Zen Glossary

Posted by on Oct 29, 2011 in Library | Comments Off on Zen Glossary

Glossary of Zen Terms

bodhichitta: The aspiration of a practioner for enlightenment and Buddhahood.

bodhisattva: A practitioner who defers his/her own enlightenment to benefit the liberation of all beings.

Buddha: One who is enlightened or awakened to the true nature of existence; any being.

dana: The voluntary giving of material, energy or wisdom to others; one of the key virtues or perfections.

dharma: The phenomena of the tao or the way or the law of karma; the teachings.

dokusan: The personal interview between the roshi and the student; literally means to go alone.

dojo: The training space for zen practice, rituals and ceremonies.

gassho: Hand position in which the palms are pressed together and held vertically.

ino: The individual responsible for leading the chants within a session of sitting meditation.

jikijitsu: The individual responsible for keeping the time for sitting meditation.

jisha: The individual functioning as an attendant to the roshi, often to facilitate dokusan.

Kanzeon: The bodhisattva who incarnates compassion and perceives the sounds of the world.

karma: The law of cause and effect whereby actions have foreseeable and unforeseeable consequences.

kensho: An experience of seeing into one’s essential nature, also referred to as satori.

kinhin: Walking meditation usually practiced as a group between periods of zazen sittings.

koan: A theme given in a teaching context or as an object of meditation pointing to realization.

kyosaku: A flat, narrow stick carried by the monitor during zazen.

mu: Often the first koan given to a Zen student, literally means no or does not have.

mudra: Hand position used in seated meditation.

nirvana: Wisdom expressed in phenomena realized as oneness, stillness and exhaustion of desires.

paramita: The perfection of practice, or guides to conduct.

prajna paramita: The perfection of wisdom.

Rinzai: A Japanese sect of Zen Buddhism.

roshi: A term of endearment for an old zen teacher; now used as the title of a confirmed Zen teacher.

samadhi: Non-dualistic state of consciousness in which mind and body have dropped away.

samsara: Aspects of the world expressed as differentiation, change, becoming, impermanence or desire.

sangha: The aggregate community of practitioners that includes all beings.

satori: An experience of seeing into one’s essential nature, also referred to as kensho.

sesshin: A retreat of intense zazen practice; literally means to inspect or touch the heart-mind.

shoken: The first personal interview between the roshi and a student; literally means seeing one another.

skandhas: The things perceived and levels of perception that compound the layered elements of being.

Soto: A Japanese sect of Zen Buddhism.

sutra: Teaching discourses of the Buddhist canon, most often presented as words of the historic Buddha.

tanto: The individual acting as attendant to facilitate practice within the dojo.

Tathagatha: A term referring to the Buddha to indicate the one who thus comes or one who thus goes.

teisho: The dharma talk given by the roshi.

Three Treasures: The fundamental refuge for practice comprised of Buddha, dharma and the sangha.

transmission: Traditional procedure within a lineage to acknowledge and permit a roshi to teach.

zafu: A small round cushion used as a seat in zazen.

zabuton: A large rectangular flat pad placed under the zafu that cushions the knees while sitting.

zazen: Zen sitting meditation.

zazenkai: A day-long period of intense zazen practice, usually held monthly; also referred to as zenkai.

Zen: The harmony of empty oneness and the world of particulars realized in meditation.

zendo: The hall for zazen practice,also referred to as the dojo.