moments of anyone's mental or sensory cognition of any amount of parts of any of its sensibilia.

J. Hopkins' translation: "generic image, meaning-generality, mental image."

Tib: don-spyi
objects taken and minds that take them

See: consciousness that takes objects and objects taken by consciousness

objects that indicate a safe direction

A general term for the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Tib: skyabs-yul
object synthesis

See: object mental synthesis

object universal

See: object mental synthesis


A fleeting stain that temporarily "covers" or accompanies mental activity (more precisely, clear light mental activity), thereby preventing the mental activity from cognizing objects without suffering or other limitations. Some translators render the term as "obstacle."

J. Hopkins' translation: "obstruct; defile; obstruction; defilement."

Tib: sgrib
Skt: avarana
obscurations, emotional

See: emotional obscurations

obscurations, five

See: five obscurations

obscurations about all knowables

See: cognitive obscurations

obscurations of not knowing

Mental blocks that come from not knowing the Dharma in general or specifically not knowing about the emotional and cognitive obscurations. These mental blocks prevent the attainment of liberation and enlightenment.

Tib: mi-shes sgrib
obscurations preventing liberation

See: emotional obscurations

obscurations preventing omniscience

See: cognitive obscurations

obscurations that are the disturbing emotions and attitudes

See: emotional obscurations

obscure phenomenon

A validly knowable phenomenon that cannot be apprehended through the force of personal experience, but can be apprehended through the force of a line of reasoning.

J. Hopkins' translation: "subliminal, hidden, hidden phenomenon."

Tib: lkog-gyur
obstacles, five

See: five obscurations

obstructive unspecified phenomenon

A phenomenon that Buddha did not specify as being either constructive or destructive, and which hinders the attainment of liberation.

Tib: bsgribs-pa'i lung ma-bstan
Skt: nivrta-avyakrta

A set of four disturbing emotions and disturbing attitudes: (1) obtainer desire, (2) an obtainer deluded outlook, (3) holding deluded morality or conduct as supreme, and (4) asserting one's identity, and which, when occurring at the time of death, constitute the ninth link of dependent arising.

J. Hopkins' translation: "grasping."

Tib: len-pa
Skt: upadana
obtainer attitude

A general term coined to refer to the last three "obtainers" that constitute the ninth link of dependent arising: (1) an obtainer deluded outlook, (2) holding deluded morality or conduct as supreme, and (3) asserting one's identity.

obtainer deluded outlook

A set of three disturbing deluded outlooks on life that constitute the second of the four "obtainers" that constitute the ninth link of dependent arising: (1) a distorted outlook, (2) an extreme outlook, (3) holding a deluded outlook as supreme.

Tib: lta-ba nye-bar len-pa
obtainer desire

The mental factor (subsidiary awareness) of longing desire specifically for some desirable sensory object on the plane of sensory desires. See: longing desire. Equivalent to the obtainer emotion, it is the first of the four "obtainers" that constitute the ninth link of dependent arising.

Tib: 'dod-pa nye-bar len-pa
obtainer emotion

Equivalent to obtainer desire.

obtaining aggregates

Aggregate factors of a limited being that include the causes that will obtain for that being further samsaric rebirth.

J. Hopkins' translation: "appropriated aggregates."

Tib: nyer-len-gyi phung-po
obtaining cause

The cause from which a result is obtained and which transforms into the result. For example, a seed is the obtaining cause for a sprout, and a network of positive force (a collection of merit) is the obtaining cause for a Corpus of Forms (Form Body) of a Buddha. Some translators render the term as "material cause," but this term does not refer to the physical elements that make up something.

J. Hopkins' translation: "substantial cause."

Tib: nyer-len-gyi rgyu
Skt: upadanahetu
obvious phenomenon

A validly knowable phenomenon that can be cognized by valid nonconceptual straightforward cognition. Also defined as a validly knowable phenomenon that be apprehended through the force of personal experience.

J. Hopkins' translation: "manifest phenomenon."

Tib: mngon-gyur

Something presented, with respect and the intention to bring happiness and benefit, to someone else.

J. Hopkins' translation: "offering; offer; revere; honor; please through offering; worship."

Tib: mchod-pa
offering, hidden

See: hidden offering

offering, inner

See: inner offering

offering, outer

See: outer offerings

offering, secret

See: inner offering

offering of the very nature of reality

Offering of a nonconceptual cognition of voidness with a blissful awareness or of one's nonconceptual blissful cognition of voidness together with one's appearance as an illusory body.

Tib: de-kho-na-nyid mchod-pa
offering ritual

A tantra ceremony in which specially consecrated offerings are made to honor one's tantric master, inseparable from a Buddha-figure.

J. Hopkins' translation: "offering; offer; revere; honor; please through offering; worship."

Tib: mchod-pa
Skt: puja
offerings of absorbed concentration

Offerings made of various aspects of one's Dharma practice, visualized in the form of the outer offerings. Also called: offerings of samadhi.

Tib: ting-nge-'dzin-gyi mchod-pa
offerings of samadhi

See: offerings of absorbed concentration

offspring, spiritual

See: spiritual offspring

Old Translation

An adjective referring to (1) the period of the first transmission of the Dharma from India to Tibet, (2) the Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism founded during this period, (3) a text translated during this period.

J. Hopkins' translation: "Nying-ma."

Tib: rNying-ma
Old Transmission

See: Old Translation


See: omniscient awareness

omniscient awareness

A Buddha's unceasing nonconceptual cognition simultaneously of all validly knowable phenomena and their voidnesses -- in other words, of the two truths about all knowable phenomena.

J. Hopkins' translation: "omniscient."

Tib: kun-mkhyen
open space

See: cognitive open space

open space division

The division of treasure texts, deriving from the oral teachings of the translator Vairochana, that emphasizes the cognitive open space aspect of pure awareness as the basis for all. Often referred to by the transliterated Tibetan "longdey."

Tib: klong-sde
oral transmission

A ceremony during which a spiritual teacher reads aloud or recites from memory, without any mistakes, a Buddhist text or mantra to disciples who listen attentively. The teacher needs to have heard, himself or herself, the words of the text or mantra recited faultlessly by his or her own teacher, who likewise heard it in this manner in an unbroken lineage tracing back to Buddha or to the author of the text. The ceremony insures the accurate transmission of the words, although neither the teacher reciting them nor the disciple hearing them need to understand their meaning.

J. Hopkins' translation: "scripture; oral transmission; passage; precept; injunction; spiritual instruction."

Tib: lung
ordinary being

A limited being who has not yet attained the state of an arya. In other words, someone who has not yet attained nonconceptual cognition of the four noble truths.

J. Hopkins' translation: "common being."

Tib: so-so'i skye-bo
ordinary commotion

The emotional ups and downs of overexcitement and depression in response to the eight transitory things in life: praise or criticism, good or bad news, gains or losses, things going well or poorly.

Tib: tha-mal 'du-'dzi
other-powered phenomena

See: dependent phenomenon


The natural, beginningless absence from the clear light level of mental activity of "other" levels of mental activity, which are all limited by fleeting stains.

J. Hopkins' translation: "emptiness-of-other; emptiness of the other."

Tib: gzhan-stong
outer mandala

A round, flat-bottomed bowl, held bottom side up, with three mounds of grain, placed one atop the other on its surface and contained within progressively smaller concentric metal rings, and crowned with an ornamental diadem. It is used as an offering to a spiritual master in request for a teaching, the conferring of a set of vows, and for the conferring of a tantric empowerment. It is also used as an offering of appreciation at the conclusion of these three occasions. It is also offered 100,000 times as a preliminary practice for building up positive force for success in the practice of tantra.

Tib: phyi'i dkyil-'khor
outer offerings

Offerings of specially consecrated external objects such as water, flowers, incense, and so on.

Tib: phyi'i mchod-pa

A way of regarding and understanding objects, for instance as "me" and "mine."

J. Hopkins' translation: "view."

Tib: lta-ba
outlook, extreme

See: extreme outlook

outlook of holding deluded morality or conduct as supreme

See: holding deluded morality or conduct as supreme

overlord condition

See: dominating condition

overlord result

See: dominating result

overriding result

See: dominating result

own face

The manner of existence and good qualities of pure awareness (rig-pa) as can be cognized by reflexive deep awareness.

Tib: rang-ngo

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