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 Please see our Content Disclaimer regarding English terms in LYWA publications that may be outdated and should be considered in context.

Glossary terms for "I"

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


avidya (Skt); ma rig pa (Tib); ma rig pa (Wyl)

Literally, “not seeing” that which exists, or the way in which things exist. There are basically two kinds, ignorance of karma and ignorance of ultimate truth. Ignorance is the fundamental delusion from which all others spring, and is the first of the twelve links of dependent origination.


anitya (Skt); mi tag pa (Tib); mi rtag pa (Wyl)

The gross and subtle levels of the transience of phenomena. The moment things and events come into existence, their disintegration has already begun.


vasana (Skt); pag cha (Tib); bag chags (Wyl)

The seed, or potential, left on the mind by positive or negative actions of body, speech and mind.

indestructible drop

mi nä pä tig le (Tib); mi gnas pa’i thig le (Wyl)

The subtle drop at the center of the heart chakra where the very subtle consciousness resides. Originating from the father's red drop and the mother's white one, it consists of two halves, which split at the moment of death to release the very subtle consciousness.


A powerful Hindu deity in the god realm.

inherent (or intrinsic) existence

rang zhin gyi drub pa (Tib); rang bzhin gyis grub pa (Wyl)

What phenomena are empty of; the object of negation, or refutation. To ignorance, phenomena appear to exist independently or inherently, in and of themselves. See also: emptiness.


abhisheka (Skt); wang(Tib); dbang (Wyl)

Transmission received from a tantric master allowing a disciple to engage in the practices of a particular meditational deity. It is also referred to as an empowerment. Tantric masters willl also often give a jenang, which is permission to practice a particular deity, rather than a full empowerment. 

inner being

nangpa (Tib); nang pa (Wyl)

Another term for a Buddhist, so called because the person has entered "inside" the teachings of the Buddha by taking heartfelt refuge in the Three Jewels, thus differentiating from an outer being who relies on non-Buddhist philosophies and external phenomena as sources of happiness.

inner Dharma

The Dharma practiced by Buddhists, as opposed to "outer Dharma" which is practiced by non-Buddhists.

inner fire

tummo (Tib); gtum mo (Wyl)

The energy residing at the navel chakra, aroused during the completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra, and used to bring the energy winds into the central channel. It is also called inner or psychic heat.

inner offering

nang chö (Tib); nang mchod (Wyl)

A tantric offering whose basis of transformation is one’s five aggregates visualized as the five meats and the five nectars.

insight meditation

vipassana (Pali); vipashyana (Skt); lhag tong (Tib); lhag mthong (Wyl)

The principal meditation taught in the Theravada tradition. It is based on the Buddha’s teachings on the four foundations of mindfulness. It is sometimes called mindfulness meditation. In the Mahayana, vipashyana (Skt) has a different connotation, where it means investigation of and familiarization with the actual way in which things exist and is used to develop the wisdom of emptiness.

intelligence, faculty of

nam chöd (Tib)

Sometimes translated as "faculty of imagination." A human being’s capacity for thinking and imagination that enables us to project into the future, recollect past experiences and so forth; a faculty that often leads us into conflict. The insight, or wisdom, that enables us to judge between long- and short-term benefit and detriment.

intermediate state

antarabhava (Skt); bardo (Tib); bar do (Wyl)

The state between death and rebirth.

interpretive meaning

One of two main ways of understanding a Dharma teaching, this one is where the content is not to be taken literally but needs interpretation, as opposed to the definitive meaning.