Try our new website New materials, revised articles, guided meditations, new design

The Berzin Archives

The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

Switch to the Text Version of this page. Jump to main navigation.

Home > Glossary > Glossary Tibetan Terms

Tibetan 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 G K L M N P R S T Y Z everything

'bras-bulevel, resultant

The level of a fully enlightened Buddha, attained as the result of Mahayana practice.

J. Hopkins' translation: "effect."

'bras-buresultant level

In the context of basis, pathway, and resultant levels of something being specified, the level of something, for instance Buddha-nature, in the state of a Buddha when it is fully purified.

J. Hopkins' translation: "effect."

'bras-bu'i skyabs-'groresultant taking of safe direction

A taking of safe direction (refuge) that takes as its sources of safe direction the Triple Gem that one will attain oneself in the future, based on actualizing one's own Buddha-nature. Synonymous with "special taking of safe direction."

'bras-dus-kyi rnam-shes-kyi yan-laglink of loaded consciousness at the time of the result

The second phase of the third of the twelve links of dependent arising, the link of loaded consciousness. A mental continuum containing the karmic aftermath of throwing karma during the future lifetime produced as a result of that throwing karma.

'Bri-gung bka'-brgyudDrigung 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.

'Brug-pa bka'-brgyudDrugpa 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.

'chi-sriddeath 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."


The past occurrence of something. According to Gelug Sautrantika, Chittamatra, and Svatantrika-Madhyamaka, a static nonimplicative negation phenomenon; according to Gelug Prasangika, a nonstatic implicative negation phenomenon. Also translated as "passed-happening."

J. Hopkins' translation: "past; pass away; go beyond; pastness."

'dod-chagslonging desireSkt: raga

The disturbing emotion that exaggerates the good qualities of an object that one does not possess and wishes to obtain it.

J. Hopkins' translation: "desire."

'dod-khamsplane of sensory desiresSkt: kamadhatu

Samsaric rebirth states in which the limited beings have desire for sensory objects. Usually translated by others as "desire realm."

J. Hopkins' translation: "Desire Realm."

'dod-pa'i lhaKama

The god of desire in Hindu mythology.

'dod-pa nye-bar len-paobtainer desire

The mental factor (subsidiary awareness) of longing desire specifically for some desirable sensory object on the plane of sensory desires. See: longing desire. Equivalent to the obtainer emotion, it is the first of the four "obtainers" that constitute the ninth link of dependent arising.

'dod-sredcraving 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.

'du-byedaffecting variableSkt: samskara

A phenomenon that continually changes (a nonstatic phenomenon) and which influences other nonstatic phenomenon to arise, in the sense that it contributes to causing them to happen.

J. Hopkins' translation: "compositional factor."

'du-byed-kyi phung-poaggregate of other affecting variablesSkt: samskara-skandha

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."

'du-byed-kyi yan-laglink of affecting impulsesSkt: samskara-anga

The second of the twelve links of dependent arising. A karmic impulse that will affect future lives; synonymous with "throwing karma." Some translators render the term as the "link of karmic formations."

'dul-barules of disciplineSkt: vinaya

(1) The scriptural texts that discuss the ethical discipline and vows for the monastic community of monks and nuns. (2) The subject matter discussed in the above texts.

J. Hopkins' translation: "Discipline."


The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) to obtain any object, to achieve any goal, or to do something with the object or goal once obtained or achieved.

J. Hopkins' translation: "aspiration."

'dus-byas-kyi chosaffected phenomenonSkt: samskrtadharma

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."

J. Hopkins' translation: "compositional phenomena."

'du-shesdistinguishingSkt: samjna

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."

'du-shesrecognitionSkt: samjna

The mental factor (subsidiary awareness) of distinguishing an object as being something specific, such as when studying the Dharma, oneself as being a sick person, one's spiritual teacher as being a doctor, and the Dharma as being medicine.

J. Hopkins' translation: "discrimination."

'du-shes-kyi phung-poaggregate of distinguishingSkt: samjna-skandha

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.

'dus ma-byasunaffected phenomenonSkt: asamskrtadharma

A phenomenon that is not affected by causes or conditions. A synonym for static phenomenon. Often rendered by other translators as "unconditioned phenomenon."

J. Hopkins' translation: "uncompounded."

'dzin-chamental hold

The aspect of a cognition that describes the level of strength of maintenance of attention on the focal object, without letting go of it. Also translated as "mental glue," it is established by the subsidiary awareness (mental factor) of mindfulness and has two aspects: mental abiding and appearance-making.

'dzin-pacognitively taking an objectSkt: graha

Cognizing an object - taking a validly knowable phenomenon as an object of cognition in the sense of cognizing it with either a valid or invalid way of knowing.

J. Hopkins' translation: "apprehend/conceive."

'dzin-stangsway of cognitively taking an object

Also called: way of taking an object

J. Hopkins' translation: "mode of apprehension{N}."

'gal-bamutually exclusive

Two sets are mutually exclusive if they do not share any common locus -- neither contains a member that also belongs to the other. Also translated as "contradictory."

J. Hopkins' translation: "mutually exclusive, contradictory."

'gog-pastoppingSkt: nirodha

The total elimination of something such that it never recurs.

J. Hopkins' translation: "cessation."

'gog-pa'i bden-patrue stoppingSkt: nirodha-satya

The elimination, forever, of some degree of either an emotional or a cognitive obscuration from a mental continuum. They occur only on the mental continuum of aryas -- those with nonconceptual cognition of voidness. Often translated as "true cessation."

J. Hopkins' translation: "true cessations."

'gro-bawandering beingSkt: gamin

A being that "wanders" from one uncontrollably recurring rebirth to the next; a being caught in samsara. Synonymous with "limited being" (sentient being).

J. Hopkins' translation: "transmigrator."

'gro-ba rigs-drugsix realms of existence

Literally, the six families of wandering beings. The six types of samsaric rebirth: (1) hell-beings (trapped beings in the joyless realms), (2) clutching ghosts (hungry ghosts), (3) animals (creeping creatures), (4) humans, (5) would-be divine beings (anti-gods), and (6) divine beings (gods).


The subsidiary awareness (mental factor) of not wishing to repeat doing something, either proper or improper, that one did or that someone else made one do.

J. Hopkins' translation: "contrition."

'gyur-ba'i sdug-bsngalsuffering of change

The suffering of ordinary happiness, which never lasts, never satisfies, and which eventually turns into the suffering of suffering.

J. Hopkins' translation: "suffering of change/vicissitude."


The nonstatic, affected phenomenon of the ceasing of the present-happening of something.

J. Hopkins' translation: "disintegrating; disintegration."

'jig-rten-la grags-pacommonsense object

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.

J. Hopkins' translation: "well known to the world."

'jig-rten-las 'das-pasupramundane

Related to the mental continuum of an arya -- someone who has attained nonconceptual cognition of the four noble truths. Also translated as "with a base beyond perishing," "transworldly" or "transcendent."


Someone who is neither a monk nor a nun.

J. Hopkins' translation: "worldly; mundane."


Related to the mental continuum of a non-arya -- someone who has not yet attained nonconceptual cognition of the four noble truths. Also translated as "perishably based" and "worldly."

J. Hopkins' translation: "worldly; mundane."

'jig-rten-pa'i chos-brgyadeight 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."


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."

'jigs-sredcraving 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.

'jig-tshogs-la lta-badeluded outlook toward a transitory networkSkt: satkayadrshti

(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]."

'jog-sgomstabilizing meditation

A method for habituating oneself to an insight, understanding, or state of mind in which one focuses on an object with that desired insight, understanding, or state of mind and with full conviction in its validity, but without the mental factors of gross detection (investigation) or subtle discernment (scrutiny). Also translated sometimes as "fixating meditation."

'jug-pacognitive engagement

A manner of cognizing an object.

J. Hopkins' translation: "continuity; enter; begin; engage; apply; entrance."

'jug-semsengaged 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."

'jug-yulinvolved object

The main object with which a particular cognition involves itself or engages. Equivalent to the object existing as cognitively taklen.

J. Hopkins' translation: "ob­ject of engage­ment."

'khor-basamsaraSkt: samsara

Uncontrollably recurring rebirth under the power of disturbing emotions and attitudes and of karma. Some translators render it as "cyclic existence."

J. Hopkins' translation: "cyclic existence."

'khor-lo gsumthree circles

Three aspects of an action that are all equally void of true existence: (1) the individual performing the action, (2) the object upon or toward which the action is committed, and (3) the action itself. Occasionally, as in the case of the action of giving, the object may refer to the object given. The existence of each of these is established dependently on the others. Sometimes translated as "the three spheres" of an action.


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

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

'khrul-shesdeceptive 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."

'khrul-snangdeceptive appearance

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

'od-gsalclear 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."

J. Hopkins' translation: "clear light."

'phags-lamarya pathway mindSkt: aryamarga

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.

'phags-paaryaSkt: arya

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."

J. Hopkins' translation: "Superior."

'phangs-pa'i 'bras-bu'i yan-lagresultant links of what has been thrown

In the twelve links of dependent arising, the three and a half links of resultant loaded consciousness, nameable mental faculties with or without gross form, stimulators of cognition, and contacting awareness, which occur during the development of an embryo in the womb in the life that is thrown by the activated karmic aftermath of throwing karma.

'phen-byed-kyi yan-lagcausal 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.

'phrin-lasenlightening influenceSkt: samudacara

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."

'phrin-lasinfluencing nature

One of the threefold natures of pure awareness (rigpa), referring to the enlightening influence it has on others.

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

' A B C D G K L M N P R S T Y Z everything