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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
dawn

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "appear/manifest/dawn."

Tib: shar-ba
death existence

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "the death state."

Tib: 'chi-srid
Debate Partner, Master

See: Master Debate Partner

deceptive

Being mistaken or confusing with respect to the appearance of something.


J. Hopkins' translation: "mistaken; illusion."

Tib: 'khrul-ba
deceptive appearance

A cognitive object that appears to exist in a manner different from the way in which it actually exists.

Tib: 'khrul-snang
deceptive cognition

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "mistaken consciousness."

Tib: 'khrul-shes
decisive awareness

See: ascertainment

decisive cognition

See: ascertainment

decisive explications

Precise indications of the meaning of the works in The Basket of Sutras by specifying the individual and general definitions of things. One of the twelve scriptural categories.

Tib: gtan-la phab-pa
Skt: upadesha
decisively determine

To know with certainty what something is, as opposed to what it is not, or how something exists, as opposed to how it does not exist. Also called: determine, ascertain.


J. Hopkins' translation: "ascertainment, definiteness."

Tib: nges-pa
dedicated heart

See: bodhichitta

dedication

See: dedication prayer

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "dedicate."

Tib: bsngo-ba
Skt: pranidhana
deep awareness

(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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "exalted wisdom/wisdom/pristine wisdom."

Tib: ye-shes
Skt: jnana
deep awareness, accomplishing

See: accomplishing deep awareness

deep awareness, five types of

See: five types of deep awareness

deep awareness, reflexive

See: reflexive deep awareness

deep awareness, self-arising

See: self-arising deep awareness

deep awareness alaya

In the Karma Kagyu system, a synonym for "mind-itself": the pure aspect of mind that is an aspect of Buddha-nature.

Tib: kun-gzhi ye-shes
deep awareness Dharmakaya

See: Corpus of Deep Awareness' Encompassing Everything

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "exalted wisdom of the element of qualities; exalted wisdom of the sphere of reality; exalted wisdom of the nature of phenomena."

Tib: chos-dbyings ye-shes
Skt: dharmadhatu-jnana
deep awareness of the equality of things

See: equalizing deep awareness

deep awareness of the individuality of things

See: individualizing deep awareness

deep awareness of the sphere of reality

See: deep awareness of reality

deep awareness that is like a mirror

See: mirror-like deep awareness

deep awareness to accomplish things

See: accomplishing deep awareness

deepest bodhichitta

The deep awareness that has nonconceptual cognition of voidness.

Tib: don-dam-pa'i byang-chub-gyi sems
deepest Buddha Gem

A Buddha's Dharmakaya as a source of safe direction (refuge).

Tib: don-dam-pa'i sangs-rgyas dkon-mchog
deepest Dharma Gem

The true stoppings and true pathway minds on the mental continuum of an arya, whether a layperson or a monastic, as a source of safe direction (refuge).

Tib: don-dam-pa'i chos dkon-mchog
deepest level

The level of some phenomenon that is veiled or concealed by something more superficial about that phenomenon. Sometimes translated as "ultimate level" or "deepest ultimate level."


J. Hopkins' translation: "ultimate, ultimate object, highest object."

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

The true stoppings and true pathway minds on the mental continuum of an arya, whether a layperson or monastic, as a source of safe direction (refuge).

Tib: don-dam-pa'i dge-'dun dkon-mchog
deepest true phenomenon

In the Hinayana tenet systems, a true phenomenon that is veiled or concealed by a conventional (superficial, surface, relative, apparent) true phenomenon.


J. Hopkins' translation: "ultimate truth."

Tib: don-dam bden-pa
Skt: paramartha
deepest truth

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "ultimate truth."

Tib: don-dam bden-pa
Skt: paramartha
defilement

See: disturbing emotion or attitude

defining characteristics

See: defining characteristic mark

definitive teaching

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "definitive meaning."

Tib: nges-don
Skt: nitartha
deity, forceful

See: forceful deity

deluded awareness

A primary consciousness that is aimed at the alayavijnana in the Chittamatra system, or at the alaya for habits in the dzogchen system, and grasps at it to be the "me" to be refuted.


J. Hopkins' translation: "afflicted mind."

Tib: nyon-yid
deluded outlook

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "afflicted view."

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "view of the transitory collection [as real I and mine]."

Tib: 'jig-tshogs-la lta-ba
Skt: satkayadrshti
delusion

See: disturbing emotion or attitude

demonic force

Something that harms limited beings or causes interference and obstacles to constructive actions.


J. Hopkins' translation: "Demon."

Tib: bdud
Skt: mara
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
dependent arising

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "dependent-arising."

Tib: rten-cing 'brel-bar 'byung-ba
Skt: pratityasamutpada
dependent arising tradition

The dependent arising tradition transmitted in Drugpa Kagyu.


J. Hopkins' translation: "[depend-connect]; dependent-arising; interdependence."

Tib: rten-'brel
dependent origination

See: dependent arising

dependent phenomenon

A validly knowable object that arises dependently on causes and conditions. All nonstatic phenomena. Often translated literally as "other-powered phenomenon."


J. Hopkins' translation: "[other-power]; other powered (phenomena); other powered nature; having the influence of another; that which is under the influence of what is other; the dependent; other-powered; other-powered [nature]; dependent nature; dependent phenomenon."

Tib: gzhan-dbang
Skt: paratantra
derivative, mental

See: mental derivative

desirable sensory objects, five types of

See: five types of desirable sensory objects

desire

See: longing desire

desire, longing

See: longing desire

desire realm

See: plane of sensory desires

destructive

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "non-virtue, non-virtuous."

Tib: mi-dge-ba
Skt: akushala
detachment

The constructive mental factor of bored disgust with and thus lack of longing desire for compulsive existence and objects of compulsive existence. Also translated as "nonattachment."


J. Hopkins' translation: "non-attachment; unattached."

Tib: chags-pa med-pa
Skt: asanga
detection, gross

See: gross detection

determination to be free

See: renunciation

determine

See: decisively determine

deva

See: divine being

devastate

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "destroy; overcome; triumph over."

Tib: bcom
devoid

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "thousand; 1,000; empty; empty of; vacuity."

Tib: stong
devoid, totally

See: totally devoid

devoid form

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.

Tib: stong-gzugs
devotion, guru

See: guru devotion

dharma

(1) Preventive measures which, if one puts into practice or achieves, prevent the experience of future suffering. (2) Buddha's teachings. (3) Any phenomenon or "thing."


J. Hopkins' translation: "Phenomenon, attribute/quality, religion/practice."

Tib: chos
Skt: dharma
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

Dharma instructor

A teacher, either lay or monastic, Western or Asian, who explains the Buddhist teachings from his or her own experiential insight and understanding.

Dharmakaya

See: Corpus Encompassing Everything

Dharma-lite

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.

Dharma-protector

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.

Tib: chos-skyong
Skt: dharmapala
dichotomy

Two mutually exclusive sets form a dichotomy if all existent phenomena must be a member of either one or the other mutually exclusive set.


J. Hopkins' translation: "explicitly contradictory."

Tib: dngos-'gal
direct cause

The phenomenon that actually produces its result, without need for any intermediary -- for example, a visible object is the direct cause for the seeing of it.


J. Hopkins' translation: "actual cause."

Tib: dngos-rgyu
direct cognition

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
direction, safe

See: safe direction

discerning analysis

See: subtle discernment

discerning meditation

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "analytical meditation."

Tib: dpyad-sgom
discernment, subtle

See: subtle discernment

discipline, ethical

See: ethical self-discipline

discipline, rules of

See: rules of discipline

discordant appearance-making

See: dualistic appearance-making

discordant appearances

See: dualistic appearances

discourse

An oral teaching on a spiritual topic, often concerning tantra.


J. Hopkins' translation: "lead; lead through; guide as noun: leader; instruction."

Tib: khrid
discriminate

(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.

discriminating awareness

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "wisdom."

Tib: shes-rab
Skt: prajna
discriminating awareness, far-reaching

See: far-reaching discriminating awareness

discrimination

See: discriminating awareness

dissociated from confusion

See: untainted

dissolves into its own place

See: releases into its own place

distant lineage

The lineage of a teaching that began with Buddha himself.

Tib: ring-brgyud
distinguish

See: distinguishing

distinguished equanimity

See: uncommon Mahayana equanimity

distinguishers

See: conceptually isolated item

distinguishing

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "discrimination."

Tib: 'du-shes
Skt: samjna
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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "wrong view."

Tib: log-lta
distorted cognition

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "wrong consciousness."

Tib: log-shes
distorted outlook

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "wrong view."

Tib: log-lta
distorted view

See: distorted outlook

disturbing attitude

Equivalent to a deluded outlook.

disturbing deluded outlook on life

See: deluded outlook

disturbing emotion

See: disturbing emotion or attitude

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "affliction, afflictive emotion."

Tib: nyon-mongs
Skt: klesha
disturbing emotions and attitudes, automatically arising

See: automatically arising disturbing emotions and attitudes

disturbing emotions and attitudes, doctrinally based

See: doctrinally based disturbed emotions and attitudes

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
dividing consciousness

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "consciousness."

Tib: rnam-shes
divine being

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "god."

Tib: lha
Skt: deva
divine ear, extrasensory

See: extrasensory divine ear

divine eye, extrasensory

See: extrasensory divine eye

divine realm

A place where divine beings (gods) dwell. Also called a "heaven."

Tib: lha-yul
doctrinally based disturbed emotions and attitudes

Disturbing emotions and attitudes that arise based on having been taught and having accepted a non-Buddhist Indian tenet system or a less sophisticated Indian Buddhist tenet system.

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
dominating condition

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "empowering condition; dominant condition."

Tib: bdag-rkyen
Skt: adhipatipratyaya
dominating result

(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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "possessional effect."

Tib: bdag-'bras 
bdag-po’i ‘bras-bu
Skt: adhipatiphalam
dormant factor

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "dormancies."

Tib: bag-la nyal
doubt

See: indecisive wavering

downfall, root

See: root downfall

dread

The strong wish not to experience something or for something not to happen. If overlaid with grasping for truly established existence, it becomes fear. Sometimes translated as "fear."


J. Hopkins' translation: "fright; frighten."

Tib: 'jigs-pa
Drigung Kagyu

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

Disturbing emotions and attitudes that generate other subsequent disturbing emotions and attitudes in the same plane of samsaric existence.


J. Hopkins' translation: "omnipresent cause."

Tib: kun-'gro'i rgyu
Skt: sarvatragohetu
drops, jasmine flower

See: jasmine flower drops

Drugpa Kagyu

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
dual appearance-making

See: dualistic appearance-making

dual appearances

See: dualistic appearances

dualistic appearance-making

(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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "dualistic appearance."

Tib: gnyis-snang
dualistic appearances

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "dualistic appearance."

Tib: gnyis-snang
dullness, mental

See: mental dullness

dumbfoundedness

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.

Tib: rmongs-cha
dzogchen

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "Great Completeness."

Tib: rdzogs-chen

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