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|
A follower of the Madhyamaka school of Indian Buddhism.
|mahamudra||Tib: phyag-rgya chen-po|
See: essence mahamudra
See: mantra mahamudra
See: pathway mahamudra
See: sutra mahamudra
Literally, a "Vast Vehicle of Mind" - levels or states of mind that, with a vast motivation of bodhichitta, employ vast methods for reach the vast goal of enlightenment. Some translators render the term as "Greater Vehicle."
A spiritual mentor in whose presence disciples take bodhisattva vows. In a broader sense, a spiritual mentor whose teachings on compassion and bodhichitta lead disciples to develop aspiring and engaged bodhichittas, and then to take bodhisattva vows.
|mahayoga||Tib: ma-ha yo-ga|
The mental activity of appearance-making, which causes a cognitive appearance (mental hologram) to occur as an object of cognition in a moment of a mental continuum. Also translated as: "giving rise to."
In general, a round symbol used to represent a meaning. Most often used to represent a world system.
|Tib: dkyil- 'khor|
See: body mandala
See: cloth mandala
See: inner mandala
See: outer mandala
|mandala, powdered sand|
See: speech mandala
See: supported mandala
See: supporting mandala
See: three-dimensional mandala
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, both to the person and to the consciousness of the manifest cognition. Both the person and the manifest consciousness cognitively take it _ both cognize or "know" it. See also: subliminal cognition.
|Tib: shes-pa mngon-gyur-ba|
|man-made result||Tib: skyes-bu byed-pa'i 'bras-bu|
|man-made result that develops|
|man-made result that is an attainment||Tib: thob-pa'i skyes-bu byed-pa'i 'bras-bu|
|man-made result that is produced||Tib: bskyed-pa'i skyes-bu byed-pa'i 'bras-bu|
Sets of syllables and, often, additional Sanskrit words and phrases, all of which represent enlightening speech and which, when repeated, protect the mind from destructive states. While repeating the mantras of a Buddha-figure, one imagines having the abilities to communicate perfectly to everyone the complete means for eliminating suffering and reaching enlightenment. Mantras shape the breath, and consequently the subtle energy-winds, enabling one to bring the winds under control for use in meditation practice.
A tantric ritual for giving disciples confidence in the accuracy of a mantra, in which the vowels and consonants of the Sanskrit alphabet are written with colored powder in a grid on the surface of a metal mirror and the tantric master reads out, one by one, the grid location of the consonant and vowel for each syllable of the main mantra. After each specification of the consonant and vowel of a syllable, an assistant takes some colored powder from the mirror and uses it to write the syllable on the surface of another metal mirror.
|mantra mahamudra||Tib: sngags-kyi phyag-chen|
|Master Debate Partner|
The title held by a highly educated attendant of an incarnate lama (tulku) that attends all the lessons that the lama receives and afterwards debates with the lama to ensure that he or she has understood the lesson correctly. In the case of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, there are seven master debate partners, one from each of the colleges of Drepung, Sera, and Ganden Monasteries. Sometimes also translated as "Assistant Tutor."
See: obtaining cause
See: solid "me"
|meaning, explicit suggestive|
|meaning, implicit suggested|
|meaning/object category||Tib: don-spyi|
|meaning category||Tib: don-spyi|
See: meaning category
See: appropriate means
A teacher who instructs one in the mechanics of meditation, such as the correct posture.
See: total absorption
One of the twelve scriptural categories. (1) Verses that Buddha uttered during the course of and at the conclusion of his sutras. (2) According to some explanations, scriptures of interpretable meaning.
|Tib: dbyangs-kyis bsnyad-pa|
The aspect of a cognition that describes the degree to which attention remains on the focal object. Also translated as "mental placement," it is established by the subsidiary awareness (mental factor) of mental fixation.
A nonstatic mental hologram, asserted by all Indian Buddhist tenet systems other than Vaibhashika, that is a likeness of an object of cognition, and which both conceptual and nonconceptual mental activity produces in order to cognize the object; the "mental shape" of the appearing object of a cognition. (1) According to Gelug, except in the case of Chittamatra and Yogachara Svatantrika, they are fully transparent so that through them, one directly cognizes external objects. (2) According to non-Gelug, they are opaque and thus allow only indirect cognition of external objects.
The type of body that arhats in pure lands have. See: forms of physical phenomena having the functional nature of mind.
|mental consciousness||Tib: yid-kyi rnam-shes|
See: mental stability
See: mental fabrication
The stream of continuity of mental activity (mind, awareness) of an individual being, which has no beginning, which continues even into Buddhahood, and, according to Mahayana, has no end. According to the Hinayana tenets, it comes to an end when an arhat or Buddha dies at the end of the lifetime in which the person attains liberation or enlightenment. Also called a "mind-stream."
(A) In Gelug, except in the case of Chittamatra and Yogachara Svatantrika: (1) In sensory nonconceptual cognition, a fully transparent appearing object, which is a mental aspect, similar to a mental hologram of an external objective entity, through which that external entity is directly cognized also as an appearing object of the cognition. (2) In conceptual cognition, a static conceptual category that is mentally constructed from all individual objective entities that fit into it and thus is a semitransparent, static, metaphysical entity. It is the appearing object through which a fully transparent mental representation of a specific objective entity is cognized. (B) In non-Gelug, except in the case of Chittamatra: (1) In sensory nonconceptual cognition, the opaque, directly cognized appearing object, which is a mental aspect similar to a mental hologram of an external objective entity that the cognition indirectly cognizes as its focal object, but not as an additional appearing object. (2) In conceptual cognition, a conceptually isolated item, an opaque metaphysical entity that stands for the mentally synthesized commonsense object and category in the cognition and which is the appearing object of the cognition.
|mental dullness||Tib: bying-ba|
|mental exclusions of something else||Tib: blo'i gzhan-sel|
|mental fabrication||Tib: spros-pa|
See: subsidiary awareness
|mental faculties, nameable, with or without gross form|
See: nameable mental faculties with or without gross form
The mental factor (subsidiary awareness) of maintaining mental placement on any object of cognition taken by any type of cognition, including sensory cognition. Also called "mentally fixating" and "concentration," it accompanies all cognitions and varies in intensity from very weak to very strong. When perfected, it becomes "absorbed concentration."
See: flightiness of mind
See: mental hold
The aspect of a cognition that describes the level of strength of maintenance of attention on the focal object, without letting go of it. Also translated as "mental glue," it is established by the subsidiary awareness (mental factor) of mindfulness and has two aspects: mental abiding and appearance-making.
To impute (project, superimpose), with conceptual cognition, an audio category (such as the word or name "table") or a meaning/object category (such as a "table" as an individual object) onto a basis (such as four legs and a flat board on top of them). Also translated as "imputation."
|Tib: ming 'dogs-pa|
|mentally constructed synthesis|
See: mental synthesis
See: mental fixation
See: mental abiding
See: mental derivative
Something that appears in a conceptual cognition. (1) In Gelug, a static, fully transparent conceptually isolated item through which the cognition cognizes the external object that the hologram resembles; equivalent to a mental aspect. (2) In non-Gelug, a static, partially transparent mentally synthesized commonsense object and category through which the cognition cognizes a conceptually isolated item (a mental aspect) that stands for a commonsense object.
See: mental aspect
Single-pointed placement of the mind on any constructive focal object, without any mental wandering -- a stable state of mind that is not only free of flightiness and dullness, but is also not distracted by any disturbing emotion of the plane of sensory desires. In Mahayana, when conjoined with bodhichitta, a far-reaching attitude. Some translators render the term as "concentration."
The imputation of a conceptual category in which the bases for imputation are the individual sensibilia of a commonsense object, the parts of any of the sensibilia of a commonsense object, the moments in the continuum of a commonsense object, or items sharing a common defining characteristic. Synonymous with "conceptual category" and "category."
|mental synthesis, collection|
|mental synthesis, kind|
|mental synthesis, object|
The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) that causes the mental activity to face an object or to go in its direction. In general, it moves a mental continuum to cognitively take an object. It is equivalent to mental karma and, according to Sautrantika, Chittamatra, Svatantrika-Madhyamaka, and the non-Gelug Prasangika-Madhyamaka schools, it is equivalent to physical and verbal karmas as well.
|mental wandering||Tib: rnam-g.yeng|
See: spiritual mentor
Only this, without anything more.
|mere equanimity||Tib: btang-snyoms tsam|
|merely aspiring bodhichitta|
|merely aspiring state of aspiring bodhichitta|
The initial state of aspiring bodhichitta, with which one focuses on one's own future enlightenment and merely has the intention to attain it and to benefit all beings by means of it. Also called: the mere state of aspiring bodhichitta.
|Tib: smon-sems smon-pa-tsam|
|mere taking of safe direction|
Synonymous with "causal taking of safe direction."
|Tib: skyab-'gro tsam-pa-ba|
In the Sautrantika and Chittamatra tenet systems, those phenomena, the existence of which is established by their being merely imputed by conceptual cognition and which are superficial (relative, conventional) true phenomena. According to Sautrantika, they include all static phenomena; according to Chittamatra, they include all static phenomena other than voidnesses, true stoppings, and nirvanas. (1) In the Gelug system, they are the appearing objects of only conceptual cognitions, although they are not the actual cognitive appearances in those cognitions. They may be validly cognized not only by valid conceptual cognition, but also implicitly by valid nonconceptual cognition. (2) In the non-Gelug systems, they can only be validly cognized by valid conceptual cognition. Also translated as "generally characterized phenomena."
|metered verses||Tib: tshigs-su bcad-pa|
|method of actualization|
|mind, exceptionally perceptive state of|
See: noncontriving mind
See: primordial mind
|mind, serenely stilled and settled|
|mind, stilled and settled state of|
See: subtle mind
The division of treasure texts, deriving from the Indian texts translated into Tibetan by Vairochana, that emphasizes pure awareness as the basis for all. Often referred to by the transliterated Tibetan "semdey."
(1) The subsidiary awareness (mental factor), similar to a mental glue, that keeps a mental hold on a cognitive object, so that it is not lost. (2) The recollection of something, with which the mind keeps a mental hold on a mental hologram that resembles and represents something previously cognized. The term is often rendered as "memory" or "remembering," but has nothing to do with the recording or storage of mental information.
See: mental continuum
(1) In mahamudra and dzogchen texts, a descriptive synonym for the mental aspects (mental appearances, mental holograms) that are produced by the clarity aspect of the mind and which are directly cognized by conceptual or nonconceptual cognition. (2) A synonym for extraphysical emanations.
|mirror-like deep awareness|
One of the five types of deep awareness that all beings have as an aspect of Buddha-nature. The deep awareness that takes in all the information about an object of cognition. Also called: deep awareness that is like a mirror.
|Tib: me-long lta-bu'i ye-shes|
One of the four aspects of true sufferings. The five aggregate factors from the point of view of their being under the control of the true origins (true causes) of suffering and thus are subject to one or more of the three types of suffering without any break.
Skt: du:kha (duhkha)
|mixed with confusion|
|model clear light mind|
A subtle level of consciousness that has a blissful conceptual cognition of voidness, which is attained when the subtle energy-winds are partly dissolved in the central energy-channel. Also translated as "approximating clear light mind."
|Tib: dpe'i 'od-gsal|
|Modest Vehicle of Mind|
(on walls or ceilings)
The smallest unit of time.
As defined by Asanga, the sense to refrain from negative behavior because of caring how one's actions reflect on oneself.
|Tib: ngo-tsha shes-pa|
|moral self-dignity, no|
See: no moral self-dignity
|moral self-dignity, no sense of|
See: no moral self-dignity
The recognition of all beings as having at some time been one's mother. The first of the seven-part cause and effect quintessence teaching for developing bodhichitta.
Synonymous with intention. See: intention.
|motivating aim, causal|
|motivating aim, contemporaneous|
|motivating mental framework|
A state of mind that accompanies a karmic urge or impulse and which is a cluster of three mental factors (subsidiary awarenesses): distinguishing an object on which to focus the action, the motivating aim of what one intends to do with or to that object, and a motivating emotion or attitude.
When used in Western languages, a state of mind that entails two mental factors (subsidiary awarenesses): a motivating aim and a motivating emotion. A motivating aim is the mental factor of an intention – the intention to reach a certain goal for a certain purpose. A motivating emotion is the mental factor of the positive or negative emotion, such as love and compassion, or jealousy and greed, which accompanies the intention and moves one to attain that goal.
|mutually exclusive||Tib: 'gal-ba|