Glossary of Zen Terminology


Glossary of Zen Terms
Originally Compiled by Gábor Terebess

Revised 01/09/24


Banka Evening sutra chanting.

Butsudan  Literally “Buddha altar”. Within the altar, there is an area where Mt. Sumeru (the mountain at the center of the Buddhist cosmology) is represented and 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 Meeting with an individual on a voluntary basis with the roshi to discuss specific meditation concerns. This contrasts with sanzen; a private formal meeting between a Zen student and master concentrating on koan practice in which the student can display the depth and degree of their understanding. Most sanzen at Rinzai monasteries is dokusan.

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

Gasshō   Lit., “palms together”. A mudra expressing nonduality. 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. 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 hung in front of the zendo, on which a rhythm is beaten with a wooden mallet twice a day: at dawn, at dusk. This is usually beaten by the shoji. Often a verse appears on the han: “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 a Rinzai unsui (monk) eats. A monks own bowls (the standard 3 to 4 bowl Rinzai zen monk set), wrapped in cloth for carrying around. During a meal, they will be unwrapped, used, cleaned with a cloth, and wrapped back up again during the period of the retreat.

Jikijitsu In a Rinzai zendō, the monk in charge of meditation in the zendō, second to the rōshi. The “jiki” is 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 going to bed (Kaichin is a Zen expression for laying out on one’s bed and going to sleep).

Kaihan Striking of the wooden han with a mallet or hammer to announce various ceremonial times. Traditionally, this is done two to three times to announce the various intervals throughout the day.

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.

Keisaku The “encouragement stick, used to motivate monks during zazen.

Kesa Monk’s ceremonial robe; is a form of the original Indian Buddhist robe worn around the body, over the left shoulder and under the right shoulder. Symbolic robe of the transmission of understanding from a master to a disciple.

Kimono  The traditional Japanese kimono has wide, half-way sewn sleeves, and made of pure black cotton. The lower garment is the hakama; containing pleats and tightened around the waist. For monks participating in ceremonies white cotton kimono and hakama are used.

Kinhin Walking meditation. Literally, “to go straight”. When doing kinhin in Rinzai style walking is counter-clockwise around the room or path, with hands in sessho position. From the waist up, your posture should be the same as that in zazen. Take the first step with your right foot. Then walk at a normal pace around the room until you return to your seat. This time can also be used for going to the toilet. When you finish kinhin, stop and bow.

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 ordinary ways of understanding. The use of kōans is particularly associated with Rinzai practice, 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 Meaning “just enough”; the manner in which the bowl set is used in the meal service

Oshō   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,

Rakusu The smallest style of kesa, shaped like a bib with a ring, 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. Usually black, but the colors vary in Zen lineages.

Rōshi Lit., “old teacher” or “elder master”, Zen monastic master qualified to lead sesshin and receive students in dokusan and sanzen.

Samu Lit. “to find workManual 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 formal intensive meditation (zazen) in a Zen monastery.

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.

Shoji   The second officer at the opposite 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  Zen Temple’s six officers. The head monk in charge of the administrative section of the monastery, and whose duties include 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 rounds begging for food.

Tan A meditation platform in a zendo. Usually there are three or four: the jikijitsu tan (the tan to the right as you enter the front of the zendo), tanto tan (to the left 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 realization by a Zen master (rōshi) during a sesshin. 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. A 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 Zen Temple’s six officers. 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 square cushion upon which Rinzai monks sit during zazen.

Zafu  Round pillow for zazen. A zafu is a seat stuffed with the fluffy, soft, downy fibers of the disintegrating reedmace seed heads. 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. A bell is rung to signal the beginning and end of zazen. When zazen begins, the bell is rung four times. Also, when zazen is finished, the bell is rung once. Finishing zazen: when the bell is rung twice to signal kinhin or once to signal the end of zazen, relax your body 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 sessho position. Step out with your right foot this time. When you do kinhin start 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 sessho. Then walk at a normal pace following the person in front of you. Walk around the hall until you return to your seat. During kinhin you may leave to use the toilet if you wish. The next period of zazen will begin at the sound of the bell. (”Noisy thought is not your enemy”).

Zazenkai     One-day retreat. Sometimes multiple days, but in an informal style, unlike sesshin

Zendō A Zen meditation hall. Hold your hands in sessho 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. 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 Butsudan. When walking, keep your hands in the sessho position. When you arrive at your seat, face the seat and bow in gasshō. This is paying respect to the people who are about to do zazen with you at the seats on either side of you.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


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

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

An     A hermitage; a small hall built in the same premises of the graveyard of the founder or an eminent monk of a Zen temple;  A small hall before it is promoted to the rank of a temple. III. A small hall that belongs to a large temple.

Anja   Abbot’s assistant, “doing person,”

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

Angya  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    An itinerant monk.

Anshō no zen    Ignorant zen, hearsay zen, unenlightened zen.

Ashi     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   ‘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 on a reed; used to describe the usefulness of an apparently useless thing.

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

Battan A lower-ranking unsui.

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

Biku    bhikshu (‘mendicant’)”

Bikuni     bhikshuni”, nun.

Bokuseki     Lit., “ink trace”, refers to a form of Japanese calligraphy and more specifically a style 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.

Bosatsu-kai   Bodhisattva precepts are a set of moral codes used in Mahayana Buddhism to advance a practitioner along the path to becoming a Bodhisattva

Buttan-e    Buddha’s Birthday, April 8.

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

Buji    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    “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 falsely convince themselves that since all beings possess the Buddha-nature they are already enlightened and hence have no need to exert themselves further.

Busshō    Buddha nature

Busshō Rice offerings placed in front of the buddha images.

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

Chōsoku    Breath regulation.

Daigo      “Great realization or enlightenment.” Moreover, “traditionally, daigo is final, absolute enlightenment, contrasted to experiences of glimpsing enlightenment, shōgo” or kenshō.

Daihonzan    Great head temple, main temples of a school

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

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

Daishū The monks residing in the zendō, great assembly.

Daruma    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 and patriarchs in succession.

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

Deshi    disciple (of a teacher)”

Dōan    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     (Meditation) hall head, old/venerable teacher”.

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

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

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

Dunwu   Tongo, sudden awaking or sudden enlightenment

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

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

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

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

Ensō   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 The monastery vegetable garden, or the gardener.

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

Fundoshi     Men’s kimono underwear, wrapped thong style.

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

Furoshiki    A wrapping cloth to store and carry robes.

Fushō    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   Treasurer, assistant to the director/temple, one of the six officers. 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    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 The fusus assistant, in charge of financial affairs and miscellaneous matters.

Gaman    A 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 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    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 The ball of doubt that fuels a monks drive to practice and to attain enlightenment.

Geju A verse.

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

Godō    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.

Go-ke    Five schools of Zen

Goke-shichishū    (Jap., ‘five-houses, seven-schools’). A classification of the seven Chʾan Buddhist schools, during the Tʾang period, which derived from five lineages.

Gomai 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   Kōan (J); public case

Gotai-tōchi 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   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.

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

Gyosho    The morning ringing of the large temple bell.

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

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

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

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

Hanka fuza  The half-lotus sitting position.

Hashin kyuji 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   ‘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). They can then become a dharma-successor.

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

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

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

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

Hōkei  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   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.

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

Hokushū Zen    Northern school of Zen

Honshi    “Original/primary teacher”

Hōrin   The wheel of the law.

Houi-kake   Robe hanger.

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

Hossu      Short staff of wood or bamboo with bundled hair 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   Dharma lamp. A metaphorical expression, which likens the dharma to the “flame of a lamp” 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 down through the lineage of ancestral teachers is referred to metaphorically as “transmission of the flame”.

Huatou    Watō (J); critical phrase or head word

Hyoseki A senior monk who serves as one of temple officers: the shika, jikijitsu, and jisha.

Ichige Lit., “One summer”; synonymous with ango.

Ichijitsu nasazareba, ichijitsu kuwarazu.    “A day without work, a day without eating.” Baizhang Huaihai (Hyakujō Ekai, 720-814).

Ichimi-Zen    (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.

Idaten The tutelary diety of the temple kitchen and kuri.

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

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

Iku  Ruler for folding koromo

Inji   The masters attendant.

Inka The seal of enlightenment; a masters certification of a disciples completion of training.

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

Inkin 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     Hall manager, “overseeing karmadāna (‘giver of assignments’)”

Inryo The roshis living quarters.

Intoku  Good works performed in secret.

Issoku-hanpo    Walking half step with breathing in and out.

Isshu    Folding hands at walking and standing. This is also called sessho. 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 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    Incense attendant, serving incense.

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

Jisha 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, 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     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).

Joju 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    Meal server, “pure person”.

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

Juban     A waist-length under-kimono.

Jūji    “Abiding and maintaining”.

Junkei The patrolling of the zendo with the keisaku.

Junkō    Meditation patrol (carries kyōsaku): round of incense.

Jūshoku    Abiding director”.

Juzu     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.

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

Kaidan    Ordination platform.

Kaiko The occasion of the first teisho of the ango.

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

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

Kaishi    Precept teacher”.

Kaiyoku 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 The bag used by the monks during mendicancy. The name of the monks temple is usually written on the front of the bag.

Kanchō    The head abbot

Kanhua chan Kanna-zen (J); ”introspecting the kōan Zen”

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

Kanna Zen  Kōan Zen; introspecting the kōan Zen.

Kansei  A retired priest.

Kanshō 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.

Kashaku To formally enter a monastery for training.

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

Kato  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 they sleeps and lives.)

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

Kechimyaku    “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     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 The full lotus sitting position.

Kenge The response to a koan, presented during sanzen.

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

Kesa bunko The luggage bundle carried by unsui during their angya, containing their kesa, razor, jihatsu, sutra book, and rain poncho.

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

Ki    Vital energy

Kien mondō   Jiyuan wenda, encounter dialogues

Kiku The monastic regulations.

Kirigami     Literally refers to “paper strips” on which Sōtō masters transmitted esoteric interpretations of kōans with cryptic sayings, formulas, and diagrams.

Kitan ryushaku  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 The incense holder in which sticks of incense are burned by the jikijitsu during zazen.

Kōden    To offer incense.

Koji     Residence/dwelling man”, layman

Koji kyumei The investigation and clarification of the self. The purpose of zazen.

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

Kokyō    Chant leader, celebrating/initiating the sutra.

Komusō    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 The evening ringing of the large temple bell.

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

Koromo  Monastic robe (worn by ordained monks only).

Kosoku A synonym for “koan”.

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

Kotan  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 A lecture by the roshi to the monks. See teisho.

Kufū 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”

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

Kusen Oral teaching given during zazen.

Kyahan    Leg protectors

Kyogai The state of mind, usually expressed in a persons actions and presence, attained through training.

Kyōsaku “Encouragement stick” called keisaku in Rinzai. A flattened stick at one end, 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, then to the right. This is to make it easier to hit the shoulder muscles. Continue to gassho. After the jiki hits your shoulder, straighten your head again and bow. The jiki also bows to you as they stand behind you, holding the stick with both hands.

Kyūhai   Ninefold prostration.

Linji zong      Rinzai-shū (J).

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

Menpeki or Mempeki    Zen description of the nine years which Bodhidharma spent facing the wall, i.e. in profound meditation in a mountain cave near Shaolin Temple. It became a virtual synonym for zazen.

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

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

Missanchō Esoteric commentary on kōans; records of kōan interviews; missan notebook

Mitsumitsu sanketsu Resolution through meticulous instructions

Mokushō Zen Silent illumination Zen, serene reflection Zen”; Zen meditation that does not use koans. Contrasted with kanna Zen.

Mondō  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     The act of bowing from the waist with hands in gasshō.

Munen musō     No-thought and no-image

Mushi-dokugo  Sometimes called 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   No superfluous thought, no mental fabrication.

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

Nakatan A middle-ranking unsui.

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

Nentei To meditate upon a koan.

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

Nichi nichi kore kōjitsu.   “Everyday is a good day.”

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

Niutou zong   Ox-Head  School. 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 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 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    Patch-robed monk”.

Nyoi     Wooden scepter 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.

Obi    Sash for traditional Japanese kimono.

Oshiku 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   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 The monk who sits next to one in the zendo.

Rinzai-shū    Zen sect emphasizing koan study; named for master Linji.

Rōhatsu 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.

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

Saihō    Sewing Buddhist garments.

Saiza  Lunch, the main meal of the monastic day.

Sampai    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 is practised. See also Raihai.

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

Sanno  A synonym for inji.

Sanran   “Dispersed-confused”, restlessness, over activity of the mind.

Sanzen     A meeting between the student and a roshi to determine progress with a koan and determine the depth of a student’s understanding.

Satori     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 The monastic training season. Roughly synonymous with ango.

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

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

Seiza     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 A formal Zen training monastery, at which a monk can gain qualification for priesthood. Roughly synonymous with sōdō.

Sensei   Senior teacher

Setsu ango  The winter training season.

Shakuhachi   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, blowing meditation).

Shamon   Shramana (‘contemplative’)”

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

Shichijō kesa    Seven-piece robe.

Shihō   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.. Following completion of these ceremonies the teacher becomes independent.

Shiji zazen Four hours’ zazen; four periods of sitting meditation: 1) goya zazen = dawn ; 2) sōshin zazen = midmorning; 3) hoji zazen = afternoon; 4) kōkon zazen = evening

Shijo 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 is struck by the Jikijitsu. Three slow bells signal the beginning of a period of zazen.

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

Shikunichi 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 The formal wear used by unsui during ceremonies.

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

Shinkin  Money received by the monks from the monastery.

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

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

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

Shippei    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 master’s equipment.”

Shissui    Work leader, “keeping in order the vicinity”, one of the Zen Temple’s six officers.

Shitsunai 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.

Shoji    The second zendo officer, seated at the far end of the zendo. The shoji serves tea for sarei, maintains the butsudan with candles, assigns work (samu) to the monks, and serves as “head of student affairs”.

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

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

Shōmono   Complex body of commentaries on traditional kōan collections and recorded sayings texts by late medieval and early modern Sōtō priests.

Shoshin     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.”

Shō shuso    Appointing shuso.

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

Shugyōsha     (Spiritual) practice person”, practitioner.

Shukin     The cord that monks wear around their waist.

Shukkejin    Left-home person / homeleaver”.

Shuso    Head student, “head seat”.

Shuso hossenshiki    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.

Shutto Participation in a ceremony.

Shuya 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 A formal Zen training monastery, at which a monk can gain qualification for priesthood. In traditional monasteries there is a building called the monks’ hall, zendo, in which practitioners sleep, eat, and practice zazen together. In the zendo, 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

Sōku     Head server, “sending off the meal offering”.

Sonshuku  An older priest or an eminent priest.

Sorin Another term for sōdō, or zendo.

Sōryo    monk/priest, “sangha companion”.

Sōsan 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. This contrasts with dokusan.

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

Suikai Instructions or warnings from the master or superior monks.

Suizen     Zen practice consisting of playing the shakuhachi bamboo flute as a means of attaining self-realization.

Sūsokukan    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     Split-toe ankle socks.

Taiki seppō   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 Wooden clappers, two pieces of hard wood. 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 The large cushion upon which Rinzai monks sit during zazen. Also Zabuton.

Tangaryō    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 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 A sub-temple located in the precincts of a larger temple.

Tantō    Lit., “head of the tan.” Platform head (assistant to head of training); “(sitting) platform head”. In a Zen temple, the tantō (shoji) is one of two officers 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    Shaving the head.

Tenjin  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    Attendance taker, “attendance taker, inspector”.

Toki   The container for hot water.

Tokudo  To be ordained as a monk.

Tokudo shiki   The ordination ceremony

Tsūsu     Director, “capital temple,” watching over temple, one of the Sōtō Zen Temples six officers.

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

Unnō     Cloud patches, monk.

Unsui  Lit., “clouds and water”; a Zen monk in training. Unsui 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. The term unsui comes from a Chinese poem which reads, “To drift like clouds and flow like water.”

Wagesa   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    Straw rope sandals which are mostly worn by monks.

Watō  The key point, line, or word in a kōan; critical phrase, crucial phrase, punch line or head word.

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

Yakuseki 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 “Itinerant monks”, who lived a large part of their lives independently from religious establishments

Yukata    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  The monk that prepares the bath. (Rinzai)

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

Yulu     Recorded sayings

Zabuton    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    Sitting leader”, full-fledged priest (after being shuso).

Zagu 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    Staying-home person / householder”, layman.

Zanka  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 Samadhi.

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

Zenji    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  Chin rest.

Zenshū    Chan zong; Zen Sect, Zen School.

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

Zuihan  An informal meal.

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

Zuiyoku An informal bath.

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

Zuochan    Zazen; sitting meditation.

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