The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Glossary
Victor & Victoria Trimondi
Glossary of some
terms are written without diacritical marks.
translations appear in quotation marks.
abhisheka – „annointing“ – a form of
consecration, often involving sprinkling, that transforms an heir apparent
into a royal sovereign, or a novice into a monk or member of a religious
order. In Tantra, abhisheka qualifies a person to initiate or consecrate
acarya – “teacher, preceptor” – a guru or
instructor of sacred or secret teachings.
advaita – “nondualism” – the
philosophical position that all is One
ahimsa – “noninjury” – doctrine of
noninjury or non-violence
ajna – name of the sixth of the
seven charkas of the yogic body. It is at the level of the ajna that the
three principle subtle channels come together in a plait between the
eyebrows. See also chakra and nadi
Amitabha - Amitabha is the most commonly
used name for the Buddha of Infinite Light and Infinite Life. A
transhistorical Buddha venerated by all Mahayana schools and, particularly, Pure Land. Presides
over the Western Pure Land (Land of Ultimate Bliss), where anyone can be
reborn through utterly sincere recitation of His name, particularly at the
time of death.
“Tantra of Supreme Yoga” – one of the four classes of Buddhist Tantric
texts, sects, and teachings
arhat - a Buddhist saint who has
attained liberation from the cycle of Birth and Death, generally through
monastic life in accordance with the Buddhas' teachings.
arya - any individual ennobled by
his/her own continuing effort on the path to enlightenment.
asana – “seated position” – yogic
posture in which a practitioner holds himself immobile while practicing
breath control and various types of meditation.
asura - titanic demons, enemies of
Avalokitesvara - The name is a compound of
Ishwara, meaning Lord, and avalokita, looked upon or seen, and is usually
translated as the Lord Who Observes (the cries of the world); the Buddhist
embodiment of compassion as formulated in the Mahayana Dharma.
atman – the individual self or soul
avadhuti – in Tantric Buddhist mapping
of the yogic body, the female energy that rises up from the lower abdomen
to the heart or cranial vault, where it melts or is merged with the
subtle male principle. See also candali.
bardo (Tibetan) – “liminal passage,
intermediate state” – the state of consciousness in the course of migration
between death and rebirth. A stage varying from seven to forty-nine
days, after which the Karmic body from previous lives will
certainly be reborn.
bija – “seed” – the seminal essence
of a sacred utterance or formula, usually monosyllabic, which constitutes
the energy of the deity it acoustically embodies. See also mantra.
mendicant; Buddhist fully ordained monk. Bhiksuni is the equivalent
term designating a woman.
bodhi – “enlightenment” – perfect
knowledge or wisdom by which a person becomes a Buddha.
bodhicitta – “thought of enlightenment” –
the mental state in which an individual takes the decision to become an
enlightened being. In Buddhist Tantra the inner energy of fluid that flows
through the practitioner’s charkas following the internal union of female
Wisdom (prajna) and male Skill in Means (upaya).
– “One who
possesses the essence of enlightenment” – a deified saviour figure, a fully
enlightened being who remains in the world in order to release other
creatures from suffering existence.
buddha – “enlightened being”
candali – “female outcast” – the
Tantric consort; also the subtle body, the “red element”, female energy
that rises up from the lower abdomen to melt the male “white element” in
the cranial vault. See also avadhuti.
“Tantra of Observance” – one of the four classes of Buddhist Tantric texts,
sects and teachings.
chakra – “circle, wheel” – one of the
usually seven energy centres aligned along the spinal column of the yogic
chakravala - the nine chakravala or
concentric mountain ranges or continents, separated by eight seas, of a
chakravartin – “wheel-turner” – an universal
emperor and protector of Buddhism
cintamani - a talismanic pearl, a symbol
of bestowing fortune and capable of fulfilling every wish.
citta - mind or heart. the two terms
being synonymous in Asian religious philosophy.
dakini – one of a group of powerful
female beings, possessed by the power of flight, who mediate between the
worlds of the buddhas, the demonic, and the human in Tantric ritual and
meditative practice. A woman embodying enlightened wisdom.
yul – “The
object that is to be cut off” – system of dramatic shamanic practices that
effect the severing or cutting off of demons as a means to annihilating the
ego that otherwise keeps one trapped in suffering existence.
damaru – hourglass-shaped two-headed
“schaman’s drum” carried and played by Tantric deities and practitioners.
deva – “shining one” – a celestial
deity who is nevertheless “un-liberated”.
mantra used in esoteric branch of Buddhism to focus and expand the mind.
Its words, or sounds, should not communicate any recognizable meaning.
dharma – the teachings of the Buddha;
the law, doctrine, or ethical precepts of Buddhism; an underlying cosmic
principle taught by the Buddha; constituent element of reality; a
phenomenon. The complex of religious and social obligations that a devout s
required to fulfil; right action, duty, morality, virtue
dharmadhatu – the absolute reality
experienced in enlightenment
dharmakaya – “body of teaching” – in
Mahayana and later forms of Buddhism, the third and most exalted of the
three bodies of the Buddha, composed of Buddha’s teachings. Tantric
Buddhism knows of a fourth, called the diamond body (see also vajrakaya).
dhatu – the space or sphere of
absolute reality itself
dhyana – ritual visualisation, inner
vision, yogic meditation; instructions for visualizing a Tantric deity.
dorje – see: vajra
– a religious
percept or teacher, often the person from whom one receives initiation or
yoga – body of
yogic practice that combines posture, breath control, seals, and locks as a
means to bodily immortality and supernatural power.
ida – mapping of the yogic body,
the major subtle channel identified with the moon that runs the length of
the spinal column, to the left of the medial channel. See also nadi.
inana – “gnosis” – supreme knowledge;
the highest form of knowledge, which affords liberation from suffering
precept, law, ritual, or ordinance; an eon, a fantastically long period of
– desire and
sexuality used as a means to liberation or transcendence of the human
karma - volition, volitional or
intentional activity. Karma is always followed by its fruit, Vipaka. Karma
and Vipaka are oftentimes referred to as the law of causality, a cardinal
concern in the Teaching of the Buddha.
Tantra” – one of the four classes of Buddhist Tantric texts, sects and
- the second of
the four Hindu Castes at the time of Shakyamuni, they were the royal caste,
the noble landlord, the warriors and the ruling castes.
maharaja - a great or superior king.
kundalini – “She who is coiled”; the
female energy that lies coiled at the base of the yogic body. Through
combined techniques, the Kundalini is “awakened” and made to rise through
the charkas to the cranial vault. See also: shakti.
lama – a Tantric teacher or Guru in
linga – the male sexual organ. See
mahamudra – “great seal” – gnosis
realizing the mind’s own emptiness in a non-dual, androgynous fashion. The
“inner woman” as part of the yogic body. The ultimate nature of mind; an
instantaneous practice for purifying the mind.
mahasiddha – “great perfect being” –
“great sorcerer” – a highly perfected and accomplished mystic; one of a
legendary class of demigods or superhuman Tantric practitioners who
propagated Tantra throughout South Asia and Tibet.
mani - a jewel, gem, precious stone;
especially a pearl bead or other globular ornament.
maithuna – “Pairing, coupling” – sexual
intercourse as a means of liberation, gnosis and transcendence of the human
condition; the fifth and ultimate Tantric “sacrament”; an iconic
representation of a pair engaging in sexual intercourse. See also yab-yum.
mandala – “circle” – an idealized
circular model of the cosmos, with the source of cosmic or temporal power
located at the centre, and deities or beings representing lesser powers or
energies radiating outward toward the periphery, the limits of the system.
In Tantric practice, Mandalas are often employed as visual meditation
mantra – “mental device, instrument
oft thought” – an acoustic formula whose sound shape embodies the
energy-level of a deity; a spell, incantation or charm employed in Tantric
ritual or sorcery. Chants, magical formulae.
maya – “That which is measured out;
Meru - the central mountain of every
– “seal” – a
symbolic gesture of the body with ritual meanings. In Buddhist Tantra mudra
is on of the terms used for a male practitioner’s female consort.
nadi – one of an elaborate network
of 72.000 subtle ducts of the yogic body through which breath and energy
nirmanakaya – “form body” – the first of
the three bodies of the Buddha, the physical form in which the historical
Buddha appeared to the world.
– the soteriological goal of Buddhism; the final cessation of rebirth into
pingala – mapping of the yogic body,
the major subtle channel identified with the un that runs the length of the
spinal column, to the right of the medial channel. See also nadi.
pitha – “bench, footstool” – a
pilgrimage site and power place identified with a goddess and her male
prajna – “wisdom” – insight into the
true nature in reality; a Tantric practitioner‘s female consort . The
prajna becomes deified as a Buddhist goddess with a bipolar relationship to the male
upaya (“skill”) represented by a god, a buddha or a bodhisattva.
prajna-paramita – “perfection of wisdom” – the
female embodiment of wisdom. Prajna-paramita becomes deified as a Buddhist
goddess, also considered to be the “mother of all buddhas”.
prana – “breath” – the breath of
life; one of the multiple breaths or energies that, flowing through the
nadis, vitalizes and is the active element in the transformation of the
pratyekabuddha – a Buddha who loves a solitary
existence and realizes nirvana for himself alone.
puja –“honouring, veneration”; the
body of practices that comprise the worship of a deity.
ja’lus) – supernatural body attained through Tantric techniques by means of
which the practitioner is able to disappear into another dimension.
flavor’ – an essential fluid of yogic, alchemical or Tantric practice. The semen
sadhaka – a Tantric practitioner
sadhana – Tantric practice
shakti – “energy” – the energy of a
deity personified as his female consort
samadhi – total yogic integration;
samatha – “tranquil abiding,
quiescence” – a Buddhist form of meditation.
samaya – “coming together” –
conventional rule or practice; sacrament.
sambhogakaya – “body of shared enjoyment” –
the second of the Buddha’s three bodies, in which he preaches to the
samsara – “flowing together” – the
cycle of transmigration; suffering existence, phenomenal reality.
sangha – “assembly” – Buddhist
society, comprised of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen
siddha – “perfected being”- a Tantric practitioner who has realized
embodied liberation. The siddhas also form a class of demigods who inhabit
the atmospheric regions.
siddhi – “perfection” – one of the
many supernatural powers possessed by siddhas as a result of their
practice, their sadhana. Included among the siddhis are the power of
flight, invisibility, the power of attraction and the power to realize
one’s every desire.
shravaka – “auditor” – a person who
attains emancipation by listening a buddha.
stupa – a funerary monument in the
shape of a dome or pyramid, containing a relic of a Buddha or some other
objects of veneration; a meditation support symbolizing the formless body
of the Buddha and the essential structure of the cosmos.
shunyata – “emptiness” – the principle
that all objects of the senses, mental concepts, and categories are void of
susumna – mapping of the yogic body;
the major subtle channel identified with fire, which runs down through the
centre of the spinal column. See also nadi.
- “one who comes thus” – an epithet of the Buddha or of one the five
– “treasure” –
indigenous Tibetan Budhist collections of works, mainly containing
instructions for special forms of Tantric practice. They are brought to
light by treasure-discoverer specialists, either in the form of hidden
manuscripts or of visionary revelations with no physical substrate.
– conical flour
and butter cones used as ritual offerings to a person’s enlightened beings
tulku – “the form body of a Buddha” –
the recognized reincarnation of a past Buddha master.
upaya – “skill in means” – array of
expedient devices employed by bodhisattvas to enlighten beings trapped in
suffering existence. Upaya becomes deified as the male member of a bipolar
relationship – with the female prajna (“wisdom”).
vajra – (Tibetan dorje) –
“Thunderbolt, diamond, penis” – adamantine symbol of strength,
immovability, and transcendent nature of the state aimed at by Tantric
practitioners; name of an implement used in Tantric ritual.
vajrakaya – “diamond body”
vajrayoga – “adamantine union” – the
fusion of wisdom realizing emptiness and compassion, which spontaneously
manifests appearances in order to guide living beings to freedom from
vidya – “esoteric knowledge, wisdom”
– wisdom personified as a goddess. Vidya is one of the terms used for a
male practitioner’s female consort.
yab-yum (Tibetan) – “father-mother” –
term used to describe deities in sexual union.
yantra – “instrument of restraint;
machine” – one of a group of instruments, including diagrams, amulets, and
alchemical apparatus, used by a Tantric practitioners to control or subdue
his own mind, demonic beings, or elements of the phenomenal world.
yidam – “vow, oath, covenant” – a
“Tantra of Yoga” – one of the four classes of Buddhist Tantric texts, sects
yogin – a male practitioner of yoga.
yogini – one of a class of powerful,
fierce and often sexually alluring female demigods and human sorceresses
who imitate or are identified with them; a female Tantric practitioner.
yoni – the female sexual organ, womb.