This glossary contains an alphabetical list of Buddhist terms that you may find on this website. The glossary includes English, Sanskrit and Tibetan terms. The list of terms is expanding and new listings are added regularly. Search for the term you want by entering it in the search box, or browse through the listing by clicking on the letters below.

One of the three baskets (Tripitaka) of the Buddhist canon, the others being the Vinaya and the Sutra; the systematized philosophical and psychological analysis of existence that is the basis of the Buddhist systems of tenets and mind training.

Treasury of Knowledge, by Vasubandhu; one of the main philosophical texts studied in Tibetan monasteries.

Asanga’s Compendium of Higher Knowledge is one of the principal philosophical texts studied in Tibetan monasteries, particularly revered for its clarity and for the exposition of mind and mental factors.

(Tib: shä rap kyi pa röl tu chin pä men ngak gi ten chö ngön par tok pä gyen chä jawa)
Ornament for Clear Realizations, by Maitreya; a philosophical text studied in Tibetan monasteries.

The dharmakaya, the omniscient mind of the buddha, which is free from all gross and subtle obscurations. See also conventional guru.

Also called ultimate refuge, absolute refuge—as opposed to conventional refuge—is the ultimate attainment of the three refuges; absolute Buddha is the dharmakaya, the buddha’s omniscient mind, absolute Dharma is the true cessation of suffering and absolute Sangha is any being who has attained the true cessation of suffering and become an arya being.

Also known as “the I-maker” this is the eighth main mind posited by the Cittamatra school, asserting there needs to be a separate consciousness where the sense of I resides. (The other schools only posit six main minds.) See also mind-basis-of all.

The psycho-physical constituents that make up a sentient being: form, feeling, discriminative awareness, compositional factors and consciousness. Beings of the desire and form realms have all five whereas beings in the formless realm no longer have the aggregate of form.

Early Indian king who imprisoned and killed his father, Bimbisara. Realizing the enormity of this sin and guided by the Buddha, he purified this negativity and became an arhat.

One of the five Dhyani Buddhas, or heads of the five buddha families, who represent the fully purified skandhas, or aggregates, of form, feeling, recognition, compositional factors, and consciousness. Akshobhya is blue in color, represents the wisdom of reality and the fully purified aggregate of consciousness, and is lord of the vajra family.

Light; one of the offering substances.

The site of an ancient Buddhist stupa in modern Andra Pradesh, India, and also the place where Buddha first gave the Kalachakra empowerment, according to the Vajrayana tradition. In 2006, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave a Kalachakra empowerment there.

The northeastern region of Tibet that borders on China.

One of the five Dhyani Buddhas, red in color, representing the wisdom of analysis and the fully purified aggregate of discrimination.

One of the bodhisattvas who accompanied Shakyamuni Buddha.

One of the five Dhyani Buddhas, green in color, representing the wisdom of activities and the fully purified aggregate of compositional factors.


Of the two main types of meditation, this is a meditation where the subject is examined, as opposed to single-pointed concentration or fixed meditation (Tib: jog-gom ) where the mind stays fixed on one single object.

No-self; as opposed to atman (self); the term used for selflessness in The Four Noble Truths Sutra.

A disturbing thought that exaggerates the negative qualities of an object and wishes to harm it; one of the six root delusions.

A character in a classic Dharma story about choosing the wrong guru and committing horrendous actions. Angulimala killed 999 people and made a rosary out of their fingers. He was prevented from killing his thousandth victim by the Buddha, and he was able to purify and become an arhat.

Water (for washing); one of the offering substances.

Literally, "foe destroyer." A person who has destroyed his or her inner enemy, the delusions, and attained liberation from cyclic existence.

A female arhat.

Also known as chebulic myrobalan; the botanical name is Terminalia cherbula. A fruit that is one of the three fundamental Tibetan medicines; the Medicine Buddha holds the stem of the arura plant in his right hand. Ordinary arura is commonly used in Tibetan medical compounds; special arura—which is said to cure any sickness—is extremely rare.

Literally, noble. One who has realized the wisdom of emptiness.

Third century Indian Buddhist philosopher and leading early proponent of Nagarjuna's Prasangika-Madhyamaka philosophy. He is one of six great Indian scholars, known as the Six Ornaments.

The fourth-century Indian master who received directly from Maitreya Buddha the extensive, or method, lineage of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings. Said to have founded the Cittamatra School of Buddhist philosophy. He is one of six great Indian scholars, known as the Six Ornaments.

Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty (about 250 BC) who converted to Buddhism and propagated Buddhism across Asia.

The third-century Indian master, renowned for his scholarship and poetry, who is the author of Fifty Verses of Guru Devotion.

Also called wishing, or aspiring bodhicitta; the spontaneous, uncontrived mind that wishes to attain full enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. See also engaging bodhicitta and bodhicitta.

Demi-god. A being in the god realms who enjoys greater comfort and pleasure than human beings, but who suffers from jealousy and quarreling.

The renowned Indian master who went to Tibet in 1042 to help in the revival of Buddhism and established the Kadam tradition. His text Light for the Path was the first lam-rim text.

Self; as opposed to anatman (no-self), the Buddha’s explanation of selflessness in the Four Noble Truths Sutra.

A disturbing thought that exaggerates the positive qualities of an object and wishes to possess it; one of the six root delusions.

The buddha of compassion. A male meditational deity embodying fully enlightened compassion.

The lowest level of hell.