Glossary Of Zen Terms

This is an edited version of a glossary of Zen Terms to help familiarize students with the objects, practices and ideas within Zen temples.


Glossary of Zen Terms
Compiled by Gábor Terebess

Agura 胡坐 common and easy way of sitting, pulling in both feet under both thighs; loose cross legged sitting position.

Anja    行者 abbot’s assistant, “doing person,” {hōjō anja 方丈行者}

Bosatsu-kai    菩薩戒 bodhisattva precepts are a set of moral codes used in Mahayana Buddhism to advance a practitioner along the path to becoming a Bodhisattva. In Sōtō Zen, the founder Dōgen established a somewhat expanded version of the Bodhisattva Precepts for use by both priests and lay followers, based on both Brahma Net Sutra and other sources.

Butsudan    佛壇 or 仏壇, literally “Buddha altar”. A Buddha-altar isn’t only a place to honor one’s ancestors. Within the altar, there is an area where Mt. Sumeru (the mountain at the center of the Buddhist cosmology) is represented and in the center of that area the main image is enshrined. In the same way as a temple’s main Dharma Hall, the Buddha-altar is “the temple in the middle of the home”.

Buttan-e    佛誕会 Buddha’s Birthday, April 8.

Bozu   坊主 a resident priest of a temple; popularly, any priest or a monk.

Buji    無事 I. No problem; no trouble; without hindrance; free of obstruction. II. Having nothing to do; having nothing demanding to do before attaining enlightenment; the state of perfect freedom from troubles; no dealings with secular affairs; the state of tranquility and non-action; used to describe the state of satori. 

Buji-zen    無事禅 “All is well Zen”, ”Nothing to do Zen”, “inactive zen”; frivolous zen; exaggerated zen; no-practice zen; bravado or excessive self-confidence in the practice of zen. A tendency attributed to some practitioners, particularly in the Sōtō school, to convince themselves that since all beings possess the Buddha-nature they are already enlightened and hence have no need to exert themselves further.

Busshō    仏性 Buddha nature 

Busshō 佛餉 Rice offerings placed in front of the buddha images.

Chōka 朝課 The morning sutra chanting service.

Chōsoku    調息 Breath regulation.

Daishi 大師 Posthumous honorific title meaning “great master” or “great teacher.”

Daishū 大衆 The monks residing in the zendōgreat assembly.

Daruma   達磨 Jap. for Bodhidharma, hence the occurrence in several terms: Daruma-ki, his date of death (5th day of 10th month); Darumashū, his school of teaching, hence a name for Zen; Daruma-sōjō, the authentic transmission of his teaching via dharma-successors (hassu) and patriarchs in succession (soshigata).

Daruma-ki  The date of Bodhidharma’s death (5th day of 10th month)

Denbō 傳法 Dharma transmission. The act of designating a dharma heir, thereby “passing on” or “transmitting” (den  ) the “dharma” (hō  ) that has previously been inherited from a teacher in a particular dharma lineage.

Densu 殿司 The monk in charge of waking the other monks in the morning, of leading the sutra chanting and other ceremonies, and of cleaning the ritual halls.

Deshi    弟子 “disciple (of a teacher)”

Dōan    堂行 hall assistant, “(meditation) hall doing (person),” (short for zendō anja). A term for person sounding the bell that marks the beginning and end of zazen.

Dokusan 獨參 Sanzen on an individual, voluntary basis with the roshi. Most sanzen at Rinzai monasteries is dokusan. Contrasts with sosan. (A private formal meeting between a Zen student and master in which the former can discuss his specific particular meditation problems with the latter thereby displaying the depth and degree of his attainment. It also gives an opportunity to master to understand the problems of each student.)

Dōshi    導師 officiant (leads service and ceremonies), “guiding/leading teacher”. 

Dunwu (C)  頓悟 (tongo (J), sudden awaking or sudden enlightenment

Eka 會下 A term for the group of monks who all trained under the same certain roshi. or at the same temple. 

Fukuten    副典 assistant to head cook, assistant to the ten(zo)”.

Fukudo   副堂 assistant to the hall assistant (dōan), “assistant to the hall”. A term for person who strikes the han.

Gasshō   合掌 Lit., “palms together”. A mudra expressing nonduality: anjali (Skt). The palms are joined so that the fingertips are at the height of the nose. The hands are approximately one fist width away from the face. (Hold the palms and fingers of both hands together. Your arms should be slightly away from your chest, your elbows should extend outward from your sides in a straight line parallel with the floor. The tips of your fingers should be approximately the same level as your nose. This is an expression of respect, faith and devotion. Because the two hands (duality) are joined together, it expresses “One Mind.”)

Gidan 疑團 The ball of doubt that fuels a monks drive to practice and to attain enlightenment.

Godō    後堂 rear hall teacher (head of training); “rear (seat) of the (meditation) hall”. In a Sōtō zendō, the monk in charge of the zendō, second to the rōshi. This is approximately equivelant to the jikijitsu in Rinzai monasteries. (Head trainer in a traditional Japanese monastery who uses the kyōsaku. The godō uses the kyōsaku to deliver sharp blows upon the shoulders of monks found dozing off or loose in their form. Sometimes, the meditator will request to be hit by the kyōsaku by making a signal to the godō.)

Go-ke    五家  five schools of Zen

Gotai-tōchi 五体投地 Prostrating. Stand upright and bow slightly in gassho from the waist. Then, bend your knees until they touch the floor. Bend forward from the waist, touching the floor with your hands (palms up), forearms, and forehead. Keeping your palms level, raise them as high as your ears. Maintain this posture for a moment. Bringing your hands back into gassho, straighten up to a standing position and bow as before. Prostrating in this way three times is called sanpai. We do sanpai, for example, before and after chanting sutras. Five parts of the body (gotai) refers to both knees, both elbows and forehead, while tōchi means casting them to the ground.

Gyojuzaga 行住坐臥 The four postures of walking, standing, sitting, and lying down.

Gyosho    曉鐘 The morning ringing of the large temple bell.

Gyodo   行道 A way of sutra chanting during ceremonies, in which the monks chant while walking in line inside the ceremony hall.

Haju 把住 ”Taking in; one of the aspects of Zen training, that of strickness or tension. See also hogyo.

Han  Lit., board; a thick rectangular wooden board measuring about 45 x 30 x 8 cm hung in front of the zendo; , on which a rhythm is beaten with a wooden mallet three times a day: at dawn, at dusk and before going to bed. One of the narashimono used to signal times at the monastery. Often one of the following verses appears on the han:
”Heed, monks! / 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.” ”Great is the matter of birth and death / Life flows quickly by / Time waits for no one / Wake up! Wake up! / Don’t waste a moment!”

Handaikan     飯台監 Every formal meal is served by assigned servers, called handaikan. Han literally is “meal”, dai is “table”, and kan to “oversee”.

Hanka fuza 半跏趺坐 The half-lotus sitting position.

Hogyo 放行 ”Letting go”; one of the aspects of Zen training, that of relaxation or loosening. See also haju.

Hōkei 法系 dharma lineage. 1. An unbroken line of dharma transmission that is traced back through many generations of teachers and disciples. 2. A list of names of the successive generations of teachers, culminating in one’s own teacher, through whom one has inherited the dharma. This list is recited during in-room sutra chanting.

Hokkai-jōin   法界定印 “cosmic mudra“– the positioning of the hands during traditional zazen practice. To perform the cosmic mudra, the left-hand rests on the right-hand, with the tips of the thumbs lightly touching. (Place your right hand, palm-up, on your left foot, and your left hand palm-up on your right palm. The tips of your thumbs should be lightly touching each other. This is called Cosmic Mudra (hokkai-join). Place the tips of your thumbs in front of your navel, and your arms slightly apart from your body.)

Hokku 法皷 The large temple drum beaten to signal the beginning of teisho or a ceremony.

Inji 隱侍 The master’s attendant.

Inka 印可 The seal of enlightenment; a master’s certification of a disciple’s completion of training.

Inka (-shōmei)    印可証明 The legitimating seal of recognition, in Zen Buddhism, that authentic enlightenment has been attained, and that a pupil has completed his training.

Inkin 引磬 The handbell used by the jikijitsu to signal the beginning and ending of meditation, and for other miscellaneous purposes. (An inkin is a small handheld bowl-shaped bell mounted on a handle which the ino (chant leader) strikes with a metal striker at intervals to signal the beginning of bowing prostrations or, toward the end of ceremonies, to signal that it is time to gassho in the direction of the altar.)

Ino    維那 hall manager, “overseeing karmadāna (‘giver of assignments’)”, one of the Sōtō Zen Temple’s six officers (roku chiji 六知事). Formerly, the monk in charge of supervising the work duty; at present, the monk who leads chanting during a service. At sesshin, the ino is in charge of any matter that involves the mouth. “Rector” (ino 維那): a hybrid compound (also read ina and inō) that combines the Chinese wei 維, “supervisor,” with the graph na 那, thought to represent the final syllable of the transliterated Sanskrit term karmadāna.

Inryo 隱寮 The roshi’s living quarters.

Intoku 陰徳 Good works performed in secret.

Issoku-hanpo    一息半歩 walking half step with breathing in and out  – kinhin in Sōtō zen.

Isshu     揖手 Folding hands at walking and standing. This is also called shashu. In Rinzai tradition the left hand covers the right hand.

Isshu The length of time it takes to burn one stick of incense; hence, one period of zazen.

Jianwu    Gradual awakening

Jihatsu 持鉢 The name of the nesting set of bowls with which Rinzai unsui eat. A monk’s own bowls (the standard 5 bowl Rinzai zen monk set), wrapped in cloth for carrying around. During a meal, they will be unwrapped, used, cleaned, and wrapped back up again.

Jikidō The room where meals are eaten in a Rinzai monastery.

Jikidō    Hall monitor, “keeping in order the (meditation) hall”. Officiant in the Sōtō temple zendō in charge of keeping time. The jikidō signals the start and end of sitting periods by sounding the han and kesu (large bell).

Jikijitsu In a Rinzai zendō, the monk in charge of meditation in the zendō, second to the rōshi. This is approximately equivalent to the godō in Sōtō. (The timekeeper for a sesshin or for any meditation gathering. All matters having to do with time are the responsibility of the “jiki”, provided the decisions do not conflict with the activities or wishes of the rōshi. The jiki usually leads kinhin as well.)

Jisha 侍者 abbot’s attendant, “serving person”. The head monk in charge of caring for the monks of the zendō; his duties include maintaining the zendō’s main image (usually Manjusri), serving tea, and caring for sick monks. (The rōshi’s attendant during sesshin. Those attending a sesshin are most aware of the jisha’s role as the person who directs dokusan; the jisha announces when dokusan begins and guides students in and out.)

Jōdō    Convocation. Literally, to “go up” to the “hall”. The reference here is to a dharma hall, where all the residents of a monastery (and outside visitors as well) gather to hear the abbot give a sermon or engage members of the assembly in debate (mondō). It is not clear whether the verb “go up” refers to the entire assembly that enters a dharma hall, or just the abbot, who mounts a high seat (kōza) on the Sumeru altar in a dharma hall for the occasion. In Chinese Buddhist monasteries of the Song dynasty and the medieval Japanese Zen monasteries that were modeled after them, convocations in a dharma hall were among the most solemn, formal observations held on a regular basis. The words of the abbot, who was understood to speak in the capacity of a flesh-and-blood buddha, were recorded for posterity. Abbots belonging to the Zen lineage were often asked to comment on “old cases” (kosoku 古則 ) (i.e. koans), or raised such cases themselves to test their followers in the audience.

Jukai       受戒 Lay ordination. Zen public ordination ceremony wherein a lay student receives certain Buddhist precepts. Ceremony of receiving (ju) the Buddhist Precepts (kai). This is a formal initiation into Buddhism, making one a member of the Buddha’s family.

Kaihan 開板 Striking of the wooden han. (Kaihan is the striking of an instrument made from a thick wood plank, the han, struck with a wooden mallet or hammer to announce various ceremonial times. Traditionally, this is done three times to announce the various intervals throughout the day. Roughly translated, kaihan means “opening the han.”)

Kankin    看經 “sutra reading” or “sutra recitation”—sometimes even “sutra study.”

Kanna Zen 看話禪 kan hua chan (C), kōan Zen; ”introspecting the kōan Zen”.

Kanshō 喚鐘 The small hanging bell rung by the monks to signal entrance to the master’s room during dokusan. It has thus come to be synonymous with sanzen itself.

Kashaku 掛錫 To formally enter a monastery for training.

Katan 加擔 To help with work, either in general or at another temple.

Katsu   喝 Traditional Zen belly shout; used to cut off discriminative thinking.

Keisaku 警策 The “warning stick,” used to encourage monks during zazen. (Rinzai)

Keisu     磬子 Bowl-shaped gong used in chanting services. It is struck on the rim by a small padded club or mallet. It punctuates the chanting of the sutras.

Kekka fuza 結跏趺座 The full lotus sitting position.

Kenge 見解 The response to a koan, presented during sanzen.

Kenshō 見性 ”To see self nature;” seeing one’s own true nature; an experience of awakening.  Kenshō is roughly synonymous with satori, although the latter is generally regarded as indicating a deeper experience. (Has the same meaning as satori, but is customary used for an initial awakening experience.)

Kentan 檢單 The formal checking of the sitting monks in the zendo by the roshi or the jikijitsu.

Kiku 規矩 The monastic regulations.

Kimono    着物 The traditional Japanese kimono has wide, half-way sewn sleeves. There is no seam between the top and the skirt, and there are no pleats in the skirt. Pure cotton kimonos lose length during washing. A fold in the waist areas allows for lengthening. Kimonos are ankle length, For ceremonial use white cotton. For everyday use grey fabric.

Kinhin or kyōgyō 經行 Walking meditation. Literally, “to go straight”. When doing kinhin in Sōtō zen style, walk clockwise around the room, holding your hand in shashu position. From the waist up, your posture should be the same as that in zazen. Take the first step with your right foot. Advance by taking only half step for each full breath (one exhalation and inhalation). (= Issoku-hanpo 一息半歩 ”walking half step with breathing in and out”. Walk slowly and smoothly as if you were standing in one place. Do not drag your feet or make noise. Walk straight ahead, and when turning, always turn to right. The word kinhin means to go straight. When you finish kinhin, stop and bow. Then walk at a normal pace around the room until you return to your seat.

Kōan    ”Public case”, ”public announcement”, or ”precedent for public use”. A fundamental practice in Zen training, challenging the pupil through a question, or a phrase or answer to a question, which presents a paradox or puzzle. A kōan cannot be understood or answered in conventional terms: it requires a pupil to abandon reliance on ordinary ways of understanding in order to move into or towards enlightenment. The origins of kōan are uncertain, but predate Nan-yüan Hui-yung (d. 930 CE) to whom the first use is attributed. The earliest surviving collection is in the writings of Fen-yang Shan-chao (Fen-yang lu; Jap., Funʾyōroku), including a series of 100 kōan questions (chieh-wen; Jap., kitsumon). Fen-yang was of the Rinzai school, and the use of kōans is particularly associated with Rinzai (kanna zen), but is not exclusive to it. Under Fen-yang’s successor, Shih-shuang, Li Tsu-hsü produced Tenshō Kōtōroku, one of the five foundation chronicles of Zen in the Sung period, containing many kōans. Among Shih-shuang’s pupils, Wu-tsu Fa-yen extended the short, sharp kōan to its height. Fa-yen’s main pupil, Yüan-wu K’o-ch’in (1036–1135) was a vital figure in developing kōan method in this period, completing the Blue Cliff Record (Chin., Pi-yen-lu; Jap., Hekigan-roku). The second largest collection of the Sung period is Ts’ung-jung lu (Jap., Shōyōroku), assembled by Wan-sung Hsing-hsiu (1166–1246). It was followed (1229) by the Wu-men-kuan (Jap., Mumonkan), edited by Wu-men Hui-k’ai (1183–1260). About 1,700 kōans survive, of which about 600 are in active use. At the end of one’s formal training one works in depth with the Jūjūkinkai, a series of koans on the 16 Buddhist precepts.)

In Rinzai, five types of kōan are identified: (i) hosshin-kōan, to create awareness of identity with buddha-nature (bussho); (ii) kikan-kōan, to create ability nevertheless to discern distinctions within non-distinction; (iii) gonsen-kōan, creating awareness of the deep meaning of the sayings of the masters; (iv) nantō-kōan, grappling with the hardest to solve; (v) go-i-kōan: when the other four have been worked through, the insight gained is tested once more.

Koban 香盤 The incense holder in which sticks of incense are burned by the jikijitsu during zazen.

Kōden    香典 · 香奠 To offer incense.

Koji    居士 “residence/dwelling man”, layman

Koji kyumei 己事究明 ”The investigation and clarification of the self.” The purpose of zazen.

Kokuho 告報 An announcement by the head monk to the community, usually setting out the schedule for that day.

Kokyō    挙経 chant leader, “celebrating/initiating the sutra”.

Konshō 昏鐘 The evening ringing of the large temple bell.

Kontin (konchin)  雷沈 (こんち ん) “darkness-sinking”, a state of mind characterized by sleepiness, depression, lack of energy.

Koromo 衣 Monastic robe (worn by ordained monks only).

Kotan 高單 A senior monk.

Koza 講座 A lecture by the roshi to the monks. See teisho.

Kufū 功夫 To maintain one’s practice during stillness and movement. In the Zen monastery it has generally come to mean something like something like “creative inventiveness” during work. “Pursued the way with concentrated effort” (bendō kufū 辨道功夫): An expression used often in the Shōbōgenzō, also in reverse syntax, “make concentrated effort in pursuit of the way” (kufū bendō 功夫辨道).

Kuri 庫裡 The monastery kitchen, or, more generally, the living quarters.

Kusen 口先 Oral teaching given during zazen.

Kyogai 境界 The state of mind, usually expressed in a person’s actions and presence, attained through training.

Kyōsaku 教策 “Encouragement stick” waking stick in Sōtō; called keisaku in Rinzai. A flattened stick at one end, 75 to 105 cm in length, used to strike the shoulders during zazen, to help overcome fatigue or reach satori, called keisaku in Rinzai. The kyōsaku symbolises the sword of wisdom of the bodhisattva Mańjushri, which cuts through all delusion; thus it is always respectfully handled. If you want to be struck with the kyosaku, signal with gassho and wait. When the jikido sets the stick on your right shoulder, lower your head to the left. This is to avoid being hit on the ear and to make it easier to hit the shoulder muscles. Continue to gassho. After the jikido hits your shoulder, straighten your head again and bow. The jikido also bows to you as he or she stands behind you, holding the stick with both hands.

Makyō    魔境 Unpleasant or distracting thoughts or illusions that occur during zazen.

Menpeki or Mempeki    面壁 (Jap., ‘facing the wall’). Zen description of the nine years (menpeki-kunen 面壁九年), which Bodhidharma (菩提達摩) spent ‘facing the wall’, i.e. in profound meditation in a mountain cave near Shaolin Temple (少林寺). It became a virtual synonym for zazen.

Missan 密参 secret study, ”The student might even keep a written record of the transmission, a missan notebook (missanchō), preserving the details of the encounters in which he received the teacher’s secret instruction on a particular koan or series of kōans.” (Peter Haskel)

Mokugyo    木魚 A wooden drum carved from one piece, to set the rhythm for chanting. (Lit., wooden fish. An elaborately carved wooden drum struck with a padded wooden stick during chanting services. Fish, since they never sleep, symbolize the alertness and watchfulness needed to attain Buddhahood.)

Mokushō Zen 黙照禪 mozhao chan (C), ”silent illumination Zen”, ”serene reflection Zen”; Zen meditation that does not use koans. Contrasted with kanna Zen.

Mondō 問答 wenda (C); ‘Question and answer’, a term used in Japanese zen practice to refer to a discussion or interview between master and student in which a religious theme is addressed obliquely rather than in the form of a debate or lecture. Normally the student raises a problem in connection with doctrine or practice and the master attempts to provide an answer without recourse to theoretical or analytical explanations. The records of these exchanges are often preserved as kōans for use by subsequent students.

Monjin     問訊 The act of bowing from the waist with hands in gasshō. Bow to front side person 対坐問訊 (taiza-monjin), either side person 隣位問訊 (rin-i-monjin).

Munen musō     無念無想 ”no-thought and no-image“

Mushi-dokugo  無師独悟 Sometimes called 自悟自証 jigo-jishō (self-enlightened and self-certified), is a Japanese term used in Zen Buddhism which expresses the phenomenon known as “awakening alone, without a master.”

Mushin   無心 No superfluous thought, no mental fabrication.

Mushotoku  無所得 No profit, no goal, no object. The essential attitude of not running after, not grasping.

Narashimono 鳴物 The various sound-producing implements (bells, clappers, gongs) used in a monastery to signal the times for various activities.

Nentei 拈提 To meditate upon a koan.

Nibanza 二番座 The “second sitting” at mealtimes, attended by monks whose duties kept them away from the first sitting.

Nichi nichi kore kōjitsu.   日日是好日 “Everyday is a good day.” Yunmen Wenyan (雲門文偃 Ummon Bun’en, 864-949).

Nisshitsu 入室 To enter the roshi’s sanzen room for meditation instruction

Nitten sōji 日天掃除 The daily cleaning done inside and outside the monastery.

Niwazume 庭詰 The period in which a postulant at a Zen monastery must sit in the monastery entrance hall (genkan) in a bowing posture, asking for admission, usually for a period of two days. See also tangazume.

Niya sanjitsu 二夜三日 Lit., “two nights and three days”; the maximum period of time for which a monk may be absent from the monastery without having to receive permission for zanka.

Nōsō    納僧 “patch-robed monk”.

Nyoi    如意 ruyi (C); Wooden scepter, about 35 cm long, of Zen teachers given to them by their teacher when they have been granted permission to teach. Has a slight S-shaped curve, like a human spinal column. The rōshi uses the kotsu, for example, to emphasise a point in a teishō, to lean on when sitting, or also occasionally to strike a student.

Oshiku 大四九 The fourteenth of every month and the last day of every month, when the monks sleep late, then shave heads, do a major cleaning, and, during the afternoon, rest.

Oshō    和尚 Japanese reading of the Chinese he shang (和尚), meaning a high-ranking Buddhist monk or highly virtuous Buddhist monk. It is also a respectful designation for Buddhist monks in general and may be used with the suffix -san, it is originally derived from the Sanskrit upadhyaya, meaning “master” in the sense of “teacher”.

Raihai   禮拝 Prostration before the altar or the roshi. The Zen student is taught that in raihai one throws everything away. Normally done in a set of three, these are bows that lead immediately into a kneeling position and then quickly into a position with one’s forehead gently touching the floor. The hands, palms upwards, are raised in a gesture symbolic of lifting the Buddha’s feet over one’s head. An act of respect and gratitude. “As long as bowing lasts Buddhism will last. When bowing ceases, Buddhism is destroyed” (Manzan Dohaku, 1636-1715)

Rintan 隣單 The monk who sits next to one in the zendo.

Rinzai-shū    臨済宗 Linji zong (C); Zen sect emphasizing koan study; named for master Linji.

Rōhatsu 臘八 The severest sesshin of the monastic year, commemorating the enlightenment of the Buddha. It is usually held from December 1st until the morning of December 8th, during which period the monks are not allowed to lie down to rest.

Roku chiji    六知事 Sōtō Zen Temple’s six officers, “six knowers/managers of affairs”:

1. director {tsūsu 都寺} “capital temple,” {kansu 監寺} “watching over temple”,

2. treasurer {fūsu 副寺} “assistant to the director/temple”,

3. hall manager {ino 維那} “overseeing karmadana (‘giver of assignments’)”,

4. head cook {tenzo 典座} “celebration/ceremony seat”,

5. work leader {shissui 直歳} “keeping in order the vicinity”,

6. guest manager {shika 知客} “knower of guests” (traditionally asst. director)

Rōshi 老師  Lit., “old teacher” or “elder master”, Zen monastic master. In the Sōtō organization roughly synonymous with shike; “venerable (spiritual) teacher”.

Saba 生飯 The few grains of rice offered at the beginning of meals to the hungry ghosts.

Saiza 斎座 Lunch, the main meal of the monastic day.

Sampai    三拝 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 (kyūhai 九拝) is practised. See also Raihai.

Samu 作務 Manual labor in the monastery, a part of training equally important to zazen.

Samue 作務衣 Working or everyday clothes for a male Zen Buddhist monk.

Sando 參堂 To formally enter the zendo as a new member of the monastic community following the completion of niwazume and tangazume.

Sanno 三應 A synonym for inji.

Sanran  散乱 (さんらん) “dispersed-confused”, restlessness, over activity of the mind.

Sanzen 參禪 Formal meditation study with a Zen master. More specifically, the private meetings between master and disciple in which the master instructs the disciple in meditation.

Sarei 茶礼 Occasions when tea is served, both on formally and informally.

Satori    悟り; 覚り [さとり]  the experience of awakening, enlightenment. Is a Japanese Buddhist term for enlightenment that literally means “understanding”. In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to a flash of sudden awareness, or individual enlightenment, and is considered a “first step” or embarkation toward nirvana.

Seichū 制中 The monastic training season. Roughly synonymous with ango.

Seiza     正座 Lit., “proper sitting”, is the Japanese term for the traditional formal way of sitting in Japan. A sitting position where one kneels and sits back onto the heels. This is the standard position for chanting during service.

Senmon dōjō 專門道場 A formal Zen training monastery, at which a monk can gain qualification for priesthood. Roughly synonymous with sōdō.

Sensei   Senior teacher

Sesshin 攝心 Meditation retreats, generally lasting one week. Samu is replaced by additional meditation. A sesshin (接心, 摂心, 攝心), literally “touching the heart-mind” (but frequently mistranslated in Western Zen centers as “gathering the mind”), is a period of intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery.

Setsu ango 雪安居 The winter training season.

Shakuhachi    尺八 a Japanese end-blown flute. It is traditionally made of bamboo. It was used by the monks of the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism in the practice of suizen (吹禅, blowing meditation).

Shashu   叉手 Hand position used when walking or standing in the zendō. Put the thumb of your left hand in the middle of the palm and make a fist around it. Place the fist in front of your chest. Cover the fist with your right hand. Keep your elbows away from your body forming a straight line with both forearms. (Also “sessho”)

Shigu-seigan    四弘誓願 Four universal vows.

Shihō   嗣法 Dharma transmission. The act by which a master affirms that a students’ training is complete and that he or she is ready to begin to teach the Dharma independently.   In Sōtō Zen Buddhism refers to a series of ceremonies wherein which a priest receives full transmission, inheriting the Dharma from his/her master and becoming empowered to transmit the precepts and lineage to others. A shiho ceremony can last anywhere from one to three weeks, with the final ceremony consisting of two specific segments. The first is transmission of the precepts from master to disciple, known as denkai, where the master confirms that the student is actualizing the precepts in his/her day to day life. In this ceremony the student “…become[s] the blood of the Buddha.” The second, denpo, is the Dharma transmission ceremony where the student inherits the Dharma and is empowered to transmit the lineage. In the denpo ceremony, the student becomes an ancestor of the tradition and receives a robe and bowl, among other objects. Also during the denpo ceremony the student receives a Shoshike certificate (which grants the power to perform Jukai) and also the documents known as the “three regalia of transmission”: shisho (inheritance certificate), odaiji (a diagram symbolizing the Great Matter) and shoden kechimyaku (bloodline of Dharma transmission). The Sōtō school also confers inka shōmyō (or inshō) upon students—meaning “‘[granting] the seal of approval to a realization of enlightenment'”—and the student must undergo a shiho ceremony to receive Dharma transmission. Following completion of these ceremonies the teacher becomes independent.

Shiji zazen 四时坐禅 Four hours’ zazen; four periods of sitting meditation: 1) 后夜坐禪 goya zazen = dawn ; 2) 早晨坐禪 sōshin zazen = midmorning; 3) 晡时坐禪 hoji zazen = afternoon; 4) 黄昏坐禪 kōkon zazen = evening

Shijo 止靜 The time between the beginning and end of a period of meditation, when silence must be maintained and no moving is permitted. ( 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.)

Shika    知客 guest manager, “knower of guests” (traditionally asst. director), one of the Sōtō Zen Temple’s six officers (roku chiji 六知事). The head monk in charge of the administrative section of the monastery, and whose duties involve meeting guests.

Shikantaza 祗管打坐  “just sitting”; a state of attention that is free from thoughts, directed to no object, and attached to no particular content.

Shike 師家 The master of a monastery. Shike is roughly synonymous with roshi.

Shinjin datsuraku   身心脱落 “Body and mind dropped off.” Casting off [both] body and mind. (Dōgen’s words describing his enlightenment)

Shinkin 嚫金 Money received by the monks from the monastery.

Shinrei 振鈴 The wake-up bell, hand bell rung in the morning to awaken everyone in the temple.

Shinsu    辰司 wake-up bell ringer, “morning officer”.

Shinto 新到 A new monk; usually refers to monks in their first year at the monastery.

Shippei    竹箆 bamboo staff which curves slightly, approximately half a metre long, which is used as a “symbol of a Zen master’s authority” in Zen Buddhism. In contrast to the keisaku, the shippei was often used as a disciplinary measure for meditating monks. It can often be found at the side of a Zen master in a zendo and is also “one of seven items that make up a Zen monk’s equipment.” The shippei is made from a split piece of bamboo, which is bound with wisteria vine and then lacquered. Sometimes curved in the shape of an S, the shippei may be elaborately decorated with a silk cord or have carvings.

Shissui    直歳 work leader, “keeping in order the vicinity”, one of the Sōtō Zen Temple’s six officers (roku chiji 六知事).

Shitsunai 室内 Lit., “inside the room”—a term for the meditation instruction that takes place between the master and disciple in the sanzen room of the master.

Shokan 初關 Lit., “the first barrier”; the first koan received by a monk.

Shōken 相見 A formal meeting with a Zen master. (The first personal interview between the roshi and a student; lit., seeing one another.)

Shōmono    抄物 complex body of commentaries on traditional kōan collections and recorded sayings texts by late medieval and early modern Sōtō priests. See also kirigami (切り紙).

Shoshin     初心 is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. The term is especially used in the study of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts. The phrase is also used in the title of the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, who says the following about the correct approach to Zen practice: ”In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” (Shoshin also means “correct truth” and is used to denote a genuine signature on art works or to refer to any thing or person that is genuine.)

Shōten   鐘点 bell ringer, “(bonshō) bell dotting/turning on”.

Shugyōsha    修行者 “(spiritual) practice person”, practitioner.

Shuso    首座 head student, “head seat”.

Shuso hossenshiki    首座法戰式 Term used in zen Buddhism to describe an encounter or exchange between two practitioners as a means of expressing and deepening their understanding of the nature of reality. The exchange may be verbal or involve gestures or movements, or a combination of all three. The exchange is not a philosophical debate so much as a manifestation or disclosure of each individual’s intuitive apprehension of religious truth. The activity shares certain similarities with the practice of mondo. During the shusso hossen ceremony, the head monk (shuso) is verbally tested in public by other students and teachers on their knowledge of Buddhist teachings.

Shutto 出頭 Participation in a ceremony.

Sōdō 僧堂 A formal Zen training monastery, at which a monk can gain qualification for priesthood. Roughly synonymous with senmon dōjō. (In traditional monasteries there is a building called the monks’ hall, sōdō, in which practitioners sleep, eat, and practice zazen together. In the sōdō, there is a platform called a tan which is about two feet high. Each person has a space of one straw mat (tatami) on which to eat, sleep, and sit. Manjushri Bodhisattva, the symbol of wisdom, is enshrined in the center of the hall.)

Sōku    送供 head server, “sending off the meal offering”.

Sōryo    僧侶 monk/priest, “sangha companion”.

Sōsan 総參 Formal sanzen held on the first, fourth, and seventh evenings of a sesshin, and during which the shika rings the kansho and the monks meet the roshi in order of rank. All monks must participate. Contrasts with dokusan.

Soshigata   祖师谷 The elders or patriarchs in Chʾan/Zen Buddhism, the great masters, practitioners, and teachers who stand in lines of direct transmission of dharma—ultimately, from the Buddha Shākyamuni.

Sōtō-shū     曹洞宗 Caodong zong (C); one of two dominant sects of Zen in Japan, the other being Rinzai.  Sōtō Sect of Zen emphasizing shikantaza as the primary mode of practice.

Sozarei 総茶禮 A formal sarei that all monks are required to attend. Usually held before important affairs.

Suikai 埀誡 Instructions or warnings from the master or superior monks.

Suizen    吹禅 a Zen practice consisting of playing the shakuhachi bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization. The monks from the Fuke sect of Zen who practiced suizen were called komusō (虚無僧; literally “emptiness monks”).

Sūsokukan    数息観 “observation of breath count”; preliminary meditation of counting breaths. (You may choose to count the exhale, inhale or both. Count the exhale when you are sleepy; count the inhale when the mind is distracted. If you are very sleepy and distracted count both exhale and inhale.)

Suzu    鈴 Small hand bell rung through the halls (of a monastery, or at sesshin) as a wakeup call.

Tabi    足袋  Split-toe ankle socks.

Taiki seppō   對機說法 Speaking to the caliber of a listener.

Taku 柝木 Wooden 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.)

Takuhatsu 托鉢 Mendicancy; monastic begging rounds.

Tanbuton 單蒲団 The large cushion upon which Rinzai monks sit during zazen.

Tangaryō    旦過寮 A period of waiting for admission into a Zen monastery at the gate, lasting anywhere from one day to several weeks—depending on the quality of one’s sitting. Refers to the room traveling monks stay in when visiting, or await admittance into the sōdō.

Tangazume 旦過詰 The period in which a postulant at a Zen monastery must sit alone in a small room (called the tangaryō) facing the wall, usually for a period of five days. See also niwazume.

Tantō    単頭 Lit., “head of the tan.” Platform head (assistant to head of training); “(sitting) platform head”. In a Zen temple, the tantō is one of two officers (with the godō) in charge monks’ training. (One of the main leaders of a sesshin, the tantō is in charge of the smooth running of the zendō. The tantō is usually an experienced senior student who is familiar with the roles of the other leaders and thus is able to offer guidance if any confusion arises.)

Teihatsu    剃髪 shaving the head.

Teishō 提唱 The rōshi’s dharma lecture, usually on a kōan, a Zen text, or a sutra. Rather than an explanation or exposition in the traditional sense, it is intended as a demonstration of Zen realisation. (Lit., recitation offering, presentation; in Zen the presentation of Zen realisation by a Zen master (rōshi) during a sesshin. The word is derived from tei, carry, offer, show, present, proclaim and shō, recite, proclaim. The rōshi offers the teishō, which generally has a kōan 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 teishō 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 rōshi’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. Teishō is distinguished from dharma talk, which is an ordinary lecture on some Buddhist topic.

Tenken    点検 attendance taker, “attendance taker, inspector”.

Tenzo    典座 head cook, “celebration/ceremony seat”, one of the Sōtō Zen Temple’s six officers (roku chiji 六知事). The monastery kitchen; also the head cook for a monastery or sesshin. Traditionally the role of tenzo was a position of high honor in zen monasteries. Similarly today, a tenzo is often considered to be one of the main leaders for sesshin.

Tokudo 得度 To be ordained as a monk.

Tsūsu    都寺 director, “capital temple,” {kansu 監寺} “watching over temple”, one of the Sōtō Zen Temple’s six officers (roku chiji 六知事).

Unpan 雲版 Lit., “cloud plate”; a flat, cloud-shaped gong used to signal mealtimes.

Unsui 雲水 Lit., “clouds and water”; a Zen monk in training. Unsui or kōun ryūsui (行雲流水) in full, is a term specific to Zen Buddhism which denotes a postulant awaiting acceptance into a monastery or a novice monk who has undertaken Zen training. Sometimes they will travel from monastery to monastery (angya) on a pilgrimage to find the appropriate Zen master to study with. The term unsui comes from a Chinese poem which reads, “To drift like clouds and flow like water.”

Watō  話頭 (Jap., ”word-head”). The key point, line, or word in a kōan; critical phrase, crucial phrase, punch line or head word; huatou (C).

Yako Zen 野狐禪 Lit., “wild fox Zen”; false Zen.

Yakuseki 藥石 Lit., “medicine stone”; the Zen monastic supper. In Buddhism it was originally forbidden to eat after noon. However, in China, where Zen developed, it was cold in the winter, so the monks would put heated stones against their abdomens to assuage the pangs of hunger. These stones were called “medicine stones.” Later a light meal, consisting of the day’s leftovers, came to be served, and this was named after the stones used to ease hunger.

Yaza 夜坐 Lit., “night sitting”; private zazen done after kaichin.

Yugyōsō 遊行僧 “itinerant monks”, who lived a large part of their lives independently from religious establishments

Yulu (C)  語録 recorded sayings

Zabuton    座布団 Cushion for sitting. The zabuton is generally used when sitting on the floor, and may also be used when sitting on a chair. Ordinarily any place in Japan where seating is on the floor will be provided with zabuton, for sitting comfort. A typical square zabuton measures 50–70 cm on a side and is several centimetres thick when new.

Zafu  座蒲 Round pillow for zazen. Za (座) means “seat”, and fu (蒲) means reedmace or cattail (Typha spp.). A zafu is a seat stuffed with the fluffy, soft, downy fibres of the disintegrating reedmace seed heads. The Japanese zafu originates in China, where these meditation seats were originally filled with reedmace down. An alternate translation of zafu is “cushion for sitting” or “sitting cushion”, where za means “sitting” or “sit” and fu means “cushion”.

Zagen    座元 “sitting leader”, full-fledged priest (after being shuso).

Zagu 坐具 The rectangular “sitting cloth,” used during ceremonies at the time of ritual prostrations. Piece of cloth carried by monk on which bowing is done. (It is crisply folded and worn by the ordained over the left wrist.)

Zaikejin    在家人 “staying-home person / householder”, layman.

Zanka 暫暇 A permitted absence from the monastery longer than three days and two nights. It is often used at present to indicate the termination of a monk’s sōdō training.

Zanmai 三昧 Samadhi.

Zazen 坐禅 zuo chan (C), seated meditation; sitting practice of Zen; upright sitting with no mental fabrication. (The most outstanding advocate of zazen was the 13th-century Zen master and founder of the Sōtō sect in Japan, Dōgen. He considered zazen not only to be a method of moving toward enlightenment but also, if properly experienced, to constitute enlightenment itself.) The bell is rung to signal the beginning and end of zazen. When zazen begins, the bell is rung three times (shijōshō 止静鐘). When kinhin begins, the bell is rung twice (kinhinshō). And when kinhin is finished, the bell is rung once (chukaishō). Also, when zazen is finished, the bell is rung once (hozenshō). Finishing zazen: when the bell is rung twice to signal kinhin or once to signal the end of zazen, relax your body as explained above, and get down from the tan. Face the seat and adjust the shape of your zafu. Then, bow toward your seat. Next, turning around to the right, bow to the people on the opposite side as you did before sitting. If there is no kinhin, leave your seat and walk to the entrance of the hall with your hands in the shashu (sessho) position. Bow in gassho toward Manjushri Bodhisattva and leave the hall. Step out with your right foot this time. When you do kinhin, start to do it right away. Keep an equal distance between you and the people behind and in front of you. At the end of kinhin the bell is rung once. Stop and bow in shashu. Then walk at a normal pace following the person in front of you. Walk around the hall until you return to your seat. At this point you may go to the toilet if you wish. The next period of zazen will begin shortly. (”Noisy thought is not your enemy (不思慮  fushiryo). Being with noisy thought (非思慮  hishiryo).”

Zazenkai     坐禅会 One-day retreat.

Zen    禅 (Trad. 禪) meditation. The Japanese word “Zen”, or “禅” (“ぜん”), is a deformation, through Chinese (“禪”, pronounced “chan2” in Mandarin), of the Sanskrit “dhyāna” (“ध्यान” in the original script), meaning “meditation”.

Zendō 禅堂 A Zen meditation hall. (The place where zazen is practiced. In Japanese monasteries the monks/nuns live in the zendō. The zendō officers live in small individual rooms which at times they share with their support staff.) Hold your hands in shashu position and step forward with your left foot at the left side of the entrance. When leaving the zendō, step out with your right foot at the same side of the entrance. Only the abbot of the monastery may enter the hall from the middle of the entrance. After entering the hall, bow in gasshō toward the altar and go to your seat. As a sign of respect, you should refrain from walking in front of the statue of Manjushri Bodhisattva. Rather, you should walk around behind the image. When walking, keep your hands in the shashu position. When you arrive at your seat, face the seat and bow in gasshō. This is a greeting to the people who are about to do zazen with you at the seats on either side of you. The people sitting next to you also bow. This is called rini-monjin. Then, turn around to the right until your seat is behind you, and bow again to those sitting at the opposite side of the hall. This is a greeting to the people across the hall and is referred to as taiza-monjin. Sit down on your zafu, turn around to the right, and sit facing the wall. In the sōdō, there is a wooden meal board (jōen 上演) at the edge of the platform (tan 単) on which bowls are set during meals. Do not place your buttocks or feet on the jōen.

Zenji    禅師 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.

Zenshū    禅宗 Chan zong (C); Zen Sect, Zen School.

Zōri    草履 Flat and thonged sandals made of rice straw, typically worn with formal kimono.

Zuihan 隨意飯 An informal meal.

Zuisokukan    随息観 Breath watching (literally, following) meditation. (Without counting we become one with breathing. When inhaling, become inhaling. When exhaling, become exhaling.)

Zuiza 隨意坐 Informal sitting in the zendo, with no shijo (Shoji).

Zuochan (C)    坐禪 zazen (J); sitting meditation.

Zutabukuro 頭陀袋 A monks bag hung around the neck, used to keep personal effects.

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