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



Mt. Kailash

Lake Manasarovar


Other Landscapes
Mt. Everest Lhasa

Monastery Inventory