Glossary of Zen Terminology


Revised 113023

Glossary of Zen Terms
Compiled by Gábor Terebess


Banka Evening sutra chanting.

Butsudan  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.

Chōka The morning sutra chanting service.

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

Densu 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.

Dokusan 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    The officiant (leads service and ceremonies), “guiding/leading teacher”.

Gasshō   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.”)

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!”

Jihatsu The name of the nesting set of bowls with which Rinzai unsui eat. A monks 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.

Jikijitsu (jiki) 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.)

Jukai     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.

Kaichin Bedtime at the monastery, marked by a short sutra-chanting and the unrolling of the kashiwabuton. (Kaichin is a Zen expression for laying out on one’s bed and going to sleep. When the kaichin bell is rung in a Zen monastery, monks or nuns run to get their bedding in the sōdō (monk’s hall). Traditionally, monastics are supplied with one mattress and no pillow. In a traditional setting no blankets are permitted, either. This results in the monks and nuns rolling up into the mattresses themselves to keep warm for the night.)

Kaihan 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.”)

Kaijo Morning wake-up at the monastery.

Kenshō To see self nature; seeing ones 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.)

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

Kesa The Buddhist liturgical robe usually translated as “surplice.” Monk’s robe. (Lit., decayed colored [robe]). It is the stylized form of the original Indian Buddhist robe, kaṣāya (Skt), worn around the body, over the left shoulder and under the right shoulder. Symbolic robe of the transmission from a master to a disciple.

Kimono  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) 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). (= 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. 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.

Mokugyo    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.)

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

Ōryōki The Sōtō 4 bowls set; begging bowl; (ooki, ooryooki 應量器 応量器, hatsu, Sanskrit: paatra). Also called Iron Bowl (鉄鉢 tetsubachi, teppatsu) or Buddha Bowl (仏鉢 buppatsu)

Oshō   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”.

Rakusu The smallest style of kesa, shaped like a bib and worn around the neck.
The smallest of the Buddhist robes, the rakusu is made of five strips of cloth which are sewn together and suspended from the neck by a cloth halter. It is worn by monks, nuns, and lay persons. It is received during the jukai ceremony. The rakusu is symbolic of the Buddha’s patched robe. In Suzuki rōshi lineage custom, blue rakusu are sewn for lay ordination, black for priest ordination, and brown for those with Dharma transmission; but these colors vary in other Zen lineages.

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

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

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

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

Sesshin Meditation retreats, generally lasting one week. Samu is replaced by additional meditation. A sesshin, 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.

Shashu  (Sessho)  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”)

Shoji   The second officer at the far end of the zendo. Responsible for “student affairs”, serving tea and giving out work assignments for samu.

Shigu-seigan    The four universal vows.

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

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

Takuhatsu Mendicancy; monastic begging rounds.

Tan A meditation platform in a zendo. Usually there are three or four: the jikijitsu tan (the tan to the left as you enter the front of the zendo), tanto tan (the tan to the right as you enter the front of the zendo), naka tan (an auxilliary tan between the jikijitsu tan and the tanto tan), and sometimes a gaitan (an auxilliary tan outside the main zendo room). The word tan can also indicate a person’s place on the tan, and hence his place in the monastery hierarchy.

Teishō The rōshis 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.

Tenzo    The head cook, “celebration/ceremony seat”, one of the Sōtō Zen Temple’s six officers (roku chiji). 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.

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

Zabuton   The large cushion upon which Rinzai monks sit during zazen.

Zafu  Round pillow for zazen. Za () means “seat”, and fu () 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”.

Zazen 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). 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”).

Zazenkai     One-day retreat.

Zendō 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.

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

Ajirogasa 網代笠 The large woven bamboo hats worn by monks on pilgrimage and mendicancy.

An      sōan 草庵 (‘grass-roofed hut’) and hoan 蓬庵 (‘thatched cottage’); a hermitage. I. A small hall built in the same premises of the graveyard of the founder or an eminent monk of a Zen temple; tatchu 塔頭. II. A small hall before it is promoted to the rank of a temple. III. A small hall that belongs to a large temple.

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

Anju     庵主 A monk or hermit of a temporary habitation; also, a nun who lives in a hermitage. Generally, a novice who lives in a small temple.

Ango 安居 Lit.,  “dwelling in peace” or “peaceful dwelling.” The summer and winter training seasons, with their origins in the rainy season meditation retreats (vārsika) at the time of Shakyamuni.

Angya 行脚 Pilgrimage, usually to seek a master. traditional pilgrimage a monk or nun makes from monastery to monastery, literally translated as “to go on foot.” The term also applies to the modern practice in Japan of an unsui (novice monk) journeying to seek admittance into a monastery for the first time. These unsui traditionally wear and/or carry a kasa, white cotton leggings, straw sandals, a kesa, a satchel, razor, begging bowls (hachi) and straw raincoat. When arriving the novice typically proffers an introductory letter and then must wait for acceptance for a period of days called tangaryō. Upon admittance he undergoes a probationary period known as tanga zume, “occupying the overnight room”. Considered an aspect of the early monk’s training, angya had in ancient times lasted for many years for some.

Angyaso    行脚僧 An itinerant monk.

Anshō no zen    暗証の禅 ignorant zen, hearsay zen, unenlightened zen.

Ashi     唖子 A mute; in Zen, a beginner who is not able to say a word in answer to the master’s question; also, one who has transcended the realm of verbal expression and, hence, does not say a word.

Ashi no ha ni nori no hoben    葦の葉に法の方便 ‘A means of Dharma-conveyance even for a leaf of reed.’ Tradition has it that Bodhidharma (Daruma) came to China from India by crossing the sea by a leaf of reed; used to describe the usefulness of an apparently useless thing.

Baito 梅湯 A drink made with hot water and pickled plums (umeboshi), and sweetened with sugar.

Battan 末單 A lower-ranking unsui.

Benji 弁事 head seat’s attendant, “managing affairs”, Sōtō zen temple position. Leaving the monastery for a day or less on private business.

Biku    比丘 bhikshu (‘mendicant’)”

Bikuni    比丘尼 bhikshuni”, nun.

Bokuseki     墨跡 Lit., “ink trace”, refers to a form of Japanese calligraphy (書道 shodō) and more specifically a style of Zenga developed by Zen monks. Bokuseki is often characterized by bold, assertive, and often abstract brush strokes meant to demonstrate the calligraphers pure state of mind. The aim in making Bokuseki is to represent ones single-moment awareness by brushing each word or passage with a single breath, ultimately realizing Zen and manifesting ones Zazen practice into physical and artistic action.

Bonzu    房主   >   Bozu   坊主

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.

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.

Caodong zong (C)   曹洞宗 Sōtō shū (J).

Chiden    知殿 hall caretaker, “knower of the (Buddha) hall”.

Chōsoku    調息 Breath regulation.

Daigo    (=daigo tettei 大悟徹底)   “great realization or enlightenment.” Moreover, “traditionally, daigo is final, absolute enlightenment, contrasted to experiences of glimpsing enlightenment, shōgo” or kenshō.

Daihonzan    大本山 great head temple, main temples of a school

Daijiryohitsu 大事了畢 Lit., “to finish understanding the Great Matter”; to attain full awakening and complete one’s training.

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

Daishū 大衆 The monks residing in the zendō, great 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).

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.

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.

Dōchō rōshi    堂頭老師 (meditation) hall head, old/venerable teacher”.

Doge 同夏 Monks who start their monastery careers during the same ango.

Dōjō    道場 Lit., “place of the way”. Initially, dōjōs were adjunct to temples. The term can refer to a formal training place for any of the Japanese dō arts but typically it is considered the formal gathering place for students of any Japanese martial arts style to conduct training, examinations and other related encounters.

Dōnai 堂内 Lit., “inside the hall”; refers primarily to the monks residing in the zendō.

Dosan 同參 A term for the group of monks who all trained under the same certain roshi.

Dunwu  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.

Ekō 回向 The dedication read after recitation of a sutra, to direct the merit gained from the recitation to a certain person or group.

Ekō henshō   回光返照 Turning the Light Around and Shining Back; “turn around your light and look back on the radiance.”

Enpatsu 遠鉢 Mendicancy done at a long distance from the monastery, usually lasting a full day or longer.

Ensō   円相 The circle symbolizes the absolute enlightenment and the void. 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.

Enzu 園頭 The monastery vegetable garden, or the gardener.

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

Fundoshi      Men’s kimono underwear, wrapped thong style.

Fuke-shū    普化宗

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

Furoshiki    風呂敷  wrapping cloth to store and carry robes.

Fushō    不生 Lit., unborn; Zen expression for the absolute, the true reality, in which there is no birth, no death, no becoming nor passing away, and no time in the sense of before and after.

Fūsu    副寺 ; 副司 treasurer, assistant to the director/temple, one of the Sōtō Zen Temples six officers (roku chiji 六知事). In the Rinzai/Obaku sects, the shika is also often appointed as the fusu, who assists the chief priest and supervises the monks. The temple officer in charge of financial affairs.

Futon    布団 a term generally referring to the traditional style of Japanese bedding consisting of padded mattresses (shikibuton = bottom mattress) and quilts (kakebuton = thick quilted bedcover) pliable enough to be folded and stored away during the day.

Fuzui 副隨 The fusus assistant, in charge of financial affairs and miscellaneous matters.

Gaman    我慢 term of Zen Buddhist origin which means “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity”. The term is generally translated as “perseverance” or “patience”. A related term, gamanzuyoi (我慢強い gaman-tsuyoi), a compound with tsuyoi (strong), means “suffering the unbearable” or having a high capacity for a kind of stoic endurance. Gaman is variously described as a “law,” a “virtue,” an “ethos,” a “trait,” etc. It means to do one’s best in distressed times and to maintain self-control and discipline.

Ganbaru    頑張る Lit., stand firm, also romanized as gambaru, is a ubiquitous Japanese word which roughly means to slog on tenaciously through tough times. The word ganbaru is often translated to mean “doing one’s best”, but in practice, it means doing more than one’s best. The word emphasizes “working with perseverance” or “toughing it out.” Ganbaru means “to commit oneself fully to a task and to bring that task to an end.” It can be translated to mean persistence, tenacity, doggedness and hard work. The term has a unique importance in Japanese culture

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

Geju 偈頌 A verse.

Goannai 御案内 To forcibly take a monk to sanzen in order to help him resolve his kōan.

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

Goke-shichishū    五家七宗 (Jap., ‘five-houses, seven-schools’). A classification of the seven Chʾan Buddhist schools, during the Tʾang period, which derived from five lineages: (i) Rinzai from Lin-chi I-hsuan (Jap., Rinzai Gigen); (ii) Igyo from Kuei-shan Ling-yu (Jap., Isan Reiyū) and from Yang-shan Hui-chi (Jap., Kyōzan Ejaku); (iii) Sōtō from Tung-shan Liang-chieh (Jap., Tōzan Ryōkai) and from Tsʾao-shan Penchi (Jap., Sōzan Honjaku); (iv) Ummon from Yün-Men Wen-yen (Jap., Ummon Bunʾen); (v) Hogen from Fa-yen Wen-i (Jap., Hogen Bunʾeki). Rinzai then split, to make up seven: (vi) Yōgi from Yang-ch’i Fang-hui (Jap., Yōgi Hōe); (vii) Ōryō from Huang-lung Hui-nan (Jap., Ōryō Eʾnan).

Gomai 合米 A type of takuhatsu in which individual monks go to designated households once a month to receive rice set aside by the family for the monastic community

Gong’an   公案 kōan (J); public case

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.

Gozan bungaku 五山文學 Japanese Literature of the Five Mountains. The term Five Mountains refers to the principal Zen () monastic centers of the Rinzai sect in Kamakura, Japan and to an additional five in Kyoto. In addition, the term refers to five Zen monastic centers in China in Hangzhou and Ningpo that inspired the religious and cultural organization in Japan. The term “mountain” is a general term for Buddhist monastery. The term Five Mountains literature or gozan bungaku (五山文學) is used collectively to refer to the poetry and prose in Chinese produced by Japanese monks during the medieval period in the 14th and 15th centuries. Included are works by Chinese monks in residence in Japan as well. The period witnessed a widespread importation of cultural influences from Song and Yuan period China that in many ways transformed Japan. In the literature of the Five Mountains informality, sense of humor and sympathy with life’s ordinariness were highly prized. A Five Mountains poet might write about anything, in contrast to the proscribed themes of the aristocratic court poets.

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.

Handai 飯台 The long, low tables used when eating meals in the jikido.

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.

Hashin kyuji 把針灸治 Lit., “to grasp the needle, to treat with moxa.” Hashin kyuji are days before sesshin during which the unsui can rest, repair clothes, and treat illnesses.

Hassu   法嗣 dharma-successor’, a Zen Buddhist pupil who has reached at least the same level of attained enlightenment as his master, and who is therefore given the seal of recognition (inka-shōmei). He can then become a dharma-successor.

Hōdōshi    法幢師 Dharma flag teacher (non-abbot leading a practice period). (Sōtō)

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

Hōjō    方丈 ten square feet (abbots room, named after Vimalakirtis room).

Hōjō-e    放生 Liberating Life  (animal release) in August.

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.

Hokushū Zen    北宗禅 Northern school of Zen

Honshi   本師} “original/primary teacher”

Honzon   本尊 The main image of Sōtō Zen School is the founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha. Shakyamuni Buddha taught us the best way in which to live our lives and is enshrined within the Buddha-altar. In principle, all that is needed is the image of Shakyamuni Buddha. However, if you have a scroll with the images of Shakyamuni Buddha and the two founders of Sōtō Zen School in Japan, Dōgen Zenji and Keizan Zenji, then it is fine to hang that in the center of the Buddha-altar. If there is already an image of Shakyamuni Buddha, then hang the scroll behind that image.

Hōrin 法輪 The wheel of the law.

Houi-kake 御法衣掛 Robe hanger.

Horo 法臘 The length of time since tokudo; ones career as a monk.

Hossu     払子 short staff of wood or bamboo with bundled hair (of a cow, horse, or yak) or hemp wielded by a Zen Buddhist priest. Often described as a “fly swatter” or “fly shooer”, the stick is believed to protect the wielder from desire and also works as a way of ridding areas of flies without killing them. The hossu is regarded as symbolic of a Zen master’s authority to teach and transmit Buddha Dharma to others, and is frequently passed from one master to the next.

Hōtō 法燈 Dharma lamp. A metaphorical expression, which likens the dharma (hō ) to the “flame of a lamp” (tō ) which can be passed to another lamp (i.e. from master to disciple) and thus be kept burning forever. In the Zen tradition, the transmission of the formless, ineffable buddha mind (busshin 佛心 ) down through the lineage of ancestral teachers (soshi 祖師 ) is referred to metaphorically as “transmission of the flame” (dentō 傳燈 ).

Huatou (C)  話頭 watō (J); critical phrase or head word

Hyoseki 評席 A senior monk who serves as one of temple officers: the shika, jikijitsu, and jisha. Roughly synonymous with yakui.

Ichige 一夏 Lit., “one summer”; synonymous with ango.

Ichijitsu nasazareba, ichijitsu kuwarazu.   一日不作、一日不食 “A day without work, a day without eating.” Baizhang Huaihai (百丈懷海 Hyakujō Ekai, 720-814).

Ichimi-Zen   一味禅 (Jap., ‘one taste Zen’). The authentic Zen of the Buddha and the patriarchs (soshigata), which consists in the experience of no distinction (‘one taste’) between form and emptiness. Its opposite (within Zen) is zen which relies on different types or goals of meditation (five ways of Ch’an/Zen), known as gomi (-no)-zen.

Idaten 韋駄天 The tutelary diety of the temple kitchen and kuri.

Igi-soku-buppō   威儀即仏法 Dignified forms (deportments) are themselves buddha (awakened) dharmas (forms). Emphasizing in Sōtō Sect of Zen.

Ikko hanko 一箇半箇 Lit., “one man or half a man,” the term for the true successor that every Zen master is duty-bound to produce.

Iku 衣矩  Ruler for folding koromo (衣たたみ用定規).

Inji 隱侍 The masters attendant.

Inka 印可 The seal of enlightenment; a masters certification of a disciples 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 , supervisor, with the graph na , thought to represent the final syllable of the transliterated Sanskrit term karmadāna.

Inryo 隱寮 The roshis 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.

Jakugo Capping phrase.

Jianwu    Gradual awakening

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).

Jikō    侍香 incense attendant, serving incense.

Jinjū    ”Steward of purity”, the sanitation steward at a Zen monastery, responsible for keeping the latrines clean.

Jisha 侍者 abbots 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.)

Jiriki    自力 Self Power”, seeking enlightenment through one’s own merit and religious practice.

Jizoku     A priest’s wife” in Sōtō temple life.

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.

Joju 常住 The administrative section of the monastery, as opposed to the zendō, or donai.

Jokei A junior officer (Joko) in the monastery. In most Rinzai monasteries there are two.

Jōnin    浄人 meal server, “pure person”.

Josaku 除策 Lit., “removing the keisaku”; a free day of rest in the monastery.

Juban     襦袢 A waist-length underkimono.

Jūji    住持} “abiding and maintaining”.

Junkei 巡警 The patrolling of the zendo with the keisaku.

Junkō    巡香 meditation patrol (carries kyōsaku): round of incense.

Jūshoku    住職 abiding director”.

Juzu    数珠 Rosaries come in three forms: 108 beads, 54 beads, and 27 beads. All have at their base either a manji (swastika), representing the primal movement of the spirit within the heart; or a pagoda, representing the storehouse of the scriptures, which the turning of the rosary causes to be revolved; or a fish biting an iron ball which it can neither swallow nor spit out; or a tassel or pair of tassels, representing the roots of the Lotus, the symbol of enlightenment, with its roots in the mud of human suffering. No matter what may be at the base of the rosary, it is always a symbol of activity and movement, whether the movement of the heart, i.e. the manji; the turning of the scriptures, i.e. the pagoda; the struggle of the kōan, i.e. the fish with the iron ball; or the nourishment of enlightenment from suffering, i.e. the tassel. Immediately above this symbol are three beads representing the Three Refuges: Homage to the Buddha, Homage to the Dharma, Homage to the Sangha. A 108 bead rosary is divided into 6 groups of 18 with a divider between each. A 54 bead one has 6 groups of 9 with a divider between each, and a 27 bead one, 2 groups of 6 and 1 of 15 divided by 2 dividers. All divider beads in a rosary represent points of pause for silent meditation, the putting of the hands in gasshō while holding the rosary, or the putting of the brain, as it were, into gasshō.

Kafu 家風 Lit., house wind”; the customs and “atmosphere” of a certain monastery.

Kaidan    戒壇 Ordination platform.

Kaiko 開講 The occasion of the first teisho of the ango.

Kaimyo    戒名 One’s precept name (sometimes called dharma name), given to them during a Jukai Ceremony. This is often a unique Buddhist name which may at times express certain qualities the master has observed in his or her disciple.

Kaisandō    開山堂 Founders Hall in a traditional Zen monastery. The size may range in scope from a single room to its own building.

Kaisei 解制  Unbinding rules”, closing practice period, about August 15. The monastic off-season. Roughly synonymous with seikan.

Kaishi    戒師 precept teacher”.

Kaiyoku 開浴 Monastic bath time. (Kaiyoku is the ceremony of Opening the Bath. In common usage, kaiyoku refers to going to the baths in a Japanese Zen monastery. In a traditional monastery setup, monastics bathe about every five days, with dates with the number four or nine in them.)

Kanban bukuro 看板袋 The bag used by the monks during mendicancy. The name of the monks temple is usually written on the front of the bag.

Kanchō    管長 The head abbot

Kanhua chan (C)  看話禪 kanna-zen (J); ”introspecting the kōan Zen”

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.

Kansei 閑栖 A retired priest.

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

Kasa    any of several sorts of traditional hats of Japan. When preceded by a word specifying the type of hat, the word becomes gasa: 網代笠 ajiro-gasa; 托鉢笠 takuhatsu gasa.

Kashaku 掛錫 To formally enter a monastery for training.

Kashiwabuton 柏蒲団 The large square-shaped futon used for sleeping in the monastery. The futon is folded in half, and the unsui sleeps inside. In the morning the futon is rolled up and stored for the day.

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

Kato 掛搭 To formally enter a monastery for training. See kashaku. (Kato is a Japanese Zen expression which means “hanging up at the hook.” In a traditional Japanese monastic environment, a newly admitted postulant hangs his or her robes and clothing on a hook above their mat, which will from then on be where he sleeps and lives.)

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

Kechimyaku    血脈 “blood line”, heritage of the Law. A list of the unbroken lineage of teaching from Master to disciple, from Shakyamuni Buddha to the present, graphically depicted as an endlessly flowing, circular red line, The keeping of the Precepts is called “the Blood of Buddha”.

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.

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

Kesa bunko 袈裟文庫 The luggage bundle carried by unsui during their angya, containing their kesa, razor, jihatsu, sutra book, and rain poncho (kesa bukuro, kesa gōri)

Kessei   結制 Opening Practice Period (”binding rules”), about May 15. Equivalent to Seichu, and about four weeks of training

Ki    vital energy

Kien mondō  機緣問答 jiyuan wenda, encounter dialogues

Kiku 規矩 The monastic regulations.

Kirigami    切り紙  literally refers to “paper strips” on which Sōtō masters transmitted esoteric interpretations of kōans with cryptic sayings, formulas, and diagrams. See also shōmono (抄物).

Kitan ryushaku 起單留錫 The occasion at the end of the training period when a monk notifies the monastery whether he will be staying for the next training period or leaving to continue his angya.

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.

Komusō    虚無僧 Monk of emptiness. Member of the Fuke sect. Komusō were half-monks and half-laymen, neither shaving their heads, nor wearing ordinary monk’s robes. They lived a mendicant life, begging for alms and playing the shakuhachi, a bamboo flute. Komusō were characterised by the straw basket (a sedge or reed hood named a tengai) worn on the head, manifesting the absence of specific ego.

Konshō 昏鐘 The evening ringing of the large temple bell.

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

Koromo  Monastic robe (worn by ordained monks only).

Kosoku 古則 A synonym for “koan”.

Kotai 交代 The changing of monastic duties at the end of the training period.

Kotan 高單 A senior monk.

Kotsu     Lit., “bone; relic”. In some schools of Zen like Sanbō Kyōdan, the ceremonial scepter of a rōshi is called kotsu instead of nyoi.

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

Kufū 功夫 To maintain ones 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.

Kyahan    脚半 leg protectors

Kyogai 境界 The state of mind, usually expressed in a persons 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.

Kyūhai   九拝 ninefold prostration.

Linji zong (C)    臨済宗 Rinzai-shū (J).

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)

Missan-roku 密参録 records of secret interviews; oral transmission (a book which describes the Zen questioning and answering carried out between Zen priests)

Missanchō 密参? esoteric commentary on kōans; records of kōan interviews; missan notebook

Mitsumitsu sanketsu 密密参決 resolution through meticulous instructions

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.

Nakatan 中單 A middle-ranking unsui.

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

Niutou zong (C)    牛頭宗 Gozu shū (J); Ox-Head  School. Niutou Farong (C) 牛頭法融 (594-657), Gozu Hōyū (J) is the founder of the The Ox-Head School of Chan Buddhism. The name “Ox-Head” (Niutou, Gozu) come from the Mount Niutou (Niutou shan, Gozusan) where Farong lived. He is also known as Niutou Mountain [Temple/School] First Patriarch Chan master Farong. The Ox-Head School is considered not belonging to the orthodox line of Chan. This line of Chan sect is also known as Niutou Zen.

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.

Ōbaku shū   黃檗宗

Obi    sash for traditional Japanese kimono.

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.

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)

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

Saihō    裁縫 sewing Buddhist garments.

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.

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.

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.

Seidō    西堂 west hall teacher (senior teacher), “west (seat) of the (meditation) hall”.

Seikan 制間 The monastic off-season. Roughly synonymous with kaisei.

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

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).

Shamon    沙門 shramana (‘contemplative’)”

Shichido garan 七堂伽藍 The classical layout of the Zen monastery with seven buildings. The Sanmon 山門 (Mountain Gate), Butsuden 佛殿 (Buddha Hall), Hatto 法堂 (Dharma Hall), and Hojo 方丈 (Abbots Quarters) are aligned on a north-south axis, with the Yokushitsu 浴室 (Bath House) and Kyozo 経蔵 (sutra library) to the east and the Sōdō 僧堂 (Monks Hall) to the west.

Shichijō kesa    七條袈裟  Seven-piece robe.

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.)

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

Shikunichi 四九日 Days which contain a 4 (shi) or a 9 (ku), on which there is head shaving a general cleaning of the monastery, and a bath.

Shin’igi 眞威儀 The formal wear used by unsui during ceremonies.

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”—an 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.)

Shō shuso    請首座 Appointing shuso.

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

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

Shukin   手巾 The cord that monks wear around their waist.

Shukkejin    出家人 left-home person / homeleaver”.

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.

Shuya 守夜 The evening fire-watch at the time of kaichin, when one or two monks make the rounds of the monastery buildings and properties to make sure that all fires are out.

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”.

Sonshuku 尊宿 An older priest or an eminent priest.

Sorin 叢林 Another term for sōdō.

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    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.

Taiwa   The informal meeting between a more experienced practitioner and another practitioner. The literal translation of taiwa is “dialogue.” In many Rinzai Zen lineages senior practitioners may be empowered to offer taiwa to help other practitioners with their Zen practice

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.)

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.

Tatchu 塔頭 A subtemple located in the precincts of a larger temple.

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.

Tenjin 点心 A meal served to the unsui at the home of a believer. The monks often receive tenjin at the end of the morning takuhatsu rounds.

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

Toki 湯器 The container for hot water.

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 Temples six officers (roku chiji 六知事).

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

Unnō    雲納 cloud patches, monk.

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.”

Wagesa    輪袈裟 “circular kesa”. A form of kesa further simplified from the rakusu. A wagesa is a strip of cloth with its ends connected by a decorative knot, worn around the neck.

Waraji    草鞋 Straw rope sandals which are mostly worn by monks.

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.

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

Yukata    浴衣 Unlined kimono-like garment for summer use, usually made of cotton, linen, or hemp. Yukata are strictly informal, most often worn to outdoor festivals, by men and women of all ages. They are also worn at onsen (hot spring) resorts, where they are often provided for the guests in the resort’s own pattern.

Yokuju 浴頭 The monk that prepares the bath. (Rinzai)

Yokusu    浴主 bath manager, “bath master”. (Sōtō)

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.

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.

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

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.

Zenpan 禅板 Chin rest.

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.)

Zuiyoku 隨意浴 An informal bath.

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.