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.

Literally “Unique Mother Torch of Lab”, she was a great tantric practitioner and teacher who developed several chöd practices.

Nectar; one of two offering substances in a tantric offering, the other is bala.

The Middle Way School of Buddhist philosophy; a system of analysis founded by Nagarjuna, based on the prajnaparamita sutras of Shakyamuni Buddha, and considered to be the supreme presentation of the wisdom of emptiness. This view holds that all phenomena are dependent originations and thereby avoids the mistaken extremes of self-existence and non-existence, or eternalism and nihilism. It has two divisions, Svatantrika and Prasangika. With Cittamatra, one of the two Mahayana schools of philosophy.

A Guide to the Middle Way, a a famous text composed by Chandrakirti to supplement Nagarjuna’s treatise Mulamadhyamakakarika (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way). It is used as the main source book by most Tibetan monasteries for the study of emptiness.

Follower of Madhyamaka.

Literally, “great god,” an epithet for Shiva, one of the three principal Hindu deities with Brahma and Vishnu.

Wrathful male meditational deity connected with Heruka; a Dharma protector favored by Lama Yeshe.

The great seal; a profound system of meditation upon the mind and the ultimate nature of reality.

Literally, Great Vehicle. It is one of the two general divisions of Buddhism. Mahayana practitioners' motivation for following the Dharma path is principally their intense wish for all mother sentient beings to be liberated from conditioned existence, or samsara, and to attain the full enlightenment of buddhahood. The Mahayana has two divisions, Paramitayana (Sutrayana) and Vajrayana (Tantrayana, Mantrayana). Cf Hinayana.

After Shakyamuni Buddha, the next (fifth) of the thousand buddhas of this fortunate eon to descend to turn the wheel of Dharma. Presently residing in the pure land of Tushita (Ganden). Recipient of the method lineage of Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings, which, in a mystical transmission, he passed on to Asanga.

When a being becomes enlightened, he or she displays 32 major marks and 80 minor signs, such as the ushnisha (crown protrusion), the impressions of a 1,000-spoked wheel on the soles and palms and so forth. See the 32 major marks and the 80 minor signs.

A rosary of beads for counting mantras.

A circular diagram symbolic of the entire universe. The purified environment of a tantric deity; the diagram or painting representing this.

The symbolic offering of the entire purified universe to the spiritual teacher (guru) and the visualized merit field.

Medicinal pills made by Tibetan monks and nuns, very effective for healing mental and physical problems. The name comes from OM MANI PADME HUM, the mantra chanted as they are made.

The bodhisattva (or buddha) of wisdom. Recipient of the wisdom lineage of Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings, which he passed on to Nagarjuna.

Literally, mind protection. Mantras are Sanskrit syllables usually recited in conjunction with the practice of a particular meditational deity and embody the qualities of that deity.

A mantra visualized as a rosary, its syllables representing beads; usually circular, as in the syllables of the one hundred syllable mantra standing around the edge of the moon disc.

The demonic obstructer to spiritual progress; the one who attempted to block Shakyamuni Buddha as he strove for enlightenment under the bodhi tree. See also four maras.

One of the four types of maras; interferes with meditation by increasing desire for sensual pleasures. The personification of desire and temptation that the Buddha defeated just before his enlightenment. See four maras.

Founder of the Kagyü tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He was a renowned tantric master and translator, a disciple of Naropa, and the guru of Milarepa.

One of the two principal disciples of the Buddha, with Shariputra; he was considered the disciple most accomplished in miraculous powers developed through meditation.

The area of Dharamsala where His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many of the Tibetan refugees live.

Familiarization of the mind with a virtuous object. There are two types, fixed (Tib: jog-gom; also called one-pointed, stabilizing or placement) and analytic, or insight (Tib: che-gom). See also single-pointed concentration (Skt: samadhi).

Literally arising from the mind, a mental factor, as defined by Vasubandhu, is a secondary aspect of the mind that apprehends a particular quality of the object that the principal consciousness is perceiving. There are traditionally 51 mental factors divided into six groups: five omnipresent factors, five object-determining factors, eleven virtuous factors, six root delusions, twenty secondary delusions and four changeable factors

The subtlest meaning of dependent arising; every phenomenon exists relatively, or conventionally, as a mere label, merely imputed by the mind.

Positive imprints left on the mind by virtuous, or Dharma, actions. The principal cause of happiness. The merit of virtue, when coupled with the merit of wisdom, eventually results in rupakaya. See also the two merits.

Or field of accumulation. The visualized or actual holy beings in relation to whom one accumulates merit by going for refuge, making offerings and so forth and to whom one prays or makes requests for special purposes.

Also called the collection of wisdom, which develops the wisdom side of the path by meditation on emptiness. See also the two merits.

Also called the collection of merit, which develops the method side of the path by practicing generosity and so forth. See also the two merits.

All aspects of the path to enlightenment other than those related to emptiness, principally associated with the development of loving kindness, compassion and bodhicitta.

The second of the three levels of practice or scopes, the middle capable being has the goal of liberation from suffering. See also lower and higher capable being and three levels of practice.

The view presented in Shakyamuni Buddha's prajñaparamita sutras and elucidated by Nagarjuna that all phenomena are dependent arisings, thereby avoiding the mistaken extremes of self-existence and non-existence, or eternalism and nihilism. Cf Madhyamaka.

The four- or five line prayer to Lama Tsongkhapa usually recited within the Gelug tradition at the end of teachings or prayer sessions.

Tibet's great yogi, who achieved enlightenment in his lifetime under the tutelage of his guru, Marpa, who was a contemporary of Atisha. One of the founding fathers of the Kagyu School.