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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


The future 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.

ma-bsgribs-pa'i lung ma-bstannonobstructive unspecified phenomenonSkt: anivrta-avyakrta

A phenomenon that Buddha did not specify as being either constructive or destructive, and which does not hinder the attainment of liberation.

ma-dag-pa'i snang-baimpure appearance

An appearance of something as a nonenlightened mind makes it appear, namely in only a mundane form and with true existence.

ma-ha yo-gamahayoga

Within the Nyingma classification scheme of nine vehicles of mind, the class of tantra leading to dzogchen practice but with the main emphasis and detail on generation stage practice.

man-ngagquintessence teachingsSkt: upadesha

Teachings, either oral or written, that present the essential, most profound points of a more extensive topic.

J. Hopkins' translation: "quintessential instruction."

man-ngag sdequintessence teachings division

The division of treasure texts, deriving from texts buried by either Guru Rinpoche or Vimalamitra, that emphasizes pure awareness being primally pure. Often referred to by the transliterated Tibetan "menngag-dey." Equivalent to the heart essence division."

ma-rig kun-brtagsdoctrinally 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.

ma-rig-paunawarenessSkt: avidya

(1) According to Vasubandhu and Asanga, not knowing. (2) According to Dharmakirti, knowing in an inverted (incorrect) manner. In both cases, unawareness is of either behavioral cause and effect, or of the lack of an impossible "soul" or voidness. Translators often render the term as "ignorance."

J. Hopkins' translation: "ignorance."

ma-rig-pa'i yan-laglink of unawarenessSkt: avidya-anga

The first of the twelve links of dependent arising. Both doctrinally based and automatically arising forms of not knowing how persons exist. Some translators render the term as the "link of ignorance."

ma-rigs lhan-skyesautomatically 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."


The recognition of all beings as having at some time been one's mother. The first of the seven-part cause and effect quintessence teaching for developing bodhichitta.

J. Hopkins' translation: "cognize as mother."

ma-yin dgagimplicative negation phenomenon

An exclusion of something else in which, after the sounds of the words that exclude the object to be negated have negated that object, they leave behind in their wake, explicitly or implicitly, something else. Some translators render the term as "affirming negation."

J. Hopkins' translation: "affirming negative phenomenon."

ma-yin-pa-las log-panothing-other-than

An implicative negation phenomenon that leaves behind in its wake what is left when one excludes or eliminates everything that is not a specific object.

J. Hopkins' translation: "opposite from not being; opposite from non-; non-non."

mchedlight diffusion

also translated as: increase, red appearance


One of the three subtle appearance-making minds.

J. Hopkins' translation: "increase."


Something presented, with respect and the intention to bring happiness and benefit, to someone else.

J. Hopkins' translation: "offering; offer; revere; honor; please through offering; worship."

mchod-paoffering ritualSkt: puja

A tantra ceremony in which specially consecrated offerings are made to honor one's tantric master, inseparable from a Buddha-figure.

J. Hopkins' translation: "offering; offer; revere; honor; please through offering; worship."

mchod-rtenstupaSkt: stupa

A monument within which are kept the relics of a great Buddhist master. Translated as a reliquary monument.

J. Hopkins' translation: "reliquary; basis for worship."

mdosutraSkt: sutra

(1) Texts by Shakyamuni Buddha, both Hinayana and Mahayana, that discuss themes of practice.(2) Within the context of the Three Baskets (Tripitaka), the texts of Buddha that especially concern the training in higher concentration. (3) Within the context of Buddha's teachings divided into sutra and tantra, the division that does not entail visualization of oneself as a Buddha-figure. (3) Within the context of the twelve scriptural categories, the texts that present what Buddha had to say in a brief and condensed format. Also called: expositions on themes of practice.

J. Hopkins' translation: "sUtra; discourse; short sentence; axiom; scripture."

mdo'i gsang-lamhidden path of sutra

The mahamudra teachings concealed in the Mahayana sutras and passed down in lineage from Maitripa to Marpa to Milarepa to Gampopa.

mdo'i phyag-chensutra mahamudra

Meditations on the nature of the mind with regard to only gross and subtle minds -- in other words, sensory and mental consciousness -- and not with regard to the subtlest mind, clear light.


A Hinayana school of Indian Buddhism that asserts the true existence of both reflexive awareness and external phenomena; a subdivision of the Sarvastivada school of Hinayana. One of the four Indian Buddhist tenet systems studied by all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

J. Hopkins' translation: "Sūtra School, Sautrāntika."

mDo-sde spyod-pa'i dbu-ma rang-rgyud-paSautrantika-Svatantrika

According to Gelug, a subdivision of the Svatantrika Madhyamaka tenet system that does not assert reflexive awareness, but does assert external phenomena as having existence established by their individual defining characteristic marks.

J. Hopkins' translation: "SUtra Autonomy Middle Way School."


The part of a self-initiation in which one generates in front of oneself the supported and supporting mandalas from which one will receive the full empowerment.

J. Hopkins' translation: "generation in front."

mdzad-paenlightening deeds

According to Mahayana, a set of twelve actions or deeds in the life of a Buddha, with which a Buddha demonstrates to all limited beings the way to achieve enlightenment.

J. Hopkins' translation: "verb: do; use{BJ 34.1}; honorific for byed pa; honorific form of address noun: action; act; deed."

med-dgagnonimplicative negation phenomenon

An exclusion of something else in which, after the sounds of the words that exclude the object to be negated have negated that object, they do not leave behind in their wake, explicitly or implicitly, something else. Some translators render the term as a "nonaffirming negation."

J. Hopkins' translation: "non-affirming negation, nonaffirming negative phenomenon."

med-dgag-gi gzhan-selnonimplicative negation exclusions of something else

Synonymous with nonimplicative negation phenomena, and thus include voidnesses, spaces, and other absences.

J. Hopkins' translation: "other-eliminator that is a non-affirming negative."


Things that cannot be validly known.

J. Hopkins' translation: "nonexistent."

med-snangappearance-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.

med-snangappearances 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.

me-long lta-bu'i ye-shesmirror-like deep awareness

One of the five types of deep awareness that all beings have as an aspect of Buddha-nature. The deep awareness that takes in all the information about an object of cognition. Also called: deep awareness that is like a mirror.

J. Hopkins' translation: "mirror-like wisdom."

mi-'gyur rdo-rje'i skuImmutable Vajra Corpus

In some Kagyu mahamudra systems, synonymous with "Vajra Corpus" in the meaning of the unchanging nature of the other four Corpuses of a Buddha.

mi-bde-baunhappinessSkt: du:kha (duhkha)

That feeling which, when it arises, one wants to be parted from it.

J. Hopkins' translation: "unhappiness; difficult."


Not incorrect.

J. Hopkins' translation: "inevitable; [not-deceive]; incontrovertible; ineluctible; undeceived."

mi-dge-badestructiveSkt: akushala

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."

mig-gi spyod-yul-du 'gyur-ba'i gzugsforms of physical phenomena that can become objects of experience of the eyes

Equivalent to sights. See: sights.

mi-gnas-pa'i mya-ngan 'dasnonabiding nirvanaSkt: apratisthita-nirvana

(1) According to the Hinayana tenet systems, the static unchanging state of full enlightenment attained by a Buddha and lasting only so long as he is alive. In this state, a Buddha does not abide in either the extreme of continued samsaric suffering or in the extreme of the passivity of a Hinayana arhat's nirvana without residue. (2) According to the Mahayana tenet systems, including Gelug Prasangika, the static unchanging state of full enlightenment attained by a Buddha and lasting forever, in which a Buddha does not abide in either the extreme of continued samsaric suffering or in the extreme of the passivity of a Hinayana arhat's nirvana without residue.


A combination of sounds that are assigned a meaning.

ming 'dogs-pamental labeling

To impute (project, superimpose), with conceptual cognition, an audio category (such as the word or name "table") or a meaning/object category (such as a "table" as an individual object) onto a basis (such as four legs and a flat board on top of them). Also translated as "imputation."

ming-dang gzugs-kyi yan-laglink of nameable mental faculties with or without gross formSkt: namarupa-anga

The fourth of the twelve links of dependent arising. The four mental aggregates -- consciousness, feeling a level of happiness, distinguishing, and other affecting variables -- some of which are merely potentials -- together with the aggregate of forms of physical phenomena during a rebirth on the plane of sensory desires or the plane of ethereal forms, or without this aggregate during a rebirth on the plane of formless beings, during the period of time in the development of a foetus from the moment of conception up until the moment just before the cognitive faculties of seeing, hearing, and so on are differentiated.

mi-rtag-panonstaticnessSkt: anitya

The noncongruent affecting variable of changing from moment to moment, under the influence of causes and circumstances. Sometimes translated as "impermanence."

J. Hopkins' translation: "impermanence."

mi-rtag-panonstatic phenomenonSkt: anitya

Phenomena that are affected and supported by causes and circumstances and, consequently, change from moment to moment, and which produce effects. Their streams of continuity may have a beginning and an end, a beginning and no end, no beginning but an end, or no beginning and no end. Some translators render the term as "impermanent phenomena." They include forms of physical phenomena, ways of being aware of something, and noncongruent affecting variables, which are neither of the two.

J. Hopkins' translation: "impermanence."

mi-rtag-pa phra-mosubtle impermanence

A nonstatic phenomenon's drawing closer each moment to its ultimate end, like a time bomb, based on the fact that the cause for the phenomenon's final disintegration or end is its coming into being, its arising.

mi-rtag-pa rags-pagross impermanence

The final destruction or disintegration of a nonstatic phenomenon.

mi-shes sgribobscurations of not knowing

Mental blocks that come from not knowing the Dharma in general or specifically not knowing about the emotional and cognitive obscurations. These mental blocks prevent the attainment of liberation and enlightenment.

mi-slob lampathway mind needing no further trainingSkt: ashaiksha-marga

The level of mind of shravaka arhats, pratyekabuddha arhats, and Buddhas, with which they have attained their respective purified states (bodhi) of liberation or enlightenment, and which require no further training in order to attain that purified state. Other translators sometimes render this term as "path of no learning."

J. Hopkins' translation: "path of no more learning."

mi-srid-painvalid phenomenon

A phenomenon that cannot be validly known now. It may be either an existent phenomenon (such as a no-longer happening or a not-yet-happening one) or a nonexistent phenomenon.

J. Hopkins' translation: "not not occur{BJ 20.7}; impossible."

mngon-'dod-kyi dad-pabelief in a fact with an aspiration

A constructive emotion that considers true both a fact about something and a wish one holds about that object, such as that one can attain a positive goal and that one will attain it.

J. Hopkins' translation: "faith of wishing [to attain]."

mngon-byang-gi skuCorpus of Manifest EnlightenmentSkt: abhisambhodhikaya

According to some dzogchen systems, the appearance-making aspect of the deep awareness of a Buddha's pure appearance. In other words, the appearance-making aspect of a Buddha's omniscient mind.

mngon-gyurobvious phenomenon

A validly knowable phenomenon that can be cognized by valid nonconceptual straightforward cognition. Also defined as a validly knowable phenomenon that be apprehended through the force of personal experience.

J. Hopkins' translation: "manifest phenomenon."

mngon-par grub-pa'i 'bras-bu'i yan-lagresultant links of what is actualized

In the twelve links of dependent arising, the two links of conception and aging and dying in a future rebirth thrown by the activated karmic aftermath of throwing karma.

mngon-par skabs yod-pa'i gzugsforms of physical phenomena existing in actual situations

Forms of physical phenomena included only among the cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena and which are spaces that are in between objects and either too large or too small to be seen, such as the space in between astronomical bodies or in between atoms.

mngon-par ‘du-byed med-palack of an action’s affecting variables

The voidness or total lack of true existence of the three affecting variables (three circles) involved with any action: an act to be done, an agent and an action that occurs.

mngon-rtogsantecedent 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."

J. Hopkins' translation: "clear realization/clear realizer."

mngon-shesadvanced awarenessSkt: abhijna

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."

J. Hopkins' translation: "clairvoyance."

mngon-sumbare cognitionSkt: pratyaksha

Cognition of a cognitive object without that cognition being through the medium of a concept, universal, or category.

J. Hopkins' translation: "direct perception."

mngon-sumstraightforward cognitionSkt: pratyaksha

In the Gelug Prasangika system, cognition of an object, which occurs without relying on a line of reasoning in the moment immediately prior to it. Straightforward cognition may be either conceptual or nonconceptual.

J. Hopkins' translation: "direct perception."

mngon-sum tshad-mavalid bare cognitionSkt: pratyakshapramana

Bare cognition that is fresh and nonfallacious. See: bare cognition.

mngon-sum tshad-mavalid straightforward cognitionSkt: pratyakshapramana

Straightforward cognition that is nonfallacious. See: straightforward cognition.

mnyam-bzhagtotal absorptionSkt: samahita

A state of mind having the joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana, and in which absorbed concentration is focused single-pointedly on a voidness that is like space. It may be either conceptual or nonconceptual. Sometimes translated as "meditative equipoise."

J. Hopkins' translation: "meditative equipoise."

mnyam-nyid ye-shesequalizing deep awareness

One of the five types of deep awareness that all beings have as an aspect of Buddha-nature. The deep awareness that is aware of several items as belonging equally to the same category, or as fitting into the same pattern. Also called: deep awareness of the equality of things.

mos-pafirm conviction

(1) According to Asanga, the mental factor (subsidiary awareness) that focuses on a fact that one has validly ascertained to be like this and not like that, and which makes one's belief that a fact is true so firm that others' arguments or opinions will not dissuade one. (2) According to Vasubandhu, the term means "regard": the mental factor that takes its object to have some level of good qualities – on the spectrum from no good qualities to all good qualities – and may be either accurate or distorted.

J. Hopkins' translation: "belief."

mthar-'dzin-pa'i lta-baextreme outlookSkt: antagrahadrshti

The disturbing attitude that regards one's five samsara-perpetuating aggregates in either an eternalist or nihilistic way. (1) According to Vasubandhu, an extreme outlook that views the samsara-producing aggregate factors themselves as either lasting eternally or ending totally at death, with no continuity in future lives. (2) According to Tsongkhapa, a disturbing, deluded discriminating awareness that focuses on the conventional "me" and considers it either as having a truly existent identity permanently or as not having continuity in future lives.

J. Hopkins' translation: "view holding to an extreme."

mthar-thugultimate level

The final, most profound level of something. Sometimes also translated as "deepest level" or "ultimate deepest level."

J. Hopkins' translation: "[end-to-meet] final; complete."

mthar-thug-gi skyabs-gnasultimate source of safe direction

The Buddhas, as the only ones with full sets of true stoppings and true pathway minds on their mental continuums.

mthar-thug theg-paultimate vehicles of mind

According to the tenets of the Chittamatra Followers of Scripture, three vehicles of mind that lead to three different final goals -- shravaka arhatship, pratyekabuddha arhatship, and Buddhahood -- which, once one has been attained, do not allow for the person who has attained it to achieve one of the other two goals. Thus, shravaka arhats and pratyekabuddha arhats cannot attain enlightenment.

J. Hopkins' translation: "final vehicle."

mthong-lamseeing pathway mind

The level of mind of arya sharavakas, arya pratyekabuddhas, and arya bodhisattvas with which they first attain a joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana focused nonconceptually on voidness -- or, in general, on the sixteen aspects of the four noble truths -- and with which they rid themselves of one or both sets of doctrinally based obscurations. Often translated as "path of seeing."

J. Hopkins' translation: "path of seeing."

mtshan bzang-po gsum-cu rtsa-gnyisthirty-two excellent signs

Also translated as: thirty-two major marks

mtshan-ma med-palack of a sign

The voidness or total lack of truly existent causes for any phenomenon; literally, the lack of any sign of truly existent causes from which a phenomenon arose.

J. Hopkins' translation: "signlessness."

mtshan-zhabsMaster Debate Partner

The title held by a highly educated attendant of an incarnate lama (tulku) that attends all the lessons that the lama receives and afterwards debates with the lama to ensure that he or she has understood the lesson correctly. In the case of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, there are seven master debate partners, one from each of the colleges of Drepung, Sera, and Ganden Monasteries. Sometimes also translated as "Assistant Tutor."


The relationship between ways of being aware of something in the same cognition, in which two or more of these ways share five things in common. Compare: congruent affecting variables.

J. Hopkins' translation: "having/possessing association; associational."

mtshungs-ldan-gyi rgyucongruent causeSkt: samprayuktahetu

A cause that shares five things in common with its result.

J. Hopkins' translation: "associational cause."

mtshungs-ldan lngafive congruent features

Five things shared in common by the primary consciousness and subsidiary awarenesses within a cognition. (1) According to Vasubandhu, they share the same reliance, object, mental aspect, time, and natal sources having the same slant. (2) According to Asanga, natal source, focal aspect, essential nature, time, and plane.

mtshungs-ldan lngasharing five congruent factors

Subsidiary awarenesses (mental factors) that share five things in common with the primary consciousness of the cognition in which they occur. (1) According to Vasubandhu: reliance, object, mental aspect, time, and natal source. (2) According to Asanga: natal source, focal aspect, essential nature, time, and plane and bhumi-level of mind.

mtshungs-ldan med-panoncongruent

The relationship between nonstatic components of a cognition, in which two or more of them do not share five things in common. See: five congruent features. See also: noncongruent affecting variables.


The relationship between two sets, A and B, is a tetralemma if there are four possibilities. There are phenomena that are members of (1) both set A and set B, (2) neither set A nor set B, (3) only set A, but not set B, or (4) only set B, but not set A.

J. Hopkins' translation: "four possibilities."


The relationship between two sets, A and B, is a trilemma if there are three possibilities. There are phenomena that are members of (1) both set A and set B, (2) neither set A, nor set B, or only set A, but not set B. There are no phenomena that are members of set B that are not also members of set A. In other words, all elements of set A are also members of set B, but not all elements of set B are elements of set A.

J. Hopkins' translation: "three possibilities; three possibilities/permutations."

mu-stegs-panon-Buddhist extremistSkt: tirthika

A follower of a non-Buddhist Indian school of philosophy that asserts either an eternalist position of an unchanging static soul (atman) of a person or a nihilist position that denies the continuity of a person after death and/or the workings of karmic cause and effect.

J. Hopkins' translation: "Forder{N}."

mya-ngan-'dasnirvanaSkt: nirvana

An extinguished state of release -- either an acquired one, in which all samsaric sufferings and their causes have been removed, or a naturally occurring one, in which all stains of impossible existence have always been removed. The Tibetan term means, literally, "a state beyond sorrow."

J. Hopkins' translation: "nirvANa; liberation; liberated."

myong-ba rgyu-mthun-gyi 'bras-buresult that corresponds to its cause in one's experience

The experience of a situation in which something similar to one's previous action happens back to oneself. Also translated as "result that is similar to its cause on one's experience."

J. Hopkins' translation: "experientially causally concordant effect."

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