Glossary


Buddha
(Tib: Sangye / Lit: the awakened one or the enlightened one / Pali: Siddartha Gotama)

The name denotes a state of mind. "Sang" means "completely purified" of all obscurations. "Gye" means "completely unfoldment" of all qualities and wisdom.

The Buddha of our time is the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. He is the fourth of the 1000 Buddhas of our eon.

Siddhartha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from ancient India who founded Buddhism. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha (P. sammasambuddha,S. Samyaksambuddha) of our age, “Buddha” meaning “awakened one” or “the enlightened one”. The time of his birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE, but more recent opinion may be dating his death to between 411 and 400 BCE.

Guatama, also known as Sakyamuni or Shakyamuni (“sage of the Shakyas”), is the key figure in Buddhism, and accounts of his life, discourses, and monastic rules are believed by Buddhists to have been summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to Gautama were passed down by oral tradition, and first committed to writing about 400 years later.

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Buddha with Dharmachakra mudra “Turning the Wheel of Dharma”

After Buddhas enlightenment, he gave the first teachings “The Four Noble Truths” at Deer Park (now called Sarnath) in Varnasi, India.

This Mudra represents this important event called setting into motion the wheel of the teaching of the Dharma. Dharmachakra in Sanskrit, also referred to as “Turning the wheel of Dharma”.

The thumb and index finger of both hands touch at their tips to form a circle which represents the Wheel of Dharma, as well as the union of Method and Wisdom on the highest level. The three fingers on the right hand represent the three vehicles of buddhas teaching: the middle finger - the hearers of the teachings, the ring finger - solitary realizers, and the little finger – Mahayana or Great Vehicle.

The three fingers on the left hand represent The Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha). The hands are held in front of the heart symbolizing that these teachings come straight from the Buddha's heart.

Meditating on the Buddha develops all qualities of enlightenment and the realization that your nature and Buddha's nature are one and the same.

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Buddha of Limitless Light
(Tib: Opame / Skt: Amitaba)

The Buddha of limitless light represents the transformation of desire into discriminating wisdom. One of the qualities of a Buddha is what is called Tathagata or one who has gone over into suchness (tathata) and realized the transcendent reality of all things. Having transcended they can also appear in purified embodiments to reach out to all beings. Amitaba is one of the five transcendent Buddhas of the five Buddha families. Over the centuries these five Buddhas became popular and a symbolic key for the understanding of spiritual transformation. Amitaba is the Buddha of the west where his pure land sukhavati (dewa-chen) is located. Amitaba is the most popular of the five Buddhas and there are many practices associated with his quality.The practice of Phowa (one of the six yogas of Naropa) transfers the consciousness of the practitioner to Amitabas pure land at the moment of death. He is the color of the setting sun representing the fire element, head of the lotus family and he sits in meditation posture holding a bowl full of nectar.

Meditating on Amitaba will transform desire into discriminating wisdom as well as other qualities of enlightenment.

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Buddha of Limitless Life
(Tib: Tsepame / Skt: Amitaus)

The Buddha of Limitless Life represents long life and health. Considered an emanation of Amitaba (Buddha of Limitless Light), the Buddha of Limitless Life's focus is to bring all bodily qualities to full development and prevent untimely death. He often appears in a group of three long life Buddhas: Buddha of Limitless Life, White Tara and the Victorious One (Ushnishavijaya). A very popular practice among the Tibetans, it is used in many lineages and his life extending methods still survive today.

He is the color of the setting sun representing the fire element, and belongs to the lotus family. Sitting in meditation posture, he holds a bowl full of long life nectar. Out of this bowl grows a flowering Ashoka branch which symbolizes the perfect bloom of the unfolding spiritual-meditative life. The Buddha of Limitless Life wears the clothes and ornaments of the joy state of the Buddhas.

Meditating on The Buddha of Limitless life one can realize the immortality of mind.

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Buddha of Wisdom
(Tib: Jam pal ara pa tsa / Skt: Manjushri Arapachana)

Manjushri represents the infinite wisdom of all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three times (past, present, future). He appears in many peaceful and protective forms depending on the focus. Here in his simple form he is assigned to the Kriya-Tantra and belongs to the Diamond family of the Buddha Akshobya. When Manjushri appears in the power field of the Buddha Amitaba however, he belongs to the Lotus family. He is sometimes considered the oldest Bodhisattva with many stories about him. The most well known Nepali legend tells of how Manjushri drained a lake in the Katmandu Valley by splitting the mountain range to the south with a single blow of his sword. This exposed a radiant island of light which was created by a previous Buddha who planted the root of a lotus there. Manjushri made this special place accessible to all beings for the spread of the Buddhadharma. The name Kathmandu comes from the root kath which means town and Mandu a modification of Manju. As the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu translates to ”Manjushri City”. The famous stupa of Swayambhunath now stands where the island once was.

Manjushri is golden orange in color with his right hand holding the sword of wisdom that cuts through all dualistic concepts. His left hand holds the stem of an open lotus flower which supports the book of infinite wisdom.

Meditating on Manjushri promotes the development of relative and absolute wisdom.

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Diamond Holder
(Tib: Dorje Chang / Skt: Vajradhara)

Diamond Holder represents the essence of all Buddhas, the union of space and bliss. He is the direct contact with enlightenment and holds the complete enlightened transmission of all the Buddhas. The ultimate source of the Karma Kagyu lineage, Diamond Holder passed the teachings directly to the great Indian yogi Tilopa. Tilopa passed these teachings to his student Naropa and Naropa to his student forming an unbroken lineage of yogis to the 1st Karmapa born in 1110 AD. The Karmapa became the first conscious incarnate of Tibet and has held the transmission to the present 17th Karmapa Thaye Dorje. In the lineage, Diamond Holder is an expression of the enlightened state of the Karmapa, and as the teacher either appears in his human form as Karmapa with his black crown or as Diamond Holder. There are many guru-yoga practices involving the Karmapa. All of the yidams taught by Buddha Shakyamuni belong to the five Buddha families, which are all one with the Buddha Diamond Holder. He is blue with arms crossed at his heart holding a dorje and bell representing the union of space and joy. Sitting in the Vajra position on a pedestal and lotus throne he wears the ornaments of the Joy State.

Meditating on Diamond Holder will help identify our Buddha nature and develop other useful qualities of enlightenment.

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Diamond Mind
(Tib: Dorje Sempa / Skt: Vajrasatva)

Diamond Mind represents the purifying aspect of all Buddhas. Used in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism in different forms, he is the Joy State (Skt. Sambogakaya) of the Buddha Akshobya. As part of the foundational practices (Ngondro), the united purifying power of the Buddhas of all times and directions is employed to remove our negative imprints still with us from the past. The practice especially targets anger, hate and ill-will, transforming them into mirror-like wisdom. In this image he is seated in the posture of activity with the right foot extended. His right hand holds a golden dorje vertically to his heart symbolizing method and his left hand holds a silver bell with its mouth upwards at his hip symbolizing wisdom. Diamond Mind is transparent white in color and wears the ornaments of the Joy State.

Meditating on Diamond Mind using his 100 syllable mantra purifies our body, speech, and mind.

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Enlightenment

Complete enlightenment is a state of realization in which the most subtle traces of ignorance about the nature of reality are eliminated and highest wisdom - the state of omniscience - is attained; it is sometimes called "the embodiment of the Three Kayas".

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Green Tara
(Tib: Dolma / Skt: Syama Tara)

Green Tara represents the enlightened activity of female compassion and is said to have been born from the tears of Loving Eyes (Avalokiteshvara). She is the loving and swift liberator who lifts all beings from Samsara, the illusory world of the ego. Her right hand is in the wish-fulfilling mudra symbolizing her ability to provide beings with whatever they desire. Her left hand at her heart is in the mudra of bestowing refuge, her thumb and ring finger are touching representing the union of method and wisdom, the remaining fingers are raised to symbolize the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha).

In her left hand she holds the stem of a blue lotus flower which is a symbol of purity and power. Her emerald green color is related to the wind element, similar to movement, signifies that Tara is always ready to arise and come to the aid of those who need her help.

Meditating on Green Tara protects us from fear and develops compassion as well as other qualities of enlightenment.

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Honed Slate

Honeing is a polishing process where the stone is ground flat with diamond grits. This produces a matt flat polish on slate which is a sedimentary stone.

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Kagyu Lineage

The yogic transmission lineage of the four great schools in Tibetan Buddhism. It involves the old (Nyingma) as well as the new (Sarma) teachings that reached Tibet. This lineage is very practise-orientated and is denoted as the "school of oral transmission". The Kagyu-School came to Tibet around the year 1050 by " Marpa the translator". Marpas disciple Milarepa passed these teachings to Gampopa. Their power is derived from the close bond between teacher and student.

Gampopa's four main disciples founded four major and eight minor schools. Today the four great schools are joined into the Karma Kagyu Lineage whose head is the Karmapa. From the eight minor schools the Drugpa and Drikung Kagyu have a lot of followers in Bhutan and Ladakh.

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Karmapa, The
(Lit: Activity Man)

First consciously reborn Lama of Tibet and the spiritual head of the Kagyu Lineage. The Karmapas embody the activity of all Buddhas and were prophesized by Buddha Shakyamuni and by Guru Rinpoche. Before his death most Karmapas leave a letter containing the exact conditions of their next rebirth.

Up until now, there have been seventeen incarnations:

  • Dusum Chenpa 1110 - 1193
  • Karma Pakshi 1204 - 1283
  • Rangjung Dorje 1284 - 1339
  • Rolpe Dorje 1340 - 1383
  • Deshin Shegpa 1384 - 1415
  • Tongwa Donden 1416 - 1453
  • Chodrag Gyamtso 1454 - 1506
  • Mikyo Dorje 1507 - 1554
  • Wangchug Dorje 1556 - 1603
  • Choying Dorje 1604 - 1674
  • Yeshe Dorje 1676 - 1702
  • Changchub Dorje 1703 - 1732
  • Dudul Dorje 1733 - 1797
  • Thegchog Dorje 1798 - 1868
  • Khakhyab Dorje 1871 - 1922
  • Rangjung Rigpe Dorje 1924 - 1981
  • Thaye Dorje 1983 - *

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Kayas, Three

Three states of the totality of the completely enlightened experience. The three states (or bodies) of experience of a Buddha. State of Truth, State of Joy, State of Emanation.

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Klesha

Disturbing Emotions, one of the eight kinds of consciousness.

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Loving Eyes
(Tib: Chenresig / Skt: Avalokiteshvara)

Loving Eyes represents the enlightened activity of all the buddhas infinite compassion. He is the heart of perfect wisdom and shows how the power of compassion can transform our consciousness to it's highest potential. In his four armed form he is holding the jewel of enlightmenent at his heart, symbolic of Loving Eyes compasionate bodhichitta motivation. His outer right hand holds a crystal mala representing his ability to liberate beings from samsara and to remind the practitioner to recite his six syllable mantra; OM MA NI PE ME HUNG which transforms the six disturbing emotions. His outer left hand holds an open lotus flower with two buds representing his basic purity and the three times - that Loving Eyes compassionate wisdom encompasses past, present, and future. Over his left shoulder is draped the skin of a wild deer to show that he posses the kindness of this animal and he will not harm anyone. He wears the ornaments of the joy state consisting of the five silk robes and eight kinds of jewelery such as the five jeweled bodhisattva crown.

Meditating on loving Eyes will develop compassion as well as other qualities of enlightenment.

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Mahakala
(Tib: Nagpo Chenpo / Skt: Mahakala)

Mahakala is a protector of all Tibetan Buddhism and varies according to the different Lineages. Here in his two armed form as Bernakchen (Black Coat) he is the main protector of the Karma Kagyu Linneage and the Karmapas. Often misunderstood because of his powerful and protective appearance, his vertical wisdom eye denotes his enlightened state and that he works for the benefit of all beings. The various objects and ornaments he holds represent his powerful activity and the transformation of the five Kleshas (negative afflictions) into the ive wisdoms.

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Mantra
(Tib: Ngag)

Syllables and words, usually in Sanskrit, protecting mind of disturbances and connecting inner and outer truth. Mantras mostly include the name of a Buddha aspect and are repeated very often to develop the quality of this aspect of Enlightenment. Mantras are an important part of  Diamondway meditations.

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Medicine Buddha
(Tib: Sangye Menla / Skt: Baisjaya Guru Vaiduryaprabha)

Medicine Buddha represents the healing power of the Buddhas. The “Radiant Healing Master of Lapis Lazuli” is one of the most honored figures in Buddhism. He protects from karmic illnesses and removes both the symptoms and causes of sickness. Used in all schools of Buddhism he appears in the Sutras which compare his Eastern Pure Land to that of Amitabha's, and rebirth there will develop enlightenment as well. Medicine Buddha is often shown in the company of seven other Medicine Buddhas, one who is Shakyamuni himself. The Historical Buddha often called himself the healer of suffering in the world, and that Dharma was the medicine.

Medicine Buddha is dark blue like lapis lazuli. He wears the robes of a monk and sits in the vajra position. His right hand rests upon his knee with palm facing outward in the wish fulfilling mudra, holding a stem of a myrobalan plant renowned for its healing properties. His left hand lies in his lap and supports a lapis bowl filled with the nectar of long life. Simply seeing or touching Medicine Buddha statues or scroll paintings is said to have a healing effect.

Meditating on Medicine Buddha protects and heals bodily suffering as well as all the suffering of Samsara.

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Mind

General expression for the clarity and ability to experience, which are the basis for everything that is experienced. A stream of indivdual moments of clear and conscious experience. Usually we don't recognise the true open and clear limitlessness of mind. We are captured by the experiences in mind, which come and go like pictures in a mirror. One distinguishes between two types of mind:

  • The un-enlightened mind: experience of conditioned and relative views and phenomena.
  • The enlightened mind: absolute view, free of perturbing feelings and free of confusion.

By its very nature, the mind is empty, just like space. It does not possess any physical or "substantive" form but is empty. Its characteristics are clarity and awareness. Its expression is limitless. In no way is it limited. In other words, it can reach anything.

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Mudra
(Lit: Seal, something leaving a deep impression in the mind)

In Buddhism there is a great variety of symbolic gestures using one or both hands or the whole body. They are called Mudras. The gestures of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas are Mudras as well as e.g. the posture of our hands during meditation.

One well known Mudra is Buddhas right hand touching the earth, after he attained Enlightenment ('calling the earth as witness for enlightenment'). Another well known Mudra is the posture of our hands during meditation: We put the right hand into the left one. This symbolizes meditation and concentration upon the Dharma.

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Mahayana - Great Way
(Tib: Theg Chen / Skt: Mahayana / Lit: The Great Vehicle)

Three states of the totality of the completely enlightened experience. The three states (or bodies) of experience of a Buddha. State of Truth, State of Joy, State of Emanation.

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Refuge
(Tib: Kyab Dro / Lit: protection from suffering)

Entry into the Buddhist path. It is a reorientation towards values that can be trusted permanently. One takes refuge to the state of a Buddha as the goal, in the Dharma - the teachings - as the way and to the Sangha the practioneers (Bodhisattvas) - as the friends on the way. These are called the "Three Jewels". To practice the Diamond Way one needs the additional Refuge in the Three Roots, called Lama, Yidam and Protector. They are the sources of blessing, inspiration and protection along the way.

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sMan-ris style

A mid 15th century style created by the artist sMan-thang-pa sMan-bla-don-grub born in Lho-brag Tibet, a region adjoining Bhutan. Regarded by scholars as the originator of a new stylistic synthesis using Nepalese and Chinese painting techniques of the time.This development of a unique Tibetan style became known as the sMan-ris or “the painting style of sMan [-thang-pa]” which continues down to the present.

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Stupa
(Tib: Chorten)

Monument for happiness and peace in the world. It is a symbol for the mind of a Buddha and for the community of practioneers. The Stupa displays the transformation of all emotions and elements into the five enlightened wisdoms and the five Buddha-families. Their symmetric form usually is filled with relics, Mantras, etc.. Stupas have been built due to various events in the life of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni.

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Thangka

Tibetan for "scroll painting"; an ancient art form that primarily depicts sacred images, such as Buddha aspects, or accomplished teachers from history. Tibetans are historically nomadic, and found it easy to transport artwork in a scroll form. A thangka is a complicated, composite three-dimensional object consisting of: a picture panel which is painted or embroidered, a textile mounting; and one or more of the following: a silk cover, leather corners, wooden dowels at the top and bottom and metal or wooden decorative knobs on the bottom dowel. Traditionally, Thangkas are painted on fine cotton cloth or silk, and real ground gemstones and gold were used as the foundation of the pigments. The gemstones have currently been replaced with more contemporary mediums such as gouache, tempera and acrylic, but pure gold is still used in finer Thangkas. Thangkas are intended to serve as a record of, and guide for contemplative experience. For example, you might be instructed by your teacher to imagine yourself as a specific figure in a specific setting. You could use a thangka as a reference for the details of posture, attitude, colour, clothing. etc., of a figure located in a field, or in a palace, possibly surrounded by many other figures of meditation teachers, your family, etc.

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Wisdoms, Five

Buddha wisdoms are the true nature of disturbing emotions.

  • Anger: mirror-like wisdom
  • Pride: wisdom of equality
  • Desire: discriminating wisdom
  • Jealousy: wisdom of experience
  • Ignorance: Buddha wisdom

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Vajrayana - Diamond Way
(Tib: Dorje Thegpa / Skt: Vajrayana)

Methods basing on the motivation and philosophy of the Great Way (Mahayana). However these methods have an independent view, conduct and meditation practice. The Diamondway can only be practised with the willingness to see all phenomena on a pure level.

Today Diamondway is identical with the practise-orientated schools of Tibetan Buddhism and the  Mantra- or Tantra-Vehicle. The most important distinction to the Great Way are the powerful methods of identification with enlightenment.

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Yidam - Buddha Aspect
(Tib: Yidam)

Meditation aspect:  Buddha taught this meditation forms in the Tantras. They express a particular quality of the enlightened nature of our own mind.

The richness of the enlightened mind expresses itself in various forms of energy and light. By identifying with them - in meditation and daily life - they awake quickly our immanentBuddha-Nature.

The Yidam is a personal meditation aspect. It is the Buddha aspect to whom one has the closest connection. The practise of this aspect is the fastest way to reach enlightenment. To meditate on a Buddha Aspect one has to get an initiation from a Lama holding this transmission.

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State of Compassion - Emanation State - Nirmanakaya - Tulku
(Tib: Nirmanakaya)

State of compassion. A being who is consciously reborn for the benefit of all beings manifesting with the power to open their abilities. May or may not remember former lives. The word means "Illusion-Body," a form which one has and uses, but is not dependent upon.

Great examples of Tulkus are the various Karmapas. One distinguishes between different types of Tulkus:

  • Choki Tulku: for example the Buddha Shakyamuni
  • Kyewa Tulku: different teachers and other people, who act in the best interest of all, for example the various Karmapas
  • Sowo Tulku: things that were created, for example texts or statues
  • Ngagtsog Tulku: things that manifest themselves due to the wishes of Buddhas, for example a bridge appearing over a river

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State of Joy - Sambhogakaya
(Tib: Long Ku / Skt: Sambhogakaya)

The free play and spontaneous bliss of mind. It manifests from the State of Truth to help the bodhisattvas on their way. See also  The three Kayas.

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State of Truth - Dharmakaya
(Tib: Cho Ku / Skt: Dharmakaya)

The State of Truth is timeless enlightenment itself, the true nature and radiant awareness of mind. It is associated with an experience of fearlessness. Realization of the state of truth has a benefit for oneself, realization of the other  Kayas is of benefit for others.

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Svabhavikakaya

State of the Essence, denotes the essence of the other Buddha states (Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya). If you compare Dharmakaya with water vapor, Sambhogakaya with clouds and Nirmanakaya with rain, then Svabhavikakaya is the essence of it all - water.

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White Tara
(Tib: Dolkar / Skt: Sita Tara)

White Tara is known as the Mother of Liberation and is associated with the qualities of compassion, longevity, and healing. Her special attributes are her seven eyes, in addition to the usual two she has and the third eye on her forehead and one on each of her hands and feet. These represent her ability to see the suffering of beings in every realm of existence with clarity, wisdom and compassion. Her white color represents purity, wisdom and truth. Her hands are in the same pose as Green Tara, the wish-fulfilling mudra and Refuge. She holds three lotus blooms in her left hand which represent the Buddhas of past, present and future, and that Tara is the mother of all the Buddhas.

Meditating on White Tara develops clarity in all situations, wisdom and compassion, healing and long life as well as other qualities of enlightenment.

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