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 Please see our Content Disclaimer regarding English terms in LYWA publications that may be outdated and should be considered in context.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

four opponent powers

nyenpo tob zhi (Tib); gnyen po stobs bzhi (Wyl)

The four practices used to purify nonvirtuous imprints on the mindstream. They are: 1) the power of the object, taking refuge in the Three Rare Sublime Ones and generating bodhicitta; 2) the power of regret, feeling deep regret for the negativity committed; 3) the power of resolve, determining not to repeat that negativity; and 4) the power of remedy, a practice such as Vajrasattva that effectively acts as an antidote to the negativity.

four outlines of karma

Karma is definite, karma is expandable, we cannot meet the result unless we have created the cause, and once the cause has been created the result cannot be lost.

four powerful Dharmakaya Relic mantras

Four mantras placed in holy objects such as stupas. Simply circumambulating an object containing these mantras purifies the karma to be reborn in the hot hells. They are: the most precious heart mantra of stainless beam, the most precious mantra of secret relic, the most precious mantra of ornament of enlightenment and the very precious root mantra of stainless pinnacle.

four powers

The four types of attainments often described in tantric initiations. They are: pacification (of delusions), increase (of realizations), control (of whatever needs controlling) and subduing (of negative forces).

four purities

Also called the four complete purities. In tantra, the practice of transcending ordinary appearance and seeing place, body, enjoyments and action as pure. The place or environment is seen as the deity's mandala, the ordinary body is seen as the deity's, the sense enjoyments are offered to the deity and all actions are regarded as the actions of the deity.

four seals

The four basic tenets that define Buddhism. They are: all compositional phenomena are impermanent, all contaminated phenomena are by nature suffering, all phenomena are empty of self-existence and nirvana is true peace.

Four Thoughts (That Turn the Mind to Dharma)

lo dog nam zhi (Tib); blo ldog rnam bzhi (Wyl)

The four contemplations are: 1) the difficulties of finding a precious human rebirth; 2) the impermanence of life; 3) the sufferings of samsara; and 4) karma (cause and effect).

four types of grasping

They are: grasping at sense pleasures, grasping at the wrong view of denying what exists, grasping at the wrong view of holding our own beliefs as superior and grasping at the wrong view of the sense of a self-existent I.

four types of reliance

tönpa zhi (Tib; rton pa bzhi (Wyl)

Taught by the Buddha shortly before showing the aspect of passing away, they are: 1) relying on the message and not the personality of the teacher; 2) relying on the meaning of the message and not just the words; 3) relying on definitive meaning and not the provisional; and 4) relying on wisdom and insight, and not the ordinary, judgmental mind.

four unknowing minds

The four types of very subtle ignorance that arhats and higher bodhisattvas still have that a buddha does not, due to the subtle imprints of delusions not yet fully eliminated. They are: the inability to see the secret actions of a buddha, the inability to see the subtle karma of sentient beings, the inability to see things that happened a very long time ago and the inability to see very long distances.

four vajra drops

Four attainments of the union of clear light and illusory body, they are: the posture of the drop, retaining the drops while in union without emission; the posture of the wind, using the wind to block the channel by use of a syllable; the posture of the channel, the meeting of channels of the father and mother; and the posture of the body, the syllables that adorn the secret places at the time of unification.

four vital points of analysis

One of the main techniques for meditating on emptiness. They are: 1) determining the object to be negated; 2) determining that a truly existent self must either be identical with the aggregates or separate from them; 3) determining that a truly existent self cannot be identical with the aggregates; and 4) determining that a truly existent self cannot be separate from the aggregates.

four white dharmas

karpöi chö zhi (Tib); dkar po'i chos bzhi (Wyl)

Four actions that speed your spiritual progress; they are: 1) never lying to your guru even at the cost of your life; 2) inspiring sentient beings to follow the Mahayana path; 3) respecting a bodhisattva just as you would a buddha; and 4) being honest to all beings. See also four black dharmas.

four wrong concepts

They are: that impermanent things are permanent, that suffering is pleasure, that the impure is pure and that the self has an independent nature.

fourfold practice

Four practices considered best for accumulating merit and purifying obscurations. They are: 1) accumulating merit by making offerings to deities and spiritual teachers; 2) making offerings such as torma cakes to malevolent spirits; 3) making offerings to Dharma protectors for a successful Dharma practice; and 4) purifying negative karma by making charity.

front generation

dünkye (Tib); mdun bskyed (Wyl)

The practice in Vajrayana where the deity is visualized in front of the meditator. See also self generation.

Gampopa (1074–1153)

The "sun-like" disciple of Milarepa and author of The Jewel Ornament of Liberation; also known as "The Physician from Dakpo"; guru of the first Karmapa.

Ganden Monastery

The first of the three great Gelugpa monastic universities near Lhasa, founded in 1409 by Lama Tsongkhapa. It was badly damaged in the 1960s and has now been re-established in exile in south India.

Ganden Tripa

"Holder of the Throne of Ganden," Lama Tsongkhapa's representative, head of the Gelug tradition.


driza (Tib); dri za (Wyl)

A celestial musician, often depicted holding a sitar-like instrument and having a horse’s head.

garuda (Skt)

khyung (Tib, Wyl)

A deity associated with Vajrapani; a bird-like being with a snake in its mouth, symbolizing its ability to protect sentient beings from naga harm.

gegtor (Tib)

bgegs gtor (Wyl)

A torma offering to harmful spirits or negative forces, often done at the beginning of an initiation.

gekö (Tib)

dge bskos (Wyl)

A disciplinarian in a Tibetan monastery.

Gelek Rimpoche (1939–2017)

A Gelug lama and lharampa geshe from Drepung Monastery, Gelek Rimpoche was born in Tibet and was a friend of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Gelek Rimpoche was the founder and president of the Jewel Heart Dharma centers and programs. He passed away on February 15, 2017.

gelobma (Tib)

siksamana (Skt); dge slob ma (Wyl)

A probationary nun, between the novice (Tib: getsulma) with 36 vows and the fully-ordained nun (Tib; gelongma) with 364 vows.

gelong (Tib)

bhikshu (Skt); dge slong (Wyl)

A fully ordained Buddhist monk.

Gelug (Tib)

dge lugs (Wyl)

The Virtuous Order. The order of Tibetan Buddhism founded by Lama Tsongkhapa and his disciples in the early fifteenth century and the most recent of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Developed from the Kadam School founded by Atisha and Dromtönpa. Cf Nyingma, Kagyü and Sakya.

Gen (Tib)

rgan (Wyl)

Literally, elder. A title of respect.