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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

See: lack of an impossible "soul"

identitylessness of all phenomena

See: lack of an impossible "soul" of all phenomena

identitylessness of a person

See: lack of an impossible soul of a person


See: unawareness

illustrative accounts

Teachings of Buddha given with examples for ease of comprehension by the listener. One of the twelve scriptural categories.

Tib: rtogs-par brjod-pa
Skt: avadana
immeasurably magnificent palace

A palace visualized in tantra practice as part of the supporting mandala. Each architectural feature of the palace represents one or another realization gained along the tantra path, and inside the palace reside one or more Buddha-figures.

J. Hopkins' translation: "[measure-lacking-house]; inestimable mansion; fabulous mansion."

Tib: gzhal-yas khang
immediate causes

The causes that are very close in time to bringing about a result.

Tib: nye-ba'i rgyu
immediately preceding condition

The immediately preceding moment of awareness, which produces the appearance-making and cognizing (clarity and awareness) of the next moment of awareness as its result.

Tib: de-ma-thag rkyen
Skt: samanantarapratyaya
immovables, three

See: three immovables

Immutable Vajra Body

See: Immutable Vajra Corpus

Immutable Vajra Corpus

In some Kagyu mahamudra systems, synonymous with "Vajra Corpus" in the meaning of the unchanging nature of the other four Corpuses of a Buddha.

Tib: mi-'gyur rdo-rje'i sku

See: nonstaticness


See: nonstatic phenomenon

impermanent phenomenon

See: nonstatic phenomenon


The constructive mental factor of not wishing to cause harm in response to limited beings (sentient beings), one's own suffering, or situations entailing suffering that may arise from either of the two or which may simply be the situations in which the suffering occurs. Sometimes translated as "non-anger."

J. Hopkins' translation: "non-hatred."

Tib: zhe-sdang med-pa
Skt: advesha
implicative negation phenomenon

An exclusion of something else in which, after the sounds of the words that exclude the object to be negated have negated that object, they leave behind in their wake, explicitly or implicitly, something else. Some translators render the term as "affirming negation."

J. Hopkins' translation: "affirming negative phenomenon."

Tib: ma-yin dgag
implicit apprehension

In the Gelug system, apprehension of a cognitive object in which a cognitive appearance (mental hologram) of the involved object itself does not arise; only a cognitive appearance of the basis for imputation of the involved object arises. Compare: explicit apprehension.

Tib: shugs-la rtogs-pa
implicit suggested meaning

One of the six alternative meanings. When an expression in a root tantra text has two dissimilar meanings, the meaning that is dissimilar to the literal, evident, or face value meaning of the expression. It is the meaning suggested by the literal (explicit suggestive) meaning and to which one is led by that literal meaning.

J. Hopkins' translation: "definitive meaning."

Tib: nges-don
Skt: nitartha
implied object

See: conceptualized object

imply, conceptually

See: conceptually cling

impossible "soul," lack of

See: lack of an impossible "soul"

impossible "soul"

(1) With respect to the five aggregate factors of an individual being, something findable inside the aggregates that is static, a partless monad, separable from the body and mind, and self-sufficiently knowable. (2) With respect to all validly knowable phenomena, an impossible mode of existence that establishes the existence of a phenomenon by the power of something findable inside that phenomenon.

J. Hopkins' translation: "self."

Tib: bdag
Skt: atman
impossible "soul" of all phenomenon

An impossible mode of existence that establishes the existence of a phenomenon by the power of something findable inside that phenomenon.

J. Hopkins' translation: "self of phenomena."

Tib: chos-kyi bdag
Skt: dharma-atman
impossible "soul" of all phenomenon, lack of

See: lack of an impossible "soul" of all phenomena

impossible "soul" of a person

Something totally nonexistent, findable inside the five aggregate factors of an individual being that is static, a partless monad, separable from the body and mind, and self-sufficiently knowable.

Tib: gang-zag-kyi bdag
Skt: pudgala-atman
impossible "soul" of a person, lack of

See: lack of an impossible soul of a person

impossible mode of existence

An invalid manner of establishing the existence something.

impulse, karmic

See: karma

impulse, mental

See: karma

impulses, affecting

See: link of affecting impulses

impure appearance

An appearance of something as a nonenlightened mind makes it appear, namely in only a mundane form and with true existence.

Tib: ma-dag-pa'i snang-ba
imputably knowable phenomenon

A validly knowable phenomenon that, when actually cognized, does rely on actual cognition of or by something else, specifically the object's basis for labeling.

J. Hopkins' translation: "imputed existence; imputed existent; imputedly existent."

Tib: btags-yod

See: mental labeling


See: mental labeling

imputedly existent phenomenon

Equivalent to "imputably knowable phenomenon."

inattentive cognition

See: nondetermining cognition

inbetween existence

See: bardo

inbetween state

See: bardo

incorrect consideration

See: paying attention in a discordant manner


Also translated as "stimulating others' good qualities"

indecisive cognition

See: indecisive wavering


See: indecisive wavering

indecisive wavering

The mental factor (subsidiary awareness) that entertains two opinions about what is true – in other words, wavering between accepting or rejecting what is true. One of the six root disturbing emotions and attitudes. Sometimes translated as "doubt."

Tib: the-tshoms
indirect cognition

According to the non-Gelug presentation, the type of cognition that a present moment of sensory consciousness has of the immediately preceding moment of an external sense object, which no longer exists. Compare: direct cognition.

Tib: shugs-la shes-pa
individual being

See: person

individual defining characteristic mark

Something findable on the side of an object that establishes the identity or features of that object and which serves as the basis for that object being labeled by the names, words, and concepts for it, as well as for its qualities.

J. Hopkins' translation: "own-character, specific character, specifically characterized phenomenon."

Tib: rang-gi mtshan-nyid
Skt: svalakshana
individualizing deep awareness

One of the five types of deep awareness that all beings have as an aspect of Buddha-nature. The deep awareness that singles out an object and is aware of it as a unique, individual item. Also called: deep awareness of the individuality of things.

Tib: sor-rtog ye-shes
individually characterized object exclusions of something else

In reference to an existent phenomenon "this," negation phenomena such as "nothing other than this" and "not that." (1) According to Gelug, they are nonstatic phenomena implicitly apprehended when a valid conceptual or nonconceptual cognition explicitly apprehends its involved object as "this." (2) According to non-Gelug, a static fact about "this" that is validly knowable only conceptually, separately from valid cognition of "this."

J. Hopkins' translation: "other-eliminator that is a factual specifically characterized phenomenon."

Tib: don rang-mtshan-gyi gzhan-sel
inferential cognition

A valid conceptual way of cognizing an obscure object through reliance on a correct line of reasoning as its basis.

J. Hopkins' translation: "inference, inferential cognition."

Tib: rjes-dpag
Skt: anumana
influence, enlightening

See: enlightening influence

influencing nature

One of the threefold natures of pure awareness (rigpa), referring to the enlightening influence it has on others.

J. Hopkins' translation: "deed; activity; work; affair."

Tib: 'phrin-las
in focus

The appearance of something as being sharp and clear, not blurry.

J. Hopkins' translation: "instance; manifestation; predicate [misspelling of bsal ba?]{BJ}; clarifier; clear{D1}; clearly."

Tib: gsal-ba

The English word "inherent" means something inside an object that is there by means of the nature of that object, It is used in Buddhism to mean something inside an object, by nature of that object, which, by its own power, establishes that the object exists in general and exists specifically as "this" or "that."

inherent existence

See: existence established by self-nature

J. Hopkins' translation: "true establishment."

Tib: bden-grub

See: empowerment


See: simultaneously arising

inner mandala

A world-system represented by parts of the human body and used as an object of offering.

Tib: nang-gi dkyil-'khor
inner offering

An offering made of the flesh of various animals and various bodily fluids and wastes, representing either the five tainted aggregates and five bodily elements or the ten energy-winds, and which are specially "elevated" and transformed into pure nectar.

Tib: nang-mchod

Two facts about the same attribute of an object are inseparable if, when one is the case, so is the other. The two facts may inseparably both be the case either naturally or made to be so through the power of meditation.

J. Hopkins' translation: "undifferentiated; undivided."

Tib: dbyer-med

A nontechnical term for an understanding of a deeper level of meaning of something that one did not understand so deeply before or not at all before.


(1) A transformation that someone or something confers, literally by means of a "brightening," into a state of heightened power and ability resembling the position or status of the person or thing that confers it. (2) In the meaning of "elevation," transformation of one's body, speech, and mind, or offering substances, into pure aspects, done during a tantric ritual. Some translators render the term as "blessing."

Tib: byin-gyis rlabs
Skt: adhishthana

See: karmic constant habit

instructions, guideline

See: guideline instructions

instructions, personal

See: personal instructions

instructor, Dharma

See: Dharma instructor


The mental activity that gives rise to conceptual cognition -- most commonly, to verbal conceptual thought.

J. Hopkins' translation: "awareness."

Tib: blo
intellectually derived

Descriptive of meditation with verbal thoughts based on conceptual schemes.

Tib: blos-byas

The ability to discriminate between what is correct and what is incorrect, and between what is helpful and what is harmful.

J. Hopkins' translation: "intelligence; intelligent."

Tib: blo-gros

The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) to obtain any object, to achieve any goal, or to do something with the object or goal once obtained or achieved, but based on prior deliberation and thus a stronger mental factor than intention .


The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) to obtain any object, to achieve any goal, or to do something with the object or goal once obtained or achieved.

J. Hopkins' translation: "aspiration."

Tib: 'dun-pa

The projection or superimposition, onto an object, of a quality or a conventional or ultimate identity that it doesn't have. For instance, to superimpose true existence onto the conventionally existent "me." Literally, the term means "sticking feathers on to something." Some translators render it as "exaggeration," but it is not the exaggeration of something present. Rather, it is the adding of something that is not there, as if it were present.

J. Hopkins' translation: "superimposition; exaggeration; reification; overestimation; that which superimposes/exaggerates/ reifies/overestimates."

Tib: sgro-'dogs
interpretable teaching

A passage in a sutra text that discusses any topic other than the most profound view of voidness, and which leads one on or points the way to the most profound view of voidness. Such passages require explanation, so that one does not confuse them as indicating the most profound view.

J. Hopkins' translation: "interpretable meaning{BJ 27.6}; interpretable object{N}; requiring interpretation; interpretable; meaning requiring interpretation."

Tib: drang-don
Skt: neyartha
invalid cognition

(1) According to Gelug Sautrantika, Gelug Chittamatra, and Gelug Svatantrika-Madhyamaka, a cognition that is not fresh, or one that is fallacious, or one that is both not fresh and fallacious. (2) According to Gelug Prasangika and all tenet systems according to non-Gelug, a fallacious cognition.

Tib: tshad-min
invalid phenomenon

A phenomenon that cannot be validly known now. It may be either an existent phenomenon (such as a no-longer happening or a not-yet-happening one) or a nonexistent phenomenon.

J. Hopkins' translation: "not not occur{BJ 20.7}; impossible."

Tib: mi-srid-pa

See: gross detection

involved bodhichitta

See: engaged bodhichitta

involved object

The main object with which a particular cognition involves itself or engages. Equivalent to the object existing as cognitively taklen.

J. Hopkins' translation: "ob­ject of engage­ment."

Tib: 'jug-yul

See: conceptually isolated item

items conceptually isolated by categories

In Gelug, a synonym for a conceptually isolated item, namely one that distinguishes a specific phenomenon in terms of its conceptual identity.

J. Hopkins' translation: "general-isolate."

Tib: spyi-ldog
items conceptually isolated by themselves

In Gelug, a synonym for a conceptually isolated item, namely one that distinguishes a specific phenomenon in and of itself.

J. Hopkins' translation: "self-isolate."

Tib: rang-ldog

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