Glossary of Terms


We've included common terms you may find on this site and in other writings about Tibetan Buddhism, as well as pronunciations in English.


Ahimsa (ah-HEEM-sah)

non-violence



Amitabha (ah-mee-TAH-bah)

a buddha who created a Pure Land, or realm free from suffering, in which one can attain rebirth by calling out his name



Avalokitesvara (AH-vell-o-kah-TESH-vah-rah)

the boddhisattva of compassion



Bodhisattva (bo-dee-SAHT-vah)

one who postpones his or her own enlightment in order to help liberate others from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, or a buddha who returns to work for sentient beings



Buddha (BOO-dah)

an enlightened being or "awakened one." The historical Buddha is Prince Siddharta Gautama, founder of Buddhism, who lived in India during the fifth century BCE



Chakpu (CHAHK-poo)

a long metal funnel used to apply sand to the mandala design



Compassion

the wish to free others from their suffering



Dalai Lama (DAH-lie LAH-mah)

a title meaning "Ocean of Wisdom." The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and political leader of Tibet. Tenzin Gyatso is the fourteenth Dalai Lama



Deity

an embodiment of perfection



Dharma (DAR-mah)

the teachings of the Buddha



Enlightenment

a state of serenity and knowledge, achieved through meditation, that enables one to be of most benefit to others



Kalachakra (kah-lah-CHAHK-rah)

the "wheel of time." It is also the deity associated with the Kalachakra mandala



Karma (KAR-mah)

the law of cause and effect, through which one's present and future lives are influenced by one's thoughts and actions



Lama (LAH-mah)

a master teacher



Mandala (MAHN-dah-lah)

a circle, often enclosing a square, that is a mystical representation of a spiritual universe



Meditation

a practice of deep concentration of the mind



Namgyal Monastery (NAHM-gyell)

the personal monastery of the Dalai Lama, located in Dharamsala. India, since 1959



Reincarnation

the belief that, after death, a person is reborn again and again until he or she achieves enlightenment



Samsara (sahm-SAR-ah)

the cyclic existence of birth, death, and rebirth



Shinga (SHING-gah)

a wooden scraper used in making the mandala



Vajra (VAH-zhrah)

a hand-held implement that represents the indestructible mind



Many thanks to Susan Dodge Peters, Director of Education, Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester (NY) for allowing us to use this vocabulary list from the educational packet, Sacred Sand Painting of Tibet: Creating a Circle of Peace (1997). Table of ContentsHome