Arhat An arhat is someone who has eliminated the afflictive emotions, but who has not achieved the omniscience of a buddha.

Bodhicitta is both the mind that aspires to attain buddhaood so that all beings can be freed from their ignorance and suffering (relative bodhicitta) and the mind that sees the emptiness of all things. (absolute bodhicitta.)

Emptiness The absence of all conceivable characteristics in phenomena.

Bodhisattva is someone who either aspires to attain buddahood or is someone who through their practice is close to doing so.

Brahmins The caste in Hinduism that performs ritual religious observances.

Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit.) The embodiment of the compassion of all the buddhas. Meditation on Chenrezig and recitation of his mantra, “om mani padme hum,” is the most widely practiced religious observance in Tibet.

Ten non-virtuous acts Three physical acts (killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct) four speech acts (lying, abusive talk, slander, and idle chatter) and three mental acts (malice, envy, and disbelief in morality). Binding for all persons, not just Buddhists.

Four root infractions of monastic vows that require expulsion: killing, stealing, sexual intercourse, or lying about one’s spiritual attainments.

Thirteen branch infractions Monastic vows whose violation require confession and expiation, but not expulsion.

Seven types of vows Lay, novice, or fully ordained vows for men or women, plus a second novitiate for women.

Liberation the elimination of suffering and its cause by seeing the true mode of abiding of mind and phenomena.

Dharma The Buddha’s teachings for liberation from suffering

Lama Any person qualified to be a spiritual teacher in Tibetan Buddhism. Most usually an ordained man or woman who has completed the traditional spiritual retreat.

Mahayana The school of Buddhism that aspires to achieve the full enlightenment of a buddha through the cultivation of love and compassion and meditation on emptiness.

Mantra A short prayer in Sanskrit recited for its blessing rather than its meaning. “Om mani padme hum” is an example of a mantra.

Meat of three-fold purity Under the rules of the monastic code, meat may be eaten if the animal was not seen, heard, or suspected to be killed for the sake of the meal.

Nagas Elemental spirits associated with bodies of water, pictured as serpents or dragons. The most fortunate rebirth in the animal realm.

Pratekyabuddha A person who attains enlightenment during a time when the Buddha’s teaching has been lost, but who lacks the wisdom to teach it to others.

Pretas Beings who through their selfishness and desire are born as spirits who suffer the pain of desire but lack the means to satisfy it.

Primordial wisdom The fundamental wisdom that all beings possess but are unable to see because of their confusion.

Refuge in the three jewels Taking refuge is making the commitment to seek liberation by following the guidance of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. (q.v. )

Sadhana. A tantric practice where one generates a visualization of oneself as a buddha, and then dissolves the visualization and rests in emptiness.

Samsara The existence of ordinary beings, characterized by constant rebirth in one or another of the six planes of rebirth (gods, demigods, human beings, animals, hungry ghosts, hellbeings).

Sangha The community of Buddhists. In the context of the refuge vow it refers to the noble sangha, those who have achieved enlightenment.

Sentient beings Any being that is conscious, that is, has a mind and can experience phenomena.

Shakyamuni “Sage of the Shakyas” (also known by his personal name Gautama or his family name Siddhartha). The historical Buddha, who lived in the 6th century BCE in North India.

Shravakas The disciples of Shakyamuni, who seek their own enlightenment by relying on his teaching.

Siddha A practitioner of tantra who has achieved definite results from practice (siddhis) and whose behavior is often unconventional.

Sutra Buddhist scripture containing a teaching by the Buddha

Sutrayana The school of Buddhism that seeks enlightenment by cultivating its causes, the practices of virtue and meditation.

Tantra The school of Buddhism that seeks enlightenment relying on the result, that is, that the body, speech and mind of the buddha are present as potential in all sentient beings.

Theravada tradition The school of Buddhism, found mainly in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, based on the scriptures in the Pali language.

Vajrayana another name for tantra, literally the indestructible (diamond) vehicle.

The Vinaya the section of Buddhist scripture describing the monastic code.

Wish fulfilling jewel A mythical gem used as a metaphor in Buddhism.

Yidam The principal buddha that a practitioner visualizes in meditation.

Yogi A person who practices and keeps the vows of the highest class of tantra.


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