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Buddhist Meditation

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Glossary of Zen Terms

As used by the Universal Zendo
and/or the Kwan Um School of Zen



The definitions in this glossary, which was the original internet posting of the Kwan Um School's glossary, are in the process of being replaced by definitions developed by the Universal Zendo. This is an ongoing project, with new items appearing on an approximately weekly basis. In the mean time, definitions due to the Kwan Um School are flagged by the notation "(KU)".

    [A] [B]


    (KU) a string of beads resembling a bracelet or necklace, used for counting bows or repetitions of a mantra in various sects of Buddhism.

    Bhikshu (Sanskrit; Japanese: Biku; Korean: Pigu)

    1: a Buddhist monk who has accepted the second grade of clerical precepts (compare with Shami). 2: a male renunciant. [Other definitions: KU]

    Bhikshuni (Sanskrit; Japanese: Bikuni)

    1: a Buddhist nun who has accepted the second grade of clerical precepts (compare with Shami). 2: a female renunciant. [Other definitions: KU]

    bodhisattva (Sanskrit)

    (KU) a being whose actions promote unity or harmony; one who vows to postpone one's own enlightenment in order to help all sentient beings realize liberation; one who seeks enlightenment not only for oneself but for others. The bodhisattva ideal is at the heart of Mahayana and Zen Buddhism.

    bosalnim (Korean)

    (KU) in Korea, a lay woman who helps at a temple.

    buddha (Sanskrit; Japanese: butsu; Korean: bul)

    1: awakened; an awakened being, one who has come to notice or understand ultimate reality. 2a: (capitalized) Siddhartha Gautama (6th century BC), the historic founder of Buddhism; 2b: (capitalized) any one of several ideal personages such as Amitabha, Vairocana, or Maitreya. See the Three Treasures. [Other definitions: KU]


    (KU) that which all sentient beings share and manifest through their particular form; according to Zen, the Buddha said that all things have Buddha-nature and therefore have the innate potential to become buddha.


    Chogye order

    (KU) the major order in Korean Buddhism, formed in 1356 by the unification of the Nine Mountains Schools of Zen.


    dharma (Sanskrit; Pali: dhamma; Japanese: ho)

    1: phenomenon, entity. 2: the essential principles governing the existence of cosmic or individual phenomena, especially the law of causation or karma. 3: (capitalized) these same principles as espoused in the teachings of the Buddha. See the Three Treasures. [Other definitions: KU]



    (KU) awakening.

    [F] [G] [H]

    hapchang (Korean)

    (KU) literally, "palms together;" a hand position used in various practice situations.

    hara (Japanese)

    (KU) the vital energy center of the abdomen; in many Zen traditions considered the seat of the heart-body-mind.


    inka (Korean)

    (KU) "public seal;" certification of a student's completion of, or breakthrough in, kong-an practice.


    (KU) a formal, private meeting between a Zen teacher and a student in which kong-ans are used to test and stimulate the student's practice; may also occasion informal questions and instruction.



    kalpa (Sanskrit)

    (KU) an endlessly long period of time.

    karma (Sanskrit)

    1a: action; 1b: volitional action. 2: cause and effect; action considered together with its consequences. [Other definitions: KU]

    kasa (Korean)

    (KU) brown piece of cloth worn around the neck or over the shoulders, symbolic of Buddhist vows and precepts.

    KATZ! (Korean)

    (KU) traditional Zen belly shout; used to cut off discriminative thinking.

    Kido (Korean)

    (KU) "energy way"; a chanting retreat.

    kong-an (Korean; Japanese: koan)

    (KU) a paradoxical or irrational statement used by Zen teachers to cut through student's thinking and bring them to realization.

    Kwan Seum Bosal (Korean; Sanskrit: Avalokitesvara; Chinese: Kwan Yin; Korean: Kwan Um; Japanese: Kanzeon)

    (KU) "one who perceives the cries of the world" and responds with compassionate aid; the bodhisattva of compassion.

    Kyol Che (Korean)

    (KU) "tight dharma;" in Korean Zen tradition, an intensive retreat of 21 to 90 days.

    [L] [M]

    Mahayana (Sanskrit) Buddhism

    (KU) the Buddhism practiced in northern Asia; encompasses schools in China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet.

    mantra (Sanskrit)

    (KU) sounds or words used in meditation to cut through discriminating thoughts so the mind can become clear.

    moktak (Korean)

    (KU) fish-shaped wooden instrument used as a drum to set the rhythm for chanting.

    [N] [O] [P]


    (KU) the founder of a school and his sucessors in the transmission of its teaching.

    [Q] [R]


    one who, motivated by compassion, formally gives up worldly pursuits in favor of bringing all beings to enlightenment.


    samsara (Sanskrit)

    (KU) the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

    sangha (Sanskrit)

    1: community, assembly, association. 2a: (capitalized) the community of renunciants; 2b: (capitalized) an association of Buddhist monks or nuns; 2c: (capitalized) the community of all Buddhists. See the Three Treasures. [Other definitions: KU]

    Shami (Japanese; Korean: Sami)

    a Buddhist monk or nun who has accepted the first grade of clerical precepts; a novice or acolyte. (Compare with Bhikshu or Bhikshuni.)

    sutra (Sanskrit)

    (KU) Buddhist scriptures, consisting of discourses by the Buddha and his disciples.


    Three Treasures

    the fundamental constituents of Buddhism, being the Buddha (2), the Dharma (3), and the Sangha (2).


    (KU) formal handing over of the lineage succession from teacher to student.

    [U] [V] [W] [X] [Y]

    Yong Maeng Jong Jin (Korean)

    (KU) literally, "valorous or intrepid concentration," paraphrased "to leap like a tiger while sitting." In the West it is a short silent retreat of two to seven days involving thirteen hours of formal meditation practice a day. Participants follow a schedule of bowing, sitting, chanting, eating, and working, with an emphasis on sitting meditation. During the retreat each participant has interviews with a Zen Master or Ji Do Poep Sa Nim.


    Zen (Japanese; Korean: Seon; Chinese: Ch'an; Sanskrit: Dhyana)

    (KU) meditation practice.

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 Update :01-01-2002

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