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|
The lasting, enduring nature of all phenomena; the voidness of all phenomena.
An epithet of a Buddha - one who has been able to reach the goal of enlightenment and is able to benefit all beings as much as is possible.
See: Able One
See: absolute absence
See: bare absence
The absence of something impossible; the absence of something that has never existed and never can exist.
The refutation of the possibility that something could exist.
Perfect concentration fully absorbed or sunk into an object of focus.
See: total absorption
|absorption on voidness, clear light|
See: static phenomenon
|access clear light mental activity|
Through advanced meditation practices of the anuttarayoga tantra complete stage, to reach the clear light level of mind -- in the sense of stopping the grosser levels of mind so that the mind operates only on the underlying clear light level, which is the subtlest level of mental activity, and which has been operating with no beginning -- and then both to recognize this subtlest level of mind for what it is and utilize it for cognizing objects.
Through special methods used by a dzogchen master in a personal interaction with a fully prepared dzogchen practitioner, the practitioner reaching the rigpa (pure awareness) level of mind -- in the sense of making the exclusive focus of attention this underlying subtlest, untainted level of mental activity, which has been operating with no beginning -- and then both recognizing rigpa for what it is and making use of its natural properties.
See: highly accomplished
|accomplishing deep awareness|
One of the five types of deep awareness that all beings have as an aspect of Buddha-nature. The deep awareness that goes out to a cognitive object and which has the willingness to accomplish something with it, or to do something with it or to it, or to relate to it in some personal way. Also called: deep awareness to accomplish things.
|Tib: bya-grub ye-shes|
The attainment of a spiritual goal.
|accordant nature||Tib: de-bzhin-nyid|
See: fabulous accounts
|accounts, past life|
See: past life accounts
See: revelatory accounts
|accustoming pathway mind|
The level of mind of arya shravakas, arya pratyekabuddhas, and arya bodhisattvas with which they accustom themselves to the joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana focused nonconceptually on voidness -- or, in general, on the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths -- and thereby rid themselves of either one or both sets of automatically arising obscurations. Other translators usually render it as "path of meditation."
|acquired nirvana||Tib: thob-pa'i mya-ngan 'das|
The obtainment or gain of something, such as a vow or a spiritual attainment, imputable on the mental continuum of the one who has gained it. An acquirement or acquiring of something is a noncongruent affecting variable -- a nonstatic phenomenon that is neither a form of material phenomena nor a way of being aware of something.
All phenomena, other than the result itself, which do not impede the production of the result.
See: faulty actions
See: karmic action
|action, naturally destructive uncommendable|
|action, naturally uncommendable|
|action, prohibited uncommendable|
See: thick actions
See: uncommendable action
A significant spiritual goal that one actually attains or, literally, "makes actual" or "makes real" on one's mental continuum. The ordinary actual attainments refer to extrasensory and extraphysical powers, while the supreme actual attainment refers to enlightenment.
|actual clear light mind||Tib: don-gyi 'od-gsal|
|actual fundamental part|
The main part of a text or practice, containing the actual discussion of the principal topic.
See: actual nature
To attain a spiritual goal. To make the attainment of a spiritual goal really (actually) happen. Also translated as "attain" and "attainment."
|actual nature||Tib: chos-nyid|
The full definitional state of something, such as one of levels of mental constancy.
|actual state of the first dhyana|
|actual state of the first level of mental stability|
A state of mind attained on the basis of the attainment of a stilled and settled state of shamatha and which temporarily blocks all disturbing emotions and attitudes directed at phenomena on the plane of sensory desires (the "desire realm"). The various types of advanced awareness arise as a byproduct of the attainment of this state of mind. Also called: "actual state of the first dhyana."
|Tib: bsam-gtan dang-po'i dngos-gzhi|
Nonconceptual straightforward cognition of places, times, and distances that are obscure phenomena and of situations that are extremely obscure phenomena. A general term for both the five types of advanced awareness and the six extrasensory eyes, both of which are gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental constancy (the first dhyana). Sometimes also translated as "heightened awareness" or "extrasensory perception."
|advanced awareness for extraphysical emanation|
Cognition that is able to produce many different simultaneous emanations that are any one of three types: (1) physical emanations made of the five elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and space, (2) verbal emanations - speaking in such a way that various people can understand the words in their own languages and at their own levels of understanding, or (3) mental emanations of thoughts and levels of mind, such as awareness of many levels of meaning of a Dharma passage. One of the six types of advanced awareness gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental constancy (the first dhyana).
|Tib: rdzu-'phrul-gyi mngon-shes|
|advanced awareness of knowing other's minds|
Cognition of others' thoughts and states of mind. One of the six types of advanced awareness gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental constancy (the first dhyana).
|Tib: gzhan-sems shes-pa'i mngon-shes|
|advanced awareness of recollection of past situations||Tib: sngon-gnas rjes-dran-gyi mngon-shes|
|advanced awareness of the depletion of tainted factors|
One of the six types of advanced awareness gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental constancy (the first dhyana). Cognition of one's own state of being rid forever of the emotional obscurations preventing liberation from samsara.
|Tib: zag-pa zad-pa'i mngon-shes|
|advanced awareness of the divine ear|
Cognition that is able to hear sounds at any distance and to understand them, regardless of language. One of the six types of advanced awareness gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental constancy (the first dhyana).
|Tib: lha'i rna-ba'i mngon-shes|
|advanced awareness of the divine eye|
One of the six types of advanced awareness gained as a byproduct of the attainment of an actual state of the first level of mental constancy (the first dhyana). (1) According to the Karma Kagyu explanation, cognition of the different effects of karma on different beings, such as their future rebirths. (2) According to Gelug, cognition of gross (obvious) forms and subtle forms, including those at great distances in space and time.
|Tib: lha'i mig-gi mngon-shes|
A phenomenon that arises because of the influence of causes and conditions, and which changes because of constantly being influenced by causes and conditions. This refers to all nonstatic phenomena. Translators often render the term as "conditioned phenomenon."
|Tib: 'dus-byas-kyi chos|
To influence or condition other things so that it contributes to causing effects to happen.
|affecting impulses, link of|
|affecting variable||Tib: 'du-byed|
|affecting variables, aggregate of other|
|affirmation phenomenon||Tib: sgrub-pa|
|affirmingly known phenomenon|
See: karmic aftermath
See: karmic aftermath
The person who commits an action.
|aggregate factors of experience||Tib: phung-po|
|aggregate of consciousness|
|aggregate of distinguishing|
One of the five aggregate factors of experience. The network of all instances of the subsidiary awareness (mental factor) of distinguishing that could be part of any moment of experience on someone's mental continuum. Some translators render the term as "aggregate of recognition." See: distinguishing.
|Tib: 'du-shes-kyi phung-po|
|aggregate of feelings|
|aggregate of feelings of levels of happiness|
One of the five aggregate factors of experience. The network of all instances of the subsidiary awareness (mental factor) of feeling a level of happiness or unhappiness that could be part of any moment of experience on someone's mental continuum. Also called "aggregate of feelings." See: feeling a level of happiness.
|Tib: tshor-ba'i phung-po|
|aggregate of forms|
|aggregate of forms of physical phenomena|
One of the five aggregate factors of experience. The network of all instances of all types of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, physical sensations, physical sensors, and forms of physical phenomena included only among the cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena. Any of these can be part of any moment of experience on someone's mental continuum. Also called "aggregate of forms."
|Tib: gzugs-kyi phung-po|
|aggregate of karmic formations|
|aggregate of other affecting variables|
One of the five aggregate factors of experience. The network of all instances of subsidiary awarenesses (mental factors), other than feelings of levels of happiness and distinguishing, as well as all instances of noncongruent affecting variables, that could be part of any moment of experience on someone's mental continuum. Some translators render the term as "aggregate of volitions" or "aggregate of karmic formations."
|Tib: 'du-byed-kyi phung-po|
|aggregate of primary consciousnesses|
One of the five aggregate factors of experience. The network of all instances of mental consciousness or of any of the five types of sensory consciousness that could be part of any moment of experience on someone's mental continuum. It also includes the network of all instances of deluded awareness and all-encompassing foundation consciousness in those systems that assert these two. Also called: "aggregate of consciousness."
|Tib: rnam-shes-kyi phung-po|
|aggregate of recognition|
|aggregate of volitions|
See: obtaining aggregates
See: tainted aggregates
See: untainted aggregates
|aging and dying||Tib: rga-shi|
|aging and dying, link of|
|aim, causal motivating|
|aim, contemporaneous motivating|
See: motivating aim
See: basis for all
See: deep awareness alaya
|alaya, primordial deepest|
|alaya for habits|
In the dzogchen system, foundational awareness for the habits of grasping for truly established existence, for karma, and for memories. The type of limited awareness that basis rigpa functions as, when it is mixed with dumbfoundedness.
|Tib: bag-chags-kyi kun-gzhi|
The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) that checks the condition of mindfulness's mental hold on the object of focus. It sees if the mental hold has been lost or is too weak or too tight due to flightiness of mind or mental dullness. It is more, however, than just reflexive awareness or implicit apprehension, which merely notices what is happening with the meditation. It resembles an alarm system to trigger a response with restoring attention to correct any faults.
Including everything within its domain.
|all-encompassing foundation consciousness|
An unspecified, nonobstructive, individual consciousness that underlies all cognition, cognizes the same objects as the cognitions it underlies, but is a nondetermining cognition of what appears to it and lacks clarity of its objects. It carries the karmic legacies of karma and the mental impressions of memories, in the sense that they are imputed on it. It is also translated as "foundation consciousness" and, by some translators, as "storehouse consciousness." According to Gelug, asserted only by the Chittamatra system; according to non-Gelug, assserted by both the Chittamatra and Madhyamaka systems.
|Tib: kun-gzhi rnam-shes|
Pertaining to everything.
|all-pervasively affecting suffering|
The suffering that comes simply from having tainted aggregates that serve as the basis for experiencing the suffering of suffering and the suffering of change. Such suffering is all-pervasive since it affects every moment of samsaric experience.
|Tib: khyab-par 'du-byed-kyi sdug-bsngal|
|amulet box tradition||Tib: ga'u-ma|
See: subtle discernment
See: subtle discernment
|ancient narratives||Tib: de-lta-bu byung-ba|
A root disturbing emotion, aimed at another limited being, one's own suffering, or situations entailing suffering, and which is impatient with them and wishes to get rid of them, such as by damaging or hurting them, or by striking out against them. It is based on regarding its object as unattractive or repulsive by its very nature.
|antecedent practice for realization|
A visualization practice in which one imagines oneself to be a Buddha-figure, for which one has received empowerment, and which one does as a method for actualizing oneself as the figure. It is "antecedent" in the sense of being a meditation practice undertaken both before and as a condition for being able to actualize oneself as the Buddha-figure. Synonymous with "sadhana."
See: would-be divine
|anuttarayoga tantra||Tib: bla-med rnal-'byor|
Skt: anuttarayoga tantra
|anuyoga tantra||Tib: a-nu yo-ga|
|apparent Buddha Gem||Tib: kun-rdzob-pa'i sangs-rgyas dkon-mchog|
|apparent Dharma Gem||Tib: kun-rdzob-pa'i chos dkon-mchog|
|apparent level Precious Gems||Tib: kun-rdzob-pa'i dkon-mchog|
|apparent Sangha Gem||Tib: kun-rdzob-pa'i dge-'dun dkon-mchog|
|apparent true phenomenon|
See: superficial truth
See: deceptive appearance
|appearance, giving rise to|
See: impure appearance
See: pure appearance
See: reflexive appearance
Also translated as: appearance, white appearance
|appearance-making basis rigpa||Tib: gzhi-snang-gi rig-pa|
|appearance-making of non-true existence|
According to the Nyingma school, the aspect of a limited being's sensory or nonconceptual mental activity that gives rise to (makes) a mental hologram of objects of cognition without making them appear to be truly existent "this"s or "that"s, in the sense in which Madhyamaka defines true existence.
|appearance-making of true existence|
The aspect of a limited being's mental activity that gives rise to (makes) a mental hologram of seemingly true existence. It makes the mental holograms of objects of cognition appear to be truly existent, in the sense in which the Madhyamaka schools define true existence. In the non-Gelug systems, it occurs only with conceptual cognition and it makes appearances of objects of cognition to be truly "this"s and "that"s.
|appearances of non-true existence|
In the Nyingma system, mental holograms of objects of cognition, which do not make them appear as if they were truly existent "this"s or "that"s. This occurs only with sensory and nonconceptual mental cognition.
The mental hologram (mental representation) of any external or internal object of cognition, which a cognition gives rise to. Equivalent to the cognitively taken object. Sometimes used interchangeably with "mental aspect," and sometimes differentiated from "mental aspect" in the sense that a cognition takes on the "mental aspect" of its appearing object.
|applying pathway mind|
The level of mind of shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas with which they apply the joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana, focused conceptually on voidness -- or, in general, on the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths -- and which they gained with a building-up pathway mind, to gaining a nonconceptual focus on voidness. Other translators often render this term as "path of preparation."
|approximate and actualize oneself as a Buddha-figure||Tib: bsnyen-sgrub|
|approximation retreat, great|
A practitioner, of the shravaka, pratyekabuddha, or bodhisattva class, who has achieved a true stopping of the emotional obscurations and thus has attained liberation (nirvana). Also called a "liberated being." Some translators render the term as "foe-destroyer."
The state of an arhat.
See: making arise
See: cognitive arising
A practitioner who has had nonconceptual cognition of the four noble truths and thus has attained a shravaka, pratyekabuddha, or bodhisattva seeing pathway of mind (path of seeing). Also called a "highly realized practitioner" or a "highly realized being." Some translators render the term as "noble one."
|arya bodhisattva||Tib: byang-sems 'phags-pa|
Skt: arya bodhisattva
|arya pathway mind|
The three pathway minds of shravaka, pratyekabuddha, and bodhisattva aryas (those with nonconceptual cognition of the four noble truths) -- namely, their seeing and accustoming pathway minds, and their pathway minds needing no further training.
|arya pratyekabuddha||Tib: rang-rgyal 'phags-pa|
Skt: arya prtatyekabuddha
|arya shravaka||Tib: nyan-thos 'phags-pa|
Skt: arya shravaka
See: decisively determine
|ascertainment||Tib: gtan-la dbab-pa|
See: mental aspect
|aspects, naturally inseparable|
(1) A prayer for the attainment of a spiritual goal or of the circumstances conducive for reaching that goal. (2) In the context of the ten Mahayana far-reaching attitudes, a special discriminating awareness concerning phenomena toward which to aspire. This discriminating awareness is in connection with the aspiration never to be parted from a bodhichitta aim in all one's lifetimes and for the continuity of one's far-reaching activities for benefiting all beings never to be broken.
|aspiring bodhichitta||Tib: smon-sems|
|aspiring state of aspiring bodhichitta|
|asserting one's identity||Tib: bdag-tu smra-ba|
A position, accepted by a Buddhist or non-Buddhist tenet system, in regard to a philosophical point.
|associated with confusion|
See: would-be divine
In the Nyingma system, the third of the three classes of inner tantras, in which meditation practices to actualize the immediate causes for an enlightening mind and Corpus of Forms of a Buddha are emphasized.
See: sticky attachment
See: actual attainment
The ever-functioning mental factor that engages mental activity with a specific cognitive object. The cognitive engagement may be merely to pay some level of attention to the object (strong or weak), or to focus on the object in a certain way (painstakingly, effortlessly, etc.), or to consider the object in a certain way (concordantly or discordantly). Also called: paying attention, consideration, take to mind, taking to mind.
|Tib: yid-la byed-pa|
See: restoring attention
|attitude, distorted antagonistic||Tib: log-lta|
See: disturbing attitude
|attitude, nominal disturbing|
See: nominal disturbing attitude
The conceptual category of the sound of a word or name, in which the sound of all individual pronunciations of the word or name fit, regardless of the voice, volume, or pronunciation with which it is spoken.
See: audio category
See: ear consciousness
Naturally arising or occurring on a mental continuum from time to time, without being based on previously having been taught an incorrect tenet system. When something, such as a constructive or a disturbing emotion automatically arises, it does so from a tendency for that emotion, built up from previous occurrences of the same emotion, and does not entail the occurrence or production of an emotion that has never occurred before.
|automatically arising disturbing emotions and attitudes||Tib: nyon-mongs lhan-skyes|
|automatically arising ignorance|
|automatically arising 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 without being based on that person having been taught an incorrect tenet system. Others often translate it as "automatically arising ignorance" or "innate ignorance."
|Tib: ma-rigs lhan-skyes|
|automatically liberates itself in its own place|
|automatically releases itself in its own place|
The quality of a conceptual thought or cognition that it ceases or dissolves simultaneously with its arisal, without any effort required to make it cease. Also called: automatically liberates itself in its own place.
|auxiliary bonding practices||Tib: yan-lag-gi dam-tshig|
|auxiliary disturbing emotions||Tib: nye-nyon|
|auxiliary secondary tantric vows|
|auxiliary thick actions|
A set of actions, in addition to the eight thick actions, that, at either a yoga or anuttarayoga empowerment, one vows to avoid and which, if committed, weaken meditation practice and hamper progress along the tantra path. Also called: auxiliary secondary tantric vows.
|Tib: yan-lag-gi sbom-po|
The most general, all-inclusive term for cognizing an object. It is used in the sense of both being aware of something and making something an object of awareness, but not necessarily as a conscious act of will or knowing what the object is.
|awareness, accomplishing||Tib: bya-grub ye-shes|
See: advanced awareness
|awareness, basis or fundamental realized|
|awareness, clear light|
See: deep awareness
See: general awareness
See: normal awareness
|awareness, omniscient realized|
|awareness, pathway realized|
|awareness, primally pure|
See: primal purity
See: principal awareness
See: pure awareness
See: reflexive awareness
|awareness, reflexive deep|
See: specific awareness
See: subsidiary awareness
|awareness of its own face||Tib: rang-ngo shes-pa|
See: four axioms