Glossary of Buddhist Terms Dharma Practice


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A  -  B  |  C  -  D  |  E  - F

 G  -  H  |   I  -   J  |   K  -    L  |   M  -   N

 O  -   P   |    Q  -   R  |   S  -   T

 U  -  V  |   W  -   X  |   Y  -   Z

A  -  B

Bardo The intermediate existence between death and rebirth - age varying from seven to forty-nine days, after which the Karmic body from previous lives will certainly be reborn.
Bodhi Mind  (See Bodhicitta)
Bodhicitta The spirit of Enlightenment, the aspiration to achieve it, the Mind set on Enlightenment. It involves two parallel aspects: i) the determination to achieve Buddhahood and ii) the aspiration to rescue all sentient beings.
Bodhisattvas Those who aspire to Supreme Enlightenment and Buddhahood for themselves and all beings. The word Bodhisattva can therefore stand for a realized being such as Avalokitesvara (Tib. Chenrezig) but also for anyone who has developed the Bodhi Mind, the aspiration to save oneself and others.
Buddha Literally, the Awakened One. Usually refers to Sakyamuni Buddha, who lived and taught in India some 2,600 years ago.
Buddhadharma Teaching of the Buddha

C  -  D

Dakini A dakini is a female supernatural being whose purpose is to help those in pursuit of spiritual advancement overcome obstacles. 'Dakini' literally means 'She Who Goes Through the Air'. Dakinis are often depicted as dancing figures with wrathful expressions.
Dana Voluntary giving of what material possessions, spiritual energy and wisdom.
Delusion Delusion refers to belief in something that contradicts reality. In Buddhism, delusion is a lack of awareness of the true nature or Buddha nature of things, or of the true meaning of existence.
Dharma a) The teachings of the Buddhas (generally capitalized in English);  b) duty, law, doctrine;  c) things, events, phenomena, everything.
Dharmakaya Wisdom Body.  The Buddha body in its self-nature, which is the same as the dharma body - the eternal indestructible true principle, the Buddha's original body.  The fundamental truth of emptiness (shunyata), the experience of reality or enlightenment.
Dorje The 'dorje' or 'vajra' is a diamond (but can also be translated as thunderbolt). It symbolizes what are seen to be essential qualities of Buddhism. Just as the diamond is hard, so the Buddha's teachings are indestructible. The power of the thunderbolt is similar to the power of the Buddha's message that has the power to cut through ignorance and lead all beings to enlightenment.

E  -  F

Eight Fold Path The Fourth Noble Truth, True Path, has eight aspects:  1) right understanding, 2) right thought, 3) right speech, 4) right action, 5) right livelihood, 6) right effort, 7) right mindfulness, 8) right concentration.
Emptiness Lack of independent or inherent existence.
Enlightenment The complete spiritual awakening of an individual.  One who has purified obscurations and is perfectly realized.  A fully enlightened person is called a Buddha.
Four Noble Truths The Four Noble Truths are:  1) suffering exists; 2) the origin of suffering is attachment; 3) there is a cessation of suffering; 4) there exists a path leading to that cessation (The Eight Fold Path).

G  -  H

Gelugpa The Gelugpa ('virtuous ones') is a school ('-pa') of Tibetan Buddhism that emerged in the fourteenth century. It was founded by Tsongkhapa who was renowned for both his scholasticism and his virtue. Followers of the Gelug school are also sometimes referred to as 'the yellow hats'.
Geshe A geshe is a learned monk, someone who is an expert on important Buddhist scriptures. To become a geshe one undergoes a series of rigorous oral examinations characterized by vigorous debate.  Geshe is also an abbreviation of Gewa'i Shenyen. Gewa'i means virtuous. Shenyen is spiritual friend.
Gompa Shrine room.

I  -  J

K  -  L

Kalpa A cosmic era of extremely long duration.
Karma The entire process of causal action and the resultant effects.
Kata A white scarf given in greeting (Tibetan custom). The kata is an auspicious symbol. It lends a positive note to the start of any enterprise or relationship and indicates the good intentions of the person offering it. Katas are offered to religious images, such as statues of the Buddha, and to lamas and government officials prior to requesting their help in the form of prayers or other services. The offering of the kata indicates that the request is not marred by corrupt thoughts or ulterior motives.
Kushok Servant of the Dalai Lama
Lam Rim Lamrim (Stages in the Path) is a clearly formulated explanation of the steps one takes to attain enlightenment. It is inclusive of all the Buddha's teachings laid out in a hierarchy of stages through which the practitioner progresses.
Lama Lama means spiritual teacher or spiritual guide. In Tibetan Buddhism, the most prominent lama is the Dalai Lama, believed to be a manifestation of the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesvara. Second to him, and belonging to the Gelugpa school too, is the Panchen Lama, said to be the incarnation of Amitabha Buddha.
Law of Interdependent Causation States that all phenomena arise depending upon a number of casual factors.
Losar Tibetan New Year.

M  -  N

Mahayana Literally, great vehicle; the dominant Buddhist tradition of Tibet. Special characteristic of Mahayana is emphasis on bodhisattva ideal - an altruistic and compassionate sense of universal responsibility for the welfare of all beings as a necessary prerequisite for attaining full enlightment.
Mala Devotional and meditational bead necklaces worn and used by practitioners of Buddhism.
Mandala 'Circle'. A design used in Tibetan Buddhism to represent a spiritual map of the cosmos. It is used as a meditational device.
Mantra Words of power; syllables, generally Sanskrit, recited during certain meditational practices.
Merit The positive energy accumulated in the mind as a result of virtuous activities of body, speech and mind.
Mount Meru The centre of the universe according to Buddhist cosmology.
Nirvana Literally, passed beyond pain and sorrow.  The cessation of all suffering. The very opposite of the Wheel of Birth-and-Death; it is what those in the Buddhist tradition aspire to experience.

O  -  P

Offering There is no limit to what we can offer, we offer whatever we can (e.g. piece of bread, cup of water etc.) We offer these items to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to collect merit.
Prostrations To accumulate merit, usually performed in the morning and evening. We bow to the Buddha's body, speech, to purify our body, speech and mind for the benefit of all beings.
Puja Offering, a ceremony with offering and chanting.
Pure Land In Mahayana Buddhism, a purified environment created by the strength of compassion and wisdom of a buddha or bodhisattva where sentient begins may aspire to be born in order to complete the path to enlightenment in more favourable circumstances.

Q  -  R

Renunciation Attitude of complete detachment from the experiences of samsara, seeing there is no true pleasure or satisfaction to be found in it.
Rinpoche Literally, precious one.  A title used when addressing or speaking of reincarnate lamas, lamas of high spiritual realizations, and abbots of monastaries.

S  -  T

Samadhi Deep concentration: the state of one-pointedness of mind characterized by peace and imperturbability. Samadhi is also one of the Paramitas and is indispensable on the path to Bodhi.
Samsara Cycle of rebirths; realms of Birth and Death.
Sangha Monastic community following the dharma. Also the community of practitioners.
Sunyata  (See Emptiness)
Stupa Monument housing a relic and symbolizing the divine mind of enlightened beings.
Sutra Any scripture that is attributed to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni.
Tathagata Literally, thus gone.  An epithet for an enlightened being in general, and Buddha Shakyamuni in particular.
Tantra Tantras are writings that appeared in India in about the seventh century and form the scriptural basis for Tibetan Buddhism (and the Vajrayana tradition). They were passed on from master to disciple and display an emphasis on ritual, mantras and visualizations.
Ten Directions North, South. East, West; N-E, N-W, S-E, S-W, Zenith and Nadir.
Thangka Painted cloth scrolls depicting Buddhist figures / deities
Three Jewels The Buddha, the Dharma (doctrine), the Sangha (the spiritual community).
Three Poisons Craving, aversion and delusion; also, these are termed the three root-stains or the three roots of unskillfulness.
Tushita (See Pure Land.)

U  -  V

Vajra (See Dorje)

W  -  X

Y  -  Z

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