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Library: Member Essays

Glossary of Buddhist and Western Terms for the Practice of Buddhist Yoga

All terms are in Western Alphabetic sequence. The majority are Sanskrit though some helpful and germane terms from other spiritual traditions are included.



Ābhāsa (Skt., Tib. snang ba) — shining forth, manifest, appearance, related to relative and conditioned existence and in tantric sense it is appearance-as-such void of all superimpositions from klista-manas.

Abhiseka(Skt. 'anoint', Tib. dbang bskur) — Empowerment or Consecration. The term has a meaning similar to that of baptism, to sprinkle or wash with water. During the act of devatabhi?ekata the supplicant asks, "Just as all the Tathagatas have been bathed at the time of birth, so may this being be baptized in the divine water of purification." However, abhi?eka was the consecration of oil given to king's when they were enthroned, and this, given a religious or mystical meaning in the Tantras, came to imply an anointment of divine "grace" (vide: adhi?thana). The devotee aspires to seek divine empowerment through meditation and spiritual practice. cf. sadhana. More specifically, in Yogacara it refers to mystically awakening the qualities of the Buddha that are innate in every living being, and a direct capacity to be introduced to the nature of the mind.

Absolute — free of any admixture, pure, unconditioned, unrestricted, incomparable, actual, ultimately real, not dependant, nor considered in reference to anything else, opposed to the relative. That which is absolute is all-encompassing, without limit and beyond measure; hence, there can not be anything apart or beyond the Absolute, since that would imply that the Absolute lacked something. There are a number of words in Sanskrit which describe or imply the Absolute, such as paramartha, paramadhya, etc., however, in Buddhism the Absolute as Supreme Being is implied by the term "Samyak-sambuddha," from the roots "bud" meaning Intelligence, or Wisdom, and "dha" referring to what is complete, limitless, infinite. Buddha is the state of Absolute Awareness, or Supreme Intelligence, that the Buddhist adherent aims to realize through means of personal "enlightenment" (bodhi) since it is also affirmed that the Absolute is immanent in the phenomenal. cf. Cittattva, Svasamvedana.

Ācārya (Skt. Tib. slob dpon) — a preceptor, mentor; an accomplished teacher or instructor of the Dharma. In established centers of learning, there are a number of different ecclesiastical offices having the title of "acarya." The most general is a teacher (acarya) in philosophical studies, or theology. Other "teacher" roles include the Meditation-master in charge of guiding students in a Retreat Centre (ri-tro). The three officers in charge of conducting a Ganacakra-puja and other tantric rites are known, in order of rank, as the Vajracarya ("hierophant"), the Purohit ("priest"), and the Pujari ("deacon"), each of whom is a type of acarya.

Adhisthana (Skt., Tib. byin brlabs) — grace-waves, from "byin", grace or holy power, and "rlabs", wave or vibration; in general a term meaning blessing, the bestowal of sanctification. Adhi?thana is the mysterious power that descends through the lineage of Lamas, from the primordial Absolute (adi-buddha) itself, to the disciple. A bestowal of blessing (or grace), a power working for good, as in the prayer: rgyud gnyen-po bzang-bar, "bless my soul, that it be of aid [to others]."

The sincere practitioner intellectually comprehends the nature of samsara, its compounded, impermanent nature. He or she turns to the Dharma and by this inspiration (adhi?thana) seeks Nirvana. This itself is the active presence or blessing of the ever present Buddha-nature in beings. Byin-rten are the relics of a Saint, because such relics are said to be infused with grace. Clairvoyantly mystics can see this special "higher energy" in the form of a star-like shining luminosity emanating from holy relics and sacred objects or power-places. A saintly person is likewise imbued with this grace, and can impart it to others.

Advaya (Skt. "not two", Tib. gnyis med) — non-two. All experience is divisible between the observer and the observed, consciousness and appearance. Non-duality refers to a transcendental state where the division of subject and object does not exist. However, care must used to not make this "non-dual" into a thing such as a "oneness". It is paradoxical to reason and only "known" by direct cognitive awareness. Such is the absolute state (cf).

Akalpana (Skt., Tib. mi rtog pa, rtog med) — non-conceptual, pure perception.

Ālambana (Skt., Tib. dmigs pa) — any meditative object, i.e., the object upon which the meditator focuses the consciousness, whether an object of the sense organs or an object of mind. In yogic meditation it means the object upon which the attention is placed so as to develop concentration. Initially one begins with an external image or object, then dispenses with the external, and 'sees' it internally in the mind's eye. By keeping the attention fixed unwavering upon this "object", the mind is brought to one-pointedness. In our tradition the most common object used for the purpose of developing concentration (vide, Samatha, calm-abiding) consists of the rise and fall of the abdomen caused by the natural flow of the breath. More advanced mystics in our tradition make "God" (devata) the object of their contemplative attention, and attain realization accordingly. cf. sadhana.

Ālaya (Skt., Tib. kun gzhi "all ground") — substratum. In mystical language this term in used in two quite different ways. (1) In the context of alaya-vijñana, the evolving universal consciousness, the term alaya implies the wholeness of all existence. In this regard it refers to the universal nature, which is a storehouse of all experiences (vasanas) gathered by the Cosmos over time. (2) However, the term alaya (kun-gzhi) used on its own, in Mahasamdhi texts, means the absolute ground. In this sense alaya is the basis or underlying undifferentiated absolute state itself, prior to Creation (samsara) and Mind (citta).

Ālayavijñāna (Skt., Tib. kun gzhi rnam par shes pa) - the unified field of consciousness in the Universe. This universal mind is each individual's higher consciousness. Each living being is an individual "spark" of this one vast whole, in which we breathe and move and have our being. This whole universal consciousness is the living Cosmos itself, constantly evolving through the totality of all experience, and growing ever more "aware" over billions of years. Like a great ocean, the lives of all beings, planetary worlds and star-systems leave their impressions, or imprints, within the whole, which become stored, as it were, in the total body of Universal Mind. Ultimately this is the meaning of life, for we are all contributing our lives to the conscious whole, and the conscious whole is a growing entity moving towards eventual self-reflexive awakening. This is an uniquely mystical doctrine perceived through direct insight by the Masters of the Yogācāra tradition.

Anumāna (Skt., Tib. rjes dpag) - inference or inferential reasoning. cf. Pramāna. In the tradition of Indian Logic is a process of analysis which must combine formal validity with material truth, inductive generalization with deductive particulars; that is positive methods and objective standards for the investigation of truth and reality. The goal is intellectual certainty on Śūnyatā which when combined with meditative practice (bhāvanā) leads to Prajñā. cf. Sāmānyalaksana.

Archetype (Grk. archetypon, that which was created as pattern, mold or model) - the first forms that emerge from Emptiness, the Dharmakaya, in the course of the manifesting universe from the non-material into the material and and upon which all subsequent creation is patterned. For yoga, it is the root structures of consciousness and should not be confused with mythic forms which derive from early human developmental patterns.

Arhat (Skt., Tib. dgra mchogs pa) - Saint, an Enlightened-one. The Tibetan gives the sense as one who has defeated the foe of emotional and mental obscuration. In Buddhism there are four levels of "sainthood". The first level is known as one who has initially experienced the continuum (santāna) of Nirvana. Such a being is called a Continuum-entrant (srotapanna). One who can willfully repeat this experience is known as a Once-returner, while he or she who abides in the state of Enlightenment without falling back again is called a Non-returner. When the final defilements of ignorance have been removed, the latter emerges as a full Arhat or Enlightened-saint.

Ātma (Skt., Tib. bdag pa) - self, ego. This is the sense of self which we all experience when we say " I" . The ordinary individual is convinced that somewhere " within" them there is a more or less permanent, single central " I" , or ego, which determines volition and the making of choices, and which " owns" experience. That is, we say, for example, " My mind," " My body," as if this " I" owns these features. And likewise we will say such things as, " I decide what I shall do," or "I choose such and such...." Freudian and in general most forms of Western psychology accepts the existence of such an ego without question. Buddhist psychology, however, founded as it does on the enlightened insights of the Sakya-Sage, claims that this ego does not actually exist.

The non-existence of an ego (anātma, non-ego) in the Human Constitution is a doctrine difficult for Westerners to understand. Often we hear talk, amongst Western seekers, about trying to " overcome the ego." Much of this type of talk implies that the ego is something bad, something that must be transcended or disposed of, or suppressed; such talk appears to have more to do with Western Christian concepts of original sinfulness, based on puritanical feelings that one's self is inherently bad, than anything to do with Buddhist Anatma-theory.

Buddhist doctrine appears to come close to the Behaviorist theories of Skinner. For the Buddha, the ego does not make choices, nor does it think, feel or desire anything, simply because in Buddhist theory no such ego exists. What makes up the Human Constitution is a conglomerate of disparate complexes (skandhas) - a thinking complex, an emotional complex, an instinctual complex, etc.-which operate more or less mechanistically, reacting to the environment or programmed by inbred psychological tendencies. Consciousness, identifying with these events, experiences a sense of "I-ness" in association with them, which ultimately is a delusion. In the state of Enlightenment (bodhi) this temporary delusion drops away, and the real situation is clearly seen. Clear seeing thus frees or liberates (mukti) consciousness, resulting in self-reflexive realization.

Ātman (Skt. Tib., bdag) - In Hinduism the Atman is a term for the collective higher "Self" or "Consciousness" which all beings share as one. The term is not used in Buddhism, except in a few instances, such as on one occasion where the Buddha, seeing someone very much caught up in a search for worldly aims, asks: "Would it not be better were you to go in search of your Self?" In this latter case, "Self" appears to mean that which one intrinsically is, in contrast to the false sense of "ego" (ātma) that is entangled with worldly concerns.

In the tantras, the Divine (devata) is sometimes referred to as the supreme " Self" (ātman, or vajrātman, paramātma or mahātma, etc.) of the Universe. In the Ka'gyu Order the supreme Adibuddha Vajradhāra (Tib: rdo-rje chang) is called the Mahātmya ('dag-chen), or absolute Self. Saintly realized masters, both male and female, are sometimes also called mahatma, meaning a " great being." .

Avadhuta-nadi (Skt. Tib. uma) - the central nervous system. According to Yoga theory there are three nervous systems, or "psychic currents" (nadi), through the body. Rasana (sympathetic nervous system) runs down the right side of the spine and is said to be red, while the " energy" (vayu) passing along it is visualized as white. Lalana (parasympathetic nervous system) runs down the left side and is said to be white, while the energy passing along it is red. Avadhuti, the central current, runs down the centre and is visualized bluish in color, while the energy passing through it is seen like that of a candle flame.

Āvarana (Skt., Tib. sgrib-pa) - a covering, obstruction or hindrance, sin, veil, obscuration, delusive cover. There are two forms: kleśāvaraṇa which is the veil of avidyā and the passions, and jñeyāvaraṇa which veils the ultimately real.

Āsravas (Skt., Tib. zag-bcas) - having outflows or with outflows. Generated flows from root and persisting causes of painful existence being the cravings of sense-desire, love of existence, ignorance, and speculative views. The cessation of the first three are the achievement of the Arhat and Solitary Realizers (Pratekyabuddha). The cessation of all four are the achievement of the Mahāyāna Saints.

Avidyā (Skt., " un-wisdom" ; Tib. ma-rig-pa) - adventitious ignorance in the sense of not having transcendent knowledge of the causes of phenomena so that acts of citta are tainted by impure perception - an attachment to a dualistic framework; cf. Duhkha, Śūnyatā, Pratītyasamutpāda. Avidyā manifests in four forms: (a) seeing the permanent in a transitory effect, e.g. the earth and the stars as being eternal; (b) the misconceived notion of the pure to be in the impure such as the human body which under examination is to be not only transitory but a composite of elements and excreta; (c) seeing pleasure in pain; (d) seeing self in not self, identifying self with external objects. Therefore, avidyā is not a source of valid cognition, cf.  pramāna.



Bhāvanā (Skt., Tib. sgom-pa, bsgom-pa) - "cultivation," "development," or "evolution," however often translated "meditation." Cittabhāvanā means the process " mind" training where an Enlightened-mind is eventually attained. Bhāvanā consists of closely attending to Dharma by turning inward to develop and cultivate experiential understanding by way of contemplation and meditation practice. cf. Śamatha.

Bindu (Skt. "seed point"; Tib. thig le) - the singular point and creative potency of anything and the point at which all energies are focused; in the higher tantras it can also refer to the essence or drop of the work of the inner yoga of subtle energies, the life-force itself.

Bodhi (Skt. "enlightenment;" Tib. byang chub) - Bodhi is wisdom. It is a state of enlightened " knowledge," or the act of becoming enlightened. It is also a term for the state of enlightenment itself. The Śakya-Sage attained mahābodhi, complete or great enlightenment, while composed in meditation under the Bodhi-Tree (at present day Bodh-gaya, in India) and thereby attained to the Absolute (buddha). Jesus is said to have acquired the same experience while receiving baptism from John in the river Jordan. Thus it is reasonable to accept that what in Christian language is called being " filled with the Holy Spirit" is the equivalent of what Buddhists call " attaining Bodhi."

Bodhicitta (Skt., Tib. byang chub kyi sems) - Enlightened-mind that is naturally imbued with Love and Compassion (i.e., a love that seeks the end of suffering for all sentient beings). Bodhicitta is the enlightened aspect of the mind latent in all beings. When it rises into consciousness out of the depths of our being, the experience is one of enlightenment.

Bodhisattva (Skt. "enlightenment being;" Tib. byang chub sems dpa') - frequently but wrongly said to be an individual who is committed to achieving enlightenment, what Buddhists mean by a " Bodhisattva" is someone who has realized some stage of Enlightenment, but is still progressing on the spiritual Path toward the complete state of Buddhahood. There are said to be ten levels or stages of Enlightenment, beginning with that of a Continuum-entrant (srotapanna) and working all the way up to the level of a fully enlightened being, or Arhat. The Bodhisattva, having experienced Enlightenment, is deeply motivated out of love and compassion for the benefit of others. He or she thus dedicates themselves to making the world a better place. This " active" Enlightenment, and determination to be reborn again and again for the sake of others, is contrasted to other religious seekers who merely want to leave the world behind, due to a lack of love for others. Because of the very nature of Enlightenment itself, all beings who experience even a small degree of true spiritual awakening are so imbued with love that they cannot help but dedicate themselves to the betterment of others.

Buddha (Skt., Tib. sangs rgyas) - Fully Awake, the Absolute Intelligence. The term " Buddha" in usage prior to, or at the time when it was adopted by the Śakya-Sage (Śakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism), referred to a supreme or omniscient Intelligence. Indeed, the Indo-European (Aryan) term " Buddha" has been shown by philologists to parallel the Iranian term " Mazda" , which also means, like the word " Buddha," the " Wise One. Apparently, just as Zarathustra in Iran, the sagely founder of Mazdaism, opposed Deva-worship and asserted an absolute principle called Mazda, so too the Sage of the Śakyas in India replaced devotion to the gods (deva) by introducing the far profounder concept of Buddha, Absolute Intelligence or Wisdom.

As said by the Theravadin monk Ananda Mettreya, " Beyond the radiance of sun and moon and star, further than the Dark Void beyond, far past the gates of birth and death, It [i.e., buddha, the Absolute] reigns, Immutable, Supreme. Beyond the inner consciousness of man, wherein these worlds and systems and the far-reaching aether that includes them floats like a grain of dust in the abyss of Space; -beyond that vaster sphere where Thought and Non-thought co-existent dwell, where the last faint passing echoes of act and speech and thought blend with the Silence and are heard no more:-beyond all these, It is; yet here, here in our hearts this day, albeit un-comprehended and unperceived; to be gained in this our human life alone, to be attained here on earth by him who follows on the Eightfold Way our Master taught."

In the teachings of Buddhism, a human being, whether male or female, who attains through direct experience to the state of Buddha, the Absolute, and then abides in that state, is likewise known as a " Buddha," albeit a " human Buddha" (manushi-buddha). The meaning here, surely, cannot be much different than when Christian mystics speak of deification, or when they describe Jesus as literally being " God." For the Absolute is our primal source, the fundamental root and ground of our individual beings. This, ordinary men do not realize. But those who do realize this, their own intrinsic nature as the Absolute, we say they are Buddha indeed!

The human Buddha Śakyamuni thus said: " There is an Unborn, Un-originated, Uncreated, Unformed. If there was not this Unborn, this Un-originated, this Uncreated, this Unformed, then escape from this world that has been born, originated, created and formed, would not be possible. But this there is an Unborn, Un-originated, Uncreated and Unformed, therefore escape from the world that is born, originated, created and formed, is possible!" In another context, he described Buddhahood as follows: " Truly, there is a realm where there is neither earth, nor water, neither fire nor air, neither this world nor any other world, neither sun nor moon. This I call neither arising, nor passing away, neither standing, nor becoming, nor dying. There is neither foothold, nor duration, nor any basis. This state is the end of all suffering!"

In our Yogacara tradition the Absolute state is characterized by three statements: it is said that in essence (vastu, ipseity) It is absolutely empty (śunya), in nature (svabhāva) It is self-reflexively luminous and aware, and in love (karunā) It is unimpeded and all-encompassing. These three statements help to define the Absolute (buddha), which is the intrinsic ground of all existence, in a positive way. However, since the Absolute is not of this world, nor conceivable in terms of three dimensional space or time, the truth is we cannot define the Absolute suitably, in any way at all. We recognize that the Buddha is all-knowing, but in every regard we have to appreciate that It is beyond our intellect to conceive what that state of Omniscience can be like. Therefore it is not via the intellect, or human reasoning, that we can arrive at the state of Buddhahood; we can only know the Absolute through direct, internal mystical experience.

The Tantra states: " All beings are Buddha. Due to adventitious defilement, they do not know this. However, as soon as they do know this, then immediately they are the Buddha indeed!"



Cakra (Skt. " wheel" , Tib. rtsa 'khor, khor-lo) - the " psychic" aspect of a nerve-plexus. In yoga it is symbolically described as a " lotus" (padma) or a " wheel" (cakra) through which flow the vital energies (vayu) of the cerebral-nervous system. In Buddhist Yoga there are principally five main cakras: (1) the white cakra of great bliss (mahāsukha-cakra) at the anterior fontanel of the head, said to have 32 spokes, (2) the red cakra of enjoyment (sambhoga-cakra) at the throat, said to have 16 spokes, (3) the blue dharma-cakra at the heart, said to have eight spokes, (4) the yellow nirmānacakra, or cakra of emanation, eight digits below the navel, said to have 64 spokes, (5) and the emerald secret cakra (guhya-cakra) at the pelvis, with 128 spokes. The colors and number of " spokes" attributed to these " wheels" (cakras) are for the purpose of meditation and for carefully regulating the flow of energy passing through the body's nervous system. Each cakra is the psychic centre connected to a given physical nerve plexus in the body.

Besides the five main cakras described above, innumerable other cakras and minor-cakras (upacakras), or ganglia, are listed in the Tantric texts.

It should be noted that the Hindu's have a comparative system, but the names of the cakras and nerve channels (nadi) are somewhat different. Likewise the number of radii pertaining to each cakra in the Hindu system is different, since in the latter each cakra is related to one of the planets according to Ptolemaic astronomy; therefore the numbers given to their cakras is based on the time of revolution of the external planets, which has a bearing on the living system of the individual. Our number system, on the other hand, is based on the internal rate of oscillation, or " opening" and " closing," of each cakra in a given 24 hour period. Likewise the " colors" we attribute to each cakra differs from the known Hindu system; while the " colors" according to Hindu Yoga are those present in an ordinary person when observed " clairvoyantly." In the Buddhist system the " colors" are those which the yogi aspires each cakra to resonate at, after the psychic energies of the body have been perfected to the level of an adept. Both systems, in other words, are correct, but based on different aspects of the esoteric science concerned with human transformation.

Candali or Kundalini (Skt., Tib.  gtum mo) - psychic energy, ecstatic force.

Cetasika (Skt.) - mental-functions.

Cetanā (Skt.) - intention, volition or motive especially with respect to the inner moral psychology of action; and is the determining factor of the ethical dimension. It is intention that determines karma and karmic debt (pāpa).

Cintāna (Skt. Tibetan bsam pa) - mentation or reflection, contemplation. This term refers to one of three dharmas of practice. The other two are śrutamaya (listening to discourse and teachings), and bhāvanāmaya, cultivating those teachings heard and pondered.

Citta (Skt. "that which is conscious;" Tib. sems) - the act of mental apprehension known as ordinary consciousness, the conventional and relative mind/heart. Its two aspects are 'attending to,' and, 'collecting' of impressions or traces (vāsanā) cf. vijñāna.

Cittasantāna (Skt., Tib. sems kyi rgyud) - mental-continuum, also mental tendencies.

Cittattva (Skt., Tib. sems nyid) - mind-in-itself; a combination of two words " cit" for consciousness and " tattva" or thatness: Mind as such, the very nature of mind as a primordial substratum which is beyond conceptualization. cf. Svasamvedana.



Devata - a devotional representation of the absolute for the purpose of concentrating the heart and mind in contemplation and union with the divine. Contemplation of Divinity (Devata-yoga) is in particular a practice of the Vajrayāna. cf. Ikon, God.

Dharma (Skt., "bearer" Tib. chos) - a term of numerous meanings; It means specifically the teaching that leads one away from the travail of worldly suffering through spiritual teachings and practices to Great Awakening or Enlightenment. It is  used in the sense of "Buddha's Doctrine", "scripture", "virtue", "righteousness", "norm". In this meaning it is capitalized as " Dharma." In analysis of experience  the term refers to stable events, phenomena and elements or constituents of inner and outer experience and in this case in is written with the small " d," dharma, or dharmas.

Dharmata (Skt., Tib. chos nyid ) - the nature of all dharmas or all phenomena; the ultimately real, absolute or supreme reality, inherent or true nature-śūnyatā. In Yogācāra this is synonymous with Tathāgatagarbha.

Dhyāna (Skt. Chinese, Ch'an; Tib. bsam gtan, Jap. zen) - one-pointed meditation cf. samādhi.

Dīkshā (Skt. "initiation") - the act and condition of induction into the hidden aspects of Yoga or a particular lineage of teachers; all traditional Yoga is initiatory. 

Divine - pertaining to the absolute.

Duhkha (Skt., Tib. sdug bsnal) - the 'disease' of worldly life. This broad term characterizes the condition of sentient beings experiencing the separation from the desired, the joining to the undesired, and the ensuing confusion. Delusion about the ultimate nature of things is the root of this pain. It is an active and ongoing self-perpetuating misconception occurring in a matrix of accumulated traces of prior similarly sown seeds of misapprehension; the flowering of prior actions generated in the matrix of desire, thirst, craving, and the notion of " I" and " mine." Bewilderment, frustration, and un-satisfactoriness are some of the psychological and emotional aspects of duhkha. Experience of sentient life in being born, aging, sickness, death, losing friends and gaining enemies; the encountering of that which one does not wish for, and not finding what one wishes for is suffering's obvious aspect. This is known as Suffering of Suffering. A more subtle form, Suffering of Change indicates that pleasure is temporary and is sure to be replaced by its absence thereby acknowledging an emotional undercurrent of fear, incompleteness and abandonment. More subtle still is the Suffering of Conditioning wherein the knowledge that past deeds and traces condition the outcome of present and future experience,  and that current actions and intent create more conditions for the future; there is no certainty or insurance against the arising of patterns or situations of suffering in the next moment.



Ekāgratā (Skt., Tib. rce-gcig-nyid) - one-pointedness of mind. cf. samādhi.

Esoteric - discourses or teachings emanating from a restricted and often secret spiritual tradition. Such a tradition implies a common unity between all spiritual paths that on the surface appear to be at odds, but which by their diverse practices reach for the same goal. These traditions are secret in the sense that the teachings themselves cannot be understood without proper initiation into those tradition's practices after having fulfilled the prescribed course of training; the goal being transcendent knowledge and the transformation of ignorance; to wit, the direct experience of the Divine. The training in  various traditions are means by which the seeker accesses the transformative process and submits to its discipline. Thus the disciple's awareness unfolds and expands through depth of meaning and breadth of experience of the ultimately real.



Gnosis (Greek) Transcendental Knowledge cf. Jñāna, both derive from the same Indo-Aryan language root.

God - This European term is capable of at least two distinct uses, which has resulted in much confusion in Buddhist circles. (1) The first corresponds to the Sanskrit term īsvara: a ruling, personal, controlling or determining Creator, who as an omnipotent entity can be propitiated for the outcome of events. This is the meaning of the term " God" when used commonly in folk religion, or by those who adhere to a belief in what is called a " Personal Deity," to whom prayer may be addressed and favors beseeched. (2) The alternative meaning of the term God is that of an abstract impersonal absolute principle existing prior to the created Universe, i.e., that Absolute (buddha) which is out of all relation to conditioned existence. " What is that which was, is, and will be, whether there is a Universe or not; whether there be sentient " beings" or not?" asks the Seeker of Truth. And the answer made is- " absolute Emptiness" (sunyatā); the Ain-soph of the Kabalists, which is an all-knowing, self-luminous " Non-being" , prior to all Being (sattva) or Existence (sat), ever-incognizable, ineffable, and uncreate. This latter perhaps describes something of the meaning of the term " God" when used by all the most learned Jewish, Christian and Islamic mystics, for an understanding of which one should refer to the writings of Eckhart, Dionysius the Aeropagite, Moses ben Maimonides, Baruch Spinoza and Ibn Arabi, et al.

The term " God" corresponds to the Sanskrit term deva and/or devata. Here the term rarely if ever appears in common Buddhism, since Buddhism as such rejects the notion of a personal deity (īsvara). But in the uncommon tradition of Esoteric Buddhism, or Vajrayana, both terms (deva and devata) appear extensively. In this latter usage, the term God refers to the " gnosis" (jñāna) inherent in and innate to the Absolute State; which Gnosis is an absolute nondual self-existing Intelligence (svayambhu-vidyā) having all the characteristics and attributes of abstract Divinity (devata). Such Divinity, however, is not to imply a personal deity other than, perhaps, as an ikon or symbolic " persona" of the supreme principle itself. Thus, in the Tantra, the concept of " God" has an esoteric meaning reached at first by " apophatic reasoning" (denying all anthropomorphic and anthropopathy characteristics or attributes), yielding an inferential understanding of the yogically-perceived presence of the uncreate Absolute within the mystic's this-worldly experience.

As all spiritual traditions in the West that use this term show, there is in each of the ancient traditions a " path of access to God" and this path is the mystical experience resulting from purificatory practices of prayer and contemplation. (vide Dionysius the Areopagite: Divine Names, Mystical Theology, Celestial Hierarchies; the writings and poems of St. Theresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and so forth).

It has long been contended that Buddhists do not believe in God and deny a Creator. Buddhism has been defined as a religion without a God. Impressed by Western assertions to this effect, the Venerable Trungpa Rimpoche was wont to refer to his teachings of Buddhism as " non-theistic," meaning that it did not involve belief in a single governing personal God (although, in point of fact, classical Tibetan Buddhism does, from at least one perspective, believe in an almost innumerable number of supernatural Gods, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and saints).

In much the same way, early western writings concerning Buddhism used to state that, just as Buddhists do not believe in God, so they do not believe in a human " soul" . These types of statements are, however, largely erroneous. What Buddhists reject is not the immortal soul (citta) of man, but the absolute existence of the " ego" (ātma) or " personality" (pudgala), which latter, they say, is but an temporary, mortal mental construct, lasting a single lifetime. The existence of a " soul" (or psyche) as a continuous thread running through many lifetimes is not denied at all, and the continuum (santāna) of this soul is asserted to be " without beginning or end" , thus immortal. Likewise, though they deny the existence of a " personal deity" (īsvara) and refuse to support those religions (īsvaravāda) that do so, this argument does not mean there does not exist an extra-cosmic principle-(far beyond ordinary human conception)-that is eternally unborn, un-originated, uncreate, dynamic, and perfectly All-knowing (sarvajñā), i.e., God in an Absolute sense.

In this regard, it would appear that the thinking of the Shakya-Sage (the founder of Buddhism) and the seventeenth century Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza are remarkably similar. Like the Buddha, Spinoza rejected the commonly held belief in a personal deity and instead asserted that all events in nature are governed strictly by cosmic or mathematical Order (i.e., what in Buddhism is referred to as Dharma; in ancient Egypt as Maat; and in the Vedas as Rta). That is, the world as we know it is " ruled" by natural law, rather than by the arbitrary whim of an anthropomorphic " god" (īsvara) or " gods" (devas). All events occur according to immutable laws of cause and effect.

Spinoza's notion of " essence" (substantia) or its necessary attribute " extensio" (as used in proposition 2 of Part Two of his Ethics) corresponds remarkably well with the Buddhist Tantric concept of undifferentiated " Svabhāvata" and its necessary corollary " sattva" (" being" ). Likewise the concept of karma, if rightly understood, not only anticipates both Spinoza's causal philosophy but also Einstein's rigid scientific determinism. Unrestricted determinism, Einstein argued, " admits of no God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation and whose purpose is modeled after our own."

What this means is that Buddhists, like Spinoza and later, Albert Einstein, do not believe in a personal God, who meddles in the affairs of men or the world, but, rather, in an impersonal Absolute, the " agnosto Deo" of Saint Paul. But this does NOT imply that either we Buddhists, or the scientist Einstein, nor any of the other great philosophers whom we have mentioned above, are therefore atheists. Not at all! As Einstein clearly affirmed, " I believe in [that] God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, [but] not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings."

The renowned philosopher Eduard Busching of Stuttgart defined belief in a personal god, or a god who meddles in the fates and actions of human beings, as " an abortive attempt, roused by deference and fear of the unknown, to establish a direct and personal relation to an imaginary superior being, a God or gods, resembling mankind and ruling it, but not existing in reality." We Buddhists would have to agree with this definition, explicitly. Yet, as was asserted a century ago by the Russian woman mystic, Yelena Petrovna Blavatskaya, this does not mean that we are atheists. " It is wrong and unjust to regard the Buddhists and Advaitin Occultists as atheists!" she quite rightly said (vide The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, Theosophical Publishing House, 1979 ed., page 6). In other words, we deny a personal God, while asserting a transcendental, impersonal and wholly Absolute God. We deny an anthropomorphic principle, meting out rewards and punishments, or requiring adulation and worship, while affirming (a priori) an Absolute beyond all worldly attributes, the nature of which is omniscient, complete and in every sense perfect.

Guru (Skt., lord, he who is heavy, weighty Tib. bla-ma, " venerable and superior" ) - the chief of a monastery or head of a religious community, under whom are generally other officers, such as abbot (khenpo) and vajrācārya, etc. it is incorrect to assume that " Guru" necessarily means someone who " teaches" -most do not. (The correct term for a teacher in Buddhism is ācārya). The term may equally be applied to archetypal Divinity, as in the title " bLa-ma rDo-rje sems-pah" (" Lord Vajrasattva" ) etc. In this regard bLa-ma has much the same usage as " seigneur" in French or " lord" in English, which can be applied equally to a human person to whom one surrenders allegiance, or to God. When a human person is given the title bLa-ma the meaning, therefore, is that they are thus designated a " leader" in the religious sense, worthy of veneration; but it doesn't therefore mean that they necessarily are involved in " teaching" spiritual matters. Misunderstanding of this distinction is deeply rooted in the West.

Guna (Skt., Tib. yon tan) - the attributes or particular qualities, whether positive or negative, that characterize an object. All worldly objects (sarvadharma) are possessed of attribute (guna); only the Absolute (buddha) alone is without attribute (nirguna).



Heruka (Skt.,) - in Tantra any (in the sense of over-coming the psychological and neurotic hindrances and obscurations) wrathful male representation of the Divine.

Hetu (Skt., Tib. rgyu) - cause.

Hierogamos (Greek) - sacred marriage, the mystical union.

Holy (Skt. brahma, Tib. dam pa, rtsha chen) - regarded as inviolate and evocative of veneration and reverence; morally and spiritually perfect owing to sanction from and devotion to the Divine.



Ikon (Greek eikon, Skt., bimba) - In Buddhist Yoga for the purpose of spiritual worship and practice the chosen ideal of God or  Īstadevata has a particular sacred image or form. Although the Absolute is without image or form of any kind, an envisioning of the 'chosen God' as sacred iconographic art acts as a bridge to the un-imaginable Absolute. This envisioning is the Ikon. The Ikon is not an arbitrary pictogram, rather resonates with the very core of consciousness itself. The power of 'symbol' far over-reaches its conventional meaning. For here 'symbol'  has the power to integrate and utterly transform the individual by establishing the īshtadevata in the core of the heart. So this then is no ordinary symbol but its formative nature partakes of the very divine attributes envisioned. Thus the meditator is drawn by devotion and yearning practice to a deep and purposeful spiritual integration-an  at-one-ment with the Divine.

The Ikon is no mere imaginative projection or only a support for concentration exercise, for even when one is not practicing the contemplation, the Ikon and the sacredness and Holiness of it's nature continue to influence one's thoughts, emotions and actions. There is a lot of difference between meditating on a black dot or gazing at a crystal and meditating on the Ikon. The former may intensify one's awareness, but the latter transforms.

Transpersonal psychology confirms the ancient tradition by showing that archetypal symbols of God, the sacred and the holy function in two ways: transformation of consciousness and integration of personality. It regards the 'self' as a resource with the power to integrate the conscious and the unconscious and warns that if this center is not occupied by the Sacred, it can lead to disharmony and mental illness.

In Buddhist Yoga the Ikon is regarded not as a mere relative symbol but as a resonant force of the Divine albeit initially evoked and sustained by the mind of the devotee, thus, according to the Tantras, meditation on the Ikon or īshtadevata purifies the mind.

Indriya (Skt.) - sense organs.

Īsvara (Skt.) - ruling god, lord, omnipotent and supreme.

Īstadevata (Skt. 'one's God', Tib. yid-dam 'mind's covenant') - in Tantra the particular aspect of the Divine in a particular aspect that provides for the practitioner  a skillful means to achieve unio mystica.



Japa ('muttering'- the recitation of mantras: invocatory recitation, cf. Mantra.

Jñāna (Skt., Tib. ye shes) - transcendental knowledge, direct or non-dual experiential wisdom.

Jñeyāvarana (Skt) - the veil that obscures the knowable and ultimately real ( cf. Paramārthasatya, Samvrtisatya. Putting an end to this veil is the goal of the Mahāyāna yogi.



Kalpa (Skt.) - a cosmic age at the end of which the universe is annihilated.

Kalpana (Skt.) - finite conceptual constructions, fictional and imaginative mentation.

Karman, karma (Skt. "action"; Tib. las) - function, activity of any kind, including ritual acts; said to be binding only so long as engaged in a self-centered way; the "karmic" consequence of one's actions and karman is inseparable form cause and effect. In a general sense the activity in any process is always dependent on the energy available. Since energy is indestructible it is always in potential, and in effect is kinetic-moving towards effect. In the application of Buddhist practice the implications of karman bear directly upon the nature of un-satisfactoriness or duhkha, the root condition of sentient beings in the world of samsāra. As stimuli are received through the sense organs, the volition or motivation of the mind (cetanā-samskāra) acts under the influence of attachment, aversion or delusion. The development of avidyā ensues  and is compounded with the excessive, if not obsessive, concern of 'self.' Negative and wrongful actions both occur and traces of these actions accrue. Conversely, recollected and mindful behavior are distinguished by the absence of these three root reactive patterns and motives. cf.Pratītyasamutpāda

Karunā (Skt. "compassion"; Tib. snying rje, thugs rje) - Compassionate-love and universal sympathy; in Buddhist Yoga the complement of wisdom (prajñā). This compassion for all beings, friends and foes leads us to develop Bodhicitta, to seek Great Awakening that is the path to realization (pratipatti) so that the suffering of all beings is assuaged. In Mahamudra and Dzogchen one three characterisstics of the Ground, Being-as-such. cf. Vastu,

Kleśa (Skt., Tib. nyon mongs) - blemishes, neurotic defilements which are the disturbing and negative afflictive emotions (passions) that generate a fundamental distortion in the perception of the fundamentally real; such as lust, hatred, and the delusion of a permanent 'self.'

Kleśāvarana (Skt., Tib. nyon mongs kyi sdrip pa) - the veil of avidyā and emotional obscuration. Putting an end to this veil is the attainment of Arhat.

Klistamanas (Skt.) - unconscious-mind.



Laksanā (Skt., Tib. mtshan ma) - characteristics, mode, or attribute; also an important meditation on the nature of existence and its three properties which are relevant to liberation: impermanence, un-satisfactoriness (duhkha), and absence of a compellingly real personal essence (trilaksanā).

Logos (Gr. 'word, speech, discourse, reason,' Latin, Verbum, Skt. Vak) - Word, the metaphysical and mystical outward expression of the Absolute. In Hellenistic and Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Theology it was adopted by the Christian Mystics to mean the second aspect of the Triune Character of the One. In this sense it is that experiential aspect of the Divine to which the ordinary consciousness makes approach in the quest for Mystical Union. It is in Buddhist terms the Sambhogakāya



Mahāmudra (Skt., Tib. phyag rgya chen po) - Great Seal of Emptiness. In the Ka'gyu Tradition the innermost essence of the Vajrayana. The recognition of That which is free of all mental contrivance, the non-duality of saṃsāra and nirvāna, free of all extremes. A path to Awakening.

Manas (Skt. "mind"; Tib. yid) - in Yogācāra the lower mind, psyche or psychological emotional faculty; a sense of 'self' which reflects and creates distinctions of subject (experiencer) and object (the experienced) out of the Original Oneness (tathata). Manas is thereby bound to the senses as the information or consciousness (vijñāna) and thereby proliferates the 'illusory' myriad world of objects and states.

Maitri (Skt., Tib. byams pa) - Affectionate-love

Mahāsaṃmdhi (Skt., Tib.dzog pa chen po) - Absolute Wholeness or Totality.

Manasikāra (Skt., Tib. yid la byed pa) - in meditation it is mental attention

Mandala (Skt. "circle", Tib. dkyil 'khor) - a circular design symbolizing, the cosmos, the whole Universe, as such it is the abode and divine mansion of the Logos; that by emanation is the means for the yogin's re-absorption by way of it. It can also refer to the halo or nimbus around a saintly figure. In Esoteric Buddhism, the Tantra, mandala is the idealized representation of existence. Therefore, in the process of yoga it signifies the means of mystical integration with the cosmic process and its forces.

Manovijñāna (Skt. Tib. yid gyi rnam-par shes pas) - ordinary mental consciousness.

Mantra (Skt. from the verbal root man "to think", Tib. sngags) - a sacred sound or phrase, such as om, ah, hum,  imbued with symbolic significance and spiritual blessings and that has a transformative effect on the mind of the individual reciting it. In actual practice, mantra is the prayer of the heart that draws one to a direct experience of the Logos.

Metanoia (Greek, Skt. udvega, Tib. skyo ba) - a conversion and inner renunciation, a change of thought, definite emergence and turning away from worldly concerns that results from contemplating duhkha and karma.

Mukti (Skt., Tib.  grol ba) - liberation from suffering which derives from delusion, anger and attachment.

Mūdita (Skt., Tib. sga' ba) - Appreciative-love.

Mystic (Gr., mystikos 'belonging to secret rites' Tib. sang ba) - One who approaches the divine through direct experience by way of meditation and devotion and comes to know by this experience the profound and truly real that is normally veiled to conventional awareness.

Mystical - Having a character and import because of a connection to and union with the Divine. Such immediate  insight transcends human knowledge having been derived directly through contemplative experience.

Mysticism - the theory and practices leading to union with the Divine, the ultimately real, and spiritual Truth through ecstatic contemplation and its resultant illumination.



Nadi (Skt., Tib. rtsa) - nerves, subtle-channels, not dissimilar to acupuncture meridians, though differing in various yoga traditions.

Nairātmya (Skt., Tib.bdag med ba) - a central conception of Dharma which states the absence of an abiding self or ego-principle that is permanent, partless, and independent. The notion of a permanent personal soul with its self-cherishing and self-gratification is the root of the grasping passions that cause duhkha and the accumulation of patterns that perpetuate samsāra. The provisional knowledge (anumāna) of the absence of an ego-principle frees the field of action (karman) for virtuous action and spiritual cultivation. It is therefore is meditation toward nairātmya-darsana, an the experience of a non-personal self or a union with higher consciousness and to parātmasamatā. cf ātma.

Neyartha(Skt., Tib. drang don) - provisional truth or meaning in that teachings would not be completely accurate from the point of view of ultimate truth.

Nidāna (Skt., Tib. rten drel) - causally linked conditions, cf. Pratītyasamutpāda.

Nihsvabhāva (Skt., Tib. rang bzhin med pa ) - lack of inherent existence.

Nimitta (Skt. 'sign' or 'mark', Tib., mtshan ma) - this term has two uses: (1) as the initial sensuous external feature or appearance for cognition, and (2) signs that attend the results of yogic contemplation.

Nirvana (Skt.) - free from desire, attachment or bias, and free from aversion or prejudice of any kind.

Nirvikalpa (Skt.) - undifferentiated, absolute, transcendent.

Nirvikalpajñāna (Skt.) - a samādhi of supreme non-conceptualizing Gnosis.

Nivārana (Skt.) - hindrances.



Paramārthasatya (Skt., Tib. don dam bden pa) - absolute or ultimate truth.

Paraśunya (Skt., Tib. gzhan stong) - emptiness of other, the Yogācāra philosophical and experiential basis of Śūnyatā, empty of both the imagined  and dependent natures; the absolute.

Paratantra (Skt., Tib. gzhan dbang) - one of the trisvabhāva; existent independence on causes and factors and is relative in nature, the ordinary worldly thoughts and mental states. cf. Samvritisatya.

Parātmasamatā (Skt.) - The understanding of a Bodhisattva that there is no difference between oneself and others and that all beings are equal to oneself (sattvasamatā). Just as the body us composed of different parts united together so that the hand takes care of the foot, similarly in this manifold material world of leaving creatures, pleasure and pain are common to all. One's joy and one's pain are not different than those of others, therefore one does for others without distinction as one would do for oneself, this is the natural action of a Bodhisattva.

Parikalpita (Skt., Tib. sgros btags) - one of the trisvabhāva; imagined or projected nature of reality (by afflicted perception); concepts and judgments which arise in the mind in the wake of the appearance of apparent phenomena. cf. Samvritisatya.

Parinispanna (Skt., Tib. yongs grub) - one of the trisvabhāva; perfection, thoroughly established in reality (the ultimately real) and understood by way of meditative gnosis; the absolute. cf. Paramārthasatya.

Prajñā (Skt. "wisdom", Tib. shes rab) - discernment or discriminating insight; the opposite of spiritual ignorance (avidyā), one of two means of liberation in Buddhist Yoga, the other being skillful means (upāya), i.e., compassion (karunā). This wisdom is by way of valid knowledge and discriminating judgment directly and non-conceptually experienced. This insight is developed through three means: the study of Dharma and the company of other learned (srutamayi); by deep contemplation of the meaning (cintāmayi) through penetrating investigation; and cultivation of virtuous behavior and meditation (bhāvanāmayi).

Pleroma (Greek, " fullness" ) - from Neo-Platonism and Christian Mysticism signifying a mandala.

Practice (Tib. sbyod pa) - both an actual carrying out or performance as opposed to theory in such a way as to be a customary action and habit.

Pramāna (Skt. " true knowledge" , Tib. mtshan ma) - an act of knowing (citta) but in particular the two means for valid knowledge or cognition: through direct perception (pratyaksa), or indirect or by inference (anumāna). Direct perception is fourfold: (i) sensation (indriyajñana), (ii) mental sensation (manovijñāna), (iii) self-consciousness (ātma-samvedanā), and (iv) mystic yogic experience (yogijñāna). Pramāna is also scientific method which, through the practice of logic, one can know demonstrably through language how we come to know the real in both its relative and ultimate sense. This is referential only, however, as only direct experience through yoga is the actual Transcendental Wisdom. cf. Paramārthasatya, Samvritisatya.

Prāna (Skt. Tib. rlung) - motility of internal energies which can be observed at the lowest level as bio-electric energy.

Prapānca (Skt. " spread of five-ness" , Tib. spros pa) - proliferation or elaboration by way of concepts and conceptualizations about experience as generated by sentient beings, so it has the sense of falsehood and illusion. It is born from the perceptive distortion of the five aggregates, skandhas.

Pratipatti (Skt) - good and proper behavior, its acquisition and comprehension by way of the Eightfold Nobel Path, and also its result: meditative realization.

Pratītyasamutpāda (Skt., Tib. rten cing 'brel bar 'byung ba) - the interdependence of causes for the origin of phenomena, the distinct twelve-fold patterning of situations-relativity; that causes and conditions determine events and for Buddhist Yoga, that in being and acting from avidyā, there are determinant characteristics: duhkha. In contrast, through vidyā leads, by way of the active matrix of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path of virtuous action, to Enlightenment and Great Awakening.

Pratyaksa (Skt., Tib. mngon sum) - direct perception and observation. In the tradition of Indian Logic it is the process of ascertaining observed instances carefully analyzed and sifted. cf. Svalaksana.

Pratyātmavedanya (Skt., Tib. so sor gis rag pa) - direct experience.

Pravrtti (Skt.,) - evolution, evolutionary.

Pranttivijñāna (Skt., Tib. 'jug pai' rnam par shes pa) - evolving consciousness. The karmic propensities latent in the ālayavijñāna,  vestigial imprints (vasānā) and manas compounded with the six types of consciousness, that is of eye, ear, nose, tongue, touch and discriminating mental consciousness. 

Prīti (Skt. Tib. dga 'ba) - rapture and pliancy of body and mind which includes the motility of internal energies (bio-electric energy) in the body. It is of five types: (1) horripilation, ksudrika, like goose-pimples; (2) like electrical flashes moment by moment kśarika; (3) like overwhelming sea-waves, avakrāntikā; and withdraws like sea-waves avakrānta; (4) full of tremendous force, udvega (5) long lasting and permeates the whole body, sphurana.

Punya (Skt., Tib. bsod nams) - grace, that powerful goodness and grace which we feel when ever we come into the presence of a truly holy person. Since it is a kind of 'power of good', can be transferred from one being to another by an evocative act of will. Furthermore, the act of transferring puṇyam also magnifies its power; the one who has developed it, and then bestows it on others, is enriched by the donation. It also refers to the accumulation of virtuous qualities that gradually transform the psychological environment of sentient beings so current and future action can eradicate emotional afflictions and distortions that obscure the ultimately real.



Rddhi (Skt., Tib. rdzu 'phrul) - psychic power and powers of special attainment.

Rsi (Skt., Tib. drang srong) - accomplished yogi or yogini, sage.



Sacred (Skt., Tib. rdza chen) - consecrated and esteemed worthy of the Divine; dedicated to Divine purpose and made holy by association to that purpose.

Sādhana (Skt. "accomplishing", Tib. sgrub thabs) - spiritual practice and discipline leading to siddhi ("perfection" or "accomplishment"); the term is specifically used in Tantra where the evocative spiritual practice of prayer and mantra calls forth the Divine.

Sahaja (Skt., Tib. lhan cig skyes pa) - innate; that Buddha-nature is innate in all sentient beings but is obscured by kleśavārana and actions born of vāsanā.

Samādhi (Skt. "putting together", Tib. ting nge 'dzin) - the ecstatic or unitive state in which the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation, a profound radiance, the one-pointed contemplation in meditative absorption. This experience can be subdivided in a general way according to gradations of experience as: (a) upacāra - access or preliminary, (b) dhyāna - fixed and steady, (c) arpanā - achieved or absorbed. From these three characteristics, samādhi once achieved, then deepens and is described  in a general way as four levels of meditative absorption and four levels of formless absorption; cf. yoga:

(1) 1st dhyāna with five characteristics: (a) vitarka (rtog pa) - application to the object of meditation, (b) vicāra (dpyod pa) - sustained application, (c) prīti (dga 'ba) - rapture and pliancy of body and mind, (d) sukha (bde ba) - bliss, (e) ekāgratā  (rce-gcig-nyid) - one-pointedness of mind;
(2) 2nd dhyāna with three characteristics: (a) prīti - rapture and pliancy of body and mind, (b) sukha - bliss, (c) ekāgratā- one-pointedness of mind;
(3) 3rd dhyāna has two characteristics(a) sukha - bliss, (b) ekāgratā - one-pointedness of mind;
(4) 4th dhyāna has one characteristic(a)  ekāgratā - one-pointedness of mind.

The Four Formless Absorptions:

(1) Dimension of Infinite Space; (Skt. akāśantya āyatana, Tib. nam mkha' mtha yas skye mched)
(2) Dimension of Infinite Consciousness; (Skt. vijñāna āyatana, Tib. nam shes mtha yas skye mched)
(3) Dimension of Nothingness; (Skt. kimcanya āyatana, Tib. ci yang med pa'i skye mched)
(4) Dimension of wholly Inconceivable experience. (Skt. naivasamjñā asamjñā āyatana, Tib. 'du shes med 'du shes med min skye mched)

Śamatha (Skt., Tib. zhi gnas) - because the mind is unsteady like water the practice of calm abiding cannot not be over-emphasized. It is the meditation practice that leads to ekāgratā. (see Nine Stages of Abiding).

Sāmānyalaksanā (Skt., Tib. kun rdzob-pa) - relative, conventional and deceptive reality.

Sambhogakāya (Skt., Tib. spyi mtsan) -  Universal Beatific Embodiment, the Logos.

Samsāra (Skt., Tib. 'khor ba) - cyclic existence, the ever turning wheel of becoming and regenerating from the seeds of avidyā. Literally a revolving wheel-like cycle of mental and physical existence, ever changing, never at rest, and pervaded throughout by uneasiness, uncertainty, the feelings of discomfort and physical as well as emotional pain.

Samskāra (Skt. Tib. mngon par 'du byed pa) - the aggregate of motivating dispositions, volition, and formative factors, essentially a category of factors of experience that are not in the skandha of form,  feeling, perception, or consciousness, this includes memory and knowledge.

Samskrta (Skt., Tib. 'du byed) - compounded. Refers to the nature of all phenomena.

Samvrti (Skt., Tib. kun rdzob-pa) - relative, conventional and deceptive reality.

Samvrtisatya (Skt., Tib. kun rdzob bden pa) - relative or commonly accepted reality or truth derived from mere appearances and conventional construction cf. Pratītyasamutpāda, Parikalpita.

Santāna (Skt. " stream," Tib. rgyud) - continuum, a series of momentary events, life-stream.

Sarvadharma (Skt.) - all phenomena, all events.

Skandha (Skt. " heap" , Tib. phung po) - the five root components (categories or aggregates) of human experience: rupa-form comprising physical events; vedanā-feeling, samjñā-perception, samskāra-volition and formations such as memory and habit patterns; vijñāna-knowledge of externals and internal mental events.

Siddha (Skt. "accomplished", Tib. grub-pa) - an adept, often of Tantra; if fully Self-realized and is one who demonstrates the accomplishment, the designation mahā-siddha or "great adept" is often used.

Smeti (Skt. " memory," Tib. dran pa) Recollection, the core faculty in the practice of śamatha wherein through recollection and non-forgetfulness on the object of meditation, one-pointed attention is attained. This consists of one's attention (manāskara) as an intentional act of mind where the mental noting is repeatedly on the object or support for the concentrative exercise. This intention of mind is referred to as non-distraction by the yogacāra commentators because the mind cannot be distracted or be deprived of an intentional noting on the object of concentration (ālambana). (see Nine Stages of Abiding)

Śraddha (Skt., Tib. dad pa) - faith, confidence, and devotion which is also a function of reason and the will to practice so as to reach enlightenment. This is a faith born of experience of what is true. Since the truth about the nature of phenomena is neither obvious nor evident for most, likewise one's capacity for Awakening is veiled, therefore, conviction and confidence must be cultivated. This begins by the cultivation of the transforming actions of studying and contemplating the Dharma (bhāvanā) with meditation practice to achieve samādhi. In the practice of Buddhist Yoga and the tantra, it is particularly the trust to delve deeply into one's own experience since it is taught that self-originated wisdom (tathātagarbha)  and its qualities are the Nature of the Mind, verily one's own Mind. This is confidence in the nature of the mind as taught by Guru. This nature-of-mind is inseparable with one's own and the Buddha's Mind. cf. Abhiseka. In the context of Sūtra, one has faith because one has reasoned well to understand the four dharmas that include: the Right View of cause and result; that one will experience the effects of one's wholesome or unwholesome actions, either in the current state of a human, or rebirth in some subsequent state; likewise, faith in pratītyasamutpāda,the interrelated causal production of all phenomena and their lack of any compelling essence since all dharmas are empty; and the path of a bodhisattva.

Śūnyatā (Skt. " śūnya=zero, zero-ness," Tib. stong pa nyid) - 'no-thingness', usually termed Emptiness or Voidness. Various commentators have shown it to comprise  from sixteen (Chandrakirti) to twenty types (Haribhadra). Careful consideration to these terms are necessary since śūnyatā is not a container, there is nothing that it can be 'emptied' of. Specifically that phenomena or events have no inherent existence other than their label as such. Having habituated ourselves to the conventional world it can be difficult to understand what is being negated by this term. Beings are dependant on  body and mind; that is, the five skandhas, and grasp at the notion of 'self,' 'I,' and 'mine.' Conventionally the 'I' exists, but ultimately or inherently does not exist. It is imputed to exist. Therefore śūnyatā is a term highly elaborated upon in various Scriptures and their commentaries. It shatters intellectual grasping at 'ultimates' and imputed existence of phenomena or events. It is grasping's antidote. Furthermore, śūnyatā thereupon becomes the meditation on the non-dual par excellence. This includes any notion to make śūnyatā into a thing or a state: that is emptiness of emptiness. In Yogācāra this term can also refer to a fundamental openness and clarity.

Sukha ( Skt., Tib. bde ba) - bliss.

Svabhāva (Skt., Tib. rang gi mtschan nyid) - inherently existing; own nature or being.

Svalaksana (Skt., Tib. ngo bo nyid, rang bzhin) - identifying mode or characteristic, a unique particular  and an extreme particular therefore is essentially the absolute.

Svasamvedana (Skt. Tib., rang-rig, rang rig gi rig pa, so so rang rig pa'i ye shes tsam) - self-reflexive awareness. The very characteristic of all mind both conventionally and in absolute terms that makes consciousness itself known in the very act of knowing. cf. Cittattva.



Tantra (Skt., Tib. rgyud) - an esoteric tradition of yogic practice, or scripture.

Tathāgatagarbha (Skt. 'suchness-heart-essence,' Tib. de bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po) - buddha-nature immanent in all sentient life, in the afflicted beings it is obscured by kleśa.

Tathatā (Skt., Tib. de zhin nyid) - 'Suchness' or 'Thusness': the true nature of Reality as it is; void of things, void of thoughts, though not a mere nothingness; empty of other than the non-dual as it is. It is the pure Reality not rent by symbolic, narrative, or analogical descriptions and concepts.

Tattva (Skt., Tib. kho na) - 'Thatness', Absolute Reality.

Trisvabhāva (Skt., Tib. rang bzhin gsum ) - the three natures of Yogācāra. cf. Parinispanna, Paratantra, Parikalpita.



Unio Mystica (Latin " union mystical," Skt. Yuganaddha, Tib. zung 'jug) - Mystical Union.

Upadesha (Skt.) - the root Lama's Personal Instruction.

Upeksā (Skt., Tib. btang snyoms) - Unconditional-love.

Uneyāvarna (Skt.) - mental distortion



Vaipulya (Skt. "comprehensive") -  the collection of nine Mahāyāna sūtras: Aśtasahsrikāprajñāparmita, Saddharmapundrīka, Lalitavistara, Lankāvatara, Suvarnaprabhāsa,  Gandavyuha, Tathāgataguhyaka,  Samādhirāja, Daśabhumiśvara.

Vajra Sattva (Skt. " diamond being,"  Tib. rdorje sems dpa' ) - Divine Logos, the pure essence, or Buddha-nature, that is innate in Higher Consciousness. In the sacred scripture of the Hevajra-dakini-tantra we find the name 'Vajrasattva' analyzed in the following sloka

"Indivisible, hence called 'Diamond' (vajra); A three fold unity (of Body, Speech and Mind] known as 'Being' (sattva): By this wise is understood 'Vajra Sattva'."

The symbolic term Vajra or Diamond refers to the immutable, nondual (advaitam) nature of the Absolute, transcendentally ineffable. The term Sattva is translated 'Being' in the sense of an absolutely true existent, which is mere Bare Intelligence.

Vāsanā (Skt. " perfume," Tib. bag chags) - habit energy, cumulative functional traces, vestigial imprints of prior actions or tendency patterns made by the evolving consciousness which become the basis  and cause of propensities for present and future actions.

Vastu (Skt. 'site', or  'place'; Tib.  ngos po, ngo bo) - In Yogacāra vastu is basis or the most essential identity of a 'thing' or object, its " giveness" . For Mahāmudra and Dzogchen vastu is the primordial ground of Being in the ultimate sense, (Tib. gzhi, Lat. Esse): its ipseity, is threefold. Thus, the ground is self-reflexive or self-luminous (vastu); its natureorcharacteristic (svabhāva, rang bzhin) is empty (śūnyatā) nondual and void of conceptual elaboration; its energy (karunā, thugs je) or resonance is unimpeded and all-embracing love.

Vicikitsā (Skt., Tib. the-tshom) - defensive skepticism, doubt, uncertainty; as an emotional and mental affliction it refers to being of two-minds regarding the Dharma, Paramārthasatya, Samvritisatya.

Vidyā (Skt., Tibetan rig-pa) - all inclusive intelligence, awareness.

Vijñāna (Skt., Tib. rnam par shes pa) - the momentary stream of consciousness which is the dualistic (thought-concept into subject and object) mode of knowledge. There are two aspects for vijñāna: a mind that discriminates and differentiates between the various characteristics (laksanā), manifestations and outward signs; and, the perceiving and perception of the objects themselves in the external world which cause sense experience. Thereby vijñāna can be further detailed among eight further categories in two groups: (1) The ālaya-repository group of (a) ālayavijñāna where citta collects impressions and experience, b) manovijñāna-citta as self referencing (subjective) and object relating; (2) pravrtti-evolutionary  group of (c) mental events, (d) events of hearing, (e) events of smell, (f) events of sight, (g) events of taste, (h) events of touch.

Vikalpa (Skt.,) - imagined, false discrimination between what is true and false, real and unreal.

Visaya (Skt. Tib. yul) - object of experience and in Yogācāra in particular an object of the sense organs, cf. ālambana.

Vipasyana (Skt. " higher seeing," Tib. lhag mthong) - after achieving one-pointed concentration (śamatha), it is the path of insight meditation into causes, conditions, and ultimates that lead to realization. cf. Śūnyatā  (see Nine Stages of Abiding).



Yoga (Skt. "union", Tib. rnal 'byor) - In Buddhist Yoga, the spiritual practice explicitly involving the mind and sometimes physical postures. In esoteric Buddhist yoga this training can be generally subsumed under six interdependent phases:

(1) pratyāhāra, restraint of the organs of the senses through ethical behavior (śila) and concentration (śamatha);
(2) dhyāna, the transformation and conception of the sense objects as the five dhyāni Buddhas. (Dhyāna is also fivefold cf. samādhi):
(3) Prānayāma, regulation of the breath,
(4) Dhāranā, concentration and prayer of the heart into the prānabindu;
(5) anusmrti, continued recollection of the object of meditation that is the Ikon of Divinity (īshtadevata) until revelation arises;
(6) through the union of wisdom and means (prajñopaya) all meditation objects coalesce (Ikon) and transcendental knowledge (samādhi) is sustained.

Yogijñāna (skt.) direct knowledge produced from  deep meditation on the transcendental reality. This capability is brought about by spiritual training and practice of religious yoga. The omniscience of the Buddha is of this category of Knowledge. cf. pramāna.

Yogācarā (Skt., Tib. rnal 'byor pyod pa) - Buddhist Practice of mystical union and is an insightful and special metaphysical teaching of the Sages of the Orient. This teaching gives a unique view of mind. The technical, scientific aspects of this view were initially expounded by a number of great wisdom-masters in India, most notably Vasubandhu (circa 290-370 AD) and Manjusrimitra (circa 700 AD). (see The Yogacara Theory of Mind).

Yuganaddha (Skt., Latin Unio Mystica, Tib. zung 'jug) - Mystical Union, unity that is not the union of two separate things.


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