Glossary from The Great Image

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Glossary from The Great Image

compiled by Ani Jinpa Palmo [AJP] from The Great Image. (rje btsun thams chad mkhyen pa bE ro tsa na'i rnam thar 'dra 'bag chen mo). ISBN 1-59030-069-6
still needs to be pasted into individual pages


  • Abbot - mkhan po, in general the transmitter of the monastic vows. This title is also given to a person who has attained a high degree of knowledge of Dharma and is authorized to teach it.
  • Abbot Rabnang - mkhan po rab snang. One of the Indian Dzogchen lineage masters, who was a disciple of the prostitute Barani and the teacher of abbot Maharaja.
  • Abhidharma, Skt. - mngon pa, the third section of the Tripitaka (the other two are Vinaya and Sutras). Systematic teachings on metaphysics, focusing on the training of discriminating knowledge by analyzing elements of experience and investigating the nature of existing things.
  • Absolute truth - don dam, the ultimate nature of the mind and the true status of all phenomena, the state beyond all conceptual constructs that can be known only by primordial wisdom and in a manner that transcends duality.
  • Accomplishment - dngos grub, Skt. siddhi, accomplishment is described as either supreme or common. Supreme accomplishment is the attainment of buddhahood. Common accomplishments are the miraculous powers acquired in the course of spiritual training. The attainment of these powers, which are similar in kind to those acquired by the practitioners of some non-Buddhist traditions, are not regarded as ends in themselves. When they arise, however, they are taken as signs of progress on the path and are employed for the benefit of the teachings and disciples.
  • Adhichitta, Skt. - sems lhag can, Prahevajra's previous incarnation in the celestial realms.
  • Aeon,- bskal pa, Skt. kalpa, world age, cosmic cycle. A great kalpa corresponds to a cycle of formation and destruction of a universe, and is divided into eighty intermediate kalpas. An intermediate kalpa is composed of one small kalpa during which lifespan etc. increases and one small kalpa during which it decreases.
  • Aggregates - phung po, Skt. skandhas, the five aggregates are the basic component elements of form, feeling, perception, conditioning factors and consciousness. When they appear together, the illusion of self is produced in the ignorant mind.
  • Akanishta, Skt. - 'og min, literally "which is not below," the Unexcelled Buddhafield. In general, the highest of all buddhafields; according to Vajrayana, the place where bodhisattvas attain final buddhahood. There are, in fact, six levels of Akanishta, ranging from the highest heaven of the form realm up to the ultimate pure land of the dharmakaya.
  • Ala Zenkar Rinpoche - a lags gzan dkar rin po che, great Nyingmapa scholar from Eastern Tibet who is said to be an emanation of Do Khyentse and at present lives in New York.
  • All-ground consciousness - kun gzhi'i rnam shes, Skt. alaya-vijnana, consciousness as the ground of all experience. According to the Mahayana, the all-ground is the fundamental and indeterminate level of the mind in which karmic imprints are stored.
  • Ananda, Skt. - kun dga' bo, he was the son of Buddha Shakyamuni's uncle and became the Buddha's personal attendant. He could remember every word the Buddha spoke, compiled his teachings, and served as the second patriarch in the oral transmission of the Dharma.
  • Anandagarbha, Skt. - kun dga' snying po, see Adhichitta.
  • Anu Yoga, Skt. - rjes su rnal 'byor, the second of the inner tantras, according to the system of nine vehicles used in the Nyingma tradition. Anu Yoga emphasizes the perfection stage of tantric practice, which consists of meditation on emptiness, as well as the subtle channels, energies and essences of the physical body.
  • Appearances - snang ba, see perceptions.
  • Arhat, Skt. - dgra bcom pa, lit. A "Foe-Destroyer," one who has vanquished the enemies of conflicting emotion and realized the nonexistence of the personal self, thus being forever free from the sufferings of samsara. Arhatship is the goal of the teachings of the fundamental vehicle or Hinayana.
  • Arya, Skt. - 'phags pa, sublime or noble one, one who has transcended samsaric existence. There are four classes of sublime beings: arhats, pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas and buddhas.
  • Asura, Skt. - lha min, demi-god, one of the six classes of beings in samsara. The asuras are usually considered to be similar to the gods with whom they are sometimes classified. Their dominant emotional characteristic is envy and they are constantly at war with the gods of whom they are jealous.
  • Ati, Ati Yoga, Skt. - rdzogs chen, the last and highest of the inner tantras, the summit of the system of nine vehicles according to the Nyingma classification; a synonym of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection.
  • Atsantra Aloke, Skt. - a tsan tra a lo ke, one of the Indian Dzogchen lineage masters who was a disciple of Princess Gomadevi and the teacher of Kukkuraja the Elder.
  • Avalokiteshvara, Skt. - spyan ras gzigs, the "Lord who Sees," name of the Bodhisattva who embodies the speech and compassion of all buddhas; the sambhogakaya emanation of Buddha Amitabha; sometimes referred to as Lokeshvara, the Lord of the World.
  • Awareness, rig pa, Skt. vidya, when referring to the view of the Great Perfection, awareness means consciousness devoid of ignorance and dualistic fixation.




  • Dagnyima - bdag nyi ma, one of the Dzogchen lineage masters who is sometimes designated as a prostitute and sometimes as a nun; prostitute may describe the sub-caste of the origin of this teacher. She received transmission of the mind essence from Rishi Bhashita and became the teacher of Nagarjuna.
  • Daka, Skt. - dpa' bo, lit. hero. Tantric equivalent of a bodhisattva, male equivalent of a dakini.
  • Dakini, Skt. - mkha' 'gro ma, lit. moving through space. The representation of wisdom in female form. There are several levels of dakini: wisdom dakinis who have complete realization and worldly dakinis who possess various spiritual powers. The word is also used as a title for great women teachers and as a respectful form of addressing the wives of spiritual masters.
  • Damaru - da ma ru, a small hand drum made from human skulls used in tantric rituals.
  • Demon - bdud, Skt. mara, this term is used to designate either a malevolent spirit or, symbolically, a negative force or obstacle on the path. The four demons (bdud bzhi) are of the latter kind. The demon of the aggregates refers to the five skandhas (body, feeling, perception, conditioning factors and consciousness), as described in buddhist teachings, which form the basis of suffering in samsara. The demon of the emotions refers to the conflicting emotions, which provoke suffering. The demon of death refers not only to death itself but also to the momentary transience of all phenomena, the nature of which is suffering. The demon child of gods refers to mental wandering and the attachment to phenomena apprehended as truly existent.
  • Deva - lha, gods, the highest of the six classes of samsaric beings, who enjoy the temporal bliss of the heavenly state.
  • Devaraja, Skt. - bde wa ra dza, one of the Indian lineage masters of the Dzogchen teachings, who was a disciple of Manjushri Bhadra and the teacher of Buddhagupta.
  • Development and completion - bskyed rdzogs, the two principal phases of tantric practice. The development stage (bskyed rim) involves meditation on sights, sounds and thoughts as deities, mantras and wisdom respectively. The completion stage (rdzogs rim) refers to the dissolution of visualized forms into and experience of emptiness. It also indicates the meditation on the subtle channels, energies and essential substances of the body. Development and completion may also refer to the first two inner tantras, Maha and Anu.
  • Dhahena Talo, Skt. - dha he na ta lo, a king of Oddiyana who was a direct disciple of Prahevajra and Manjushrimitra. He was the father of Princess Parani and Prince Rajahasti, and the teacher of Rajahasti.
  • Dhahena, Skt. - dha he na, the place where Shri Singha lived when he taught Vairotsana and Lekdrub. It has not been determined whether this is situated in Oddiyana or in central India.
  • Dhanakosha, Skt.- dha na ko sha, treasury of wealth. An island in Oddiyana, present-day western India, encircled by many sublime kinds of trees, which is why it is called Treasury of Wealth.
  • Dharani, Skt. - gzungs, a verbal formula, often quite long, blessed by a buddha or a bodhisattva, similar to the mantras of the Vajrayana, but found in the sutra tradition. The term is also used to refer to the siddhi of unfailing memory.
  • Dharma protector - chos skyong, Skt. dharmapala, the Dharma protectors guard the teaching from being diluted and their transmission from being disturbed or distorted. Protectors are sometimes emanations of buddhas or bodhisattvas, and sometimes spirits, gods or demons that have been subjugated by a great spiritual master and bound under oath.
  • Dharma Senge - dha rma seng ge, a master who lived in the nineteenth century and was a teacher of Shukseb Jetsun and a student of the first Dodupchen Rinpoche.
  • Dharma, Skt. - chos, the common term for the buddhist doctrine. In its widest sense it means all that can be known. In this text, the term is used exclusively to indicate the teaching of the Buddha. It has two aspects: the Dharma of transmission (lung gi chos), namely the teachings that are actually given, and the Dharma of realization (rtogs pa'i chos), or the states of wisdom, etc., which are attained through the application of the teachings. Dharma can also simply mean "phenomena."
  • Dharmadhatu, Skt. - chos dbyings, the absolute expanse; emptiness pervaded with awareness.
  • Dharmakaya, Skt. - chos sku, the first of the three kayas, which is devoid of constructs, like space. The body of enlightened qualities. See Three Kayas.
  • Dharmapalas, Skt. - chos skyong, protectors of the teachings. These are either enlightened beings, or spirits and gods who have been subjugated by great masters and bound under oath to guard the teachings. Their task is to protect the doctrine, its upholders and practitioners.
  • Dharmata, Skt. - chos nyid, the innate nature of phenomena and mind]] - emptiness.
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche - ldil mgo mkhyen brtse rin po che (1910-1991), treasure revealer who was regarded by followers of all the four schools as one of the greatest Tibetan masters of the last century.
  • Distinguishing, Resolving and Self-liberation - shan 'byed, la bzla, rang grol, the three essential points in trekcho meditation, corresponding to the three categories of the Mind Class scriptures.
  • Duality, - gnyis 'dzin, gzung 'dzin, the ordinary perception of unenlightened beings. The apprehension of phenomena in terms of subject and object, and the belief in their true existence.
  • Dusong Mangpoje - 'dus srong mang po rje, King Mangsong Mangtsen's son, who ruled Tibet 676]] - 704.
  • Dzogchen - rdzogs chen, the highest teaching of the Nyingma. See Ati.
  • Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche - rdzongs gsar mkhyen brtse rin po che, reincarnation of Jamyang Chokyi Lodro, who was regarded as the greatest Tibetan master of the last century.



  • Feast offering - tshogs 'khor, Skt. ganachakra, a ritual offering in tantric buddhism in which oblations of food and drink are blessed as the elixir of wisdom and offered to the yidam deity as well as to the mandala of one's own body in order to purify breaches of one's sacred commitments.
  • Fierce Mantras - drag ngags, type of mantra belonging to the wrathful deities that are used to dispel demonic forces that obstruct the buddhist doctrine or the welfare of beings.
  • Five conflicting emotions- nyon mongs lnga, ignorance, desire, anger, jealousy, and pride.
  • Five Early Translations - snga 'gyur lnga, the Dzogchen Mind Class scriptures that were translated by Vairotsana.
  • Five elements - 'byung ba lnga, earth, water, fire and wind or air, as principles of solidity, liquidity, heat and movement, and space.
  • Five eminent beings - dra ma lnga, the five eminent beings were a god called Renowned Chief Protector [Skt. Yasasvi Varapala], a naga called Naga King Takshaka, a yaksha called Meteor Face [Skt. Ulkamukha], an ogre called Skillful Intellect [Skt. Matyaupayika] and a human being called Stainless Reputation [Skt. Vimalakirti]; some sources mention the god Indra in place of Vimalakirti. These five noble beings learnt through their supernatural cognitive powers that the Buddha had passed away, and miraculously gathered at Mount Malaya.
  • Five Families - rigs lnga, Skt. panchakula, the five buddha families: tathagata, vajra, ratna, padma and karma. They represent five aspects of the innate qualities of our enlightened essence. Each of them is presided over by a buddha: Vairochana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi respectively.
  • Five greatnesses - che ba lnga, the greatness of direct manifestation of enlightenment; the greatness of enlightenment in the ultimate dimension of phenomena; the greatness of enlightenment in the dharmakaya; the greatness of enlightenment that proves its own nature; and the greatness of the absolute non-existence of enlightenment.
  • Five kayas - sku lnga, Skt. panchakaya, in the Mahayana, the transcendent reality of perfect buddhahood is described in terms of two, three, four or five bodies or kayas. The two bodies, in the first case, are the dharmakaya, the Body of Truth, and the rupakaya, the Body of Form. The dharmakaya is the absolute or "emptiness" aspect of buddhahood. The rupakaya is subdivided into the sambhogakaya, the Body of Perfect Enjoyment, and the nirmanakaya, the Body of Manifestation. The sambhogakaya, or the spontaneous clarity aspect of buddhahood, is perceptible only to beings of extremely high realization. The nirmanakaya, the compassionate aspect, is perceptible to ordinary beings and appears in the world most often in human form. The system of four bodies consists of the three just referred to together with the svabhavikakaya, or Body of Suchness, which refers to the union of the previous three.
  • Five paths - lam lnga, Skt. panchamarga, the paths of accumulation, joining, seeing, meditation and beyond training. These five paths cover the entire path from sincerely beginning Dharma practice to complete enlightenment.
  • Five poisons - nyon mongs lnga, the five conflicting emotions of anger, desire, ignorance, jealousy and pride.
  • Five precious things - rin chen lnga, gold, silver, turquoise, coral and pearl.
  • Five sciences - rig pa'i gnas lnga, the five disciplines of grammar, dialectics, healing, philosophy, and "arts and crafts."
  • Five wisdoms - ye shes lnga, Skt. panchajnana, the five wisdoms of buddhahood corresponding to the five buddha families: mirror-like wisdom (vajra family), wisdom of equality (jewel family), all-discerning wisdom (lotus family), all-accomplishing wisdom (action family) and wisdom of dharmadhatu ( tathagata family). They represent five distinctive functions of our enlightened essence.
  • Five-peaked Mountain - ri bo rtse lnga, Chinese: Wutaishan, a place in Eastern China sacred to Manjushri, where Vimalamitra is supposed to reside.
  • Formless realm - gzugs med khams, the four highest states of samsaric existence.
  • Four continents - gling bzhi, the four continents located in the four directions around Mount Meru, constituting a universe. They are the semi-circular Sublime Body in the east; the trapezoidal Land of Rose Apples in the south; the circular Bountiful Cow in the west; and the square Unpleasant Sound in the north.
  • Four empowerments - dbang, Skt. abhisheka, transference of wisdom power, from the master to disciples, authorizing and enabling them to engage in a practice and reap its fruit. There are four levels of tantric empowerment. The first is the vase empowerment, which purifies the defilements and obscurations associated with the body, grants the blessings of the Vajra Body, authorizes the disciples to practice the yogas of the development stage, and enables them to attain the nirmanakaya. The second is the secret empowerment. This purifies the defilements and obscurations of the speech faculty, grants the blessings of Vajra Speech, authorizes disciples to practice the yogas of the perfection stage, and enables them to attain the sambhogakaya. The third is the wisdom empowerment, which purifies the defilements and obscurations associated with the mind, grants the blessings of the Vajra Mind, authorizes disciples to practice the yogas of the "Skilful Path," and enables them to attain the dharmakaya. The final empowerment, which is often simply referred to as the fourth initiation, is the word empowerment. This purifies the defilements of body, speech and mind and all karmic and cognitive obscurations; it grants the blessings of primordial wisdom, authorizes disciples to engage in the practice of Dzogchen, and enables them to attain the svabhavikakaya.
  • Four Kayas - sku bzhi, dharmakaya, sambogakaya, nirmanakaya, and svabhavikakaya, the kaya of the nature as it is, which represents the inseparability of the first three.
  • Four truths - bden pa bzhi, the truths of suffering, origin, cessation and path expounded by the Buddha Shakyamuni in his first teaching. These teachings, referred to as the first turning of the Dharma wheel, are the foundation of the Hinayana and Mahayana teachings.
  • Fruition - 'bras bu, Skt. phala, the result of the path, the state of perfect enlightenment.



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  • Upatantra, Skt. - spyod rgyud, the second of the three outer tantras.
  • Vairochana, Skt. - rnam par snang mdzad, the main buddha of the tathagata family corresponding to the aggregate of form.
  • Vajra, Skt. - rdo rje, diamond or vajra weapon, a symbol of indestructibility; also used to represent skilful means or compassion. The vajra is frequently employed in tantric rituals in conjunction with a bell, which in turn symbolizes the wisdom of emptiness.
  • Vajradhara, Skt. - rdo rje 'dzin pa, Vajra-holder. Emanation of Samantabhadra. The dharmakaya buddha of the New Schools. Can also refer to one's personal teacher of Vajrayana or to the all-embracing buddha nature.
  • Vajrapani, Skt. - phyag na rdo rje, a great bodhisattva, one of the eight close sons. He personifies the power and mind of all buddhas.
  • Vajrasattva, Skt. - rdo rje sems dpa', the buddha who embodies the hundred families. The practice of Vajrasattva and recitation of his hundred-syllable mantra are the most effective methods for purifying negative actions. In the Ati Yoga lineage he is the sambhogakaya buddha.
  • Vajrayana, Skt. - rdo rje theg pa, the corpus of teachings and practices based on the tantras, scriptures that discourse upon the primordial purity of the mind. See Secret Mantra.
  • Varanasi - wa ra na si, a city in India on the Ganges, a main place of pilgrimage for Hindus. At nearby Sarnath the Buddha Shakyamuni turned the first wheel of the Dharma with his teachings on the Four Noble Truths.
  • Vehicle - theg pa, Skt. yana, the means for traveling the path to enlightenment.
  • Vidyadhara, Skt. - rig 'dzin, lit. "awareness-holder." Someone of high attainment in the Vajrayana. According to the Nyingma tradition, there are four levels of vidyadhara corresponding to the ten (sometimes eleven) levels of realization of the Sutrayana. They are: 1) the vidyadhara with corporal residue, 2) the vidyadhara with power over life, 3) the Mahamudra vidyadhara, 4) the vidyadhara of spontaneous presence.
  • View - lta ba, Skt. dristi, the authentic point of view, the actual knowledge and experience of the natural state.
  • Vimalamitra, Skt. - dri med bshes gnyen, one of the greatest masters and scholars of Indian Buddhism. He went to Tibet in the 9th century where he taught and translated numerous Sanskrit texts. He was one of the principal sources, together with Guru Padmasambhava, of the Dzogchen teachings in Tibet.
  • Vinaya, Skt. - 'dul ba, the name of the Buddhist ethical teachings in general and of the code of monastic discipline in particular.
  • Vishuddha, Skt. - yang dag, the heruka of the vajra family or the tantric teachings connected to that wrathful deity; one of the Eight Sadhana Teachings of the Nyingma School.
  • Vow-holder - dam can, oath-bound guardians and dharmapalas.
  • Vulture Peak - bya rgod phung po'i ri, place near Rajgir in Bihar, central India, where the Buddha taught.
  • Wisdom - 1) shes rab, Skt. prajna, the ability to discern correctly, the understanding of emptiness. 2) ye shes, Skt. jnana, the primordial and non-dual knowing aspect of the nature of the mind.

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