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Spirit of the Valley
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Tibetan Buddhist Terms

Buddhist Terms*

Bodhisattva – Someone who possesses the compassionate motivation of bodhichitta (“Buddha mind,” the wish to practice compassion and altruism with the aim of relieving the sufferings of others), and devotes their life towards the achievement of enlightenment for the sake of all beings by practicing the six perfections of giving, ethics, patience, enthusiastic effort, mental stabilization and wisdom.

Buddha- A fully enlightened being. The historical Buddha was Prince Siddhartha Gautama or Buddha Shakyamuni, who lived in India in 600 BCE (before the current era).

Buddhism - The teaching of Buddha that life is permeated with suffering caused by desire, that suffering ceases when desire ceases, and that enlightenment obtained through right conduct and wisdom and meditation releases one from desire and suffering and rebirth.**

Dalai Lama- No, he’s not “like the Pope” of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the temporal and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, in Tibet and in exile. Translated as “Ocean of Wisdom,” the current Dalai Lama is believed to be the 14th incarnation of a lineage stretching back to the first Dalai Lama, Gendun Drub (1391-1474).**

Dharma- The spiritual teachings of the Buddha.

Geshe- Meaning “spiritual friend” in Tibetan, a Geshe is a teacher in the Gelug tradition (the most recent of the four lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, established by Lama Tsong Khapa in the 14th century and the lineage of the Dalai Lama) who has completed formal training and attained the Geshe degree.

Lama- Literally meaning “none higher,” lama refers to someone who can be trusted as a teacher or spiritual friend and guide. One who is qualified to bestow empowerments and show by example the path to enlightenment.

Rinpoche – “Precious one.” This is the title given to someone formally recognized as the reincarnation of a past lama or teacher.

Venerable- A title of a fully ordained monk or nun
*Text and definitions come from Lighting the Way, by HH the Dalai Lama, used by permission of Snow Lion publications, unless otherwise indicated. Snow Lion has an extensive list of books by HH the Dalai Lama at
**Blended from various sources.