Aro Dictionary

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abhisheka
The Sanskrit term for empowerment.
Anuyoga
The second of the inner Tantras. It is concerned primarily with transformation through instantaneous self-arising and through the manipulation of the subtle body.
Aro Lingma
Aro Lingma (1886-1923) was the female Lama who discovered the Aro gTér (térma) and founded the Aro lineage. Aro Lingma was a pure-vision Tértön.
The Tibetan spelling is A ro gLing ma.
Read more about: Aro Lingma
Atiyoga
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’s own three-yana categorisation.
bardo
Literally, ‘in-between state’. Most often used to refer to the state between death and rebirth. However, every moment of experience is the bardo between what has gone before and what will come next. Such in-between moments are classified in various ways according to the nature of one’s awareness of them.
The Tibetan spelling is bar do.
base
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.
Read more about: base
bodhicitta
The Sanskrit term for chang chub sem.
chang chub sem
Active compassion. Also enlightened mind, or primordial awareness.
The Tibetan spelling is byang chub sems.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is bodhicitta.
chö
Most fundamentally, ‘chö’ means ‘as it is’. The word is used in many ways. It means, among other things: Buddhism, phenomenon and truth.
The Tibetan spelling is chos.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is Dharma.
chöd
A system of meditation practices that transform or self-liberate the energies of fear and loss. Also spelled gÇod.
The Tibetan spelling is gCod.
Read more about: chöd
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987) was the Lama most responsible for bringing Vajrayana Buddhism to the West. He had an unparalleled ability to communicate the most profound Tibetan Buddhist teachings in terms understandable to English speakers without compromising their meaning. His books are classics and many appear in the Aro recommended reading list.
Read more about: Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
crazy wisdom
The unpredictable and sometimes incomprehensible or shocking enlightened activity of certain realised masters. Some Lamas manifest crazy wisdom as a way of shaking people out of dualistic complacency.
daka
The Sanskrit term for pawo.
dakini
The Sanskrit term for khandro.
damtsig
The ‘sacred vows’ of Vajrayana. Outwardly, they consist of maintaining harmonious relationship with the vajra master and one’s Sangha; and, inwardly, not straying from the continuity of the practice.
The Tibetan spelling is dam tshig.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is samaya.
deity yoga
Another term for yidam practice.
Read more about: deity yoga
Dharma
The Sanskrit term for chö.
drüpthab
‘Method of accomplishment’. Commonly used to refer to a Tantric liturgy that is chanted. More accurately, can refer to any Vajrayana method.
The Tibetan spelling is sGrub thabs.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is sadhana.
duality
‘Duality’ can refer to any of several confused attempts to polarise reality. In general Buddhism, it refers most often 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 non-duality.
Read more about: duality
Dzogchen
Dzogchen is 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. Compare Tantrayana and Sutrayana.
The Tibetan spelling is rDzogs chen.
Read more about: Dzogchen
Dzogchen gar-dang
The Tibetan term for yogic song. It is spelled rDzogs chen sGar gDangs.
elements
The five elements – earth, water, fire, air and space – can be understood on many levels. For beginning Aro students, the relevant understanding is the transformation of the five elemental neuroses (territoriality, aggression, neediness, anxiety, and depression) into the five elemental wisdoms (generosity, clarity, compassionate appreciation, accomplishment, and unboundedness).
Read more about: elements
empowerment
An empowerment is a structured occasion on which a Lama gives transmission of Vajrayana practice. It may be described as a ‘ceremony’ or ‘ritual’ – but those terms suggest rote performance. To be effective, an empowerment must be ecstatically involving. ‘Symbolic enactment of transmission’ is a more accurate definition.
The equivalent Tibetan term is wang. It is spelled dBang.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is abhisheka.
Read more about: empowerment
emptiness
The tendency of things to lack characteristics or distinct existence. Insubstantiality, transience, indistinctness, discontinuity, and undefinedness. From the Dzogchen perspective, emptiness is always only relative, due to the non-duality of form and emptiness. Emptiness is perceived directly in the practice of shi-nč.
Read more about: emptiness
form
The tendency of things to manifest characteristics and distinct existence. The tendency to appear solid, permanent, separate, continuous, and defined. This tendency is always only relative, due to the non-duality of form and emptiness.
Read more about: form
four naljors
The four naljors are the meditation practices that constitute the ngöndro (preliminary practices) of Dzogchen sem-dé. They are: shi-nč, lhatong, nyi’mčd, and lhundrüp.
Read more about: four naljors
Gésar of Ling
The legendary and supernatural enlightened warrior-king of early Tibet. He symbolises victory over aggression. Gésar is a preëminent example of a pawo.
gTérma
Spiritual treasures that were hidden by a Buddha such as Padmasambhava or Yeshé Tsogyel and subsequently revealed by a Tértön. (Térma is also transcribed as ter, gTér, terma, or gTérma.) The Aro gTér is a pure-vision térma discovered by Aro Lingma.
The Tibetan spelling is gTer ma.
Guru Rinpoche
The Tibetan term for Padmasambhava.
guru yoga
The Sanskrit term for Lama’i naljor.
Hinayana
Hinayana is the yana, or Buddhist approach, that emphasises one’s own enlightenment. From the Dzogchen perspective, it is part of Sutrayana.
inner Tantra
Tantrayana is divided into three outer and three inner Tantras. The outer Tantras regard enlightenment as external to oneself; the inner Tantras work with one’s own beginninglessly enlightened nature. Aro teaches the inner Tantras exclusively. The inner Tantras are Mahayoga, Anuyoga, and Atiyoga (also known as Dzogchen).
Jomo Menmo
Jomo Menmo (1248-1283) was an enlightened wandering yogini who displayed crazy wisdom and was therefore demonised by the ecclesiastical establishment of the time. Nevertheless she was a profound teacher to many and remains an inspiration for modern practitioners. She is regarded as one of the foremothers of the Aro lineage.
The Tibetan spelling is jo mo sMan mo.
Read more about: Jomo Menmo
khandro
Literally, in Tibetan, ‘sky-goer’; or in a more poetic translation ‘sky dancer’. A female Vajrayana practitioner who manifests outer wisdom display and who possesses inner method nature. Refers also to supernatural or semi-divine female beings. Compare khandropa, pamo, and pawo.
The Tibetan spelling is mKha’ ’gro.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is dakini.
Read more about: khandro
khandropa
Literally, in Tibetan, ‘sky-goer’; or in a more poetic translation ‘sky dancer’. A male Vajrayana practitioner who manifests outer wisdom display and who possesses inner method nature. Compare pamo, pawo, and khandro.
The Tibetan spelling is mKha’ ’gro pa.
Read more about: khandropa
Lama’i naljor
A practice in which the meditator’s mind is unified with that of an enlightened being.
The Tibetan spelling is bLa ma’i rNal ’byor.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is guru yoga.
lhatong
Lhatong literally means ‘superior vision’ in Tibetan. It refers to the experience of form as emergent from emptiness, or to meditation methods that aim to find that experience.
The Tibetan spelling is lhag mThong.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is vipashyana.
lineage
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).
long-dé
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.
The Tibetan spelling is kLong sDe.
Machig Labdrön
Machig Labdron (1055-1152; also spelt Ma gÇig Labdrön) was the enlightened female Lama who established chöd as a central Tibetan Buddhist practice. She is venerated as one of the foremost foremothers of the Aro lineage. Her Lama’i Naljor is the most frequently practiced in Aro.
The Tibetan spelling is ma gCig lab sGron.
Read more about: Machig Labdrön
mahasiddha
A Tantrika whose enlightenment manifests as extraordinary powers (siddhis). Particularly, the 84 Indian mahasiddhas known from the earliest records of Tantrayana. The stories of the 84 mahasiddhas are inspiring for modern practitioners because of their diverse ways of life and of realisation.
Mahayana
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.
Mahayoga
The first of the three inner Tantras. It is concerned primarily with inner and outer transformation through ritual performance.
men-ngag-dé
The third series of Dzogchen. It is the Series of Implicit Instruction. The men-ngag-dé teachings are ‘self-secret’ because if you have the necessary meditational experience they make perfect sense – but otherwise are completely incomprehensible.
The Tibetan spelling is man ngag sDe.
Naljorma
A female Tantric practitioner. Particularly, an ordained Tantrika who concentrates on physical and energetic practices from Anuyoga and long-dé.
The Tibetan spelling is rNal ’byor ma.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is yogini.
Naljorpa
A male Tantric practitioner. Particularly, an ordained Tantrika concentrating on physical and energetic practices from Anuyoga and long-dé.
The Tibetan spelling is rNal ’byor pa.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is yogi.
Naropa
Naropa, an Indian mahasiddha, was a key figure in the early history of the Sarma lineages.
Ngakma
A female Tantric practitioner. Particularly, an ordained Tantrika concentrating on mantra and practices from Mahayoga.
The Tibetan spelling is sNgags ma.
Ngakpa
A male Tantric practitioner. Particularly, an ordained Tantrika concentrating on mantra and practices from Mahayoga.
The Tibetan spelling is sNgags pa.
Ngala
A Lama who is a Ngakpa or Ngakma; a non-monastic, Tantric Lama. Used as a title.
The Tibetan spelling is sNgags bLa.
ngöndro
A ngöndro is a set of ‘preliminary practices’ that bring you to the base (starting point) of a yana. Within Aro, the most common ngöndro is the four naljors, a series of meditation practices.
The Tibetan spelling is sNgon ’gro.
Read more about: ngöndro
non-duality
The indivisibility of reality. Its unwillingness to conform to the rigid categories we attempt to apply to it. In general Buddhism this usually 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 non-duality. The non-dual state is rigpa, in which we perceive non-duality directly.
Read more about: non-duality
nyam
Experience. In the Buddhist context, usually refers to any unusual experience that occurs during meditation.
The Tibetan spelling is nyams.
Nyida Mélong
The Aro teachings on vajra romance: love as an advanced Buddhist practice. These teachings are a térma of Aro Lingma, the founder of the Aro lineage. The full title of the térma is ‘Khandro Pawo Nyida Mélong Gyüd’ – ‘the tantra of the mutual reflection of the Sun and Moon of female and male Tantrikas’.
Read more about: Nyida Mélong
Nyingma
The ‘old’ tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Aro is a Nyingma lineage. The Nyingma tradition was founded by Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel in the Eighth Century. It is based on the ‘old translations’ of Indian Tantras and on térma. Compare Sarma (the ‘new’ schools).
The Tibetan spelling is rNying ma.
ordination
Ordination is the formal recognition by a religious authority that an individual has made a permanent commitment of unbounded service to the religion and the religious community. Aro ordination is in an ancient Tantric lineage: non-monastic and non-celibate. Tantric ordination, like monastic ordination, involves irrevocable vows to act for the benefit of others.
Read more about: ordination
Padmasambhava
The Second Buddha, who—with his consort Yeshé Tsogyel—established Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet in the Eighth Century. Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel are the central Tantric Buddhas of the Nyingma tradition. In Aro, all yidams are viewed as emanations of Padmasambhava or Yeshé Tsogyel.
The equivalent Tibetan term is Guru Rinpoche.
pamo
‘Heroine’. A female Vajrayana practitioner who manifests courage and outer method display and possesses inner wisdom nature. May also refer to supernatural or semi-divine female Buddhist beings – analogous in some ways to the valkyries of Norse legend. Compare pawo, khandro, and khandropa.
The Tibetan spelling is dPa’ mo.
Read more about: pamo
path
The methods used in a yana to take you from the base to the result.
Read more about: path
pawo
‘Hero’. A male Vajrayana practitioner who manifests courage and outward method display and possesses inner wisdom nature. May also refer to supernatural or semi-divine beings such as Gésar of Ling. Compare pamo, khandro, and khandropa.
The Tibetan spelling is dPa’ bo.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is daka.
Read more about: pawo
practice
‘practice’ in Buddhism means a method or activity. Generally it does not imply repeated simulated performance – in preparation for a presentation – as you would practice for a piano recital.
refuge
To ‘take refuge’ is to affirm your commitment to Buddhism. The refuge ceremony is a formal acknowledgment 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.
Read more about: refuge
renunciation
Renunciation is the path of Sutrayana. In renunciation, we avoid situations that give rise to negative emotions, in order to stop the emotions themselves. The result of renunciation is the peace of emptiness. Compare transformation and self-liberation.
Read more about: renunciation
result
The result of a yana is the condition you enter into after fully accomplishing its path.
Read more about: result
rigpa
In Dzogchen, direct perception of non-duality. According to the Dzogchen view, continuing rigpa is enlightenment.
The Tibetan spelling is rig pa.
root vows
The fourteen root vows are the primary vows (damtsig) of Tantric ordination.
sadhana
The Sanskrit term for drüpthab.
samaya
The Sanskrit term for damtsig.
samsara
The unsatisfying way of experiencing the world as deficient and wrong. Samsara is the result of dualised view. Literally, ‘cyclic existence’.
Sangha
A community of Buddhist practitioners. Sometimes refers specifically to the community of ordained practitioners. There are two divisions of the ordained Sangha: the red or monastic Sangha of monks and nuns, and the white or ngak’phang Sangha of Tantrikas.
Sarma
The ‘new schools’ of Tibetan Buddhism: Kagyüd, Sakya, and Gélug. The Sarma schools are based on new translations of the Indian Tantras made in the Eleventh Century. Compare Nyingma.
The Tibetan spelling is gSar ma.
self-arising
The practice of visualising oneself as a yidam.
Read more about: self-arising
self-liberation
Self-liberation is the path of Dzogchen. Phenomena are self-liberated when we instantaneously recognise their non-dual nature, and allow them to be as they are. Compare renunciation and transformation.
Read more about: self-liberation
sem-dé
Sem-dé is the first of the three series of Dzogchen. It is 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.
The Tibetan spelling is sems sDe.
Read more about: sem-dé
series
Dzogchen is divided into three ‘series’ (or ‘categories’ – Tibetan ): sem-dé, long-dé, and men-ngag-dé. These three contain progressively less conceptual content. There is much to say about sem-dé, less about long-dé, and virtually nothing about men-ngag-dé.
The Tibetan spelling is sDe.
Read more about: series
shamatha
The Sanskrit term for shi-nč.
shi-nč
Shi-nč literally means ‘peaceful abiding’ in Tibetan. It refers to the direct perception of emptiness without conceptual interpretation. It also refers to several meditation methods that aim to find this experience by stilling the mind. Shi-nč is the first of the four naljors of Dzogchen sem-dé. The second is lhatong.
The Tibetan spelling is zhi gNas.
The equivalent Sanskrit term is shamatha.
sKu-mNyé
Aro sKu-mNyé is a system of physical exercises that give rise to extraordinary sensations in the subtle body. Through experiencing these sensations, it is possible to find the presence of non-dual awareness in the dimension of tactility. Aro sKu-mNyé derives from Dzogchen long-dé.
Read more about: sKu-mNyé
subtle body
The energetic body. It is described in terms of ‘channels’ (or ‘spatial nerves’); ‘winds’ (or ‘energies’); and ‘points’ (or ‘elemental essences’).
Sutra
Used in two ways. A sutra is a Buddhist sacred text, generally expressing teachings from Sutrayana. ‘Sutra’ is also used as a shortened form of Sutrayana.
Sutrayana
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. Compare Tantrayana and Dzogchen.
Tantra
Used in two ways. ‘Tantra’ is a short form of ‘Tantrayana’, the Buddhist yana concerned with transformation. A ‘tantra’ is also a sacred text typically expressing teachings from Tantrayana.
Read more about: Tantra
Tantrayana
Tantra is the Buddhist yana whose path is the transformation of neurotically confused emotions into their enlightened equivalents. Compare Sutrayana—the path of discovering emptiness through renunciation—and Dzogchen—the path of remaining in rigpa by means of self-liberation.
Read more about: Tantrayana
Tantrika
One who practices Tantra. Particularly, one who holds the fourteen root vows.
térma
Spiritual treasures that were hidden by a Buddha such as Padmasambhava or Yeshé Tsogyel and subsequently revealed by a Tértön. (Térma is also transcribed as ter, gTér, terma, or gTérma.) The Aro gTér is a pure-vision térma discovered by Aro Lingma.
The Tibetan spelling is gTer ma.
Tértön
One who discovers térma or concealed spiritual treasures.
The Tibetan spelling is gTer sTon.
thangka
A Tibetan religious icon in the form of a scroll that is hung on the wall but can be rolled up when not in use. Thangkas are most often painted, but can also be created with textile arts such as embroidery or appliqué.
The Tibetan spelling is thang ka.
transformation
The path of Tantrayana is the transformation of the neurotic or confused forms of the elemental emotions into their enlightened equivalents.
Read more about: transformation
transmission
Transmission occurs when a student recognises the enlightened nature of a Lama. Through this inspirational experience it becomes possible to recognise one’s own enlightened nature.
trčk-chöd
The Dzogchen meditation method of finding the presence of awareness (rigpa) in the dimension of whatever arises. Trčk-chöd is a powerful method for the self-liberation of distorted emotional energy.
The Tibetan spelling is khregs chod.
Vajrayana
Vajrayana is the Buddhist yana (approach) based on the experience of the non-duality of form and emptiness. It consists of Dzogchen together with Tantrayana. Compare Sutrayana, the approach of finding emptiness.
vehicle
The literal translation of 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.
vipashyana
The Sanskrit term for lhatong.
vipassana
The Pali term for lhatong. Pali is a language related to Sanskrit in which many sutras were written. The Sanskrit equivalent is vipashyana.
wang
The Tibetan term for empowerment. It is spelled dBang.
yana
An approach within Buddhism. A yana is a coherent system of theory and practice that carries one from a base via a path to a particular result. Literally, yana means ‘vehicle’, and it is sometimes translated that way. 
Yanas may be classified in several ways. In Aro, and the Nyingma tradition generally, the three primary yanas are Dzogchen, Tantrayana, and Sutrayana. Tantrayana is then divided into inner Tantra and outer Tantra, both of which have their own subdivisions. Sutrayana consists of Hinayana and Mahayana.
Read more about: yana
Yeshé Tsogyel
The female Buddha who – with her consort Padmasambhava – established Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. Yeshé Tsogyel is regarded as the wellspring of Aro. Alternatively spelled Yeshe Tsogyal.
The Tibetan spelling is ye shes mTsho rGyal.
Read more about: Yeshé Tsogyel
yidam
An ‘awareness-being’. A visionary form expressing enlightenment.  
Sometimes translated ‘meditational deity’ or ‘tutelary deity’. From point of view of inner Tantra, yidams are not seen as external gods, but as styles of enlightenment that we can potentially manifest.
The Tibetan spelling is yi dam.
Read more about: yidam
yidam practice
A meditation in which a yidam is visualised. 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’.
Read more about: yidam practice
yogi
The Sanskrit term for Naljorpa.
yogic song
Yogic song is a method in which the non-conceptual sensory experience of the voice provides the possibility of finding the presence of awareness (rigpa) in the dimension of sound and bodily sensation. Yogic song is a practice of Dzogchen.
The equivalent Tibetan term is Dzogchen gar-dang. It is spelled rDzogs chen sGar gDangs.
Read more about: yogic song
yogini
The Sanskrit term for Naljorma.