Dictionary of Key Spiritual Terms

Previous | Next | English Index | Tibetan Index | Abbreviations | Contents
Wylie | Tibetan


  1. དཀོན་​མཆོག

    [lit. rare + highest, foremost, perfect]

    Biblical: God, the infinite, eternal Spirit who created the world: དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གིས་​ནམ་​མཁའ་​དང་​ས་​བཀོད་​དོ། God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​སྲས། the Son of God (Mt. 4:3), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​ཐུགས་​ཉིད། the Spirit of God (Mt. 3:16), བླ་​ན་​མེད་​པའི་​དཀོན་​མཆོག the Most High God (Mk. 5:7,8), ཡིས་​ར་​ཨེལ་​གྱི་​དཀོན་​མཆོག the God of Israel (Lk. 1:68), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​ཡབ། God the Father (Jn. 6:27), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​ལུག་​གུ། the Lamb of God (Jn. 1:29), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​དམ་​པ། the Holy One of God (Jn. 6:69), ཐོག་​མ་​མེད་​པའི་​དཀོན་​མཆོག the eternal God (Rom. 16:26), ཨབ་​ར་​ཧམ་​དང་​། ཨི་​སག་​དང་​། ཡ་​ཀོབ་​ཀྱི་​དཀོན་​མཆོག the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Acts 3:13), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གསོན་​པོ། the living God (Mt. 16:16). Christian use of the term དཀོན་​མཆོག for God extends back at least to 1762 (ATM). Special uses of the term in the Bib. include: 1) an indefinite noun that may include God and another god: ཡང་​གང་​དཀོན་​མཆོག་​དེས་​མེ་​ལས་​ལན་​འདེབས་​པ། the god who answers by fire - he is God (1 Ki. 18:24), རྒྱུས་​མེད་​པའི་​དཀོན་​མཆོག an unknown god (Acts 17:23); 2) a metaphor for a powerful man: དཀོན་​མཆོག་​ནི་​ང་​རང་​སྟེ། "I am a god" (Eze. 28:2); 3) a value prized above all: དེ་​ཚོའི་​དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གྲོད་​པ་​ཡིན། their god is their stomach (Phil. 3:19); 4) spiritual beings: ཁྱེད་​ཀྱི་​བཀའ་​ཁྲིམས་​ནང་​ཁྱེད་​རྣམས་​དཀོན་​མཆོག་​ཡིན་​ངས་​སྨྲས། ཞེས་​བྲིས་​མི་​འདུག་​གམ། is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods' (Jn. 10:34).

    Common Phrases: དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​བཀའ། the word of God (Mt. 15:6), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​རྒྱལ་​སྲིད། the kingdom of God (Mt. 19:24), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​མཐུ་​སྟོབས། the power of God (Mk. 12:24), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​ཐུགས་​རྗེ། the grace of God (Lk. 2:40), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​གནང་​སྦྱིན། the gift of God (Jn. 4:10), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​དཔལ། God's glory (Jn. 11:4), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​ལ་​འཇིགས། God-fearing (Acts 10:2), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​དགོངས་​པ། the will of God (Acts 20:26,27), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​ཐུགས་​ཁྲོ། the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​བྱམས་​པ། the love of God (Rom. 8:39), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​མཁྱེན་​རབ། the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:21), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​དྲུང་​དུ། in the presence of God (Lk. 1:19), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​སྤྱན། in God's sight (2 Cor. 4:2), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​ཞབས་​ཏོག servants of God (2 Cor. 6:4), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​ཕྲིན་​བཟང་​། the gospel of God (2 Cor. 11:7), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​ཕོ་​བྲང་​། the house of God (Mt. 12:4), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​བཞུགས་​ཁྲི། God's throne (Mt. 23:22), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​ཡེ་​ཤེས། the knowledge of God (Rom. 11:33), དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​སྲས། sons of God (Mt. 5:9).

    Buddhist: 1) In folk Bsm. དཀོན་​མཆོག is a powerful, supernatural, impersonal being to whom prayers are often addressed: རྒྱལ་​སྲིད་​སྐྱོང་​བར་​སྲས་​ངེས་​པར་​དུ་​དགོས་​པར་​བརྟེན་​རྒྱལ་​པོ་​ཟས་​གཙང་​གིས་​ཡར་​དཀོན་​མཆོག་​མཆོད་​པ་​ཕུལ། to make certain of having a son and preserving his kingdom, Setsang made offerings to དཀོན་​མཆོག above (SGN 1); 2) in orthodox Bsm. དཀོན་​མཆོག is used individually and collectively of the Buddha སངས་​རྒྱས་​དཀོན་​མཆོག, the doctrine ཆོས་​དཀོན་​མཆོག, and the body of monks དགེ་​འདུན་​དཀོན་​མཆོག - the so-called triple refuge or དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གསུམ། The Buddha jewel is believed to be like a physician who prescribes a powerful medicine (the doctrine jewel) to a patient (mankind) who is attended by a skilful nurse (the jewel of the body of monks). Those who accept this treatment are said to "take refuge": དཀོན་​མཆོག་​ལ་​སྐྱབས་​སུ་​འགྲོ་​བ། to go to the three jewels for refuge (TRC 217), མི་​བསླུ་​གཏན་​གྱི་​སྐྱབས་​གཅིག་​དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གསུམ། the only never-failing, constant refuge is the three jewels (HTE 180). Devout Bsts. take refuge as often as four times a day (JPG 224).

    Related Terms: 1) གནམ་​བདག the Lord of heaven, reportedly used as the word for God in an early Catholic translation of the Bible; hence the modern term གནམ་​བདག་​ཆོས་​ལུགས། Catholicism; 2) དཀོན་​མཆོག་​རིན་​པོ་​ཆེ། used by the Muslim Tibetan author Khache Phalu to refer to Allah: བོད་​ཀྱི་​སྐད་​དུ་​དཀོན་​མཆོག་​རིན་​པོ་​ཆེ། རང་​རེའི་​སྐད་​དུ་​གོ་​བརྡ། in Tibetan He is "the most Precious One", and in our language, "Godhar" (one of the names of Allah) (KPU 2); 3) used to refer generally to the God of the major theistic religions: ཆོས་​ཀྱི་​དགོས་​པ་​ཇི་​ཡིན་​ལ་​བལྟ་​དགོས་​པ་​ལས། དཀོན་​མཆོག་​གི་​སྐོར་​དང་​། it is more important to look at the purpose of religion than at the details of theology [lit. God] (DLP 22).

  2. ལྷ།

    Biblical: local spirits, pagan gods: 1) local gods ང་​ཚོའི་​གདོང་​དུ་​འགྲོ་​བའི་​ལྷ། gods who will go before us (Acts 7:40), ལྷ་​གཞན་​པ། foreign gods (Acts 17:18), ལྷ་​དང་​ཇོ་​བོ་​མང་​པོ་​ཡོད། there are many "gods" and many "lords" (1 Cor. 8:5), ལོངས་​ལ། རང་​གི་​ལྷ་​ལ་​བོས། get up and call on your god (Jonah 1:6); 2) powerful men: ལྷའི་​གསུང་​སྐད། the voice of a god (Acts 12:22), ཁོང་​ནི་​ལྷ་​ཞིག་​གོ་​ཟེར་​རོ། they said he was a god (Acts 28:6); 3) local pagan deities of the ancient world: ལྷ་​མོ་​ཆེན་​མོ་​ཨར་​ཏི་​མི། the great goddess Artemis (Acts 19:27), རང་​གི་​ལྷ་​ནིས་​རོག་​གི་​ལྷ་​ཁང་​། the temple of his god Nisroch (2 Ki. 19:37); 4) a highly prized value: མཐུ་​སྟོབས་​ངའི་​ལྷ་​ལས་​ཡིན་​ཞེས་​སེམས། men whose own strength is their god (Hab. 1:11); 5) a spirit or characteristic attitude: འཇིག་​རྟེན་​འདིའི་​ལྷས་​སེམས་​ལྡོངས་​སུ་​བཅུག་​པ་​ཡིན། the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4).

    Buddhist: 1) Orthodox Bsm. recognizes two types of gods: those who are still trapped in cyclic existence: འཇིག་​རྟེན་​ལྷ།, and those who have passed beyond it. Gods in cyclic existence are born, live a life of pleasure and happiness for a period, and die like the other beings trapped in the cycle of rebirth. They have great merit, but not enough to release themselves from rebirth. They may even be distracted by their heavenly pleasures and fall into a lower rebirth (KTM). However, generally rebirth as a god is considered fortunate (TRC 216): ལྷ་​དང་​མིའི་​ལུས་​བཟང་​པོ་​ཐོབ། sometimes getting the good body of a human or a god [in rebirth] (TRC 260). Worldly gods include དབང་​ཕྱུག Ishvara, བརྒྱ་​བྱིན། Indra, ཚངས་​པ། Brahma, ཁྱབ་​འཇུག Vishnu, འདོད་​པའི་​དབང་​ཕྱུག Kamadeva, and ཚོགས་​བདག Ganesh (TRI 300). Gods outside the cycle of rebirth include the tantric meditational deities བྱ་​རྒྱུད་​ཀྱི་​ལྷ། including སྟོང་​པའི་​ལྷ། emptiness deity, སྒྲའི་​ལྷ། sound deity, etc. (TRI 183); 2) Buddhas and boddhisattvas are regarded as superior to the gods but are sometimes given the title ལྷ། as an honorific: བཀའ་​གདམས་​ལྷ་​བཞི། the four deities of the Kadampas are ཐུབ་​པ། the Buddha, སྤྱན་​རས་​གཟིགས། Chenresi or Avalokiteshvara, སྒྲོལ་​མ། Dolma or Tara, མི་​གཡོ་​བ། Acala (CNG 51, TRI 13); 3) respected figures of the past are also sometimes given the title: འཕགས་​པ་​ལྷ། Aryadeva, 3rd century disciple of Nagarjuna (TRC 25), ལྷ་​ཐོ་​ཐོ་​རི་​གཉན་​བཙན། twenty seventh of the ancient Tibetan kings (TRC 112), ལྷ་​བླ་​མ་​ཡེ་​ཤེས་​འོད་​དང་​། བྱང་​ཆུབ་​འོད། the guru-kings Yeshe Od and Byang Chub Od (TRC 116), སྒྱུ་​མ་​ལྷ་​མཛེས། mother of the Buddha (SGN 1); 4) the term can also be used to mean "sublime" or "excellent": ལྷ་​ཆོས། the sublime dharma (HTE 204), hence ལྷ་​ཆོས་​པ། may be used to mean "sublime dharma person" or devout (AMD) as well as "pagan" (Acts 15:23); ལྷ་​རྒྱུད། a good lineage (KPU 33); ལྷ་​རམ་​པ། first class Geshe degree. Gods and spirits may be ranked in eight classes, the ལྷ་​སྲིན་​སྡེ་​བརྒྱད། namely: གཤིན་​རྗེ། Shinje (Skt. Yama) the lord of death; མ་​མོ། a class of terrifying female protector deities, the chief of which is དཔལ་​ལྡན་​ལྷ་​མོ། Palden Lhamo, foremost goddess of Tibetan Bsm.; བདུད། the devil, demons (see evil spirit); བཙན། local mountain-dwelling demons believed capable of possessing humans and causing disease; རྒྱལ་​པོ། principal local gods; ཀླུ། nagas or serpent-deities associated with water; གནོད་​སྦྱིན། [Skt. yaksa] harmful spirits believed to live near mountain passes; and གཟའ། malignant stars or planets which may cause disease or death (CNG 107). There are also personal gods called འགོ་​བའི་​ལྷ། which are believed to protect individuals. Among them are ཡུལ་​ལྷ། local god, ཕོ་​ལྷ། the male god of a man; མོ་​ལྷ། the female god of a woman; དགྲ་​ལྷ། the enemy-combatting god; སྲོག་​ལྷ། the life-force god (CNG 53, TRI 51). For the place of the gods in Bst. cosmology, see world.

    Cognates: 1) ལྷ་​ཁང་​། temple; 2) ལྷ་​བྲིས། thangka painting; 3) ལྷ་​མ་​ཡིན། demigods (TRC 272); 4) ལྷ་​ས། Lhasa.