bodhisattva = a being who has recognized Nirvana, but who has chosen to stay back to help others reach enlightenment and salvation.
Bön = native religion of Tibet that preceded Buddhism, but eventually adopted many attributes of the Buddhist sect.
Buddha = the Enlightened One; generally refers to the historical Buddha named Sakyamuni, who lived in India in the 6th century BC.
chaktsal = prostration
chokhang = offering hall
chorten = multi-tiered stone monument that often contains sacred relics
chu = river, stream
Dalai Lama = the incarnate lama recognized as a manifestation of Chenresi; they ruled Tibet since the 17th century. The first one was Gedundrub, a nephew and disciple of the founder of the Gelugpa sect. The present Dalai Lama is the 14th one.
darchen = flagpole for prayer flags
drakphuk = an enclosed overhang forming a retreat for meditation
Drölma = goddess redemptress, the bodhisattva of compassion and the feminine aspect of enlightenment
dukhang = assembly hall
gompa = monastery
Guru Rimpoche = 8th century tantric master who established Buddhism in Tibet; known as the Second Buddha to Tibetans
Karmapa = lineage of incarnate lamas of the Kagyupa whose main seat is Tsurphu Monastery; The first Karmapa was Dusum Khyenpa (1110-93), who was a disciple of Gmpopa; the Karmapas are the head of the Karma Kagyu sect; the present Karmapa has recently escaped Tibet into India.
khang = house
khata = offering scarf
kora = ritual circuit; clockwise for Buddhists and counter-clockwise for Bönpos
la = pass
lama = spiritual teacher; enlightened master
lhakhang = chapel
mahavihara = large monastery
Milarepa (1040-1123) = poet-saint; teacher of Gampopa and founding patriarch of the Kagyupa. Has many associations to Mt. kailash and securing it for the Buddhists.
Mt. Meru = axis mundi; sacred mountain at the center of the universe. Mt. Kailash is seen as Mt. Meru by the Hindus and Buddhists
naga = serpent deity
nangkor = inner circumambulatory passage
Panchen Lama = lineage of incarnate lamas, recognized as manifestations of Amitabha Buddha; abbots of Tashilhunpo Monastery; the present Panchen Lama, who was recognized by the Dalai Lama, is now held prisoner in Beijing. He is presently the youngest political prisoner in the world.
phuk = cave
rangjung = "self-manifesting," refers to sacred objects such as handprints, footprints, statues, stones, etc. that originated miraculously.
ri = mountain
rimpoche = honorific term for a Tibetan guru; a recognized, reincarnated lama of high status. It directly translates into "precious one."
Sakyamuni = the Sage of the Sakyas; the historical Buddha who lived in India around 500 B.C.
thang = plain
tirtha = Hindu pilgrimage site
torana = gateway; arch over a sculpted image
tsa-tsa = a small clay icon of a deity or other religious symbol
tso = lake
tulku = reincarnated lama
vihara = a monastery, temple