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.

The objects of refuge—the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha—existing in the mental continua of others, as opposed to resultant refuge. Only by relying upon these external refuge objects can we achieve our own internal resultant refuge. Causal refuge can be both absolute and relative Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. See also absolute refuge, conventional refuge.

Things that come about in dependence upon causes and conditions; includes all objects experienced by the senses, as well as the mind itself; impermanent phenomena.

The central channel runs from the crown of the head to the secret chakra. It is the major energy channel of the vajra body, and is visualized as a hollow tube of light in front of the spine. See also five chakras.

The attainment of nirvana while still in a contaminated body, hence “with residue” or “with remainder.” One of the three types of nirvana. See also cessation without residue and non-abiding nirvana.

The attainment of nirvana once the contaminated body (the residue) perishes, hence “without residue” or “without remainder.” One of the three types of nirvana. See also cessation with residue and non-abiding nirvana.

The third of the four noble truths, the complete elimination of all disturbing-thought obscurations, thus stopping suffering and attaining the state of liberation or nirvana. See also obscurations.

A famous seventh-century Indian lay practitioner who challenged Chandrakirti to a debate that lasted many years. His writings include Twenty Verses on the Bodhisattva Vows (Skt: Bodhisattvasamvaravimshakah; Tib: jam-chug sem-pä dom pa nyi shu pa) and Letter to a Disciple (Skt: Shisyalekha; Tib: lob-ma-la tring-pä tring-yik).

The sixth century CE Indian Buddhist philosopher who wrote commentaries on Nagarjuna's philosophy. His best-known work is A Guide to the Middle Way (Skt: Madhyamakavatara; Tib: u-ma-la juk-pä tsik-leur-jä pa).

Beer made from fermented grain, often barley.

One of the six groups of mental factors, these are factors that can be virtuous, nonvirtuous or neutral depending on the other factors involved. There are four: sleep, contrition, investigation and analysis. 

A constituent of the vajra body through which energy winds and drops flow. The central, right, and left are the major channels; there are 72,000 subtle channels in all. See also five chakras and central channel.

The second of four classes of tantra, also called Performance Tantra because it emphasizes rituals and recitation.

The Kadampa geshe who was inspired by Geshe Langri Tangpa’s Eight Verses of Thought Transformation and later composed the famous thought transformation text Seven-Point Mind Training.

A disciple of Khedrub Je, one of Lama Tsongkhapa's heart disciples.

Kadampa master and one of Dromtömpa’s three main disciples, the other two being Geshe Potowa and Phuchungwa Shönu Gyaltsen (1031–1106).

A tantric practice aimed at destroying self-grasping, where the practitioner visualizes dissecting and distributing the parts of the ordinary body to spirits and other beings as a feast offering.

An ascetic, learned Gelugpa lama who meditated in a small room in Lhasa for nineteen years after the Chinese occupation; a guru of Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

A highly learned and attained lama who was head of the Tsarpa branch of the Sakya tradition; a guru of Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

The great fifteenth century siddha whose chief disciple was Gyalwa Ensapa.

A long dress or coat worn by Tibetan lay people.

Literally, "taking the essence." Chu-len pills are made of essential ingredients; taking but a few each day, accomplished meditators can remain secluded in retreat for months or years without having to depend upon normal food.

A practice of purifying negative karma and accumulating merit in which a person walks clockwise around a holy object such as a stupa or statue.

Literally, the “mind-only” school of Mahayana philosophy. Roughly synonymous with Yogachara and Vijnanavada, Cittamatra defines the crucial concept of emptiness in terms of either an object’s lack of difference from the subject perceiving it, or dependent phenomena’s lack of the imaginary nature imputed to them. Tibetan tradition identifies two major types of Cittamatrins: those following scripture (e.g. Asanga) and those following reasoning (e.g. Dharmakirti). (See The Crystal Mirror of Philosophical Systems, p. 499.)

Very subtle mind. This subtlest state of mind occurs naturally at death and through successful tantric practice, and is used by practitioners to realize emptiness.

A preliminary subject in the Tibetan Gelug tradition that lists and explains basic Buddhist terms and definitions.

Also called mundane siddhi, an attainment or realization of psychic power acquired as a by-product of the spiritual path, not considered helpful in developing toward enlightenment. Includes the various forms of common clairvoyance, invisibility, the ability to fly or travel great distances extremely quickly and so forth. For the traditional list see eight common siddhis. See also siddhi and supreme siddhi. For clairvoyance see five forms of clairvoyance.

The wish that others be free from suffering.

Also called finishing karma, the karmic imprints that ripen to determine the type of experiences we have when we are reborn, as opposed to throwing karma that determines the actual rebirth. There are three types of completing karma: the possessed result and two types of result similar to the cause, that similar in experience and that similar in habit, or tendency.

The second of the two stages of Highest Yoga Tantra, during which control is gained over the vajra body through such practices as inner fire.

Also called conditioning factors; the fourth of the five aggregates, consisting of 49 of the 51 mental factors (excluding feeling and discriminative awareness) that compound the resultthat is, they are compounding—as opposed to compounded phenomena, which refers to the result itself.

Phenomena that arise due to causes and conditions.