Glossary of Buddhist Terms

Full multilingual glossary


  1. Sakya

    One of the New Translation traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, deriving from the five masters who were descendants of Kon Konchog-gyalpo.

  2. Sakyapa

    A follower of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

  3. Samantabhadra

    (1) A bodhisattva representing the enlightening influence and activity of all the Buddhas. (2) In Nyingma, the primordial Buddha, representing the primordial purity of all phenomena.

  4. Sambhogakaya

    The network of subtle forms, which make full use of the Mahayana teachings, and in which a Buddha appears in order to teach arya bodhisattvas

  5. Samkhya

    A school of non-Buddhist Indian philosophy that asserts a static, partless, independetly existing purusha (self) that has consciousness as its quality and 24 types of primal matter (prakrti).

  6. Sangha

    Four or more people from any of the four groups of the monastic community: full or novice monks or nuns and who have unlabored renunciation and are thus intent on ridding themselves of disturbing emotions and attitudes and thus attaining liberation.

  7. Sarvastivada

    One of the 18 divisions of the Hinayana tradition of Buddhism and, within which, Vaibhashika and Sautrantika are subdivisions.

  8. Shakyamuni

    The Able One of the Shakya Clan, the Sage of the Shakya Clan, an epithet of Gautama Buddha.

  9. Six-Session Yoga

    In Gelug, a practice, recited six times daily, required of those who have received an anuttarayoga empowerment.

  10. Svatantrika

    A subdivision of the Madhyamaka school within the Indian Buddhist tenet systems.

  11. safe direction

    A direction that one puts in one's life that will protect one from true suffering and its true causes, and, when one reaches the goal of this direction, allows one to avoid true suffering and its true causes forever. Some translators render this as "refuge."

  12. samaya

    A type of behavior or a state of mind, which, when practiced, maintains a close connection with either a certain tantra or a certain spiritual master.

  13. samsara

    Uncontrollably recurring rebirth under the power of disturbing emotions and attitudes and of karma. Some translators render it as "cyclic existence."

  14. secular ethics

    Basic human values.

  15. seed-syllable

    A syllable, often the first syllable of a word or name, from which a Buddha-figure (yidam) is generated.

  16. self-cherishing

    The attitude with which one considers oneself as the most important being and has affection for and takes care of only oneself.

  17. self-nature

    Something on the side of an object or phenomenon that (1) establishes the existence, in general, of the object or phenomenon and (2) establishes, as well, what the object or phenomenon is.

  18. selflessness

    The total absence of a "soul" inside a person's body and mind or inside any validly knowable phenomenon that establishes its existence in some impossible way.

  19. sem

    All levels of awareness (levels of mind) that are tainted with the fleeting stains of the emotional and cognitive obscurations.

  20. sense of fitness

    The mental factor of feeling totally fit to do something, and which is both exhilarating and blissful, physically and mentally, but in a nondisturbing way.

  21. sense of values

    According to Vasubandhu, respect for positive qualities or persons possessing them.

  22. sentient being

    A living being, other than a Buddha, that acts with intention and thus experiences the results of his or her behavior.

  23. shamatha

    A stilled and settled state of mind, attained through meditation, in which the mind is stilled of all mental flightiness and mental dullness, is settled down on an object and remains there, and is accompanied by an exhilarating sense of fitness. Some translators render the term as "calm abiding" or "mental quiescence."

  24. shentong

    The absence of all levels of mind tainted with ignorance and conceptual thought.

  25. shravaka

    A Hinayana practitioner that strives toward liberation as an arhat based on listening to the teachings of the Buddha.

  26. siddha

    Someone who has attained a significant spiritual goal, such as extrasensory or extraphysical powers.

  27. siddhi

    A significant spiritual goal that one actually attains on one's mental continuum.

  28. six paramitas

    Six mental factors that, when held by the force of a bodhichitta aim and strengthed to the maximum, serve as causes for attaining enlightenment.

  29. six perfections

    Six mental factors that, when held by the force of a bodhichitta aim and strengthed to the maximum, serve as causes for attaining enlightenment.

  30. skandha

    The five networks of ever-changing objects and mental factors that make up each moment of someone's experience.

  31. skillful means

    The special discriminating awareness concerning the most effective and appropriate internal methods for actualizing the Buddha's teachings.

  32. special insight

    An exceptionally perceptive state of mind that combines the perfect concentration of shamatha with feeling totally fit to discern and understand fully the subtle details of anything.

  33. spiritual teacher

    A general term for the four levels of Buddhist teachers: a Buddhism professor, a Dharma instructor, a meditation trainer or ritual trainer, and a spiritual mentor.

  34. static phenomenon

    Phenomena that are unaffected by causes and circumstances and, consequently, do not change from moment to moment and do not produce any effects.

  35. storehouse consciousness

    An individual consciousness that underlies all cognition and carries a person's karmic tendencies and habits as well as the mental impressions of memories, in the sense that they are imputed on it.

  36. straightforward cognition

    In the Gelug Prasangika system, cognition of an object, which occurs without relying on a line of reasoning in the moment immediately prior to it.

  37. stream-enterer

    A shravaka or pratyekabuddha arya who has achieved a seeing pathway mind (the path of seeing).

  38. stupa

    A monument within which are kept the relics of a great Buddhist master.

  39. subsequent attainment

    A state of mind having the joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana, and in which absorbed concentration is focused single-pointedly on a voidness (emptiness) that is like an illusion.

  40. subsequent realization

    A state of mind having the joined pair of shamatha and vipashyana, and in which absorbed concentration is focused single-pointedly on a voidness (emptiness) that is like an illusion.

  41. sutra

    Discourses by Shakyamuni Buddha, both Hinayana and Mahayana, that discuss themes of practice.