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 verb used for the arising of a cognitive appearance on a mental continuum, in analogy with the sun rising at dawn, except that the cognitive appearance is not already existing somewhere hidden in the mind in some unconscious manner and then comes up to consciousness when it dawns. Also translated as "to arise."
The period of time in the mental continuum of an individual limited being during which they experience death. Unless one successfully does advanced anuttarayoga tantra meditations at this time, this period lasts only one moment.
|Debate Partner, Master|
A cognitive object that appears to exist in a manner different from the way in which it actually exists.
A cognition that takes a phenomenon's mode of existence that it makes appear -- namely, an appearance of its seemingly true existence -- to be the phenomenon's actual mode of existence. The deceptive cognition may be either accurate or distorted with respect to the appearance it makes of the superficial truth of what the phenomenon conventionally is.
|decisive explications||Tib: gtan-la phab-pa|
|decisively determine||Tib: nges-pa|
See: dedication prayer
A prayer for the attainment of a spiritual goal or of the circumstances conducive for reaching that goal, in which the person making the prayer directs the positive force (merit) from a constructive action that he or she has done toward ripening into that attainment.
(1) In the context of the five types of deep awareness, a type of principal awareness that all beings have as an aspect of Buddha-nature. It is "deep" in the sense that it is a fundamental way in which the mind works and has always been there, primordially, with no beginning and no end. (2) When contrasted with "discriminating awareness" (Tib. shes-rab) in the non-Gelug usage of the term, the principal awareness that nonconceptually cognizes the deepest truth of something (its inseparable voidness and appearance), beyond all words and concepts. (3) In the context of the ten Mahayana far-reaching attitudes, when contrasted with "discriminating awareness," principal awareness that nonconceptually cognizes the two truths of something. (4) In the context of an arya's nonconceptual cognition of voidness, in the Gelug usage, either the principal awareness that explicitly and nonconceptually cognizes voidness (deepest truth) during total absorption or the principal awareness that implicitly and nonconceptually cognizes voidness during subsequent attainment.
|deep awareness, accomplishing|
|deep awareness, five types of|
|deep awareness, reflexive|
|deep awareness, self-arising|
|deep awareness alaya||Tib: kun-gzhi ye-shes|
|deep awareness Dharmakaya|
|deep awareness of reality|
One of the five types of deep awareness that all beings have as an aspect of Buddha-nature. The deep awareness of the superficial truth of something -- namely, awareness of what it is. When developed on the spiritual path, this deep awareness may also be of the deepest truth of something -- namely, its voidness. Also called: deep awareness of the sphere of reality.
|Tib: chos-dbyings ye-shes|
|deep awareness of the equality of things|
|deep awareness of the individuality of things|
|deep awareness of the sphere of reality|
|deep awareness that is like a mirror|
|deep awareness to accomplish things|
|deepest bodhichitta||Tib: don-dam-pa'i byang-chub-gyi sems|
|deepest Buddha Gem||Tib: don-dam-pa'i sangs-rgyas dkon-mchog|
|deepest Dharma Gem||Tib: don-dam-pa'i chos dkon-mchog|
|deepest level||Tib: don-dam-pa|
|deepest level Precious Gems|
The level of the Three Rare and Supreme Gems that are concealed by the apparent level gems.
|Tib: don-dam-pa'i dkon-mchog|
|deepest Sangha Gem||Tib: don-dam-pa'i dge-'dun dkon-mchog|
|deepest true phenomenon||Tib: don-dam bden-pa|
In the Mahayana tenet systems, a true fact about a phenomenon that is veiled or concealed by a more superficial true fact about the same phenomenon. Some translators render this term as "ultimate truth."
|Tib: don-dam bden-pa|
See: defining characteristic mark
A passage in a sutra text that discusses the most profound view of voidness, and to which all other passages in all other sutra texts eventually lead or point. Such passages do not need to be explained as indicating anything more profound.
See: forceful deity
|deluded awareness||Tib: nyon-yid|
One of a set of five disturbing attitudes that view their objects in a certain way, for example as "me" or "mine." They seek and regard their objects as things to latch on to, without they themselves scrutinizing, analyzing, or investigating them. They are accompanied by either an interpolation or a repudiation, but they themselves do not interpolate or repudiate anything. Also called in full: "a disturbing, deluded outlook on life." Equivalent to the coined term "disturbing attitude." See: disturbing emotion or attitude.
|Tib: lta-ba nyon-mongs-can|
|deluded outlook toward a transitory network|
(1) According to Vasubandhu and Asanga, the disturbing attitude that regards some transitory network from one's own samsara-perpetuating five aggregates as "me" or as "mine." (2) According to Tsongkhapa, the disturbing attitude that focuses on the conventional "me" and regards it as a truly findable "me" identical with the aggregates, or as "me, the possessor, controller, or inhabitant" of the aggregates.
|Tib: 'jig-tshogs-la lta-ba|
|demonic force||Tib: bdud|
|denumerable ultimate phenomenon|
Voidnesses that are validly cognized conceptually. They are "denumerable" in the sense that they can be counted among what appears to minds validly cognizing phenomena through mentally labeling them with words and concepts.
|Tib: rnam-grangs-pa'I don-dam|
The reliance of something on something other than itself for establishing its existence. (1) The reliance of all samsaric phenomena on unawareness for establishing their existence; (2) the reliance of all functional, nonstatic phenomena on causes and conditions for establishing their existence; (3) the reliance of both static and nonstatic phenomena on their parts for establishing their existence; (4) the reliance of all phenomena on mental labeling for establishing their existence. Also translated as "dependent origination."
|Tib: rten-cing 'brel-bar 'byung-ba|
|dependent arising tradition||Tib: rten-'brel|
See: dependent arising
|dependent phenomenon||Tib: gzhan-dbang|
See: mental derivative
|desirable sensory objects, five types of|
See: five types of desirable sensory objects
See: longing desire
See: longing desire
States of mind, or physical, verbal, or mental actions motivated by them, which ripen into unhappiness or the suffering of problems or pain, to be experienced by the person on whose mental continuum they occur. Since the term carries no connotation of moral judgment, the translation "nonvirtuous" is misleading for this term.
|detachment||Tib: chags-pa med-pa|
See: gross detection
|determination to be free|
See: decisively determine
See: divine being
To totally weaken the effectiveness of something, such as the positive force of a constructive act, such that it ripens into something far less and more distant in the future, but without completely eliminating its potential to ripen.
Totally lacking something, in the sense that something never has in the past, never does in the present, and never will in the future possess a certain characteristic, whether that characteristic is a possibly existing one or an impossible one.
See: totally devoid
A form of physical phenomenon that is devoid of atoms and is the natural play of the clear light mind or of pure awareness (rigpa). Discussed in both Kalachakra and dzogchen, advanced practice enables devoid forms to become the cause for the Form Bodies of a Buddha.
See: guru devotion
|Dharma, "real thing"|
See: real-thing Dharma
|Dharma Gem, apparent|
See: apparent Dharma Gem
|Dharma Gem, deepest|
See: deepest Dharma Gem
|Dharma Gem, nominal|
See: nominal Dharma Gem
A teacher, either lay or monastic, Western or Asian, who explains the Buddhist teachings from his or her own experiential insight and understanding.
A version of the Buddhist teachings without the presentation of past and futures lives and in which the motivating aim is usually just to improve one's samsaric existence of this life.
A class of forceful beings, tamed by Buddha or a spiritual lineage master such as Guru Rinpoche, and made to take an oath to protect the Dharma and its practitioners. They may be either ordinary worldly beings (non-aryas) or highly realized aryas. In some cases, they are emanations of a Buddha, appearing in the form of a Dharma-protector.
|direct cause||Tib: dngos-rgyu|
According to the non-Gelug presentation, the type of cognition that a present moment of sensory consciousness has of the present moment of a mental aspect (mental hologram) of the immediately preceding moment of an external sense object. Compare: indirect cognition.
|Tib: dngos-su shes-pa|
See: safe direction
See: subtle discernment
A method for habituating oneself to an insight, understanding, or state of mind, with which one focuses on an object and generates the desired insight, understanding, or state of mind about it, through using the mental factors of gross detection (investigation) and subtle discernment (scrutiny). The method may also entail applying a line reasoning that one has already understood and become convinced of its validity. Many translators render the term as "analytical meditation."
See: subtle discernment
|discipline, rules of|
See: rules of discipline
An oral teaching on a spiritual topic, often concerning tantra.
(1) To differentiate decisively between two things -- for example, between what is correct and incorrect, (2) to single out something and come to a decisive conclusion about it, for example to incorrectly discriminate the shravaka teachings as being essential for only shravakas, and worthless for bodhisattvas.
The mental factor that decisively discriminates between what is correct and what is incorrect, or between what is helpful and what is harmful, or between what is appropriate or what is inappropriate, or between what is reality and what is not reality. When conjoined with a bodhichitta aim, it becomes a far-reaching attitude.
|discriminating awareness, far-reaching|
|dissociated from confusion|
|dissolves into its own place|
See: releases into its own place
The lineage of a teaching that began with Buddha himself.
One of the five ever-functioning subsidiary awarenesses (mental factors) that takes an uncommon characteristic feature of the appearing object of a nonconceptual cognition or an outstanding feature of the appearing object of a conceptual cognition, and ascribes a conventional significance to it, different from that of everything else that appears in the background within that cognition. It does not necessarily ascribe a name or mental label to its object, nor does it compare it with previously cognized objects. Some translators render the term as "recognition."
|distorted antagonistic thinking|
The action of thinking with a distorted outlook and, in addition, wishing to repudiate, with hostility, anyone that disagrees with one's view. Also called: "thinking with a distorted, antagonistic attitude.
A way of being aware of something that takes its object incorrectly. Conceptual distorted cognition is deceived with respect to its conceptualized object; nonconceptual distorted cognition is deceived with respect to its involved object.
The disturbing attitude that regards an actual cause, an actual effect, an actual functioning, or an existent phenomenon as not being actual or existent. According to Tsongkhapa, it may also regard a false cause, a false effect, a false functioning, or a nonexistent phenomenon as true or existent. Also translated as "distorted view," other translators render it as "wrong view" or "false view."
See: distorted outlook
Equivalent to a deluded outlook.
|disturbing deluded outlook on life|
See: deluded outlook
|disturbing emotion or attitude|
A subsidiary awareness (mental factor) that, when it arises, causes oneself to lose peace of mind and incapacitates oneself so that one loses self-control. An indication that one is experiencing a disturbing emotion or attitude is that it makes oneself and/or others feel uncomfortable. Some translators render this term as "afflictive emotions" or "emotional afflictions."
|disturbing emotions and attitudes, automatically arising|
|disturbing emotions and attitudes, doctrinally based|
|disturbing emotions without an outlook on life|
Among the disturbing emotions and attitudes, those that do not regard and understand their objects in a certain way, for instance as "me" or "mine." Abbreviated as "disturbing emotions," in contrast to "disturbing attitudes," which is used for a disturbing deluded outlook on life.
|Tib: lta-min nyon-mongs|
A consciousness that makes dualistic appearances, dividing a moment of experience into an appearance of independently existing consciousness (subject) and object. It is a Kagyu/Nyingma explanation. The Tibetan is rnam-shes, the same as the usual word for consciousness. It is defined like this only in some very special places.
A limited (sentient) being in the rebirth state that, out of the six states of rebirth, has the least amount of suffering. This class of being includes some that are on the plane of sensory desires, and all beings on the plane of ethereal forms and the plane of formless beings. Also called a "god."
|divine ear, extrasensory|
See: extrasensory divine ear
|divine eye, extrasensory|
A place where divine beings (gods) dwell. Also called a "heaven."
|doctrinally based disturbed emotions and attitudes||Tib: nyon-mongs kun-brtags|
|doctrinally based unawareness|
The mental factor of either not knowing or knowing invertedly either behavioral cause and effect or the manner in which the self and all phenomena exist, and which arises on a person's mental continuum based on that person having been taught an incorrect tenet system. Also called: doctrinally based ignorance.
|Tib: ma-rig kun-brtags|
The nonstatic phenomena that produce the essential nature of something, such as the eye sensors for the visual consciousness and congruent mental factors of a visual cognition. This condition is called "dominating" – literally, the "overlord condition" – because it rules what the essential nature of its result will be.
(1) The type of environment or society in which one is born or enters and the way it treats one, or (2) objects, such as one's possessions, and what happens to them. Such results may ripen from destructive, tainted constructive, or unspecified actions and are called "dominating results" because they extend over and dominate everything that one experiences in a particular rebirth. Also translated as "comprehensive result," "overriding result" or "overlord result," it is synonymous with "commanding result."
|Tib: bdag-'bras |
Literally, something that is "asleep to the taste of the mind." Affecting variables, associated with mental continuums, which are "lying down" and not rushing to manifest mind (consciousness). They include subliminal awareness, tendencies, and habits.
|Tib: bag-la nyal|
See: indecisive wavering
See: root downfall
One of the eight minor Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, deriving from direct disciples of Gampopa's disciple Pagmo-drupa -- in this case, Drigung Jigten-sumgon.
|Tib: 'Bri-gung bka'-brgyud|
|driving cause||Tib: kun-'gro'i rgyu|
|drops, jasmine flower|
See: jasmine flower drops
One of the eight minor Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, deriving from direct disciples of Gampopa's disciple Pagmo-drupa -- in this case, Lingraypa.
|Tib: 'Brug-pa bka'-brgyud|
(1) In Gelug Prasangika, the mental activity of giving rise to an appearance of a manner of existence that does not correspond to the actual manner in which anything exists. (2) In non-Gelug Madhayamaka, the mental activity of giving rise, within a cognition, to an appearance of a consciousness and its object as each having truly established existence, independently of each other. (3) In Chittamatra, the mental activity of giving rise to an appearance, within a cognition, of a consciousness and its object as deriving from different natal sources. Also called "dual appearance-making" and "discordant appearance-making."
The appearances that dualistic appearance-making gives rise to. (1) In Gelug Prasangika, an appearance of a manner of existence that does not correspond to the actual manner in which anything exists. (2) In non-Gelug Madhyamaka, within a cognition, an appearance of a consciousness and its object as each having truly established existence, independently of each other. (3) In Chittamatra, within a cognition, an appearance of a consciousness and its object as deriving from different natal sources. Also called "dual appearances" and "discordant appearances."
See: mental dullness
In the dzogchen system, a nominal disturbing attitude, equivalent to automatically arising unawareness regarding phenomena, which obscures rigpa's (pure awareness's) knowing its own nature. Some translators render it as "bedazzlement" or "stupidity," but it has nothing to do with intelligence.
A Mahayana system of practice, found in the Nyingma, Bon, Karma Kagyu, Drugpa Kagyu, and Drigung Kagyu traditions, that entails accessing rigpa, one's own pure awareness, and realizing that it is complete with all good qualities. Translated as "the great completeness."