Welcome to Mokurai's Temple!

Essential Dharma

Life of the Buddha
The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path
Brief Explanation

The Ten Bulls

Buddhist Glossary

The Navayana Sutra

Japanese Gardens and Aesthetics

Portraying a Japanese Buddhist Monk in the SCA

Japanese Films


The Clan of Matsuyama

SCA Resources
(The Chatelaine's Box)




Color A Buddhist Glossary

Amitabha: Sanskrit; Amida (Japanese); one of the major buddhas of Mayahana school; he created a Pure Land free from suffering in which one can attain rebirth by calling out his name.

Arhat: Sanskrit; literally, "worthy one"; one who has attained the highest level in the Theravada school; the fruition of arhatship is nirvana.

Avalokitesvara: Sanskrit; Kannon (Japanese), Chen Resig (Tibetan), Kwan Um (Korean); the bodhisattva of compassion.

Bodhidharma: (ca. 470-543) Considered the first patriarch of Zen Buddhism; according to legend, he was the "Barbarian from the West" who brought Zen from India to China; "Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?" is a famous koan in Zen Buddhism.

Bodhisattva: Sanskrit; Bosatsu (Japanese), Bosal (Korean); one who postpones his or her own enlightenment in order to help liberate other sentient beings from cyclic existence; compassion, or karuna, is the central characteristic of the bodhisattva; important bodhisattvas include Avaloikitesvara, Manjusri, and Jizo.

Buddha: Sanskrit; literally, "awakened one"; a person who has been released from the world of cyclic existence (samsara) and attained liberation from desire, craving, and attachment in nirvana; according to Theravadins, Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, is considered to be the first Buddha of this age who was preceded by many others and will be followed by Maitreya; Mahayanists believe that there are countless Buddhas for every age.

Dharma: Sanskrit; dhamma (Pali); the central notion of Buddhism; it is the cosmic law underlying all existence and therefore the teaching of the Buddha; it is considered one of the three "jewels" of Buddhism; it is often used as a general term for Buddhism.

Dogen: (1200-1253) Credited with bringing the Soto school of Zen Buddhism to Japan; he stressed shikan taza, or just sitting, as the means to enlightenment.

Dzogchen: Tibetan; literally, "great perfection"; the supreme teachings of the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism; its adherents believe these teachings are the highest and therefore that no other means are necessary; also known as ati-yoga.

Gelugpa: One of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism; His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is considered the spiritual head of this school. Enlightenment: The word used to translate the Sanskrit term bodhi ("awakened"); generally used by Mahayanists instead of the Theravada term nirvana; it connotes an awakening to the true nature of reality rather than the extinguishing of desire implied by the term nirvana.

Kagyupa: One of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism; the teaching was brought to Tibet in the 11th century by Marpa; the school places strong emphasis on the transmission of knowledge from master to student.

Karma: Sanskrit; literally, "action"; universal law of cause and effect which governs rebirth and the world of samsara.

Koan: A seemingly paradoxical riddle or statement that is used as a training device in Zen practice to force the mind to abandon logic and dualistic thought.

Mahayana: Sanskrit; literally, "the Great Vehicle"; one of the three major schools of Buddhism which developed in India during the first century C.E.; it is called the "Great Vehicle" because of its all-inclusive approach to liberation as embodied in the bodhisattva ideal and the desire to liberate all beings; the Mahayana school is also known for placing less emphasis on monasticism than the Theravada school and for introducing the notion of sunyata.

Maitreya: the Buddha expected to come in the future as the fifth and last of the earthly Buddhas; he is believed to reside in the Tushita heaven until then (about 30,000 years from now); the cult of Maitreya is widespread in Tibetan Buddhism.

Nirvana: Sanskrit; literally, "extinction, blowing out"; the goal of spiritual practice in Buddhism; liberation from the cycle of rebirth and suffering.

Nichiren: (1222-1282) Japanese monk who believed in the supreme perfection of the Lotus Sutra; he advocated the devout recitation of "Namu myoho renge kyo," the title of the sutra, in order to attain instantaneous enlightenment.

Nyingmapa: One of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism; the Dzogchen teahings are considered to be the supreme embodiment of this school.

Pure Land: A realm free from suffering in which it is easier to attain nirvana; the most famous one, Sukhavati, is the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha and requires only calling out his name in order to be reborn in it; "Pure Land Buddhism" refers to this devotion directed towards Amitabha.

Rinzai: Japanese; Lin-chi (Chinese); one of the two major schools of Zen Buddhism; it was founded by the Chinese master Lin-chi I-hsuan (Japanese; Rinzai Gigen) and brought to Japan by Eisai Zenji at the end of the twelfth century; it stresses koan Zen as the means to attain enlightenment.

Sakyapa: One of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism; it is named after the Sakya Monastery in southern Tibet and had great political influence in Tibet during the 13th and 14th centuries .

Samsara: Sanskrit; the cyclic existence of birth, death and rebirth from which nirvana provides liberation.

Sangha: Sanskrit; a term for the Buddhist monastic community which has recently come to include the entire community of Buddhist practitioners; it is considered one of the three jewels of Buddhism (along with the Buddha and the Dharma).

Shakyamuni: (ca. 563-422 BCE) The historical Buddha; Theravadins believe that he was the first to attain enlightenment in this age.

Soto: Japanese; Ts'ao-tung (Chinese); one of the two major schools of Zen Buddhism; it was brought to Japan by Dogen in the thirteenth century; it emphasizes zazen, or sitting meditation, as the central practice in order to attain enlightenment.

Sunyata: Sanskrit; sunnata (Pali); literally, "emptiness"; a central Buddhist idea which states that all phenomena are "empty," i.e. dependent and conditioned on other phenomena and therefore without essence; Theravadins applied this idea to the individual to assert the non-existence of a soul; Mahayanists later expanded on this idea and declared that all existence is empty; emptiness became the focus of the Madhyamika school of the Mahayana Buddhism; the notion of emptiness has often led to Buddhism being wrongfully confused with a nihilistic outlook.

Sutra: Sanskrit; a discourse attributed to the Buddha; sutras comprise the second part of the Buddhist canon, or Tripitaka; they traditionally begin with the phrase "Thus have I heard. . . " and are believed to have been written down by the Buddha's disciple Ananda one hundred years after his death.

Theravada: Sanskrit; literally, "the School of the Elders"; one of the three major schools of Buddhism which is widely practiced in the countries of Southeast Asia; its teachings focus on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path; also pejoratively referred to as the Hinayana, or "Lesser Vehicle," school due to its emphasis on personal rather than collective liberation.

Tripitaka: Sanskrit; literally, "the three baskets"; this term is commonly used for the Buddhist canon, which consists of three parts: the Vinaya, or monastic code; the Sutras; and the Abhidharma, or Buddhist philosophical treatises.

Vajrayana: Sanskrit; literally, "the Diamond Vehicle"; one of the three major schools of Buddhism; this form of Buddhism developed out of the Mahayana teachings in northwest India around 500 CE and spread to Tibet, China and Japan; it involves esoteric visualizations, rituals, and mantras which can only be learned by study with a master; also known as Tantric Buddhism due to the use of tantras, or sacred texts.

Zen: Japanese; Ch'an (Chinese); a branch of Mahayana Buddhism which developed in China during the sixth and seventh centuries after Bodhidharma arrived; it later divided into the Soto and Rinzai schools; Zen stresses the importance of the enlightenment experience and the futility of rational thought, intellectual study and religious ritual in attaining this; a central element of Zen is zazen, a meditative practice which seeks to free the mind of all thought and conceptualization.