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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
effulgent rigpa

Pure awareness (rigpa) from the point of view of its aspect of spontaneously establishing appearances. Synonymous with the term "appearance-making basis rigpa."

Tib: rtsal-gyi rig-pa
eight sets of realizations

also translated as: eight phenomena.

Tib: dngos-po brgyad
eight transitory things in life

Praise or criticism, good or bad news, gains or losses, things going well or poorly -- or, more specifically, the emotional ups and downs of overexcitement and depression in response to these eight. Also called the "eight worldly dharmas."

Tib: 'jig-rten-pa'i chos-brgyad
eight worldly concerns

See: eight transitory things in life

eight worldly dharmas

See: eight transitory things in life


See: inspiration

eliminations of something else

See: exclusions of something else

emanation, miraculous

See: miraculous emanations

embodied being

A being with a limited body. Any being other than a Buddha. Synonymous with "limited being," "sentient being."

J. Hopkins' translation: "the embodied."

Tib: lus-can
Skt: dehin
emergence, definite

See: definite emergence

emotion, disturbing

See: disturbing emotion or attitude

emotional affliction

See: disturbing emotion or attitude

emotional obscurations

Fleeting stains that temporarily "cover" or accompany mental activity (more precisely, clear light mental activity), thereby preventing the mental activity from cognizing phenomena without accompanying disturbing emotions or attitudes. They include the disturbing emotions and attitudes, as well as their tendencies (seeds), and prevent the attainment of liberation from samsara, Also translated as "obscurations that are the disturbing emotions and attitudes"and "obscurations preventing liberation."

J. Hopkins' translation: "afflictive obstruction."

Tib: nyon-sgrib
Skt: kleshavarana

A tantric ritual that activates and empowers Buddha-nature factors to grow so that, through repeated, sustained tantric practice, they will eventually transform into the Three Corpuses (Bodies) of a Buddha. An empowerment also plants new seeds, or potentials, that will likewise grow in the same manner. The term is often translated as "initiation."

J. Hopkins' translation: "empowerment; initiation; consecration; power; force; control."

Tib: dbang
Skt: abhishekha
empowerment, discriminating deep awareness

See: discriminating deep awareness empowerment

empowerment, fourth

See: fourth empowerment

empowerment, secret

See: secret empowerment

empowerment, vajra deep awareness

See: vajra deep awareness empowerment

empowerment, vase

See: vase empowerment

empowerment, word

See: word empowerment


See: voidness

energy, karmic

See: karmic energy

energy-channel, central

See: central energy-channel

energy-channel, left

See: left energy-channel

energy-channel, right

See: right energy-channel


Also called: energy-wind breaths

J. Hopkins' translation: "wind."

Tib: rlung
Skt: prana
energy-wind, subtle

See: subtle energy-winds

energy-wind breaths

See: energy-wind

engaged bodhichitta

A mind of bodhichitta which, when focused on one's own individual not-yet-happening enlightenment, imputable on the basis of the Buddha-nature factors of one's mental continuum, is committed to attaining that enlightenment by having taken bodhisattva vows and which then enters into the type of behavior that will bring one to enlightenment.

J. Hopkins' translation: "[enter-mind]; practical mind of enlightenment; attitudes or aspirations conjoined with actual practice."

Tib: 'jug-sems
engagement, cognitive

See: cognitive engagement


Also translated as: secret, hidden

J. Hopkins' translation: "secret."

Tib: gsang-ba
Skt: guhya
enlightening deeds

According to Mahayana, a set of twelve actions or deeds in the life of a Buddha, with which a Buddha demonstrates to all limited beings the way to achieve enlightenment.

J. Hopkins' translation: "verb: do; use{BJ 34.1}; honorific for byed pa; honorific form of address noun: action; act; deed."

Tib: mdzad-pa
enlightening influence

The unceasing, unending, effortless activity of a Buddha, which helps bring all limited beings to higher rebirth, liberation, and enlightenment. Such activity does not require a Buddha actually doing anything: a Buddha's attainment itself exerts a positive influence on others to pacify disturbance, stimulate the growth of good qualities, bring disorder under control, and forcefully end any harm. Also translated as: "Buddha-activity."

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

Tib: 'phrin-las
Skt: samudacara

A truly existent "thing," either objective or metaphysical, that exists as a findable "thing" on its own, established as that "thing" by its own power from its own side.

entity, metaphysical

See: metaphysical entities

entity, objective

See: objective entities


See: jealousy

epic presentations

Presentations of the vast and profound aspects of such topics as the six far-reaching attitudes (six perfections) and ten arya bodhisattva levels of bhumi-mind (ten bhumis) of The Basket of the Mahayana or Bodhisattva Sutras. One of the twelve scriptural categories.

J. Hopkins' translation: "Very Extensive [Sūtras]."

Tib: shin-tu rgyas-pa
Skt: vaipulya
equalizing and exchanging our attitudes about self and others

See: equalizing self and others

equalizing and exchanging self and others

A method for developing a bodhichitta aim, consisting of (1) developing mere equanimity, (2) developing uncommon Mahayana equanimity, as a way to regard all others equally in the same way as one regards oneself, (3) thinking of the disadvantages of a self-cherishing attitude, (4) thinking of the advantages of cherishing others, (5) giving and taking, with attitudes of love and compassion, as a way of exchanging one's attitudes about self and others, (6) exceptional resolve, and (7) developing a bodhichitta aim.

Tib: bdag-gzhan mnyam-brje
equalizing deep awareness

One of the five types of deep awareness that all beings have as an aspect of Buddha-nature. The deep awareness that is aware of several items as belonging equally to the same category, or as fitting into the same pattern. Also called: deep awareness of the equality of things.

Tib: mnyam-nyid ye-shes
equalizing self and others

Developing an equal attitude toward all beings, with the same regard as one has toward oneself.

Tib: bdag-gzhan mnyam-pa
equal status cause

Causes for which the results are later moments in the same category of phenomena as they are -- either in the same ethical category or on the same plane of existence.

J. Hopkins' translation: "cause of equal lot; cause of similar lot."

Tib: skal-mnyam-gyi rgyu

(1) The mental factor (subsidiary awareness) of having an equal attitude toward everyone. (2) In Theravada, when conjoined with a bodhichitta aim, the tenth of the ten far-reaching attitudes -- the attitude with which one does not expect anything in return for one's help, being indifferent to pleasure and pain, and to any benefit or harm one might receive.

J. Hopkins' translation: "neutral feeling, equanimity."

Tib: btang-snyoms
Skt: upeksha
equanimity, distinguished

See: uncommon equanimity

equanimity, mere

See: mere equanimity

equanimity, uncommon Mahayana

See: uncommon equanimity

equipoise, meditative

See: total absorption

essence mahamudra

A pathway of mahamudra practice concerning the nature of the mind in which specially qualified disciples receive the inspiration of the realizations all the lineage masters through receiving a vajra deep awareness empowerment and thereby achieve realization of mind-itself, equivalent to a seeing pathway mind. As "those for whom it happens all at once," they achieve enlightenment simultaneously with this realization. Also known as "the singular sufficient white panacea."

Tib: snying-po'i phyag-chen
essence rigpa

Pure awareness (rigpa) from the point of view of it being primally pure and serving as the open space within which effulgent rigpa functions.

Tib: ngo-bo'i rig-pa
essential nature

The general type of phenomenon that something is -- for instance, a sight, a sound, and so on.

J. Hopkins' translation: "entity."

Tib: ngo-bo
essential nature, same

See: same essential nature

ethical discipline

See: ethical self-discipline

ethically neutral

See: unspecified phenomenon

ethically unspecified

See: unspecified phenomenon

ethical narratives

Rules, codified by Buddha for those who are ordained, concerning which actions constitute a breach of their vows. One of the twelve scriptural categories.

Tib: gleng-bzhi
Skt: nidana
ethical self-discipline

(1) In Theravada, the subsidiary awareness (mental factor) to avoid doing any harm to others, by keeping one's vows, free from anger or ill-will even if others harm one. (2) In Mahayana, the mental urge to safeguard the actions of one's body, speech, and mind, which comes from having turned one's mind away from any wish to cause harm to others and from the disturbing and destructive mental factors that had motivated one to harm others. When conjoined with a bodhichitta aim, it becomes a far-reaching attitude.

J. Hopkins' translation: "[system-law]; ethics; morality."

Tib: tshul-khrims
Skt: shila

A tranquil state of mind that stays in the middle with regard to being either happy or unhappy, in all circumstances, such as when meeting with or parting from friends. Literally, "a state of standing in the middle."

Tib: dbus-gnas-nyid
Skt: madhyasthata

The mental factor of not becoming either too involved or indifferent toward others, even when helping them.

ever-functioning mental factor

See: ever-functioning subsidiary awareness

ever-functioning subsidiary awareness

According to Asanga, a set of five subsidiary awarenesses that accompany every moment of cognition: feeling a level of happiness, distinguishing, an urge, contacting awareness, and paying attention or taking to mind.

J. Hopkins' translation: "omnipresent; all-pervading; omnipresent factor; omnipresent mental factor."

Tib: kun-'gro
evolving family-traits

(1) In the Chittamatra system, the tendencies (seeds) that, newly gained by listening, contemplating and meditating on Buddha's teachings, are imputable on the basis of the stained minds of each limited being and which serve as factors allowing that being to attain arya pathway minds. (2) In the Svatantrika-Madhyamaka system, the factors, imputable on the basis of the stained mind of each limited being, that are fit to become the essential nature of a deep awareness Dharmakaya. (3) In the Prasangika-Madhyamaka system, the factors imputable on the basis of the stained mind of each limited being that are fit to become the essential natures of a Corpus of Forms and a deep awareness Dharmakaya of a Buddha.

J. Hopkins' translation: "developmental lineage."

Tib: rgyas-'gyur-gyi rigs
evolving traits

See: evolving family-traits

excellent signs

See: thirty-two excellent signs

exceptionally perceptive state of mind

A state of mind that, in addition to being stilled and settled (shamatha), is accompanied by an additional sense of fitness -- the subsidiary awareness of feeling totally fit to discern and understand fully the subtle details of anything. Vipashyana is not necessarily focused on voidness or on the four noble truths, although most commonly in sutra it is. Other translators render the term as "special insight."

J. Hopkins' translation: "special insight."

Tib: lhag-mthong
Skt: vipashyana
exceptional resolve

The full determination with which one takes the responsibility to lead all limited beings to liberation and enlightenment. Sometimes translated as "pure wish."

J. Hopkins' translation: "unusual attitude."

Tib: lhag-bsam
Skt: adhyashaya
exceptional sincerity

Exceptional sincerity has, in addition to the factors comprising sincerity, two more factors: 3) nonattachment (ma-chags-pa), 4) going forward in a special way (khyad-par-du 'gro-ba).

J. Hopkins' translation: "unusual attitude."

Tib: lhag-bsam
exchanging one's attitudes about self and others.

See: exchanging self and others

exchanging self and others

Instead of self-cherishing, cherishing others, and instead of ignoring the needs of others, ignoring one's own selfish needs.

Tib: bdag-gzhan brje-pa

to eliminate

J. Hopkins' translation: "exclusion [=gzhan sel]; clear away; remove; throw off; eliminate; avoid."

Tib: sel-ba

See: exclusions of something else

exclusions, mental

See: mental exclusions of something else

exclusions, nonimplicative negation

See: nonimplicative negation exclusions of something else

exclusions, object

See: individually characterized object exclusions of something else

exclusions of something else

Phenomena specified in terms of the conceptual cognition that cognizes the phenomenon explicitly precluding an object to be negated. Synonymous with negation phenomena, they include both implicative and nonimplicative negation phenomena. (1) According to Gelug, they may be either static or nonstatic. (2) According to non-Gelug, they are all static phenomena.

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

Tib: gzhan-sel
existence, inherent

See: existence established by self-nature

existence, true

See: true existence

existence established as true

See: true existence

existence established by self-nature

Existence of something established or proven by the fact that the referent object of the imputation of it can be found upon searching for it. For example, the existence of a table established or proven by the fact that when one searches for the object that the mental label "table" refers to, one can find the object, a "table." Also translated as "self-established existence," it is often translated by others as "inherent existence."

J. Hopkins' translation: "inherent existence, inherently established."

Tib: rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa
existent phenomenon

See: existents


Validly knowable phenomena.

J. Hopkins' translation: "existent."

Tib: yod-pa
explications, decisive

See: decisive explications

explicit apprehension

In the Gelug system, apprehension of a cognitive object in which a cognitive appearance (mental hologram) of the involved object of the cognition arises. Compare: implicit apprehension.

J. Hopkins' translation: "explicitly realize; explicit realization."

Tib: dngos-su rtogs-pa
explicit cognition

See: explicit apprehension

explicit suggestive meaning

One of the six alternative meanings. When an expression in a root tantra text has two dissimilar meanings, the literal, evident, or face value meaning of the expression. It suggests or leads one on to the second meaning (the implicit suggested meaning), which is dissimilar to what is actually said on face value.

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

Tib: drang-don
Skt: neyartha
expositions on themes of practice

See: sutra

external object

See: external phenomenon

external phenomenon

A nonstatic phenomenon that arises from a natal source different from the natal source of the consciousness that cognizes it -- namely, from a natal source that is not connected with the mental continuum of the individual who cognizes it.

J. Hopkins' translation: "external object; external object{N}."

Tib: phyi-don
Skt: bahyartha
extraphysical emanations

Physical bodies having abilities that are beyond the usual capacity of the body -- such as the ability to run great distances at an incredible speed, to fly, to increase or decrease in size, to multiply, to walk on water, to pass beneath the earth, and so on -- which are produced (emanated) from karma, recitation of mantra, the power of specially consecrated substances, or the power of an actual state of the first level of mental stability (the first dhyana).

J. Hopkins' translation: "[deceive-magic]; magical emanation; magical power; magical illusion; miracle."

Tib: rdzu-'phrul
Skt: rddhi
extraphysical powers

See: extraphysical emanations

extrasensory divine eye

Cognition that is able to "see" in the sense of know, future rebirths. One of the five extrasensory eyes gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental stability (the first dhyana).

Tib: lha'i spyan
extrasensory eye of deep awareness

A Buddha's omniscient awareness that is able to "see" the two truths about all phenomena. One of the five types of extrasensory eyes, possessed only by Buddhas.

Tib: ye-shes-kyi spyan
extrasensory eye of discriminating awareness

Cognition that is able to "see" voidness nonconceptually. One of the five extrasensory eyes gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental stability (the first dhyana)..

J. Hopkins' translation: "eye of wisdom."

Tib: shes-rab-kyi spyan
extrasensory eye of the Dharma

One of the five extrasensory eyes gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental stability (the first dhyana). (1) According to the Gelug explanation, cognition that is able to understand the mental capacities of others, in order to be able to teach them appropriately. (2) According to the Karma Kagyu explanation, a Buddha's omniscient awareness that possesses the ten forces that enable a Buddha to lead all beings to enlightenment.

J. Hopkins' translation: "eye of doctrine."

Tib: chos-kyi spyan
extrasensory flesh eye

Cognition that is able to see great distances without obstruction, to see through solid objects such as walls, to see in all directions at the same time, and so on. One of the five extrasensory eyes gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental stability (the first dhyana).

J. Hopkins' translation: "fleshly eye."

Tib: sha'i spyan
extrasensory perception

See: advanced awareness

extremely obscure phenomenon

A validly knowable phenomenon that can be apprehended through authoritative texts or speech, such as the enlightening words of the Buddha, or that can be apprehended through the words of persons who are valid sources of information.

J. Hopkins' translation: "very hidden phenomenon."

Tib: shin-tu lkog-gyur
extreme outlook

The disturbing attitude that regards one's five samsara-perpetuating aggregates in either an eternalist or nihilistic way. (1) According to Vasubandhu, an extreme outlook that views the samsara-producing aggregate factors themselves as either lasting eternally or ending totally at death, with no continuity in future lives. (2) According to Tsongkhapa, a disturbing, deluded discriminating awareness that focuses on the conventional "me" and considers it either as having a truly existent identity permanently or as not having continuity in future lives.

J. Hopkins' translation: "view holding to an extreme."

Tib: mthar-'dzin-pa'i lta-ba
Skt: antagrahadrshti
eye of deep awareness, extrasensory

See: extrasensory eye of deep awareness

eye of discriminating awareness, extrasensory

See: extrasensory eye of discriminating awareness

eye of the Dharma, extrasensory

See: extrasensory eye of the Dharma

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