This glossary contains an alphabetical list of Buddhist terms that you may find on this website. The glossary includes English, Sanskrit and Tibetan terms. The list of terms is expanding and new listings are added regularly. Search for the term you want by entering it in the search box, or browse through the listing by clicking on the letters below.

Also called ultimate refuge, absolute refuge—as opposed to conventional refuge—is the ultimate attainment of the three refuges; absolute Buddha is the dharmakaya, the buddha’s omniscient mind, absolute Dharma is the true cessation of suffering and absolute Sangha is any being who has attained the true cessation of suffering and become an arya being.

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.

Also called relative refuge; as opposed to absolute or ultimate refuge, the objects of refuge as known to an obscured mind. The conventional Buddha refers to the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, and any other buddha, the conventional Dharma refers to three baskets of teachings—Vinaya, Abhidharma and Sutra—as well as the virtuous actions we do and conventional Sangha refers to any assembly of four or more fully-ordained monks or nuns living in pure vows who have yet to attain the state of arya being. Lama Zopa Rinpoche also refers to the conventional Buddha as “the Buddha that is true to the all-obscuring mind” or “illusory Buddha.”

The door to the Dharma path. Having taken refuge from the heart we become an inner being or Buddhist. There are three levels of refuge—Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana—and two or three causes necessary for taking refuge: fearing the sufferings of samsara in general and lower realms in particular; faith that Buddha, Dharma and Sangha have the qualities and power to lead us to happiness, liberation and enlightenment; and (for Mahayana refuge) compassion for all sentient beings. See also absolute refuge, causal refuge, conventional refuge, resultant refuge.

The potential of our own mind to achieve the absolute refuge, to become a buddha ourselves (resultant Buddha), to actualize the true path within our mental continuum (resultant Dharma) and to attain the state of an arya being (resultant Sangha). To achieve resultant Buddha, Dharma and Sangha we need to first practice causal refuge by relying on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha already achieved by others. See also conventional refuge.