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 Please see our Content Disclaimer regarding English terms in LYWA publications that may be outdated and should be considered in context.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

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

Nagarjuna (Skt)

Ludrub (Tib); klu sgrub (Wyl)

The great second-century Indian philosopher and tantric adept who propounded the Madhyamaka philosophy of emptiness. He is one of six great Indian scholars, known as the Six Ornaments.

nagas (Skt)

lu (Tib); klu (Wyl)

A snake-like being of the animal realm that lives in or near bodies of water; commonly associated with fertility of the land, but can also function as a protector of religion.


A Mahayana Buddhist monastic university founded in the fifth century in north India, not far from Bodhgaya, which served as a major source of the Buddhist teachings that spread to Tibet.

Namgyal Wangchen, Geshe (1934–2015)

Geshe Wangchen was educated at Drepung Monastery in Tibet. He served as the resident teacher at Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London, for many years, and is now a respected teacher at the re-established Drepung Monastery in south India.

Namgyälma (Tib)

Ushnishavijaya (Skt); rnam rgyal ma (Wyl)

One of three long-life deities, with Amitayus and White Tara.


rnam thar (Wyl)

A traditional Tibetan hagiography (sacred biography) of a spiritual teacher. The purpose of the namtar is to inspire and instruct readers on the path to enlightenment.

Namtöse (Tib)

Vaishravana (Skt); rnam thos sras (Wyl)

One of the Four Great Kings, the protectors of the Buddha’s Vinaya teachings


The half-brother of Shakyamuni Buddha, whose attachment was overcome by the Buddha's skillful means.

narak (Skt)

nyel wa (Tib); dmyal ba (Wyl)

Hell, either an overall term for the hell realm, or a specific term, as in the hot hells or cold hells.

Naropa (1016–1100)

The Indian mahasiddha, a disciple of Tilopa and guru of Marpa and Maitripa. Naropa transmitted many tantric lineages, including that of the renowned Six Yogas of Naropa.

Nechung oracle (Tib)

gnas chung (Wyl)

The official State Oracle of Tibet, currently residing in Dharamsala, India.


Western Tibet, where Atisha first arrived. He wrote Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment at the monastery of Thöling in Zhang-Zhung, or Gugé.


kurdeb (Tib); skur 'debs (Wyl)

The doctrine that nothing exists; that, for example, there's no cause and effect of actions, or no past and future lives; as opposed to eternalism.


In the context of Buddhist teachings, someone who, upon hearing about emptiness, comes to the mistaken conclusion that nothing exists; for example, that there's no cause and effect of actions or no past and future lives.

nine stages of calm abiding

The nine stages a meditator passes through to attain calm abiding (Skt: shamatha). They are mental placement, continuous placement, patched placement, close placement, taming, pacification, complete pacification, one-pointed attention, balanced placement.

nine-point death meditation

The nine-point death meditation is an important meditation on the impermanence of this life. It consists of three main roots: 1) death is certain; 2) the time of death is uncertain; and 3) nothing can help at the time of death except Dharma practice. Each root has three points and a conclusion.

noble eightfold path

phaglam gyä (Tib); 'phags lam brgyad (Wyl)

The eight components of the path to cessation of suffering taught by the Buddha. They are: correct speech, correct action, correct livelihood, correct effort, correct mindfulness, correct concentration, correct understanding and correct view.


mi dewa (Tib); mi dge ba (Wyl)

Negative karma; that which results in suffering.

Nyingma (Tib)

rnying ma (Wyl)

The old translation school of Tibetan Buddhism, which traces its teachings back to the time of Padmasambhava, the eighth century Indian tantric master invited to Tibet by King Trisong Detsen to clear away hindrances to the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. The first of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Cf. Kagyü, Sakya and Gelug.

nyung nä (Tib)

smyung gnas (Wyl)

A two-day Thousand-arm Chenrezig retreat that involves fasting, prostrations and silence.