- absoluteA term for the fact that all things are empty of any inherent, independent, enduring self-nature, and are actually just integral parts of one, seamless, luminous whole. Contrasted with the relative truth that, at the same time, countless phenomena exist, interact, and have unique characteristics. Absolute and relative compromise the "two truths" teaching of Mahayana Buddhism.
- anattaNot-self, one of the Three Characteristics of Existence.
- aniccaImpermanence, one of the Three Characteristics of Existence.
- arhatA fully awakened person who is liberated from the cycle of transmigration and will not be reborn.
- asuraDemigod in the cosmology of the Six Realms of Existence; in Sanskrit, sura means "god" and the prefix a implies a negative, so an asura is a non-god. Beings in the asura realm can see into heaven and are consumed with envy for what they do not have, even though on the Wheel of Life they are relatively fortunate.
- bodhisattvaA Buddhist practitioner who vows to attain enlightenment, but also to be reborn in the world to rescue other beings instead of entering nirvana (complete release with no rebirth); aside from the traditional definition involving rebirth, it means a practitioner who vows to benefit others beings and not just achieve liberation for themselves. [Alt: bodhisatta, Pali]
- bodhisattva precepts
- buddha-natureA Mahayana term describing our essential nature as naturally tending toward awakening, or as being fundamentally awake and complete from the beginning.
- Chanyuan QingguiThe oldest extant formal set of regulations for a Chan/Zen monastery, composed in 1103, containing detailed instructions for daily conduct of monks, ceremonies, and administration. The Chanyuan Qinggui heavily influenced later Chan/Zen monastic regulations, including those composed by Dogen for Japanese Soto monasteries.
- Cycle of TransmigrationA worldview based on the belief, originating in ancient India before the time of the Buddha, that human beings are reborn in this world over and over, having to endure the indignities of birth, loss, old age, illness, and death endlessly.
- dharani“Mystical verse,” a short or long piece of text that may or may not be translatable, sometimes representing the “heart” of an essential teaching, the mere recitation of which is believed to have real power either in the world (i.e. for protection) or on the body or mind (i.e. an aid in concentration or discipline).
- Dharma(With a capital “D”) Buddhist teachings, or, at a deeper level, truth.
- Eighteen DhatusThe eighteen realms of experience, as conceived in early Buddhism, including the Six Sense Objects (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and thoughts), the Six Sense Organs required to receive stimulation from them, and the Six Consciousnesses (mental capacity) necessary to create perception.
- Eightfold Noble PathPart of the Buddha's original teaching, about the path of practice to liberation, including Appropriate (Right) View, Intention, Action, Speech, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness, and Concentration/Meditation.
- emptinessUsually a translation of term shunyata, and meaning “empty” of inherent, independent, enduring self-nature (a quality of all beings and things).
- Five PreceptsThe five basic moral guidelines for all Buddhists, including lay people and monastics: abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and using (for lay people, sometimes more loosely interpreted as "abusing") intoxicants. The Five Precepts are recommended but optional for lay people, but required for monastics, who are also required to abide by additional precepts and regulations.
- five skandhasSee skandha.
- Four Noble TruthsPart of the Buddha's original teaching, about the cause of suffering (dukkha) and how to become free from suffering, including the Truth of Dukkha, the Truth of the Cause of Dukkha (grasping and aversion), the Truth of the Cessation of Dukkha (by releasing grasping and aversion), and the Truth of the Eightfold Noble Path (how one achieves the Cessation of Dukkha).
- Hakuin18th-century Japanese Zen master famous for a fiery teaching style, many writings, and for revitalizing the Rinzai school in Japan.
- Heart SutraA short text (less than 250 words) composed somewhere around the 1st century CE, probably in China, considered to contain the essence of Mahayana Buddhism. The Heart Sutra is part of a larger body of works called the Prajnaparamita Scriptures, and is chanted daily throughout the world in Chan, Zen, and other Mahayana temples.
- Hongzhi Zhengjue
- JainismA religion founded by Mahavira, which arose in India around the same time as Buddhism (500BCE). Part of Jain belief is that the immaterial soul, or jiva, is trapped in the body, and any violent actions generate heavy karma that keeps the jiva trapped in the body. Therefore, the Jain ideal is ahimsa, or non-harming.
- jhanaDeep meditative concentration, of which there are different levels. [Alt: dhyana]
- kalpaA traditional Buddhist term for a very, very long period of time, like an eon. Defined in various ways, but one vivid description is to imagine how long it would take to wear away a solid rock 1 cubic mile in size if you came by and brushed the rock with a silk scarf once every 100 years, and a kalpa is longer than that.
- Kuan Yin
- Lotus SutraA incredibly influential Mahayana text composed between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE by unknown authors, containing many classic Buddhist teachings, images, and parables. The Lotus Sutra became the primary text for a number of Buddhist sects, including one that believes it contains everything necessary for one's salvation (Nichiren school).
- MahayanaLiterally “great vehicle” (yana meaning vehicle), or the Buddhist path of a bodhisattva.
- Mahayana Buddhism
- mantraA syllable, word, series of syllables, or short verse, usually in (or transliterated from) Sanskrit, the mere recitation of which (silently or out loud) is believed to have real power either in the world (i.e. for protection or healing) or on the body or mind (i.e. an aid in concentration or discipline); similar to a dharani but, generally speaking, a mantra is much shorter.
- Middle Way
- NidanakathaAn non-canonical ancient Buddhist text, "The Introduction to the Jataka," that gives a chronological account of Shakyamuni Buddha's life and is the source of many myths about the Buddha. See Episode 11: Life of Shakyamuni Buddha Part 1: Source Texts, and Birth Through Homeleaving for a discussion of this text.
- non-returnerIn original Buddhism, a practitioner who has attained a level of spiritual mastery such that they will not be reborn again in this world, but will, after death, be reborn in a heavenly realm where they will achieve nirvana.
- oryokiLiterally "just enough," a communal Zen meal ritual where each participant uses a personal set of nesting bowls wrapped in a cloth. After unwrapping the bowls, receiving food, and eating, the bowls are washed, dried, and wrapped up again - without anyone moving from their seat.
- parivrajaka“Wanderer;” In India, parivrajakas renounced the restrictions of worldly life, including caste, social, and ritual expectations. They lived in forests, caves, or other humble conditions as mendicants without social status, and depended on alms. They devoted themselves full time to spiritual study and practice, either alone or within loose communities formed around teachers.
- personal karmaAll the ways you are that have resulted from previous causes – genetic, familial, and cultural causes, plus all of the experiences you’ve had that have led to your conditioning and habitual responses, and your choices (conscious and unconscious). Also see karma.
- Prajnaparamita Scriptures
- preceptsThe moral rules/guidelines in Buddhism.
- Pure LandA heavenly realm of peace and bliss, particularly as envisioned in Pure Land Buddhism, where the realm is presided over by Amida (Amitabha) Buddha. Devotees can be reborn in the Pure Land, where it will be easier to attain enlightenment because you will be free from the trials and limitations of earthly life.
- rakusuA bib-like garment worn around the neck, as a symbol of having taken Jukai and/or as having taken a formal teacher (in Zen).
- relativeA term for the fact that countless phenomena exist, interact, and have unique characteristics. Contrasted with the absolute truth that, at the same time, all things are empty of any inherent, independent, enduring self-nature, and are actually just integral parts of one, seamless, luminous whole. Absolute and relative compromise the "two truths" teaching of Mahayana Buddhism.
- Rinzai[Rinzai Zen] One of two major extant schools of Zen (the other being Soto); Rinzai developed in China (where it was called the Linji school or branch) and practice tends to include formal koan study. [Zen master Rinzai] Or Lin-chi, a 9th century Chan master who is considered the founder of the Lin-chi/Rinzai school of Zen.
- samadhiA state of nondual awareness where the sense of separation between subject (self, observer, meditator) and object (anything/everything else) falls away, allowing you to perceive the absolute aspect of reality.
- samsaraAn ancient Indian Sanskrit term for the world, in which all beings were subject to the Cycle of Transmigration (and therefore doomed to face loss, illness, old age, and death over and over and over).
- SanghaThe Buddhist community; originally, the ordained Buddhist community, but in many modern contexts, also includes lay practitioners of Buddhism.
- sesshinA silent, residential Zen meditation retreat with a 24-7 schedule, usually lasting at least three full days and often lasting 7-10 days.
- ShakyamuniLiterally, “sage of the Shakyas,” a title for the Buddha.
- shikantazaObjectless, technique-less Zen meditation, literally “nothing but precisely sitting.”
- shunyataTranslated as “emptiness” or “boundlessness,” a quality of all beings and things in that they have no inherent, independent, enduring self-nature but rather dependently co-arise with all things and have no fixed boundary.
- shusoA formal practice position in a Zen community in which a fairly junior student takes the role of modeling or guiding the basic practice for other students in the zendo, particularly as regards the form (established customs and rituals).
- Siddhartha Gautama
- Six Realms of ExistenceIn ancient Buddhist (and pre-Buddhist) cosmology, a view of life being divided into six realms: heaven and hell, plus the asura (demigod), beast, hell, hungry ghost, and human realms. It was believed that beings were reborn after death, over and over, in one of the six realms; therefore the six realms as a whole were referred to as the Wheel of Life, or the wheel of samsara.
- Six Sense ConsciousnessesPart of an ancient Buddhist formulation describing the components of human experience, the Eighteen Dhatus, the Six Sense Consciousnesses are sight consciousness, sound consciousness, smell consciousness, taste consciousness, touch consciousness, and thought consciousness (the faculties of mind that allow an experience of perception).
- Six Sense Objects
- Six Sense Organs
- skandhaAggregate, or heap; the entirety of a human being is composed of five skandhas – form, sensation, perception, formation, and consciousness.
- sramana“Striver;” Indian seeker looking for spiritual fulfillment and answers, generally suspicious of the Vedic religions and pursuing alternative teachings and practices.
- stream-entererIn original Buddhism, a practitioner who has attained a level of spiritual mastery such that they have “entered the stream” that flows inevitably to nirvana; although it may take more than one additional lifetime (rebirth), a stream-enterer will eventually achieve nirvana. (Subsequent levels of mastery are once-returner, non-returner, and arhat.)
- Take Refuge
- tantraA traditional Buddhist (or Hindu) ritual considered to be an especially effective - and potentially risky - tool for spiritual insight or development, which is why tantra is also considered to be esoteric (that is, intended to be taught to a relatively small number of specialists and used under carefully prescribed conditions). Contrary to popular perception, only a small fraction of tantras include any sexual activity, and these are considered appropriate only for extremely advanced practitioners.
- TathagathaA term for a Buddha, or someone who is completely spiritually enlightened, or awakened. Means "one who has arrived in suchness" or "one who has gone to suchness" - in other words, one who has arrived/gone over to complete knowledge of the Truth.
- the Buddha
- Theravadin BuddhismTheravada means "way of the elders;" Theravadin Buddhism traces its lineage back to the Original Buddhism of India and Southeast Asia, and preserves Buddhist teaches and practices that most closely resemble those actually taught by the Buddha and practiced by the Sangha at the Buddha's time. It relies on the Pali Canon.
- Three Characteristics of Existence
- Three PoisonsIn Buddhism, the three root causes of suffering: greed (or grasping), hate (or anger, or aversion), and delusion (or ignorance).
- Three Treasures
- Twelve Abodes
- upaya"Skillful means," or "expedient means," upaya is a Mahayana Buddhist term for employing creative and sometimes gradual or provisional methods to help sentient beings awaken. Featured prominently in the Lotus Sutra, upaya is sometimes presented as temporarily holding back the full truth, or even employing mild deception, in order to proved teaching an audience can actually hear, understand, accept, and respond to.
- VajrayanaA type of Buddhism that grew out of Mahayana early in Buddhist history and calls itself the "diamond" (vajra) vehicle (yana), emphasizing the use of tantra (esoteric ritual) as the fastest and most effective path to enlightenment. The most well-known and widely practiced form of Vajrayana today is Tibetan Buddhism, of which the Dalai Lama is the most famous practitioner.
- Wheel of Life
- zazenSeated (“za”) meditation (“zen”) in the Zen Buddhist tradition.
- Zen BuddhismA type of Buddhism in which the primary practice is meditation (“zen”). Arose in China around the 5th century CE, where it was called Chan.
- zendoA Zen meditation (“zen”) hall (“do”).