Glossary of Practice-Related Zen Buddhism Terms

bodhichitta: The aspiration of a practitioner for enlightenment and Buddhahoo
bodhisattva: A practitioner who defers his/her own enlightenment to benefit the liberation of all beings.
Buddha: One who is enlightened or awakened to the true nature of existence; any being.
dana: The voluntary giving of material, energy or wisdom to others; one of the key virtues or perfections.
dharma: The phenomena of the tao or the way or the law of karma; the teachings.
dokusan: The personal interview between the roshi and the student; literally means to go alone.
dojo: The training space for Zen practice, rituals and ceremonies.
gassho: Hand position in which the palms are pressed together and held vertically.
ino: The individual responsible for leading the chants within a session of sitting meditation.
jikijitsu: The individual responsible for keeping the time for sitting meditation.
jisha: The individual functioning as an attendant to the roshi, often to facilitate dokusan.
Kanzeon: The bodhisattva who incarnates compassion and perceives the sounds of the world.
karma: The law of cause and effect whereby actions have foreseeable and unforeseeable consequences.
kensho: An experience of seeing into one’s essential nature, also referred to as satori.
kinhin: Walking meditation usually practiced as a group between periods of zazen sittings.
koan: A theme given in a teaching context or as an object of meditation pointing to realization.
kyosaku: A flat, narrow stick carried by the monitor during zazen.
mu: Often the first koan given to a Zen student, literally means no or does not have.
mudra: Hand position used in seated meditation.
nirvana: Wisdom expressed in phenomena realized as oneness, stillness and exhaustion of desires.
paramita: The perfection of practice, or guides to conduct.
prajna paramita: The perfection of wisdom.
Rinzai: A Japanese sect of Zen Buddhism.
roshi: A term of endearment for an old Zen teacher; now used as the title of a confirmed Zen teacher.
samadhi: Non-dualistic state of consciousness in which mind and body have dropped away.
samsara: Aspects of the world expressed as differentiation, change, becoming, impermanence or desire.
sangha: The aggregate community of practitioners that includes all beings.
satori: An experience of seeing into one’s essential nature, also referred to as kensho.
sesshin: A retreat of intense zazen practice; literally means to inspect or touch the heart-mind.
shoken: The first personal interview between the roshi and a student; literally means seeing one another.
skandhas: The things perceived and levels of perception that compound the layered elements of being.
Soto: A Japanese sect of Zen Buddhism.
sutra: Teaching discourses of the Buddhist canon, most often presented as words of the historic Buddha.
tanto: The individual acting as attendant to facilitate practice within the dojo.
Tathagatha: A term referring to the Buddha to indicate the one who thus comes or one who thus goes.
teisho: The dharma talk given by the roshi.
Three Treasures: The fundamental refuge for practice comprised of Buddha, dharma and the sangha.
transmission: Traditional procedure within a lineage to acknowledge and permit a roshi to teach.
zafu: A small round cushion used as a seat in zazen.
zabuton: A large rectangular flat pad placed under the zafu that cushions the knees while sitting.
zazen: Zen sitting meditation.
zazenkai: A day-long period of intense zazen practice, usually held monthly; also referred to as zenkai.
Zen: The harmony of empty oneness and the world of particulars realized in meditation.
zendo: The hall for zazen practice, also referred to as the dojo.