Dharma Rain Zen Center - glossary
Here are some terms defined in the blue book Training at the Dharma
Ancestral Line the line of teachers from the Buddha to the present, recited
every morning in Zen temples.
Bodhidharma Indian monk who started the Ch’an (Zen) school of Buddhism
Bodhisattva a being who seeks Buddhahood, but because of compassion renounces
complete entry into Nirvana until all beings are saved.
Buddha Awakened One. A person who has attained complete enlightenment and
is released from the cycle of birth and death. The historical Buddha was born
Siddhartha Gotama in 563 BCE in what is now Nepal.
Burmese posture cross-legged meditation posture in which the knees and shins
rest on the floor.
celebrant leader of the service, or doshi.
dana voluntary giving of material, energy or wisdom to others, regarded as
one of the most important Buddhist virtues.
Denkoe a sesshin held in late spring in celebration of the transmission of
the Dharma from teacher to student from Buddha to the present.
densho bell the main bell used to signal the start of zazen.
Dhammapada a book of short sayings of the Buddha, compiled early in Buddhist
dharani chants which use sound and phonetically pronounced syllables and
are thought by some to have particular power to raise vigor and intention in
Dharma the cosmic law underlying all phenomena in the universe. The teaching
of the Buddha concerning this law.
Dharma combat an exchange of questions and answers to test the depth of the
participants’ understanding. (Japanese: hossen)
dhyana (jhana) mental state achieved in meditation. Progresses through concentration,
joy, ease, and equanimity. Regarded as means to further spiritual progress,
not an end in itself.
Diamond Sutra an independent part of the Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom)
sutra. Longer than the Heart Sutra, but short enough to be recited.
Dogen (1200-1253) — the greatest figure in Japanese Zen, who brought the
Soto school from China. Known for his integrity and depth of religious understanding.
Many of his lectures are collected in the Shobogenzo.
doshi The celebrant, or leader of the service.
Dharma protector, signifying steadfast practice in all conditions. Fudo replaces
Fugen on our side altar because he was the ‘home deity’ in
one of our line’s original temples.
Fugen Bodhisattva personifying active love, persistent training, and patience.
Often depicted riding a white elephant, which symbolizes dignified but unstoppable
effort. (Sanskrit: Samantabhadra)
area outside of the zendo where people can sit while they wait to go in at
a reasonable break in the schedule.
gassho the gesture of placing the palms of the hands together, expressing
gratitude and humility.
a brief verse used at a specific time as an aid to mindfulness.
at DRZC, Director of Teaching; administrative head of the Teaching side of the
Mandala of Organization.
“bowing place” — the mat in front of the altar on which
the celebrant (doshi) bows, sits or stands during ceremonies.
Heart Sutra Scripture of Great Wisdom. One of the most important sutras of
Mahayana Buddhism, recited in almost all schools. A condensation in 25 lines
of the Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) literature.
Hinayana “small vehicle” — somewhat pejorative reference to an
approach to Buddhism that emphasizes enlightenment for oneself, as opposed
to helping all beings attain awakening. It usually concentrates on liberation
of the individual by purification and quelling the passions. Though it is often
implied, this is not synonymous with the Theravadin School of Buddhism, which
is found in Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand.
hossu ceremonial object modeled on the fly-whisk used to sweep insects out
of a wandering monk’s path. It is made of horse hair attached to a wooden
inkin a small bowl-shaped bell on a wooden handle, used to signal movement
such as bows and kinhin.
ino the disciplinarian in a temple, charged with supervising and leading
“Birth Stories” — a collection of folk tales and animal
fables told as previous lives of the Buddha, in which various virtues are illustrated.
personal attendant to a priest or teacher; attendant to the celebrant
jikko an assistant jisha.
Receiving the Precepts. Ceremonial initiation into Buddhism, when a
person agrees to take the Precepts as his or her own, and takes refuge in Buddha,
Dharma, and Sangha.
time period of very long duration. An “age” or “eternity”.
From Indian philosophy.
at DRZC, Director of Operations; administrative head of the Operations side
of the Mandala of Organization.
Bodhisattva personifying compassion. Venerated as a helper
of all sentient beings. (Chinese: Kwan Yin; Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara)
“deed” — the law of cause and effect in the realm of actions
“seeing one’s own true nature” — a time-limited
experience of awakening to true reality, a glimpse of enlightenment.
traditional Buddhist monk’s robe, in Zen somewhat resembling a
shawl, worn over one shoulder.
walking meditation, often done between periods of zazen.
a paradoxical problem assigned by a Zen master, such that logical or
conceptual thought must be transcended in order to solve it. In Soto Zen, problems
paradoxes arising in daily life generally provide the koan.
robe with large sleeves sometimes worn under the kesa.
“awakening stick” — a narrow, flat stick used to strike
the shoulders of meditators to stimulate and relax the muscles.
ceremony in which the student takes a teacher and becomes
affiliated with a teaching lineage.
ceremony of taking the Precepts and becoming a lay Buddhist.
(Japanese: Jukai Tokudo)
the future Buddha, who will come in the next age. (Japanese: Miroku)
extra-sensory perceptions or odd sensations which sometimes occur in
early states of meditation.
a phrase or syllable repeated as a form of meditation.
Bodhisattva personifying wisdom. Depicted on a lion throne
symbolizing the beast of Self, sometimes holding the sword of wisdom and a
book of the Prajnaparamita sutras.
the path of moderation, between the extremes of sensual indulgence
and asceticism. The Middle Way was discovered and taught by the Buddha as the
best way to enlightenment.
to perform all activities with full attention and pure observation,
including observation of sensations and states of mind which arise.
a wooden drum consisting of a hollow sphere, usually decorated in
the form of a fish. Struck in time with sutra chanting.
initiation as a monk and priest-in-training. (Japanese:
a gesture of the hands or a body posture having symbolic significance.
Also, a pattern of acupressure points.
ceremony commemorating the death or Parinirvana (total entry into nirvana)
of the Buddha. Celebrated in February.
“cooling from the fever of the passions.” Escape from
the cycle of birth and death. Enlightenment.
a scepter, usually curved at the top, carried by a celebrant (doshi) during
ceremonies, symbolizing a lotus stem and blossom.
a set of nesting bowls used in traditional, silent meals in a Zen
a novice who has asked for monastic ordination, and takes the form
of a monk for a period of time before formal vows.
timekeeper and chant leader in the meditation hall.
the ethical guidelines or rules in Buddhism. In some forms of Buddhism
monks keep about 250 Precepts, but in Zen the ethical guidelines are distilled
down to 16 Precepts.
Pure Land Buddhism is the most popular form in China and Japan.
It is a path of faith in which devotees recite the name of Amida Buddha in
to be reborn in his Western Paradise, which is conducive to enlightenment.
a rectangular piece of fabric representing the kesa (Buddhist robes),
worn like a bib.
a celebration of the Buddha's enlightenment, referring both to a
sesshin and a ceremony that usually occur in December.
a title sometimes used for a Zen teacher, lay or priest, who has trained
for many years and whose insight is highly respected, literally “old
[venerable] master.” May or may not be used in the West, depending on
temple officer who keeps the altars and shrines in order and prepares
collectedness of mind. A non-dualistic state of consciousness.
Zen scripture; the title means “Harmony of Difference and Sameness.”
“assembly” — the community of Buddhists.
a private interview between teacher and student. (For information about the form
of sanzen, click here.)
the ceremony of Feeding the Hungry Ghosts, done to commemorate the
dead and aid beings suffering in lower realms of existence. (Sanskrit: Ullambana)
meditation posture of kneeling, seated on the heels or on a small bench.
teacher, literally “one who has gone before.”
“searching the heart” — a week of especially long and
title given to the historical Buddha, meaning “Sage of the
Shakya Clan.” The Shakyas were the tribe into which the Buddha was born.
one of the chief disciples of the Buddha. The Heart Sutra is addressed
a mudra used during walking meditation and some bows: fingers of left
hand close around left thumb, making a fist; right hand is placed over the
left, palm facing towards body.
Buddhist scriptures written by ancestors rather that spoken by the
“just sitting” — the pure form of zazen, in which
the attention is alert, free of thoughts, and directed to no object or content.
the “chief junior,” or head trainee for a period; the student
who leads the other students and represents mature training and serene activity.
“groups” or “aggregates” of factors, five
of which comprise a human individual. They are: form, sensation, perception,
volition, and consciousness.
originally a reliquary mound, it later developed into the pagoda.
a text, in prose or verse, of a discourse ascribed to the Buddha.
at DRZC, head of Form; responsible for maintaining standards
of temple forms and monitoring the tone and spirit of the training hall.
title used for a Buddha, literally “the thus-gone [thus-come]
head cook of a Zen monastery. A very responsible and prestigious position.
“teaching of the elders” — the only surviving school
of southern Buddhism, which regards itself as closest to the original Buddhist
practice. Prevalent today in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka.
taking refuge in the Three Treasures of Buddha, Dharma, and
Sangha. Taking the Three Refuges is part of lay ordination.
Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha — the Awakened One, the truth
expounded by him, and the followers living in accordance with this truth.
A term used differently in different traditions, but implies
recognition of a student’s understanding by a teacher.
the last scripture recitation of the day, done just before retiring.
a strip of cloth with the ends connected by a decorative knot, worn
around the neck. Given at lay ordination.
festival commemorating the birth of the Buddha. Celebrated
in May, with the offering of flowers and sweet tea to the Baby Buddha.
“sitting mat” — flat, square cushion on which the zafu
is placed, to pad the knees while sitting.
“sitting cushion” — round cushion used for sitting meditation.
meditation while in a sitting position. (See more information here.)
zendo the meditation hall.
a title conferred on great Zen masters, usually posthumously.