a list of terms

An equivalent to the mantric syllable ‘Hung’.
The second of the inner Tantras. It is concerned primarily with transformation through instantaneous self- arising and through the manipulation of the subtle body.
Synonymous with Dzogchen. The term ‘Atiyoga’ is used when classifying yanas in terms of the nine-yana Nyingma system. In that system, Atiyoga is regarded as the third of the inner Tantras. Dzogchen is the term used within the Dzogchen three-yana categorisation.
The base of a yana is its starting point: the condition you must be in to begin following its path. If you are not at the base of a yana, you can practice a ngöndro to take you there.
The Sanskrit term for chang chub sem.
chang chub sem
(byang chub sems) Skt: bodhicitta Active compassion. Also enlightened mind, or primordial awareness.
(chos) Skt: dharma Most fundamentally, ‘chö’ means ‘as it is’.
The Sanskrit term for pawo (dPa’ bo).
The Sanskrit term for khandro – or khandroma (mKha’ ’gro ma).
dakini cypher
The script in which gTérma (gTer ma) are written. The script is only legible to the gTérton (gTer sTon) who is able to open the gTérma.
The Sanskrit term for chö (chos).
Duality can refer to any of several confused attempts to polarise reality. In Sutrayana—apart from the Heart Sutra—it mainly refers to the opposition of self and other. In Dzogchen, it refers particularly to the attempt to separate form and emptiness; or more subtly to separate duality and nonduality.
The seed syllable of wealth of Dzambhala, the yidam who embodies the nondual quality of wealth.
(rDzogs chen) Skt: Mahasandhi The Buddhist yana, or ‘vehicle’, based on the approach of self-liberation. Self-liberation occurs when we allow phenomena to be as they are. ‘Phenomena’ here includes both external objects and mental ones, such as perceptions and emotions.
Dzogchen A
The primordial A and also an equivalent to the mantric syllable A’a:
The five elements—earth, water, fire, air and space—can be understood on many levels. In tantric practice the five elemental neuroses: territoriality, aggression, neediness, anxiety, and depression, are transformed into the five elemental wisdoms: generosity, clarity, compassionate appreciation, accomplishment, and unboundedness.
wang (dBang) Skt: abhisheka The symbolic enactment of transmission.
The absence of characteristics or distinct existence. Insubstantiality, transience, indistinctness, discontinuity, and lack of definition. From the Dzogchen perspective, emptiness is always only relative, due to the nonduality of form and emptiness. Emptiness is perceived directly in the practice of shi-nè.
The manifestation of characteristics and distinct existence. The tendency to appear solid, permanent, separate, continuous, and defined. From the Dzogchen perspective, this tendency is always only relative, due to the nonduality of form and emptiness.
four naljors
The meditation practices that constitute the ngöndro (sNgon ’gro) – preliminary or foundation practices of Dzogchen sem-dé. They are: shi-nè, lhatong, nyi’mèd, and lhundrüp.
(dGa’ dKyil) Circle of joy.
The yana that emphasises one’s own enlightenment. From the Dzogchen perspective, it is part of Sutrayana.
(mKha’ ’gro) Skt: dakini Literally, in Tibetan, ‘sky-goer’; or ‘sky dancer’. It may also refer to a female Vajrayana practitioner who manifests outer wisdom display and who possesses inner method nature. Also used as a symbol of life circumstances.
A stream of enlightened activity passed from one Lama to the next in an unbroken chain. There are three types of links in lineages: from teachers to students; from parents to children (family lineage); and from one rebirth to the next (incarnation lineage).
(kLong sDe) The second of the three series of Dzogchen. Long-dé is the Series of the Great Expanse or Series of Space. It is primarily concerned with the experience of the subtle body.
(rLung) The spatial winds that animate our being and provide energy and dynamism.
The Buddhist approach, or yana, that emphasises selfless action on behalf of others. Synonymous with ‘Bodhisatvayana’. From the Dzogchen perspective, Mahayana is a part of Sutrayana.
The first of the three inner Tantras. It is concerned primarily with inner and outer transformation through ritual performance.
(man ngag sDe) The third of the three series of Dzogchen – the Series of Implicit Instruction.
ngakma / ngakpa
(sNgags ma / sNgags pa) Skt: mantrini / mantinin Female and male tantric practitioners—particularly ordained tantrikas—concentrating on mantra and practices from Mahayoga.
(sNgags bLa) A title for a Lama who is ordained as a Ngakma or Ngakpa.
(sNgon ’gro) A set of ‘preliminary practices’ that bring you to the base of a yana.
Generally refers to the non-separateness of self and other. In Dzogchen, it usually refers to the non-separateness of form and emptiness; or more subtly the non-separateness of duality and nonduality.
(rNying ma) The ‘old’ tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The Nyingma tradition was founded by the Tantric Buddhas Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel in the eighth century. It is based on the ‘old translations’ of Indian Tantras and on the revelation of gTérma down the centuries to the present day.
The Second Buddha. With his consort Yeshé Tsogyel, Padmasambhava established Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet in the eighth century. Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel hold primacy within the Nyingma tradition.
The methods used in a yana to take you from the base to the result.
(dPa’ mo) Skt: virini Heroine. A female Vajrayana practitioner who manifests courage and outward method display and possesses inner wisdom nature. Also used as a symbol of life circumstances.
(dPa’ bo) Skt: daka Hero or warrior. A male Vajrayana practitioner who manifests courage and outward method display and possesses inner wisdom nature. Also used as a symbol of life circumstances.
rainbow body
jalu (’ja’ lus) Tö-gal is the final practice of Dzogchen, and enables the yogi or yogini to dissolve his or her physical body into the essence of the elements at the time of death. Disappearing into a body of light, only hair, toe and finger nails, and nasal septum are left behind.
kyab (sKyab) To ‘take refuge’ is to affirm your commitment to Buddhism. The refuge ceremony is a formal acknowledgement of this commitment. Refuge means that you have recognised the fundamental principles of Buddhism as an accurate reflection of reality and that you intend to live according to them.
(rig pa) Luminous knowingness or non-dual awareness. Rigpa can simply mean knowledge or intelligence, but in terms of Dzogchen it means presence of awareness in the continuity of Mind – through the arising and dissolution of that which arises in Mind.
khorwa (’khorwa) Literally, ‘cyclic existence’. The experience of dissatisfaction resulting from dualised view which separates form and emptiness.
gendün (dGe bDun) A community of Buddhist practitioners. Sometimes refers specifically to ordained practitioners. There are two divisions: the red or monastic sangha of monks and nuns, and the white or ngak’phang (sNgags ’phang) sangha of tantrikas – also known as the gö kar chang lo’i dé (gos dKar lCang lo’i sDe).
(gSar ma) The Sarma schools—Kagyüd, Sakya and Gélug—are based on new translations of the Indian Tantras made in the eleventh century.
The path of Dzogchen. Phenomena are spontaneously self-liberated through recognising their nondual nature.
(sems sDe) The first of the three series of Dzogchen, the ‘Series of the nature of Mind’. It contains a ngöndro, the four naljors, that makes it possible to approach Dzogchen sem-dé on its own terms, rather than via Tantra.
dé (sDe) Dzogchen is divided into three ‘series’: sem-dé, long-dé and men-ngag-dé. These three contain progressively less conceptual content. There is much to say about sem-dé, less to say about long-dé, and virtually nothing to say about men-ngag-dé.
(zhi gNas) Skt: shamatha Shi-nè literally means ‘peaceful abiding’. It is the direct perception of emptiness without conceptual interpretation. Shi-nè is the first of the four naljors of Dzogchen sem-dé.
The Buddhist yana whose path is renunciation. The base is suspicion of samsara, and the result is direct perception of emptiness. Sutrayana consists of Hinayana and Mahayana.
The Buddhist yana whose path is transformation. The base is the experience of emptiness, and the result is the realisation of nonduality. It comprises the three inner Tantras: kriya, upa and yoga; and the three outer Tantras: maha, anu and ati.
(gTer ma) Spiritual treasures that were hidden by Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel and subsequently revealed by a gTértön.
(gTer sTon) One who discovers and realises gTérma or concealed spiritual treasures.
(thig le) The essence of the elements and therefore the effulgence of the continuum of subtle awareness.
(gTong len) The practice of visualising giving away all merit and benefit of practice to help others and taking on the suffering of all beings.
Transmission occurs when a student recognises the enlightened nature of a Lama, and through this inspiration recognises their own enlightened nature.
(rTsa) The spatial nerves or channels that constitute the subtle-body.
Vajrayana is the path of transformation. It is the Buddhist yana based on the experience of the nonduality of form and emptiness. It consists of the six Tantras.
thegpa (theg pa) Skt: yana An approach within Buddhism, comprising a coherent system of theory and practice that takes you from a base via a path to a result.
nang (sNang) Appearance, manifestation.
see vehicle
Yeshé Tsogyel
(ye shes mTsho rGyal) The female Buddha who—with her consort Padmasambhava—established Tantric Buddhism in Tibet.
(yi dam) ‘Awareness-being’. A visionary form expressing enlightenment. Sometimes translated as ‘meditational deity’ or ‘tutelary deity’. From the point of view of inner Tantra, yidams are not seen as externally existent gods – but rather, as styles of enlightenment that can potentially manifest. In outer Tantra, the yidam is visualised externally. In inner Tantra, one visualises oneself as the yidam. This is also called ‘self-arising’ or ‘envisionment’.