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|
See: caring attitude
The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) that takes seriously the situations of others and oneself, and the effects of one's actions on others and on oneself, and which consequently causes one to build up as a habit constructive attitudes and behavior and safeguards against leaning toward tainted or destructive attitudes and behavior. Also translated as "carefulness."
See: caring attitude
All the causes that have the power to produce a specific result.
|Tib: rgyu'i rkyen|
|causal links that actualize|
In the twelve links of dependent arising, the three links of craving, an obtainer, and further existence, which activate the karmic aftermath of throwing karma in the moments preceding death so that the karmic results will actualize. Thus, they serve as the simultaneously acting conditions for the aggregates of a next rebirth.
|Tib: bsgrub-byed-kyi yan-lag|
|causal links that throw|
In the twelve links of dependent arising, the two and a half links of unawareness, affecting impulses, and causal loaded consciousness, which describe the process through which throwing karma is built up and its karmic aftermath is "planted" on a mental continuum as the cause for a next rebirth.
|Tib: 'phen-byed-kyi yan-lag|
|causal motivating aim||Tib: rgyu'i kun-slong|
|causal taking of safe direction|
A taking of safe direction (refuge) in which the sources of that safe direction are the persons or phenomena that act as causes for one's our own attainments of the Three Gems, namely the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha already attained by others. Synonymous with "mere taking of safe direction."
|Tib: rgyu'i skyabs-'gro|
A nonstatic phenomenon able to bring about the production or arising of something.
See: acting cause
See: congruent cause
See: direct cause
See: driving cause
|cause, equal status|
See: equal status cause
See: obtaining cause
See: obtaining cause
See: ripening cause
|cause, similar family|
See: similar family cause
|cause, simultaneously acting|
See: simultaneously acting cause
|cause and effect|
|cause and effect, behavioral|
|ceremonial round of offering a ritual feast|
A tantra ritual, part of a puja, in which specially consecrated offerings, usually including a torma, are made to one's spiritual master inseparable from a Buddha-figure. In anuttarayoga tantra, the offerings include consecrated alcohol and meat. Often refered to by the Tibetan "tsog."
See: inherent characteristics
Tibetan Buddhist schools, the second class of tantra practice, which equally emphasizes external behavior and internal methods
|cherishing concerned love|
The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) with which, not only does one wish others to be happy and to have the causes for happiness, but with which one values the welfare of others highly and would feel sad if anything bad happened to them.
|Tib: gces-zhing pham-pa'i byams-pa|
|cherishing others||Tib: gzhan gces-par 'dzin-pa|
A Mahayana school of Indian Buddhism that does not assert external phenomena, but which does assert the true existence of dependent phenomena. One of the four Indian Buddhist tenet systems studied by all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism; the Mind-Only School.
As a defining characteristic of mind, the ability, mental activity, or event of making cognitive objects arise -- or giving rise to cognitive objects -- so that they can be cognized. According to the Gelug tradition, a mental hologram of the cognitive object need not even arise in the cognition, since the object may be implicitly cognized. Clarity is not some sort of light in one's head that has varying intensity and illuminates objects that are already present. Nor does it have anything to do with an object of cognition being in focus or being understood. Moreover, giving rise to a cognitive object has no implication of passivity or lack of responsibility on the one hand, or conscious will on the other. As an event, clarity just naturally happens every moment of every mental continuum.
|cleansing of attitudes|
|clearheaded belief in a fact||Tib: dvang-ba'i dad-pa|
|clearheadedly believing a fact to be true||Tib: dangs-ba'i dad-pa|
|clear light, cognitive|
|clear light, object|
See: object clear light
|clear light, subject|
|clear light absorption on voidness|
|clear light awareness|
The subtlest level of mental activity (mind), which continues with no beginning and no end, without any break, even during death and even into Buddhahood. It is individual and constitutes the mental continuum of each being. It is naturally free of conceptual cognition, the appearance-making of true existence, and grasping for true existence, since it is more subtle than the grosser levels of mental activity with which these occur. It has nothing to do with "light."
|clear light mental activity|
|clear light mind|
|clear light mind, actual|
|clear light mind, model|
See: bonding practice
A mental factor of being naive about cause and effect or about reality, and being stubbornly closed to any suggestions from someone else. Sometimes used as a translation for "gti-mug, moha,naivety." See: naivety.
|closely bonding practice|
See: bonding practice
|close placements of mindfulness, four|
A two-dimensional representation, painted on cloth, which is like an architectural blueprint of the three-dimensional palace, environment, and Buddha-figures of a symbolic world system, and used for conferring a tantric empowerment.
|Tib: ras-bris-kyi dkyil-'khor|
One of the three worse rebirth states, characterized by the suffering of being unable to satisfy basic needs, such as hunger and thirst, and caused primarily by miserliness. Translated by most others as "hungry ghost," which is a literal rendering of the Chinese translation for the term, adopted by the Chinese in reference to the spirits of departed ancestors that suffered when not presented with regular offerings of food.
(1) The act of cognizing or knowing something, but without necessarily knowing what it is or what it means. It may be either valid or invalid, conceptual or nonconceptual . This is the most general term for knowing something. (2) The "package" of a primary consciousness, its accompanying mental factors (subsidiary awarenesses), and the cognitive object shared by all of them. According to some systems, a cognition also includes reflexive awareness.
See: bare cognition
See: conceptual cognition
See: deceptive cognition
See: direct cognition
See: distorted cognition
See: indecisive wavering
See: indirect cognition
See: invalid cognition
See: subsequent cognition
See: valid cognition
|cognitive arising||Tib: snang-ba|
|cognitive clear light||Tib: yul-can-gyi 'od-gsal|
A manner of cognizing an object.
|cognitively taking an object||Tib: 'dzin-pa|
|cognitively taking an object, way of|
Fleeting stains that temporarily "cover" or accompany mental activity (more precisely, clear light mental activity), thereby preventing the mental activity from simultaneously cognizing the two truths about all phenomena. Also translated as "obscurations about all knowables" and "obscurations preventing omniscience."
|cognitive open space|
Rigpa (pure awareness) from the point of view of its essential nature as that which underlies and allows for the arising of appearances and the cognizing of them, with the latter being more prominent. Synonymous with essence rigpa and the cognitive sphere.
The dominating condition that determines the type of cognition a way of being aware of something is. In the case of the five types of sensory cognition, it is the photosensitive cells of the eyes, the sound-sensitive cells of the ears, the smell-sensitive cells of the nose, the taste-sensitive cells of the tongue, and the physical-sensation-sensitive cells of the body. In the case of mental cognition, it is the immediately preceding moment of cognition. Some translators render the term as "sense power."
See: cognitive open space
Rigpa (pure awareness) from the point of view of its essential nature as that which underlies and allows for the arising of appearances and the cognizing of them, with the latter being more prominent. Synonymous with essence rigpa and the cognitive open space.
|cognitive stimulators that are (all) phenomena||Tib: chos-kyi skye-mched|
|cognitive stimulators that are sights||Tib: gzugs-kyi skye-mched|
|collection mental synthesis|
A whole imputed on spatial, sensorial, and/or temporal parts.
|collection of wisdom|
Synonymous with dominating results.
|Tib: dbang-gi 'bras-bu|
A spiritual practice that one promises to do. The mental factor with which one makes such a promise. The promise may be made either formally with a ritual or informally, and either verbally or nonverbally. In the case of commitment toward a spiritual master, the mental factor with which one promises to relate to that teacher in a healthy manner, in accord with the traditional scriptural description. The term does not have the connotation of a sense of duty or an obligation.
See: common locus
|common locus||Tib: gzhi-mthun|
An external sensory object, extending over the sensibilia (sense data) of several senses and over time; what an ordinary person, when cognizing one moment of the sensibilia of one sense, would impute and consider as an object with his or her common sense. See also: conventional commonsense object.
|Tib: 'jig-rten-la grags-pa|
See: ordinary commotion
The wish for someone to be free from suffering and from the causes for suffering.
See: great compassion
(1) The second stage of anuttarayoga tantra practice, in which everything is now complete for engaging in the practices that act as the immediate causes for reaching enlightenment. These practices entail working with the chakras, channels, and winds of the subtle body. (2) In some non-Gelug texts, nonconceptual meditation on the voidness of the visualizations generated during the first stage of anuttarayoga tantra practice. This meditation on a nondenumerable ultimate phenomenon is done simultaneously with the visualizations, on the same stage of practice, and makes the practice of visualization complete. Many translators render this term as "completion stage."
A mental urge or impulse having a relatively weak accompanying motivation and therefore having the strength to ripen, as its result, into only the circumstances that will complete the conditions of a future rebirth.
|Tib: rdzogs-byed-kyi las|
See: complete stage
|comprehensible phenomena||Tib: gzhal-bya|
See: dominating result
|compulsive existence||Tib: srid-pa|
See: mental fixation
A general term for a universal, a category, or a mental label. A concept of something need not be verbal. For example, one has a concept of what a pretty face looks like, what one's mother looks like, what a good soup tastes like, what a properly tuned guitar sounds like, what a valid line of reasoning is, what one plus one equals, and so on.
(1) The moment when the consciousness of a bardo being enters its next rebirth. In the case of rebirth as a human or an animal, the moment in which it enters the sperm and egg of its next parents. (2) See: concept.
|conception, link of|
See: link of conception
|conception existence||Tib: skye-srid|
Together with a concept.
(1) A general term for both audio categories and meaning/object categories. Some translators render the term as "universal" or "generality." (2) A set to which individual items sharing a common defining characteristic belong. It is mentally constructed (mentally fabricated) by a mental synthesis of individual items that are instances of it, or by a mental synthesis of the spatial, sensorial, and/or temporal parts on which it is imputed (labeled). Sometimes translated as "mental synthesis" or just "synthesis."
The cognition of an object through the medium of a metaphysical entity, namely a universal, a category, or a mental label. Conceptual cognition imputes (mentally labels) a metaphysical entity on the object that the mental aspect it assumes resembles, and mixes and confuses the two.
The object about which a conceptual cognition gives rise to a universal, a category, or a mental label through which to think of it. Literally, the object on which a concept clings. Also called: implied object or conceptually implied object.
In the context of a conceptual cognition, a category's implying an actual object that corresponds to it, as if the category were attached to that "conceptually implied object." Also translated as "conceptually imply."
|conceptually implied object|
See: conceptually cling
|conceptually isolated item|
The type of "nothing-other-than" that arises in conceptual cognition and which represents the actual involved objects of the conceptual cognition. They are static phenomena, equivalent to conceptual representations. (1) According to Gelug, they are fully transparent static phenomena that are different from semitransparent conceptual categories. Equivalent to "items conceptually isolated by themselves" and "items conceptually isolated by categories." Also called "distinguishers" or "isolates."(2) Accordant non-Gelug, they are equivalent to semitransparent conceptual categories.
|conceptually isolated meaning||Tib: don-ldog|
The static conceptually isolated items that are the type of "nothing-other-than" that arises in conceptual cognition. (1) According to Gelug, they represent the actual involved object of the conceptual cognition, for instance of a table, and are fully transparent so that, through them, one directly cognizes the fully transparent mental aspect (the mental hologram of a table) and, through that, an external phenomenon (the table) as the involved object. (2) According to non-Gelug, they are the categories, such as a commonsense table, that are the appearing objects of conceptual cognition.
See: conceptual cognition
See: caring attitude
Solid, like cement -- a nontechnical term used to describe something with truly established findable existence.
A nontechnical term for a truly existent "me," which would be the "me" to be refuted. See: solid "me."
See: causal conditions
See: dominating condition
See: focal condition
|condition, immediately preceding|
See: focal condition
See: dominating condition
See: affected phenomenon
|confusion, associated with|
|confusion, dissociated from|
|congruent affecting variable||Tib: ldan-pa'i 'du-byed|
A cause that shares five things in common with its result.
|Tib: mtshungs-ldan-gyi rgyu|
|congruent features, five|
A class of ways of being aware of something that cognizes merely the essential nature of its object, such as its being a sight, a sound, a mental object, etc. Consciousness may be either sensory or mental, and there are either six or eight types. The term has nothing to do with the Western concept of conscious versus unconscious.
|consciousness, all-encompassing foundation|
See: body consciousness
See: ear consciousness
See: eye consciousness
See: mental consciousness
See: nose consciousness
See: specific awareness
See: tongue consciousness
|consciousness that takes objects and objects taken by consciousness||Tib: gzung-'dzin|
See: mental stability
|constancy of mind|
See: mental stability
States of mind, or physical, verbal, or mental actions motivated by them, which ripen into happiness to be experienced by the person on whose mental continuum they occur. Since the term carries no connotation of moral judgment, the translation "virtuous" is misleading for this term.
See: contacting awareness
The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) that differentiates that the object of a cognition is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, and thus serves as the foundation for experiencing it with a feeling of happiness, unhappiness, or a neutral feeling.
|contacting awareness, link of|
See: tainted aggregates
|contemporaneous motivating aim||Tib: dus-kyi kun-slong|
See: mental continuum
See: mutually exclusive
A word or phrase, agreed upon by a society or an individual, and used in speech and thought to refer to something.
A mind or heart focused first on the benefit of all limited beings and then on one's own individual not-yet-happening enlightenment, imputable on the basis of the Buddha-nature factors of one's mental continuum, with the intention to attain that enlightenment and to benefit others by means of that attainment.
|Tib: kun-rdzob-gyi byang-chub-gyi sems|
|conventional commonsense object|
Literally: conventional objects that one actually experiences when one cognizes them. An object of ordinary experience to which a word or concept refers, and which endures over time and extends over the sensibilia of one or more senses.
|Tib: tha-snyad spyod-yul|
|conventional object of experience|
|conventional true phenomenon|
See: superficial truth
See: firm conviction
|Corpus Encompassing Everything||Tib: chos-sku|
|Corpuses of a Buddha, Five|
|Corpuses of a Buddha, Four|
|Corpuses of a Buddha, Three|
|Corpuses of a Buddha, Two|
|Corpus of a Buddha||Tib: sku|
|Corpus of Deep Awareness' Enlightening Influence|
In some dzogchen systems, the spontaneous, effortless positive influence that a Buddha's omniscient mind exerts on others. Also called: Body of Deep Awareness' Enlightening Influence. Some translators render the term as "Wisdom Activity Body."
|Tib: ye-shes 'phrin-las sku|
|Corpus of Deep Awareness Encompassing Everything|
The deep awareness aspect of a Buddha's mind, which is equally aware of the two truths simultaneously, without any break. Also called: Body of Deep Awareness Encompassing Everything, Deep Awareness Dharmakaya. Some translators render this term as "Wisdom Dharmakaya."
|Tib: ye-shes chos-sku|
|Corpus of Emanations|
The network of grosser forms, which are emanations of a Buddha's Corpus of Full Use, and in which a Buddha appears in order to teach ordinary beings with the karma to be able to meet with them. Also translated sometimes as "Emanation Body."
|Corpus of Enlightening Forms|
See: Corpus of Forms
|Corpus of Essential Nature|
(1) In the Gelug non-Kalachakra system, the voidness of a Buddha's omniscient mind and its state of being parted from the two sets of obscurations. (2) In the Gelug Kalachakra system, the blissful awareness aspect of a Buddha's omniscient mind. (3) In the Non-Gelug systems, the inseparability of all the Corpuses of a Buddha - equivalent to the inseparability of the two truths. Also called: Body of Essential Nature, Nature Body.
|Tib: ngo-bo-nyid sku|
|Corpus of Forms|
A network of forms in which a Buddha appears in order to benefit others. It includes both the subtle forms of a Corpus of Full Use and the grosser forms of a Corpus of Emanations, Also called: Corpus of Enlightening Forms, Form Body, Body of Forms.
|Corpus of Full Use|
(1) According to sutra, the network of subtle forms, which make full use of the Mahayana teachings, and in which a Buddha appears in order to teach arya bodhisattvas. (2) According to non-Kalachakra anuttarayoga tantra, the network of all the speech of a Buddha. (3) According to Kalachakra, the network of both the subtle forms and the speech of a Buddha. Also called Body of Full Use. Some translators render this term as "Enjoyment Body."
|Tib: longs-spyod rdzogs-pa'i sku|
|Corpus of Great Bliss||Tib: bde-ba chen-po'i sku|
|Corpus of Manifest Enlightenment||Tib: mngon-byang-gi sku|
The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) of a strong longing desire to experience something in the future that one may or may not be experiencing at present. The Sanskrit term means, literally, "thirst."
|craving, link of|
See: link of craving
|craving because of fear|
One of the three types of craving specified particularly in terms of the time of death. Also called: craving to be separated from what is fearful. (1) A strong longing desire to be parted from pain and unhappiness. (2) Holding on to objects of the past.
|craving in relation to further existence|
One of the three types of craving specified particularly in terms of the time of death. (1) A strong longing desire for a neutral feeling, which one is experiencing, to continue surviving and not degenerate. (2) A strong longing desire for one's own body composed of five aggregates to continue surviving as a basis for craving in relation to what is desirable and craving because of fear. (3) Holding on to objects of the future.
|craving in relation to what is desirable|
One of the three types of craving specified particularly in terms of the time of death. (1) A strong longing desire not to be parted from the ordinary forms of happiness that one is currently experiencing. (2) Holding on to objects of the present, which one is attached to keeping.
|creative drops, subtle|
Subtle forms of pure essence, found in the subtle energy-channels of the subtle body and which, through anuttarayoga complete stage practice, can function as the seed for generating of a blissful awareness.
|crimes, five heinous|
See: five heinous crimes