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 Please see our Content Disclaimer regarding English terms in LYWA publications that may be outdated and should be considered in context.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


shunyata (Skt); tong pa nyi (Tib); stong pa nyid (Wyl)

Literally “emptiness only.” The absence, or lack, of true existence. Ultimately, every phenomenon is empty of existing truly, or from its own side, or independently. Lama Zopa Rinpoche explains the importance of the syllable nyi (Tib) or “only” in cutting off ordinary emptiness, for example, a purse that is empty of having money. Without this final syllable the term falls short of indicating the total lack of inherent existence. See also merely labeled.


bodhi (Skt); jang chub (Tib); byang chub (Wyl)

Full awakening; buddhahood; omniscience. The ultimate goal of a Mahayana Buddhist, attained when all obscurations have been removed and all the qualities of the mind have been fully actualized. It is a state characterized by perfect compassion, wisdom and power. Lama Zopa Rinpoche points out that the Tibetan, jang chub, is much more precise than the English as the two syllables encompass what enlightenment is: jang meaning “elimination” as in the elimination of all gross and subtle obstacles and chub meaning “development” as in the development of all perfect qualities.


kalpa (Skt)

A world period, an inconceivably long period of time. The life span of the universe is divided into four great eons which are themselves divided into twenty lesser eons.


upeksha (Skt); tang nyom (Tib); btang snyoms (Wyl)

Absence of the usual discrimination of sentient beings into friend, enemy and stranger, deriving from the realization that all sentient beings are equal in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering and that since beginningless time, all beings have been all things to each other. An impartial mind that serves as the basis for the development of great love, great compassion and bodhicitta.

erma (Tib)

Erma (Zanthoxylum armatum) is a medicinal plant that grows in the Himalayas and is found in Solu Khumbu region, Nepal. The spice produced from this plant is used in Tibetan and Nepali cooking.


drodog kyi ta (Tib); sgro 'dogs kyi lta (Wyl)

The belief in the inherent existence of things, as opposed to nihilism; one of the two extremes.

example clear light

pä ö sel (Tib); dpe’i ’od gsal (Wyl)

The indirect conceptual realization of emptiness while visualizing oneself as the deity; the impure illusory body, one of the final stages of completion stage Highest Yoga Tantra immediately preceding the attainment of meaning clear light in union with the pure illusory body. This leads to the unification of no more learning and enlightenment. See also clear light and union of clear light and illusory body.


There are three kinds: 1) believing, or pure-hearted, faith; 2) lucid, or understanding, faith, which is faith based on logical conviction; and 3) yearning, or aspirational, faith.

five buddha types

[gyel pa] rig nga (Tib); [rgyal ba] rigs lnga (Wyl)

They are Vairochana, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi and Akshobhya. Each of the five types, representing a different aspect of enlightenment, is linked to the fully purified aggregates of form, feeling, discriminative awareness, compositional factors and consciousness. Lama Zopa Rinpoche advises that type is the correct translation of the Tibetan term rig, rather than family, lineage or Dhyani Buddhas. Read Rinpoche’s explanation here.

five certainties

pañcaniyata (Skt); ngepa nga (Tib); nges pa lnga Wyl)

The five definite attributes of the sambhogakaya, the enjoyment body of a buddha. They are: 1) giving only Mahayana teachings; 2) existing until samsara ends; 3)  being surrounded only by bodhisattvas; 4) abiding in the pure realm of Ogmin (Skt: Akanishtha); and 5) being adorned with the thirty-two perfect qualities and eighty minor perfections, the most sublime of Buddha’s qualities.

five chakras (Skt)

tsa khor nga (Tib); rtsa ‘khor lnga (Wyl)

Five energy wheels or focal points of energy along the central channel (Skt: sushumna) upon which one's concentration is directed, especially during the completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra. The main chakras are the crown, throat, heart, navel, and secret place (the sex organ). In some systems, the first, at the brow, and the last, at the secret place, are omitted. See also channel.

five degenerations

The degenerations that occur as human beings evolve over the eon of existence; they are: the degeneration of disturbing thoughts, of lifespan, of time, of view and of sentient beings.

five forms of clairvoyance

Divine hearing, knowing others' thoughts, remembering past lives, knowing the various rebirths of sentient beings—these fall into common siddhis—and the knowledge of the exhaustion of contaminations, which only arhats and buddhas can know.

five great mantras

The five great mantras are: the mantra of Kunrig, the mantra of Buddha Mitukpa, the Stainless Pinnacle, the Wish-Granting Wheel mantra, and the mantras of Namgyälma. These and the ten great mantras are incredibly beneficial when a being is dying or dead. See also ten great mantras.

five great Sakya pandits

The five great masters (patriarchs) who founded the Sakya tradition: Sachen Küngya Nyingpo (1092–1158), Lobpön Sonam Tsemo (1142–82), Jetsün Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1216), Sakya Pandita (1182–1251) and Drogön Chögyal Phakpa (1235–80).

five great treatises

The five main texts studied in the great Gelug monasteries: the Abhisamayalamkara, Vinaya, Madhyamaka, Abhidharmakosha and Pramanavarttika.

five hindrances to meditation

Taught by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta: desire (especially sense desires), ill-will, sloth and torpor, distraction and worry, doubt and wavering.

five immediate negativities

pancanantarya (Skt); tsam mä nga (Tib); mtshams med lnga (Wyl)

Also called the five uninterrupted negative karmas or actions, the five heinous crimes, the five actions without break or the five actions of immediate retribution. The five actions that are so heavy that they cause one to be reborn in hell immediately after death. They are: 1) killing one’s mother; 2) killing one’s father; 3) killing an arhat; 4) maliciously drawing blood from a buddha; and 5) creating a schism in the Sangha.

five lay vows

panchashila (Skt); ge nyen gi dompa nga (Tib); dge bsnyen gyi sdom pa lnga (Wyl)

The precepts taken by lay Buddhist practitioners for life: to abstain from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct and taking intoxicants. See also pratimoksha vows.