Ma (T): The country of Ma in Kham, eastern Tibet. Also: "Ma-yang Chugmo," the Land of Ling; and "Ma Thama," Happy Valley. One ancient reference reads, "In the great land of Ma is the snowy mountain Mar-yal-pom-ra."

Machig Labdron (T): Considered to be an incarnation of Yeshe Tsogyal, the Wisdom Consort and primary disciple of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambava). She was a learned Tibetan who was known for the clarity and beauty by which she read scriptures aloud to patrons. Through her experience she gained merit and insight into the Prajnaparamita, the teachings upon the Perfection of Wisdom, Shunyata. In a Pure Vision of Tara, she was bestowed the teachings of the Chöd rite, a practice which cuts or severs the ego at the root. She became so famous due to the profundity of her realization and teachings, her tradition of practice spread throughout all of Tibet and the lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, Nepal and India. She is the only Tibetan teacher whose teachings were spread back into India, the motherland of the Dharma. She is white in color, depicted in the dancing posture on her left foot, with her right foot raised and the ball of her right foot suppressing the corpse of ego. She holds a chöd drum (damaru) in her right hand and rings a bell in her left.

Madhyamika (S): Tibetan: Uma. Middle Way. A philosophical school based on the Prajnaparamita Sutras and their doctrine of Emptiness; the Middle Way philosophy expounded by Nagarjuna. The Madhyamika is concerned both with the transcendence of logical affirmation and negation, and stresses the dependent origination of all things and the limitations of rational constructs. It represents a great philosophical tradition of Mahayana buddhism, which was expounded in detail by the great Master Nagarjuna, which adopts a middle position between two extreme views of eternalism and nihilism. Madhyamika is a response to essential questions concerning the existence or the nonexistence of things (phenomena) as well as beings. Nagarjuna states that in the final analysis of any conventionally established object, it is an error either to affirm or deny its existence, nonexistence, to say it possess attributes of the two at the same time, or neither, are all insufficient to describe its true nature. To claim otherwise is an extreme view which is a symptom of ego-clinging to the assumption of inherent existence. Since the Buddha taught the emptiness of appearance, nowhere will one find substance, essence or ontological foundation; with proper analysis, the problem disappears on its own since there is no further referenceto an ego or real things. Nagarjuna equated emptiness with interdependent origination, thecausally-conditioned, relative nature of all compounded phenomena. He posited two levels of truth, the absolute and the conventional. His immediate disciple Aryadeva carried on his teaching. About A.D. 500 Bhavaviveka, heading the Svatantrika school of the Madhyamika, held that the Buddhist position can be put forward by positive argument. The Prasanga school, championed by Chandrakirti, opposed him and reaffirmed the simple refutation of opponents by reductio ad absurdum as the true Madhyamika position.

Magadha (S): One of the four great kingdoms (i.e. Magadha, Kosala, Vansa, and Avanti) in ancient India, ruled from its capital Rajagaha. The king of Magadha, Bimbisara, became a follower of Shakyamuni.

maha (S): "Great." A prefix in terms such as mahatma, mahasiddha, mahayana.

Mahakala (S): One of the most prominent guardians or protector deities in Tibetan Buddhism; especially idenitified with the Sakya Order, but common to all orders. An emanation of Chenrezi (Skt., Avalokitesvara), Mahakala is the wrathful deity that destroys mind chatter and brings our minds back into attentive focus. There are many different colors and forms of Mahakala, but he is recognized universally as one of the great protectors of the Dharma. According to the Vajrakilaya teachings, a powerful demon named Rudra, Black Liberation (T. tharpa nagpo) was transformed by Vajrikilaya into the protector of the teachings of the 1002 Buddhas of this Fortunate Aeon, Mahakala. There is a prophecy that in the future, Mahakala will become a Buddha in the subterranean world system.

Mahakaruna (S): Great compassion.

Mahamaya (S) The mother of Prince Gautama who became Shakaymuni Buddha. A Koliyan Princess married to King Suddhodana, Chieftan of the Sakyan Clan. Together they resided in the city of Kapilavastu.

Mahamudra (S): Tibetan: Chag gya Chenpo. Great Seal or Symbol. The highest meditative transmission/teaching in the Tibetan Kagyu school as is "Dzogchen" or Great Perfection in the Nyingma school. Lineages proceed through Tilopa, Naropa and Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa. The Mahamudra Sutra emphasizes dwelling in tranquility and insight, and progressing along the Five Paths (which starts with the beginning of Dharma practice and the accumulation of merit and ends with complete Enlightenment).

Mahasamadhi (S): Great Meditative Equanimity. The death, or dropping off of the physical body, of a great soul, an event occasioned by tremendous blessings. Also names the shrine in which the remains of a great soul are entombed. Mahasamadhi day names the anniversary of a great soul's transition.

Mahasiddhas (S): Great Accomplished One. Tibetan: Drub-chen. A practitioner who has achieved great realization. Forerunners of the tantric lineage in Tibet, the 84 Indian tantric masters were largely non-monastic and renowned for effecting miraculous changes in both themselves and the phenomenal world through spiritual power. They came from all walks of life, and developed the means by which the Dharma could be effectively practiced by people of widely varying capacities and inclinations.

Mahayana (S): The Big Vehicle. A main limb of Buddhism that spreads into many different branches.  What all have in common is that they accept the authority of texts that the Shravaka branch explicitly rejected as being the teachings of the historical Buddha, now the tradition of Theravda Buddhism. Mahayana emphasizes working, studying and practicing meditation for the benefit of all sentient beings. A universal love leads to freedom from the sufferings of the world. The Buddhist begins to arouse the wish in herself to release all beings from suffering. The number of Mahayana texts is so large that no one can hope to read them all within a single lifetime, so usually Mahayana Buddhists specialize by focusing on just a few texts or sometimes only one text. Mahayana Buddhism was basis of the Buddhism practiced in pre-Islamic Northern India; Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

The Zen school finds its origins based on the transmission of one text, the Lankavatara Sutra (the full title of which, "Introduction of True Dharma into Sri Lanka," a country that had both Theravada and Mahayana branches of Buddhism. The Chinese Pure Land schools were based on texts describing beautiful realms into which one could be reborn to more easily pursue dharma than is possible in this lifetime. Another Chinese school, "Lotus," is entirely based on the "White Lotus of the True Dharma Sutra," which tries to reconcile all the branches of Buddhism into one; this tradition gave rise to the Japanese Nichiren school, which begat Saka Gakkai, known for its energetic proselytizing. Mahayana Buddhism once thrived in China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia. Also called the Northern Buddhism, it is now weak in China and has been for most of this century.  It has completely disappeared from Indonesia, now a Muslim country. Only about one-third of the population of Korea is still Buddhist; the majority of Koreans are now Christians. In Vietnam, there is now one single form of Buddhism, which resulted from combining Theravada and Mahayana into a single school. It has been considerably weakened by all the wars and revolutions in that country, and by the recent passion for modernization, but it survives in the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. In Japan, interest in Buddhism is rapidly declining in most sectors of the population and is being displaced by hundreds of so-called New Religions (some of which pay at least a token respect to something vaguely Buddhist in character).

Mahayoga A division of the Doctrine of Result or phalayana, another epithet of the tantra. The first of three vehicles of inner tantra, predominantly centering on the generative, creative or developing phase. There are two sections of mahayoga: tantra and sadhana. The sadhana section is divided into two sections as well; kama (the Buddha's word) and terma (or treasure). The basic mahayoga view is to realize the "inseparability of phenomena, or appearance, and great emptiness". This is the absolute truth. The skillful means to attain this realization is to meditate on everything as the pure appearance of the mandala of deities. This is the relative truth. The activity involves acceptance of the 'Five meats', the 'Five nectars' as well as the non-differentiation between impure and pure. The result is the attainment of the transcendent integration of the mandala in this life or in the bardo.

Mahottama (S): The Greatest, The Best. Nyingma tutelary deity, a Heruka (Dharma Protectors or Vajra Protectors, S., ishta-devata; T. yidam). Heruka deities are enlightened beings that adopt fierce forms to express their liberation from the world of ignorance. The central paired-deity, Mahottama and his prajna consort, are a peaceful/wrathful manifestation of enlightenment and a form of the Adi Buddha Samantabhadra. Mahottama Heruka may also serve as a personal protective deity. Despite the fierce appearance, the practitioner recognizes that it is the peaceful nature of Mahottama Heruka that serves as a guide and protector.

maithuna (S): Sexual union in a ritual context, as is practiced in vamacara. In dakshinacara, the term is mostly used for the mere visualization of such.

Maitreya (S): from maitri, loving-kindness. Tibetan: Jampa. The Buddha To Come, prophesied to be the Teacher of the next age, and one of the most popular bodhisattvas. He resides in Ganden (S. Tushita) a heavenly paradise until his incarnation. Especially popular in Mongolia and worhsipped in major annual festivals. He is often a seated Bodhisattva whose devotion spans both Theravedic (Hinayana) and Mahayana countries. He is supposed to reappear on earth in human form, for the deliverance of all sentient beings to enlightenment by revealing that which time and ignorance have covered. He will be the last of the five Buddhas to gain supreme enlightenment in this aeon. He holds a lotus stalk in his right hand and may be represented either standing or sitting.

mala (S): T. treng-wa. A string of beads for counting prayers and other spiritual practices. The ideal number of beads is said to be 108.

mandala (S): Circle; sacred space. Tibetan: Khyil-Khor. Lit. circle-surround. A support for a meditating person, a mystical diagram of energy within which deities or their emblems are portrayed in a symmetrically arrange diagram arranged in a basically circular pattern. It represents symbolically the diverse stages that the disciple should go through to arrive at the realization of ultimate buddhood. One uses the Mandala in the transmission of iniations and the practice of tantric rituals. They can also act as an offering in which the disciple offers to the Lama and to the Buddhas, an idealized universe. The mandala is often illustrated as a palace with four gates, facing the four corners of the Earth. A mandala is a representation or symbol for various energies or particular enlightened states of mind. A mandala may be in two dimensions, as in a painting, in three dimensions, such as in the placement of sacred objects, or symbolized by a mudra. The body, a conscious gathering of initiates or even the world at large may be interpreted as a mandala, as they symbolize various aspects of universal energies. A mandala may also be the throne of a particular deity.

mandorla (S): Halo behind an auspicious figure that conveys an added spiritual aura.

mani stone: stone inscribed with the Chenrezi mantra (Om mani padme hum) in Tibetan script and built into walls or cairns on paths in the Himalayan countries.

Manjusri (S): "He who is noble and gentle." The Bodhisattva of Transcendent Wisdom, typically depicted with the Prajnaparamita Sutra, the book of transcendent wisdom, and a sword which cuts through the clouds of ignorance. He is the Prince of Wisdom who confers mastery of the Dharma–retentive memory, mental perfection and eloquence. With Avalokitesvara and Vajrapani, he is one of the three primary protectors, hailing from Variochana’s Tathagata family.

Manjushrimitra (S): Tibetan: Jampa Shenyen. Buddhist scholar, and possibly a king of Singhala (now Sri Lanka), who is said to have been a student of Garab Dorje, and who was given the Nyingtig teachings both in personal contact and during visionary appearance after his teachers passing. Manjusrimitra classified the teachings he received and transmitted this Dzogchen material to Sri Singha. The problem with this story is that it covers a few centuries in time. If Manjushrimitra knew Garab Dorje, he must have lived in the 2nd or 1st century BCE; placing his disciple Sri Singha not much later. But Sri Singha is also supposed to have had personal contact with Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra (as is also reported in the mid-8th century.

mantra (S): thinking tool. Tibetan: nyak. "Mind protector." Sanskrit words signifying a sacred word, verse or syllable which embodies in sound the energy of some specific deity or primordial power. Sound tools that guard the mind, protecting it from all intrusion of perturbing thoughts or emotions which dilute meditation. A series of syllables invoking a spiritual power or blessing; a creative sound expressing the innermost essence of understandings. A mantra may be directly meaningful, expressing a wish or affirmation ("Lama, please think of me") or quite abstract (om mani padme hum). Some are a single or couple of syllables (bija, or seed) containing the germ of a deity or exalted consciousness. Each deity has one or several mentras which corresponds to him/her. Some reflect words spoken by the Buddhas which hold great blessings. The Vajrayana is frequently called Mantrayana or "Vehicle of secret Mantras."

Mantrayana S. Vehicle of Awareness Spells. also known as Vajrayana or 'Diamond Vehicle', symbolizing indestructibility. The Mantrayana had its origin in small groups of practitioners gathered around an accomplished master or guru. The path based on teachings of the Tantras, known as the Mantrayana, emphasizes the practice of sadhana, the development and completion stages of meditation, and the skillful use of a great many transformational techniques. It is elaborately structured in stages: preliminary practices, study of commentaries, formal initations, and receiving profound oral instructions. The skillful means are taught to fulfill the vision of the Bodhisattva and accelerate the process of awakening. Because of the use of certain sacred syllables or mantras it is referred to as the Mantrayana. From the perspective of the Mantrayana, fully awakened reality abides primordially and intrinsically. This is nature of the ground, our spiritual potential, as pervasive as the sky. It is also the path that brings about recognition and removal of the clouds of emotions and ignorance. It is necessary to receive an empowerment from a lineage holder to practice the secret Mantrayana. There are numerous mantras and skillful means available which have been empowered by the lineage gurus' wisdom to enable practitioners to move beyond emotional reactivity and be released into the all-encompassing primordial awareness. Vajradhara is the super-human Teacher of the Secret Doctrine upon which the Vajrayana and Mantrayana are based. Asanga founded the Yogacara or contemplative School which developed into the Mantrayana or 'Path of the Mantra' about A.D. 700.

Mara (S): Literally, "murderer". The Evil One who "takes" away the wisdom-life of all living beings.

marga (S): Way or path.

Marpa (1012-97): The "Great Translator" of Tibet, Marpa traveled from Tibet to India three times to bring back various Tantric Buddhist teachings, especially those of his main teacher, Naropa. As a farmer, he lived an ordinary householder's life, yet was a very accomplished yogi. His most famous student was Jetsun Milarepa. Among the most renowned Tibetan masters and one of the main gurus of the Kagyu lineage.

Mayadevi (S): The mother of Siddhartha Gautama who became the Buddha, and the wife of King Suddhohana. Eldest daughter of the Sakyan King Suprabuddha, she dreamed of a white elephant as she conceived, gave birth while holding on to the branch of a plaksa tree in the garden of Lumbini. She died seven days after giving birth to Gautama. The prince was raised by Mayadevi's sister, Prajapati who was among the first women to be accepted into the order. Buddha's cousin Ananda was the son of the youngest of Suprabuddha's daughters.

Medicine Buddha: the Healing Buddha. Traditionally, there are eight medicine buddhas with their chief portrayed as a powerfully built, dark-blue being, who has promised to help all those who are sick and dying. Bhaisajya-guru is depicted holding a bowl continuing the five kinds of medicines. The puja, performed monthly, helps to clear and avert obstacles due to sickness and diseases. The blessings from Medicine Buddha prevents one from falling into the lower states of rebirth. Those already in a lower state of rebirth will be quickly liberated and will take rebirth in a precious human body. The Healing Buddha mantra is "Om Bhekandze Bekanzhe Maha Bhekandzhe Randza Samungaté soha." See Myrobalan

Milarepa (1025-1135): The most beloved yogi of Tibet. After killing his abusive relatives through black magic, Milarepa performed hard labor for his teacher, Marpa, to remove the negative karma of murder. After receiving instruction from Marpa, Milarepa diligently performed meditation in the icy caves of the Himalayas. His disciple, Gampopa, founded the Kagyu School. Although Milarepa is considered a forefather of the Kagyü, he was a holder of Nyingma lineage who counted numerous 'ngakpas' among his disciples -- great Lamas such as Réchungpa. He was a disciple of Marpa the translator and his sangyum, Dagmèma. Milarépa was a ngakpa, who specialised in the practices of the Tummo and Dzogchen Long-dé. In art, Milarepa may be seen wearing the white shawl, representing his practice of Dzogchen Long-dé. He wears the yogi's earrings and the uncut hair of the gö-kar chang-lo'i dé.

mind: In Buddhism, the mind in its profound nature is clarity-emptiness, bliss-emptiness, that is to say the very essence of buddhahood. For beings who are not liberated, this nature is obscured by conditional veils which have been there from beginningless time; the veils of negative impulses and deluded consciousness. Through the pursuit of an authentic spiritual quest, these veils can be purified and the true nature of the mind, will then reveal itself in Buddhahood.

Mindroling Mindroling Monastery was founded in the 17th century by Orgyen Terdag Lingpa, who made a great collection of ancient Nyingma Kama texts. It was originally a branch of the monastery founded by the father of gTerdag Lingpa, Sang-dag Thrin-le Lhundrup. Over the years the Mindroling grew to have approximately 111 branch gompas in Tibet.

Mongols: "Kublai Khan told Marco Polo: 'The Christians worship Jesus, the Saracens worship Mohamed, the Jews worship Moses and the idolaters worship Sakyamuni Burkhan (Buddha)." (Marco Polo in Waugh: 1984...pg 69) MORE ON MONGOLS

monk: The masters of Buddhism can be separated into several categories according to the vows that they have taken. The lay practicioners (Tibetan: Ge Nyen. Sanskrit: Upasaka) have at least the vow of refuge and perhaps one or several of five precepts which forbid murder, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and indulging in intoxicants. Novices (Tibetan: Getsul) have taken vows of celibacy and chastity by maintaining ten vows. Fully ordained monks (Tibetan: Gelong. Sanskrit: Bhiksu) are subject also to chastity, and respect a code of discipline explained in the Vinaya by the Buddha himself and which is comprised of 253 diverse vows regulating in the smallest details, the attitude, the behavior, the clothing, the walk, nourishment, etc. of the monks.

moksha (S): Liberation, Release. T. tharpa. Release from transmigration, samsara, the round of births and deaths, which occurs after karma has been resolved and samadhi, or realization of the Self, is attained. Originally developed from Upanishadic teachers. By leading a highly spiritual life (or several lives), a soul could be reunited with Brahman, the Ultimate Reality. Same as mukti.

mudra (S): Seal, attitude. Esoteric hand gestures which express specific energies or powers. Usually accompanied by precise visualizations, mudras are a vital element of ritual worship (puja), dance and yoga. Among the best-known mudras are: 1) abhaya mudra (gesture of fearlessness), in which the fingers are extended, palm facing forward; 2) anjali mudra (palms brought together before the heart, gesture of reverence); 3) jnana mudra (also known as chin mudra and yoga mudra), in which the thumb and index finger touch, forming a circle, with the other fingers extended; 4) dhyana mudra (seal of meditation), in which the two hands are open and relaxed with the palms up, resting on the folded legs, the right hand atop the left with the tips of the thumbs gently touching. Mudra also designates the spiritual spouse which serves as support in the practice of realization in the Tantras. The "Flaming Mudra" is the gesture which commands the deity being invoked to remember the sacred bond which unites him with the initiated practioner and, in respect of this bond, to come and manifest himself to the practioner.

mukhya (S): Head; foremost. From mukha, "face, countenance." Leader, guide; such as the family head, kutumba mukhya (or pramukha).

mula (S): Root. The root, base or bottom or basis of anything, as in muladhara chakra. Foundational, original or causal, as in mulagrantha, "original text."

muladhara chakra (S): Root-support wheel. Four-petaled psychic center at the base of the spine; said to govern memory.

myrobalan (S): Tibetan: men chog gyal po (King of Medicines). The Medicine Buddha, Sangye Menla [Bhaisajyaguru], is usually depicted holding a sprig of the arura or myrobalan plant (terminalia chebula), which bears the nectar of immortality that fills the Medicine Buddha's bowl. In the Ayurvedic tradition, myrobalan is believed to be a panacea; in Tibetan medicine, the most supreme of drugs.