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Term Definition
Relics (Tib. rig-sel)

Small, pearl-like pills that manifest spontaneously from holy objects such as statues, stupas or the cremated bodies of great practitioners.

Renunciation (Tib: nge-jung)

heartfelt feeling of complete disgust with cyclic existence such that day and night one yearns for liberation and engages in the practices that secure it. The first of the three principal aspects of the path to enlightenment. Cf. bodhicitta and emptiness.

Rinpoche (Tib)

Literally, "precious one." Epithet for an incarnate lama, that is, one who has intentionally taken rebirth in a human form to benefit sentient beings on the path to enlightenment.

Root guru (Tib: tsa-wäi lama)

The teacher who has had the greatest influence upon a particular disciple's entering or following the spiritual path.

Saka Dawa

One of the great holy days of the Tibetan calendar; commemorating the Buddha’s birth, death and parinirvana.

Sakya (Tib)

One of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded in the eleventh century in the south of the province of Tsang by Konchog Gyälpo. Cf. Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug.

Samsara (Skt; Tib: khor- wa)

Cyclic existence; the six realms of conditioned existence, three lower—hell, hungry ghost (Skt: preta), and animal—and three upper—human, demigod (Skt: asura), and god (Skt: sura). The beginningless, recurring cycle of death and rebirth under the control of delusion and karma, fraught with suffering. Also refers to the contaminated aggregates of a sentient being.

Sangha (Skt)

Spiritual community; the third of the Three Jewels of Refuge. Absolute Sangha are those who have directly realized emptiness; relative Sangha are ordained monks and nuns.

Torma (Tib)

An offering cake used in tantric rituals. In Tibet, tormas were usually made of tsampa, but other edibles such as biscuits and so forth will suffice.


A reincarnated lama, one who through the mind of bodhicitta can choose where to be reborn in order to best serve all sentient beings. The title given to such a lama in most Tibetan traditions. (In the Gelug tradition the term used is Rinpoche.)

Vairochana (Skt)

One of the five Dhyani Buddhas, white in color, representing the purification of the form aggregate and the mirror-like wisdom.

Wang (TIb)

Initiation, where a disciple is given permission to practice a particular tantric deity.

Wheel of Life

The depiction of cyclic existence, showing the six realms cycling around the hub of ignorance, greed and hatred symbolized by a pig, a rooster and a snake, with the twelve links of dependent origination as the outer rim, all in the jaws and claws of Yama, the Lord of Death.

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