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The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin

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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:

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ka-dagprimal purity

The essential nature of rigpa (pure awareness), which refers to its being pure of all stains, without a beginning.

J. Hopkins' translation: "essential purity."

Kar-ma bka'-brgyudKarma Kagyu

One of the four major Dagpo Kagyu traditions of Tibetan Buddhsim deriving from direct disciples of Gampopa, in this case the First Karmapa.

kha-'donrecitation practice

In tantra, the meditation practice with which one recites a ritual meditation text describing the self-visualization process and a complex series of further practices based on that self-generation, such as reciting mantras and making offerings.


See: three planes of samsaric existence

J. Hopkins' translation: "basic constituent/constituent."

khams-gsumthree planes of samsaric existenceSkt: tridhatu

A threefold division of samsaric rebirth states: the planes of (1) sensory desires, (2) ethereal forms, and (3) formless beings. Sometimes called "the three realms."

J. Hopkins' translation: "three realms; the three realms [i.e., desire realm ('dod khams, kAmadhAtu), form realm (gzugs khams, rUpadhAtu), and formless realm (gzugs med khams, arUpyadhAtu)]."

kha-na ma-tho-bauncommendable actionSkt: avadya

An action that ripens into the experience of suffering by the person who commits it or into a hindrance to his or her spiritual practice. An action that cannot be spoken about with praise.

J. Hopkins' translation: "unseemliness; fault; blemish; blame."

khong-khroangerSkt: kroddha

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.


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

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

khro-boforceful deitySkt: kroddha

An emanation of a Buddha in a form of great strength, usually surrounded by flames representing deep awareness, and terrifying, so as to chase away disturbing emotions, interferences, and other harm. Often translated by others as "wrathful deity," although there is no connotation here of "wrath" as in "the wrath of God." Although the Sanskrit and Tibetan terms, here, mean literally "angry," this does not refer to anger as a disturbing emotion, but rather to the strong force of anger to get rid of something detrimental to spiritual well-being and progress.

J. Hopkins' translation: "wrathful."


"x" is pervasive with "y" if, whenever "x" is the case, so is "y". Used in such formulations as "If "x" is the case, then it is pervasive that "y" is the case."

J. Hopkins' translation: "entail; pervade; fill; embrace; cover over."


The intersection of two sets of phenomena.

J. Hopkins' translation: "pervasion; entailment; fill; pervade; penetrate; cover over."

khyab-par 'du-byed-kyi sdug-bsngalall-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.

klongcognitive 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.

J. Hopkins' translation: "expanse; sphere."


See: open space division

klong-sdeopen space division

The division of treasure texts, deriving from the oral teachings of the translator Vairochana, that emphasizes the cognitive open space aspect of pure awareness as the basis for all. Often referred to by the transliterated Tibetan "longdey."

kun-'byung bden-patrue originSkt: samudaya-satya

Also translated as: true causes

J. Hopkins' translation: "true origins."

kun-'groever-functioning subsidiary awareness

According to Asanga, a set of five subsidiary awarenesses that accompany every moment of cognition: feeling a level of happiness, distinguishing, an urge, contacting awareness, and paying attention or taking to mind.

J. Hopkins' translation: "omnipresent; all-pervading; omnipresent factor; omnipresent mental factor."

kun-'gro'i rgyudriving causeSkt: sarvatragohetu

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

J. Hopkins' translation: "omnipresent cause."

kun-btagstotally conceptional phenomenaSkt: parikalpita

(1) In the context of the Chittamatra tenet-system, all static phenomena other than the various types of voidness, true stoppings, and nirvana, plus all non-existent phenomena. (2) In the context of the Madhyamaka tenet-system, all non-existent phenomena, especially true existence.

J. Hopkins' translation: "imputational factor, artificial."

kun-btags-pa'i gzugstotally imaginary forms of physical phenomena

Forms of physical phenomena included only among cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena and which appear in certain mental states, such as the sensory objects appearing in dreams and the conceptually implied objects in visualizations and imaginings.

kun-dajasmine flower dropsSkt: kunda

Drops of white bodhichitta; drops of subtle creative energy.

J. Hopkins' translation: "kunda; kunda [transliteration of Sanskrit word for jasmine]; jasmine."

kun-dkris bzhifour binding factors

Factors which, when they accompany someone's acting in breach of a vow, bind that person to the full karmic result, in the sense of guaranteeing that the full karmic result will follow.

kun-gzhibasis for allSkt: alaya

A synonym for rigpa (pure awareness), used primarily in treasure texts of the mind division.

J. Hopkins' translation: "basis-of-all."

kun-gzhi rnam-shesall-encompassing foundation consciousnessSkt: alayavijnana

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.

J. Hopkins' translation: "mind-basis-of-all."

kun-gzhi ye-shesdeep awareness alaya

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

kun-mkhyenomniscient awareness

A Buddha's unceasing nonconceptual cognition simultaneously of all validly knowable phenomena and their voidnesses -- in other words, of the two truths about all knowable phenomena.

J. Hopkins' translation: "omniscient."

kun-rdzob bden-pasuperficial true phenomenonSkt: samvrtisatya

In the Hinayana tenet systems, a true phenomenon that veils or conceals a deeper true phenomenon. Also called: relative true phenomenon, conventional true phenomenon, apparent true phenomenon.

J. Hopkins' translation: "conventional truth/obscurational truth."

kun-rdzob bden-pasuperficial truthSkt: samvrtisatya

In the Mahayana tenet systems, a true fact about a phenomenon that veils or conceals a deeper true fact about the same phenomenon. Also called: relative truth, conventional truth, apparent truth, surface truth.

J. Hopkins' translation: "conventional truth/obscurational truth."

kun-rdzob-gyi byang-chub-gyi semsconventional bodhichitta

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.

kun-rdzob-pa'i chos dkon-mchogapparent Dharma Gem

The twelve textual categories of teachings proclaimed by a Buddha's enlightening speech, as a source of safe direction.

kun-rdzob-pa'i dge-'dun dkon-mchogapparent Sangha Gem

The individual person of any arya, whether lay or monastic, as a source of safe direction.

kun-rdzob-pa'i dkon-mchogapparent level Precious Gems

The level of Three Rare and Supreme Gems that are apparent to limited beings and which conceal a deeper level gem.

kun-rdzob-pa'i sangs-rgyas dkon-mchogapparent Buddha Gem

The Corpus of Forms of a Buddha, as a source of safe direction.

kun-shes rnam-shesspecific-awareness alaya

In the Karma Kagyu system, a synonym for alayavijnana. See: all-encompassing foundation for all.

kun-slongmotivating aim

Synonymous with intention. See: intention.

J. Hopkins' translation: "motivation; ask; beg; collect; gather; raise; cause to rise; inspire; excite; arouse; urge on."

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