Glossary of Key Terms
aché lhamo [T a che lha mo] traditional musical plays presenting stories from Buddhist legends.
amban Chinese imperial officials stationed at Lhasa and in Eastern Tibet.
amchi [T a mchi, e mchi] traditional Tibetan doctor.
Amdo [T a mdo] one of the four provinces of Tibet, situated in the north-east.
Anuttarayoga Tantra [S] Class of Buddhist Tantric practices.
asura‘demigods’; one of the Six Realms of Rebirth; divine beings continually at war with the deva.
Atiśa (Dipaṃkara Śrījñāna, 980–1054) Bengali Buddhist teacher, active in Tibet in the eleventh century.
Avalokiteśvara [S] bodhisattva-deity who represents the compassion of the Buddha; see also Chenresik.
babdrung [T ’babs sgrung] ‘inspired’ Gesar bard.
Bardo Tödröl [T bar do thos sgrol] ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’.
barché [T bar chad] obstacle (generally meaning obstruction by spirits, also inner obstacles to spiritual progress)
Barché Kunsel [T bar chad kun sel] prayer to remove barché
béyül [T sbas yul] ‘hidden valley’; concealed land, discovered by a tertön, to enable people to take refuge for political disturbance or for spiritual purposes. Several Himalayan valleys are regarded as béyül.
Bhairava [S] fierce form of Ṥiva associated closely with Tantric traditions
bhikṣu [S] fully-ordained Buddhist monk, corresponding to Tibetan gelong.
bhikṣuni [S] fully-ordained Buddhist nun, corresponding to Tibetan gelongma.
bindu [S] internal ‘drop’, corresponding to bodhicitta, manipulated during Tantric inner yoga practices.
Bod [T bod] Tibetan name for Tibet; often used to mean primarily Central Tibet.
Bod chenpo [T bod chen po] ‘Greater Tibet’; term introduced by Gedün Chopel to cover all areas of traditional Tibetan culture and influence.
bodhi [S] see Buddhahood.
bodhicitta [S] ‘thought of Enlightenment’; intense desire to attain Buddhahood in order to relieve all beings from suffering, the motive force for the attainment of
Buddhahood; in Tantric physiology, male and female sexual fluids as the physical aspect of this motivational force.
bodhisattva [S] person who has made an irreversible vow to attain Buddhahood; deity who manifests aspect of Buddha-activity.
bombo [Tamang = T bon po] shamanic priests among the Tamang people of Nepal.
Bon [T Bon] term used to describe various pre- and non-Buddhist traditions in Tibet, including the contemporary monastic tradition of Yungdrung Bon; bon in Yungdrung Bon is also a term equivalent to chö in Buddhism.
Bonpo [T bon po] follower of the Bon tradition.
Buddha [S] term used to describe person or being who has attained state of awakening (bodhi or Buddhahood), including the historical Buddha Śākyamuni; deity expressing or manifesting aspect of Buddhahood.
Buddhahood state of awakening or enlightenment (bodhi); the central goal of the Buddhist tradition.
Buddhist Tantra see also Vajrayāna].
Bumshi [T ’bum gzhi] main medical text of the Bonpo medical tradition; textually close to the Gyüshi, the main text of the mainstream Buddhist Tibetan medical tradition.
Butön Rinchendrub [T Bu ston rin chen grub] Important early scholar of the Shalupa tradition, responsible for the editing of the standard canonical collections of translated Buddhist texts, the Kangyur and Tengyur.
cakra [S] ‘circle’ or ‘wheel’; in Tantric physiology, the meeting points of the nāḍī, the subtle channels along which prāṇa circulates.
Cakrasamvara [S] name of important cycle of Buddhist Tantric practices and of its principal deity.
Caryā Tantra [S] class of Buddhist Tantric practices.
chakgya [T phyag rgya = S mudrā] literally ‘seal’; a multivalent term referring to ritual hand gestures, also to real or visualized female consort in Tantric ritual.
cham [T ’chams] Buddhist and Bonpo ritual dances, performed as part of monastic ritual or in public as part of monastic festivals.
changchub [T byang chub] Tibetan equivalent to Buddhahood; bodhi.
changchub sem [T byang chub sems] Tibetan equivalent to bodhicitta.
changchub sempa [T byang chub sems dpa’] Tibetan equivalent to bodhisattva.
Chenresik [T spyan ras gzigs] Tibetan name of the Indian bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, believed to have played a guiding role throughout Tibetan history and to have manifested on various occasions in human form, most recently as the Dalai Lamas.
chépa [T dpyad pa] diagnosis (in medicine); distinction, differentiation, analysis.
chi [T phyi] outside, later.
chi nang sang [T phyi nang gsang] outer, inner and secret
chidar [T phyi dar, spyi dar] ‘later’ or ‘general’ diffusion of the Buddhist teachings to Tibet from the late 10th to 13th centuries, resulting in the New Tantra (Sarma) traditions.
chinlab [T byin rlabs] ‘blessing’ or ‘spiritual power’ received from a deity or lama.
Cittamātra [S] major school of Indian Buddhist philosophy; also known as Yogācāra.
chö [T chos = S dharma] multivalent term referring to Buddhist religious teachings, underlying nature of the universe (as revealed by these teachings), and to a constituent element of the universe in early Buddhist philosophy
chöd [T gcod] class of Tibetan practices involving visualization of offering one’s body to deities and spirits, accompanied by singing and musical instruments.
Chokgyur Lingpa [T mchog ’gyur gling pa] nineteenth-century Nyingmapa lama associated with the ‘Rimé movement’; later reincarnations of this lama.
chökyong [T chos skyong] deity, generally of Indian or Tibetan origin, who acts as protector of the Buddhist teachings.
chöku [T chos sku] Tibetan equivalent to dharmakāya.
chorten [T mchod rten = S stūpa] container for holy relics, also acting as symbolic representation of the dharmakāya; may be a large outdoors construction, there are also smaller versions inside temples, often containing relics of lamas.
Chucham Gyalmo [T Chu-lcam rgyal-mo] Bonpo goddess.
Cittamātra [S] ‘mind-only’ teachings, emphasizing the primary role of consciousness in creating phenomenal reality; also known as Vijñānavāda or Yogācāra.
ḍākiṇī [S] female deities associated with Tantra; the Tibetan term (kandroma) is used as a term of respect for spiritually-evolved women, also for female spirit-mediums and tantric consorts of lamas.
daknang [T dag snang] ‘pure vision’; term used to describe visionary teachings received by lamas.
Dalai Lamas [T tā la’i bla ma] important series of reincarnate lamas; highest-ranking rebirth series of the Gelukpa order, and political rulers of much of Tibet between the seventeenth and twentieth century.
Damngag Dzöd [T gdams ngag mdzod] collection of methods and instructions for practice, compiled in the ninetheenth century under the direction of Jamgön Kongtrul.
damtsiksempa [T dam tshig sems dpa’] the deity as created ‘internally’ by the practitioner, to be merged with the yeshe sempa.
Derge [T sde dge] small kingdom in Eastern Tibet with traditional affiliations to the Sakyapa.
deva [S] generic term for ‘god’; also, one of the Six Realms of Rebirth.
Dewachen [T bde ba can = S Sukhāvatī] the eastern paradise presided over by the Buddha Amitābha.
dharma [S] term with several overlapping meanings, including Buddhist teachings; fundamental laws of the universe; elements of reality.
dharmakāya [S] ‘dharma body’; one of the three ‘bodies’ or aspects of manifestation of the Buddha; corresponds to the ultimate meaning of Buddha-nature.
Dharmarāja [S] king ruling according to the Dharma, king who supports the Dharma.
Dharamsala: small town in Northern India; residence of the 14th Dalai Lama and location of the Tibetan exile government.
dhyāna [S] meditative absorption; one of the Six Pāramitā.
dokpa [T bzlog pa] ritual to avert evil influences or destructive spirits.
Dolpopa Sherab Gyantsen [T dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan] important early lama of the Jonangpa tradition.
dorjé tegpa [T rdo rje theg pa] Tibetan equivalent to Vajrayāna.
drangsong [T drang srong] Tibetan translation for Skt ṛṣi (sage); for Bonpo, equivalent to gelong (fully-ordained monk).
Drenpa Namka [T dran pa nam mkha’] Early Bonpo lama.
Drepung [T ’bras spungs] large monastic establishment near Lhasa, consisting of a number of colleges, hostels, hermitages, etc.
Dri River [T ’bri chu] Tibetan name for Yangtse River.
Drigum [T gri gum] legendary early king of Tibet in whose time the ‘sky-cord’ linking the kings with heaven was broken.
Drikung Kagyüd [T ’bri gung bka’ brgyud] sub-division of Kagyüdpa tradition.
drokpa [T ’brog pa] pastoralists.
Drölma [T sgrol ma] Buddhist goddess, equivalent to Skt. Tārā; represents the compassionate action of the Buddha to save beings from danger and suffering.
drong [T ’brong] wild yak.
Druk Ralung [T ’Brug Rwa lung] monastery in Central Tibet.
Drukpa Kagyüdpa [T ’Brug pa bka brgyud pa] subdivision of Kagyüdpa tradition, originally based at the monastery of Druk Ralung in Central Tibet.
drupta [T grub mtha’] philosophical position or framework; equivalent to Sanskrit siddhānta.
Druptap Küntü [T sgrub thabs kun btus] collection of Sarmapa texts for ritual practice, compiled in the nineteenth century under the direction of Loter Wangpo.
druptop [T grub thob] Tantric practitioner, equivalent to Sanskrit siddha.
Dunhuang texts Large cache of texts in Tibetan, Chinese and other languages discovered in caves near the Chinese oasis town of Dunhuang, under Tibetan control for parts of the eighth and nineth centuries and a centre of Tibetan cultural activity for some centuries later. The Dunhuang texts are an important source for early Tibetan religion, culture and history.
Düsum Kyenpa [T dus gsum mkhyen pa] founding lama of Karma Kagyüdpa; first lama of the Gyalwa Karmapa series of rebirths.
Dza Petrül [T rdza dPal sprul] nineteenth-century lama, author of the Kunsang Lamé Shellung.
Dzamling Gyéshé [T ’dzam gling rgyas bshad] early nineteenth-century Tibetan book presenting a description of the world (including the countries of Europe).
Dzogchen [T rdzogs chen] ‘Great Perfection’ teachings; the highest level of teachings in both Nyingmapa and Bon traditions.
fengshuiChinese techniques for locating and constructing buildings, tombs, etc., so as to maximize their positive spiritual effect.
Four Great Deva Kings set of four yakṣa deities associated with the four directions, important in most Buddhist traditions as protectors of the Buddhist teachings and of Buddhist practitioners, and frequently painted at the entrance to Tibetan monasteries.
Ganden [T dga’ ldan] large monastic establishment near Lhasa, consisting of a number of colleges, hostels, hermitages, etc.
Ganden Podrang [T dga’ ldan pho brang] Dalai Lama’s government; originally the name of his personal household at Drepung.
Gedündrup [T dge ’dun grub] disciple of Tsongkapa; retrospectively identified as first of the Dalai Lama rebirth series.
geko [T dge skos] monk responsible for discipline in monastic community.
gelong [T dge slong] fully-ordained Buddhist monk, corresponding to Sanskrit bhikṣu.
gelong [T dge slong = S bhikṣu] ‘(fully-ordained) monk’, highest grade of monastic ordination for men.
gelongma [T dge slong ma = S bhikṣunī] ‘(fully-ordained) nun’, highest grade of monastic ordination for women
Gelukpa [T dge lugs pa] One of the Sarma (‘New’) traditions of Tibetan Buddhist practice, dating back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
genyen [T dge bsnyen = S upāsaka] ‘(male) lay follower’, ordination taken in Tibet both by laymen and as an initial monastic ordination for men.
genyenma [T dge bsnyen ma = S upāsīkā] ‘(female) lay follower’, ordination taken in Tibet both by laywomen and as an initial monastic ordination for women.
geshé [T dge bshes = S kalyāṇamitra] spiritual teacher or advisor; title of monastic degrees awarded by public examination, especially in Gelukpa tradition.
getsul [T dge tshul= S śramaṇera] ‘(male) novice’, grade of monastic ordination for men.
getsulma [T dge tshul ma = S śramaṇerī) ‘(female) novice’, grade of monastic ordination for women.
gomchen [T sgom chen] title for lay religious practitioners in Bhutan.
gompa [T dgon pa] monastery, hermitage, religious centre (not necessarily of celibate monks).
gowé lha [T ’go ba’i lha] set of five deities who look after fortune of an individual.
Guhyagarbha [S] name of important cycle of Buddhist Tantric practices.
Guhyasamāja [S] name of important cycle of Buddhist Tantric practices and of its principal deity.
Guru Rinpoché [T gu ru rin po che] Tibetan name of Padmasambhava.
Gushri Khan Mongolian chieftain and political ally of the 5th Dalai Lama.
gompa [T dgon pa] Buddhist place of practice; may be a monastery, hermitage, or a temple where lay practitioners gather for worship.
Guru [S] teacher, especially of Tantra.
Gyalwa Karmapa [T rGyal ba Karma pa] title of head lamas of Karma Kagyüdpaı.
Gyalwang Drukchen [T rGyal dbang ’Brug chen] title of head lamas of Drukpa Kagyüdpa.
Gyantsé [T rgyal rtse] town in West-Central Tibet.
gyelpo [T rgyal po] king.
gyüd [T rgyud] Tantra; [T brgyud] lineage, tradition.
Gyüshi [T rgyud bzhi] ‘Four Tantras’ or ‘Fourfold Tantra’, name of the principal medical text in the Tibetan medical tradition.
Hevajra [S] name of important cycle of Buddhist Tantric practices and of its principal deity.
Hīnayāna [S] term for the first and lowest of the three ‘vehicles’ that define the Buddhist path in Tibetan tradition; corresponds in a general sense to the teachings of the Theravādin tradition.
iṣṭadevatā [S] deity that serves as focus for personal devotion and spiritual practice = T yidam.
izzat [Hindi, Urdu, etc.] honour of person/family.
Jainism Indian religion originating in similar early ascetic traditions to Buddhism. Jainas today form a distinct religious group within India.
Jambeyang [T ’Jam dpal dbyangs] Tibetan equivalent for Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva of wisdom.
Jamgön Kongtrul [T ’jam mgon kong sprul] nineteenth-century Kagyüdpa lama associated with the ‘Rimé movement’; later reincarnations of this lama.
Jampa [T byams pa] Tibetan equivalent for Maitreya.
Jamyang Khyentsé [T ’jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse] nineteenth-century Sakyapa lama associated with the ‘Rimé movement’; later reincarnations of this lama
Jigmé Lingpa [T ’Jigs med gling pa] Nyingmapa lama and tertön of late eighteenth century; important influence on the Rimé lamas.
jñānasattva[S] equivalent to yeshesempa.
jomo[T jo mo] title for nun or other woman of high spiritual attainment.
Jonanga [T Jo nang pa] One of the Sarma (‘New’) traditions of Tibetan Buddhist practice, dating back to the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Suppressed in Central Tibet by Gelukpa in seventeenth century, but survived elsewhere. Known for its endorsement of the shentong approach, particularly in relation to Kālacakra.
Kadampa [T bka’ gdams pa] One of the Sarma (‘New’) traditions of Tibetan Buddhist practice, dating back to the eleventh and twelfth centuries; its teaching traditions were absorbed into later schools, particularly the Gelukpa.
kagyé [T bka brgyad] eight Nyingmapa ritual cycles said to have been passed down from the Imperial period.
Kagyüdpa [T bka’ brgyud pa] One of the Sarma (‘New’) traditions of Tibetan Buddhist practice, dating back to the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Kālacakra [S] name of important cycle of Buddhist Tantric practices and of its principal deity.
kama [T bka’ ma] teachings believed to have been transmitted by Padmasambhava and passed down from lama to disciple to modern times; form a significant part of teachings for the Nyingmapa.
Kanam Depa [T ?ka nam sde pa] traditional ruler of small kingdom of Powo in southern Tibet.
kandroma [T mkha’ ’gro ma = S ḍākinī] dangerous female spirit; woman of high spiritual attainment; Tantric consort of high lama; female spirit-medium.
Kangyur [T bka’ ’gyur] Tibetan collection of works attributed to the Buddha.
karma [S] action; used in English to refer to connection between action and result, especially in a future life.
Karma Kagyüdpa [T karma bka’ brgyud pa] Major sub-order of Kagyüdpa
Karma Pakshi [T karma pakṣi] lama of Karma Kagyüdpa tradition; second lama of the Gyalwa Karmapa series of rebirths.
karuṇā [S] compassion.
kenpo [T mkhan po] abbot, administrative head of a monastery or other religious centre.
Kham [T khams] one of the four provinces of Tibet, situated in the east.
korwa [T ’khor ba] literally, ‘circling’; Tibetan equivalent to saṃsāra.
Kriyā Tantra [S] class of Buddhist Tantric practices.
ku sung tuk [T sku gsung thugs] body speech and mind; traditional Tibetan division of the entire human mind–body complex.
Kumbum [T sku ’bum] major Gelukpa monastery in Northeast Tibet, close to the modern Chinese city of Xining; birthplace of Tsongkapa.
kundzob denpa [T kun rdzob bden pa] relative or conventional truth; equivalent to Sanskrit saṃvṛti-satya.
Kunsang Lamé Shellung [T Kun bzang bla ma’i zhal lung] classic commentary to the Longchen Nyingtik ngöndro practices by the nineteenth-century lama Dza Peltrül.
kusum [T sku gsum] equivalent to Sanskrit trikāya.
kuten [T sku rten] ‘support’; oracle priest (as ‘support’ for the deity which possesses him or her).
Kutse Da-ö [T Khu tshe zla ’od] name of Bonpo tertön.
kyabdro [T skyabs ’gro] going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
la [T bla] vitality, power, separable soul-substance.
labrang or ladrang [T bla brang] household (economic unit) associated with a lama.
Labrang [T bla brang; C Xiahe] town in NE Tibet which grew up next to the monastery of Labrang Tashikyil.
Labrang Tashikyil [T bla brang bkra shis ’khyil] major Gelukpa monastery in Northeast Tibet.
lam rim [T lam rim] ‘gradual path’ or ‘stages of the path’; systematic arrangement of Sūtra teachings in the Gelukpa tradition; other traditions have similar sets of teachings.
lama [T bla ma] Tantric guru and ritual officiant; teacher; senior religious practitioner.
Lamdre [T lam ’bras] System of teachings in the Sakyapa tradition, based on the Hevajra Tantra and said to derive from the mahāsiddha Virūpa.
Lamé Latso [T bla ma’i bla mtsho] lake in Central Tibet, where lamas traditionally go for visions of rebirths of the Dalai Lama and other high lamas.
laptsé [T la btsas] cairn for worship of local gods.
lari [T bla ri] mountain connected with the spiritual welfare of a particular region, family or person.
laru [T klu rol] festivals for local spirits in Rebkong and nearby areas of Amdo (Qinghai), involving dances for men and women and possession of spirit-mediums.
latso [T bla mtsho] lake connected with the spiritual welfare of a particular region, family or person.
Lekshé Dzö [T legs bshad mdzod] ‘Treasury of Good Sayings’, Bonpo historical text.
lha [T lha] god (general term, corresponding to Sanskrit deva).
Lhakang [T lha khang] temple.
lhaktong [T lhag mthong] Tibetan equivalent to vipaśyanā.
lhawa [T lha pa] spirit-medium, person through whom god communicates while in state of possession.
Ling Gesar [T gLing Ge sar] Tibetan epic hero.
longchödku [T longs spyod sku] Tibetan equivalent to saṃbhogakāya.
Loter Wangpo [T ngor pa dpon slob blo gter dbang po] disciple of Jamyang Khyentsé and compiler of the Druptap Kuntü.
Longchen Nyingtik teachings [T klong chen snying thig] important series of terma revelations by Jigmé Lingpa, associated with visions of Longchen Rabjampa.
Longchen Rabjampa [T klong chen rab ’byams pa] Important fourteenth-century lama and scholar of the Nyingmapa tradition.
lu [T klu] spirit associated with lakes and rivers; equated to Indian nāga.
lung [T rlung] Tibetan equivalent to Sanskrit prāṇa (also equivalent to vāta).
lungta [T rlung rta] pieces of cloth or paper printed with mantras and religious emblems, usually in the colours of the five elements, tied on strings or thrown as offerings to local gods in order to secure good fortune and avert obstacles.
Ma Namka [T ma nam mkha’ dang mnyams pa’i…] name of Tibetan refuge formula.
Mādhyamika [S] School of Buddhist teachings which gives primacy to insight into the voidness or emptiness of phenomena.
Mahākāla [S] Buddhist Tantric deity related to Bhairava.
Mahāmudrā [S] term for direct experience of reality in Anuttarayoga Tantra; the goal of the Buddhist siddhas.
Mahāyāna [S] term for the second of the three ‘vehicles’ that define the Buddhist path in Tibetan tradition.
Maitreya [S]. Buddhist deity, who will eventually become the next Buddha of this world and age.
maṇḍala [S] (1) geometrical array of deities visualized, imagined or represented in two or three dimensions; (2) physical offering, usually of rice, often mixed with precious stones, on a special offering plate, representing the entire universe of traditional Buddhist cosmology with Mount Meru at its centre.
Mañjuśrī [S]. Bodhisattva-deity who represents the wisdom (prajñā) of the Buddha.
Mani Kabum [T ma ni bka’ ’bum] Terma text narrating the history of Avalokiteśvara, his manifestation as Songtsen Gampo and his association with Tibet.
mantra [S] ritual formula, generally employed in the invocation of a Tantric deity.
māra [S] demonic spirit.
Marpa [T Mar pa] Tibetan lama, said to have visited India and studied with Nāropa.
Milarepa [T Mi la ras pa] Tibetan lama and writer of spiritual songs, studied with Marpa. His disciples founded the various Kagyüdpa lineages.
Mahāyoga [S] class of Tantras.
Menla [T sman bla = S Bhaiṣajyaguru] Buddha of medicine and healing.
mo [T mo] divination.
mudrā [S] see chakgya.
nāḍī [S] channel, river; in Tantric physiology, the subtle channels within the human body along which prāṇa circulates.
nāga [s] Indian water-spirit, in Tibet equated withlu.
namshé [T rnam shes] ‘consciousness’; equivalent to S vijñāna. Includes the subtle ‘consciousness’ that continues from one rebirth to the next.
namtar [T rnam thar] biography or autobiography, usually of a lama, structured in terms of the subject’s spiritual progress.
nang [T nang] inside.
nangpa [T nang pa] insider.
nangpé sangyepé chö [T nang pa’i sangs rgyas pa’i chos] ‘the Buddhist dharma of the insiders’; Buddhism.
Nāropa [S] Indian siddha regarded as ancestral by the Kagyüdpa tradition. His ‘Six Teachings’ or ‘Six Doctrines’ [T nā ro chos drug] are an important set of Completion Stage practices passed down particularly within the Kagyüdpa and Gelugpa.
ngadar [T snga dar] ‘early diffusion’ of the Buddhist teachings to Tibet at the time of the early Tibetan empire (seventh to ninth century CE).
neljor [T rnal ’byor] Tibetan term for yoga, generic term for forms of spiritual practice involving techniques of mind–body cultivation.
neljorma [T rnal ’byor ma] female practitioner of yoga; female deities associated with Tantric practice = S yogini.
ngagpa [T sngags pa] Tantric ritual specialist.
Ngari [T mnga’ ris] one of the four provinces of Tibet, situated in the west.
ngöndro [T sngon ’gro]preliminary practices, non-Tantric or Tantric.
Ngorpa [T ngor pa] subdivision of Sakya tradition.
ngowa [T sngo ba] dedication of merit, expression that the result of one’s virtuous actions should have a particular effect.
ngotsha[T sgo tsha] shame, embarrassment.
Nikāya ordination traditions of early Buddhism; traditionally eighteen in number, and associated with distinct doctrinal positions.
Nikāya Buddhism: term often now used for the early Buddhist teachings classified by the Tibetans as ‘Hinayāna’. The Theravāda tradition claims to represent the Buddhism of this period.
nirmāṇakāya [S] ‘emanation body’; one of the three ‘bodies’ or aspects of manifestation of the Buddha; see trulku.
nirvāṇa [S] state of extinction of craving and so relief from sufferings of saṃsāra; the ultimate goal of the Hinayāna teachings, but regarded in the Mahāyāna as an intermediate goal to be superseded by the attainment of Buddhahood (bodhi).
norbum [T nor ’bum] vase filled with precious substances and consecrated in special ritual to increase wealth and prosperity.
nyangendé [T mya ngan ’das] Tibetan equivalent for nirvāṇa.
nyépa[T nyes pa = S doṣa] the three main causes of illness in Tibetan medicine (lung, tipa, peken).
Nyingma [T rnying ma] Literally, ‘old’; here referring to the Nyingma school or Nyingmapa, qv.
Nyingmapa [T rnying ma pa] a tradition of Tibetan Buddhism that traces its origins back to the ‘early diffusion’ (ngadar) of the Buddhist teachings to Tibet at the time of the early empire (seventh to ninth century CE) and particularly to the activity of the Indian teacher Padmasambhava.
Nyingmé Gyudbum [T rnying ma’i rgyud ’bum] collection of tantric scriptures from the Nyingma tradition.
nyungné [T smyung gnas] fasting ritual carried out by lay people or monastics, at full moon or for longer periods; may be done on behalf of someone else to gain merit for that person.
Olmo Lungring [T ’ol mo lung ring] name of valley to west of Tibet; legendary home of Tönpa Shenrap and place of origin of Yungdrung Bon, situated in Tazik.
Padmasambhava [S] Primal lama of Nyingmapa tradition; a probably semi-legendary Tantric master who is said to have visited Tibet towards end of early empire, in late eighth century. In Tibetan usually referred to as Guru Pema Jungné or Guru Rinpoché.
Palden Lhamo [T dPal ldan lha mo] Buddhist goddess; protector of Lhasa and the Dalai Lamas.
Panchen Lama [T paṇ chen bla ma] second most senior reincarnate lama of the Gelukpa tradition; his residence was at Tashilhunpo.
Panchen Rinpoche [T paṇ chen rin po che] See Panchen Lama.
Papün [T pha spun] patrilineage, group defined by male descent, literally ‘father-brother’.
Pāramitā; see Six Pāramitā.
paritta[Pali] Buddhist sūtra recited for protection in Theravāda countries.
pawo [T dpa’ bo] spirit-medium, person through whom god communicates while in state of possession.
Pema Jungné [T padma ’byung gnas] Tibetan name of Padmasambhava.
Phurba [T phur ba] Buddhist Tantric deity important for Nyingmapa and Sakyapa.
equivalent to Skt Vajrakilaya; related Bon deity.
powa [T ’pho ba] practices for transfer of consciousness to higher realm at death.
Powo [T spo bo] small kingdom in Southern Tibet.
prajñā [S] wisdom of the Buddha; insight into the nature of reality. One of the Three Trainings. Also one of the Six Pāramitā.
prāṇa [S] breath; in Tantric physiology, the subtle breath that circulates through the nāḍī and cakra of the subtle body.
pratītyasamūtpada[S] dependent origination, Buddhist principle of phenomena arising in mutual dependence; equivalent to T tendel.
preta [S] ‘hungry ghosts’; beings are born into the preta realm as a result of greed in a former life.
rabjung[T rab ’byung] renunciation of worldly life; ceremony on entering monastic life.
rangtong [T rang stong] ‘empty of own-nature’; Tibetan philosophical approach which stresses emptiness, and contrasts with shentong.
Ratna Lingpa [T ratna gling pa] fifteenth-century lama; compiler and editor of the Nyingmé Gyudbum.
reincarnate lamas: lamas identified as rebirths of a previous lama and generally appointed to the position and status of the previous identity. See trulku.
religious tradition: this relatively neutral term has been generally used in the book rather than sect, school or order, since none of these is fully appropriate in the Tibetan context.
rig-nga [T rigs lnga] literally ‘Five Families [of Buddhas]’, headdress with images or symbols of the Five Buddhas worn by spirit mediums and others.
rimé [T ris med] impartial, unbiased, eclectic; term used as a description of the approach of a group of important late nineteenth-century lamas in Eastern Tibet, sometimes described by Western scholars as the Rimé Movement.
Rinchen Zangpo [T rin chen bzang po] early lama and translator (958–1055).
Rinchen Terdzöd [T rin chen gter mdzod] collection of terma teachings, compiled in the 19th century under the direction of Jamgön Kongtrul.
rongpa [T rong pa] valley people, farmers, agriculturalists.
rü [T rus] patrilineage, group defined by male descent, literally ‘bone’.
rüpa [T rus pa] patrilineage, group defined by male descent.
saché [T sa dpyad] siting of buildings in relation to landscape so as to maximize positive influences.
sadak [T sa bdag] local god.
sādhanā[S] religious practice, in Tantric Buddhism generally a practice for the evocation of a particular Tantric deity.
sādhu [S] Indian ascetic practitioner.
Ṥaiva, Ṥaivite religion, Ṥaivism Indian religious traditions centring around the worship of the god Ṥiva.
Sakya [T sa skya] Literally, ‘gray earth’; name of the location of the founding monastery of the Sakyapa tradition, q.v. [NB The word ‘Sakya’ is not related to Śākya, the name of the historical Buddha’s clan.]
Sakya Paṇḍita [T Sa skya paṇḍita] important early scholar of the Sakyapa tradition.
Śākyamuni [S] epithet used to refer to the historical Buddha, who probably lived in the fifth century bce. Also known as Gautama or Siddhartha.
Sakyapa [T sa skya pa] one of the Sarma (‘New’) traditions of Tibetan Buddhist practice, dating back to the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
samādhi [S] meditation as a part of the Buddhist path. One of the Three Trainings.
śamatha [S] meditation to develop dhyāna.
samayasattva[S] see Tibetan damtsik sempa.
sambhogakāya [S] ‘enjoyment body’; one of the three ‘bodies’ or aspects of manifestation of the Buddha; corresponds to the plane of manifestation of Tantric deities.
saṃvṛti-satya [S] relative or conventional truth.
saṃsāra [S] phenomenal reality; everyday life as an unending series of rebirths characterized.
Samyé [T bsam yas] First Tibetan monastery, founded in Central Tibet in the late eighth century ce .
sang [T bsangs] smoke-offering of scented herbs and woods to local gods.
sangchö[T bsangs mchod] sang-offering ritual.
sangha [S] Buddhist community, including monastic and lay members.
Sangpo Bumtri [T Sangs-po ’Bum-khri] Bonpo deity.
sangyé [T sangs rgyas] Tibetan equivalent to buddha.
sangyum [T gsang yum] ‘secret/esoteric mother’; Tantric consort of a male yogin or married lama.
Sarma [T gsar ma] Literally ‘new’, here referring to the Sarma or ‘New’ schools of Tibetan Buddhist practice, traditions that trace their origins back to the ‘later transmission’ of the Buddhist teachings to Tibet in the tenth to thirteenth centuries ce. The most important Sarma schools are the Kagyüdpa, Sakyapa and Gelukpa (qqv.).
Sarmapa [T gsar ma pa] follower of one of the Sarma traditions
Shalupa [T zha lu pa] one of the Sarma (‘New’) traditions of Tibetan Buddhist practice, dating back to the eleventh and twelfth centuries; its teaching traditions were absorbed into later schools, particularly the Gelukpa.
Sarvāstivādin one of the ordination lineages (Nikāya) of early Buddhism; set of teachings associated with this lineage.
Satrig Ersang [T Sa-trig Er-sangs] Bonpo goddess.
Sékar [T gsas mkhar] set of five fierce Bonpo deities.
semchen [Tsems can] ‘sentient beings’, beings that have consciousness.
semkyé [T (byang chub) sems bskyed] practices for arousing bodhicitta.
semtsampa [T sems tsam pa] ‘mind-only’ or Cittamātra teachings.
Sera [T se ra] large monastic establishment near Lhasa, consisting of a number of colleges, hostels, hermitages, etc.
Shakya Tubpa [Śākya thub pa] Tibetan equivalent for Śākyamuni, name of the historical Buddha.
Shangshung [T zhang zhung] kingdom to west of the early Tibetan empire which was incorporated into the Tibetan empire in around 650 ce; the kings of Shangshung were said to have been supporters of the Bon religion, and many Yungdrung Bon teachings are claimed to be translations from terma texts in the Shangshung language.
Shangshung Nyengyüd [T zhang zhung snyan rgyud] Bon Dzokchen traditions held to have been transmitted, initially orally, from Shangshung.
Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen [T Shar rdza bkra shis rgyal mtshan] twentieth-century Bon lama
shedra [T bshad grwa] college for Buddhist study, generally forming part of a monastery.
shen [T gshen] priest of pre-Buddhist court religion.
Shenchen Luga [T gShen chen kLu dga’] important early Bonpo tertön.
Shenlha Ökar [T gShen lha ’Od dkar] Bonpo creator god.
Shenrap Mibo [T gshen rab mi bo] founding figure of the Bonpo religious tradition; regarded as a Buddha. Also known as Tönpa Shenrap.
shentong [T gzhan stong] ‘empty of other-nature’; Tibetan philosophical position closely connected with yogic circles and Kālacakra practice; revived in nineteenth century, an important influence on some rimé lamas.
sherap [T shes rab] wisdom of the Buddha; insight into the nature of reality; equivalent to Skt prajñā.
Shigatsé [T gzhis dkar rtse] town in West-Central Tibet.
shipdak [T gzhi bdag] local deity.
shiné [T zhi gnas] Tibetan equivalent to śamatha.
shingpa [T zhing pa] farmers, agriculturalists.
siddha [S] term for Tantric practitioner in Ṥaivite or Vajrayāna tradition; the Tibetan form (druptop) is also used as a title by Tibetan lamas and practitioners.
siddhānta [S] philosophical position or framework.
siddhi[S] power obtained through Tantric practice.
śīla[S] discipline and morality as a part of the Buddhist path. One of the Three Trainings.
Sipé Dzöp’ug [T srid pa’i mdzod phug] Bonpo narrative of origins of universe.
Sipé Gyalmo [T Srid pa’i rgyal mo)] Bonpo goddess.
Ṥiva [S] important Indian (‘Hindu’) deity, significant for the development of Tantric traditions in India.
Six Pāramitā or ‘perfections’: dāna(generosity),śīla(discipline, self-control),kṣānti(patience),vīrya(energy, perseverance),dhyāna(meditative concentration),prajñā(wisdom).
Six Realms of Rebirth: deva, asura, humans, animals, preta, hell-beings.
sonam [T bsod nams] ‘merit’ or good karma.
Songtsen Gampo [T Srong btsan sgam po] important early Tibetan emperor (early seventh century).
śramaṇera see getsul.
śramaṇerī see getsulma.
stūpa see chorten.
subtle body subtle structure of the body, comprising channels and chakras, through which the lung (S prāṇa) circulates.
sungbum [T gsung ’bum] term for the collected writings of a lama.
sungma [T srung ma] guardian deity.
śūnyatā [T] ‘emptiness’ or voidness; teaching of the ultimate lack of independent existence of phenomenal reality.
sūtra [S] text regarded as presenting the teachings of the Buddha Śākyamuni; also class of such texts, kinds of practice associated with such texts.
Taklung Kagyüd [T stag lung bka’ brgyud] sub-division of Kagyüdpa tradition.
tantra [S] text regarded as presenting the teachings of the Buddha Śākyamuni, generally in visionary form; also class of such texts, kinds of practice associated with such texts; Ṥaiva, Vaiṣṇava and Jaina texts including similar practices.
tap [T thabs] means, method, Tibetan equivalent to upāya(-kauśalya)
Tārā [S] Buddhist goddess; represents the compassionate action of the Buddha to save beings from danger and suffering.
Tashilhunpo [T bkra shis lhun po] large monastery near Shigatsé; seat of the Panchen Lamas.
Tazik [T stag gzigs] term for regions to west of Tibet, possibly referring to Iranian-speaking peoples but not clearly locatable. Area from which the Yungdrung Bon teachings are held to originate (see also Olmo Lungring).
tendrel [T rten ’brel] Tibetan translation of pratītyasamūtpada; has additional meanings of karmic connection, omen, sign of positive future event
Tengyur [T bstan ’gyur] Tibetan collection of Buddhist works translated from Sanskrit and other Buddhist languages, including commentaries on Buddhist scriptures
terbum [T gter ’bum] ‘treasure-vase’, vase filled with precious substances and consecrated in Tantric ritual in order to generate positive and auspicious influences
terma [T gter ma] ‘concealed’ or ‘treasure’ teachings believed to have been transmitted by Padmasambhava during his visit to Tibet, hidden and rediscovered in material or spiritual form by his reborn disciples; form a major part of teachings for the Nyingmapa
tertön [T gter ston] lama who discovers or reveals terma teachings; tertön are believed to be rebirths of disciples of Padmasambhava.
theology Western scholars have traditionally referred to the systematic scholarly elaboration of Buddhist thought as ‘philosophy’, on the grounds that while there are obvious parallels to theology in other religious traditions, Buddhists were not primarily concerned with understanding the existence and nature of deity. Recently some Western scholars have suggested that the term ‘theology’ should be used. I have gone for ‘philosophy’ in this book, as the more familiar usage.
Theravāda, Theravādin Buddhist tradition today found mainly in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka, claiming to represent original teachings of the Buddha.
Three Trainings or Triple Training. Discipline (śīla), meditation (samādhi) and wisdom or insight into reality (prajñā).
tiklé [T thig le] Tibetan equivalent to bindu.
tongpanyid [T stong pa nyid] Tibetan equivalent for śūnyatā.
Tönpa Shenrap [T ston pa gshen rab] founding figure of the Bonpo religious tradition; regarded as a Buddha. Also known as Shenrap Mibo.
torma [T gtor ma] cake made of barley-flour and butter, coloured and often with elaborate decorations, offered to deities in Tantric rituals.
tradition: see religious tradition.
Trigyel Kugpa [T Khri-rgyal khug-pa] Bonpo creator god, also known as Shenlha Ökar.
trikāya [S] ‘three bodies’ or aspects of manifestation of the Buddha; see dharmakāya, nirmāṇakāya and sambhogakāya.
Trisong Deutsen [T Khri srong lde’u btsan] important early Tibetan emperor (late eighth century)
trulkor [T ’phrul ’khor, ’khrul ’khor] physical exercises performed as part of yogic practice, with the aim of improving control over tsalung.
trulku [T sprul sku] ‘emanation body’, Tibetan equivalent to nirmāṇakāya; one of the three ‘bodies’ or aspects of manifestation of the Buddha; some lamas are described as trulku, which implies that they are human manifestations of Tantric deities, and also in most cases that they are recognized rebirths of a previous lama (‘reincarnate lamas’).
tsalung [T rtsa rlung] See subtle body.
tsam [T mtshams] meditation retreat
tsampa [T rtsam pa] barley-flour, basic Tibetan foodstuff.
Tsang [T gtsang] Western part of Ü-Tsang; its principal urban centres are at Shigatsé and Gyantsé.
tsedrup [T tshe sgrub] ritual for attainment of long life.
tseguk [T tshe ’gugs] ritual for recovery of lost life-force.
tsewang [T tshe dbang] ‘life-empowerment’, ritual for conveying long life to others.
tsawé lama [T rtsa ba’i bla ma] ‘root lama’, one’s principal guru or spiritual teacher.
Tselpa [T tshal pa] subdivision of Sakya tradition.
tsen [T btsan] dangerous supernatural being.
tsenpo [T btsan po] Emperor; title of the rulers of the early Tibetan empire (referred to by Chinese as Tubo) which was based initially in the Yarlung Valley, later at Lhasa.
tsokshing [T tshogs shing, tshogs zhing] ‘refuge field’ or ‘refuge tree’; visualization of Buddhist deities, generally centred around one’s lama or yidam, before which one takes refuge.
Tsongkapa [T tsong kha pa] founding lama of the Gelukpa tradition.
tukje[T thugs rje = S karuṇā] compassion.
tuktrul[T thugs sprul] emanation of mind or consciousness of lama.
Ü [T dbus] Eastern part of Ü-Tsang; its principal urban centre is at Lhasa.
Ü-Tsang [T dbus gtsang] One of the four provinces of Tibet, situated in the centre of Tibet.
umapa [T dbu ma pa] Tibetan equivalent for Mādhyamika teachings.
upāsaka see genyen.
upāsīkā see genyenma.
upāya [S] ‘means’ often used for upāya-kauśalya, q.v.
upāya-kauśalya[S] ‘skill in means [for attaining Buddhahood and exercising the powers of the Buddha]’, an important concept in Tibetan Buddhism.
Vaiṣṇava [S] Indian religious traditions centring around the worship of the god Viṣṇu.
Vajrabhairava [S] Buddhist Tantric deity related to Bhairava.
Vajradhara [S] Tantric form of the Buddha.
Vajrakilaya [S] Buddhist Tantric deity important for Nyingmapa and Sakyapa. Equivalent to Tibetan Phurpa.
Vajrapaṇi [S] Buddhist Tantric deity, originally a yakṣa protector of the Buddha, later an important Tantric deity similar to Bhairava.
Vajrasattva [S] Buddhist Tantric deity, particularly associated with purificatory practices.
Vajrayāna [S] Sanskrit term for Tantric practices employed as part of the Buddhist path; the third of the three ‘vehicles’ that define the Buddhist path in Tibetan tradition.
vijñāna [S] ‘consciousness’; equivalent to T namshé.
Vijñānavāda [S] ‘mind-only’ teachings, emphasizing the primary role of consciousness in creating phenomenal reality; also known as Cittamātra or Yogācāra.
vinaya [S] monastic disciplinary code.
vipaśyanā [S] meditation to develop prajñā.
Viṣṇu [S] important Brahmanical (Hindu) deity.
wang [T dbang] power, empowerment, empowerment ritual.
Wangchuk Dorje [T dbang phyug rdo rje] Karma Kagyüdpa lama (1556–1603); nineth of the Gyalwa Karmapa rebirth series.
weikza[Burmese] persons with occult power.
yakṣa [S] class of Indian deities, including the Four Great Deva Kings.
yeshe sempa[T ye shes sems dpa’] the yidam or Tantric deity as an ‘external’ reality, summoned in Tantric ritual to merge with the inner evocation of the damtsik sempa.
Yeshe Tsogyal [T Ye shes mtsho rgyal] Tibetan princess, female consort of Padmasambhava, believed to have written down the terma teachings.
yoga [S] generic term for forms of spiritual practice involving techniques of mind–body cultivation.
Yoga Tantra [S] class of Buddhist Tantric practices.
Yogācāra [S] ‘mind-only’ teachings, emphasizing the primary role of consciousness in creating phenomenal reality; also known as Vijñānavāda or Cittamātra.
yidam [T yi dam] deity that serves as focus for personal devotion and spiritual practice = S iṣṭadevatā.
yogin [S] person who practises (Tantric) yoga.
yoginī [S] female practitioner of yoga; female deities associated with Ṥiva in Ṥaiva Tantra and also occurring in Tibetan Buddhism (see neljorma).
yül lha[T yul lha] local god.
yungdrung [T g.yung drung] swastika symbol used by Yungdrung Bon and Buddhists.
Zangdok Pelri [T zangs mdog dpal ri] ‘Glorious Copper-Coloured Mountain’, the paradise presided over by Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava).