Dharma Terms
Arhat - A Hinayana practitioner who achieves the realization of the egolessness of the self.

Avalokiteshvara [Skt]-the Buddha of Compassion also known as Chenrezig, Kuan Yin..etc. Om Mani Padme Hum is Avalokiteshvara's mantra.

Buddha Nature - Enlightened basic nature of all beings. See also Tathagatagarbha.

Cakra or chakra - Circle or wheel of energy. The energy (prana) is said to flow in the body through three main channels called nadis. The three nadis are Susumna situated inside the spinal column, Pingala and Ida. Pingala and Ida start respectively from the right anf left nostrils, move up to the crown of the head and course downwards to the base of the spine. These two nadis intersect with each other and also the Susumna. These junctions of the the nadis are known as chakras of which there are six main intersections.

Dharma - Truth or law. Often used to refer to the teachings of the Buddha, also called Buddhadharma.

Dharma Art - Term coined by Chogyam Trungpa to refer to art that is based on nonagression and that expresses the basic dharma, or truth, of things as they are.

Dharmakaya - Truth or Dharma body. Refers to unoriginated (unborn), primordial awareness devoid of concept. One of the three bodies or dimensions of enlightenment. See also kaya.

Doha - Verse or song spontaneously composed by vajrayana practitioners as an expression of realization.

Drala - The manifestation, strength or bravery that transcends or conquers aggression. Artistic integrity imbued in all the arts that radiates a sense of transcendental grace and majestic creativity.

Guru - Sanskrit for Lama. A qualified master, spiritual guide or teacher, especially in the tantric and vajrayana tradition of Buddhism.

Guru Rinpoche - "Precious Teacher," the name by which Padmasambhava, the founder of Buddhism in Tibet, is often refered to by the Tibetan people. Also Master Padma, Vajra Guru or Padmakara. The Vajra Guru mantra expresses his energy.

Hinayana - Narrow way or path. The first of the three yanas of Tibetan Buddhism. The Hinayana focuses on meditation practice and discipline, egolessness of the self (individual salvation) and not causing harm to others.

Jalus or jalu or ja-lus-pa- Tibetan - Rainbow Body of Light. The process that enables the body to be reabsorbed back into the light essence of the elements that created it.

Kagyu - Tibetan for "ear-whispered" or "teaching lineage." Ka refers to the oral instructions of the teacher.

Kaliyuga {Sanskrit} - "degenerate age" - An age during which negativity grows strong and Dharma declines or remains hidden due to the lack of karma of the general population; ours is considered such an age.

Karma - Deed, merit or action the universal law of cause and effect.

Kaya - Body or dimension.

Kundalini - Often described as the Cosmic Bliss Energy in the body. This Buddha-Nature energy when awakened can rise up the spine to the crown through the channel known as the Susumna Nadi, can travel to the six chakras, the subtle centers of the body or by an advanced saint or Buddha allowed to liberate on top of the head like a candle flame. Mantras and meditation techniques are used to develop and channel this Divine energy.

Maha Ati - [Tibetan: Dzogchen] Great Perfection. The ultimate teaching of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Maha Ati is considered the final fruition of the Vajrayana path. It teaches the indivisibility of space and wisdom, spontaneous prescence and the desolidification of conceptual mind.

Mahakala - Chief Dharmapala, or protrector of the Dharma. They are wrathful and usually depicted as either black or dark blue.

Mahamudra - "Great seal, symbol or gesture." The central meditative transmission of the Kagyu lineage.

Mahasiddha - Tantric master with extraordinary realization and siddhi. See Keith Dowman's book "Masters of Mahamudra" for their life stories.

Mahayana - Great vehicle. One of the three major schools of Buddhism, which emphasizes the emptiness of phenomena, the development of compassion, and the acknowledgement of universal Buddha nature. Culminates in the realization of the egolessness of both self and phenomena.

Mani - Usually refers to the six-syllable mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum or Hung.

Mani wheel - Another name for prayer wheel. Commonly used in Tibet and Nepal.

Manjushri - Bodhisattva Deity of wisdom, learning and the arts. Often shown holding a book and a double-edged sword of prajna (discriminating awareness) and jnana (intuitive cognisance infused with wisdom). The sword of Manjushri also represents intellectual sharpness and cutting through ignorance and delusion.

Mantra - Primordial resonance or sacred word or sound often used as a tool to take one out of conceptual habits and into spontaneous presence. Mind protection. Mantras are often tuned to resonate with kundalini, and/or can be for enhancing concentration and mind control.

Marpa - The chief disciple of Naropa and subsequent guru of Milarepa. Marpa of Lhotrak brought the Kagyu teachings from India to Tibet in the eleventh century. He is often called "Marpa the translator." A farmer with a large family, he was known not only for his meditative realization of mahamudra but for his attainment of spiritual realiztion within a secular lifestyle.

Milarepa - The chief disciple of Marpa, Jetsun Milarepa is the most famous of all the Tibetan poets and one of Tibet's greatest saints. After being tested by Marpa and studying with him, Milarepa became a wandering yogi who spent many years in solitary retreat. Due to his karma of destroying food crops by creating hailstorms he suffered deprivation and survived many years only eating nettles which turned his skin tone green.

Naropa - The chief disciple of Tilopa, Naropa was a great Indian scholar. realizing that he understood the words but not the inner meaning of the teachings, he left Nalanda University to find his teacher. Naropa endured many trials in order to attain mahamudra, and he is renowned as a great Mahasiddha, or tantric master, of the Kagyu lineage.

Nirmanakaya - Emanation body. The Buddha in human form. In the Mahayana this usually refers to Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha; in the Vajrayana, it may refer to the body, speech and mind of the guru.

Nirvana - Enlightenment or realized state of nonconceptual inner peace. Often it refers to the opposite of samsara. However with Maha Ati and Mahamudra realization it is regarded as a one-sided relative enlightenment and not the full enlightenment of non-duality.

Padmasambhava - The Lotus Born. Also referred to as Guru Rinpoche, or the "Precious Teacher", Padmasambhava introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century.

Paramita - Literally, "gone to the other shore." The paramitas are the transcendant actions or virtues practiced by a Bodhisattva. The six paramitas are generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and wisdom. The paramitas differ from ordinary activities or virtues in that they are all based on realization free from ego-clinging.

Phowa or Powa - a practice designed to help a dying person transfer their consciousness to a pure realm at the moment of death.

Prajna - Knowledge as well as the natural sharpness of awareness that sees, discriminates, and also cuts through the veils of ignorance.

Prajnaparamita - The sixth paramita, considered to be the wisdom eye without which the other five transcendant actions of a Bodhisattva would be blind. Prajnaparamita is called the mother of all Buddhas and is sometimes depicted as a youthful smiling deity.

Pranayama - Form of vajrayana yogic practice that involves controlling mind, body and breath.

Preta - Hungry ghost in the six realms of being.

Rupakaya - The combo of nirmanakaya and sambhogakaya.


Samadhi - Profound meditative illumination into a gone beyond state of sublime consciousness. It refers to a state of total involvement in which the mind rests unwaveringly and the content of the meditation and the meditator are non-dual.

Sambhogakaya - Enjoyment body or Bliss body. The indivisibility of emptiness and compassion communicating interdimensionally.

Samsara - Vicious cycle of existence, arising from ignorance (clinging and solidifying self, thought and emotion) and characterized by suffering. See Six Realms.

Sangha - Community of Dharma practitioners.

Shunyata - Emptiness, openness, or the unlimited creative potential of each moment. The experience of which is central to the development of compassion and skillful means in the Mahayana. A completely open and unbounded clarity of mind.

Six Realms- In Tibetan Buddhism the six realms are samsara. They are:

Loka - Corresponding Mental Poison
God Realm (Devaloka) - Pride
Jealous God Realm (Asuraloka)- Envy
Human Realm(AverageJoepalooka)-Desire
Animal Realm (Beetlemania) - Ignorance
Preta Realm (Ghostfrustta) - Greed
Hell Realm (Foxnewsjoka) - Anger

Skandha - Aggregate, group or heap. the five skandhas are the five aggregates or psychophysical factors such as perception and consciousness, etc., that make up what we generally understand as personality or ego.

Sutra - One of the many texts on the Dharma attributed to Shakyamuni Buddha. A sutra generally takes the form of a discourse by the Buddha and a dialoque with his students.

Tantra - Synonym for Vajrayana, one of the three great vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism. Tantra literally means "continuity". It may refer to Vajrayana texts as well as the systems of meditation they describe.

Tathagatagarba - Buddha nature, the enlightened basic nature of all beings, is a central theme of the Mahayana. Tathagata is an epithet of the Buddha that means "one who has gone beyond." Garbha means "womb" or "essence."

Thangka - Form of Tibetan religious painting that depicts the gurus, mandalas, Deities, and other iconographical aspects of the Vajrayana.

Tulku - Tibetan for nirmanakaya, tulku often refers to the incarnation of a man or woman who had previously attained some degree of sainthood.

Vajra - (Tibetan dorje) Adamantine or having the qualities of a diamond. In the Vajrayana, vajra refers to the basic indestructible nature of wisdom and enlightenment. A vajra is also a tantric ritual sceptor representing a thunderbolt, the sceptor of the king of the gods, Indra.

Vajrayana - Diamond way or indestructible vehicle. The third of the great three yanas of Tibetan Buddhism. it is synonymous with tantra and is sometimes subdivided into four or six subsidiary yanas.

Vidyadhara - Title for a Vajrayana teacher, signifying a holder of wisdom or a crazy wisdom lineage hoder.

Vimalamitra - Indian teacher who, along with Guru Rinpoche, brought the teachings of Maha Ati or Dzogchen, to Tibet in the eighth century.

Vajra Guru Mantra - Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Pema Siddhi Hum.

Vipashyana - Awareness practice. shamatha and vipashyana together constitute the basic practice of meditation. Vipashyana also refers to the development of insight and discriminating awareness in meditation practice. It is the hallmark of developing the egolessness of the self in the Hinayana.

Visual Dharma - term for visual arts that embody the principles of egolessness and nonaggression. See also Dharma art.

Yana - Vehicle in which, symbolically, the practitioner travels on the road to enlightenment. The different vehicles, or yanas, correspond to different views of the journey, and each yana comprises a body of knowledge and practice. The three great yanas in Tibetan Buddhism are the Hinayana, Mahayana and the Vajrayana.