An Introductory Diamond Sangha Glossary
A guide to certain words, names and terminology encountered at
zazen, zazenkai and sesshin with the Melbourne and Adelaide Zen Groups
• Much of the following material is derived from copyright sources, without acknowledgement, but it may be used for the purposes of private study.
Aitken: Robert Aitken (born 1917) was first introduced to Zen while detained in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. A student of Yamada Koun Roshi, within the Sanbo Kyodan, Aitken was authorised to teach in 1974. In 1959, he and his wife, Anne, established the Diamond Sangha, a Zen Buddhist society in Hawaii, where he continued to teach and practise.
Through his writings and teaching, he has provided an introduction to Zen practice at once faithful to Eastern tradition and responsive to Western problems and attitudes.
All Buddhas throughout space and time: see Buddha. These countless buddhas, past and future, and in all possible universes, are somehow considered to be present with us right now, ready to protect and aid us. They make up the sambhogakaya, according to one interpretation: see Buddha bodies.
Amitabha: Skt., lit. “Boundless Light”; one of the most important and popular buddhas of the Mahayana, unknown in early Buddhism. Also known as Amitayus, “Infinite Life”. Amitabha saves sentient beings and is ruler of the western paradise Sukhavati (“Bliss”). See also Pure Land, Pure Land School, Nembutsu. Amitabha symbolises mercy, wisdom and Discriminating Awareness.
Ancestral Teachers: Teachers in the traditional Zen lineage; also called founding teachers or patriarchs. In the Zen tradition, the first is Kashyapa and the second is Ananda. See Daiosho, Transmission.
Anguish: See Duhkha. Robert Aitken proposes that the term “anguish” be used, rather than “suffering”, as a translation of duhkha.
The expression “no anguish, cause of anguish, cessation, path” refers to the Four Noble Truths, the basic teaching of the Buddha.
Anuttara samyak sambodhi: Skt., lit. “perfect universal enlightenment”; supreme perfect enlightenment; enlightenment of a complete buddha.
Attachment: (Skt upadana); also called “clinging” or “grasping”, an intensified form of craving, which eventually drives behaviour and leads to suffering. It is said to have four forms: clinging to pleasurable sensual experiences, clinging to views and theories, clinging to rules and rituals, and clinging to belief in a soul or self. The opposite of attachment is not “detachment”, but liberation and equanimity. See also Greed, Chain of causation.
Avalokiteshvara: Skt., usually interpreted as lit. “The One Who Hears the Sounds of the World”. One of the principal bodhisattvas in the Zen tradition, the personification of great compassion and mercy. Originally said to be a man who achieved enlightenment through meditating on sound, Avalokiteshvara also became a female figure, first in China (where the name was translated as Quan-Shi-Yin, Quan Yin or Kuan-yin) and then in Japan (where the name was transliterated as Kanzeon, Kwannon or Kannon).
There is a rich iconography and body of folk-beliefs about Avalokiteshvara/Quan Yin/
Kuan Yin/Kanzeon in various cultures. This bodhisattva is said to hear all cries of distress and to be alert to respond to them; hence Avalokiteshvara is often represented with multiple heads or eyes (to be aware of all cries) and multiple arms (to respond to all needs).
Beings: All entities that exist (Jap. shujo), the “many beings” of the world, of which sentient beings are one subset; see also Ten Thousand Things.
Birth-and-death: See Life-and-death.
Board: Dojo percussion instrument; see Han.
Bodhidharma: (in Japanese, Bodaidaruma or Daruma); (ca. 470–543?); the 28th patriarch after Shakyamuni Buddha in the Indian lineage. Semilegendary figure; archetype for steadfast practice.
Buddhism was already established in China when Bodhidharma arrived, but he placed special emphasis on meditation practice (dhyana), and displayed a special outlook (for example, when the emperor asked him what was the first principle of the Buddhist teaching, he replied “Vast emptiness, nothing holy”). These formed the basis for a new tradition: Bodhidharma is thus the first patriarch of Ch’an (Zen). The four slogans adopted by Zen in the 11th Century to differentiate itself from other sects were retrospectively attributed to him. (Some of them are adumbrated in texts attributed to Bodhidharma.) Bodhidharma is also said to have taught Kung Fu to the monks of Shaolin Temple, where he resided.
Bodhisattva: Skt., lit. “enlightenment being”; Jap. bosatsu; an enlightened being who dedicates himself or herself to helping others attain liberation. In his self-mastery, wisdom and compassion a bodhisattva represents a high stage of buddhahood, but he is not yet a supremely enlightened, fully perfected buddha. In Zen, anyone sincerely working on himself or herself and for the sake of others is often called a bodhisattva.
Although the Mahayana claims to be based on the bodhisattva as an ideal, it also includes teachings that consider this aim to be inferior to that of directly attaining buddhahood: see the Heart Sutra, Hakuin’s “Song of Zazen” and Not two, not three.
The Mahayana, including Zen, also recognises “transcendent” bodhisattvas who have actualised the paramitas and attained buddhahood, and are no longer subject to samsara (see Life-and-death), but have postponed their entry into complete nirvana. They appear in the most various forms in order to lead beings on the path of liberation. Transcendent bodhisattvas are the object of veneration of believers, who see them as showing the way and helping in time of need. They include Avalokiteshvara, Mañjushri and Samantabhadra. Mahayana practitioners likewise see themselves as bodhisattvas with the desire and the power to “save” others.
Bodhisattva’s Vow: in Japanese, Bosatsu Gangyo Mon; a homily by Torei Zenji (1721–1792). Originally in prose, it is set in verse form to facilitate chanting. Not to be confused with the Four Great Vows (or Bodhisattva Vows).
Bonno: Jap., lit. “worldly care, sensual desire, passions, unfortunate longings, suffering, pain” (Skt, akushala); the (worldly) cares, suffering and passions that arise out of a deluded view of the world. Bonno is generally translated by “passions”, but that, as the above-listed meanings of the Japanese word indicate, is too narrow a word. In the Four Great Vows an adherent of Zen vows to eliminate or abandon these “passions”, which obstruct the path to the attainment of enlightenment. In the Diamond Sangha, this term is usually translated as “greed, hatred and ignorance”. See also Greed, Chain of causation.
Bowl: see Oryoki.
Buddha: Skt., Pali, “enlightened one”; term that can refer to the historical Shakyamuni, any enlightened person, a figure in the Buddhist pantheon, or any being; basically, anyone who has awakened in some measure to the true nature of existence. Inasmuch as the mind of a full buddha is illumined to an immeasurable degree and encompasses the infinity of all universes, “buddha”, in the Mahayana, also carries the meaning of ultimate truth, or absolute mind.
A fully perfected buddha is said to appear only once each world cycle. In our age this was Siddhartha Gautama, or Shakyamuni Buddha, who “founded” Buddhism in India and is often referred to as “the Buddha”. Of the non-historical buddhas, identified with different worlds and realms and symbolic of particular spiritual forces and powers, only Vairochana and, less frequently, Amitabha are alluded to in Zen. The Mahayana teaches that there is an infinite number of buddhas, “throughout space and time” (see All Buddhas).
The Zen sect, in common with other Buddhist sects, accepts the historic Buddha neither as a Supreme Deity nor as a saviour who rescues men by taking upon himself the burden of their sins. Rather, it venerates him as a fully awakened, fully perfected human being who attained liberation of body and mind through his own human efforts and not by the grace of any supernatural being. On the other hand, Mahayana Buddhism does not look upon Shakyamuni as the only true Buddha. Just as in previous world epochs other sages had trodden the same path, attained the same level of perfection, and preached the same Dharma (see Ancient Seven Buddhas), so would there be Buddhas in subsequent world cycles (see Buddhas of the Three Times) to lead men to liberation. The historic Buddha, in other words, is but a link in a chain of Buddhas extending from the remotest past to the immeasurable future, and throughout all possible universes.
The familiar statement of the Zen masters that we are all buddhas from the very first must be understood in the sense that potentially everyone is a buddha, that is, inherently endowed with the unblemished buddha-nature, but that the candidate for buddhahood must follow the arduous road to enlightenment if he would realise his innate Perfection.
Various classifications of the stages of buddhahood are to be found in the sutras. For the Mahayana, anyone who has experienced his buddha-nature, however faintly, has realised the first stage of buddhahood, since in substance this realisation is no different from the Buddha Shakyamuni’s. However, in the degree of his enlightenment as well as in the perfection of his character and personality—that is, in his equanimity, compassion and wisdom—Shakyamuni Buddha towers above the man of average enlightenment (see Anuttara samyak-sambodhi).
When in Zen the question is posed, “What is a buddha?” this is a question concerning the eternal, or timeless, truth of buddha-nature, the absolute, ultimate reality devoid of form, colour and all other properties.
Buddha Bodies (Skt. trikaya, lit. “three bodies”); refers to the three modes or dimensions in which a buddha can manifest himself, according to the Mahayana view. The basis of this teaching is the conviction that a buddha is one with the absolute, becomes manifest in the dharma teachings, and also appears materially in the relative world in order to work for the welfare of all beings. In Zen the three bodies of buddha are three levels of reality, which stand in reciprocal relationship to each other and constitute a whole. Japanese Zen has a term “tai-so-yu”, lit. “essence–form–action” to express this idea. Briefly, as taught in the Diamond Sangha, the three bodies are the dharmakaya, the dharma or law body of essential nature; the sambhogakaya, the bliss body of mutual interdependence; and the nirmanakaya, the transformation body of uniqueness and variety. The identification of dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya with Vairochana, Lochana and Shakyamuni respectively is a teaching of the esoteric Tendai school.
The dharmakaya (Skt., lit. “law-body”) buddha is the body of reality, buddha as the inconceivable formless absolute, the one reality, the ground of all particular being; the cosmic consciousness, the unified existence that lies beyond all concepts. Out of this substrate arise all animate and inanimate forms as well as the moral order. Vairochana, the “All-Illuminating One”, embodies this aspect of universal consciousness.
The sambhogakaya (Skt., lit. “body of delight”, “bliss body”) buddha is the reward body, the body of enjoyment. Multiplicity and participation are also aspects of the sambhogakaya. Arising from the dharmakaya, sambhogakayas take on sublime celestial form as the many different Buddhas in their various Pure Land paradises, surrounded by hosts of bodhisattvas and supernatural beings, mentioned in the Mahayana scriptures. They teach the dharma and are also available to protect and save living beings.
The nirmanakaya (Skt., lit. “body of transformation”) buddha is the transformation body or emanation body, in which a buddha takes material form and appears in the world to provide whatever is needed by living beings. Shakyamuni, the Tathagata, personifies this buddha-body.
The reciprocal relationship between the three bodies is illustrated in Zen by the following analogy: the dharmakaya can be compared to medical knowledge; the sambhogakaya to the education of the doctor through which he or she gains this knowledge; and the nirmanakaya to the application of this knowledge in treating patients, who through it are changed from sick to healthy persons.
Buddha-nature: a concrete expression for the substratum of perfection, of completeness, intrinsic to both sentient and insentient beings; self nature, true nature, true self. Awakening to one’s true nature (buddha-nature)—and a living and dying that is a spontaneous expression from moment to moment of one’s identity with buddha-nature—is the goal of Zen. Another goal of Mahayana practice is to see the interrelationship of all things in the world based on the commonality of buddha-nature.
The interpretation of the essence of buddha-nature varies in different Mahayana traditions. As expounded by the Zen master Yasutani Roshi (following the Mahayana Nirvana Sutra), buddha-nature is identical with that which is called emptiness or the final nature of reality. According to this sutra, buddha-nature is an active force at work the world, expressing itself in living (and inanimate) beings; it is even spoken of as an actual substantial presence endowed with positive attributes, a view which has been denounced by some as re-introducing an eternal, autonomous substratum or “self” that is denied in standard Buddhist teachings (see Jo raku ga jo).
Buddhas of The Three Times: buddhas of the past, present and future: Kashyapa, Shakyamuni and Maitreya. In most pictorial representations of the buddhas of the three times, Dipamkara is the buddha of the past.
(1) the teachings of the Buddha, Buddhism; often used as a synonym for Buddha Dharma, but stressing more strongly the aspect of practical training on the path of enlightenment;
(2) the path to enlightenment or buddhahood;
(3) complete enlightenment, buddhahood. In Zen, butsudo is particularly used in the last sense (for example, in the Four Great Vows or shiguseigan).
Chain of Causation: (Skt pratitya samutpada); also called the chain of Dependent Origination or Twelve-Linked Chain of Causation. This is one of the earliest and most important teachings of the Buddha; it is said that his disciples rejoiced at hearing it, and that some of them became enlightened on the spot. Early sources indicate that the Buddha himself became enlightened, under the bodhi tree, when he fully realised the profound truth of Dependent Origination.
This doctrine describes how all psychological and physical phenomena constituting individual existence are interdependent and mutually condition each other; this at the same time entangles sentient beings in samsara. With no liberation from this causal chain, suffering is endlessly perpetuated. The Mahayana usually tends to set aside such details of the teaching, preferring to emphasise instead the general, overall idea of the interdependence of all things.
The twelve-step sequence unfolds as follows: (1) ignorance—lack of recognition of the Four Noble Truths, ignorance of the suffering-ridden nature of existence—conditions (2) mental formations or impulses, which precede actions. These can be good, bad or neutral, and are related to physical, verbal and psychological actions. In turn they condition (3) consciousness. This consciousness instigates the arising of (4) “name and form”, the psychological and physical factors, i.e. a new empirical being constituted by the state of the five skandhas. Interdependently with “name and form”, (5) the six bases arise. These are the six object realms of the senses, which condition (6) contact with the environment. This contact invokes (7) sensation, out of which develops, for someone who is ignorant in the Buddhist sense, (8) craving. Ignorance and craving lead to (9) clinging, where (10) a new state of becoming is set in motion. This is followed by (11) birth of a new state, which again comes to an end in (12) old age and death. This sequence may be interpreted as referring to successive “rebirths”; or it may be seen as describing the successive, conditioned, arising and passing away of perceptions and emotional states in a person’s life, which perpetuate duhkha. However, this chain can be broken by acceptance of the Four Noble Truths (thus removing ignorance) and then applying meditative awareness to the nexus between links 7 and 8, so that in contact with a sense object desire and clinging no longer arise. Buddhist psychology therefore emphasises the need for constant mindfulness in order to monitor the sequential arising of links in the chain.
Chanting: “The profound benefits of singing and chanting play themselves out in physical health and well-being, and indeed… chanting, singing and reciting aloud (and hearing this vocalising) lie at the very well-springs of human integration and inspiration.” (Robert Aitken) See also Dharani, Kichijo-ten. In the Melbourne Zen Group, we chant in a monotone, but each person may chant on a different pitch, as it natural to his or her voice, while harmonising with the group. “Chant with your ears, not with your mouth. When chanting, be aware of the others who are also chanting.” (Maezumi Roshi)
Child of a wealthy home wandering among the poor: refers to a parable from the Lotus Sutra. The deluded son starves in poverty while being entitled to a rich inheritance; such is the man with buddha-nature who fails to recognise or use it.
Choro Nyogen: see Senzaki Nyogen Sensei.
Circle: see Enso.
Clappers: see Taku.
Colour, sound, scent, taste, touch, thought: see Dhatu.
Compassion: (Skt karuna); an awareness of and loving response to other people’s suffering. It is distinguished from loving-kindness (metta) by its added awareness of suffering (duhkha). In the Mahayana, compassion is a form of the virtue of generosity (dana: see Paramita, 1), a necessary complement to wisdom (Prajña), and an essential ingredient in the perfection of the fully enlightened. The firm conviction that there is no distinction or separation between onself and others is the basis for the compassion that determines the action of a bodhisattva. The first of our Four Great Vows is an expression of this compassion.
Despite sectarian propaganda, the Mahayana does not have a monopoly on compassion, any more than the Theravada has a monopoly on loving-kindness. Both qualities are deeply rooted in the basic Buddhist tradition. Along with equanimity and altruistic joy in the happiness and accomplishments of others, they make up the four “sublime states” or “divine abodes”, and all four may be cultivated and reflected upon by the same style of meditation (see Metta).
In Buddhism, compassion has to be distinguished from feeling sorry for someone, or any hint of being patronising or emotionally superior, however well-intentioned one might be. It is more to do with empathy, recognising that someone else’s suffering is akin to one’s own suffering and wanting to do something about it. Compassion can take active forms—helping others who are having difficulties of whatever kind (mental, emotional, physical)—but can also be seen as a broad approach inherent in all that one does. When you know that all beings are suffering in some way, compassion can become a permanent part of one’s mindset.
Some Mahayana sources go so far as to allow compassion to override all other considerations, and enjoin the commission of immoral or otherwise forbidden actions if the bodhisattva sees them as skilful means that would reduce suffering. For example, a bodhisattva might kill a pirate about to slaughter passengers, and accept the karmic consequences of his action as a price he is prepared to pay in order to save others.
Chögyam Trungpa coined the term “idiot compassion” to refer to the impulse to make people happy by giving them what they want, instead of using wisdom to see what they really need. Being “nice” may bolster your self-image, or relieve your own distress in the face of great suffering. But sometimes the compassionate thing to do is to say no. On the other hand, “tough love”, without adequate wisdom, may be self-protection or an ego-trip, rather than true compassion.
Conditioned arising: see Chain of causation.
In esoteric Buddhism, body, speech and mind are used ritually with mystical or sacred intention, as mudras (posture, gestures), mantras (sounds, chanting) and meditation, and are seen as being thereby transformed into the corresponding body, speech and mind of a buddha.
Consciousness: (Jap. shiki). As a technical term in Buddhist discourse, “consciousness” includes both the active, discriminative form of knowing, and its subliminal or unconscious bodily and psychic functions. It thus means much more than the stream of mental awareness which the English word “consciousness” primarily denotes, and encompasses both the Western terms “conscious” and “unconscious”.
Zen adopts the Yogachara Buddhist analysis of eight consciousnesses
The first five consciousnesses are those associated with the sense faculties of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell; the sixth consciousness is the conceptual faculty (intellect, thought) that distinguishes and classifies the data of experience; the seventh consciousness synthesises perceptual forms into conceptual images, acts as a two-way conveyor between sensory input and the “seed repository”, includes value judgments and hence motivations to action, and is the source of the persistent illusion of “I”; the eighth consciousness, known as the storehouse consciousness, contains the seeds (Skt bija) resulting from all past experiences and actions, as well as the seeds of all possible future mental states, perceptions and responses. “Seeds” from past actions are seen as latent energy, imprinted in the subject’s “seed repository” (also called “storehouse consciousness”) as habitual tendencies (Skt vasana) which may grow and bear fruit in the form of particular mental states or patterns of behaviour in the future. This schema is the basis for the psychotherapy practised and taught by the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh. The wave-like shape in the diagram also illustrates Thich Nhat Hanh’s often repeated teaching that the human person as not just a brief-lived individual wave, but one with the water of the vaster ocean. See also Dhatu, Karma, Skandha.
The Yogachara school further teaches that, at enlightenment, the various aspects of consciousness change into totally new sorts of Awareness, all of them non-conceptualising, non-dual, and able to experience reality directly and authentically.
Cook: see Tenzo.
Cushion: See Zafu.
In the framework of the daily recitations in a Zen monastery, the lineage of the tradition that runs from Shakyamuni Buddha to the current Zen master of the monastery is recalled by reciting the names of the patriarchs and their dharma successors in the order of “transmission from heart–mind to heart–mind”. In this recitation, the title daiosho is attached to the names of the Zen masters. Although, historically, the lineage is flimsily constructed in places, it is of great importance in the Chinese and Japanese cultures, where ancestors are highly valued. For Zen, the historicity of the early patriarchs is irrelevant, but they are revered as having transmitted authentic enlightenment through the ages.
In the lineage chart given to some Diamond Sangha students at their Jukai ceremony, the list of our double lineage (Rinzai and Soto) includes over 100 names. The Dedications recited in the Diamond Sangha are a much truncated version of this list, up to and including the immediate teachers of Robert Aitken. A number of these teachers are not actually priests, and are referred to in some Diamond Sangha groups as “Dai Koji” (“Great Layperson”) or “Daishi” (“Great Teacher”). However, in the Melbourne Zen Group they are all given the title “Daiosho”.
Daiun Sogaku: see Harada.
Dana: see Paramita, (1). More specifically, money voluntarily offered to a Zen teacher by a student, as a spontaneous expression of gratitude for teachings just received.
Darani: Jap. for Dharani.
Dedication: In the Mahayana, compassionately and generously transferring one’s merit (or “auspicious power”) to another so that they may gain enlightenment; more specifically, transferring the merit of a sutra recitation to buddhas, bodhisattvas and Ancestral Teachers, or to friends and sangha members who are ill or who have recently died “Dana, the gift and its circulation, is the rationale of the [Dedication]. We send out whatever auspicious power we have accumulated, and by that act we are empowered further for our bodhisattva work”. (Robert Aitken)
Deepest samadhi: Skt mahasamadhi; it is often said, when a great saint dies, that he has gone into, or is resting in, deepest samadhi.
Demons and Spirits: see Hungry ghosts.
Densho: Jap., “Bell of the Hall”; a large bell, 45 cm or more in height, suspended overhead just outside the dojo. It is struck by the Jikijitsu with a long mallet for ten minutes before each block of zazen periods. The sequence includes three accelerandi—the blows coming faster and faster until they merge to a point—by which the students can tell how much time is left before the zazen begins. The Melbourne Zen Group uses the wooden han for this purpose, at sesshin.
Dependent origination: see Chain of causation.
Dharani: Skt., lit. “holder [feminine]”; a poetical invocation of praise; the verbal seal of a rite; short sutras that contain magical formulas comprised of syllables with symbolic content. They are in general longer than mantras. They can convey the essence of a teaching or a particular state of mind that is created by repetition of the dharani. In esoteric Buddhism, dharanis are also used for worldly purposes, such as averting calamities.
“Dharani are rationally almost meaningless incantations, and D.T. Suzuki’s efforts to translate them, he admits, are problematic. Nonetheless, they are meaningful to those who gather to recite them, simply, it seems, by the chanting itself.” (Robert Aitken) See also Chanting.
Dharma: Skt., lit. “carrying, holding” (Jap. ho or datsuma). Central notion of Buddhism, one of the Three Treasures. The term is used in various meanings, referring to religious, secular or natural law.
(1) The cosmic law, the “great norm”, underlying our world; above all, the law of karmically determined rebirth.
(2) The teaching of the Buddha, who recognised and formulated this “law”; thus the teaching that expresses the universal truth. The dharma in this sense existed already before the birth of the historical Buddha, who is no more than a manifestation of it. It is in the dharma in this sense that a Buddhist takes refuge.
(3) Norms of behaviour and ethical rules.
(4) Manifestation of reality, of the general state of affairs; thing, phenomenon. All phenomena are seen as subject to the law of causation.
(5) Mental content, object of thought, idea—a reflection of a thing in the human mind.
(6) Term for the so-called factors of existence, which the Theravada considers as building blocks of the empirical personality of the world.
Vasabandhu (who is considered to be the 21st patriarch in the Indian lineage of Zen) proposed ten definitions: knowledge, the path, merit, scripture, certainty, nirvana, a mental event, lifespan, learning, a school of doctrine. Also: existence, reality, meaning, phenomena and meditation practice. The Dharma is an instant of sensory experience. It is also the Buddha’s teaching, his scripture, his word, his message, his vibration and his energy.
Dharma Gates: (Jap. homon); the teachings of the Buddha. These teachings are here compared to a gate through which the practitioner enters the world of enlightenment. However, the practitioner must be aware that the gate does not lead from one world into another.
In the Diamond Sangha, we make the undertaking: “Dharma gates are countless; I vow to wake to them” (Four Great Vows). As Robert Aitken explains it, dharma gates are any incidents or particulars that can enable one’s realisation. This includes, for example, simple sensory experience, archetypes and metaphors, or reading. See also Vairochana. More particularly, Hui-hai said: “The gate to the Dharma is relinquishment”.
Dharmakaya: See Buddha bodies.
Dharma Sharing: In the Melbourne Zen Group, this is an opportunity for sangha members to get to know each other on a deeper level than social chit-chat, intellectual discussion or exchange of information. Within careful and supportive guidelines, modelled on the Quakers’ “Faith Sharing” practice, participants are encouraged to speak from the heart about their personal experience as it relates to a given dharma topic. This gives us, as listeners, valuable practice in not rushing to judgement, and may also helpfully challenge our cherished personal opinions.
Dhatu: Skt, Pali. The perceptual bases or elements, of which there are eighteen in all, consisting of three groups of six. These are the six sense-faculties, their six corresponding objects, and the six perceptual awarenesses, hence: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body mind; colour, sound, scent, taste, touch, thought; seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking.
This form of analysis, designed to provide a comprehensive account of the elements present when perception occurs, is used in the Buddhist analysis of perception to show that all the elements involved in the process are impermanent, unsatisfactory and without autonomous existence, i.e. “empty”. See Emptiness. It should be noted that the dhatus are a different analytical grid from that of the Five Skandhas, although their purpose is the same.
Robert Aitken Roshi, as part of a Zen “syllabus” outlined in his book Encouraging Words, includes the eighteen dhatus among the lists of fundamental concepts, precepts, vows and teachings which he calls “The Lattice of the Dharma”. In the Platform Sutra, Hui-neng recommends them as part of the essential teachings that should be passed on in the Zen tradition.
Diamond Sangha: Initially, a Zen Buddhist society of lay members, established in Hawaii in 1959 by Robert Aitken and his wife Anne. The name derives both from the Diamond Sutra and from Diamond Head, a crater near Waikiki beach. The Diamond Sangha follows the Harada–Yasutani stream of Zen, and initially arose within the Japanese Sanbo Kyodan, from which it became independent in 1995. It incorporates elements of both Rinzai and Soto Zen.
The name Diamond Sangha is now extended to cover an unstructured network of autonomous, affiliated lay Zen groups in various countries, all of which follow to some extent the Honolulu Diamond Sangha model. This is based on lay Zen Buddhist practice with a lineage protected by a traditional teacher-to-student transmission of the Dharma. Ritual, forms and tradition are seen as helpful elements creating a sense of continuity, but are not intended as a means of imposing uniformity, so that affiliate groups are free to make adaptations appropriate to their own locality, culture and preferences.
Dipamkara: Skt., lit. “kindler of lights”. Legendary buddha who is said to have lived an endlessly long time ago. He symbolises all the buddhas of the past and, particularly in China, he is depicted together with Shakyamuni and Maitreya, the buddha of the future, as one of the “buddhas of the three times” (past, present, future).
Dogen Kigen: See Dogen Zenji.
Dogen Zenji: also Dogen Kigen or Eihei Dogen, 1200–1253. After training for several years, first as a Tendai monk and then under a Rinzai teacher, Dogen travelled to China, where he studied further and became a Dharma successor in the Chinese Soto Zen lineage. Considered the founder of the Japanese Soto school, Dogen established Eihei-ji, which is still today an important monastery of Japanese Soto Zen. Dogen’s principal work, a collection of Dharma essays, Shobo-genzo, is considered one of the most profound writings of Japanese Zen literature and as the most outstanding work of the religious literature of Japan. Here he also turned his mind to philosophical problems of an extremely speculative nature, such as the relation of time to existence, and the nature of change and stability in the world. His writings, rediscovered in the 20th Century, seem to presage developments in modern Western philosophy. After further study, however, Western scholars are now beginning to admit that Dogen’s thought is also at times idiosyncratic, narrow-minded, elitist, fundamentalist, even violent at times in its expression.
Although he collected, commented on and used koans for his students, Dogen emphasised shikantaza (“just sitting”), and placed great stress on the tenet that “practice and enlightenment are one” (see also Inga), as well as on the necessity for “sustained exertion”.
Dojo: Jap., lit. “hall of the way”; a training centre; a hall or room in which one of the Japanese “ways” (do) of spiritual-practical training is practised. The term is also used as a synonym for zendo. More generally, it can refer to one’s own place of realisation.
Dokusan: Jap., lit. “go alone [doku] to a high one [Sino-Jap., san]”; meeting of a Zen student with his or her master in the seclusion of the master’s room. Dokusan, although optional, is among the most important elements in Zen training. It provides the student with an opportunity privately to present to the master all problems relating to his practice and to demonstrate the state of his practice in the encounter with the master so as to test the profundity of his Zen experience. The practice of giving individual instruction in this manner began, according to Zen tradition, with the “secret teachings” of Shakyamuni Buddha and has been preserved in this “school of Buddha-mind” ever since.
The content of dokusan, for several reasons, is subject to strict secrecy. For example, it is generally the case that the instruction of the master accords with the particular situation of an individual student; he might respond to externally similar manifestations of different students in entirely different ways, which might be a source of confusion for students who have not yet reached an understanding with the master.
In the Diamond Sangha, dokusan can be given only by a person who has received official transmission from an authentic master and who has been confirmed by him as a dharma successor.
Doubt: “Great doubt” (Jap. dai-gidan), an inner condition of doubt-ridden questioning, is one of the three foundations of the practice of zazen. In Zen, doubt does not mean scepticism but rather a state of perplexity, of intense probing inquiry. This is a doubt about everything one thinks to be true, including the efficacy of Zen practice itself. The other two essentials for zazen, as taught by Hakuin Zenji, are “Great faith” and “Great resolve”.
In his Introductory Lectures on Zen Training, Yasutani Roshi said about “Great doubt”:
Not a simple doubt, mind you, but a “doubt-mass”—and this inevitably stems from a strong faith. It is a doubt as to why we and the world should appear so imperfect, so full of anxiety, strife and suffering, when in fact our deep faith tells us exactly the opposite is true. It is a doubt which leaves us no rest. It is as though we knew perfectly well we were millionaires and yet inexplicably found ourselves in dire need without a penny in our pockets. Strong doubt, therefore, exists in proportion to strong faith.
Dualism: Dualism can mean the tendency of humans to perceive and understand the world as being divided into just two categories. In this sense, it is dualistic when one perceives a tree as a thing separate from everything surrounding it, or when one perceives a “self” that is distinct from the rest of the world. In traditions such as Zen, a key to enlightenment is “overcoming” this sort of dualism, without merely replacing it with monism or pluralism. “The world in which birth and death, good and bad, and being and nonbeing are opposed exists only for those who do not live an awakened life.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)
Beyond this, the rejection of the dualism between duality and non-duality means the integration of awakening and ordinary life. As Dogen puts it: “The Buddha way is, basically, leaping clear of the many and the one”.
Duhkha: Skt; a central concept in Buddhism, which lies at the root of the Four Noble Truths; usually translated as “suffering”, but denoting such a wide range of meanings that it is perhaps best left untranslated. Aitken Roshi uses the term “anguish”, and defines it as “a response to the reality of mortality and dependence; the consequences of resisting or denying that reality”.
Duhkha not only signifies suffering in the sense of unpleasant sensations; it also refers to everything, both material and mental, that is conditioned, impermanent and unsatisfactory. Specifically, it relates to the Five Skandhas and the problems arising from the associated delusional ego. Even pleasant things are duhkha, since they are subject to ending, and, if desire and craving attach to them, they give rise to painful fear of loss (see Greed). The means to bring about the extinction of duhkha is shown by the Eightfold Path. See also Chain of causation.
Effort: As part of the Eightfold Path, right “effort” (Skt vyayama) means directing the mind towards spiritual goals and the production and fostering of wholesome states of mind. It is to be noted that this aspect of the Path refers not to the amount of effort, but to the direction in which it is applied. Cf Virya.
Ego: Buddhist psychology teaches that the sense of self-identity corresponding to the Western concept of the “ego” is an intellectual construct. Other aspects of the English concept of “ego” are not denied by Buddhism, nor does Buddhism seek to eliminate them.
One of the central teachings of Buddhism is the doctrine (anatman), which says that no self exists in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral and independent substance within an individual existent. The apparent “ego”, in Buddhism, is no more than a transitory and changeable empirical personality put together from the five skandhas.
In the Mahayana, this analysis is applied to all conditionally arising phenomena. This freedom from self-nature is called in the Mahayana emptiness. If one does not apprehend the impersonality of existence, does not recognise existence as a flux of arising and passing away of physical and mental phenomena in which there is no constant self, then one is unable to attain the insight that is essential for liberation. Our dichotomising intellect (see Dualism) sets up an “I” as opposed to everything else “out there” (see Consciousness), and then expends much energy anxiously defending, or compulsively satisfying the cravings of, this delusional entity. In the course of Zen training, the dominance of the ego illusion over the practitioner’s thinking and aspirations is gradually overcome. In profound enlightenment the ego in this sense is annihilated; it dies.
Eightfold Path: the path leading to release from suffering (duhkha), the fourth of the Four Noble Truths. The eight aspects of the path are usually translated as: (1) right view (based on understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the nonindividuality of existence); (2) right resolve, in favour of good will and non-harming; (3) right speech; (4) right conduct, by keeping the precepts; (5) right livelihood, one that does not harm others; (6) right effort; (7) right mindfulness; and (8) right meditation, training the mind in focused attention. This is a cumulative programme in which all eight factors are to be practised simultaneously.
Some translations prefer to speak of “perfect” views, resolve etc. The Sanskrit word here (samyak) conveys the sense of wholeness or completeness, not any opposition between “right” and “wrong”.
The Mahayana has its own modified interpretations of the Eightfold Path, to make room for the important Mahayana concept of emptiness. For example, according to an Indian commentator in the 6th Century c.e., right view is insight into the dharmakaya (see Buddha bodies); right conduct is abstention from all deeds directed toward karmic gain; right mindfulness means giving up pondering on being and nonbeing; and right meditation means not grasping onto ideas.
Emptiness: (in Sanskrit, shunyata; ku in Japanese); the fundamental nature of all phenomena, the dynamic substratum of all existence. All phenomena are essentially empty, or devoid of self-substance, in the sense that they are but fleeting manifestations in a stream of endless transformation. Though emptiness is without form, it informs everything: for the Mahayana, to see into this no-thingness of things is awakening. See enlightenment.
Emptiness, as it is spoken of in Zen, has nothing to do with the purely philosophical concept of nothingness, a negation of all existence, nor with empty space. It is an emptiness that is not the opposite of the existence of all things and their properties but rather the basis of this existence, that engenders and bears it and, from the standpoint of complete enlightenment, is absolutely identical with it. Thus it says in the Heart Sutra: “Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form”.
The emptiness experienced in Zen enlightenment is something unperceivable, unthinkable, unfeelable and endless beyond existence and non-existence. Emptiness is no object that could be experienced by a subject, since the subject itself is dissolved in the emptiness. Some Zen teachers use the term “empty oneness”.
Enlightenment: the word used to translate the Sanskrit term bodhi (lit. “awakened”) and the Japanese satori or kensho. In Zen, a person awakens to a nowness of emptiness which he himself is—even as the entire universe is emptiness—and which enables him to comprehend the true nature of things.
“Awakening” is perhaps a preferable translation, since “enlightenment” is, on the one hand, often misunderstood as an experience of light (and vice versa); and on the other hand, it may become confused with certain beliefs and attitudes current during the historico–cultural period that English-speakers call “the Enlightenment”. (In other languages, these are two different terms.)
Enlightenment (bodhi) marks the culmination of the Buddhist religious path. See Meditation. The definition of enlightenment varies widely between schools (the Theravada and the Mahayana differ as to the content and nature of the Buddha’s own enlightenment), between teachers and over time: for example, some see it as a form of gnosis, others as a transient state of altered consciousness. To call it an “experience” (often nowadays implying some emotional thrill) is a 20th Century Western construct. Any assumptions that a practitioner makes about enlightenment will inevitably shape his practice and its outcomes.
For the Diamond Sangha, Robert Aitken defined enlightenment as beginning with kensho: “A glimpse of empty or unitive possibilities; prajña experienced through one of the senses, acknowledged by a confirmed teacher. Understanding.” This glimpse can, with further deepening practice, lead to a profound and permanent transformation of the human being. Thus, enlightenment does not mean the sudden acquisition of omniscience, infallibility, unerring judgement or emotional invulnerability. After initial enlightenment there is still much work to do: ingrained habits of thought and behaviour do not vanish overnight.
There are different degrees of enlightenment. If we compare the process to breaking through a wall, then it can vary between a tiny hole in the wall and the total demolition of this wall as in the complete enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha—and all the degrees in between. In profound enlightenment, the ego is annihilated, it dies. The result of this “great death” is “great life”, a life of freedom and peace.
Enso: Jap., lit. “circle”. The circle executed with a single fluid brushstroke is a popular theme in Zen painting. It is said that only someone who is inwardly collected and in equilibrium is capable of painting a strong and well-balanced circle. The enso symbolises fullness and emptiness, the absolute, true reality and enlightenment. The Melbourne Zen Group includes in its logo and letterhead an enso painted by Meg Irwin.
Entered nirvana: Died; see Nirvana.
Equanimity: (Skt upeksha, “looking on”). The state of one who witnesses or experiences without becoming emotionally entangled. It is a state that is neither joy nor suffering but rather is independent of both, one where the mind is in equilibrium and elevated above all distinctions (see Dualism). It is not simply indifference or lack of interest, but one of the four “Sublime States”, a virtue that is to be cultivated. It means that the Chain of causation linking sense-contact to attachment and suffering, through an overvalued and deluded sense of self, has been broken.
Evening Meal: see Yakuseki.
Evil: harmful, destructive. Distinguish from immoral. See Morality.
Eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind: see Dhatu.
Faith: (Skt shraddha); the inner attitude of trust and confidence toward the Buddha and his teaching. Faith is the basis of the first two elements of the Eightfold Path, perfect view and perfect resolve.
Zen is often presented as not requiring “faith”. As introduced to the West by the Theosophical Society at the turn of the 20th century, Buddhism and Zen were said to be “natural” (i.e. with no supernatural elements), and “reason”-based. Olcott, a leading Theosophist, gained endorsement from Buddhist leaders in many countries for fourteen Fundamental Principles of Buddhism, including the following: “Buddhism discourages superstitious credulity. The Buddha taught it to be the duty of parents to have his child educated in science and literature. He also taught that no-one should believe what is spoken by any sage, written in any book, or affirmed by tradition, unless it accords with reason.” Westerners are often told that Buddhist faith consists rather in the conviction that grows in students when they try living with the teaching; that is, a faith tempered by critical reflection and tested against one’s own experience.
However, many Mahayana doctrines cannot be confirmed in this way, including some fundamental teachings of Zen Buddhism, such as “All beings by nature are buddha”. On the other hand, it is sometimes suggested that non-verifiable teachings may be adopted provisionally as “skilful means”, subject to experiential confirmation that they lead to positive outcomes in one’s life and practice. Then again, for some practitioners faith plays a devotional role, being regarded as the virtue out of which all the others develop and which may thus open the door of liberation.
is firmly and deeply rooted, immovable, like an immense tree or huge boulder. It is a faith, moreover, untainted by belief in the supernatural or the superstitious. Buddhism has often been described as both a rational religion and a religion of wisdom. But religion it is, and what makes it one is this element of faith, without which it is merely philosophy. Buddhism starts with Buddha’s supreme enlightenment… Our deep faith, therefore, is in his enlightenment, the substance of which he proclaimed to be that human nature, all existence, is intrinsically whole, flawless, omnipotent—in a word, perfect. Without unwavering faith in this the heart of the Buddha’s teaching, it is impossible to progress far in one’s practice.
Feelings: What Westerners call “feelings” (or emotions) are, in Buddhism, considered to be “mind states”, psycho-physical experiences arising from attaching a “story” to initial basic sensations of liking or aversion.
In Buddhism, on the other hand, “feelings” (Skt vedana) is a technical term, referring to those basic sensations themselves; that is, the simple feeling tone (pleasant, unpleasant or neutral) which follows immediately upon a perception, before any further mental elaboration gives rise to clinging or emotional distress (see Chain of causation, 7). Awareness of these often subtle sensations is most important, as it gives a moment of choice before “emotions” take over and dictate one’s responses.
In the meditation practice known as the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (see Vipashyana), contemplation of “feelings” (vedana) thus involves simple awareness of the pleasant, unpleasant or neutral flavour of one’s sensations, while contemplation of “mind” involves (among other things) awareness of one’s emotional states and their accompanying stories.
First taste is to cut off all evil…: the Diamond Sangha sesshin meal ritual includes here a reminder of the Three Pure Precepts taken at our Jukai ceremony. In their original form, these precepts refer to avoiding evil, practising good and saving the Many Beings.
Fish: See Mokugyo.
Flavours: see Six Flavours.
Food: see How it came to us.
Form is no other than emptiness: In this affirmation from the Heart Sutra, “form” refers specifically to the human body as the first of the five skandhas. Nowadays, “form” [Skt rupa] in this context is often interpreted in the West as standing more generally for the material substrate of all phenomena; however, in the Heart Sutra this generalised application of “emptiness” is stated later on, as “all things are essentially empty”. See also Emptiness. However, in contexts other than the Heart Sutra, and not referring to the five skandhas, “form” [rupa] can indeed have the wider meaning of that which has shape and manifests itself to the senses as substance.
Founding Teachers: see Ancestral Teachers.
Four Blessings: teachers, parents, nation, and the Many Beings.
Four Foundations of Mindfulness: see Vipashyana.
Four Great Vows: (Jap., shiku seigan): variously translated, these vows are: (1) Sentient beings are countless, I vow to save them all; /The many beings are numberless, I vow to save them; (2) Tormenting passions are innumerable, I vow cut through them all; /Greed, hatred and ignorance rise endlessly, I vow to abandon them; (3) The gates (levels of truth) of the Dharma are manifold, I vow to pass through them all; /Dharma gates are countless, I vow to wake to them; and (4) The Buddha’s Way is peerless, I vow to realise it; /Buddha’s Way is unsurpassed, I vow to embody it fully. The vows, in the form that we use, have been traced to Chih-i (6th century), founder of the T’ien-t’ai [Jap. Tendai] tradition, and are based line by line on the Four Noble Truths.
Four Noble Truths: These are the basis of the Buddhist teaching. The perception of the Four Noble Truths by the Buddha constituted, according to the earliest tradition, his actual enlightenment. Buddha expounded these truths in the Benares discourse as his first teaching immediately after his enlightenment.
The four noble truths are: (1) the truth of suffering (duhkha); (2) the truth of the origin of suffering; (3) the truth of the cessation of suffering; and (4) the truth of the path that leads to the cessation of suffering.
The first truth says that all existence is characterised by suffering and does not bring satisfaction. The second truth gives as the cause of suffering craving or desire. This craving binds beings to the cycle of existence (samsara). For the Mahayana, craving is seen as secondary to ignorance (of emptiness of self and of phenomena); cf. Chain of causation. The third truth says that through remainderless elimination of craving (or, for the Mahayana, by eliminating ignorance through awareness of emptiness), suffering can be brought to an end. The fourth truth gives the Eightfold Path as the means for the ending of suffering.
Four Vows: see Four Great Vows.
Gassho: Jap., lit. “palms of the hands placed together”; Zen expression for the ancient gesture of greeting, request, gratitude, veneration or supplication common in many cultures (particularly in the East). The hands are held before the lower part of the face, with the tips of the fingers level with the nose. On some occasions, the gesture may also be accompanied by a bow from the waist.
In this gesture of “palms of the hands together”, a state of mind is spontaneously manifested that suggests the unity of the antithetical forces of the phenomenal world.
Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha: The “Prajñaparamita mantra”, in what Robert Aitken calls “bastard Sanskrit that nobody translates satisfactorily”. One possible version is: “Gone, gone to the other shore, completely crossed over, enlightenment, hurrah!” “Para”, the other shore, is nirvana; this shore is the life of samsara and duhkha, separated from the other by the stream of karma. Prajñaparamita is the raft of wisdom that ferries one to the other shore. The final “svaha” is an exclamation of joy. Hence Robert Aitken calls this mantra “a kind of Ode to Joy”.
Gatha: Skt; verse, usually of four lines, that sums up an aspect of the dharma and expresses insight into Buddhist teaching. As songs, they are often interpolated into sutras. In the Mahayana, a gatha often has the form of a vow.
Great Vows for All: see Four Great Vows.
Greed (thirst, craving, longing, desire) is a central notion of Buddhism. It is the desire that arises through the contact between a sense organ and its corresponding object (see Chain of causation. It is the cause of attachment and thus of duhkha; it binds sentient beings to the cycle of suffering existence.
The Mahayana further brings in the notions of egolessness and emptiness: erroneously seeing the personality as an independent self-existing “I” or ego leads to placing special value on everything connected with it, and this is what gives rise to desire or greed. Liberation results from recognising as inessential (empty) everything that is erroneously regarded as pertaining to an independently existing ego. This causes greed to fall away.
The expression “Greed, hatred and ignorance rise endlessly” refers to the Chain of causation. In its Sino-Japanese version, the second of our Four Great Vows speaks of “cutting through” this process, to achieve liberation.
Guardians: (Chin., t’ien-wang; Jap., shi-tenno; Skt, devaraja); “celestial kings”, also called world protectors; four demonic-looking figures, images of which are to be found in every Chinese and Japanese monastery. The celestial kings, who according to myth dwell on the world mountain Meru, are guardians of the four quarters of the world and of the Buddhist teaching. They fight against evil and protect places where goodness is taught. Their bodies are protected by armour and they wear helmets or crowns on their heads.
Hakuin Zenji: also Hakuin Ekaku (1689–1769), one of the most important Japanese Zen masters of the Rinzai school. He is often referred to as the father of modern Rinzai Zen, since he reformed the school and gave it new impetus. He systematised koan training and emphasised once again the importance of zazen. His koan “What is the sound of one hand?” is one of the best known. Hakuin Zenji was also an important painter, master of calligraphy and sculptor.
Hakuin’s poem Song of Zazen is frequently chanted in the Zen monasteries of Japan. It begins with the words “All beings are fundamentally Buddha” and continues by praising the practice of zazen as the most effective means to awaken to this basic truth of Buddhism.
According to Hakuin, there are three essentials of the practice of zazen: great faith, great doubt and great resolve. He stressed the importance of koan practice and arranged the traditional koans into a system in which the practitioner has to resolve koans in a particular order according to their level of difficulty. He considered the koan Mu and later his own “One Hand” as the most useful.
Hakuin also stressed the importance of a strictly regulated monastic life and daily physical work. He regarded this work (samu) as part of meditation practice, which should continue during the everyday activity of the monastery and outside the monastery. “In order to penetrate to the depths of one’s own nature and realise a true living quality that is preserved under all circumstances, there is nothing better than still absorption in the midst of activity.”
Hakuun Ryoko: see Yasutani.
Han: Jap., lit. “board”; a wooden board measuring about 45 x 30 x 8 cm used in Zen monasteries, on which a rhythm is beaten with a wooden mallet three times a day: at dawn, at dusk and before going to bed. See also Densho. Often one of the following verses appears on the han:
Be mindful in practice.
Time flies like an arrow;
It does not wait for you.
Completely freed from yes and no;
great emptiness charged within;
no questions, no answers;
like a fish, like a fool.
Hannya Gempo: see Yamamoto Gempo Roshi.
Hannyaharamita shingyo: See Heart Sutra.
Hara: also kikai-tanden, Jap., lit. “underbody, belly, gut”. Physiologically, the hara refers to the area of the loins, including the stomach, abdomen and hips, and the functions of digestion and elimination connected with them. In esoteric Buddhism, the hara (as the lower abdomen) is recognised as the body–mind’s vital centre, and it is believed that by learning to focus the mind there and to radiate all one’s activities from that region, one develops greater mental and physical equilibrium and a reserve of energy.
At the age of seven, he became a monk in a monastery of the Soto school, and trained later at a monastery of the Rinzai school. Eventually, he blended the best of each school into an integral school now referred to as the “Harada-line”. Under his forceful leadership as abbot, the Hosshin-ji monastery became a stronghold of authentic Zen training in a modern Japan that was no longer rich in Zen masters.
His instructions for beginners in Zen became known also in the West through his student and dharma successor Hakuun Ryoko Yasutani. The Diamond Sangha evolved from the “Harada–Yasutani line”.
Heart Sutra: (in Japanese, Maka Hannyaharamita shingyo), roughly “Heartpiece of the Prajñaparamita sutra”; shortest of the 40 sutras that constitute the Prajñaparamita sutra. It is one of the most important sutras of Mahayana Buddhism and, particularly in China and Japan, it is recited by monks and nuns of almost all schools. The sutra is especially emphasised in Zen, since it formulates in a particularly clear and concise way the teaching of emptiness, the immediate experience of which is sought by Zen practitioners. It also holds out the possibility of becoming not just a bodhisattva but a full buddha (“attaining anuttara samyak-samboddhi”). See also Ignorance, Form is no other than emptiness.
Hinayana: see Theravada.
Hindrance: (Skt, varana). In the Heart Sutra, “hindrance” refers generally to greed, attachment and clinging, either to the idea of a “self” or to material or intellectual acquisitions. Attachment to such impermanent things inevitably leads to fear of loss. The Mahayana emphasises contemplating emptiness (of the self, of all other things, and of wisdom itself, including the teachings of the Buddha) as a means of overcoming greed, attachment and clinging, and hence of removing all fear. This contemplation is called Prajñaparamita (see also Prajña). According to the Heart Sutra, enlightenment immediately follows the removal of all such hindrances.
Home leaving: (Skt, pravrajya); leaving behind one’s family and abandoning all social ties; the first step in the life of a Theravadin monk. With this step, symbolised by shaving the head and beard and putting on a yellow robe, one enters the novitiate. In the non-monastic Diamond Sangha, where many serious students of Zen pursue authentic practice in a lay setting, the idea of “home leaving” has been reinterpreted.
In Zen, the lay disciple, at jukai, symbolically leaves his/her former “home” in the world of attachment and delusion, while remaining in the world.
In Zen, leaving home can also represent leaving the sometimes comfortable, sometimes claustrophobic construct of “I” and venturing forth into the unknown.
Furthermore, according to Dogen Zenji: “The fundamental requirement of the way is home departure. What you should understand correctly is that the day of home departure is the day when the opposition between bodhi and the first thought of enlightenment is transcended.”
Homon: see Dharma Gates.
How it came to us: In the meal ritual of Japanese Zen monasteries, this prompt to be mindful of the sources of our food includes a reference to “72 labours”, 72 being the number of work roles in a monastery.
Hsin-Hsin-Ming: Chin.; in Japanese, Shinjinmei: “Affirming Faith in Mind” or “Song of Faith Mind”, a poem traditionally attributed to Seng-ts’an (d. 606?). It is one of the earliest Zen writings. It expounds Zen’s basic principles in poetic form and shows strong Taoist influence. It begins with a famous sentence often quoted in Zen literature: “The venerable way is not difficult at all; it only abhors picking and choosing”. In this early Zen poem the fusion of the mutually congenial teachings of Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism appears for the first time.
Hungry Ghosts: (Jap.: gaki; Skt: preta); inhabitants of one of the Six Realms of Existence (or Six Worlds). They are said to suffer the torment of hunger, because their bellies are immense but their mouths only as big as the eye of a needle. They are also subject to various other tortures. In a Chinese tradition, some hungry ghosts are said to live on the remains of sacrifices, or on left-overs in general. At Diamond Sangha sesshin, as in Zen monasteries, it is customary to make a small food offering of “grain” (such as rice, wheat, barley, noodle, bread) to the “hungry ghosts” before beginning to eat a meal; and at the end, to offer them the last remnants of tea in one’s bowl. These offerings are later distributed outside on the ground. In Japanese folklore, flies are sometimes seen as manifestations of hungry ghosts.
Ignorance: (in Skt: avidya); To be distinguished from “not knowing”. Refusing to acknowledge the Four Noble Truths. For the Mahayana, neglecting or ignoring essential nature, emptiness and the primal harmony of beings.
Ignorance is that state of mind that does not correspond to reality, that holds illusory phenomena for reality, and brings forth suffering. Ignorance occasions craving (see Chain of causation. According to the Mahayana view, ignorance with regard to the emptiness of appearances entails that a person who is not enlightened will take the phenomenal world to be the only reality and thus conceal from himself the essential truth.
When the Heart Sutra says: “in emptiness there is… no ignorance and also no ending of ignorance, and so on to no old age and death and also no ending of old age and death”, the words “and so on” refer to the twelve links in the Chain of Causation.This is one of the earliest and most important teachings of the Buddha, which outlines, in twelve steps, how human beings, through ignorance, perpetuate the cycle of suffering (duhkha). The first step is ignorance, and the twelfth is old age and death. We note that in the Heart Sutra, “no ignorance” applies only in the realm of emptiness, which is here being delineated in terms of what it is not; in the phenomenal world, on the other hand, as we remind ourselves in the Four Vows, “greed, hatred and ignorance rise endlessly”.
Impermanence: (Skt anitya). A fundamental tenet of Buddhism is that all things that come into being dependent on causes and conditions are impermanent. Impermanence refers to the arising, passing away, changing and disappearance of things that have arisen, a process that takes place from moment to moment. It is because of the impermanence of the five skandhas that Buddhism teaches there can be no eternal self or soul. And because situations constantly change and in time all things decay, there can be no permanent happiness, and suffering arises.
Inga: Jap., lit. “cause-fruit”; cause and effect in the sense of the Buddhist law of cause and effect (karma). In Zen, the basis of which is the immediate realisation of the true nature of reality, which transcends the categories of time and space as well as linear connections within time and space, it is said “Inga ichinyo” (“Cause and effect are one”). Dogen’s teaching that “practice and enlightenment are one” is another aspect of “the oneness of cause and effect”; thus, we become buddhas because we already are buddhas. Symbolically, the lotus, wherein the bud and the seeds appear at the same time, is taken to represent “the oneness of cause and effect”.
Inkin: Jap.; a small bowl-shaped bell (“Leadership bell”) with a cushion beneath it, which is placed on a wooden pedestal and struck with a small metal striker. The inkin is sometimes used in Zen monasteries to signal the beginning or end of zazen periods or is rung at the beginning of recitations.
Ino: also ina, e’shu or chiji; Jap.; a monk who is charged with the supervision and leading of ceremonies in a Zen monastery. At sesshins under the Diamond Sangha tradition, the Ino (Director of Labour) leads the various services and ceremonies in the dojo, including sutras in the morning, the three meals, tea ceremonies, and the sutras before and after the teisho.
Interview: see Dokusan.
Jikijitsu: Jap.; “Regulator”; in the Rinzai school, the elder monk who is charged with the supervision of the zendo. The Jikijitsu in the zendo of a Rinzai Zen monastery is in charge of the meditation in the zendo, keeps time with the clappers and gong, leads recitations and keeps discipline. The most important official after the Roshi. See also jisha.
At sesshin in the Diamond Sangha traditions, the jikijitsu is the timekeeper who sounds the various signals for wakeup, zazen, kinhin, teisho. She or he leads kinhin, and the early morning exercise.
Jisha: Jap.; an important official in a Zen temple. With the jikijitsu, he handles all zendo affairs. He keeps the zendo clean, helps newcomers, serves tea and reports regularly to the Roshi. He is the administrative as distinct from the training official in the zendo life.
At sesshin in the Diamond Sangha tradition, the jisha (“Attendant”) is in charge of dokusan proceedings, and serves as escort to the Roshi coming and going from teisho. The jisha is also responsible for such sesshin logistics as seating arrangements, the serving of meals, lighting, ventilation, visitors and messages. In Zen centres, she or he shares responsibility with the Head Resident for sesshin planning.
Jo raku ga jo: words recited in the Emmei Jikku Kannon Gyo. They refer to the four characteristics of nirvana as taught in the Nirvana Sutra (Chinese, c. 5th century C.E.): eternal, joyous, personal and pure in nature. These four attributes arise from four freedoms: freedom from time, distress, bondage and delusion, and are variously translated as “perpetuity, joy, self, and purity” or “constancy, ease, assurance, purity” (Robert Aitken).
This teaching was considered heretical by many in China, since it contrasts with the Prajñaparamita Sutras, where nirvana is described as the realisation of emptiness. The reference to “self” also presents a problem and has been much debated; here it may perhaps be taken to mean something like a buddha-nature ego, which is perceived and liberated when the illusory ego is banished.
Jukai: Jap.;“receiving” or “granting” [ju] the precepts [kai]”. According to the Diamond Sangha liturgy for the jukai ceremony, “Jukai is acceptance of the Precepts. It is the acknowledgement: ‘I am a disciple of the Buddha Shakyamuni’. From this acceptance and acknowledgement arises practice on cushions and in daily life.”
In the Diamond Sangha ceremony, one commits oneself to avoid all evil, to do good, and to work for the salvation of all beings (see Pure Precepts); and to be completely devoted to the Three Treasures and the ten “grave precepts” of Zen. The Buddha is thus accepted as one’s teacher and the precepts as guides. One also dons a rakusu and receives a dharma name. In the Diamond Sangha, jukai is offered as a completely optional formality, but it can have a profound resonance in one’s life and practice.
In Soto Zen, special jukai retreats may last several days, with elaborate ceremonies. There, jukai may be seen as absolving one’s misdeeds and confirming one’s buddhahood; the precepts as being transmitted to the initiate in direct succession from the Buddha; and the kesa (or rakusu), representing the Buddha’s robe, as having mystical significance. Remnants and echoes of these deeper teachings may be found in the Diamond Sangha jukai liturgy, including its “Verse of the Rakusu” (known elsewhere as the “Verse of the Kesa”).
Kalpa: Skt; world cycle, world age; term for an endlessly long period of time, which is the basis of Buddhist time reckoning. The length of a kalpa is illustrated by the following simile: suppose that every hundred years a piece of silk is rubbed once on a solid rock one cubic mile in size; when the rock is worn away by this, one kalpa will still not have passed.
Kanjizai: An alternative name for Kannon/Kanzeon/Avalokiteshvara, used in the Heart Sutra, and carrying a different meaning. It derives from the Sino-Japanese “kan”, to see or penetrate; “ji”, oneself; “zai”, is or to be.
“Kanjizai is the one who sees what the self is, how it exists and what it is doing. It is the wisdom side of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva. Kanzeon is the compassion side.” (Taizan Maezumi Roshi)
“The quality of bearing witness or non-judging has two important characteristics. These characteristics are embodied in Kanzeon and Kanjizai, the Japanese names for Avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit). As Kanzeon, the ‘One who Hears the Cries of the World’, we practise connecting and staying close to the suffering of others. As Kanjizai, the ‘One who settles in the Self’, we remain grounded in not-knowing.” (Sensei Wendy Egyoku Nakao)
Kannon: see Avalokiteshvara.
Kansho: “shout bell”; a bell kept outside the dojo near the head of the dokusan line and used by the jisha to signal the beginning and end of dokusan. In centres where possible disturbance of the neighbours is not a factor, the students will sound this bell in turn just before going to dokusan.
Kanzeon: see Avalokitshvara.
Kapilavastu: Skt; home city of the historical Buddha, located at the foot of the Himalayas in present-day Nepal. Kapilavastu was the capital of the kingdom of the Shakyas. The Buddha was born in Lumbini near Kapilavastu and spent his childhood and youth in Kapilavastu. He is said to have visited the city frequently even after his enlightenment.
Karma: Skt., lit. “deed”; Universal law of cause and effect; affinity; the function of Mutual Interdependence. The effect of an action, which can be of the nature of body, speech or mind, is not primarily determined by the act itself but rather by the intention of the action. Only a deed that is free from desire, hate and delusion is without karmic effect. It should be noted that also good deeds engender karma and thus renewed rebirth. In order to liberate oneself from the cycle of rebirth, one must refrain from both “good” and “bad” deeds.
In the Yogachara School, as followed by Zen, karma is often figuratively spoken of in terms of “seeds” that eventually ripen and bear fruit: see Consciousness (8). These seeds may be nurtured, allowed to lie fallow, or rendered inactive by nurturing opposing seeds. The teaching of karma thus does not constitute determinism or fate.
Keisaku: see Kyosaku.
Keizan Jokin: 1268–1325; after Dogen Zenji, the most important Zen master of the Soto school of Japan. He compiled the koan collection known as the Denko-roku (“Transmission of Light”).
Kensho: Jap., lit. “seeing nature”; Zen expression for awakening (enlightenment). Since the meaning is “seeing one’s own true nature”, kensho is often translated as “self-realisation”, which English-speakers tend to misinterpret as Maslow-style “self-actualisation”. This confusion may owe something to Alan Watts, a great populariser of Zen who was also a leading light in the Human Potential Movement of the 1960s.
Like all words that try to reduce the conceptually ungraspable phenomenon of enlightenment to a concept, this one is also not entirely accurate and is even misleading, since in enlightenment there is no duality of “seer” and “seen”, no “nature of self” as an object that is seen by a subject separate from it.
Semantically, kensho has the same meaning as satori and the two terms are often used synonymously. Nevertheless it is customary to use the word satori when speaking of the enlightenment of the Buddha or the Zen patriarchs, and to use the word kensho when speaking of a transitory first glimpse of enlightenment that still requires to be deepened, repeated, stabilised and integrated into one’s being.
Kentan: Jap., lit. “looking at the tan”; a round made by Zen masters through the zendo along the rows of zazen practitioners early in the morning during the first set of sitting periods of a day of sesshin. By making this round, the master gets an impression of the state of mind of the practitioners, each of whom greets him with a gassho.
Kichijo-ten: (Skt Lakshmi); the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, later incorporated into Buddhism. Her name “Lakshmi” is derived from the Sanskrit word lakshya, meaning “aim” or “goal”, and she is the incarnation of beauty, wealth, good fortune, merit and prosperity, both material and spiritual. In Japan, prayers for peace and agricultural fertility were offered to her. In the Diamond Sangha, a short ode (dharani) to Kichijo, inherited from Japanese Zen, is chanted three times “to remove disasters”.
“In the ‘Sho Sai Myo Kichijo Dharani’ we invoke the healing mind… This chant is pure sounds, not words. There’s no translation for it. It is a sequence of sounds that dates back to Sanskrit sources, a series of linked mantras designed to create a healing state of consciousness… All the different voices of the sangha set up a resonance, a synergy. When the chanting is right on, it goes beyond sound. You can actually feel it… It’s dedicated to people who are suffering life-threatening illnesses. It’s a way of sending forth the collective energy of the sangha to people in need of support and healing.” (John Daido Loori)
In the Rinzai school the walking is done fast and energetically, frequently at a jog, while in the Soto school kinhin is practised in a “slow-motion” tempo. In the lineage of Zen started by Harada Roshi, a pace between these two extremes is practised. Kinhin serves as a link between immobile zazen and zazen in motion (daily activities).
The interpretation of the word kinhin as “sutra walking” is open to question. “Kin” can mean “passage across”, including “to experience”; so that Robert Aitken has proposed as a possible alternative translation: “walking verification”.
Koan: Jap., lit. “public notice”; the Chinese “kung-an” originally meant a legal case constituting a precedent. Koans have been used in Zen as a systematic means of training since around the middle of the 10th century. Traditionally, there are said to be 1700 koans; this figure was arrived at by attributing one koan to each of the 1701 Zen masters whose names appear in the Ching-te ch’uan-teng lu (11th Century collection of lives of the masters). Present-day Japanese masters use about 500 to 600 traditional koans. Western Zen continues to add new ones from a variety of sources.
Aitken Roshi defines a koan as “a presentation of the harmony of the Universal and the Particular; a theme of Zazen to be made clear”.
Essential to a Zen koan is paradox, in the sense of that which is “beyond” (Grk, para) “thinking” (Grk, dokein), that which transcends the logical or conceptual. Thus, since it cannot be solved by reason, a koan is not a riddle. Solving a koan requires a leap to another level of comprehension, beyond dualistic modes of thought. On the basis of this experience, the student can demonstrate his own solution of the koan to the master in a dokusan spontaneously and without recourse to preconceived notions. See also Mu.
Even within circles that make use of them, koan practice has received criticism for encouraging mere cleverness and wordplay rather than genuine enlightenment or deep personal transformation. However, when used properly, koans are credited with helping students break down the barriers to enlightenment that the rational habits of the mind erect, and with instilling a profound understanding of Buddhism and its goals at a direct, experiential level. It is impracticable to attempt koan practice without regular contact with a teacher.
Kotsu: Jap., lit. “bones”, also nyoi (Jap.); the sceptre, about 35 cm long, of a Zen master (roshi), which is bestowed on him by his master as a sign of his mastership.
The sceptre has a slight S-shaped curve, like a human spinal column. The roshi uses the kotsu, for example, to emphasise a point in a teisho, to lean on when sitting, or also occasionally to strike a student.
Koun Zenshin: see Yamada Koun Roshi.
Kuan-yin: one of the most popular objects of devotion and reverence in east Asian Buddhism. Although seen as a woman, she is identical with the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and her name is the Chinese translation of his. Kuan-yin’s major attributes and functions are set out in the seventh fascicule of the Lotus Sutra, in which the bodhisattva proclaims his willingness to act on behalf of all suffering beings. In particular, he promises to grant a child to any woman who prays to him for one, and the image of the “child-granting Kuan-yin” has become especially popular. Kuan-yin’s broad compassion, all-embracing vows towards all beings, ability to manifest in various forms, and easy accessibility through prayer have all served to make her the most widely called-upon source of help not only in east Asian Buddhism but in the folk beliefs of all regions as well. Iconographically, she can be recognised by her head-dress, in which the future Buddha Maitreya appears. She often also carries a vase of ambrosial dew, which she may pour out as a remedy for suffering; or she may sprinkle it around with a willow-twig (the willow having long been known for its pain-killing properties).
Kushinagara: present-day Kasia in the state of Uttar-Pradesh; one of the four sacred places of Buddhism. This is where the Buddha Shakyamuni died.
After his death, his mortal remains were burned outside Kushinagara. According to tradition, part of the relics were preserved in a stupa in Kushinagara. The city thus became one of the most important Buddhist places of pilgrimage. However, by the 7th Century it had been destroyed.
Kyosaku: also keisaku, Jap., lit. “wake-up stick”; flattened stick, 75 to 100 cm in length, with which the “sitters” in Zen monasteries are struck on the shoulders and back during long periods of zazen in order to encourage and stimulate them. Each shoulder is struck twice on points corresponding to acupuncture meridians.
The kyosaku symbolises the sword of wisdom of the bodhisattva Mañjushri, which cuts through all delusion; thus it is always respectfully handled.
The kyosaku is always used to help and encourage, never, as is often wrongly supposed, to punish. In the Diamond Sangha tradition, it is used only on request from the sitter. It helps to overcome fatigue, awakens potential and can, used just at the right moment, bring a person to glimpse or deepen enlightenment.
Liberation: The image is of being released from the Chain of causation, or the bonds of attachment (see also Greed) that bind one to repeated suffering. The Theravada also speaks of ten “fetters” (Pali samyojana) that chain a being to the cycle of suffering (samsara): (1) belief in a permanent self, (2) scepticism, (3) clinging to rites and rules, (4) sensuous craving, (5) hatred, (6) craving for refined corporeality, (7) craving for incorporeality, (8) conceit, (9) restlessness or excitability, and (10) ignorance.
In the second of our Four Great Vows, we undertake to cut through the constricting bonds of attachment. This can lead to a still greater, previously unimagined freedom.
Life-and-Death: (Jap. shoji; Skt samsara); also “birth-and-death”: the world of relativity, transience and karma; the transformation which all phenomena, including our thoughts and feelings, are ceaselessly undergoing, moment to moment, in accordance with the law of causation. Life-and-death, which Dogen called “the life of a Buddha”, can be compared to the waves on the ocean. See also Impermanence, Six Realms of Existence, Karma, Consciousness.
Lion’s roar: a term designating authoritative or powerful preaching. As the lion’s roar makes all animals tremble, subdues elephants, arrests birds in their flight and fishes in the water, so Buddha’s preaching overthrows all other religions, subdues devils, conquers heretics, and arrests the misery of life.
Lotus: plant of the water lily family (nelumbo nucifera, also nelumbium speciosum). In Buddhism, the lotus is a symbol of the true nature of beings, which remains unstained by the mud of the world of samsara and ignorance, and which is realised through enlightenment. It grows up from the dark power of the mud, is nourished by that very mud, yet can transcend it, to unfold its true qualities, like flower petals, in the radiance of enlightenment-consciousness.
Lotus of the Subtle Law Sutra: more usually called the Lotus Sutra. In Pure Land schools, it is considered to be an emanation of the Buddha himself. It is also called “Mahayana” (Great Way, Great Vehicle), since it expounded for the first time the path that aims at buddhahood itself, rather than lesser vehicles that aimed only at becoming a saint or a bodhisattva.
Lotus posture: so called because the Buddha, when he is depicted in this position, is usually shown seated on a lotus. In assuming this posture, practitioners identify with the Buddha and his determination under the bodhi tree.
Bring the cushion to the back edge of the padded mat, sit on it, and rest both knees on the mat. Place your right foot on your left thigh, as high as possible, and then your left foot on your right thigh. The back is straight, and the hands rest with the palms turned up on the heels of both feet. In the Diamond Sangha, the left palm rests on the right; this may be seen as an expression of the dominance of the passive over the active side of the body in the practice of meditation. This hand position (Jap. join, Skt dhyana mudra), with the thumbs held straight and touching at the tips, forms the so-called “mystic triangle” that is found in earliest Indian Buddhist sculpture. The triangle mudra is said to represent the Three Treasures; in esoteric Buddhism it has a number of other mystical meanings.
Loving-kindness: see Metta.
Magadha: North Indian kingdom of the time of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Magadha was the country of origin of Buddhism, from which it spread to other parts of India. Tradition states that the historical Buddha spoke the language of Magadha, which is not the same as Pali.
Mahasattva: Skt; great noble being.
Mahayana: (Skt, “Great Vehicle”). Mahayana Buddhism arose in India around the 1st century b.c.e, and underwent a long, gradual development before affirming an identity of its own. During this time, Mahayana and non-Mahayana monks lived together without discord in the same monastery: the Mahayana was not seen as a rival school, and was not the consequence of a schism within the sangha. It was transmitted to China in the 2nd century c.e., and also spread to Nepal, Tibet, central Asia, Korea and Japan.
The Mahayana from its beginnings was characterised by a certain style of religiosity, related to the idea that the Buddha is still around in some form, and somehow still active in the world. Eventually, the Mahayana proposed the possibility for all of full enlightenment, or buddhahood: that is, a mind free from suffering and its causes, willing and able to work tirelessly for the benefit of all living beings. See also Lotus of the Subtle Law Sutra.
Basic Mahayana ideas were explored and deepened in the 2nd Century c.e. by Nagarjuna, who is the first in the history of Buddhism to have constructed a philosophical “system”. He took the Chain of causation as his point of departure for examining emptiness. He also developed a special dialectic for his logical investigations. Zen has claimed him for its own, as the 14th patriarch in the Indian lineage.
In general, Mahayana Buddhism is a mixture of “the wisdom of emptiness” joined with compassion, and the religious or emotional expression of this wisdom/compassion in a vast array of buddha and bodhisattva figures. Adherents are encouraged to emulate these transcendent bodhisattvas and buddhas in “saving the many beings”.
Over the centuries, the Mahayana, while still accepting the sutras of the Pali Canon, created its own voluminous set of scriptures, in which free rein was given to theoretical experimentation and mythological imagination. It also acquired its own doctrines and stories, its own version of key events such as the Buddha’s enlightenment, its own interpretation of the canonical teachings, and its own cosmological vision. It further gave rise to various systematising, philosophical and devotional sub-schools. To bolster its own identity in sectarian debate, the Mahayana has portrayed the other main school of Buddhism (the Theravada) as an inferior vehicle that ignores compassion
Makyo: Jap., roughly “diabolic phenomenon”, from ma (akuma), “devil” and kyo, “phenomenon, objective world”. Makyo are deceptive appearances and feelings that can arise in the practice of zazen. These phenomena include visual hallucinations as well as hallucinations involving the other senses, such as sounds, odours, etc., also prophetic visions, involuntary movements and, so it is said, levitation. All these phenomena, whether frightening or seductive, are not “diabolic” so long as the practitioner pays them no heed and continues undistracted in his or her practice.
In a deeper sense, for Zen the entire experienced world of the unenlightened person—the world of “everyman’s consciousness”—is nothing but makyo, a hallucination. The true nature, or buddha-nature, of all phenomena is experienced only in enlightenment.
More generally, any phenomena or experiences which distract one from practice or to which one becomes attached may be called makyo.
On the other hand, Robert Aitken Roshi relates makyo to the world of dream, which may enable deep participation in the Buddha Dharma, transcending boundaries of time and place. He advises: “In your practice, when you find yourself in a dreamlike condition with strange images coming and going, hold fast to Mu, hold fast to your breath-counting, and let the process unfold”.
Mala: Skt, lit. “garland, rose”; a string of beads that is used to count repetitions in the recitation of mantras, dharanis and so on. The number of beads in a standard Buddhist mala is 108.
Mani Jewel: (Skt chintamani);
(1) the wish-fulfilling jewel, attribute of various buddhas and bodhisattvas;
(2) a symbol for the liberated mind; the jewel or pearl of buddhahood.
Mañjushri: Skt (Jap. Monju), lit. “He Who Is Noble and Gentle”; the archetypal bodhisattva of wisdom, one of the most important figures of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon. He first appears in a work dating from before the 4th century. Iconographically, he may be depicted riding a lion (representing the vigour arising from satori) and holding both a book of the Mahayana wisdom literature and the sword of wisdom, which cuts through delusion. Especially appreciated in the Zen sect, Mañjushri bodhisattva is often the principal figure on the zendo altar, on the Buddha’s left.
Mantra: Skt; a power-laden syllable or series of syllables that manifests certain cosmic forces and aspects of the buddhas. Continuous repetition of mantras is practised as a form of meditation in many Buddhist schools. The practice is believed to be based on a knowledge of the occult power of sound.
In the esoteric schools, these sacred sounds are transmitted to a disciple at the time of initiation. When the disciple’s mind is properly attuned, the inner vibrations of the word symbol together with its associations in the consciousness of the initiate are said to open his mind to higher dimensions.
Many Beings: see Beings. Distinguish from the particular subset called sentient beings.
Mat: see Zabuton.
Meditation: General term for a multitude of religious practices, often quite different in method, but all having the same goal: to bring the consciousness of the practitioner to a state in which he or she can come to “awakening”, “liberation”, “enlightenment”. Esoteric schools of various religions have developed different “ways” leading to this event, which are suited to their respective historical, geographical and cultural circumstances as well as to the psychological dispositions and personality types of different individuals or groups. If an individual religion comes to a conclusion concerning a specific unwholesome state of mind of people in a culture which it is its goal to cure, then the “medicine” to accomplish the cure will be the path of meditative training developed within that religion. Such training, while not a goal in itself, should also not be regarded as a mere means to an end; for, as many religious traditions stress, “the path is the goal”.
A common mark of all forms of meditation is that they begin by calming the mind of the practitioner, clarifying it like the surface of a turbulent body of water, the bottom of which one can see only when the surface is still and the water is clear. This is accomplished through different techniques, depending on the method of training—for example, by physical or breathing exercises as in hatha-yoga, by concentration on symbolic forms (e.g. mandalas) or sounds (mantras) as in esoteric Buddhism, on feelings such as love or compassion, on pictorial representations (visualisation) or on sacred texts, as in Christian contemplation, on a koan as in Zen, or by resting in collected, contentless wakefulness as in the Zen practice of shikantaza or Christian contemplation. A second phase of meditation is call “insight”: see Shikan.
Diligent practice of meditation leads to a nondualistic state of mind in which, the distinction between subject and object having disappeared and the practitioner having become one with “the absolute”, conventions like time and space are transcended in an “eternal here and now”, and the identity of life and death, phenomenal and essential, samsara and nirvana, is experienced. If this experience, in the process of endlessly ongoing spiritual training, can be integrated into daily life, then finally that stage is reached which religions refer to as salvation, liberation, or complete enlightenment. See also Zazen.
It is to noted here that meditation is not the be-all-and-end-all of Zen practice: it is just one aspect of the Eightfold Path and of ongoing spiritual training.
Mental Formation, Mental Reaction: Skt samskara, the fourth of the Five Skandhas and the second link in the Chain of causation. The term, also translated as “psychological powers of form” or “mental impulses”, includes the majority of mental activities such as volition, attention, discrimination, joy, happiness, equanimity, resolve, exertion, compulsion, concentration and so on.
Merit: the good results of a good action; a function of karma. Robert Aitken also uses the term “auspicious power”. More particularly, this term refers to the karmic merit gained through giving alms, performing ceremonies, reciting sutras, and so on. According to the Mahayana, a being needs to accumulate a sufficient store of merit in order to proceed along the spiritual path. However, the Mahayana criticises as “spiritual materialism” the notion of egoistic accumulation of merit, and teaches that any merit accruing from an action should serve the enlightenment of all beings by being transferred to others. See Dedication.
Metta: Pali (Skt maitri); loving-kindness; concern for the welfare of others; goodwill, as in the disposition of a friend. An important Buddhist virtue, metta is to be cultivated towards all in a spirit of generosity which is free of attachment or thoughts of self-interest. Metta is practised as a meditational exercise by being directed first of all to oneself, then those close to one (such as friends and family), and then extended by stages to embrace all living beings. “Under the guidance of a seasoned teacher, the resistance one feels to this compassionate practice is faced squarely and allowed to wither and disappear.” (Robert Aitken)
The Mahayana Nirvana sutra declares: “Loving-kindness is Mahayana. Mahayana is Loving-kindness. Loving-kindness is the Tathagata. The Tathagata is Loving-kindness.” See also Compassion.
Mind: (in Japanese, kokoro or shin); defined by Robert Aitken for the Diamond Sangha as “the unknown and unknowable that comes forth as the plenum with its particular beings and their interdependence and affinities; essential nature; also the human mind”.
Ask the ordinary Japanese where his mind is and the chances are he will point to his heart or chest. Ask the same question of a Westerner and he will indicate his head. These two gestures illustrate the difference between the conception of mind in the East and in the West. The word kokoro, which is translated by the English “mind”, also means “heart”, “spirit”, “psyche” or “soul”. Mind (with a small “m”) therefore means more than the seat of the intellect. Mind with a capital “M” stands for absolute Reality. For the Tendai School, which has strongly influenced Japanese Zen, characterising the final nature of things, or “truth”, as “Mind” means re-envisioning truth as not just a static apprehension of how things are, but as something living and active, working within the world through the ordinary things of the world to effect the liberation of sentient beings. See also Buddha-nature, Vairochana.
Mindfulness: (Skt, smriti; Pali, sati) In Buddhism, attention or mindfulness (see Eightfold Path, 7,) refers to careful observation of all mental and physical activities, an alert state of mind that should be cultivated constantly, to monitor the arising of greed, hatred and ignorance (see Chain of causation), and as the foundation for understanding and insight (prajña; see also Shikan). More generally, practising mindfulness in Buddhism means to perform consciously all activities, including everyday, automatic activities such as breathing, walking etc.
Mokugyo: Jap., lit. “wooden fish”, also gyorin; a wooden drum originally carved in the form of a fish, but which today usually has a bell-like form. The mokugyo, which is struck with a stick with a padded head, is used in Japan in the recitation of sutras in Buddhist monasteries.
In Buddhism, fish, since they never sleep, symbolise the resiliency and wakefulness necessary on the path to buddhahood.
Mountains and Rivers sesshin: First introduced by poet and Zen pioneer Gary Snyder with the American Ring of Bone Zendo in 1978, after he had participated in several group walking pilgrimages to Buddhist mountain sites in Japan. Over the years, through trial and error, inspiration and accident, a schedule and a particular set of forms have evolved for a Mountains and Rivers sesshin within the Diamond Sangha. These sesshins, lasting up to a week, entail long hours of silent, focused bushwalking (sometimes backpacking, sometimes from a camp base), combined with elements from the traditional sesshin (e.g. zazen, dokusan, teisho). For further details, see the MZG newsletter for November 2001.
Mu: Jap. (in Chinese, wu), lit. “nothing, not, nothingness, un-, is not, has not, not any”; the key word of the famous koan “Zhaozhou’s dog”, often called the koan Mu. This koan is as follows:
A monk asked master Zhaozhou respectfully: “Does a dog really have buddha-nature or not?” Zhaozhou said: “Mu”.
The task of the Zen student, while practising zazen with this mu, is to come to an immediate experience, beyond any intellectual signification, of its very profound content. Since this koan is extraordinarily apt for enabling a breakthrough, it is often the first koan received by a Zen student from his master. When the student has mastered it, it is said that he has become acquainted with “the world of Mu”. In the course of Zen training this Mu is to be experienced and demonstrated on ever deeper levels.
Mudra: Skt, lit. “seal, sign”; a bodily posture or a symbolic gesture. In Buddhist iconography, every buddha is depicted with a characteristic gesture of the hands. Such gestures correspond to natural gestures (of teaching, protecting and so on) and also to certain aspects of the Buddhist teaching or of the particular buddha depicted. Mudras acquired special significance in the Mahayana, especially in the esoteric schools. Here the mudras help to actualise certain inner states in that they anticipate their physical expression; thus they assist in bringing about a connection between the practitioner and the buddha visualised in a given practice. Cf Lotus Posture.
Mumonkan: Japanese name for the Wu-men kuan: see Wu-men.
Nagarjuna: The 14th patriarch of Zen in its Indian lineage, a major figure in the rise of philosophical Mahayana, and founder of the Madhyamika or Middle Way School. Little is known of his life although it is generally accepted that he lived during the late 2nd century c.e. Over a hundred works are attributed to him, but most of these were probably by other authors.
Nagarjuna is the first in the history of Buddhism to have constructed a philosophical “system”. His major accomplishment was his systematisation and deepening of the teaching presented in the Prajñaparamita Sutras, and the development of a special dialectic for this purpose. Nagarjuna selected as his point of departure the law of Conditioned Arising (Chain of Causation); he set out to prove the unreality of the external world, explored and refined the notion of emptiness, affirmed the identity of nirvana and the phenomenal world, and saw nirvana as consisting in the realisation of the true nature of phenomena. His philosophy was of enduring significance for later Mahayana Buddhist thought, including Zen.
Nagarjuna’s name comes from naga, “serpent” and arjuna, a type of tree. According to legend, he was born under a tree and was instructed in the occult sciences by the nagas in their palace under the sea. There, in some caves, he is said to have discovered the texts of the Prajñaparamita Sutras.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammasambuddhassa: A traditional gatha of veneration to the Buddha, recited in the original Pali language. “Namo” means “hail” or “I venerate” (see Namu). The other terms are titles given to the Buddha, and may be translated as “the Sacred One, the Great Sage, the Truly Enlightened One” or “the Lord, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Awakened One”.
Namu: Jap.; Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character by which the Sanskrit word “namas” is translated into Chinese. It means approximately “venerate, praise” and is generally used in relation to the Buddha and the Three Treasures.
Nen: Jap., colloquial, lit. “idea, thought”; a concept that in Zen has a special meaning that is fairly different from its meaning in the colloquial language. The Zen meaning derives from the Chinese character that is read “nen” in Japanese, which is comprised of one element meaning “present” and another element meaning “heart, mind, consciousness”. “Moment of consciousness”, “mind directed toward the moment” and “attention” are thus more accurate definitions of the concept as it is used in Zen. A further meaning is “intensive, concentrated, nondualistic thought”, a thought that has no object outside itself.
Net of Indra: a model of the interrelated Plenum in terms of the fishing net of the Hindu god Indra, found in the Avatamsaka Sutra. At each node of the net was a jewel, and each jewel reflected the light of every other jewel perfectly, thus causing its own light to be part of their light and accepting their light as part of its own.
Nirvana: Skt, lit. “extinction” (nir, negative prefix; vana, to burn); the goal of spiritual practice in all branches of Buddhism. The Buddha declined to make any statement concerning the nature of nirvana. In the understanding of early Buddhism, it is departure from the cycle of rebirths (samsara) and entry into an entirely different mode of existence. It requires complete overcoming of greed, hatred and ignorance, and the coming to rest of active volition. The characteristic marks of nirvana, in this sense, are absence of arising, subsisting, changing and passing away.
In the Mahayana, the notion of nirvana undergoes a change that may be attributed to the introduction of the bodhisattva ideal and to emphasis on the unified nature of the world. Nirvana is conceived as oneness with the absolute, the unity of samsara and transcendence. It is also described, in the Mahayana Nirvana sutra, as dwelling in the experience of the absolute, bliss in cognising one’s identity with the absolute, and as freedom from attachment to illusions, affects and desires (see Jo raku ga jo).
In Zen, nirvana is also seen as the realisation of the true nature of the mind, which is identical with the true nature of human beings, buddha-nature. This realisation is only possible through wisdom; thus nirvana is often equated with prajña. In the Zen sense, nirvana is the state in which a person lives who has attained wisdom; and wisdom exists in a person who has attained nirvana.
Some Buddhist texts distinguish between nirvana in this life (cessation of suffering, or enlightenment) and final nirvana, the condition that subsists in the post-mortem state; thus “to enter nirvana” can mean “to die”.
Not born, not destroyed, not stained, not pure, without loss, without gain: Edward Conze interprets this phrase (which may be variously translated) as negating the three characteristics that Buddhism attributes to all conditioned things: impermanence, suffering and non-self. It may also be seen as a negation of dualism.
Not two, not three: refers to a teaching from the Lotus Sutra. The Two Vehicles (for shravaka and pratyeka disciples) make up the so-called Hinayana (“Lesser Vehicle”); the Three Vehicles are these plus the bodhisattva vehicle (the provisional Mahayana). The One Vehicle, as proclaimed by the Lotus Sutra, is the “highest” form of the Mahayana: the vehicle that aims directly at buddhahood itself.
Nyan ni san bo/An su in shi/Nyan pin dai shu nyan: At Diamond Sangha sesshin meals, these lines are now usually recited in English as: We take refuge in the Three Treasures, /remembering our many honoured guides /with gratitude for their gifts of wisdom. What follows next, in the ritual, is an invocation of our “honoured guides”, listing the major manifestations of “Buddha” (seen here as a cosmic principle).
Offerings: see Paramita (1).
Om makulasai svaha: An incantation of totally obscure meaning, now usually dropped from the Diamond Sangha sesshin meal service.
Oryoki: Jap., roughly “that which contains just enough”; a set of nesting eating bowls, which Zen monks or nuns receive at their ordination. In a narrower sense oryoki means just the largest of these bowls, which corresponds to the single eating and begging bowl that the itinerant monks of India immediately after the time of Shakyamuni Buddha were allowed to possess. This largest bowl, in which all the others are nested, is sometimes called the “Buddha bowl”; its round shape is seen as symbolic of the Buddha’s head. In an extended sense, oryoki refers to the ceremonial use of the eating bowls during the silently taken meals in a Zen monastery. Nowadays, oryoki are also used by laypersons.
A full, punctiliously formal oryoki ritual is described at e.g. http://www.zenriver.nl/Oryoki.htm. By comparison, the Melbourne Zen Group’s sesshin meals appear quite informal.
Oxherding pictures: see Ten Oxherding Pictures.
Pali: Ancient Indian literary language in which the canonical texts of Theravada Buddhism were first recorded, in Sri Lanka, based on a prior oral tradition. The sounds of the Pali language have been written down using a wide variety of scripts, according to the usage of different countries and cultures. This is confusing to many Westerners, who tend to assume that one set of phonemes is always tied to one script. Despite excellent scholarship, there is persistent confusion as to the inter-relation of Pali to the vernacular of ancient Magadhi; the historical Buddha is believed to have spoken the language of Magadha, but this appears to differ from Pali.
Although many Pali Buddhist terms sound similar to those of Sanskrit, they can sometimes have significantly different meanings, and for many centuries, there was much philosophical debate between Buddhists, Hindus and other groups in India as to the religious meaning that should be assigned to certain key terms.
It is popularly believed in Buddhist countries that Pali was created by and is spoken by supreme, celestial beings, and that it has supernatural efficacy. Thus it is believed that taking a vow or chanting a text in Pali has a special value.
Paramita: Skt, lit. “that which has reached the other shore”, the transcendental. In the Mahayana, the paramitas, generally translated as “the perfections”, are the virtues perfected by a bodhisattva in the course of his development. There are basically six of these:
(1) Dana-paramita (generosity, giving, charity), beneficence in giving in both the material and spiritual sense. This includes being compassionate and kind and not keeping accumulated merit for oneself but rather dedicating it to the liberation of all beings.
(2) Shila-paramita (discipline, morality, precepts), which includes proper behaviour conducive to the eradication of all passions and the securing of a favourable rebirth for the sake of liberating all beings.
(3) Kshanti-paramita (patience, forbearance) refers to the patience and tolerance that arise from the insight that all the problems of beings have causes.
(4) Virya-paramita (energy, vitality or exertion) is resolute effort that does not permit itself to be diverted by anything. The cultivation of this virtue involves unselfish application and effort to benefit others, as well as directing oneself towards religious goals, often at considerable personal expense.
(5) Dhyana-paramita (focused meditation) here means meditation as the way of cutting through the illusion of an ego and of not experiencing oneself as separate from other beings. The word “dhyana” is derived from the Sanskrit root dhya-, dhi-, “to see, observe”. Cf Shikan, Vipashyana.
(6) Prajña-paramita (wisdom) is the realisation of supreme wisdom (Prajña), and informs and fulfils the other five paramitas.
Sometimes a further four may be added: (7) upaya (skilful means), (8) pranidhana (resolve), (9) bala (strength) and (10) jñana (knowledge).
Parinirvana: Skt; total extinction. Parinirvana refers to the dissolution of the five skhandas at the death of an enlightened being and his or her passing into final nirvana. Sometimes parinirvana simply means the death of a monk or nun.
Perennial philosophy: the belief, popularised by the Theosophical Society and, in the 1940s, by Aldous Huxley, that all mystical experiences throughout different times and cultures have a common core, although they are interpreted and expressed differently. Huxley wrote that this Perennial philosophy is:
the metaphysic that recognises a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being… Most statements of the Perennial Philosophy have included another doctrine, affirming the existence of one or more human Incarnations of the Divine Ground, by whose mediation and grace the worshipper is helped to achieve his goal… In Mahayana Buddhism the Divine Ground is called Mind or the Pure Light of the Void.
For some contemporary Westerners, Zen, having been filtered through Indian, then Chinese, then Japanese, and now Western cultures, emerges as essentially concentrated “Perennial philosophy”, devoid of cultural or doctrinal baggage. The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen, for example (1991), presents Zen, “esoterically regarded”, as:
not a religion but rather an indefinable, incommunicable root, free from all names, descriptions and concepts, that can only be experienced by each individual for him- or herself. From expressed forms of this, all religions have sprung. In this sense, Zen would not be bound to any religion, including Buddhism. It is the primordial perfection of everything existing, designated by the most various names, experienced by all great sages and mystics of all cultures and times.
Porridge: see Ten Ways in which Porridge is Effective.
Prajña: Skt (Jap. hannya); the power and functioning of enlightened mind, often translated as “wisdom” but closer in meaning to insight, discriminating knowledge, or intuitive apprehension. A central notion of the Mahayana, this term refers to an immediately experienced intuitive wisdom that cannot be conveyed by concepts or in intellectual terms. This true understanding is beyond the discriminating intellect and conventional truth, and emerges from the actualisation of True-mind. The definitive moment of prajña is insight into the emptiness which is the true nature of reality. The realisation of prajña is often equated with the attainment of enlightenment and is one of the essential marks of buddhahood. Prajña is also one of the paramitas actualised by a bodhisattva in the course of his development, and can be cultivated through the practice of insight meditation (Shikan, Vipashyana).
In the Diamond Sangha meal ritual, sutra service dedications and so on, the evocation of the name, e.g. in a list of our “many honoured guides” (see Nyan ni), may refer to the personification of the highest wisdom in the form of a transcendent female bodhisattva, revered in the esoteric Shingon school and referred to in some versions of the Heart Sutra as the Mother of All Buddhas.
Pratyeka: Skt, lit. “solitary”; a term for student or an awakened one, who works towards or has attained enlightenment on his own and only for himself (as distinct from a bodhisattva or shravaka). He does not appear in the world to teach others. Special meritorious qualities which characterise a fully enlightened one (samyak-sambuddha) are not ascribed to him.
Precepts: Formally to become a Zen Buddhist one must be initiated, i.e. receive the precepts in a ceremony called jukai wherein one pledges to keep the major precepts. The precepts are based on the Mahayana Brahma Net Sutra.
In the Diamond Sangha, the sixteen (bodhisattva) precepts are: the Three Vows of Refuge in the Three Treasures; the Three Pure Precepts; and Ten Grave Precepts: not killing, not stealing, not misusing sex, not speaking falsely, not giving or taking drugs, not discussing faults of others, not praising oneself while abusing others, not sparing the Dharma assets (not giving spiritual or material help reluctantly), not indulging in anger and not defaming the Three Treasures. (In other Zen lineages or Mahayana schools, the content and wording of the Ten Grave Precepts may differ from ours.) Practitioners are encouraged to consider, for each precept, different levels of interpretation beyond the literal one, and also the implications in relation to their own individual life-styles.
Observance of the precepts is not only important for ethical reasons. The precepts are the basis of spiritual practice; one cannot progress on the path of spiritual training unless heart and mind not free from the inner malaise brought about by a careless lifestyle that is in violation of these precepts.
Few novices are able to maintain every precept; thus infringements in various degrees are inevitable. Such infringements, however, do not impede progress on the way of enlightenment, provided that one confesses them, genuinely regrets them, and endeavours thereafter to live in accordance with the precepts. (See Purification.)
Presentation: in English-speaking Western usage: a particular expression without discursive explanation. See also Teisho.
Protectors: see Guardians.
These pure lands are transcendent in nature. They are the hope of believers who wish to be reborn in them. In folk belief these paradises are geographically localisable places of bliss. They may also be seen as aspects of the awakened state of mind, the Lotus Land, this very place. In a wider sense, Pure Land can be a metaphorical expression for the world of truth and purity revealed in enlightenment.
Since according to the Mahayana there are countless buddhas, countless pure lands also exist, including Sukhavati.
Pure Land School: This term refers to a number of sects of Buddhism rather than a single school. Loosely, the name is given to various mystical, faith-based Mahayana schools that practised devotion to Amitabha Buddha, first in China (5th Century c.e.) and later also in Japan (9th Century c.e.). Mantras and visualisations were widely used. Some schools combined Pure Land practice with Ch’an (Zen). In China and Japan, Pure Land is now the dominant mode of Buddhist practice.
Pure Precepts: In classical Buddhism, the “Three Pure Precepts” are to avoid evil, do good, and purify the mind. The Mahayana changed the third of these, in accordance with its own priorities, to “Saving the many beings”. In the Diamond Sangha, the first Pure Precept is also modified, to the more positive form of “Maintaining the precepts”.
Purification: See Atonement. In Buddhism, confession is not a sacrament nor an appeal for absolution to a divine power. Monks do not act as confessors or have the power to forgive sins. Instead, the confession of wrongdoing is seen as psychologically healthy and an aid to spiritual progress, by allowing feelings of shame and remorse to be acknowledged and discharged. A guilty conscience is viewed as a hindrance to religious progress, and it is believed that owning up to wrongful deeds inhibits their repetition.
“These acts of repentance and confession are performed in the nondual context of the I who confesses and the Buddhas who receive the confession… Ultimately one confesses, repents and is forgiven in the non-dual purity of the self and Buddha.” (Hee-Jin Kim) “There is… a shared realisation of the essential purity of shunyata [emptiness] as the nature of all things. With this realisation in peak experience, all the evil of the past is purified.” (Robert Aitken)
Public confession and repentance are also classically a part of conflict resolution in the Buddhist community.
The text entitled “Purification” in our sutra books is based on the fourth vow of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, from the Avatamsaka (Flower Ornament) Sutra.
Raihai: Jap.; prostration before the altar or the roshi. The Zen student is taught that in raihai one throws everything away. Pivoting the forearms on the elbows and raising the hands while prostrated is the act of raising the Buddha’s feet above one’s head.
Rakusu: Jap., lit. “patchwork [su] of ease and joy [raku]”; a rectangular piece of fabric composed of “patches”, which is worn around the neck on a cord or a cloth halter. It symbolises the patchwork robe of Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciples and is worn by monks and lay followers of Mahayana Buddhism. In the Diamond Sangha, a jukai postulant mindfully sews his/her own rakusu, which is then inscribed on the reverse side by his teacher and later officially conferred as part of the jukai ceremony.
There is also a Japanese Buddhist monastic robe called a kesa. In Zen, this cloth is stylised into a bib made of pieces of brocade, resembling the rakusu. It is worn by Zen masters and Zen priests on festive occasions or during sesshin.
The “Verse of the Rakusu” used in the Diamond Sangha jukai ceremony and whenever we don the rakusu, corresponds to the “Verse of the Kesa” in Soto Zen, which owes much to Dogen’s essay “Merit of the Kesa” and earlier esoteric teachings from China.
Rarely encountered: In a sutra of the Pali Canon, the Buddha explains that it is as rare to have a precious human birth in which to find a true dharma teacher as it is for a blind turtle, which surfaces only once every hundred years from the depths of a vast ocean, to emerge just where it will put its head through a wooden ring floating on the waves and tossed about in all directions by the winds.
Refuge: “Taking refuge”, whereby a practitioner commits his/her life to the Buddhist path, is one of the oldest Buddhist practices, and may be the only practice that is common to all schools of Buddhism. In Pali, the formula recited is the Ti sarana. The three vows involved are to take refuge in the Three Treasures—Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, respectively. Though classically the first of the Refuge Vows refers to the historical Buddha, Robert Aitken has passed on to the Diamond Sangha his teachers’ understanding that the vow refers to finding one’s home in the Buddha’s realisation.
“Refuge” may have the sense of protection in that it is a way of guarding oneself against self-destructive behaviour and also behaviour that is destructive to the well-being of others.
In Japanese, the word for “refuge”, kie, is made up of two characters. According to Dogen, the first means “to unreservedly throw oneself into”. The second is “to rely upon”. Together they mean having enough faith in what we rely upon to be able to unreservedly throw ourselves into it. Dogen taught that “the way that a child leaps into its father’s arms, we should leap into the Three Treasures”.
“Taking refuge” has also been interpreted as “coming back to”, as in returning to one’s fundamental nature; or “making one’s home with”. Western teachers further interpret “taking refuge” as “returning to” in mindfulness. In this sense, the constantly repeated act of taking refuge is a way of assessing, in any given moment, where one’s life is directed and what one’s priorities are, and of reaffirming Buddha, Dharma and Sangha as the values one has chosen to inform one’s choices and inform one’s life as a whole.
Robert Aitken writes: “To realise the very heart of essential nature is to take refuge in the Buddha. To cultivate the garden of realisation is to take refuge in the Dharma. To share the fruits of the garden is to take refuge in the Sangha.”
Resolve: “Great resolve” is one of the three “pillars” of the practice of zazen (along with faith and doubt). Yasutani Roshi described it this way: “Believing with every pore of our being in the truth of the Buddha’s teaching that we are all endowed with the immaculate Bodhi-mind, we resolve to discover and experience the reality of this Mind for ourselves”. This goes beyond the “Right Resolve” that is the second aspect of the Eightfold Path.
Rice: see Three Virtues (of Rice).
Rinzai School: a major school of Ch’an (Zen) which originated in China in the 9th Century and came to Japan in the 12th Century. It differentiates itself from the Soto school mainly by the importance it gives to koan work, and disparagingly calls Soto’s shikantaza “the practice of silent illumination”.
Ritual: In the dojo, ritual is an outward, bodily manifestation of our Zen practice, in posture, gesture and vocal acts. For the most part, in the Diamond Sangha, this consists of removing our shoes, gassho, bowing, performing prostrations, sitting, lowering our gaze, remaining silent, breathing, walking, holding our sutra books, chanting and responding to signals given by bells, clappers or gesture. At zazenkai and sesshin, there is much more.
One Diamond Sangha teacher tells us: “The rituals we use in Zen are ancient. Some of them hark back a thousand years or more. They are designed to deepen our experience. As they originate from ancient China and Japan they may seem strange at first. However, they have their own beauty and wonder, and often express vividly what cannot be expressed in words.” Some Diamond Sangha groups have gradually evolved new rituals and ceremonies (e.g. baby-naming, Mountains and Rivers sesshin), in keeping with their local culture and group needs.
On the other hand, one 20th century Japanese Soto teacher, Uchiyama roshi, experimented in his monastery with what he called “sesshin without toys”, where he dispensed altogether with elements such as chanting, sutra services, teisho, the kyosaku, dokusan, and meal ritual. This, too, has proved to be a powerful form of practice.
For Diamond Sangha practitioners, although ritual may well be performed without any thought at the time, later reflection can lead to a deepening of the experience. For example, ritual may help dissolve our preoccupation with being a separate ego, help remove our need to “understand”, make us aware of our fear of not “getting things right”, or enlist the qualities of the heart to support our Zen practice. Prescribed ritual in the dojo means freedom from decision-making, which may be experienced, paradoxically, as complete freedom to be. And for a sangha that has no resident teacher, shared ritual may help hold the group together.
Ritual’s meaning is deep indeed. He who enters with false perception, making distinctions between same and different, will drown there. Ritual’s meaning is great indeed. He who enters with uncouth inanity, pursuing the theories of the systematisers, will perish there. Ritual’s meaning is lofty indeed. He who enters with arrogant violence, despising common customs and thinking himself better than others, will meet his downfall there. —Hsun Tzu (Confucian, 300–230 b.c.e).
See also Conduct, speech and thought.
Robot: an image borrowed from the Prajñaparamita Sutras, which liken the nature of a bodhisattva to that of a wooden man, marionette or robot. The point is that both the bodhisattva and the robot act freely, without the confusion brought on by greed, hatred and ignorance or dualistic thinking.
Rohatsu: also rohachi, Jap., lit. “the eighth [day] of the twelfth month”; the day, especially celebrated in Zen, on which according to Mahayana tradition Shakyamuni Buddha, sitting in meditation under the Bodhi-tree, attained enlightenment.
In present-day Japan, rohatsu is celebrated on the eighth of December, which only rarely coincides with the eighth day of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. In the Theravada tradition, Buddha’s enlightenment is celebrated at Wesak.
Rohatsu Sesshin: Jap.; a sesshin done in Zen monasteries in commemoration of the Buddha’s enlightenment (see Rohatsu). This sesshin generally runs from the first of December until the morning of the eighth. In the northern hemisphere, it is the severest sesshin not only because it is the coldest, the last before sesshin are suspended for the winter months, but also because the roshi and the head monks make the heaviest demands upon the participants in order that they may achieve enlightenment during this sesshin. Traditionally, on the last night, the monks do not lie down to sleep.
Roshi: Jap., lit. “old [venerable] master”; in the Diamond Sangha, title given to an authorised Zen master. It is the task of the roshi to lead and inspire his/her students on the way to enlightenment, for which, naturally, the prerequisite is that he himself has reached profound enlightenment.
In present-day Japan, senior Japanese Zen monks are often addressed as roshi simply out of courtesy towards their position and age. On the other hand, Japanese Zen monks who are enlightened masters and teachers do not necessarily take the title of roshi as is done in the Diamond Sangha.
In ancient times, the public gave the title of roshi to a person who had realised the dharma of a buddha through his own direct experience, who was able to live this realisation in everyday life, and was capable of leading others to the same realisation too. In addition, at least a pure, unshakable character and a mature personality were required. To become a fully developed roshi, many years of training under a Zen master were indispensable. Following profound enlightenment and the conferral of the seal of confirmation by his master, further years of ripening through dharma contests with other masters were also customary. See also Transmission.
Samadhi is a nondualistic state of consciousness in which the consciousness of the experiencing “subject” becomes one with the experienced “object”—thus is only experiental content.
This state of consciousness is often referred to as “one-pointedness of mind”; this expression, however, is misleading because it calls up the image of “concentration” on one point on which the mind is “directed”. However, samadhi is neither a straining concentration on one point, nor is the mind directed from here (subject) to there (object), which would be a dualistic mode of experience.
In Zen, samadhi is a state of intense absorption in which the mind has transcended all thoughts, visualisations, imaginings, etc. This is not a blank insensibility but a deep and illumined awareness. The term implies a state of intense yet effortless concentration, of complete absorption of the mind in itself, of heightened and expanded awareness.
Samantabhadra: Skt (Jap., Fugen), lit. “He Who Is All-pervadingly Good” or “He Whose Beneficence Is Everywhere”); one of the most important bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism; archetypal bodhisattva of great action (in turning the dharma wheel). He is venerated as the protector of all those who teach the dharma and is regarded as an embodiment of the wisdom of essential sameness, i.e., insight into the unity of sameness and difference. He also embodies calm action, compassion and deep-seated wisdom.
He is often depicted riding on a white six-tusked elephant, which represents the power of wisdom to overcome all obstructions. The elephant is also noted for its tranquillity and wisdom. The six tusks represent overcoming attachment to the six senses. Samantabhadra’s symbols are the wish-fulfilling jewel and the lotus, or else the scroll on which the text of his meditation sutra is written.
Sambhogakaya: see Buddha bodies.
Sampai: Jap., lit. “threefold [san] prostration [hai]”; expression of veneration through prostration customary in Zen, in which otherwise there is a dearth of ceremonial forms. Sampai was probably originally an expression of veneration toward the Three Treasures. Under certain circumstances, also “ninefold prostration” (kyuhai) is practised. See also Raihai.
Samsara: Skt, lit. “flowing on”; the “cycle of existences”, a succession of rebirths that a being goes through within the various modes of existence (see Six Realms) until it has attained liberation and entered nirvana. Imprisonment in samsara is duhkha, and is conditioned by greed, hatred and ignorance (delusion).
More generally, samsara is the endless cycle of life-and-death in which all phenomena are in constant transformation—the world of suffering. In the Mahayana, samsara refers to the relative, phenomenal world and its relationship to nirvana has been variously interpreted. Zen teaches that for those who are awakened and perceive with insight (prajña), nirvana saturates every aspect of samsara.
Samu: Jap., lit. “work service”; generally, the physical work that is part of everyday life in a Zen monastery, and particularly the work periods during a sesshin. Service is here to be understood in the sense of service to the Three Treasures. If the work is carried out wakefully, in a manner based entirely on the activity of collected attention and total carefulness, then it is a continuation and another form of meditative practice (zazen), in which the practitioner learns to maintain the meditative state of mind even in the midst of everyday routine. Samu is an important part of Zen training in a monastery according to the monastic rule established by Pai-chang in China in the 8th century. See also Hakuin.
Sanbo Kyodan: Order of the Three Treasures, a lay Japanese Soto organisation that includes elements of Rinzai practice, founded by Yasutan Haku’un in Kamakura, Japan in 1954. See also Diamond Sangha.
Sangha: Skt, lit. “crowd, host”; the Buddhist community. In a narrower sense, the sangha consists of the priesthood: monks, nuns and novices. In a wider sense, the sangha also includes lay followers as members of the Buddhist community. In Zen, the term sangha also refers to any community, including that of all beings (phenomena and events). The sangha is one of the Three Treasures.
Save: in Buddhism, enable or help (someone) to cross over to the other shore; transform (someone or something) for the better.
See it, listen to it, accept and hold it: these are termed the four perceptions of the Buddha-knowledge, as set out in the Lotus Sutra. There we are told that
the buddhas desire to cause all living beings to open their eyes to the Buddha-knowledge, so that they may gain the pure mind…; they desire to show all living beings the Buddha-knowledge…; they desire to cause all living beings to apprehend the Buddha-knowledge…; they desire to cause all living beings to enter the way of Buddha-knowledge.
And indeed, we are told that after the Lotus Sutra was preached a number of listeners “received, kept, recited and penetrated it”.
Seiza: Jap;, lit. “sitting in silence”; the traditional Japanese sitting posture in which one kneels sitting on one’s heels, the back held straight and erect. Seiza, among practitioners of zazen, is one alternative to the lotus posture.
In the Mahayana, all things are seen as empty of self-nature, in the sense that they are devoid of self-sufficient, independent existence or lasting substance: thus Hakuin Zenji refers to “self-nature that is no nature”. This, however, does not mean that they do not exist at all but rather that they are nothing but pure appearance and do not constitute the true reality; i.e., they do not possess an essence. See also Ego, Emptiness.
Senzaki Nyogen Sensei: 1876–1958, Japanese Rinzai Zen monk; he was the first Zen teacher to reside in America. In 1905, his abbot Shaku Soyen sent him to San Francisco, where he learned English and began translating Zen texts. As advised, he worked at mostly menial jobs for the first 17 years after his arrival. Also in accordance with his abbot’s aims, he dropped many of the cultural trappings of Japanese Zen, did not wear robes, and provided chairs for zazen. In 1926, he opened the first offical zendo in America. He later moved to Los Angeles. After the Second World War, during which he was interned as an enemy alien, he returned to Los Angeles. His periodic talks at different locations became known as the “floating zendo”. He is one of Robert Aitken’s teachers.
Sesshin: Jap., lit. “collecting [setsu] the heart–mind [shin]”, “concentrating and unifying the mind”; also interpreted as “touching, receiving and conveying the Mind”; formal Zen retreat; days of especially intensive, strict practice of collected mind (zazen) as carried out in Zen monasteries at regular intervals. A sesshin training period usually lasts not less than three days and not more than seven.
The normal daily routine in a Zen monastery includes, in addition to several hours of zazen practice, long periods of physical work, begging rounds, and other forms of service to the community of believers. However, during a sesshin, which is considered the high point of Zen training, the monks devote themselves exclusively to meditation. Complete silence is observed. Long periods of zazen are interrupted only by a few hours of sleep at night, recitations, a short period of work (samu) and short rest breaks after the midday and evening meals. However, concentration or collectedness of mind in relation to the particular practice that the monk has received from the master (for example, koan practice or shikantaza) should continue as much as possible without interruption during all these activities. Special inspiration and incentive for the monks during the days of sesshin are provided by the teisho of the roshi and the individual instruction (dokusan) that monks often receive several times a day.
Seven Buddhas: see Ancient Seven Buddhas.
Shakyamuni: Skt, lit. “Sage of the Shakya clan”; epithet of Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, the historical Buddha, who belonged to the Shakya clan. The name is often used to distinguish the historical Buddha from other buddhas. See Buddha. His date of birth varies, in different traditions and in different schools of Western scholarship: the Oxford Dictionary of Buddhism prefers c. 485–405 b.c.e., other estimates vary from 448–368 b.c.e. to 563–486 b.c.e.
Shariputra: Skt; a principal student of the Buddha, and one of his ten great disciples. Shariputra came from a brahmin family. Shortly after the awakening of the Buddha, he entered the Buddhist order and was soon renowned on account of his wisdom.
Shastra: Skt, lit. “instruction, textbook”; treatises on dogmatic and philosophical points of Buddhist doctrine composed by Mahayana thinkers that systematically interpret philosophical statements in the sutras. They are strongly didactic in character.
Shiguseigan: also shiguzeigan; Jap., lit. “four great vows”; see Four Great Vows.
Shijo: Jap. the “Cease and be Quiet” bell, about 23 cm high, struck by the Jikijitsu. Three slow bells signal the beginning of a period of zazen, two sharper bells signal kinhin, and one sharper bell signals that another event is about to begin.
Shikan: Jap., (Chinese chih-kuan); a compound consisting of two words meaning “stop” and “observe”, now usually called “tranquillity and insight” as a meditation method. Chih (Skt shamatha) refers to the calming of restless mind and freeing it from engagement with sensory input, the arising of repulsion and desire, or intellectual distinctions; kuan (Skt Vipashyana) can mean to observe the natural working of the body and mind, to contemplate or observe a mental object (such as an aspect of the dharma), or to investigate the nature of reality. See also Mindfulness, Prajña. Not to be confused with Shikantaza.
Shikan was systematised in the Chinese T’ien-t’ai School (6th century c.e.) and later fed into other traditions. For example, it included methods of exercising mindfulness in everyday activities and of perceiving the ultimate truth through the contemplation of phenomenal reality, which would directly influence the development of Ch’an (Zen).
In the early 9th century c.e., T’ien-t’ai came to Japan as the Tendai School (where Dogen later initially trained, and which has also greatly influenced Zen). Here chih further came to mean (a) to fix the mind on the present moment, and (b) to realise the non-duality of the agitated mind and the calm mind as equal manifestations of reality; and kuan was extended to mean (a) to dissipate perturbations of the mind through wisdom that sees through their illusory nature; (b) to gain insight into suchness, the fundamental nature of all things; and (c) to gain insight into the fundamental equality of non-contemplation and contemplation.
Shikantaza: Jap., lit. “nothing but [shikan] precisely [ta] sitting [za]”; a form of the practice of zazen in which there are no more supportive techniques such as counting the breath or a koan. Zazen itself is the practice, with no theme. Not to be confused with Shikan, which is written with different ideographs; however, it is possible that Dogen, who introduced the Japanese term shikantaza and was also familiar with shikan through his earlier monastic training, may have intended some word play here.
According to Dogen Zenji, shikantaza—i.e. resting in a state or brightly alert attention that is free of thoughts, directed to no object and attached to no particular content—is the highest or purest form of zazen, zazen as it was practised by all the buddhas of the past. At best it is not distinguished from enlightenment.
Shinjinmei: Jap. for Hsin-hsin-ming, “Song of Faith Mind”, traditionally attributed to Seng-ts’an (7th Century). It is one of the earliest Zen writings. It expounds Zen’s basic principles in poetic form and shows strong Taoist influence.
Shodoka: Jap.; in Chinese, Cheng-tao ke, “Song of Realising the Way”, a long dharma poem, and popular Zen writing, by Yung-chia Hsüan-chüeh (in Japanese, Yoka Genkaku) 665–713, a disciple of the Sixth Patriarch. Yung-chia combined in his teaching of the buddha-dharma the philosophy of the Tendai (Chinese, T’ien-t’ai) School and the practice of Zen. He also introduced into the theoretical superstructure of the latter the dialectic of Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika school.
Shoken: Jap., lit. “seeing one another”; in a Japanese monastery, the first dokusan of a Zen student with his master in which the seeker after enlightenment is officially accepted as a student by the roshi. The Diamond Sangha has a modified form of shoken, for students who wish to formally acknowledge their relationship to a particular teacher.
Shravaka: Skt, lit. “hearer”; originally a reference to the personal students of the Buddha or students in general. In the Mahayana, it means those students who, in contrast to pratyekas and bodhisattvas, seek personal enlightenment and can attain this only by listening to the teaching and gaining insight into the Four Noble Truths and the irreality of phenomena. The supreme goal for them is nirvana without earthly remainder.
The term can refer to one who understands only the most elementary level of the Buddhist teaching; such a one sees nirvana as the opposite of samsara and clings to the experience of emptiness and cessation.
Six Paths: see Six Realms.
Six Realms (of Existence): also called Six Worlds (Skt gati, Japanese rokudo) or Six Paths; the three lower realms of devils (hell beings), hungry ghosts, and animals; and the three higher realms of titans, human beings and heavenly beings (gods), between which one is constantly transmigrating. They may be seen as states of mind that constantly arise and pass away in our daily lives.
Six Worlds: see Six Realms.
They are (1) corporeality or form (Jap. so, Skt rupa), the material component of the human person, (2) sensation, (3) perception, (4) formulation (or mental formations) and (5) consciousness. These aggregates are frequently referred to as “aggregates of attachment”, since craving or desire attaches itself to them and brings about suffering.
The characteristics of the skandhas are birth, old age, death, duration and change. They are regarded as without essence, impermanent, empty and suffering-ridden.
From the impermanence of the personality composed of the five skandhas, Buddhism derives the absence of a self. The knowledge of the “inessentiality” of the skandhas already contains the insight that leads to liberation.
What is called individual existence is in reality nothing but a mere process of those mental and physical phenomena, a process that since time immemorial has been going on, and that also after death will still continue for unthinkably long periods of time. These aggregates, however, neither singly nor collectively constitute a self-dependent real Ego-entity, or personality, nor is there to be found any such entity apart from them. —Walter Gueth [Nyantiloka], 1878–1957
(1) The ability of a bodhisattva to guide beings to liberation or reduce their suffering through skilful means. All possible methods and ruses from straightforward talk to the most conspicuous miracles and even breaking the precepts could be applicable.
(2) Skill in expounding the teaching, in ways appropriate to the hearer. Thus the historical Buddha is said to have made use of upaya by teaching first only the Hinayana, which is regarded as suited to beginners but incomplete, and then toward the end of his life teaching to more advanced hearers the complete Mahayana, especially the Lotus Sutra. Skilful means may also include parables and even outright lies, which are considered acceptable since they are motivated by great compassion.
The assumption underlying this Mahayana doctrine is that all teachings are in any case provisional, and that once liberation is attained it will be seen that Buddhism as a body of philosophical doctrines and moral precepts was only of use as a means to reach the final goal, and that its teachings do not have ultimate validity.
Song of Faith Mind: see Shinjinmei.
Song of Zazen: (Jap. Zazen Wasan); dharma poem by Hakuin Ekaku.
Soto School: major school of Ch’an (Zen), which originated in China in the 9th Century (one of the founders being Tozan Ryokai) and was brought to Japan by Dogen in the 13th Century. It differentiates itself from the Rinzai school mainly by the importance it gives to the practice of shikantaza, and disparagingly calls Rinzai koan practice “the Zen of words and phrases”.
Sublime States: (Skt brahma-vihara); a key set of four meditative practices intended to cultivate four cardinal Buddhist virtues: loving-kindness (Metta), compassion, sympathetic, altruistic joy in the happiness, success and liberation of others; and equanimity.
Suchness: (Skt tathata); a term used in the Mahayana to denote the way things are in truth or actuality, the essential nature of reality or true mode of being of phenomena, which is beyond the range of conceptual thought. See also Emptiness.
Suffering: see Duhkha. Aitken Roshi prefers to use the English word “anguish” to translate “duhkha”; he uses the word “suffering” only in the sense of enduring, allowing; enduring pain.
Sukhavati is described in detail in the sutras devoted to Amitabha. Though these descriptions are taken by folk belief to refer to a localisable place, they may also be seen as characterisations of a state of mind.
This land is flooded by radiance and filled with the most exquisite fragrances; it is blossoming, rich and fruitful. Trees of jewels grow there. There are no hells, no beasts, no corpses. Music is heard from the rushing of rivers of sweet-smelling waters with bouquets of flowers afloat on them. All wishes are fulfilled. These is no sadness, misfortune, pain or any other unpleasantness. Here all beings cleave to the truth of the teaching.
In Sukhavati the pleasures of love are absent, since no-one is reborn there as a woman.
After rebirth in the pure land, only one further rebirth will be necessary before entry into nirvana—falling back is not possible.
Supernatural powers: A buddha, bodhisattva or arhat is believed to possess supernatural powers and abilities (Skt abhijña), recognised by both the Theravada and the Mahayana. In particular, a buddha is said to have ten kinds of supernatural knowledge (Skt dashabala), such as what is possible or impossible in any situation. Special powers also available to others include reading thoughts, and the perception of human and divine voices. In esoteric Buddhism, perfect mastery over the powers of the body and of nature (Skt siddhi) gives the ability to see the gods, become invisible, fly and so on. Various meditation and concentration practices, combined with will-power and daring, are also believed to endow magic powers (Skt riddhi) such as shape-shifting, walking on water, emanating a mind-made body from one’s body, and so on.
In the Theravada, exhibiting and exploiting these powers is a violation of monastic discipline, and pretending to possess such powers is grounds for dismissal from the community. In the Mahayana, on the other hand, display of supernatural powers, especially by a buddha, is seen as an appropriate means, arising from his unlimited capacity and high spiritual attainment, for bringing beings to salvation (see Compassion, Skilful means). In Zen, such powers are not denied, but are considered to be a side-road, a distraction from the path of enlightenment.
The sutras have been preserved in Pali and Sanskrit, as well as in Chinese and Tibetan translations. The sutras are prose texts, each introduced by the words “Thus have I heard”. These words are ascribed to Ananda, a student of the Buddha. He is supposed to have retained the discourses of the Buddha in memory and to have recited them at the first Buddhist council, immediately after the death of the Buddha. The body of the sutra comprises instruction, sometimes in the form of a dialogue. The style of the early sutras is simple, popular, and didactically oriented. They are rich in parables and allegories. In many sutras, songs (gatha) are interpolated.
The Mahayana sutras are thought to have been composed between the 1st century b.c.e. and the 6th century c.e. They still purport to present direct teachings from the Buddha.
Zen is the only Buddhist sect which is associated with no one particular sutra, and this gives the masters freedom to use the scriptures as and when they see fit or to ignore them entirely. The familiar slogan that Zen is a special transmission outside the scriptures, with no dependence upon words and letters, only means that for the Zen sect truth must be directly grasped and not taken on the authority of even the sutras, much less sought in lifeless intellectual formulas or concepts. However, reading and studying sutra texts is not discouraged in Zen: indeed, the classical Zen masters quoted such texts at length.
Taku: Jap., “clappers”; two pieces of hard wood, about 5 x 5 x 25 cm. They are held parallel and struck together, making a sharp clack. The Jikijitsu uses them to lead kinhin, and the Ino also has a set with which to punctuate the mealtime recitations.
Tan: Jap., lit. “slip [of paper]”; the assigned sitting place of a monk in a Zen monastery where he practises zazen. The name of the monk is written on a slip of paper that is hung above his place; thus this place is called tan.
The term tan is also applied by extension to the wooden platforms, just a metre or slightly less in height and about two metres deep, which are covered with straw matting and run along the two long walls of the zendo of a Zen monastery. During the day the monks sit zazen on these and during a sesshin they also sleep on them at night. As a further extension of meaning, the term is used for the row or line of people doing zazen, or the dojo.
Tanto: Jap., “Head of the Line”; the person responsible for setting the tone of practice in the dojo. She or he circumambulates the room periodically with the kyosaku, “stick of encouragement”, and addresses the students briefly and extemporaneously twice a day, to hearten them in their practice.
Tao: Chinese, “Way”; buddha-dharma, the Eightfold Path. Distinguish from the Tao of Taoism
Tathagata: Skt, lit. “the thus-gone [thus-come, thus-perfected] one”; refers to one who on the way of truth has attained supreme enlightenment. It is one of the ten titles of the Buddha, which he himself used when speaking of himself or other buddhas. The term “thus” or “thusness” indicates the enlightened state.
In the Mahayana, the tathagata is the Buddha in his nirmanakaya aspect (see Buddha Bodies). He is also both the perfected man who can take on any form, and the cosmic principle, the essence of the universe, the unconditioned. He is the intermediary between the essential and the phenomenal world. In the absolute sense, tathagata is often equated with wisdom (Prajña) and emptiness.
Within the Diamond Sangha, the role of a “teacher” (in the sense of Roshi: see Roshi, Transmission, Teisho) is to be distinguished from that of a “Zen instructor”. In the Melbourne Zen Group, the role of practice facilitator includes that of “Zen instructor”.
Teisho: Jap., lit. “recitation offering, presentation”; in Zen the presentation of Zen realisation by a Zen master (roshi) during a sesshin.
The word is derived from tei, “carry, offer, show, present, proclaim” and sho, “recite, proclaim”. The roshi offers the teisho—which generally has a koan or an important passage in Zen literature as its theme—to the buddha in the presence of the assembly of practitioners. It is not an explanation, commentary or exposition in the usual sense and certainly not a lecture in the academic sense. Thus the frequent translation of teisho as “lecture” is misleading, and “presentation” is more accurate. No-one is being lectured here, and purveyance of factual knowledge is not the point. The roshi’s offering is nondualistic and free from everything conceptual. It is an immediate demonstration of his genuine insight into the theme treated and for that reason can touch the deepest mind of its hearers.
Teisho is distinguished from “dharma talk”, which is an ordinary lecture on some Buddhist topic.
Tendai School: From China (where it was known as T’ien-t’ai), this school was brought to Japan in the 9th century. There it became broadly eclectic, encompassing both esoteric rituals and exoteric studies in doctrine and scripture, as well as early forms of Zen (as Chinese Ch’an) and Pure Land. It held the Lotus Sutra in particular veneration. It went on to become a very wealthy and powerful school.
During the Kamakura period (1185–1392), the Tendai school became the breeding ground for new reform movements: Zen, Pure Land and Nichiren Buddhism were all founded by Tendai monks who had initially learnt of the teachings of the schools they founded within the Tendai school itself. Some esoteric teachings and other aspects of the Tendai school are still reflected in Zen, including the Diamond Sangha: see e.g. Mind, Vairochana, Shikan, Shodoka. The Tendai school itself still exists today.
Ten Directions: in Buddhist cosmology: the eight major directions of the compass, plus up (zenith) and down (nadir). The expression is taken to refer to the whole cosmos.
Ten Grave Precepts: see Precepts.
Ten Oxherding Pictures: “Herding an ox” as a literary metaphor for learning to control the wanderings of the mind dates back to the T’ang dynasty (618–907). In the 12th Century, the Ch’an (Zen) master Kuo-an Shih-yüan created a set of ten pictures to depict the spiritual quest, and they have become the standard version, serving as both teaching aids and objects of meditation.
The stages depicted are (1) seeking the ox, (2) finding the tracks, (3) first glimpse of the ox, (4) catching the ox, (5) taming the ox, (6) riding the ox home, (7) ox forgotten, self alone, (8) both ox and self forgotten, (9) returning to the source, and (10) entering the marketplace with gift-bestowing hands. Actually one may pass back and forth through any or all phases of this cycle at any stage.
There are earlier versions of the oxherding pictures consisting of five or eight pictures in which the ox is black at the beginning, becomes progressively whiter, and finally disappears altogether. This last stage is shown as an empty circle.
This implied that the realisation of Oneness (that is, the effacement of every conception of self and other) was the ultimate goal of Zen. But the 12th century master, feeling this to be incomplete, added two more pictures beyond the circle to make it clear that the Zen man of the highest spiritual development lives in the mundane world of form and diversity and mingles with the utmost freedom among ordinary men, whom he inspires with his compassion and radiance to walk in the way of the Buddha. (Kapleau)
Ten Ways (in which Porridge is Effective): It improves the complexion, quickens the spirit, lengthens life, promotes good digestion, refreshes the voice, feels light in the stomach, keeps the body healthy, satisfies hunger, quenches thirst and maintains bodily regularity.
Tenzo: Jap.; term for the head cook, or kitchen master, of a Zen monastery. This position is considered one of the most challenging and responsible in the monastery and thus it is generally held by an advanced elder monk.
In ancient China a number of monks who later became great Zen masters served as tenzo. The activity of the tenzo is distinguished from that of an ordinary cook primarily by the mental attitude on which it is based. The tenzo sees his work as service to the Three Treasures and as an opportunity for spiritual training. If he fully considers the needs of the monks in terms of quantity and quality of food, if he makes each move with wakeful attention, avoids all waste, comports himself properly with regard to foodstuffs and utensils, then his kitchen work becomes an exercise in maintaining the mind of Zen in everyday life.
Theosophy: The Theosophical Society was founded in New York in 1875 by the Russian mystic Helen Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, an American psychic investigator. The twin legacies of Theosophy are the introduction of Buddhism to the West and the amorphous set of beliefs and practices which have come to be known as the “New Age”. Through the study of comparative religion, the Society sought to uncover truths which, it believed, constitute the core of all religions, and in this context, Zen was seen to offer such a “perennial philosophy”. Many of those who introduced Zen to the English-speaking West were associated with Theosophy; they include Alan Watts, Christmas Humphreys, Edward Conze and D.T. Suzuki. Henry Olcott was warmly welcomed when he visited Japan, and may have provided much of the impetus for the “New Buddhism” reform movement there, which later gave rise to developments such as the Sanbo Kyodan. Eventually, the “brand” of Japanese Zen now most familiar in the West, including the Diamond Sangha, owes much of its flavour to Theosophy.
Theravada: Pali, “Way of the Elders”, the only one of the early Buddhist schools of the so-called Hinayana to have survived down to modern times. “Hinayana” (Skt, “Small Vehicle”) is a derogatory designation used by representatives of the Mahayana (“Great Vehicle”) when referring to early Buddhism. See also Compassion, Metta.
The school is characterised by fidelity to the texts of the Pali Canon, the earliest complete set of Buddhist scriptures, and it regards all Mahayana sutras as apocryphal. The emphasis is on liberation, which takes place through one’s own effort (in meditation), through observance of the rules of moral discipline and, where possible, leading the monastic life. The Buddha, for the most part, is regarded as simply a remarkable human being.
Three Bodies: see Buddha Bodies.
Three Pure Precepts: see Pure Precepts.
Three Treasures: (Jap., sambo; Skt, triratna); the three essential components of Buddhism: Buddha, dharma and sangha; i.e. the Awakened One, the truth expounded by him, and the followers living in accordance with this truth; or enlightenment, the way and the community. The Three Treasures are objects of veneration and are considered “places of refuge”. The Buddhist takes refuge in them by pronouncing the threefold refuge formula (Ti Sarana).
Moreoever, since each individual embodies the buddha nature, the ground of the Three Treasures is nothing other than oneself. The following words are attributed to the 11th century Indian master Naropa: “My mind is the perfect Buddha, my speech is the perfect teaching, my body is the perfect spiritual community”. Robert Aitken writes: “Living by the Buddha means living in accord with your innate wisdom. Living by the Dharma means living by your clearest sense of how things are. Living by the Sangha means living responsively and responsibly.”
Three Wheels: a Mahayana teaching. In relation to any action, the “Three Wheels” are the actor, the thing acted upon, and the action. All are to be seen as empty (see Emptiness).
I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma
I take refuge in the Sangha.
By “taking refuge” a follower of Buddhism acknowledges himself as such. That is, he takes refuge in the Buddha as teacher, in the teaching as “medicine”, and in the community of companions on the path.
The Diamond Sangha uses the Pali form of the refuge formula; according to Robert Aitken, this is intended to show that Buddhism is a single stream from its earliest origins.
Buddham saranam gacchami
Dhammam saranam gacchami
Sangham saranam gacchami.
Here, the Pali word “saranam” is an inflected form of “sarana” which means “protection, shelter, abode, refuge, willed or chosen resort”, and “gacchami” is a verb form meaning “going to” or “will undertake”. Thus a translation of the refuge formula would be: “I undertake to find my home in…”, which represents a vow rather than a prayer: a renewal of devotion to the threefold way of enlightenment, practice and compassion.
Tozan Ryokai: (in Chinese, Tung-shan Liang-chieh), 807–69; Chinese Zen master, the first patriarch of the Soto sect in China. Tozan was known for his gift of seeing all things, includeing the inanimate, as manifestations of the Buddha’s mind, allowing him to hear all things preaching to him (cf. Vairochana). He was also fond of poetry, and among his literary relics one finds a poetic exposition of the Soto teaching known as the “Five Ranks”. This presents five different ways of viewing the nature of ultimate reality as it relates to particular phenomena, and is used as an advanced koan in the Diamond Sangha.
Transmission: as a technical term, in the Diamond Sangha, refers to one authorised teacher (known as a roshi) giving authorisation, in turn, to one of his students (who then also takes on the title of roshi). As a minimum, this student will have completed the Diamond Sangha koan curriculum and undertaken further practice and training.
More generally, “transmission” is a makeshift expression referring to a process that cannot be grasped conceptually. In the presence of, and through the training given by, an enlightened master, the student can himself come to enlightenment without the master actually “transmitting” anything or the student “receiving” anything.
The Zen claim to be a “special transmission outside the scriptures” was first made in China in the 11th century, at a time of Cha’n [Zen] sectarian rivalry, where the mainstream Ch’an schools had been teaching “harmony between Ch’an and the scriptures”. It was in this context that the story was first told about Kashyapa smiling at the Buddha’s silent twirling of a flower, as a model for “special transmission”. The view that prevailed (supported by the Lin-chi [Rinzai] school of Ch’an) was that Buddhist scripture is incapable of bringing about or even conveying a mystical event such as enlightenment or transmission.
Turning the Dharma Wheel: lending wisdom and energy to the transformation process of the buddha dharma in the world; practice.
Umpan: Jap., “Cloud plate”; a bronze plate shaped something like a fleur-de-lis. It hangs from cords in the kitchen, and is struck with a hard wooden mallet to produce a clangorous sound. The head server strikes it to signal mealtimes. It is also used in the ceremony at the end of sesshin.
Upali: student of the Buddha, one of his ten great disciples. He was originally a barber to the Shakya princes. This led to his being the one to shave the heads of the monks. Tradition sees in him the specialist in questions of discipline and ritual.
Vairochana: Skt, lit. “He Who Is Like the Sun”, the “All-Illuminating One”; one of the five transcendent buddhas, the archetype of enlightenment and of total purity. Vairochana is like the sun in being above everything in the world while at the same time intimately involved with everything in the world, as the sun’s rays reach everywhere and stimulate growth. In Japan, Vairochana (Jap., Birushana) is regarded as a sun buddha at the centre of an esoteric system in which the four other transcendent buddhas circle him like planets (Shingon school).
Important Mahayana sutras depict him not only as one enlightened being among many, but as the central figure from whom all other Buddhas emanate as a skilful means to reach all suffering beings. Thus Vairochana symbolises the “truth-body” (dharmakaya; see Buddha bodies) or universal buddha-mind that, like cosmic energy, pervades all time and space. This can be related to our “First Sutra Service Dedication”, where we chant “Buddha-nature pervades the whole universe, existing right here now”.
In esoteric Buddhism, he also emanates the whole of reality, as a kind of “ground of being”. This in turn endows nature itself with a kind of intelligence and ability to communicate as an expression of Vairochana’s teaching; thus it is said that “the world itself preaches the dharma” (cf Tozan Ryokai), and that “dharma gates are countless”.
Vandana: Obeisance, prostration, bowing the head, reverencing, worshipping.
Vipashyana: (Skt: “insight”; cf the etymology of the word dhyana, from which the word “Zen” is derived.) Once calming meditation has been established (e.g. by counting or following the breath), the Mahayana practitioner can proceed to “insight” meditation (see Shikan). This is an extended form of the insight meditation known in the Theravada by the Pali name Vipassana. This meditation practice is common to most schools of Buddhism, including non-Japanese Zen traditions.
Vipashyana is based on a method called the “Four Foundations of Mindfulness”. For this, one begins by rendering conscious the individual activities of the body. Then one extends mindfulness to “feeling” (responses to sense data as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral), the mind (including emotions as they arise), and the objects of thinking. The Mahayana further extends this practice to include contemplation of the meditation object in the light of Buddhist doctrine. Through observing the rising and passing away of physical, emotional and mental phenomena, the meditator can come to a clear, direct, personal, intuitive understanding of impermanence, duhkha, and the emptiness of self. Such insight (prajña) is the basis for liberation and enlightenment.
Vipassana: see Vipashyana.
Voice of the Law: “Law” here means Dharma.
We and this food and our eating are vacant: see Three Wheels.
Wesak: (Pali, vesak); in the Mahayana, the festival commemorating Buddha’s birthday; in the Theravada, the day commemorates at once the birth, enlightenment and parinirvana of the Buddha, all believed to have happened on the same calendar date. For the Diamond Sangha, Wesak falls on the full-moon day in May; in other traditions and other countries, the date may be at various times between April and July. For the Melbourne Zen Group in particular, Wesak is also taken to be the anniversary of the founding of the group in 1985.
Wisdom: see Prajña.
Wu-men Hui-k’ai: 1183–1260 (in Japanese, Mumon Ekai); a Sung dynasty Chinese Ch’an (Zen) monk best known for compiling the koan collection known by his name, the Wu-men kuan (in Japanese, Mumonkan) meaning “Gate of Wu-men” or, more literally, the “Gateless Gate”.
The name comes from the earlier practice by monks of placing a heated stone on their bellies in order to soothe their grumbling stomachs. This came about because in the orthodox Buddhist monastic code, the midday meal was the final meal of the day. Later the stone was replaced by a simple meal made of leftovers from the midday meal. This is why, at Diamond Sangha sesshin, there is less ritual at the evening meal.
Yamamoto Gempo: 1866–1961; Japanese Rinzai Zen master. For many years he was the abbot at Ryutaku-ji monastery, of which Hakuin Zenji had once been abbot. He is also known for his eccentric lifestyle, his love of rice wine, and his fondness for women. He was one of the first Zen masters to travel throughout the world: to India, Africa, Europe and the United States.
Yasutani Haku’un: or Ryoko, 1895–1973; Japanese founder of the Sanbo Kyodan. He was one of the first authentic Zen masters also to be active in the West. After having taught high schools in Tokyo for sixteen years, he was accepted in 1925 as a student of Harada Roshi, from whom he received permission to teach in 1943. He went to America in 1962.
In the West he became known particularly through an introduction to Zen practice, Three Pillars of Zen, edited by Philip Kapleau, which was to a great extent based on the teachings of Yasutani Roshi and his dharma successor Yamada Roshi. In his style of Zen training he made use of both the shikantaza practice of the Soto tradition and the koan practice of the Rinzai tradition.
In 2000, the head of the Sanbo-kyodan issued a public apology for the “errant words and actions” of Yasutani before, during and after the Second World War; in particular, for his strongly right-wing, nationalistic and militaristic stance, and his outspoken anti-semitism.
Yoga: Skt, lit. “yoke”. Originally, the term “yoga” referred to skilful means of harnessing a horse so that it could pull a war chariot. By extension, it came to mean any form of spiritual discipline aimed at gaining control over the mind with the ultimate aim of attaining liberation. Thus, for example, the meditation practices of the Buddha are called “yoga”.
When Indian Hatha yoga was codified in the 2nd or 3rd century c.e., the term “yoga” was redefined in a non-Buddhist sense as harnessing oneself to God, seeking union with the Divine; or uniting body and spirit.
Yogachara School: a major Mahayana school that flourished in India, and also in China, from the 4th to the 8th Centuries c.e. The name means “application of yoga”. One of the founders was Vasubandhu, claimed by Zen as its 21st patriarch in the Indian lineage.
Yogachara thought arguably represents the most complex and sophisticated philosophy developed by Indian Buddhism. Its doctrines and theories derive from meditational experiences and concern two key interconnected themes: the nature of the mind and the nature of experience. Many of its teachings have found their way into Zen, including the Three Buddha bodies and the eight aspects of Consciousness.
Zabuton: Jap., lit. “sitting mat”; a mat traditionally filled with kapok and covered with dark fabric, on which zazen is practised. The zabuton is square and just big enough for a Japanese sitting in the lotus posture to fit bottom and knees on it.
Zafu: Jap., lit. “sitting cushion”; a round cushion of black fabric, traditionally firmly stuffed with kapok, that is used for zazen. The zafu is the cushion referred to in the famous Zen saying: “At some time you must die on the cushion”.
In the form of shikantaza, zazen is not a “method” that brings people living in ignorance to the “goal” of liberation; rather it is the immediate expression and actualisation of the perfection present in every person at every moment. In the form of shikantaza, zazen is dwelling in a state of thought-free, alertly wakeful attention, which is not consciously directed toward any object and clings to no content that arises.
If practised over a long period of time with persistence and devotion, zazen brings the mind of the sitter to a state of totally contentless wakefulness, from which, in a sudden breakthrough of enlightenment, he can realise his own true nature or buddha-nature, which is identical with the nature of the entire universe.
The French scholar, Bernard Faure, argues that in Chinese, one of the characters which makes up the word for seated meditation has a connotation, or secondary meaning, of “ritual”, so that you could almost translate the word zazen as “ritual sitting”, the outward bodily manifestation of pre-existing buddhahood (see Ritual). However, although Zen affirms that all beings are, from the beginning, buddhas, it also stresses that it makes a great—in fact, a decisive—difference whether one merely gullibly and complacently takes this affirmation to be true or whether one experiences this truth in its deepest sense directly and immediately oneself. Such an experiential insight is the “awakening” to which the practice of zazen is intended to lead.
Zazenkai: Jap., lit. “zazen meeting”. In the Melbourne Zen Group, the term is used for a meeting of more than two hours, to practise zazen together; it may include extra chanting, a dharma talk or a teisho, and dokusan (if a teacher is available).
Zen: used in English as a generic term to refer to Mahayana Buddhist schools in various countries that each claim descent from the Bodhidharma (dhyana) tradition: Ch’an in China, Zen in Japan, Son in Korea, Thien in Vietnam, and now “Western Zen”. In the United States, the largest number of Zen centres follow the Korean tradition.
Since the 11th century, Zen traditionally describes itself by four slogans (retrospecitvely attributed to Bodhidharma): (1) special transmission outside the orthodox teaching, (2) nondependence on sacred writings (see Sutra), (3) direct pointing to the human heart, and (4) realisation of one’s own nature and becoming a buddha.
Zen has often been called a mystical religion. Esoterically regarded, Zen has been identified in the West with the so-called Perennial philosophy or the quest of Theosophy, and dissociated from Buddhism. However, Western Zen practitioners who dispense with Buddhist doctrine too soon may end up with a practice that is naive, poorly developed, and shaped by unexamined Western assumptions. Although the Melbourne Zen Group as a sangha welcomes people of all beliefs, the Melbourne Zen Group Inc. as a registered association is explicitly Buddhist, as set out in the “Aims and Objectives” of its constitution.
Even though a zendo built in the traditional style is very conducive to the practice of zazen, Zen masters stress repeatedly that the practice of Zen fundamentally does not require a special room in a quiet, idyllic environment—though such circumstances are naturally helpful and even indispensable for beginners in zazen. As Dogen Zenji said: “Your own heart, that is the practice hall”.
Zenji: Jap., lit. “Zen master [ji = shi, master]”; honorific title having the sense of “great [or renowned] Zen master”. It is a title that is generally conferred posthumously; several masters, however, received this title during their lifetime.
Edited and abridged extracts from “A Selective Zen Dictionary of Words, Names, Metaphors and Archetypes”, compiled for the MZG by Lesley Hanks, 1994, revised 2005. The entries are largely based on the Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen (1991), the Appendices and Glossary to Robert Aitken’s Encouraging Words (1993), the Oxford Dictionary of Buddhism (2003), and selected, reliable Internet sites.
As at 2 March 2006