Abhidharma (Tib. chö mgön pa) The Buddhist teachings are often divided into the Tripitaka: the Sutras (teachings of the Buddha), the Vinaya (teachings on conduct or moral ethic), and the Abhidharma which is an extensive analysis of phenomena. With respect to mental states and factors, the Abhidharma, for example, lists the 100 states of the mind and classifies them into wholesome, unwholesome, and neutral mental states.
Aggregates. See skandha
Blessing (Tib. jinlap) When an individual has great devotion, he or she is able to “tap into” or receive the blessings or energy created by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas. The blessings of the lineage are always there, but can only be received if one makes oneself receptive to them so they are not something externally bestowed by more enlightened beings.
Bodhichitta (Tib. chang chup chi sem) Literally, the mind of enlightenment. There are two kinds of bodhichitta: absolute bodhichitta which is completely awakened mind that sees the emptiness of phenomena and relative bodhichitta which is the aspiration to practice the six paramitas and to free all beings from the sufferings of samsara.
Bodhisattva (Tib. chang chup sem pa) An individual who has committed him or herself to the Mahayana path of compassion and the practice of the six paramitas to achieve Buddhahood to free all beings from samsara.
Buddha-nature (Skt. tathagatagarbha, Tib. deshin shekpa nying po) The original nature present in all beings which when realized leads to enlightenment. It is also called Buddha-essence.
Chenrezig (Skt. Avalokiteshvara) Deity of compassion.
Completion Stage (Tib dzo rim) In yidam meditation there are two stages: the generation and the completion stage. The completion stage is a method of tantric meditation in which one dissolves the visualization and then rests in the intrinsic awareness of mind.
Daka (Tib. da po) A male counterpart to a dakini.
Dakini (Tib. kandro) A yogini who has attained high realizations of the fully enlightened mind. She may be a human being who has achieved such attainments or a non-human manifestation of the enlightened mind of a meditational deity.
Dharma (Tib. chö) This has two main meanings: Any truth such as the sky is blue and secondly, as it is used in some texts, the teachings of the Buddha.
Dharma protector (Skt.. dharmapala, Tib. chö kyong) These are spirts and other entities that do not have a body which pledge themselves to protect the dharma and help dharma practitioners.
Dharmata (Tib. chö nyi) The true nature of phenomena, not phenomena as it appears to us, and is often translated as “suchness” or “the true nature of things” or “things as-they-are.”
Dharmadhatu (Tib. chö ying) The all-encompassing space which is unoriginated and beginningless out of which all phenomena arise.
Disturbing emotions (Skt. klesha) These are factors which disturb our mind. The main three disturbing emotions are attachment, anger or aggression, and ignorance or confusion. The five disturbing emotions are these three plus envy and pride.
Five Paths (Tib. Lam nga) Traditionally, a practitioner goes through five stages or paths to enlightenment. These are: (1) the path of accumulation which emphasizes purifying one’s obscurations and accumulating merit, (2) the path of preparation (sometimes translated as junction or application which the meditator develops profound understanding of the Four Noble Truths and cuts the root to the desire realm, (3) the path of seeing in which the meditator develops greater insight and enters the first bodhisattva level, (4) the path of meditation in which the meditator cultivates insight in the second through tenth bodhisattva levels, and the (5) the path of no more learning (sometimes translated as the path of fulfillment) which is the complete attainment of Buddhahood.
Four extremes (Tib. mu shi) These are (1) a belief in the existence of everything (also called “eternalism”), (2) a belief that nothing exists (also called “nihilism”), (3) a belief that things exist and don’t exist, and (4) that reality is something other than existence and non-existence.
Four Foundation of meditation (Tib.tun mong gi ngon dro shi) These are the four thoughts that turn the mind. They are reflections on precious human birth, impermanence and the inevitability of death, karma and its effects, and the pervasiveness of suffering in samsara.
Four immeasurables (Tib. tsad me bzhi) These are limitless love, limitless compassion, limitless joy, and limitless impartiality or equinimity.
Four Noble Truths (Tib. pak pay den pa shi) The Buddha began teaching with a sermon in Sarnath, India on the Four Noble Truths. These are the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the truth of the path. These truths are the foundation of Buddhism, and are greatly emphasized by the Teravada school.
Four special foundations (Tib. ngöndro, pronounced “nundro”) These are the four ngöndro practices of taking refuge with prostrations, Vajrasattva mantra, mandala offering, and guru yogo practice. For ngöndro one does approximately 100,00 prostrations, 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras, 100,000 mandala offerings, and 100,00 guru yogas.
Generation Stage (Tib. Che rim) In Vajrayana there are two stages of meditation: the creation and the completion stage. In this stage the visualization of the deity is built up and maintained.
Guru yoga The fourth practice of the preliminary practices of ngöndro which emphasizes devotion to one’s guru.
Interdependent origination (Tib. ten drel) The theory that all phenomena are interdependent. There are twelve links to this origination called the nidanas.
Jnana (Tib. yeshe) Literally “primordial awareness.” This is the wisdom that manifests at enlightenment when the mind is no longer obscured.
Karma (Tib. lay) Literally “action.” Karma is a universal law that when one does a wholesome action, one’s circumstances will improve and when one does an unwholesome action, negative results will eventually occur from the act.
Kaya, Three (Tib. ku sum) There are three bodies of the Buddha: the nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, and dharmakaya. The dharmakaya also called the “truth body,” is the complete enlightenment or the complete wisdom of the Buddha which is unoriginated wisdom beyond form and manifests in the sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya. The sambhogakaya, also called the “enjoyment body,” manifests only to bodhisattva. The nirmanakaya, also called the “emanation body,” and manifests in the world and in this context manifests as the Shayamuni Buddha.
Klesha (Tib. nyon mong) See disturbing emotions
Mahayana (Tib. tek pa chen po) Literally, the “great vehicle.” These are the teachings of the second turning of the wheel of dharma which emphasize the emptiness of phenomena and the bodhisattva way.
Mandala (Tib. chil kor) A diagram used in Vajrayana practice which usually consists of a central deity and a palace with four door facing the four directions.
Mantra (Tib. ngak) A series of Sanskrit syllables such as OM MANIO PEDME HUNG which are repeated to arouse the essence of the deity in one’s mind.
Middle way (Tib. u ma) or Madhyamaka School. A philosophical school founded by Nagarjuna and is based on the Prajaparamita sutras of emptiness.
Nirvana (Tib. nya ngen lay day pa) A state of no more suffering achieved when one is completely liberated. Used in contrast to samsara.
Nirmanakaya See kayas, three
Phowa (Tib.) An advanced tantric practice used in this case to eject the consciousness at the time of death to a favorable realm.
Pandit (Tib. pan di ta) A great scholar.
Prajna (Tib. sherab) Sanskrit for “perfect knowledge” and can mean wisdom, understanding, or discrimination. Usually it means the wisdom of seeing things from a high (e.g., non-dualistic) point of view.
Paramita (Tib. pha rol tu phyin pa) Sanskrit for “transcendent perfection.” These are the six practices of the Mahayana path: Transcendent generosity, transcendent discipline, transcendent patience, transcendent diligence (exertion or effort), transcendent concentration (meditation), and transcendent wisdom or knowledge (Skt. prajna) plus skillful means, power, and enlightened wisdom (Skt. jnana).
Rinpoche Literally, “very precious” and is used as a term of respect for a Tibetan (usually reincarnated) guru.
Relative truth (Tib. kunsop) There are two truth: relative and ultimate truth. Relative truth is the perception of an ordinary (unenlightened) person who sees the world with all his or her projections based on the false belief of ego.
Sadhana (Tib. drup top) A ritual text which details how to do a specific tantric practice.
Samadhi (Tib. ting nge dzin) Also called “meditative absorption” or “one-pointed meditation” and is the highest form of meditation in which the mind remains in meditation without any distraction.
Shamatha or tranquility meditation (Tib. she nay) This is basic sitting meditation. The aim of Shamatha meditation is to be able to place the mind on an object and remain there without distraction.
Samsara (Tib. kor wa) Conditioned existence which is ordinary suffering in life which occurs because one still possesses passion, aggression, and ignorance. It is contrasted to nirvana.
Sangha (Tib. gen dun)Companions on the path. They may be the regular sangha who are all the persons on the path or the noble sangha who are the realized ones or may refer to four fully-ordained monks.
Siddha (Tib. grub thob) An accomplished Buddhist practitioner.
Siddhi (Tib. ngö drub) Spiritual accomplishments of advanced practitioners.
Skandha (Tib. pung pa) Literally, “heaps” and are the five basic transformations that perceptions undergo when an object is perceived. These are form, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness. Also translated as aggregates.
Shunyata (Skt., Tib. tong pa nyi) Translated as “voidness” or “emptiness.” The Buddha taught in the second turning of the wheel of dharma that phenomena have no inherent existence and therefore are “empty.”
Sutra (Tib. do) The Theravada and Mahayana texts which are the words of the Buddha. These are often contrasted with the tantras commentaries on the words of the words of the Buddha.
Sutrayana (Skt.) for “sutra vehicle.” In can refer to studying and analyzing the teachings of the Buddha rather than doing direct meditation to understand reality.
Tantra (Tib. gyu) The teachings of the Vajrayana.
Tara (Tib. Drolma) A female deity who has great compassion and has pledged to protect others and is known as the “patron saint” of Tibet.
Three immutables These are the Theravada, the Mahayana, and the Vajrayana.
Three Jewels (Tib. kön chok sum) These are the Buddha, the dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), and the sangha (the companions on the path).
Thervada (Skt. Tib. neten depa) The “elder ones” or the school of Buddhism which ahs been maintained in Thailand, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.
Three roots (Tib. tsa wa sum) These are the lamas, the yidams, and the dharma protectors.
Tirthikas Religious people who believe in a personal self.
Torma (Tib.) A ritual object made of dried barley and butter and put on the shrine (altar) used as a symbolic offering to the deities.
Tranquility meditation. See Shamatha meditation.
Two truths. See relative and absolute truth
Ultimate truth (Tib. dondam) There are two truths or views of reality — relative truth which is seeing things as ordinary beings do with the dualism of “I” and “other” and ultimate truth, also called absolute truth, which is transcending duality and seeing things as they are.
Vajra (Tib. dorje) This is either an implement used in Vajrayana practice or it denotes something which is indestructible such as in “vajra nature.”
Vajradhara (Tib. Dorje Chang) The name of the dharmakaya Buddha.
Vajrasattva (Tib. Dorje Sempa) The Buddha of purification. Vajrasattva practice is part of the four preliminary practices.
Vajrayana (Tib. dorje tek pa) There are trhee major types of Buddhist practices. The Theravada, the Mahayana, and the Vajrayana which emphasizes the clarity aspect of phenomena and is mainly practiced in Tibet.
Vajrayogini (Tib. Dorje Palmo) A semi-wrathful female yidam.
Vinaya (Tib. dul wa) These are the teaching by the Buddha concerning proper conduct. There are seven main precepts that may be observed by lay persons or 252 and 320 to be observed by monks and nuns respectively.
Vipashyana meditation Sanskrit for insight meditation” (Tib. lhag tong) This meditation can refer to meditation into the fundamental nature of phenomena. It is closely related to Shamatha meditation in that one needs the calm, one-pointed concentration of Shamatha meditation to accomplish this.
Wheel of dharma (Skt. dharmachakra) The Buddha’s teachings correspond to three levels: Theravada (Hinayana), the Mahayana, and the Vajrayana with each set being one turning.
Yana (Tib. thek pa) Literally, “vehicle” but can refer to the level of teaching. There are three main yanas (the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana).
Yidam A Vajrayana practitioner’s personal deity.
Yogi (Tib. nal yor) An accomplished practitioner who usually chooses an unconventional lifestyle