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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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TibetanEnglishSanskritDefinition
ga'u-maamulet box tradition

A tradition of mahamudra meditation transmitted in the Shangpa Kagyu school.

gang-zagpersonSkt: pudgala

An individual being, including those from any of the six realms of samsaric existence, as well as arhats and Buddhas. A noncongruent affecting variable, synonymous with a conventional "me."

gang-zag-kyi bdagimpossible "soul" of a personSkt: pudgala-atman

Something totally nonexistent, findable inside the five aggregate factors of an individual being that is static, a partless monad, separable from the body and mind, and self-sufficiently knowable.

gang-zag-kyi bdag-medlack of an impossible soul of a personSkt: pudgala-anatman

The total absence (voidness) of something findable inside the five aggregate factors of an individual being that is static, a partless monad, separable from the body and mind, and self-sufficiently knowable. Often translated by others as "selflessness of a person" or "identitylessness of a person."

gces-zhing pham-pa'i byams-pacherishing 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.

gcigmonad

An undifferentiated, partless whole, either the size of an atom or the size of the universe, asserted by non-Buddhist schools of Indian philosophy as descriptive of the atman, the "soul" of a person.


J. Hopkins' translation: "one; same; oneness; unitary; single; singular phenomenon."

gdags-gzhibasis for labeling

A phenomenon on which another phenomenon is mentally labeled. Also translated as "basis for imputation" or "basis for designation."


J. Hopkins' translation: "basis of designation."

gdams-ngagguideline instructions

Beneficial practical advice concerning spiritual practice.


J. Hopkins' translation: "instruction, preceptual instruction."

gleng-bzhiethical narrativesSkt: nidana

Rules, codified by Buddha for those who are ordained, concerning which actions constitute a breach of their vows. One of the twelve scriptural categories.

glo-bur-gyi dri-mafleeting stain

An emotional or cognitive obscuration that temporarily obscures the realization of Buddha-nature.


J. Hopkins' translation: "adventitious defilement/stain."

gnadkey points

The most important main points of a topic.

gnas-chamental abiding

The aspect of a cognition that describes the degree to which attention remains on the focal object. Also translated as "mental placement," it is established by the subsidiary awareness (mental factor) of mental fixation.


J. Hopkins' translation: "factor of stability."

gnas-lugsabiding nature

The lasting, enduring nature of all phenomena; the voidness of all phenomena.


J. Hopkins' translation: "mode of subsistence."

gnas-skabs-kyi skyabs-gnasprovisional source of safe direction

The aryas with incomplete sets of true stoppings and true pathway minds on their mental continuums.

gnyis-mednondual

(1) In Gelug Prasangika, the absence (the voidness) of a manner of existence that does not correspond to the actual manner in which everything exists. (2) In non-Gelug Madhyamaka, within a cognition, the absence (the voidness) of a consciousness and its object as each having truly established existence, independently of each other. (3) In Chittamatra, within a cognition, the absence (the voidness) of a consciousness and its object as deriving from different natal sources.


J. Hopkins' translation: "non-duality; non-dual; non-dualistic."

gnyis-med rgyudnondual tantra

A division of anuttarayoga tantra, specified only in the non-Gelug schools, in which there is equal emphasis on practices for generating the physical bodies of a Buddha and practices for generating the mind of a Buddha.

gnyis-snangdualistic appearance-making

(1) In Gelug Prasangika, the mental activity of giving rise to an appearance of a manner of existence that does not correspond to the actual manner in which anything exists. (2) In non-Gelug Madhayamaka, the mental activity of giving rise, within a cognition, to an appearance of a consciousness and its object as each having truly established existence, independently of each other. (3) In Chittamatra, the mental activity of giving rise to an appearance, within a cognition, of a consciousness and its object as deriving from different natal sources. Also called "dual appearance-making" and "discordant appearance-making."


J. Hopkins' translation: "dualistic appearance."

gnyis-snangdualistic appearances

The appearances that dualistic appearance-making gives rise to. (1) In Gelug Prasangika, an appearance of a manner of existence that does not correspond to the actual manner in which anything exists. (2) In non-Gelug Madhyamaka, within a cognition, an appearance of a consciousness and its object as each having truly established existence, independently of each other. (3) In Chittamatra, within a cognition, an appearance of a consciousness and its object as deriving from different natal sources. Also called "dual appearances" and "discordant appearances."


J. Hopkins' translation: "dualistic appearance."

gnyug-maprimordial state

The state of having, with no beginning, been untainted by the fleeting stains of either the emotional or cognitive obscurations. Descriptive of the clear light mind.


J. Hopkins' translation: "fundamental."

gnyug-semsprimordial mind

Awareness that, with no beginning, has been untainted by the fleeting stains of either the emotional or cognitive obscurations. A synonym for "clear light mind."


J. Hopkins' translation: "fundamental mind."

gong-ma'i spyivertical mental synthesis

A collection or mental synthesis that extends over time, such as a human body over a lifetime.

grub-mtha'tenet systemSkt: siddhanta

A set of principles or assertions of a particular traditional Indian school of philosophy or of astronomical calculations.


J. Hopkins' translation: "tenets."

grub-mtha’systems of tenets

See: tenet system

gsalclarity

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "clear; bright; light; predicate [misspelling of bsal?]{BJ}."

gsal-bain focus

The appearance of something as being sharp and clear, not blurry.


J. Hopkins' translation: "instance; manifestation; predicate [misspelling of bsal ba?]{BJ}; clarifier; clear{D1}; clearly."

gsang-baenigmaticSkt: guhya

Also translated as: secret, hidden


J. Hopkins' translation: "secret."

gsang-ba'i dkyil-'khorsecret mandala

The offering of a blissful awareness, or of a nonconceptual blissful awareness of voidness with a clear-light mind. Also called: hidden mandala.

gsang-mchodhidden offering

An offering of one's blissful awareness or of one's blissful awareness of voidness, visualized in the form of an offering goddess.

gsang-sngagshidden mantraSkt: guhyamantra

Synonymous with "mantra."


J. Hopkins' translation: "mantra; secret mantra."

gSar-maSarma

See: New Translation

gser-skyemsgolden libation

(1) An offering of a liquid, most commonly alcohol, made usually to a Dharma protector and ideally offered in a golden bowl. (2) The ritual that accompanies this offering.

gsos-'debsactivate

To cause a karmic tendency to become a manifest karmic impulse that will give its result in the next moment. Also translated as "arouse."

gsos-'debsarouse

The process through which a disturbing emotion or attitude brings on the arising of a karmic impulse. Also translated as "activate."

gsung-rab yan-lag bcu-gnyistwelve scriptural categories

The twelve classes of Buddha's scriptural (verbal) teachings divided according to a textual point of view -- namely, (1) expositions on themes of practice, (2) melodic verses, (3) revelatory accounts, (4) metered verses, (5) special verses, (6) ethical narratives, (7) illustrative accounts, (8) ancient narratives, (9) past life accounts, (10) epic presentations, (11) fabulous accounts, and (12) decisive explications.

gtan-la dbab-paascertainment

A decisive cognition of a cognitive object; decisively knowing what an object of cognition is or how it exists. Also translated as "decisive awareness" and "decisive cognition."

gtan-la phab-padecisive explicationsSkt: upadesha

Precise indications of the meaning of the works in The Basket of Sutras by specifying the individual and general definitions of things. One of the twelve scriptural categories.

gter-materma

See: treasure text


J. Hopkins' translation: "[Nying-ma] buried texts."

gter-matreasure text

Texts planted by Indian or Tibetan masters, either in a physical location, such as inside a pillar of a temple, or in the minds of disciples and hidden there for safekeeping during times that were not conducive for their practice. Often referred to by the transliterated Tibetan term "terma."


J. Hopkins' translation: "[Nying-ma] buried texts."

gti-mugnaivetySkt: moha

A subcategory of unawareness. The unawareness of behavioral cause and effect or of reality that accompanies only destructive states of mind or behavior. One of the three poisonous emotions.


J. Hopkins' translation: "obscuration."

gti-mug med-palack of naivetySkt: amoha

The discriminating awareness that is aware of the individual details concerning behavioral cause and effect or concerning reality, and which acts as the opponent for naivety about them.


J. Hopkins' translation: "non-bewilderment; non-ignorance."

gtso-semsprincipal awareness

Within a cognition, an awareness that consists of the composite of a primary consciousness and its accompanying set of subsidiary awarenesses (mental factors). The principal awareness is the way of being aware of the object of the cognition that is prominent and which characterizes the type of cognition that it is occurring -- for example, relative bodhichitta and the deep awareness of total absorption on voidness.


J. Hopkins' translation: "main mind."

gus-paappreciation

Valuing something highly, usually the kindness of someone. Often used in the context of appreciating the kindness of one's spiritual mentor. Sometimes translated as "respect."


J. Hopkins' translation: "respect; devotion; humility; be intent on."

gzhal-byacomprehensible phenomena

(1) Phenomena that can be apprehended, which means correctly and decisively cognized. (2) Phenomena that can be validly cognized and understood. Synonymous with validly knowable phenomena (shes-bya).


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

gzhal-yas khangimmeasurably magnificent palace

A palace visualized in tantra practice as part of the supporting mandala. Each architectural feature of the palace represents one or another realization gained along the tantra path, and inside the palace reside one or more Buddha-figures.


J. Hopkins' translation: "[measure-lacking-house]; inestimable mansion; fabulous mansion."

gzhan-dbangdependent phenomenonSkt: paratantra

A validly knowable object that arises dependently on causes and conditions. All nonstatic phenomena. Often translated literally as "other-powered phenomenon."


J. Hopkins' translation: "[other-power]; other powered (phenomena); other powered nature; having the influence of another; that which is under the influence of what is other; the dependent; other-powered; other-powered [nature]; dependent nature; dependent phenomenon."

gzhan gces-par 'dzin-pacherishing others

The attitude with which one considers others as the most precious and important ones; and has affection for and takes care of mainly others.

gzhan-selexclusions of something else

Phenomena specified in terms of the conceptual cognition that cognizes the phenomenon explicitly precluding an object to be negated. Synonymous with negation phenomena, they include both implicative and nonimplicative negation phenomena. (1) According to Gelug, they may be either static or nonstatic. (2) According to non-Gelug, they are all static phenomena.


J. Hopkins' translation: "other exclusion; other-eliminator; exclusion-of-the-other."

gzhan-sems shes-pa'i mngon-shesadvanced 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).


J. Hopkins' translation: "clairvoyance of knowing other's minds."

gzhan-stongother-voidness

The natural, beginningless absence from the clear light level of mental activity of "other" levels of mental activity, which are all limited by fleeting stains.


J. Hopkins' translation: "emptiness-of-other; emptiness of the other."

gzhibasis level

In the context of basis, pathway, and resultant levels of something being specified, the level of something - for instance, the level of Buddha-nature -- that occurs in general, whether or not one has achieved some attainment on the Buddhist spiritual path.


J. Hopkins' translation: "base/foundation."

gzhi'i rig-pabasis rigpa

Pure awareness (rigpa) from the point of view of it being a type of Buddha-nature or working basis for attaining enlightenment.

gzhi-ldogbases for conceptually isolated items

In Gelug, equivalent to individually characterized object exclusions of something else, which serve as the bases for imputation of the corresponding conceptually isolated items. For instance, the nonstatic negation phenomenon "nothing other than 'this,'" implicitly apprehended when explicitly apprehending "this" and which serves as the basis for imputation of the static negation phenomenon "nothing other than this," which is the mental representation of "nothing other than 'this'" in the conceptual cognition of "this."


J. Hopkins' translation: "basis-isolate, illustration-isolate, illustration simpliciter."

gzhi-mthuncommon locus

A common locus of two sets of phenomena is an item that is a member of both sets. Sometimes translated as "common denominator."

gzhi-snang-gi rig-paappearance-making basis rigpa

Pure awareness (rigpa) from the point of view of its aspect of spontaneously establishing appearances. Synonymous with the term "effulgent rigpa."

gzugsforms of physical phenomenaSkt: rupa

Nonstatic phenomena that can either (1) transform into another form of physical phenomenon when two or more of them come into contact with each other, such as water and earth which can transform into mud, or (2) be known as what they are by analyzing their directional parts, such as the sight of a vase seen in a dream. Forms of physical phenomena include the nonstatic phenomena of forms and eye sensors, sounds and ear sensors, smells and nose sensors, tastes and tongue sensors, phyiscal sensations and body sensors, and forms of physical phenomena included only among cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena. Equivalent to the aggregate of forms of physical phenomena.


J. Hopkins' translation: "form."

gzugssightsSkt: rupa

Nonstatic phenomena that can be explicitly cognized by eye consciousness -- namely, colors and shapes. Equivalent to "forms of physical phenomena that can become objects of experience of the eyes." One of the eleven types of forms of physical phenomena.


J. Hopkins' translation: "form."

gzugs-bsnyanmental derivativeSkt: pratibimba

(A) In Gelug, except in the case of Chittamatra and Yogachara Svatantrika: (1) In sensory nonconceptual cognition, a fully transparent appearing object, which is a mental aspect, similar to a mental hologram of an external objective entity, through which that external entity is directly cognized also as an appearing object of the cognition. (2) In conceptual cognition, a static conceptual category that is mentally constructed from all individual objective entities that fit into it and thus is a semitransparent, static, metaphysical entity. It is the appearing object through which a fully transparent mental representation of a specific objective entity is cognized. (B) In non-Gelug, except in the case of Chittamatra: (1) In sensory nonconceptual cognition, the opaque, directly cognized appearing object, which is a mental aspect similar to a mental hologram of an external objective entity that the cognition indirectly cognizes as its focal object, but not as an additional appearing object. (2) In conceptual cognition, a conceptually isolated item, an opaque metaphysical entity that stands for the mentally synthesized commonsense object and category in the cognition and which is the appearing object of the cognition.

gzugs-khamsplane of ethereal formsSkt: rupadhatu

Samsaric rebirth states in which the limited beings have desire for subtle forms of physical phenomena. Usually translated by others as "form realm."


J. Hopkins' translation: "Form Realm."

gzugs-kyi phung-poaggregate of forms of physical phenomenaSkt: rupa-skandha

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."


J. Hopkins' translation: "form aggregate."

gzugs-kyi skye-mchedcognitive stimulators that are sights

Forms of physical phenomena that may be cognized by either visual or mental consciousness.


J. Hopkins' translation: "sense-sphere of form."

gzugs-med khamsplane of formless beingsSkt: arupadhatu

Samsaric rebirth states in which the limited beings lack any gross body. Usually translated by others as "formless realm."


J. Hopkins' translation: "Formless Realm."

gzugs-skuCorpus of FormsSkt: rupakaya

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.


J. Hopkins' translation: "Form Body."

gzung-'dzinconsciousness that takes objects and objects taken by consciousness

Within a cognition, the consciousness and cognitive object.


J. Hopkins' translation: "apprehended-object and apprehending-subject."

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