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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
fabrication, parted from mental

See: state parted from mental fabrication

fabulous accounts

Descriptions of such marvelous, wondrous things as the wisdom, extra-physical powers and saintly deeds of the Buddhas, pratyekabuddhas (self-realizers), and shravakas (listeners). One of the twelve scriptural categories.


J. Hopkins' translation: "marvelous."

Tib: rmad-du byung-ba
Skt: adbhutadharma
faith

See: believing a fact to be true

false view

See: deluded outlook

far-reaching attitude

A mental factor that brings one to the far shore of samsara, either to liberation or to enlightenment. There are either six or ten far-reaching attitudes. Also called "perfection." Theravada and Mahayana give slightly different lists of these. According to Mahayana, the six are the far-reaching attitudes of (1) generosity, (2) ethical self-discipline, (3) patience, (4) joyful perseverance, (5) mental stability, and (6) discriminating awareness (wisdom). The Mahayana list of ten adds the far-reaching attitudes of (7) skill in means, (8) aspirational prayer, (9) strengthening, and (10) deep awareness.


J. Hopkins' translation: "perfection."

Tib: pha-rol-tu phyin-pa
Skt: paramita
far-reaching discriminating awareness

The discriminating awareness of voidness that is conjoined with a bodhichitta aim. Most translators render it as "perfection of wisdom." Compare: discriminating awareness.


J. Hopkins' translation: "Perfection of Wisdom."

Tib: shes-rab-kyi pha-rol-tu phyin-pa
Skt: prajnaparamita
faulty actions

A set of forty-six actions that one vows to avoid and which, if committed, would be detrimental to one's practice of either one of the six far-reaching attitudes or to one's benefiting others. Also called: secondary bodhisattva vows.


J. Hopkins' translation: "misdeed."

Tib: nyes-byas
feature, distinguishing

See: feature, distinguishing

feeling

See: feeling a level of happiness

feeling aggregate

See: aggregate of feelings of levels of happiness

feeling a level of happiness

One of the five ever-functioning subsidiary awarenesses (mental factors). The subsidiary awareness that accompanies each moment of sensory or mental cognition of a limited being before attaining liberation and with which that being experiences the ripenings of its own karma in the form of something within the spectrum of extreme unhappiness, through neutral, to extreme happiness. Also called "feeling."


J. Hopkins' translation: "feeling."

Tib: tshor-ba
Skt: vedana
feeling a level of happiness, link of

See: link of feeling a level of happiness

filigree

A piece of jewelry made of fine, intricately intertwined wires. A word used in the titles of many Buddhist texts to indicate that the subject matter is presented in a manner resembling a filigree, in which the various topics are intricately intertwined, resulting in a beautiful, elegant presentation of the material. Usually translated by others as "ornament."


J. Hopkins' translation: "ornament."

Tib: rgyan
Skt: alamkara
fire-puja

A tantric ritual, performed mostly upon completion of a mantra-recitation retreat of a Buddha-figure for which one has received an empowerment, during which one tosses into a fire a large number of specific substances, accompanied by elaborate visualizations. It is mostly performed in order to purify any mistakes one has made during the retreat.


J. Hopkins' translation: "burnt offering."

Tib: sbyin-sreg
firm conviction

(1) According to Asanga, the mental factor (subsidiary awareness) that focuses on a fact that one has validly ascertained to be like this and not like that, and which makes one's belief that a fact is true so firm that others' arguments or opinions will not dissuade one. (2) According to Vasubandhu, the term means "regard": the mental factor that takes its object to have some level of good qualities – on the spectrum from no good qualities to all good qualities – and may be either accurate or distorted.


J. Hopkins' translation: "belief."

Tib: mos-pa
fitness, sense of

See: sense of fitness

five aggregate factors

The five networks that constitute all the nonstatic phenomena that could make up each moment of the mental continuum of each limited being: the aggregates of (1) forms of physical phenomena, (2) feelings of levels of happiness, (3) distinguishing, (4) other affecting variables, and (5) primary consciousnesses.


J. Hopkins' translation: "five aggregates."

Tib: phung-po lnga
Skt: pancaskandha
five aggregates

See: five aggregate factors

five bodhisattva pathway minds

Also called: five paths

Tib: lam-lnga
Five Buddha-Bodies

See: Five Corpuses of a Buddha

five Buddha-wisdoms

See: five types of deep awareness

five congruent features

Five things shared in common by the primary consciousness and subsidiary awarenesses within a cognition. (1) According to Vasubandhu, they share the same reliance, object, mental aspect, time, and natal sources having the same slant. (2) According to Asanga, natal source, focal aspect, essential nature, time, and plane.

Tib: mtshungs-ldan lnga
Five Corpuses of a Buddha

(I) In some presentations, (1) A Corpus of Emanations (Nirmanakaya), (2) Corpus of Full Use (Sambhogakaya), (3) Corpus of Deep Awareness Encompassing Everything (Jnanadharmakaya), (4) Corpus of Essential Nature of a Buddha (Svabhavakaya), and Vajra Corpus (Vajrakaya) of a Buddha. (II) In other presentations, (1) A Corpus of Emanations (Nirmanakaya), (2) Corpus of Full Use (Sambhogakaya), (3) Corpus of Deep Awareness Encompassing Everything (Jnanadharmakaya), (4) Corpus of Essential Nature (Svabhavakaya), and Corpus of Great Bliss (Mahasukhakaya) of a Buddha. (III) In other presentations, (1) A Corpus of Emanations (Nirmanakaya), (2) Corpus of Full Use (Sambhogakaya), (3) Corpus of Deep Awareness Encompassing Everything (Jnanadharmakaya), (4) Corpus of Essential Nature (Svabhavakaya), and (5) Corpus of Deep Awareness' Enlightening Influence of a Buddha. (IV) In yet other systems, (1) A Corpus of Emanations (Nirmanakaya), (2) Corpus of Full Use (Sambhogakaya), (3) Corpus of Deep Awareness Encompassing Everything (Jnanadharmakaya), (4) Vajra Corpus (Vajrakaya), and (5) Corpus of Manifest Enlightenment (Abhisambhodhikaya) of a Buddha.

Tib: sku-lnga
five major fields of knowledge

The major topics of study in the ancient Indian Buddhist monasteries: (1) art and craftsmanship, (2) medicine, (3) languages and grammar, (4) logic, and (5) inner or exceptional self-knowledge

Tib: rig-gnas lnga
five obscurations

A set of five mental factors that prevent the attainment of the three higher trainings, in ethical self-discipline, absorbed concentration, and discriminating awareness. According to Nagarjuna's Letter to a Friend, (1) flightiness of mind and regret, (2) foggy-mindedness, (3) indecisive wavering, (4) intentions toward sensory objects, and (5) malice. According to the Kalachakra Tantra, (1) regret, (2) foggy-mindedness, (3) sleepiness, (4) flightiness of mind, and (5) indecisive wavering. Also called: five obstacles.

Tib: sgrib-pa lnga
five obstacles

See: five obscurations

five types of deep awareness

Five types of principal awareness that all beings have as an aspect of Buddha-nature. The five are (1) mirror-like, (2) equalizing, (3) individualizing, and (4) accomplishing deep awareness, and (5) deep awareness of reality. Some translators render this term as "five Buddha-wisdoms." Compare: "deep awareness" (1).

Tib: ye-shes lnga
fixating meditation

See: stabilizing meditation

flat

One's Dharma practice is flat when it is going nowhere, when it is not taking one anywhere. There is nothing lively in it anymore. "Flat" is usually used for sparkling water (soda water) or beer, when there are no more bubbles.

fleeting stain

An emotional or cognitive obscuration that temporarily obscures the realization of Buddha-nature.


J. Hopkins' translation: "adventitious defilement/stain."

Tib: glo-bur-gyi dri-ma
flesh eye, extrasensory

See: extrasensory flesh eye

flightiness, mental

See: flightiness of mind

flightiness of mind

The mental factor with which the mind wanders to an object of attraction, due to desire for it or attachment, and which faults the mental abiding of mindfulness's mental hold on an object of focus. Sometimes translated as "mental agitation."


J. Hopkins' translation: "excitement."

Tib: rgod-pa
focal condition

An external phenomenon that presents an aspect of itself to be an object of cognition, and thus serves as a condition giving rise to a sensory cognition of it.


J. Hopkins' translation: "observed-object condition."

Tib: dmigs-rkyen
Skt: alambanapratyaya
focal object

An external object on which a cognition focuses and which serves as the focal condition of the cognition. Focal objects exist prior to the cognitions of them and have their own continuums different from those of the cognitions of them.


J. Hopkins' translation: "observed object; object of observation."

Tib: dmigs-yul
focal support

A findable, truly existent referent "thing," propping up the object of a cognition. Compare: referent thing.

Tib: dmigs-gtad
focus, sharp

See: sharp focus

foe-destroyer

See: arhat

foggy-mindedness

The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) of a heavy feeling of body and mind that makes the mind unclear, unserviceable, and incapable either of giving rise to a cognitive appearance of its object or of apprehending the object correctly.


J. Hopkins' translation: "lethargy."

Tib: rmugs-pa
force, karmic

See: karmic force

force, positive

See: positive karmic force

forceful

Using extremely strong actions or methods, such as yelling at someone or hitting someone, in order to make the person stop doing something harmful. Forceful methods are used only when all other methods to make the person stop have failed or are impossible in the situation. Some translators render the term as "wrathful," but this has an inappropriate connotation, since "wrathful," in English, is used for the Old Testament God, who, when people disobey Him, gets angry and punishes them.


J. Hopkins' translation: "hard; heavy [=sra ba]; fierce; strong."

Tib: drag-po
forceful deity

An emanation of a Buddha in a form of great strength, usually surrounded by flames representing deep awareness, and terrifying, so as to chase away disturbing emotions, interferences, and other harm. Often translated by others as "wrathful deity," although there is no connotation here of "wrath" as in "the wrath of God." Although the Sanskrit and Tibetan terms, here, mean literally "angry," this does not refer to anger as a disturbing emotion, but rather to the strong force of anger to get rid of something detrimental to spiritual well-being and progress.


J. Hopkins' translation: "wrathful."

Tib: khro-bo
Skt: kroddha
form aggregate

See: aggregate of forms of physical phenomena

formal meditation

See: stabilizing meditation

formless realm

See: plane of formless beings

form realm

See: plane of ethereal forms

forms of physical phenomena

Nonstatic phenomena that can either (1) transform into another form of physical phenomenon when two or more of them come into contact with each other, such as water and earth which can transform into mud, or (2) be known as what they are by analyzing their directional parts, such as the sight of a vase seen in a dream. Forms of physical phenomena include the nonstatic phenomena of forms and eye sensors, sounds and ear sensors, smells and nose sensors, tastes and tongue sensors, phyiscal sensations and body sensors, and forms of physical phenomena included only among cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena. Equivalent to the aggregate of forms of physical phenomena.


J. Hopkins' translation: "form."

Tib: gzugs
Skt: rupa
forms of physical phenomena, totally imaginary

See: totally imaginary forms of physical phenomena

forms of physical phenomena arising from gaining control over the elements

Forms of physical phenomena included only among the cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena and which are actually emanated by the power of absorbed concentration.

Tib: dbang-'byor-pa'i gzugs
forms of physical phenomena existing in actual situations

Forms of physical phenomena included only among the cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena and which are spaces that are in between objects and either too large or too small to be seen, such as the space in between astronomical bodies or in between atoms.

Tib: mngon-par skabs yod-pa'i gzugs
forms of physical phenomena having the functional nature of mind

The type of subtle phenomena that the body of an arhat in a pure land is: although still included among cognitive stimulators that are forms of physical phenomena, they are visible only to the eye consciousness of arhats in pure lands. Although they are not ways of being aware of anything, their functional nature is similar to that of forms of physical phenomena that can be known only by mental consciousness. Synonymous with "mental bodies."

Tib: yid-kyi rang-bzhin gyi gzugs
forms of physical phenomena included (only) among the cognitive stimulators that are (all) phenomena

Forms of physical phenomena that are not knowable by sensory consciousness, but are only knowable by mental consciousness. These include (1) those that make up other things by amassing together, (2) those existing in actual situations, (3) those arising from clearly taking them on, (4) totally imaginary forms, and (5) those arising from gaining control over the elements.


J. Hopkins' translation: "form for the mental consciousness."

Tib: chos-kyi skye-mched-pa'i gzugs
forms of physical phenomena that can become objects of experience of the eyes

Equivalent to sights. See: sights.

Tib: mig-gi spyod-yul-du 'gyur-ba'i gzugs
forms of physical phenomena that make up other things by amassing together

Forms of physical phenomena included only among the cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena and which are the invisible objects, such as atoms and subatomic particles, that make up visible objects.

Tib: bsdud-pa-las gyur-pa'i gzugs
forms of physical phenomenon arising from clearly taking them on

Forms of physical phenomena included only among the cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena and which are acquired on a mental continuum, such as the nonrevealing forms of vows and of karmic actions.

Tib: yang-dag-par blangs-pa-las byung-ba'i gzugs
foundation consciousness

See: all-encompassing foundation consciousness

four axioms

The four axioms for examining a Dharma teaching in order to accept its validity: (1) dependency, (2) functionality, (3) establishment by reason, and (4) the nature of things.

Tib: rigs-pa bzhi
four binding factors

Factors which, when they accompany someone's acting in breach of a vow, bind that person to the full karmic result, in the sense of guaranteeing that the full karmic result will follow.

Tib: kun-dkris bzhi
Four Buddha-Bodies

See: Four Corpuses of a Buddha

four close mindfulnesses

See: four close placements of mindfulness

four close placements of mindfulness

Meditation practices that focus on (a) the body, (b) feelings of levels of happiness, (c) mind, and (d) phenomena, with the subsidiary awarenesses (mental factors) of mindfulness ("mental glue") and attention to them with a certain understanding. (1) In Theravada, one is attentive to (a) the breath as affecting the body, (b) feelings of levels of happiness and unhappiness as affecting the mind, (c) disturbing emotions as affecting the thoughts, and (d) the nature of the previous three as being nonstatic and lacking an impossible "soul." (2) In Mahayana, one is attentive to (a) the body as unclean and true suffering, (b) feelings of levels of happiness as in the nature of suffering, and clinging to them as a true cause of suffering, (c) the six kinds of primary consciousness as naturally free of all stains, so as to understand true stoppings, and (d) all mental factors in terms of which to get rid of and which to cultivate, so as to understand true pathway minds.

Tib: dran-pa nyer-bzhag bzhi
Skt: smrtyupasthana
Four Corpuses of a Buddha

(1) A Corpus of Emanations (Nirmanakaya), (2) Corpus of Full Use (Sambhogakaya), (3) Corpus of Deep Awareness Encompassing Everything (Jnanadharmakaya), and (4) Corpus of Essential Nature of a Buddha.

Tib: sku-bzhi
four hallmarks of the Dharma

Four points which, if contained in a system of teachings, indicate that the system is a Buddhist one: (1) all affected (conditioned) phenomena are nonstatic (impermanent), (2) all tainted phenomena are problematic (suffering), (3) all phenomena are devoid and lacking an impossible "soul," while (4) a nirvana release is a pacification and something constructive. Also called "four sealing points for labeling an outlook as being based on enlightening words."

Tib: chos-kyi sdom-pa bzhi
four joys

See: four gradations of joyful awareness

four placements of confidence

Don’t place your confidence on the person, place it on his or her teachings; don’t place your confidence on his or her words, place it on their meanings; don’t place your confidence on their interpretable meanings, place it on their definitive meanings; (to understand them) don’t place your confidence on your dividing consciousness, place it on your deep awareness.


J. Hopkins' translation: "four reliances{N}."

Tib: rton-pa bzhi
four placements of mindfulness

See: four close placements of mindfulness

four sealing points for labeling an outlook as being based on enlightening words

See: four hallmarks of the Dharma

Tib: lta-ba bka'-btags-gyi phyag-rgya-bzhi
four sets of applied realizations

Also translated as: four yogas

Tib: sbyor-ba bzhi
fourth empowerment

Also called: word empowerment (tshig-dbang)

Tib: dbang bzhi-pa
fresh and clean

Arising anew in each moment without being stained by any mental constructs -- descriptive of pure awareness (rig-pa) in the dzogchen systems.

Tib: so-ma
front-generation

The part of a self-initiation in which one generates in front of oneself the supported and supporting mandalas from which one will receive the full empowerment.


J. Hopkins' translation: "generation in front."

Tib: mdun-bskyed
functional nature

The nature of a phenomenon defined in terms of the function that the phenomenon performs.


J. Hopkins' translation: "nature/inherent existence/inherent nature."

Tib: rang-bzhin
functional phenomenon

(1) A validly knowable, existent object that performs a function -- in other words, it produces a result -- namely, a nonstatic phenomenon. (2) In the Vaibhashika system, all validly knowable, existent phenomenon, all of which at least perform the function of acting as an object for the valid cognition of them.


J. Hopkins' translation: "thing/functioning thing/effective thing."

Tib: dngos-po
further existence

See: karmic impulse that actualizes a further existence


J. Hopkins' translation: "existence."

Tib: srid-pa
Skt: bhava
further existence, link of

See: link of further existence

further existence impulse

See: karmic impulse that actualizes a further existence

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