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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

dad-pabelieving a fact to be trueSkt: shraddha

A constructive emotion that focuses on something existent and validly knowable, something with good qualities, or an actual potential, and considers it either existent or true, or considers a fact about it as true. Some translators render the term as "faith."

J. Hopkins' translation: "faith."

dag-pa'i snang-bapure appearance

An appearance of something as an enlightened mind makes it appear, namely in the form of a Buddha-figure or mandala and devoid of any of the four extremes of impossible existence.


A temporary rest or a break from a state of no leisure for Dharma practice, such as the worst states of rebirth. Some translators render the term as a "freedom" or a "liberty."

J. Hopkins' translation: "leisure."


The affirmation phenomenon of the occurrence of something.

J. Hopkins' translation: "now; present; nowadays."


Pure and worthy of the highest respect; sacred.

J. Hopkins' translation: "ultimate."

dam-rdzasbonding substances

Substances, such as alcohol and meat, purified, transformed, and consecrated during a tantra ritual and offered to a Buddha-figure in order to maintain a close bond (close connection) with that figure, as one has promised to do.

dam-tshigbonding practiceSkt: samaya

A type of behavior or a state of mind, which, when practiced, maintains a close connection with either a certain tantra or a certain spiritual master. Also called: closely bonding practice, close bond.

J. Hopkins' translation: "[promise-word]; promise; pledge; vow."

dangs-ba'i dad-paclearheadedly believing a fact to be true

See: clearheaded belief in a fact

dbangempowermentSkt: abhishekha

A tantric ritual that activates and empowers Buddha-nature factors to grow so that, through repeated, sustained tantric practice, they will eventually transform into the Three Corpuses (Bodies) of a Buddha. An empowerment also plants new seeds, or potentials, that will likewise grow in the same manner. The term is often translated as "initiation."

J. Hopkins' translation: "empowerment; initiation; consecration; power; force; control."

dbang-'byor-pa'i gzugsforms of physical phenomena arising from gaining control over the elements

Forms of physical phenomena included only among the cognitive stimulators that are all phenomena and which are actually emanated by the power of absorbed concentration.

dbang bzhi-pafourth empowerment

Also called: word empowerment (tshig-dbang)

dbang-gi 'bras-bucommanding results

Synonymous with dominating results.

dbang-pocognitive sensorSkt: indriya

The dominating condition that determines the type of cognition a way of being aware of something is. In the case of the five types of sensory cognition, it is the photosensitive cells of the eyes, the sound-sensitive cells of the ears, the smell-sensitive cells of the nose, the taste-sensitive cells of the tongue, and the physical-sensation-sensitive cells of the body. In the case of mental cognition, it is the immediately preceding moment of cognition. Some translators render the term as "sense power."

J. Hopkins' translation: "sense power."

dbu-maMadhyamakaSkt: madhyamaka

A Mahayana school of Indian Buddhism that does not assert the true existence of anything. One of the four Indian Buddhist tenet systems studied by all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

J. Hopkins' translation: "center; middle; middle way{N}; MAdhyamika [Proponent of the Middle Way]; Middle Way School."


A follower of the Madhyamaka school of Indian Buddhism.

J. Hopkins' translation: "Middle Way School, Mādhyamika."

dbu-ma rang-rgyud-paSvatantrika Madhyamaka

See: Svatantrika

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

dbu-ma thal-'gyur-baPrasangika Madhyamaka

See: Prasangika

dbus-gnas-nyideven-mindedSkt: madhyasthata

A tranquil state of mind that stays in the middle with regard to being either happy or unhappy, in all circumstances, such as when meeting with or parting from friends. Literally, "a state of standing in the middle."

dbyangs-kyis bsnyad-pamelodic versesSkt: geya

One of the twelve scriptural categories. (1) Verses that Buddha uttered during the course of and at the conclusion of his sutras. (2) According to some explanations, scriptures of interpretable meaning.


Two facts about the same attribute of an object are inseparable if, when one is the case, so is the other. The two facts may inseparably both be the case either naturally or made to be so through the power of meditation.

J. Hopkins' translation: "undifferentiated; undivided."

dbyingscognitive sphereSkt: dhatu

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 open space.

J. Hopkins' translation: "sphere/ sphere of reality."

de-bzhin gshegs-paThusly Gone OneSkt: tathagata

A epithet of a Buddha -- one who has gone to the goal of enlightenment through nonconceptual cognition of voidness, the very nature of reality (thusness).

J. Hopkins' translation: "One-Gone-Thus."

de-bzhin-nyidaccordant natureSkt: tathata

A synonym for voidness (emptiness). Some translators render the term as "thusness."

J. Hopkins' translation: "thusness."

de-kho-na-nyidvery nature of realitySkt: tattvam

A synonym for voidness (emptiness). Some translators render the term as "thusness."

J. Hopkins' translation: "Suchness, reality."

de-kho-na-nyid mchod-paoffering of the very nature of reality

Offering of a nonconceptual cognition of voidness with a blissful awareness or of one's nonconceptual blissful cognition of voidness together with one's appearance as an illusory body.

de-lta-bu byung-baancient narrativesSkt: itivrttika

Stories from ancient times that Buddha told. One of the twelve scriptural categories.

de-ma-thag rkyenimmediately preceding conditionSkt: samanantarapratyaya

The immediately preceding moment of awareness, which produces the appearance-making and cognizing (clarity and awareness) of the next moment of awareness as its result.

de-nyidhow things are

Also called: thusness.

J. Hopkins' translation: "suchness."

dgag-panegation phenomenon

An item, or a truth about an item, defined in terms of the exclusion of something else, in which an object to be negated is explicitly precluded by the conceptual cognition that cognizes the phenomenon. Also translated as: "negation," "nullification," "refutation."

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

dge-'dunSanghaSkt: sangha

The literal meaning of the Sanskrit term is a "community"; the literal meaning of the Tibetan translation is "those intent on a constructive goal." Four or more people from any of the four groups of the monastic community: full or novice monks or nuns - the four need not necessarily be all from one group or one from each group - and who have unlabored renunciation and are intent on ridding themselves of disturbing emotions and attitudes and thus attaining liberation.

J. Hopkins' translation: "spiritual community."

dge-baconstructiveSkt: kushala

States of mind, or physical, verbal, or mental actions motivated by them, which ripen into happiness to be experienced by the person on whose mental continuum they occur. Since the term carries no connotation of moral judgment, the translation "virtuous" is misleading for this term.

J. Hopkins' translation: "virtue, virtuous."

dge-ba'i bshes-gnyenspiritual mentorSkt: kalyanamitra

A Buddhist teacher who has had stable realizations, who embodies the teachings in the sense of having integrated them into his or her life, and who confers vows on disciples.

J. Hopkins' translation: "spiritual friend, virtuous spiritual friend, spiritual guide."

dge-ba'i rtsa-baroots of positive force

The network of positive force (collection of merit), described from the point of view of it serving as the "root" for one to grow into a Buddha.

J. Hopkins' translation: "virtuous root."

dge-bshesgesheSkt: kalyanamitra

(1) In the Kadam tradition, a title given to a spiritual mentor and friend, especially those that are masters of attitude-training (lojong). (2) In the Gelug tradition, a title given to those who have completed the monastic education system.

J. Hopkins' translation: "ge-shay."


One of the New Translation traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, deriving from the reforms made by Tsongkhapa.

J. Hopkins' translation: "Ge-luk."


A follower of the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

J. Hopkins' translation: "Ge-luk-pa."

dge-rtsaroots of constructive force

See: roots of positive force

J. Hopkins' translation: "virtuous/wholesome root(s); roots of virtue."

dgra-bcom-paarhatSkt: arhat

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."

J. Hopkins' translation: "Foe Destroyer/Worthy One."

dkar-po chig-thubsingular sufficient white panacea

Also called: all-curing single white epanacea, single white remedy, self-sufficient white remedy

dkon-mchog gsumThree Rare and Supreme GemsSkt: triratna

The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Also called "The Three Gems," "The Triple Gem," "The Three Jewels," and "The Three Jewels of Refuge."

J. Hopkins' translation: "Three Jewels."

dkon-mchog-gsum-la skyabs-su-'grotake safe direction from the Three Gems

To turn toward the direction indicated by the Three Rare and Supreme Gems (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) and to put that safe direction in one's life. Some translators render this as "go for refuge to the Three Gems."

dkyil- 'khormandalaSkt: mandala

In general, a round symbol used to represent a meaning. Most often used to represent a world system.

dmigs-gtadfocal support

A findable, truly existent referent "thing," propping up the object of a cognition. Compare: referent thing.

dmigs-medwithout a referent aim

A state of mind, such as immeasurable compassion, that lacks focus on the three circles ('khor-gsum) involved -- the action itself (in the case of compassion, wishing all beings to be free from suffering), the object, and the agent -- existing in an impossible way. Also translated as: unaimed.

J. Hopkins' translation: "unobservability; boundlessness."

dmigs-rkyenfocal conditionSkt: alambanapratyaya

An external phenomenon that presents an aspect of itself to be an object of cognition, and thus serves as a condition giving rise to a sensory cognition of it.

J. Hopkins' translation: "observed-object condition."

dmigs-yulfocal object

An external object on which a cognition focuses and which serves as the focal condition of the cognition. Focal objects exist prior to the cognitions of them and have their own continuums different from those of the cognitions of them.

J. Hopkins' translation: "observed object; object of observation."


Two mutually exclusive sets form a dichotomy if all existent phenomena must be a member of either one or the other mutually exclusive set.

J. Hopkins' translation: "explicitly contradictory."

dngos-grubactual attainmentSkt: siddhi

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.

J. Hopkins' translation: "feat; accomplishment; yogic accomplishment; actual accomplishment; fact."

dngos-gzhiactual fundamental part

The main part of a text or practice, containing the actual discussion of the principal topic.

J. Hopkins' translation: "actual."

dngos-gzhiactual state

The full definitional state of something, such as one of levels of mental constancy.

J. Hopkins' translation: "actual."

dngos-mednonfunctional phenomenon

(1) An validly knowable, existent object that does not perform a function -- in other words, it does not produce a result -- namely, a static phenomenon. (2) A nonexistent object, such as an impossible way of existing.

J. Hopkins' translation: "non-thing; that which is not a [functioning] thing; non-existent."

dngos-pofunctional phenomenon

(1) A validly knowable, existent object that performs a function -- in other words, it produces a result -- namely, a nonstatic phenomenon. (2) In the Vaibhashika system, all validly knowable, existent phenomenon, all of which at least perform the function of acting as an object for the valid cognition of them.

J. Hopkins' translation: "thing/functioning thing/effective thing."

dngos-po brgyadeight sets of realizations

also translated as: eight phenomena.

dngos-rgyudirect cause

The phenomenon that actually produces its result, without need for any intermediary -- for example, a visible object is the direct cause for the seeing of it.

J. Hopkins' translation: "actual cause."

dngos-su rtogs-paexplicit apprehension

In the Gelug system, apprehension of a cognitive object in which a cognitive appearance (mental hologram) of the involved object of the cognition arises. Compare: implicit apprehension.

J. Hopkins' translation: "explicitly realize; explicit realization."

dngos-su shes-padirect cognition

According to the non-Gelug presentation, the type of cognition that a present moment of sensory consciousness has of the present moment of a mental aspect (mental hologram) of the immediately preceding moment of an external sense object. Compare: indirect cognition.

don-dam bden-padeepest true phenomenonSkt: paramartha

In the Hinayana tenet systems, a true phenomenon that is veiled or concealed by a conventional (superficial, surface, relative, apparent) true phenomenon.

J. Hopkins' translation: "ultimate truth."

don-dam bden-padeepest truthSkt: paramartha

In the Mahayana tenet systems, a true fact about a phenomenon that is veiled or concealed by a more superficial true fact about the same phenomenon. Some translators render this term as "ultimate truth."

J. Hopkins' translation: "ultimate truth."

don-dam-padeepest level

The level of some phenomenon that is veiled or concealed by something more superficial about that phenomenon. Sometimes translated as "ultimate level" or "deepest ultimate level."

J. Hopkins' translation: "ultimate, ultimate object, highest object."

don-dam-pa'i byang-chub-gyi semsdeepest bodhichitta

The deep awareness that has nonconceptual cognition of voidness.

don-dam-pa'i chos dkon-mchogdeepest Dharma Gem

The true stoppings and true pathway minds on the mental continuum of an arya, whether a layperson or a monastic, as a source of safe direction (refuge).

don-dam-pa'i dge-'dun dkon-mchogdeepest Sangha Gem

The true stoppings and true pathway minds on the mental continuum of an arya, whether a layperson or monastic, as a source of safe direction (refuge).

don-dam-pa'i dkon-mchogdeepest level Precious Gems

The level of the Three Rare and Supreme Gems that are concealed by the apparent level gems.

don-dam-pa'i sangs-rgyas dkon-mchogdeepest Buddha Gem

A Buddha's Dharmakaya as a source of safe direction (refuge).

don-gcigtotally pervasive

Two sets, A and B, are totally pervasive if every element in set A is also a member of set B, and vice versa

J. Hopkins' translation: "mutually inclusive/equivalent."

don-gyi 'od-gsalactual clear light mind

A subtlest level of consciousness that has a nonconceptual, blissful cognition of voidness.

J. Hopkins' translation: "actual clear light/ exemplified clear light."

don-ldogconceptually isolated meaning

In Gelug, equivalent to the defining characteristic mark of a validly knowable phenomenon, which can only be distinguished in terms of a conceptually isolated item.

J. Hopkins' translation: "meaning isolate."

don rang-mtshan-gyi gzhan-selindividually characterized object exclusions of something else

In reference to an existent phenomenon "this," negation phenomena such as "nothing other than this" and "not that." (1) According to Gelug, they are nonstatic phenomena implicitly apprehended when a valid conceptual or nonconceptual cognition explicitly apprehends its involved object as "this." (2) According to non-Gelug, a static fact about "this" that is validly knowable only conceptually, separately from valid cognition of "this."

J. Hopkins' translation: "other-eliminator that is a factual specifically characterized phenomenon."

don-spyimeaning category

The conceptual category into which fit all significances (meanings) of an audio category.

J. Hopkins' translation: "generic image, meaning-generality, mental image."

don-spyimeaning/object category

The conceptual category into which fit all items to which an audio category refers. These items are also what the audio category signifies (means).

J. Hopkins' translation: "generic image, meaning-generality, mental image."

don-spyiobject category

The conceptual category into which fit all items to which an audio category refer.

J. Hopkins' translation: "generic image, meaning-generality, mental image."

don-spyiobject mental synthesis

(1) The conceptual category of a commonsense object, such as a table, used when thinking of, verbalizing, imagining (visualizing), or remembering a commonsense object. (2) A specific commonsense object as a conceptual category into which fit all moments of anyone's mental or sensory cognition of any amount of parts of any of its sensibilia.

J. Hopkins' translation: "generic image, meaning-generality, mental image."


(spiritual hero)

J. Hopkins' translation: "hero; intrepid person; ShUra."


(spiritual heroine)

dpe'i 'od-gsalmodel clear light mind

A subtle level of consciousness that has a blissful conceptual cognition of voidness, which is attained when the subtle energy-winds are partly dissolved in the central energy-channel. Also translated as "approximating clear light mind."

J. Hopkins' translation: "metaphoric clear light."

dpyad-sgomdiscerning meditation

A method for habituating oneself to an insight, understanding, or state of mind, with which one focuses on an object and generates the desired insight, understanding, or state of mind about it, through using the mental factors of gross detection (investigation) and subtle discernment (scrutiny). The method may also entail applying a line reasoning that one has already understood and become convinced of its validity. Many translators render the term as "analytical meditation."

J. Hopkins' translation: "analytical meditation."

dpyod-pasubtle discernment

A subsidiary awareness (mental factor) that actively understands the fine details of the nature of something, having scrutinized them thoroughly. It does not imply verbal thinking, although it may be induced by verbally thinking. According to Asanga, one of the four changeable subsidiary awarenesses. Also translated as "scrutiny," "analysis." and "discerning analysis."

J. Hopkins' translation: "analysis."


Using extremely strong actions or methods, such as yelling at someone or hitting someone, in order to make the person stop doing something harmful. Forceful methods are used only when all other methods to make the person stop have failed or are impossible in the situation. Some translators render the term as "wrathful," but this has an inappropriate connotation, since "wrathful," in English, is used for the Old Testament God, who, when people disobey Him, gets angry and punishes them.

J. Hopkins' translation: "hard; heavy [=sra ba]; fierce; strong."

drang-donexplicit suggestive meaningSkt: neyartha

One of the six alternative meanings. When an expression in a root tantra text has two dissimilar meanings, the literal, evident, or face value meaning of the expression. It suggests or leads one on to the second meaning (the implicit suggested meaning), which is dissimilar to what is actually said on face value.

J. Hopkins' translation: "interpretable meaning{BJ 27.6}; interpretable object{N}; requiring interpretation; interpretable; meaning requiring interpretation."

drang-doninterpretable teachingSkt: neyartha

A passage in a sutra text that discusses any topic other than the most profound view of voidness, and which leads one on or points the way to the most profound view of voidness. Such passages require explanation, so that one does not confuse them as indicating the most profound view.

J. Hopkins' translation: "interpretable meaning{BJ 27.6}; interpretable object{N}; requiring interpretation; interpretable; meaning requiring interpretation."

dran-pamindfulnessSkt: smrti

(1) The subsidiary awareness (mental factor), similar to a mental glue, that keeps a mental hold on a cognitive object, so that it is not lost. (2) The recollection of something, with which the mind keeps a mental hold on a mental hologram that resembles and represents something previously cognized. The term is often rendered as "memory" or "remembering," but has nothing to do with the recording or storage of mental information.

dran-pa nyer-bzhag bzhifour close placements of mindfulnessSkt: smrtyupasthana

Meditation practices that focus on (a) the body, (b) feelings of levels of happiness, (c) mind, and (d) phenomena, with the subsidiary awarenesses (mental factors) of mindfulness ("mental glue") and attention to them with a certain understanding. (1) In Theravada, one is attentive to (a) the breath as affecting the body, (b) feelings of levels of happiness and unhappiness as affecting the mind, (c) disturbing emotions as affecting the thoughts, and (d) the nature of the previous three as being nonstatic and lacking an impossible "soul." (2) In Mahayana, one is attentive to (a) the body as unclean and true suffering, (b) feelings of levels of happiness as in the nature of suffering, and clinging to them as a true cause of suffering, (c) the six kinds of primary consciousness as naturally free of all stains, so as to understand true stoppings, and (d) all mental factors in terms of which to get rid of and which to cultivate, so as to understand true pathway minds.


Something that obscures the Buddha-nature factors, preventing them from being fully realized.

J. Hopkins' translation: "stain; taint; defilement; contamination."


A beneficial action that is of help to others.

J. Hopkins' translation: "kindness; grace."

drin-dranremembering kindness

Remembering the kindness of motherly love, remembering all the beneficial things that all beings have shown us when they were our mothers. The second of the six part cause and effect quintessence teaching for developing bodhichitta.

drin-gsorepaying kindness

Appreciating the beneficial things that all beings have shown us when they were our mothers and wishing to benefit them in return. The third of the seven part cause and effect quintessence teaching for developing bodhichitta.

dri-zathose who sustain themselves on fragrancesSkt: gandharva

(1) A class of divine beings (gods) on the plane of sensory desires that live on fragrances and are musicians. Also translated as "heavenly musicians." (2) Beings in the state of bardo existence inbetween death and rebirth onto the plane of sensory desires. Such beings live on either pleasant fragrances during fortunate eons or unpleasant odors during unfortunate eons.

J. Hopkins' translation: "scent eater; odor eater; the musicians of Indra, ruled by DhRtarastra, who live in the region of the air and the heavenly waters; their special duty is to guard the heavenly soma, which the gods obtain through their intervention."

dustimeSkt: kala

An interval imputed or measured in the continuum of the occurrence of a sequence of cause and effect. Since time is conceptually imputable, time is a function of and therefore relative to the mind that conceptually imputes it.

dus-kyi kun-slongcontemporaneous motivating aim

The motivating aim or intention that accompanies the impulse to start and to continue an action.

dvang-ba'i dad-paclearheaded belief in a fact

A constructive emotion that is clear about a fact and, like a water purifier, clears the mind of disturbing emotions and attitudes about the object.

J. Hopkins' translation: "faith of clarity."


A quality of a well-concentrated mind with which the mind remains fresh in each moment.

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