A General Glossary from Matthieu Ricard

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For more works of Matthieu Ricard, H.H. Dilgo Khyentse, Sechen Rabjam Rinpoche visit: http://www.shechen.org

absolute truth (Tib. don dam bden pa): the ultimate nature of the mind and the true status of all phenomena, the state beyond all conceptual constructs which can be known only by primordial wisdom and in a manner that transcends duality. The way things are from the point of view of realized beings. [MR]

Accomplishment - (1) dngos grub, Skt. siddhi. The fruit wished for and obtained through the practice of the instructions. Common accomplishments can be simply supernatural powers, but the term accomplishment can also refer to the supreme accomplishment, which is enlightenment. (2) sgrub pa. In the context of the recitation of mantras. [MR]

Actions (las): actions resulting in the experience of happiness for others and are defined as positive or virtuous; actions which give rise to suffering for others and oneself are described as negative or non-virtuous. Every action, whether physical, mental or verbal is like a seed leading to a result that will be experienced in this life or in a future life. [MR]

Afflictive mental factors, or negative emotions (Tib. nyon mongs, Skt : (klesha) : all mental events born from ego-clinging, that disturb the mind and obscures it. The five principal afflictive mental factors, which are sometimes called "mental poisons", are attachment, hatred, ignorance, envy and pride. They are the main causes of both immediate and long term sufferings. [MR]

Aggregates, Five (Tib. spung po, Skt. skandha), lit. "heaps", "aggregates", or "events". The five aggregates are the component elements of form, feeling, perception, conditioning factors and consciousness. They are the elements into which the person may be analyzed without residue. When they appear together, the illusion of 'self' is produced in the ignorant mind. [MR]

Appearances (snang ba) : the world of outer phenomena. Although these phenomena seems to have a true reality, their ultimate nature is emptiness. The gradual transformation of our way to perceive and understand these phenomena correspond to the various levels of the path to enlightenment. [MR]

Awareness, pure (rig pa): the non-dual ultimate nature of mind, which is totally free from delusion. [MR]

Bardo (bar do) : Tibetan word meaning "intermediary state". This term most often refers to the state between death and subsequent rebirth. In fact, human experience encompasses six types of bardo: the bardo of the present life, the bardo of meditation, the bardo of dream, the bardo of dying, the luminous bardo of ultimate reality and the bardo of becoming. The first three bardos unfold in the course of life. The second three refer to the death and rebirth process which terminates at conception at the beginning of the subsequent existence. [MR]

Bodhichitta (byang chub kyi sems): lit. "the mind of enlightenment". On the relative level, it is the wish to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all beings, as well as the practice of the path of love, compassion, the six transcendent perfections, etc., necessary for achieving that goal. On the absolute level, it is the direct insight into the ultimate nature. [MR]

Bodhisattva (byang chub sems dpa'): One who through compassion strives to attain the full enlightenment buddhahood for the sake of all beings. [MR]

Buddha Nature (bde gshegs snying po): It is not an "entity" but the ultimate nature of mind, free from the veils of ignorance. Every sentient being is has the potential to actualize this Buddha Nature by attaining perfect knowledge of the nature of mind. It is in a way the "primordial goodness" of sentient beings. [MR]

Buddha (sangs rgyas): One who has eliminated the two veils - the veils of emotional obscurations and the cognitive obscuration, which is the dualistic conceptual thinking, which prevents omniscience - and who has developed the two wisdoms, the wisdom that know the ultimate nature ultimate nature of the mind and phenomena and the wisdom that knows the multiplicity of these phenomena. [MR]

Clinging, grasping, attachment (bdag 'dzin): its two main aspects are clinging to the true reality of the ego, and clinging to the reality of outer phenomena. [MR]

Compassion (snying rje): the wish to free all beings from suffering and the causes of suffering (negatives actions and ignorance). It is complementary with altruistic love (the wish that all beings may find happiness and the causes of happiness), with sympathetic joy (which rejoices of others qualities) and with equanimity which extends the three former attitudes to all beings, whether friends, strangers or enemies. [MR]

Consciousness (rnam shes): Buddhism distinguishes various levels of consciousness: gross, subtle and extremely subtle. The first one correspond to the activity of the brain. The second one is what we intuitively call "consciousness", which is among other things the faculty of consciousness to know itself, investigate its own nature and exert free will. The third and most essential one is called the "fundamental luminosity of mind". [MR]

Dharma (chos): this Sanskrit term is the normal word used to indicate the Doctrine of the Buddha. The Dharma of transmission refers to the corpus of verbal teachings, whether oral or written. The Dharma of realization refers to the spiritual qualities resulting from practising these teachings. [MR]

Duality, dualistic perception (gnyis 'dzin): The ordinary perception of unenlightened beings. The apprehension of phenomena in terms of subject (consciousness) and object (mental images and the outer world), and the belief in their true existence. [MR]

Ego, "I" (bdag): Despite the fact that we are a ceaselessly transforming stream, interdependent with other beings and the whole world, we imagine that there exist in us an unchanging entity that characterizes us and that we must protect and please. A thorough analysis of this ego reveals that it is but a fictitious mental construct. [MR]

Emptiness (stong pa nyid): the ultimate nature of phenomena, namely their lack of inherent existence. The ultimate understanding of emptiness goes together with the spontaneous arising of boundless compassion for sentient beings. [MR]

Enlightenment (sangs rgyas): synonymous of Buddhahood. The ultimate accomplishment of spiritual training. Consummate inner wisdom united with infinite compassion. A perfect understanding of the nature of mind and of phenomena, that is their relative mode of existence (the way they appears) and their ultimate nature (the way they are). Such understanding is the fundamental antidote to ignorance and therefore to suffering. [MR]

Existence, true, intrinsic, or reality (bden 'dzin): A property attributed to phenomena, suggesting that they could be independent objects, existing in themselves, and having properties that belong to them intrinsically. [MR]

Habitual tendencies (bag chags): habitual patterns of thought, speech or action created by what one has done in past lives. AT: habits, inclinations, impregnations. [MR]

Ignorance (ma rig pa): An erroneous way to conceive of beings and things, which consist in attributing to them an existence that is real, independent, solid, and intrinsic. [MR]

Illusion ('khrul pa): All ordinary perception deformed by ignorance. [MR]

Impermanence (mi rtag pa): It has two aspects: gross impermanence is pertains to visible change; subtle impermanence reflects the fact that nothing can remain identical to itself, even for the shortest conceivable moment. [MR]

Interdependence or "dependent origination" (rten cing 'brel bar 'byung ba): a fundamental element of Buddhist teaching according to which phenomena are understood not as discretely existent entities, but as the coincidence of interdependent conditions. [MR]

Kalpa (bskal pa): A great kalpa, which corresponds to a cycle of formation and destruction of a universe, is divided into eighty intermediate kalpas. An intermediate kalpa is composed of one small kalpa during which the span of life, etc., increases and one small kalpa during which it decreases. [MR]

Karma (las): A Sanskrit word meaning "action", which refer to the law of cause an effect related to our thoughts, words and behavior. According to the Buddha's teachings, beings' destinies, joys, sufferings, and perceptions of the universe are due neither to chance nor to the will of some all-powerful entity. They are the result of previous actions. In the same way, beings' future are determined by the positive or negative quality of their current actions. Distinction is made between collective karma, which defines our general perception of the world, and individual karma, which determines our personal experiences. [MR]

Lama (Tib. bla ma, Skt. guru): (1) spiritual teacher, explained as the contraction of bla na med pa, "nothing superior", (2) often used loosely for Buddhist monks or yogis in general. [MR]

Liberation (thar pa): to be free from suffering and the cycle of existences. This is not yet the attainment of full Buddhahood. [MR]

Lower realms (ngan song): the hells, the realms of pretas (tortured spirits) and of animals. [MR]

Meditation (sgom): A process of familiarization with a new perception of phenomena. Distinction is made between analytical meditation and contemplative meditation. The object of the former could be a point to be studied (for instance the notion of impermanence) or else a quality that we wish to develop (such as love and compassion). The latter allows us to recognize the ultimate nature of the mind and to remain within the realization of this nature, which lies beyond conceptual thought. [MR]

Merit (Tib. bsod nams, Skt. punya): good karma, the energy generated by positive actions of body, speech and mind. [MR]

Middle Way (Tib. dbu ma, Skt. madhyamika) : Buddhism' move elevated form of philosophy, so called because it avoids the two extremes of nihilism and of belief in the reality of phenomena (eternalism or materialism) [MR]

Mind (sems), see also consciousness: In Buddhist term, the ordinary condition of the mind is characterized by ignorance and delusion. A succession of conscious instants gives it an appearance of continuity. In absolute terms, the mind has three aspects: emptiness, clarity (ability to know all things) and spontaneous compassion. [MR]

Nirvana (myang 'das): "Beyond suffering," expresses several levels of enlightenment, depending on whether our viewpoints is from the Basic Vehicle or the Great Vehicle. [MR]

Obscurations (Tib. sgrib pa, Skt. avarana): factors which veil one's Buddha-nature. [MR]

Path (lam): The spiritual training that allows one to free oneself from the cycle of existence (samsara), then reach the state of Buddhahood. [MR]

Phenomena (snang ba): what appears to the mind, through sensory perceptions and mental events. [MR]

Rebirth, reincarnation (skyes): The successive states that are experienced by the flow of consciousness, and which are punctuated by death, bardo, and birth. [MR]

Refuge: (1) skyabs yul, the object in which one takes refuge, (2) skyabs 'gro, the practice of taking refuge. [MR]

Relative truth (kun rdzob bden pa): lit. "all-concealing truth". This refers to phenomena in the ordinary sense, which, on the level of ordinary experience, are perceived as real and separate from the mind and which thus conceal their true nature. [MR]

Samsara ('khor ba): the wheel or round of existence; the state of being unenlightened in which the mind, enslaved by the three poisons of desire, anger and ignorance, evolves uncontrolled from one state to another, passing through an endless stream of psycho-physical experiences all of which are characterized by suffering. It is only when one has realized the empty nature of phenomena et dispelled all mental obscurations that one can free oneself from samsara. [MR]

Suffering (sdug bsngal): The first the "Four Noble Truths," which are (1) the truth of suffering, which must be seen as beings omnipresent in samsara, (2) the truth of the origin of suffering - the negative emotions that we must eliminate, (3) the truth of the path (spiritual training) that we must take in order to reach liberation, and (4) the truth of the cessation of suffering, the fruit of training or the state of Buddhahood. [MR]

Sutra (mdo): the words of Buddha Shakyamuni, which were transcribed by his disciples. [MR]

Thoughts, discursive (rnam par mi thog pa): A ordinary linking together of thoughts conditioned by ignorance and relative reality. [MR]

Three Jewels (Tib. dkon mchog gsum, Skt. triratna): the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. [MR]

Three poisons (dug gsum): the three negative emotions of bewilderment, attachment and aversion. [MR]

View, meditation and action (lta, sgom, spyod pa): The vision of emptiness must be integrated into our mind via meditation, which must in turn be expressed in altruistic actions, and ultimate enlightened activities. [MR]

Wisdom (shes rab, ye shes): 1) the ability to discern correctly, the understanding of emptiness and 2) the primordial and non-dual knowing aspect of the nature of the mind. [MR]