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Glossary

A

Avalokiteshvara – Buddha of Compassion. Also known as Chenrezig (Tibetan) and Kuan Yin (Chinese).

B

Bardo – “the state between”; referring to the period between death and rebirth.

Bodhicitta – the determination to attain Enlightenment to liberate all living beings from the painful chains of delusion.

Bodhisattva – an enlightened Being that keeps returning into our world to show us the path to happiness.

Buddha – the awakened one. The term “Buddha” refers to all Beings that have attained full Enlightenment.

C

Chenrezig - Tibetan name for Avalokiteshvara, Buddha of Compassion. (See also Avalokiteshvara)

D

Dakini – literally, this means “sky goers” or “sky walkers” in Tibetan. Dakinis refer to enlightened celestial Beings and highly spiritual women.

Dharma – right conduct: seeing, thinking, feeling, speaking and acting in ways conducive to lasting happiness, as propagated in the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Dharmakaya – one of the three states of being of the Buddha and is considered to be the state beyond existence and all concepts.

E

Enlightenment – a state of mind purified of all delusions, with all positive potentials of wisdom, compassion and skilful means fully activated.

G

Geshe – “professor” of Buddhist philosophy, practice and ritual – a title obtained after many years of ardent monastic study.

Guru – spiritual teacher, mentor and friend. The one who can free our enlightened potential, who can destroy our destructive self-concepts and uncover our naturally clear and compassionate true mode of being.

H

Heruka – tantric form of Avalokiteshvara.

K

Kalachakra – tantric deity.

Karma – “action”; the universal law of cause and effect. This suggests that all positive, negative and neutral actions of our body, speech and mind will have a corresponding reaction.

Khata – it is a Tibetan custom to offer a white silk scarf to our Gurus, elders or people we respect, as a symbolic representation of our respect to them. Khatas also symbolise our prayers which we offer to the Gurus or Buddhas.

Kuan Yin – The Chinese form of Avalokiteshvara, Buddha of Compassion. (See also Avalokiteshvara)

L

Ladrang – a Guru’s household and administrative office. The ladrang forms the headquarters of a Buddhist organisation.

Lama – Tibetan word for spritual teacher. (See also Guru)

Lamrim Chenmo – The Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, an invaluable practice guide written by Lama Tsongkhapa which outlines the precise steps to Enlightenment.

Lineage – teachings and practices transmitted from teachers to students who, by mastering them, become teachers themselves. In this way, the stream of wisdom and blessing passes unbroken through time, making authentic attainments possible wherever there is a pure bond between Guru and disciple.

M

Mahasiddha – supremely attained Being. Highly realised practitioners who are known to manifest unconventional means (crazy wisdom) to inspire and awaken others.

Malas – A mala is a string of prayer beads, similar to a rosary. It usually consists of 108 beads, made from various materials and assists in the counting of mantra recitations. (See also Mantras)

Mandala – a symbolic representation of the universe. To make a mandala offering to the Buddhas is to offer up all that is precious within the universe, and all of one’s attachments and aversions, thereby letting go of them. This offering is a very powerful way of accumulating positive imprints.

Manjushri – Buddha of Wisdom.

Mantras – prayers that are the spiritual energy of the Buddhas in the form of sound. Reciting mantras evokes the energy of the Buddhas.

Merit – the result of a positive action done without personal motive. The beneficial energy gained in this way will not be exhausted but propels us further on our spiritual path.

Migtsema – a supreme mantric prayer to Lama Tsongkhapa, invoking the three Bodhisattvas he embodies: Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), Manjushri (Buddha of Wisdom) and Vajrapani (Buddha of Spiritual Power). (See also Lama Tsongkhapa)

Mudra – hand gestures used in ritual practice, corresponding to the flow of subtle energies activated in spiritual practice.

O

Oral transmission – permission and empowerment for recitation practice which is passed from Guru to disciple.

P

Palden Lhamo – female Dharma protector famously associated with Tibet and the Dalai Lamas.

(Six) Paramitas – also known as the Six Perfections. Enlightened qualities that help us to progress in our spiritual practice and eventually attain liberation from suffering: Generosity, Patience, Joyous Effort, Ethics, Meditative Concentration and Wisdom.

Practice – practising the Dharma functions on two levels: 1.The outward practice of making offerings, prayers, prostrations etc. to the Buddhas as a way of connecting to the enlightened mind. 2. The inner practice of transforming negative, harmful qualities (anger, jealousy, greed etc.) into positive, enlightened qualities (patience, kindness, generosity etc.).

Prostrations – a purification practice which can involve half or full prostrations, depending on which Buddhist tradition we follow. Prostrations purify harmful actions of the body and introduce us to the bliss of humility.

Protector (or Dharma Protector) – Beings sworn to protect the Dharma. There are worldly as well as enlightened Dharma Protectors and they usually emanate in wrathful forms that are very helpful in clearing obstacles to our Dharma practice. We are advised to rely on the enlightened Dharma Protectors as they have a pure motivation and greater clairvoyance than the worldly protectors.

Puja – ritual set of prayers and offerings, which clear obstacles and invite blessings.

R

Rinpoche – meaning “greatly precious one” in Tibetan. Respectful and loving way to address a highly attained spiritual teacher.

S

Sadhana – a collection of prayers and mantras which are to be recited on a regular, daily basis and which help transform our lives by cutting away negative states of mind and developing enlightened qualities.

Samaya – the sacred bond and commitment to one’s spiritual teacher, based on strong faith, devotion and effort.

Samsara – the cycle of existence where sentient beings continue to create their own sufferings and experience it lifetime after lifetime.

Sangha – the community of monks and nuns. On an absolute level, this refers to the field of all enlightened Beings.

Setrap – an enlightened Dharma Protector who is an emanation of Buddha Amitabha. Setrap is the principal protector of Gaden Shartse Monastery.

Shakyamuni – Lord Buddha who, 2,500 years ago, set down the liberating teachings that we continue to follow today.

Shunyata – Sanskrit for “Emptiness”, which explains that all phenomena are void of inherent existence as we know it.

Stupa – a representation of the enlightened mind.

T

Tantra – the practice of taking the result onto the path where we identify with and work directly with the energies of an enlightened Being, instead of our limited concepts of ourselves. Tantra is practised by the most advanced, sincere and committed practitioners.

Tara – a great female Buddha who manifests in 21 forms. She is most commonly known in her Green Tara form, embodying Enlightened Activity, and is extremely swift in coming to our aid and answering our prayers.

Thangkas – traditional Tibetan paintings of deities, to be used for meditation and practice.

Three Jewels – The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Tsa tsas – small portable Buddha statues made from clay.

(Lama/Je) Tsongkhapa – One of Buddhism’s most prominent masters from Tibet in the 14th Century, who was especially known for his ardent study, practice and teaching of the Dharma. The founder of the Gelug tradition, Lama Tsongkhapa is said to be the direct incarnations of three great Bodhisattvas – Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), Manjushri (Buddha of Wisdom) and Vajrapani (Buddha of Spiritual Power).

Tulku – literally, “Emanation Body” in Tibetan. The title refers to highly attained Beings who have the power to emanate and reincarnate at will, and who have full control of their death and rebirth.

V

Vajrayogini – embodying the essence of wisdom and compassion, this female Buddha’s tantric practice is extremely relevant for our present time since her practice becomes more powerful as our delusions become stronger.

Vajrapani – Buddha of Spiritual Power.

W

Wheel of Dharma (turning the) – teaching the Dharma.

Y

Yamantaka – a wrathful emanation of Manjushri. His practice can cut off the roots of the strongest greed and hatred by destroying the delusion that precedes them.

Yidam – a meditational deity (such as Tara or Manjushri) whom practitioners concentrate their prayers and practice on.

Z

Zen – the top of three parts of cloth which makes up a Tibetan monk’s robes.