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.

Glossary terms for "C"

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

causal refuge

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.

causative phenomena

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.

central channel

sushumna or avadhuti (Skt); tsa uma (Tib); rtsa dbu ma (Wyl)

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.


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).

Chandrakirti (Skt)

Dawa Dragpa (Tib); zla bag rags pa (Wyl)

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).

chang (Tib)

Beer made from fermented grain, often barley.

changeable mental factors

anyathabhava-chaitta (Skt); zhen gyur sem jung (Tib); gzhan ’gyur sems byung (Wyl)

One of the six groups of mental factors, these are factors that can be virtuous, nonvirtuous or neutral depending on one's motivation and the specific situation. There are four: sleep, contrition, investigation and analysis.


nadi (Skt); tsa (Tib); rtsa (Wyl)

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.

Chekawa Yeshe Dorje, Geshe (1101–75)

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.


chö (Tib); chod (Wyl)

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.

Chöden Rinpoche (1933-2015)

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.

Chökyi Dorje

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

chuba (Tib)

chu pa (Wyl)

A long dress or coat worn by Tibetan lay people.

chulen (Tib)

bcud len (Wyl)

Literally, “taking the essence.” Chulen 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.

Cittamatra (Skt)

sem tsam pa (Tib); sems tsam pa (Wyl)

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.)

clear light

ö sel (Tib); ’od gsal (Wyl)

The extremely subtle mind which is directly recognized as the culmination of successful tantric practice, and is also accessible or recognizable to ordinary beings at the time of death.

Collected Topics

dura (Tib); bsdus grwa (Wyl)

A preliminary subject in the Tibetan Gelug tradition that serves as an introduction to syllogistic reasoning and systematizes and defines basic Buddhist concepts and terms.

common siddhi

sadharanasiddhi (Skt); tun mong gi ngo drub (Tib); thun mong gi dngos grub (Wyl)

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.