Please note that this glossary is intended to informally help users with Sanskrit and Tibetan terms on this site, not as a work of scholarship!
(Sanskrit "enlightened being")
The ideal of Mahayana Buddhism: a being who is motivated by helping others rather than by self-grasping. Becoming a bodhisattva is regarded as the way to attaining buddhahood.
Although often used to specifically refer to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni who lived and taught in India and Nepal at about 500 BCE, buddha also refers to any being who has completely and finally awoken from illusion. Thus Buddha Shakyamuni is regarded as neither the first nor the last buddha. In fact, all beings are regarded as having the innate potential of attaining buddhahood.
(Tibetan "Great Perfection")
Profound vajrayana teaching of the Nyingma lineage. Also sometimes referred to as ati or maha ati.
The principal head of the Kagyü lineage, the first Karmapa was Tüsum Khyenpa, the chief student of Gampopa. Subsequently Karma Pakshi was recognised as the incarnation of the Tüsum Khyenpa, Rangjung Dorje the incarnation of Karma Pakshi and so on to the present Karmapa XVII.
A school of Vajrayana Buddhism which originated with the Indian mahasiddhas Tilopa and Naropa and which was later introduced to Tibet by the great translator Marpa Lotsawa during the 11th century CE and subsequently transmitted to Milarepa, Gampopa and the Karmapas.
Important principle in which particular bodies of teaching are handed down from teacher to student in unbroken succession.
An important tecaher with authority to transmit a particular lineage.
(Sanskrit "Great Seal")
Profound vajrayana teaching of the Kagyü lineage.
A realised meditation master of the Vajrayana tradition, often manifesting unconventional behaviour.
(Sanskrit "great vehicle")
A development within Buddhism in which the ultimate goal is taken to be the liberation of all sentient beings from the cycle of confusion and suffering, rather than merely one's own liberation.
A school of Vajrayana Buddhism which was derives from the earliest spread of Buddhism from India to Tibet. The foundation of the Nyingma Lineage is attributed principally to Padmasambhava.
The great Indian mahasiddha who is regarded as the principal founder of Tibetan Buddhism in general and the founder of the Nyingma lineage in particular. Padmasambhava is often referred to as "Guru Rinpoche" meaning "precious guru".
A movement which orginated in nineteenth century Tibet and which was characterised by great teachers of the several principal Tibetan lineages sharing teachings. Many important contemporary teachers have connections to the Rime movement.
Honorific term that is appended to the names of senior Tibetan teachers, especially tulkus. In the West it has also developed as a term of address.
(Sanskrit "Lion of the Shakyas")
Meditation practice of "resting in tranquility", often practised as sitting meditation resting the mind on the breath. (N.B. The second "h" is silent.)
Sanskrit "thread" or "continuity")
Synonym of Vajrayana Buddhism, so called after an important class of sacred literature called tantras.
In the Tibetan tradition, a scroll painting executed upon cloth. Thangkas, which could be rolled up and easily transported, were highly suited to the nomadic lifestyle widespread in many parts of Tibet. (N.B. The "h" is silent.)
A teacher who is recognised as being an incarnation of a previous teacher.
(Sanskrit "adamantine or indestructible vehicle")
A further development of Mahayana Buddhism which emphasises special skillful means for transforming negativity. Vajrayana Buddhism orginated in India but has flourished most especially in Tibet, although some vajrayana schools have existed in China and Japan.
(Japanese from Chinese "ch'an" from Sanskrit "dhyana": "meditation")
A Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism which has been very influential in the West. The Zen school is derived from the Chinese Ch'an school which was itself brought from India by the great teacher Bodhidharma. Ch'an and its derivative schools emphasise the practice of meditation.