This glossary contains an alphabetical list of Buddhist terms that you may find on this website. Many of the terms now include phoneticized Sanskrit (Skt) as well as two forms of Tibetan—the phonetic version (Tib), which is a guide to pronunciation, and transliteration using the Wylie method (Wyl). Search for the term you want by entering it in the search box or browse through the listing by clicking on the letters below. Please see our Content Disclaimer regarding English terms in LYWA publications that may be outdated and should be considered in context.


All A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R S T U V W Y Z

Abhidharma (Skt)

chö ngon pa (Tib); chos mngon pa (Wyl)

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

Abhidharmakosha (Skt)

chö ngon pa dzö (Tib); chos mngon pa’i mdzod (Wyl)

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

Abhidharmasamucchaya (Skt)

chö ngon pa kun tü (Tib); chos mngon pa kun btus (Wyl)

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.

Abhisamayalamkara (Skt)

ngon tog gyen (Tib); mngon rtogs rgyan (Wyl)

(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.

absolute guru

don dam lama (Tib); don dam bla ma (Wyl)

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

absolute refuge

don dam kyabne (Tib); don dam skyabs gnas (Wyl)

Also called ultimate refuge, absolute refuge is the ultimate attainment of the three refuges, as opposed to conventional refuge. 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.

afflictive mental consciousness

klishtamana (Skt); nyönyi (Tib); nyon yid (Wyl)

Also known as “the I-maker” this is the eighth main mind posited by the Cittamatra school, which asserts that there needs to be a separate consciousness where the sense of I resides. The other schools only posit six main consciousnesses, but the Cittamatra school posits two additional types—afflictive mental consciousness and mind basis of all.


skandha (Skt); pung po (Tib); phung po (Wyl)

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.

Ajatashatru (Skt)

An 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.

Akshobhya (Skt)

mi kyö pa (Tib); mi bskod pa (Wyl)

Also called Mikyöpa, Mitrugpa or Mitugpa, one of the five buddha types (Dhyani Buddhas), blue in color, representing the wisdom of reality and the fully purified aggregate of consciousness.

aloke (Skt)

Light; one of the offering substances. Aloke is Tibetanized; the actual Sanskrit is aloka.


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.

Amitabha (Skt)

Ö pa me (Tib); ’od dpag med (Wyl)

One of the five buddha types (Dhyani Buddhas), red in color, representing the wisdom of analysis and the fully purified aggregate of discriminative awareness.

Amoghasiddhi (Skt)

dön yo drub pa (Tib); don yod grub pa (Wyl)

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

analytical meditation

vicarabhavana (Skt); che gom (Tib); dpyad sgom (Wyl)

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

anatman (Skt)

dagme (Tib); bdag med (Wyl)

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.

Angulimala (Skt)

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.

argham (Skt)

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

arhat (Skt)

dra chom pa (Tib); dgra bcom pa (Wyl)

The Tibetan translates as "foe destroyer." A person who has destroyed their inner enemy, the delusions, and attained liberation from cyclic existence.

arura (Tib)

haritaki (Skt); a ru ra (Wyl)

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.

arya (Skt)

phag pa (Tib); ’phags pa (Wyl)

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


phagpa lha (Tib); 'phags pa lha (Wyl)

A 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.

Asanga, Arya

phagpa togme (Tib); 'phags pa thogs med (Wyl)

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.


nyangenme (Tib); mya ngan med (Wyl)

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

Ashvaghosha (or Aryasura)

tayang (Tib); rta dbyangs (Wyl)

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

aspirational bodhicitta

mon pa jang chub sem (Tib); smon pa byang chub sems (Wyl)

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.

asura (Skt)

lhamin (Tib); lha min (Wyl)

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

Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana (982–1054)

The renowned Indian master who went to Tibet in 1042 to help in the revival of Buddhism and established the Kadam tradition. Atisha wrote the seminal text, A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, in which he organized the Buddha's teachings into clear steps, known as lamrim, or stages of the path to enlightenment.